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!

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…!

Carrot harvest

It really doesn’t seem that long ago since we sowed our carrots, but we’ve already been able to harvest some of them within 3 months.

They require regular (daily) watering to prevent them from splitting. To put it simply, if carrots are not watered a similar amount and at a similar frequency then they become susceptible to ‘outgrowing’ their own skin and that’s how they can end up split.

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We tried our best to keep all of the carrots submerged in the soil, but as you can see this was not completely possible. This may be partly because of how many carrots we crammed in to one pot!

Not a problem though, it’s just a case of cutting off the green bits and the rest is ready to go!

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(Above) Our first carrot harvest from the pot. There’s probably between 1/3 and 1/4 of the total potful here, so not a bad haul by any means! This variety is known as Ideal Red, and everyone was quick to comment on how good they tasted – particularly compared to supermarket carrots!

The majority that we pulled up looked like carrots should, there were a few that were more comical in size and shape – but they all tasted just as good…

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Once we’d harvested the carrots we wanted, we made sure to cover the carrots back up straight away. This is important, because once the carrots have been pulled out from the soil the sweet smell quickly attracts Carrot Fly, which can obliterate a whole crop in no time at all! We covered the pot with a few layers of fleece, which seemed to do the trick…

Too many cucamelons left us in a pickle!

After a slow start and us questioning whether any would ever appear, we ended up with far too many cucamelons! Having never grown them before, we weren’t sure what to do with them – but our Instagram followers came to our rescue! Apparently pickled cucamelon is very popular both here and in the US!

And it couldn’t be easier to make…

Firstly, we mixed 300ml of white vinegar with a teaspoon of salt, stirring until it was dissolved. Then we added a tablespoon of demerara sugar, again stirring until dissolved.

We chopped some mint and dill from the herb garden and added these to the solution along with some coriander seeds, before washing the cucamelons and adding them to sterilised jars.

The pickling solution was then poured over the cucamelons and the jars were sealed tightly, ready for the cucamelons to pickle away!

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Courgettes: – Practising what we preach

We revealed our top tip for courgette-success in one of our previous posts, which is staking the plants and regularly tying the stalk to it. This results in the courgette plant taking up less space and also being much easier to harvest!

As you can see (albeit I appreciate I’m only 5′ 2″) the courgette plants can grow really tall by staking them, and it means you get lots of yummy courgettes to eat!

The only thing is that you really have to keep on top of the tying up, because otherwise we find that sometimes the growing points of the plant can be snapped off in the wind! 😦

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Making use of the abundance of herbs

We don’t know about everyone else, but vegetables seem to come like buses. At times you don’t have very many, and then they all seem to come at once! This is exactly what’s happening with our herbs at the moment. They have all really got going, but we can’t eat them fast enough! And unfortunately, the shorter lifespan ones like basil are starting to flower so we’ll end up losing the chance to use them if we’re not careful!

We cut a few stems of basil, washed them and placed them on a baking tray in the bottom of the oven for an hour or so, or until they had dried.

We then finely chopped the dried herbs, discarding any particularly woody stems and will store them in an airtight jar until we want to use them in cooking!

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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.

 

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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!

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