Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Malvern Autumn Show

Well, shows are always a good excuse to meet up with new faces, stuff your face with home made goodies and bag a bargain. Today we met up with our good friends Paul and Shelley, met Hazel and Jane for the first time and also arranged for Hazels mum to move in with us in an attempt to reduce the ironing mountain, and a a great rate as well, thanks Hazel.
The grand cake with the "dreaded fifty" is in celebration of Claires (Scarey 55 from the grapevine) birthday. Claire, yes it did taste as good as it looks, another bonus of having Hazels mum round.
Kazzi, ever being aware of a photo opportunity, managed to bag a photo of herself with Medwyn Williams, the King of Veg. As a bonus we bought some of his new carrot seed for showing in "other than long" carrot classes, the ones on display were huge, very evenly sized and hopefully will bag us a rosette come next years shows. Never having shown before this may be more of a challenge than it seems.
All in all, we had a great time with old friends and new, were well fed and shopped out. Its a show well worth going to.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

And it keeps on a coming!!!!

Things are getting a bit desperate on the plots. We normally plant our garlic at this time of year in a vacant bed but alas that space isnt there as the beds are still rammed with plants and tasty edibles. On plot two, our polytunnel plot, we have installed two raised beds with two more to come once our parsnips are out. The two beds were planted up immediately, one with garlic and one with "radar" onion sets. There is still a ruck of garlic to plant and we desperately need to get our new half plot rotovated so that we can plant up our 90 odd "aromel" strawberry runners and our new herb bed.

One the harvest front, our peas are now starting to pod up and hopefully we will be picking fresh peas in mid October, in addition the succession sown salad leaves and lettuce just keep on doing us proud. The next sowing of these salads will be planted out into the tunnel to keep the worst of the weather off, how they cope with the low light levels is another matter.

On the root veg side our swede are huge as are the parsnips, this is the first year that both have done so well and I am well chuffed, we also have carrots and celery ready and as a brucey bonus celariac, so, bring on the stew.

A very welcome late crop is our sweetcorn. This is one of our favourite veg and two sowings in early spring fell prey to mice in the greenhouse. The third sowing went out late but has picked up very well and is now ready to harvest as are our "aromel" perpetual strawberries. I cannot praise these enough, 50 plants are giving us 4-5lb of fruit a week, the extra 90 plants will hopefully ramp that up next year to 12-16lb a week, keeping us in jam, fresh fruit and pudings. The fruits are large, juicy and very, very tasty. Please, do try them.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Fertiliser Fact Sheet

Sulphate of iron
This improves the habitat of ericaceous plants such as Blueberries by lowering the soils pH, making it more acidic. It also supplies Iron, which is a mojor plant element. For a base dressing before sowing or planting add 3oz per square yard and work into the soil. To top dress established plants, add 1oz per square yard and lightly hoe in.

Sulphate of Amonia
This is a quick acting general nitrogen fertiliser for use throughout the garden. It is mainly used to give a rapid boost to established, quick growing vegetables and salad crops. It gives a very effective spring tonic to shrubs, fruit and spring greens. To top dress add 1oz per square yard and hoe in or for use as a liquid feed add 1oz to 2 gallons of water and water in, keeping the fertilizer off leaves and stems.

Blood, Fish and Bone
This has an NPK ratio of 6-7-6, and is an organically based and balanced compound fertiliser. It can be used on shrubs, flowers and vegetables and should be used from early spring through to October. Before planting work 4oz per square yard into the soil. as a top dressing to established plants, apply 2oz per square yard at 6-8 week intervals. Keep the fertiliser off leaves and stems.

This is a slow release fertiliser for all round use. It can be used all year but especially during the autumn, winter and spring. It is especially good as a pre planting fertiliser for roses, shrubs and trees. Vegetables also benefit from the high phosphate content, especially onions, peas and root crops. As a base dressing prior to planting and sowing work 4oz per square yard into the soil. When planting roses, trees and shrubs, mix it into the soil from the planting hole prior to backfilling.

Sulphate of Potash
This is a quick release fertiliser for use from March to August. It improves the colour of vegetables and flowers and promotes blooming in flowers and fruit blossom. For a base dressing before sowing or planting add 4oz per square yard and work into the soil. To top dress established plants, add 2oz per square yard and lightly hoe in.

This has an NPK of 7-7-7 and is a traditional, balanced fertiliser. Its granular form makes it easy and clean to apply. For a base dressing before sowing or planting add 3oz per square yard and work into the soil. To top dress established plants, add 1oz per square yard and lightly hoe in. For potato crops apply at 6oz per square yard prior to planting.

This encourages strong roots on seedlings, rooted cuttings and transplant. It also encourages the early maturity of fruit. It can be used all year round but is best used as a base dressing before sowing or planting at 2oz per square yard and work into the soil. As a top dressing to established plants, add 2oz per square yard and lightly hoe in. Keep off the leaves.

