A look back at 2019

This time last year, we made a plan for the growing season ahead. So we thought it would be a good time to look back at that plan and see how we got on!

Potatoes

We’d set ourselves the goal of three sowings of potatoes for 2019, to harvest in May, July and December. Well we managed 2/3, so not horrendous. No new potatoes for Christmas though unfortunately. The other two sowings didn’t do too badly though.

The main crop sowing that we did in April and harvested in July was definitely the most successful, but I guess that was to be expected, as they were grown at the time potatoes should be! The only thing was that the pots we planted them in were too tall and narrow, which hindered tuber production (and harvest!!) It was also hard as the weather got warmer to get enough water into the pots. Even twice a day wasn’t enough at one point, as they needed so much water to swell the potato tubers.

The early sowing in February and harvested in May weren’t bad though; they just took longer as they were started off in older weather. The cold greenhouse to protect them from the frost was definitely a winner though as it meant we could eat homegrown new potatoes in May!

Fingers crossed for some Christmas dinner new potatoes for 2020!

Chard

So we were drawn to this as it was so colourful. And we can confirm that it didn’t disappoint! It was also “sow simple” to grow. The seeds were sowed in cell trays, plants planted straight out in the garden from there, and that’s where they stayed to maturity.

If anything, the chard was moe prolific than we expected and we couldn’t keep up with it. One to note for another time!

Sweetcorn

We managed to grow this one too, although the harvest was perhaps not as successful as the chard. We think this is because we had a dry spell during the period that the corns were forming, so they didn’t bulk up as much as they could’ve done and some hadnt fully formed when we harvested them. They pollinated well though, so the square formation we planted them out in must’ve helped us out there!

Kohl rabi

These are one we tried for the first (and perhaps last!) time. They were relatively simple to grow, but we weren’t massive fans of the taste. We may have let them go over the top though, as they went from zero to massive in what felt like a matter of days! We’ve heard that they are nice grated raw and eaten in a salad, so perhaps well try that if we grow them again.

Romanesco cauliflowers

These on the other hand were delicious, definitely one to grow again in 2020 if we get round to it! Both the Romanesco cauliflowers and purple cauliflowers were just gorgeous to look at too!

6028648c-fba4-465a-8b3e-2a82d13090b3img_4493

They grew exactly the same as their white counterparts, but didn’t need shielding from the light to preserve their colour! The Romanesco came out top in the taste test vs the purple ones, but we think that may have had something to do with how they looked when cooked. The purple cauliflowers went that odd blue-grey colour that red cabbage gets when boiled. The best use we found for the purple cauliflower was cauliflower rice and stir fry, as it kept most of its coloured unlike when it was steamed. The Romanescos on the other hand kept their fantastic colour perfectly even when cooked!

Dwarf beans

So we forgot all about these…woops!

Peppers

And these we grew, but with varying results to what we expected. It turns out that both the Padron and Machu Picchu varieties we were drawn to typically grow much hotter than advertised. A single Machu Picchu turned some otherwise delicious homemade tomato soup into a soup that needed to be diluted three times with water and milk and was still too hot to eat in anything other than tiny doses!

And the Padrons were the same. Eating these could only be described as tapas roulette! We have one harvest that was completely mild, and several other harvests which made for a rather unpleasant tapas experience!

 

Having read up on Padrons, it turns out that is totally normal. Apparently the Padrons they grow for the supermarkets are picked by skilled workers who learn a hot padron from a mild one, hence why almost all of the Padrons you buy in a punnet in the supermarket are mild!

But we live and learn! The Gogorez and Snack Bite sweet peppers we grew both turned out extremely well. Our learning is to try and sow them a bit earlier in 2020, as they are notoriously slow to grow, and otherwise you don’t get to harvest anything until most other crops have finished!

img_5386

Garlic

Again, not the most successful of our 2019 growing attempts unfortunately. We think this is because we planted it a bit late (even for spring grown garlic) and tried to grow it in a pot with compost that was too rich. Alliums (the onion and garlic family) are known for liking quite poor soils. So place your bets on what we’re trying in 2020!

And the firm favourites (radishes, carrots, lettuce, spring onions, cucumbers, courgettes and strawberries!)

Overall, these all grew well. We enjoyed numerous harvests of carrots, lettuce, cucumbers and courgettes. The radishes and spring onions are harder, as they peak much faster and so need to be eaten relatively promptly once ready for harvest. The key to success with these therefore has to be to sow little but often, to give yourself a succession of both crops through the summer months.

We’re hoping for better things from the strawberries this year. Don’t get us wrong, we got some strawberries, but not as many as we would’ve liked. This was for two reasons:

1. They were newly established plants and so were going to need a season to get properly established; and

2. The weed suppressant that was suppose to be a godsend was a total hindrance. It may suppress weeds well, but it is also pretty impermeable, so getting water to the plants was much harder than it needed to be, resulting in the plants having to survive on less water than they (and us!) would’ve liked!!

And that’s a wrap for 2019. Not bad if we do say so ourselves… And some learnings for future years made along the way, which is great!

