Monday, April 28, 2008

Making space

I dont know about you, but at this time of year, easpecially during a mild spell, there is always a juggling act going on with regard to greenhouse space. Our first lettuce (8 varieties) are now hardened off and planted out with the first little gems having already been pulled and eaten.

The red salad bowl (above) above will soon be ready to have leaves harvested, the devils tongue cut and come again variety has already matured to a size where we can pick leaves.

The last two rows of "Marfona" potato went in late last week. They had chitted nicely and will romp away now they are planted. Whilst they are a second early, we grow them as an early maincrop and they really do make a good all round potoato.

The second tunnel is now planted up with tomatoes and all of the canes are tied in. This year we have Bloody butcher, Shirley, Sungold, French Black,Rio grande and Mountain pride. All have set the flowers on the first truss and hopefully we will be picking the first ripe fruit in Late June.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Planting, planting and a bit of harvesting

Our hardened off module sown herbs went out today. The dill (above) and flat leaf parsley (below) are really useful in any kitchen and we use handfuls of both. Corriander and basil also got the module treatment but they are a bit too soft to be planted out yet.

The asparagus bed is just about to come alive with tasty spears, and with this being the beds third year we can cut for the whole six week season. As an experiment I started to plant crowns in barrels a few weeks ago and now have thirteen planted and lined up on the path adjoining the asparagus bed. Hopefully they will establish this year, being in barrels with handles means I can bring them undercover to force a few early spears next year.

Our rhubarb bed is cropping like mad. We had a cracking crunmble on Saturday night with chopped up stem ginger added to the rhubarb and chopped brazil nuts added to the topping.

Both the asparagus bed and the rhubarb bed get top dressed with about 4" of well rotted manure in the winter.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

The new greenhouse is ready for action

Following on from an earlier post, the greenhouse is now up and running. Whilst a lot of glass was replaced, some original glass required cleaning in a big way. A bucket of warm soapy water soon got things sorted.
The path is 2' wide leaving 4' wide beds.

The nearly finished article, just a few bits of glass to clean and we now have far more growing space on the same sized area. In addition, 2 other plots have been given my old 8 x 6 greenhouses so happy faces all around.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Parsnips and peas

I mentioned in a previous post that this year we were going to pre-germinate our parsnips but rather than then sowing the seed into toilet rolls, they would go straight into the ground so as not to cause the root tip any damage, resulting in forked roots. Well, above is the result, Three seeds were sown at each station and either two or all three seeds have made it above ground. Hopefully this winter we will have straight roots rather than ones that look like an octopus.

Today I planted out a batch of purple podded peas, a quality heritage variety. They were sown in standard 4" pots, three seeds to a pot.

As you can see from the fabulous root structure, there is absolutely no need to sow them in root trainers, toilet rolls, guttering or any other vertibule, a bog standard pot will do the job as well as anything. Of course, our maincrop peas, due to the large amount of seed involved, are sown direct into the ground making things even easier, but for small, or early sowings, pots will do fine.

Little Gems, succession and catch crops

These little gem lettuce are one of many varieties of salad leaves that we grow. We start all of the varieties off in pots and then plant out good sized plants as space becomes available. By sowing a few seeds every fortnight we get good succession.

This is one of the tunnels preped and awaiting the planting of tomatoes next week. As the lettuce will mature and be cut well before the ground is covered by the much larger tomato plants we have planted a catch crop of lettuce at the front of the bed. The added heat and protection of the tunnel will mean we are cuting these a week or so earlier than the plants outdoors.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

A greenhouse swap - madness in action

This is my new greenhouse. Its a freecycle freebie and despite being a bit "green" due to being situated under some trees is in fabulous condition.

Its a 16 x 9 foot beast, the glass is held in by strips that are screwed into place which will make it much more resiliant to wind than greenhouses where the glass is held in by W clips.

Here is my good friend Mark, if you want anybody to help you break glass, he's the man. No seriously, without his help I would have really struggled to dismantle this greenhouse. Thanks buddy.
This is where the new greenhouse is going to go. The existing two 8 x 6 greenhouses will go to new homes, leaving just enough space here for it to sit. Hopefully these will be moved tommorow and the big greenhouse frame put into position and bolted together, ready for re-glazing.

Perhaps this is a rush of blood to the head but the bigger house does give us more growing options.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Mangetout peas

A few weeks ago we sowed 3-4 mangetout peas (oregon sugar pod) per pot and left them to it in a cold frame. As you can see in the above picture they have made good growth and have great root structure. Now we like to keep things simple and personally find root trainers, guttering and all the other pea growing techniques one heares about, either fiddly, expensive or just a pain. Pots are easy, plentiful and as you can see, work just fine.

Each pot of peas was planted next to a cane and well watered in. When the soil warms up some we will direct sow our maincrop peas but pots are a good way of getting earlier ones into the ground without fear of them rotting before they germinate.

Experiments with asparagus.

We lost a few asparagus plants last year due to the deluge of summer rain that we had. I bought some packets of crowns (Unwins) as replacements and after filling in the gaps had a couple of spare crowns. These were promptly planted individually in 25l ex oil drums which I also use for growing potatoes in.
Time will tell if they go on to produce good spears.

Pot and Module Sowing

I know I go on about pot and module sowing but it really is the way to go. Above are broad beans (witkiem Vroma) which were sown a few weeks ago and have been well hardened off.

Above is the full bed of broadies, about 15" between rows and 12" between plants.

One of the best veg to module sow is spring onion. Above is a variety called redbeard which we are growing for a change this year. Just sow 4-6 seeds per module and then plant out the clumps of seedlings 4" apart with 6" between rows. It works a treat.

Fruit bush cutting success

After pruning the soft fruit bushes last year, we struck lots of cuttings of red and black currants amd gooseberries in pots of compost.

As you can see with this cutting, they are starting to root quite well now and will soon be ready to pot on into individual pots. They will make great gifts for newbies on the allotments next year.