• Sunday, January 29th, 2012
This is the start of a new gardening year for me as I rummage through the 2012 garden seed catalogues and plan my sowings for the year ahead. Today I went to my local garden centre and I bought some first early potato seeds, which are a variety called Swift, as well as a salad potato variey called Ratte which is highly appreciated in France. I have never grown the Swift potato variety before and I hope to get better result with this type of early crop which is supposed to be good for boiling as well as new potato.
Ratte New Potatoes
Last year I gave the International Kidney variety a try – they are the equivalent of the Jersey Royal new potatoes. Unfortunately the yield was not so good last year and this could be due to the dry weather which was not so favourable to a healthy growth of the tubers.
Last Spring I also grew a first early potato variety called Epicure, which is a typical Ayrshire potato but again the crop was not particularly outstanding.
On the other hand the main crop variety which I grew last year was Kind Edward, and the yield was good except that they did not store so well in the shed compared to previous years. The reason for this could have been the exceptionally warm autumn and winter which we experienced and this goes to show that no two years are the same with gardening. Certain crops will perform differently given certain conditions.
For now I have stored my potato seeds in a cool dark place ready for chitting in a few weeks time.
By then I will need to have finished digging the vegetable plot in time for planting my seeds in March. Speaking to fellow gardeners in East Anglia it seems that many of us are not yet done with the digging which makes me feel better.
Half way there with my muddy wellington boots and my fork I paused to contemplate the barren soil in anticipation for an abundant forthcoming harvest season.
• Wednesday, August 18th, 2010
East Anglia has received its fair share of rain in the last month or so and it certainly feels like a new season is approaching.
Cucumber in the Greenhouse
In between showers and cloudy/wintry days I have been able to harvest my first crop of potatoes from a variety called Red Duke of York. The 2010 crop was not as bountiful as previous years due to the extremely dry weather which we experienced at the beginning of the summers and the late spring.
My tomatoes are ripening nicely in the greenhouse and also outdoors. In fact I have been busy feeding the plants with organic tomato feed as these plants are rather greedy. I had a nice crop of cucumbers in the greenhouse but it’s coming to the end as some of my plants have really dried out. I haven’t had as much success with peppers as I have in previous years and I am not sure of the reasons why. There is a possibility that I have overfed the plants and encouraged them to grow leaves as opposed to flowers. The peppers are still small and green but this could be due to the fact that this is a different variety from my usual favouriate Tasty Grill Red F1 Hybrid variety.
I have managed to cope with my courgette glut by sharing my crop and also using them extensively in risottos and in roast. My courgettes are truly relishing the wet weather and it is showing. Likewise the lawn is starting to recover from the draught which completely burnt out the green expanse of grass.
I will have to keep an eye on potato blight and tomato diseases if the wet weather continues for too long. The gardening season is not over for me yet as I am preparing my final sowing of beans and lettuces to come.
• Sunday, March 07th, 2010
This weekend I have been busy picking the last of the Winter vegetables from the garden as the weather has been good and I can get on with digging the vegetable patch.
I collected the last brussel sprouts, most of which have been nibbled by hungry wild rabbits. In my raised bed I also harvested the last carrots and parsnips, which were actually quite small but very tasty in my beef and ale stew.
Cold frame lettuce
My coldframe protected the Winter Lettuce from the worst of the Winter weather including the snow and I was delighted to be able to pick some Lambs Lettuce and Rocket as you can see in the picture below. A few croutons and some fried pancetta accompanied my mixed salad nicely at lunchtime.
I am still enjoying the garlic and shallots which I grew last year but supplies are running out rapidly. And in fact this morning I planted my new shallots (called Red Sun) in the area where I grew potatoes last year. The sun was shining and the crocuses near my greenhouse had opened up their purple petals as a sure sign that we are now coming out of Winter.
• Wednesday, August 26th, 2009
A keen gardener like myself just wants to make the most of the last summer days of August; and there are so many things to do that I won’t be packing my gardening tools in the shed for a little while yet.
Here is my list of gardening activities for the next few weeks.
Since we have had a fair bit or rain recently it should be easier to pull up any old lawn to replace it by a new one. And Autumn is one of the best seasons to start a new lawn with turf or seed: the weather is still warm enough for the grass to grow and it will also get plenty or rain which should help the lawn establish itself. In fact I have noticed that my local garden centers have stocked up on turf recently. It’s always best to lay the turf as soon as possible on a level, weed and stone free soil in order to achieve best results.
Harvesting and feeding
The tomatoes which I have grown outdoors will continue to ripen into September, and therefore it’s important to continue to water and feed them regularly.
It’s important to harvest beans regularly to make the most of the young tasty vegetable and also to encourage further growth and crops.
The harvest of potatoes harvest is continuing especially for the maincrop varieties. And I am keeping an eye on the sweetcorn which should soon be ready for harvest.
• Wednesday, August 05th, 2009
Last week I started to harvest some of the potatoes which I planted back in March. This first harvest is of an early variety called Rocket, and I guess I should have been able to harvest them earlier, particulary since these potatoes are first earlies.