Garden Lime
This can be used at anytime but it is best to dress the soil in autumn and spring. Lime "sweetens" sour, acid soils, helps to raise the soil pH which helps to release nutrients to plants, improves the soils condition and helps to obtain a better tilth and drainage. It can be use on most plants except:- blueberries, azaleas, heathers, primulas, lupins and rhododendrons.

Apply at the following rate:-

Light or sandy soil 8oz per square yard
Medium or silty soil 12oz "
Heavy or clay soil 16oz "

As a wise precaution, keep all garden fertilisers or chemicals, stored in the well labelled boxes (preferably their original one) or containers and in a safe and secure place well away from children or others.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Very smug indeed

We harvested our first celery of the season yesterday, and very tasty it was too in a salad along with the lettuce and other items from our very smug trug. You can tell that the seasons are changing as not only are we harvesting summer crops, including strawberries but also autumn ones such as celery and pumpkins.

We planted lots of pumpkins but the rain earlier in the year have reduced our harvest by a good margin, however, the self set pumpkin (goodness knows where it came from) did amazingly well, offering up 18 pumpkins of a size just big enough for two people. I was astounded when we counted them up and will most certainly be saving some seed for next year.

Keeping on top of things

Sunday was spent on the allotments. We decided to make full use of the good weather especially as rain was forecast for later in the week. Some jobs are just best done when its dry.
Kazzi spent an hour or two weeding out the 4 leek beds, leaving them nice and clean for the winter. I was not taking it easy as I moved a ton of 12 year old manure from my trailer into one of the new raised beds. It was promptly planted up with "Radar" autumn planting onion sets as space at the moment is at a premium.
Our new half plot (bottom picture) was treated to a haircut after being hit with glysophate a month ago. We never spray against pests but are pragmatic in using glysophate as we would never get on top of a new plot by hand weeding. Hope fully this plot will be rotovated within the next few weeks so that things can progress.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Plants for free

This is the time of year to multiply the number of plants you have for free. Amongst others, now is the time to take Phygelia, hebe, and as pictured above penstomen cuttings.

For the penstemon, I take this years shoots that have not flowered and take them just below a pair of leaves, giving a cutting about 4" long. I then strip off most of the leaves leaving just a couple of pairs at the very tip. Any more than this and the cutting may well die as it will not be able to support them as it has no root system. The cuttings are then potted around the edge of a 6" pot, well watered and covered with a clear plastic bag to keep in the moisure.

My pots are kept on a non sunny windowsill and kept moist. When rooted, pot them on individually and keep them in a cold frame or cold greenhouse till the spring when they can be planted out.

A really good book is "The propogators handbook" by Peter Thompson (ISBN 0-7153-0426-7). it give ayou all the information needed to propogate most plants by cutting, division, seed or any other means that you can think of.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Making the most of space

This 8 x 4 raised bed has swede and lettuce growing in it. The middle portion was occupied with beetroot until today when the last ones were lifted to be pickled as baby roots.

The space freed up will be filled with "radar" autumn planting onion sets in the next few weeks. I always try to keep as much ground occupied with crops all year round as I can do. Empty beds seem such a waste.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Nearly there

The third sowing of corn is now nearing maturity, mice having decimated the first two sowings and leaving these planted outt very late. I expect to be picking them in early October.
Whilst the vines planted inside the tunnels have had ripe bunches of grapes for over a month, these outdoor ones of the same variety are only now getting close to ripeness. The Indian summer we are having is helping their cause no end. Hopefully they will be picked before it starts to get frosty.


The Blueberries planted directly into the ground this spring have made lots of new growth for next year and are in good health. To keep the pH low I willbe watering on sulphate of iron this autumn and also feed them again with a rhododendron fertilizer. The leaves are now starting to go deep red and look very pretty indeed.
During the recent dry spell they were watered from the hose with tap water as required. There is so much nonsence written about blueberries that it scares people off growing them or they only grow them in pots. Keep the basics right and they need very little attention and thrive.
Plant with plenty of ericaceous compost in the planting holes.
DO NOT feed with ANY manure.
Feed with rhododendron food in spring and autumn
Keep moist, NOT SODDEN
Water on sulphate of iron in spring and autumn.

Late peas

The late crop peas (Feltham First) that I sowed quite thickly in mid July are now in flower and will hopefully squeeze in a good crop before the weather goes too cold and dark.
The thickly sown seeds are in raised beds where you can generally pack more in than standard beds and are now 18-24" high and are pretty much self supporting which is a boon. The less work you make for yourself the better. Keping them well watered reduces the incidence of mildew so these are watered heavily twice a week with rainwater.

