Chirpy Chard

Our chard was ready to plant out last weekend.

We found a little spot down the garden that we could squeeze it, so levelled the soil out and got ready to plant.

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Before we planted the chard out, we gave them the “seaweed treatment”. This involves mixing up some Maxicrop Triple seaweed with water in a bucket and then submerging each plant for a minute or so until the plant has taken up some of the seaweed mixture.

When you first submerge the plant, air bubbles will come up from the pot, so you know that there’s room for some more seaweed to be taken up. When these bubbles start to slow down or stop, you’re done!

We then planted each chard about 6 inches apart. We’ve been reading up on it, and you can plant chard up to 1 foot apart. But we are going to settle with “mini leaves” to see how we get on.

We only had space for 10 out of the 11 plants, so the final one has been planted out into a 10 litre pot. We’ll see how this one does in comparison.

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Super sweetcorn

We also wanted to try growing sweetcorn this year. Firstly, we wanted to grow the coloured sweetcorn, but turned out this is only ornamental, and we’re all about things we can eat, so traditional yellow sweetcorn it was!

We decided on a variety called Earliking, which was supposed to be a really sweet variety. So we thought we’d give them a try. We sowed one seed in cell trays that were about 1″ x 2″. Sweetcorn seeds are an interesting one. They are one of the biggest seeds we’ve probably seen, and also are exactly like the dried up corns we know and love.

We sowed these on the Easter weekend, and they were ready to plant out today.

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We planted them 6-8″ apart in a square. We added our few plants to the square Dad had already started to give them the best chance.

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It’s important to plant sweetcorn in a square to try and ensure you get sweetcorns! This is because in order to produce the sweetcorn cobs, the plants need to be pollinated. This is achieved when the “tassels” appear, which need to sway in the wind and pollinate one another. Without this, no sweetcorn cobs will be produced. As you can’t guarantee which way the wind will blow when the pollination needs to happen, planting out in a square block is the safest.

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After planting, we watered the plants in to settle the soil around them.

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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Somewhere over the…Rainbow Chard

We sowed our Fantasia and Intense rainbow chard on 24 March. One is orange, and one is red, so we’re hoping to grow a nice colourful crop with these!

We sowed one seed per cell in Seed and Modular compost, pushing each seed gently into the compost. We then covered these with vermiculite, a sheet of glass and some newspaper until they germinated.

After a couple of weeks, they had mostly germinated and were large enough to transplant. We potted them up into 3″ pots in multipurpose compost.

And now, another couple of weeks on – they look like this!

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These will be ready to plant out soon. So we’ll keep you updated on progress!

Potting on a peck of Machu Picchu peppers

The Machu Picchu peppers had already gotten too big for their initial pots, so a week or so ago we moved them on!

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Carefully holding only the leaf, we gently lifted them out of their trays – keeping all of the roots in tact.

Using a dibber we made enough of a hole in the new pots and gently pushed them into position, pressing them down a little. Then it’s just a case of covering the compost up around them up again so that only the leaves were showing.

They immediately looked a lot happier!

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However, the above photo was taken a couple of weeks ago, and they’re doing really well now. Here’s a photo of how two of the plants look about 10 days later: –

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Although we know from last year that any pepper plants are going to take a long time until they’re ready to harvest, so there’s a good few months to go yet!

Charisma carrots

As we’ve mentioned before, we are members of the National Vegetable Society (“NVS”). Being a member of the NVS has lots of benefits, including:

  • Quarterly magazine which includes lots of growing hints and tips
  • An online forum where members can pose questions and share their growing experiences
  • Access to local District Association meetings where you can meet liked minded people and share your experiences
  • Access to NVS shows where you can exhibit vegetables (if that takes your fancy!)
  • A few free packets of seeds each year

And all for just £20 a year (for an individual membership!)

The NVS has a number of affiliations with gardening organisations, one of these being Marshall’s Seeds. This year, Marshall’s are sponsoring a class at the NVS branch and National shows  a dish of three Charisma carrots. These are supposed to be a super-sturdy late maincrop Chantenay carrot. I’m not sure whether we’ll get any on to the show bench, but we wanted to give them a go anyway!

We wanted to give the carrots as much space as possible to grow down, so we decided to sow them in these recycled paint buckets that were lying around! They’re about 2 foot tall. The buckets were filled with multipurpose compost and then lightly watered to moisten the compost and settle it where the seeds were to be sown.

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We then made seven small holes in the top of the compost and placed 3 seeds in each hole.

You may think it’s a bit of a waste of seed to put three in each hole when you only intend to grow one carrot on to maturity in each, but when you may be looking to exhibit them, you don’t want any “misses”, i.e. when none of the three seeds in the hole grow so you’ve wasted that one. It also means that once they germinated and started growing, you can thin them down to one, leaving the strongest seedling to grow on to maturity.

When sowing, the seeds are placed around the hole away from one another. This means that in the event that all three seeds germinate, when you come to thin them down to one, you don’t disturb the roots of the others. Like we said before, carrots can be a bit fussy if they feel like they’ve been disturbed, and the last thing you want is a wonky carrot to put on the show bench!

After sowing, we covered the seeds with some fine Seed and Modular compost, firming this gently so there were no air pockets left in the hole.

Carrots take a couple of weeks to germinate, so we’ll update you shortly! In the meantime, we will keep the compost damp so that the seeds don’t dry out as they germinate.

And two weeks on, they’ve started to germinate! It looks like most of them are coming!

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.

 

Main sowing of potatoes

You may remember that we sowed some early potatoes back at the end of January. We are hoping to harvest these mid-late May, but in order to do so they have had to be grown on for most of their lives indoors to protect them from the cold weather and frosts.

However, we also wanted to grow some a bit later in the season, so planted Cara and Carolus last weekend. We haven’t grown either of these before, but they took our fancy in the garden centre a couple of months back!

We planted these up exactly the same as we did for the earlier planting, recapped below for ease of reference.

We mixed up some compost as follows:

  • 4 x 3 1/2 gallon buckets of medium grade peat
  • 10oz calcified seaweed
  • 16oz Q4

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We then filled each pot to a third full, and placed a tuber in each pot before filling to the top with the remaining compost.

Exactly as before, we thinned down the number of shoots left on each potato tuber before planting to one. The idea behind this is to cut down the number of roots and therefore get larger potatoes. We’ll see what happens when we turn them out in a couple of months’ time!

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You can just knock the shoots off if you prefer, but we find digging them out completely either with your fingernail or a penknife to work the best. Otherwise, you run the risk of the potato re-shooting where you just rub off the excess shoots.

Once planted up, we gave the pots a good watering and these have been placed outside.

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