Rocket First Early Potatoes
However it looks like the hot weather which we have had early on in the year was not so beneficial my tubers which did grow as quickly as expected or produce many potatoes. Or could it be that my clay soil is to be blamed for this shortfall?
In fact I am a bit disappointed with the amount of potatoes for the first line which I have dug up. You can see the amount in the picture here.
On the good news front this type of potato seems resistant to worms and looks prestine (with a nice yellow soft skin and white flesh). I will need a bit more time to make up my mind as to its taste, so far I would describe it as smooth (ie. not floury).
The next variety which I have yet to dig up is called Ratte. I will enjoy doing a comparison between the two varieties when I have got round to picking the next line of Ratte variety potatoes.
So there’s a lot more digging to be done with the reward of a constant supply of freshly cooked organic new potatoes.
• Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009
I have been growing peppers in my garden for a couple of years now and I find that the sweet pepper variety is very satisfactory to grow even in the colder British climate.
Usually grown from seeds, most of my peppers end up growing in the greenhouse because I can never guarantee that the summer will be a hot one and they do need enough heat to ripen well.
I did have a head start with my peppers which I starting to sow back in April of a variety called F1 tasty grill. They have an elongated form and tasted great last year.
You can see in the picture below that right now the peppers in my greenhouse are quite big and growing well in the grow bags.
I recommend feeding the plant regularly; personally I use a potash-rich tomato liquid feed (the organic type as a personal preference).
As the plants grow bigger and heavier with fruits, I need to start staking them with some bamboo canes which I will push in the ground. more…
• Wednesday, June 24th, 2009
I am currently growing garlic in my garden and since I found out last year that it was not so easy to grow in my heavy clay soil I decided to do a garlic trial.
English Garden Garlic
Following from my last post on my garlic trial I am having mixed results at present. I guess the weather and the type of soil have had a lot to do with the results.
So far I can report that the garlic in my English garden is struggling as you can see in the picture on the right hand side with the tiny cloves and some onions in the background; in fact some of them seem to have died out.
I am not sure if the cause of this failure was the wet winter followed by a really dry spring.
French Garden Garlic
It also looks like the dreaded rust affected some of the garlic bulbs.
Even the cloves which I planted in modules a while ago and were given a head start in spring suffered badly. And it looks like the garlic variety Thermidrome was mostly affected.
In the meantime the garlic in my French garden was doing fine last month but I have now left it to its own devices and I know that it is getting really hot down there. The harvest time shouldn’t be too far away now and only time will tell.
• Sunday, June 07th, 2009
Following a comment on this website regarding removing side shoots from tomatoes plants, here is an update post on how I look after my tomato plants in order to get a good crop.
My Greenhouse Tomatoes
By now your tomato plants are likely to be of an average height of 9 inches (depending on when you sowed or planted them and where they are growing and care for). The tomatoes grown in my greenhouse are actually taller than the other outdoor specimen which I planted not that long ago and both are bearing flowers. The size of the plant is not a concern since it will all come in good time with the warm summer which we shall hopefully continue to enjoy (although it is cold and raining heavily today!).
So what do I need to do now to make sure that I get a delicious crop of tomatoes? For me just a bit of maintenance is enough as follows :
1. Removing side shoots:
Early on I try to make sure that I remember to remove the side shoots as they appear on cordon tomatoes only. I tend to focus on the shoots that start from the bottom part of the tomato plant stem. I often forget some side shoots but in my personal experience it doesn’t do any harm and I still get a good crop.
• Tuesday, May 19th, 2009
So far this year has been quite good for gardening. I have been harvesting regularly some of the lettuce which I sowed in my cold frame back in February. It has been growing really well (the wild rabbits haven’t spotted my crop yet) and I am starting to have a bit of a lettuce glut actually.
Home Grown Cabbage
Cabbage at last is a success and this is a first for me since previously my cabbages had been badly attacked by the white fly which lays its eggs on the leaves and then the caterpillars devastated all my vegetables.
The only thing is: I am not so keen on that type of winter cabbage (Durham Early). Funnily enough no other pest has had a go at them either! Although I noticed that this variety of cabbage is available from major supermarkets (at a cost of £0.85 each and the seed packet cost me £1.70 for hundreds of seeds).
Before the rain returns I have managed to plant the rest of my potato tubers which I had chitted last month. These are for a maincrop variety called Desiree, which is one of my favourite potatoes. And as you can see on the picture below I usually tend to include my grass cuttings as well as newspaper sheets when I plant my tubers. I personally find that it helps keep the moisture in and it’s a good way of recycling some of my organic matter.
My early variety potatoes are already in and they have started to sprout shoots so I will need soon to start earthing up the shoots in order to get a bigger crop of potatoes. This also allows me to do some weeding along the way.
I should have a continuous supply of my home grown potatoes for at least 7 months of the year by planting early and maincrop varieties of potatoes. The two varieties allow me to have early new potatoes in July and then a later maincrop in September.
So it’s not bad going for all my digging efforts!