Spagna Bianco

I was originally given some seeds and was told that they were butter beans but subsequent searching has identified them as a type of runner bean called Spagna Bianco. It does appear to be botanically a runner bean but instead of the characteristic long thin runner pods it has these fat pods. There are only three to 5 beans per pod but they are huge, round and plump like butterbeans. This winter I will be making an extra bean frame for these to grow up as they are fantastic.

Rose de Roscoff onion seeds

Following on from growing our own banana shallot seeds last year, this year it was Rose de Roscoff onions turn. They are a medium sized rose tinged mild onion with good keeping qualities and an excellent taste. They are exclusively cultivated around Roscoff in Brittany France and over here, the seeds are almost impossible to get hold of. To get around that we planted said onions sourced in France last October and voila, some 30 seed heads are the result. The seed is nice and ripe now so will just need separating from the seed cases.

New raised beds

At the back end of our second plot we have a small problem with marestail which is encroaching from next door. Despite us minimising the problem, unless the plot next door is cleared we will never get rid of it.
With that in mind we have decided to install 4 9' x 4' raised beds with membrane underneath to stop the marestail coming up. Where the first one is to go, there are still dahlias and gladioli flowering so I have left a space for that one, and will construct it when the gladies are lifted and replanted in a new place. Beds two and three are in and I will make number four over the weekend, when I will also start to fill them with mixture of our local farms 12 year old manure (its like compost), leaf mould and home made compost.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Keep things tidy

Here is a cane store that I made out of a redundant cable support. It holds a fair few canes nicely and ensures that they are out of the way, easy to find and safely stored. The table below is a greenhouse version that I take out during the summer to make way for crops but its so useful as a potting bench or a place to keep plants before planting them out. Come the winter, it will go back into the greenhouse ready for overwintering tender plants on.

Variety is the spice

This year we have grown 5 varieties of courgette, all have performed well and have given us a constant supply of tasty fruits for the kitchen. You can never have too many courgettes as a cook.

Fresh strawberries in September

Well, the 50 "Aromel" everbearing strawberries planted last autumn have proved their worth. Not only are we harvesting a few punnets a week of very tasty, good sized fruits but I have also propogated 80 runners to increase our stocks so that we have plenty of fruit all of next summer and early autumn. We also grow "marshmello in tandem as these give a good crop in June and July.
The runners rooted so well that within 3 weeks the roots were coming out of the bottom of the pots. I can highly recommend both varieties, they are good croppers of tasty, good sized fruit.

Burn the blight

After Kazzi spent two evenings clearing the tunnels of blight infected tomatoes, the only thing to do with them was burn them to prevent any spores cuasing problems last year. Lots of scrap wood helped it to burn well.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Organic slug control

Mt Toad here, along with his other amphibian friends really do a good job in keeping slugs at bay, even during this very slug friendly summer. Do try to leave some logs or a pile of bricks in an out of the way place to encourage them.

Propogating Gooseberry bushes

Gooseberries are just so easy to propogate. When you do your early autumn tidy up and prune, save some of the branches that are somewhere near the thickness of a pencil. Cut the bottom of it just below a bud and the top just above one giving you a stick about 12" long. Remove all leaves bar the top two or three and plunge the stick (the right way up mind) around a pot thats about a foot deep. About half a dozen will fit into a 6" pot. put the pot into your cold frame or somewhere sheltered, ensuring that it does not dry out and next by next spring the cuttings should start to shoot. When this happens, tip the pot out and repot them into individual pots or directly into the ground where you want them to grow.
This year I also tried layering a few low branches. This just involves pegging the branch to the soil with a hoop of stiff wire and them letting nature take over. When I removed the wire I found that all 6 branches had rooted, so were troweled up and potted on into 10" pots to overwinter. They are obviously much more advanced than the semi ripe cuttings and so this is the way I will propogate them in future.

Agapanthus. Time to pot on.

I just love agapanthus in the garden borders,. They really do look spectacular, poking above the other plants and shrubs. I saved seeds from two cultivars last year "polar ice" and "lady bacon" and sowed them in March. They were pricked out in June into 2" pots and are now ready to go into 4" pots. They do like to be a little tight in the pot and this makes them flower much better, so only pot on when you need to.

I now however, have some 120 small agapanthus plants to find homes for.

Propogating Strawberries

I purchased 50 "Aromel" everbearer strawberry plants from Moles seeds this year. They performed well and are still producing 2-3lb of fruit a week for us to pick and will continue to do so until the first frosts.
At this time of year they also send out runners which I potted up into 4" pots just over a week ago. As you can see they have already started to root and in another fortnight or so, I will cut them free from the mother plant. After one season, my 50 plants will have increased by a further 100 which will ensure a plentiful supply of stawberries throughout all of next summer and early autumn.