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.

 

April update

We haven’t had a chance to write a post for a couple of weeks, but there’s been lots going in!

Potatoes

These were planted in late January, but have been kept indoors as we are still getting a few sharp frosts here in Essex.

Firstly, they were growing in the lean to greenhouse with a little heat, but now they’ve been moved to the polytunnel. The first photo was two weeks ago, and the second today. It’s amazing how much they’ve grown! We’ve also put some cane supports in for each one now, as their haulms were getting a bit unruly. And we didn’t want them to break off!

 

Kohl rabi

We sowed our Purple Delicacy kohl rabi last week. These were sown into Seed and Modular compost in a quarter seed tray and covered with vermiculite. As kohl rabi is part of the brassica family, and therefore quite a hardy plant, they didn’t need to be germinated on the propagator. Instead, we covered them with a sheet of glass and some newspaper.

They had already germinated by this weekend!

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So we pricked them out into 3″ pots into multipurpose compost.

 

2019 sowing planner

As promised, we have now put some suggested (hopeful!) dates to all the things we are looking to grow this year!

We have set this out below – so let’s see how closely we manage to stick to it!

Already sown/planted

  • Early Potatoes – Red Duke of York/Charlotte – 26/01/19
  • Chill pepper – Machu Picchu – 16/02/19
  • Romanesco – Navona – 17/02/19
  • Purple Cauliflower – Graffiti – 17/02/19

Still to come…!

  • Spring Onion – Guardsman – mid-March
  • Chard – Fantasia/Intense – mid-end March
  • Kohl Rabi – Purple Delicacy – end of March
  • Radish – Rougette (and other salad goodies!) – beginning of April
  • Sweetcorn – Earliking – mid-April
  • Maincrop potatoes – mid-April

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!

It’s finally hotting up! – Sowing the Chilli Peppers

The sowing season is now very much upon us, and this weekend we sowed our Machu Picchu Chilli Pepper seeds.
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It was a very simple process, and didn’t involve anything out of the ordinary! 

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First of all we filled the seed tray with seed and modular compost (which is much finer than regular compost, therefore ideal for sowing).

Our next step was to use a block of wood to flatten out/compress the compost…

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Then, we carefully placed the seeds on top of the compost, an equal distance apart – and pressed them down a little.
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Once they’d been pressed down, the seed tray was covered with vermiculite, as shown below…

It’ll now go onto the propagator until the seeds are showing – which will be roughly 2 weeks (hopefully!).

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In other news, we had a little check on our early new potatoes, and whilst we had to move out a little soil before we could find them – they’re certainly not far away from showing!

The fastest (and easiest) crop – mung beans!

They only take about a week from sowing to harvest – what could possibly go wrong?! Mung beans are a great one for first time growers and also to encourage kids as it doesn’t take very long at all to see results! They are also a great thing to grow at this time of year for having in stir frys.

Mung beans don’t even need soil. All you will need is a large glass jar, an elastic band and some cotton cloth.

Firstly, the mung bean seeds should be soaked for 24 hours in water. Just covering them with water in your jar and then attaching the cotton over the top of the jar with an elastic band.

After 24 hours, the water should be poured away through the cotton, rinsed through with fresh water and then poured away again. The jar should be left on its side.

The rinsing through process should then be repeated daily (twice daily if possible) until the mung bean shoots are long enough to eat.

This is their progress in just 5 days (although it has been exceptionally warm!)

Topping up the herb garden

Lots of the herbs have already been planted out, for example mint, parsley, sage, lovage, chives and tarragon. These were started off from seed earlier in the year (around March time) and were planted out towards the middle of May.

However, a couple of herbs we grow don’t take as long to grow, and tend to go to seed very quickly. Therefore, we sow them directly into their final pots later on in the season.

Therefore, today we were sowing basil and dill.

They were sown into a pot of multipurpose compost with an inch or so of seed and potting compost on top to act as a finer layer to aid the seeds to germinate. The seeds were then sprinkled over the surface of the compost and covered with vermiculite. As you can see, the basil seeds are pretty tiny, therefore these do not tend to need to be pressed gently into the surface of the compost, as the layer of vermiculite is sufficient to enable them to germinate.

As with the brassicas, the pots were then watered gently and covered with a sheet of glass and a piece of newspaper until the seedlings start to germinate.

Sowing brassicas

We helped sow some brassicas today: cauliflowers and calabrese. Like with most things, we sow our brassicas and grow them on in pots before planting out to give them the best chance.

Firstly, we filled 1/4 seed trays with Levingtons Seed and Modular compost and dampened the compost with a fine rose watering can. We then gently firmed down the compost with a piece of wood.

 

Next, the seeds were placed on the compost, gently pressed into the surface and then covered with vermiculite. Once ready, they were covered with a sheet of glass and a piece of newspaper to obscure the light, and keep the seeds warm as they germinate.

 

We always make sure to label the varieties we are growing using white plant labels. These labels stay with the plants all the way through until they’re planted out, to ensure the different varieties don’t get mixed up and you can track which ones grow better/worse for you! It also helps you to work out timings for particular varieties so that you can try and time your growing to get a succession of vegetables to eat throughout the season.

The white plant labels also come in handy for moving seeds around in the seed tray. Here, I’m using the plant label to evenly space the seeds out in the seed tray to make it easier when you come to pricking the seedlings out in a week or so.

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