Romanesco and purple cauliflower update

Our Purple and Romanesco cauliflowers are growing nicely since we planted them out a few weeks ago. These are starting to get a few weeds around them now, so we’ll need to clear these soon otherwise they’ll be taking over the place.

It also won’t be long before the plants bulk up really rapidly and start to produce cauliflowers (hopefully), by which time the plants will be too big to get in between to clear the weeds anyway.

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We also took a couple of close up shots. We really hadn’t expected the purple cauliflowers to have purple leaves in the centre. I don’t know why really, but just really didn’t expect them to.

When we weed these, we’ll probably give them another sprinkling of chicken pellets to get them some much needed nitrogen to help bulk up the plants before they start producing cauliflowers.

The Grand Old (Red) Duke of York

Our second harvest of 2019 was our Red Duke of York potatoes that we planted on 26 January. The plants haven’t done too badly, but with some of the weather we’ve had, they’ve taken a bit of a battering. However, we noticed last week that the compost was starting to push up out of the pot, so we thought the potatoes might be nearly ready.

After a little bit of poking around, we also found a potato right near the surface. So that was that, we knew we wanted to harvest them and see what we’d managed to grow!

First, we cut down the haulms and removed the canes that had been supporting these. These we upturned the pot and carefully pulled away the peat to unveil the potatoes.

And this is some of what we ended up with!

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Once we’d turned out one pot, we decided we’d need to harvest a second to have enough for 5 of us for Sunday dinner. We couldn’t resist washing one up right away – as the colour was just fantastic!

And this little guy was our favourite. It just goes to show that not everything that you grow can be perfectly formed, but he still tasted just as good!!

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Progress on what can only be described as small purple spaceships…

We decided to grow Kohl Rabi this year. We’ve never tried it before, but thought it looked nice so wanted to give it a go. In fact, we think the plants when mature look like little purple spaceships. But maybe that’s just us…

Last weekend, the plants were ready to be planted out. Well we think they were. We’ve never grown them before, so we can’t be sure. But we understand that they’re part of the brassica family, and they were the same size as we would usually plant out cauliflowers, etc. so we went for it!

We dug a hole with a trowel about 4-5″ deep and then upturned each plant one by one. As you can see, they’ve got a pretty good root system, so probably the right decision to plant them out.

Each plant was placed in the hole and then the hole backfilled with soil and the plant firmed in.

The plants were then carefully watered in to firm the soil around them a little bit more.

 

 

Psychedelic salad

Chris was bought a “Psychdelic salad” growing kit for his birthday which contained: red spring onions, yellow spherical cucumbers, multicoloured radishes and beetroot and red lettuce.

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A couple of weeks ago, we set about sowing each of them. The radishes and spring onions were sown directly into 10 litre pots in multipurpose compost which were dampened before sowing. We spread the seeds out the best we could (much easier done with seeds like radishes than spring onions!) and gently pressed each seed into the compost before covering with a fine layer of compost.

The beetroot were sown into small cell trays, one seed per cell. Again, pushed gently into the dampened multipurpose compost before covering with a pinch more compost.

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The lettuces were sown into a 4″ pot in much the same way and the cucumbers were sown in individual peat pots which came with the kit.

The first thing to pop up were the radishes! Within a few days, these were showing their heads and have been growing rapidly ever since. The below photos show their progression in 4 weeks…

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Next, the cucumbers started to germinate. Two came along fairly quickly and have now had to be re-potted. The other came along a couple of weeks later and is still a small seedling at the moment!

The lettuce and spring onions weren’t as successful. In the end, one lettuce grew! But we carefully pricked him out regardless and hopefully we’ll get a red lettuce in the end.

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We had also almost given up on the spring onions. But then a few of them germinated this week!

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However, the beetroot are making better progress. We will be potting these on in the next week or so into 10 litre pots where they’ll stay to maturity.


 

We’ll keep you updated on progress!

Chirpy Chard

Our chard was ready to plant out last weekend.

We found a little spot down the garden that we could squeeze it, so levelled the soil out and got ready to plant.

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Before we planted the chard out, we gave them the “seaweed treatment”. This involves mixing up some Maxicrop Triple seaweed with water in a bucket and then submerging each plant for a minute or so until the plant has taken up some of the seaweed mixture.

When you first submerge the plant, air bubbles will come up from the pot, so you know that there’s room for some more seaweed to be taken up. When these bubbles start to slow down or stop, you’re done!

We then planted each chard about 6 inches apart. We’ve been reading up on it, and you can plant chard up to 1 foot apart. But we are going to settle with “mini leaves” to see how we get on.

We only had space for 10 out of the 11 plants, so the final one has been planted out into a 10 litre pot. We’ll see how this one does in comparison.

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Super sweetcorn

We also wanted to try growing sweetcorn this year. Firstly, we wanted to grow the coloured sweetcorn, but turned out this is only ornamental, and we’re all about things we can eat, so traditional yellow sweetcorn it was!

We decided on a variety called Earliking, which was supposed to be a really sweet variety. So we thought we’d give them a try. We sowed one seed in cell trays that were about 1″ x 2″. Sweetcorn seeds are an interesting one. They are one of the biggest seeds we’ve probably seen, and also are exactly like the dried up corns we know and love.