We’re looking forward to sharing our gardening experiences with you again in 2020! Watch out for this year’s plan over the coming weeks!

You win some you lose some. Update on the psychedelic vegetable kit!

The kit has been growing with varying amounts of success across the different crops…!

Spring onions

Only two germinated, and then one of those didn’t make it to this stage. The remaining one is still growing away in the pot (a pot big enough to fit 50 in!) but never mind, we’ll see how it turns out in the end.

Lettuces

The strikethrough pretty much sums it up. Again, a couple germinated, but they didn’t make it.

Radishes

These grew well, although we’re not sure what we think of the “assorted” nature of the crop. As you can see from the photo, there was lots of variation in colour, shape and size! And they were very peppery, so we think we prefer the regular red, round radishes that we’ve grown for the past couple of years. As with all radishes though, they started going to seed before we had a chance to eat them all. Next year, we either need to sow less, or eat more!

OINI3960

Beetroot

These are also growing well, although they take longer to mature than radishes, so we still haven’t harvested one yet. We’ll be sure to let you know how we get on when we do though!

MZDS7108

Cucumbers

These are a slightly peculiar one to grow, we must say. We’ve grown cucumbers before, but not round, yellow ones!

However, they seem to be getting on alright so far. We potted them up into their final pots and have started to train them up a cane, tying them up every 4-6 inches.

Cucumbers can be a bit sensitive, so we are always very careful when watering. We try avoid making the leaves or stem wet, as the stems can easily rot off and then it’s game over!

You also have to make sure you take the side shoots off cucumber plants. Otherwise, it uses lots of the water you give it, as well as the plant’s energy to grow side shoots, when really you just want it to produce cucumbers. It turns out that this particular variety of cucumber is also not female only.

Some cucumber varieties nowadays are “all-female” or “self-pollinating” meaning they only produce female flowers, i.e. the ones that actually produce cucumbers.

What this means is we need to take the male flowers off as well as the side shoots. Otherwise, the male flowers can cause the cucumbers to taste bitter.

TJAD8462

We have got cucumbers coming though! They may not be ready to harvest yet, but fingers crossed they will be soon!

JKFS5096

 

 

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.

QNEB1726

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.

IMHP8603

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…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

FQRH9949

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

PWUC6595

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!

Planning for 2019

It’s really hard at this time of year not to wish away your life in return for the early arrival of summer and the possibility of harvesting the vegetables you have grown. But whilst we have to wait patiently for the weather to warm up (extremely patiently based on the snow that has been forecast over the past week!), it’s a great time to stay indoors and plan for the year ahead.

It’s always good to try some new things, but also to stick to some of the crops you’ve grown and loved before and can look forward to growing once again. Too much change and you set yourself an almost impossible task with failure almost destined as you try to grapple with growing some many unfamiliar vegetables all in one go!

Needless to say, despite my comments above – looking through the various seed catalogues and on their websites, our list of “want-to-grows” almost doubled, with all the eye-catching photos of the crops you can grow!

So here’s our plan for the year ahead. Fingers crossed we get round to it all!

  1. Potatoes. We’ve decided on three sowings – early new potatoes (hopefully ready for harvest in May, a second sowing ready in July and a third that will hopefully give us new potatoes for Christmas! Refer to our previous blog post for the early new potatoes, as these were planted last week. We’ve gone for Red Duke of York and Charlotte.
  2. Chard. We’ve never grown this, but like its colours – so we’re going for a pink and orange selection to get that rainbow effect. We bought some from the supermarket to try it before we committed to growing it from scratch, as we wanted to make sure we liked it! It went down well – so here we are!
  3. Sweetcorn. I’ve grown this at home before as a kid, but Chris fancied his chances with it this year. Initially we were going to grow the multicoloured cobs (you can see a theme emerging here!)… until we found out that apparently it looks a lot better than it tastes. So, standard yellow it is!
  4. Kohl rabi. We think that the end product looks like spaceships – what more reason do you need to give it a try?! There are green and purple varieties – surprise surprise, we’ve gone for purple.
  5. Romanesco cauliflowers. So we grew cauliflowers last year, which we may well do again. However, fancied a slight change and wondered whether Romanesco cauliflowers taste the same. We’ve gone for one of the green (rather than purple this time!) varieties as they are so bright! I’m kind of imagining it’s going to taste like broccoli, but we’ll have to wait and see.
  6. Dwarf beans. We found a variety that advertised “easy picking” bush plants. They sound ideal. They don’t use up much space and they’re easy to pick – so we’ve gone for those.
  7. Peppers. We’re trying two varieties (so far!), and neither are similar to the bell-style ‘Gogorez’ peppers we grew in 2018. The first, is going to be Padron – a medium-sized long pepper that makes for a great Tapas dish and is harvested before it goes red (not to say we might not leave a few of them red to see how they differ!). The second, is a chilli pepper by the name of ‘Machu Pichu’ which is by no means the hottest chilli pepper, but should give a little extra spice to a few of our favourite dinners.
  8. Garlic. We like to use garlic in cooking, so thought we’d see how easy it was to grow our own. The bulbs are purchased, and are waiting for us to plant out once the weather perks up a bit.

