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!

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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!

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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!

A May update

We wanted to give a quick progress update on some of the other plants we’re growing that haven’t had much air time lately.

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They don’t seem to have moved much since the last update, but we’re hoping they’re doing what they’re supposed to be under the surface!

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Charisma carrots

These carrots germinated well. You may remember that we sowed three seeds per station. The photos below show their progression from a couple of weeks ago to now. These will need to be thinned out in the next week or two to leave just one seedling per station.

Lettuces

We pricked out four varieties of lettuces into cell trays a few weeks back. These have now been planted out into 10 litre pots and seem to be coming along nicely. They will stay in these pots until maturity now, so just need to keep watering them until then!

Spring onions, radishes and carrots

The other salad vegetables that we sowed at the same time as the lettuces are also coming along alright in their pots. These both take longer to grow to maturity than the radishes, which literally take a matter of weeks! But they’re coming along alright for now.

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And finally…one of our first harvests of 2019! The second harvest to come in our next post… Don’t they look delicious?!

 

 

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!

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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Sowing our salad

We decided to grow some salad vegetables in large pots again this year. So the weekend before last, we got started!

We put a few inches of soil in the bottom of each pot to act as anchorage if the wind gets up, and then filled each pot almost to the top with multipurpose compost. We then sprinkled a thin layer (no more than an inch) of Seed and Modular compost on the top of each pot to act as a nice seed bed to sow on to. We did this as the Seed and Modular compost is generally much finer than the multipurpose compost, and so is an easier start in life for the tiny seeds.

Before sowing the seeds, we gave each pot a good watering to moisten the compost. You want to do this before sowing the seeds as watering afterwards runs the risk of washing the little seeds you’ve just sown away!

This year, we’ve gone for Rougette radishes, Guardsman spring onions and Flyaway carrots. We grew all of these this year and they came well for us, so we’re going to give them another go this year.

The radish and carrot seeds were spaced evenly round the pot, and the spring onion seeds scattered over. Radishes and carrots ideally don’t want to be disturbed once germinated, so it’s best to space these out beforehand so that they can be left to their own devices. Spring onions are less fussy though, so we can always thin these out at a later date if we need to!

Once the seeds were sown, they were gently firmed into the compost and then covered with a sieved layer of multipurpose compost.

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We could’ve also sown lettuces straight in the pots, but there were some seedlings that Dad had sown the week before going spare, so we pricked some of these out instead! We did a couple of types: a green and a red iceberg type lettuce.

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These were pricked out into small cell trays (about an inch in diameter) filled with Seed and Modular compost. The compost was very gently firmed in before being moistened and then one lettuce seedling being planted in each cell. Once these have been grown on for a couple of weeks, we will plant them out into a pot and grow them on outside. For now, they are being kept in a cold greenhouse.

 

Things don’t always go to plan!

We thought it would be a good opportunity to update you on our various container growing adventures.

The onions, beetroot and carrots are all coming along nicely. It’ll be a little bit of time before they’re ready to harvest, but they’re all moving along as expected.

The lettuces are also growing well. We think we put a few too many little gem lettuces in the pot, so we’ll be thinning some of these out shortly and eating them as salad leaves. This should give the others more of a chance to heart up.

The radishes are ready to harvest! These were only sown on 7 May (and were probably ready this time last week if we’d wanted to). Therefore, a great one for growing if you only want to have to wait 3-4 weeks!

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The courgettes we have growing in containers are starting to get flowers, so fingers crossed we’ll have some courgettes coming soon. They are also starting to grow up, so they’ll need tying up the stake shortly.

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However, not everything always goes to plan. Unfortunately, our seed potato that we planted (after growing so well to begin with) succumbed to some kind of disease and we had to discard it. Equally, the spring onions we sowed at the same time as the other container salad veg never germinated. Therefore, we have recycled the pot.

First, we forked over the top of the compost with a hand fork, to loosen this after the watering it had had since we sowed the spring onion seeds. We then smoothed this over to create a bed for the seeds.

We sowed the radish seeds approximately 1″ apart in the pot and then gently pressed them in to the compost.

Lastly, we covered the seeds with a fine layer of seed and potting compost and then watered the seeds with a fine rose watering can to moisten the compost on top of the seeds.

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