We sowed these on the Easter weekend, and they were ready to plant out today.

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We planted them 6-8″ apart in a square. We added our few plants to the square Dad had already started to give them the best chance.

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It’s important to plant sweetcorn in a square to try and ensure you get sweetcorns! This is because in order to produce the sweetcorn cobs, the plants need to be pollinated. This is achieved when the “tassels” appear, which need to sway in the wind and pollinate one another. Without this, no sweetcorn cobs will be produced. As you can’t guarantee which way the wind will blow when the pollination needs to happen, planting out in a square block is the safest.

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After planting, we watered the plants in to settle the soil around them.

Lettuce (let us) chill

Lettuces can be a funny one to try and germinate, albeit one of the easiest to grow once you’ve got them beyond this point. Therefore, we thought we’d given a step-by-step guide to how we sow our lettuces to get them germinated.

Most seeds require stratification before they will germinate. This is a process which imitates the natural process required for the seed to germinate. In the case of lettuces, this requires the seed to be chilled before it is left to germinate (hence the title of this blog post!)

To achieve this, we leave our lettuce seed in the fridge all the time. That means that they’re chilled whenever we want to sow them!

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When we’re ready, we prepare a quarter seed tray. I know we’ve been through this before, but in case you’re a new reader (or just as a reminder!) that means filling the tray loosely with Seed and Modular compost, gently compressing this and then lightly watering with a fine rose watering can.

Then we scatter as many lettuce seeds as we want to grow in a quarter seed tray and cover with vermiculite. This time round, it was Little Gem.

We then place the seed trays under the bench and cover with a piece of glass and a couple of sheets of newspaper. This is to stop the light getting to the seeds whilst they’re trying to germinate.

These were sown last Monday, and by today they were ready to prick out! This is the seedlings after they’ve been pricked out into cell trays. They will stay in these cells until they’re ready to be planted out, which will probably be in a couple of weeks.

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An update on the colourful cauliflowers

 

The weekend before last, our Romanesco and purple cauliflowers were ready to be planted out. We had five plants in total, as unfortunately we’d lost one of the purple cauliflowers between pricking out and planting out. It’s stem had rotted off for some reason, so we’d had to throw that one away.

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We dug a hole to plant each one in with a hand trowel and then gently eased the plant out of the pot, making sure to keep the plant and its roots in tact. The best way to do this is usually to hold the plant upside down, supporting its stem and roots between two fingers and gently squeezing opposite sides of the pot until it loosens and comes free.

Each plant was placed into the hold we’d dug, and the soil brought back around the plant, making sure to firm this in around the newly planted brassica. It’s important to firm the soil back around the plants to ensure there aren’t any air gaps around its roots where you dug the hole to place it in – as that wouldn’t do it any good at all!

When digging each hole, the aim should be to plant each brassica up to its bottom set of leaves. If you leave too much stalk above the ground, the young plants can easily get broken off in the wind before they get a chance to get established.

After we’d planted them all out, we gave them a feed of Blood, Fish and Bone. This is a general organic fertiliser and should help them get going!

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Finally, we gave them a good soaking in with a watering can to settle the soil around each plant, a sprinkling of slug pellets to stop our slimy “friends” devouring them immediately and covered with bird netting to stop our feathered friends doing the same.

We’re hoping to be able to start harvesting these in early July – but that all depends on the weather!

Strawberries: it’s fruit too, not just vegetables!

We’ve grown strawberries for the last couple of years, but we felt like they needed a bit of a refresh this year for a couple of reasons:

  1. The plants we had been growing were becoming less prolific and the runners we’d taken weren’t looking too great
  2. The plants we had been growing were given to us and the varieties were unknown. But what we found were that some tasted much better (or worse!) than others and so we wanted to try afresh with varieties that we hoped would all be tasty!

It turns out planting out strawberries is quite an operation! And who knew they were going to look like this when they arrived?!

We chose two varieties, Cambridge Favourite and Sonata. The former is an old favourite with very good reviews and the latter was described on Ken Muir’s as “sweet, large fruits with a very good flavour…” – how could we resist?!?!

First, we had to turnover the bed that we’d previously used to grow the strawberries. We started this with a rake, but to no avail. So then Dad lent us his Mantis tiller which did a fantastic job at breaking up the sticky clay soil. It was hard work though!

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We still had to rake it to level out the grow though. Although I think this may have been to Before we created two ridges to plant the strawberries on top of. The idea of this is to ensure that the strawberries (once they’ve grown) are not left laying in water as they ripen which may cause them to rot off.

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We then covered the ridges with weed suppressant. This is something else to help us both now and when the strawberries come along. Now, to stop the weeds taking over as the strawberries take hold, and later for the strawberries to rest on as they grow and ripen without them having to sit on the soil itself.

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After securing the weed suppressant, we planted one strawberry plant per hole in the seed suppressant and then watered these in well to settle the soil around each one. The left hand photo is the strawberry plants when we just planted them out, and the right hand plant is them two weeks later once they’ve started getting established.

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