And some firm favourites from last year:

  1. Radishes
  2. Carrots
  3. Lettuce
  4. Spring onions
  5. Cucumber
  6. Courgettes
  7. Strawberries

I’m sure we’ve forgotten something – we’ve just got to hope we remember before sowing time! We also haven’t firmed up sowing dates etc. yet, but watch this space…!

Cucumber, courgette and cucamelon update!

Our cucumber, courgette and cucamelon plants are doing brilliantly. Following a slow start, the cucumber plant is coming on strides now and is much stronger. For a start, it could only support one cucumber at a time, but now it’s growing three or four with ease!

These are the last two cucumbers that we harvested from the plant.

 

IMG_8743

The cucamelons are also starting to be ready to harvest. As we hadn’t tried growing these before, we were dying to taste them! It turns out they are exactly as described, a slightly sour cucumber – but still an oddly refreshing taste!

The courgette plants are also still producing well. We have had some extremely hot weather in recent weeks, so we were worried at times that they were coming to the end of their life (as it was so difficult to get enough water into their pots!) However, they have really picked up again now it’s dropped a few degrees.

In fact, we had to tie them up to their stake again for support. They don’t seem to mind this, as long as you encourage them gently towards their stake. It also means they don’t take up too much room, as they go up rather than out!

A quick July update

Now the weather is warm and the days are long, everything grows surprisingly quickly. Here are a few photos of how our various crops are getting on.

The second sowing of radishes are starting to swell, so it won’t be long before we’re eating these! The beetroot are also getting almost big enough to eat – we can’t wait!

The cucamelons have already grown beyond the short canes we gave them in order to reach the main climbing trellis. I love their tendrils which keep them attached so securely to it! The courgettes are also producing lots of fruits now. I would say on average, one courgette every 2-3 days.

The cucumber plant is also growing steadily and was tied up to its batten for the first time at the weekend. You can see that the compost is not kept too wet around the cucumbers, as we find that their stems can often rot off where this is the case.

IMG_7546

The brassicas are also growing on nicely after we pricked them out last weekend. These will remain in the same pots until they’re planted out, so just need to be watered until then and monitored to make sure not pests decide to land!

IMG_7550

Planting out some more cucurbits

The cucamelons have continued to grow away as quickly as they started, and were moved outside last week to harden them off before planting out. We’ve never grown these before, so we’re not sure what we’re doing, but a quick Google search gave us some ideas.

They grow like a vine, so we fixed some plastic coated metal fencing up for them to climb up. You can see the little tendrils they already have growing which will help them to climb their way up. In fact, they were already a bit difficult to untangle from one another in the seed tray, so we don’t think they’ll have any trouble climbing up the fencing.

XIYJ4020

We didn’t have much space left, so we had to plant four cucamelons in a 30 litre pot, with a small cane to support their journey up to the main fencing. Let’s see if they carry on growing at the same pace they have been!

One of the cucumbers we took from a cutting a couple of weeks ago was also ready to plant out. Similarly, it was planted out in a 30 litre pot, making sure not to put too much damp compost around the stem of the cucumber, as they can be a bit temperamental and we wanted to give it the best chance of not rotting off.

Like with the cucamelons, we have used a bamboo stick to support the plant until it reaches the batten that we’ve fixed to the fence for it to be trained along.

We’ll keep a close eye on the plant, as they can be difficult to get going, making sure not to water too heavily, and certainly not near the base of the stem.

Some growing top tips

Everyone prefers a cauliflower with a white curd. However, this means that you need to shelter the curd from sunlight, to prevent it going yellow. One way of achieving this is to tie the cauliflower leaves together at the top once you see a cauliflower starting to form.

 

Like us, our plants need food and water. However, there are ways you can help them to take up the food and water more easily and efficiently. The nodules which grow out of the stems of cucumber plants are roots waiting to hit soil! Although you have to be careful not to dampen the delicate cucumber stem too much and cause it to rot off, heaping a small amount of compost up around the stem gradually to enable these roots to form will only assist you with growing a stronger plant.

IMG_7319

Don’t sow anything directly into the soil – there are too many things out there to try and scupper your chances. Whether this be pests digging up and eating/scattering your seeds, the weather washing them out or being too cold to enable germination or pests eating off the new shoots once the seedlings germinate, we always find it’s best to sow seeds into cell trays or seed trays first, potentially pot on and then plant out when you have a more established plant.

These are another sowing of beetroot sown in cell trays. These will be planted out in the garden directly from these.

IMG_7202

Leeks are better the longer the blanch (the white bit) you can get on them. However, there are ways you can get the leeks to self blanch themselves, such as the below.

Dibber a hole about 9 inches deep and plop your leek seedling into the hole. Gently fill the hole with water and this will slightly back fill the hole you’ve made to cover the leek plants bare roots to enable it to grow. As the leek grows, the hole (providing it does not get completely backfilled) acts as a natural light blocker and therefore blanches the leek.

IMG_7309

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: