Sowing pretty cauliflowers and planting garlic

This year we wanted to try Romanesco cauliflowers. We bought a lovely bright green variety, Navona which caught our eye, as well as Graffiti, a purple cauliflower! The seed packets recommend they are grown as autumn harvesting varieties, which would mean sowing in April/May.

However, we couldn’t wait to give them a try, so we sowed a couple of each today. All being well, we should be looking to harvest these at some point in mid-late May.

All our seeds get sown in a very similar way. The seed tray is filled with Seed and Modular compost, watered with a fine rose watering can and then gently compressed to make a smooth seedbed.

The seeds are then carefully spaced around the seed tray to make sure they are easier to handle when it comes to pricking out.

We then cover the seeds with a fine layer of vermiculite and make sure that the seeds are named so we don’t get them confused!

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As brassicas are quite hardy, their seeds don’t need bottom heat to germinate, even at this time of the year. Therefore, the finished seed tray was placed under a sheet of glass with newspaper over the top, and will be left until the seedlings start to show through. This shouldn’t take too long – probably about a week.

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In the meantime, the seed tray may be moistened with a fine spray of water if it appears to be drying out.

Next up was the garlic which we bought from the garden centre a couple of weeks ago. Although it didn’t look like it, this was starting to shoot. The variety is Cristo.

First, we peeled the dry outer skins from the garlic and separated each of the cloves, making sure they were all firm.

Next, we filled a cell tray with multipurpose compost, making sure to firm this down as we filled it. We then moistened this with water from a fine rose can.

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A garlic clove was then pushed into each cell, until it was about half submerged in the compost.

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As you can hopefully see from the photo, some of the garlic cloves have already started to sprout, but we hope that the rest will start doing the same before long!

We’ll keep you posted!

Planting the first Potatoes of the new season.

This afternoon we got going with our first bit of vegetable growing of 2019!

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It didn’t take very long at all, but we’ve now planted 2 x ‘Red Duke of York’ and 2 x ‘Charlotte’ – which are first early new potatoes.

Step 1.

Fill the pot  with multipurpose compost by approximately one third.

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Step 2 (above right).

You don’t want to have every single shoot left on the potato, as this would result in a lot more roots taking up space in the pot, which in turn would restrict how much the plant could grow. It’ll leave you more likely to have smaller potatoes.

So, with a sharp knife, carefully take off all but a couple of shoots.

Step 3.

Sit the potatoes on the compost, with the shoots facing upwards. This may mean that the potato is placed sideways as well as longways.

 

Step 4.

Cover the potatoes with more of the same compost, filling the pot to leave a dome-shaped top.

 

Step 5. 

Put the pots containing the potatoes in a ‘frost-free’ location whilst they get going.

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We managed to find a little space in Dad’s heated lean-to, but there are plenty of alternatives, such as a conservatory.

The potatoes should be staying here until their shoots are showing through the top of the compost!

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.

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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.

Taking cucumber cuttings to grow more plants

It’s always a good idea to have successional sowings of the various vegetables you grow to length their harvest period. Therefore, we would always recommend sowing little but often. However, you don’t always have to start again from seed. Instead, you can take cuttings from the existing plant and root these.

Cucumbers are an example of one type of crop which this can be done with. You allow a side shoot to grow to about 6 inches (instead of nipping them off when they’re small as you usually would), and then carefully cut it off with a knife without damaging the existing plant. You should then put the cutting in a container of cold water to encourage root growth.

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After a week or so, roots should appear from the stem. Make sure to replace the water in the container every day or so to prevent it becoming stagnant. If this occurs, the cucumber stems (which are still delicate) are likely to rot off.

This plant is one taken from one of our Passandra mini cucumbers a couple of weeks ago which has now been potted up. Once big enough, we’ll plant it out.

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Keeping up with our runner beans

We took a look at our runner beans today. Each plant is now making its way up the cane, and any that were straying to a neighbouring cane were gently unwound and wound back round their own! As the plants are only about 6 inches apart, the sideshoots that runner beans throw up mean that the beans weren’t going to get a lot of space.

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Therefore, we have decided that we will only look to get runner beans off the main stem. For each plant in turn, we cut the side shoots off the main stem off to give the plants more space.

For smaller sideshoots, these can be nipped off between your thumb and first finger.

It was surprising how much extra foliage the runner beans were carrying!

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And the plants look much happier afterwards.

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We also harvested our first courgette! Although its possible to get courgettes larger than this one, it’s normally best to harvest the first couple of courgettes from any plant a little bit prematurely. This is because the plant is still quite small at this point, and so the courgette takes up a lot of energy to produce. It’s better to remove these once they get to a reasonable size to give the plant a chance to rejuvenate and grow stronger.

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