Archive for ◊ January, 2009 ◊

• Saturday, January 31st, 2009

Potatoes are one of these vegetables which I never really saw any point in growing until 4 years ago. I used to be prejudiced against the good old potato because I considered that it was part of the staple diet and fairly cheap anyway.   But then I read that growing potatoes could help with the structure of the soil and that the growth of the plant can cover an area quite tightly making it difficult for weeds to come through.

This was at a time when I still had a fair proportion of my garden covered in weeds and it needed digging anyway, so why not plant a few tatties?

I was pleasantly surprised by the generous growth from the potato seeds and indeed it did cover a large area for many months until I needed to harvest my first potatoes. The process was really easy: basically you just need to dig out a trench, follow the instructions with regards to depth and width for planting the seeds, add a bit of fertilizer (optional) and just make sure that they don’t suffer too much from drought.

Our first crop was not as plentiful as subsequent harvests because my soil is heavy clay and therefore I guess it is harder for the plant to develop big potatoes. The first crop was a potato variety called Maris Piper which is now not my favorite variety but I can vouch for the fact that home-grown potatoes taste better than supermarket grown ones.  They are also better for you – I eat my new potatoes with the skin on, confident that they have been grown organically.

So if you have enough space for potatoes, I strongly recommend them even for beginners. You cannot go far wrong.

Top TipMy top tip: early varieties of potatoes tend to be less prone to diseases such as blight and new potatoes are so delicious that it’s a good choice to grow early or first early varieties.
Was it tip-top for you? Please leave a comment – thank you!

See my follow up posts on chitting potatoes and my growing potatoes update.

• Tuesday, January 27th, 2009

Looking back at the successes of the year 2008 the Globe artichoke is definitely a winner and has been for me for several years now.  I grow mine from seeds, which takes longer since the artichoke seedling really needs to develop to a 3 foot tall plant before producing any flower. Some of my plants took 2 years before growing a long stem which terminates in a few flowering buds. The artichoke flower buds tend to get bigger after a couple of years as the plant settles and grows each year.

Bees on an artichoke head

Bees on an artichoke head

I recommend protecting young plants from the winter cold by mulching the base of the artichoke with straw for example.

I usually harvest my artichokes in June/July.  If you leave it too late to harvest your artichoke, it will develop into a lovely flower which is very popular with bees.

This underrated vegetable is full of fibre, packed with goodness and is known for its diuretic and antioxidant properties. And it always feels good to grow your own vegetable. Personally I have grown my artichokes from the T&M globe artichoke seeds and was satisfied with them.

Top TipMy top tip: I recommend cooking artichokes in a pressure cooker since it takes half the time (only 20 minutes) of the traditional boiling method.  Then you simply dip the heart of the vegetable into a mixture of olive oil and a touch of balsamic vinegar.   Bon appetit!

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• Tuesday, January 20th, 2009

I like to dig my vegetable plot every winter/spring –  not only because it is good exercise at this time of year but also because it allows me to give the area a good clean up and prepare for the spring time.  It allows me to release any stress or anxiety that may have built up during a busy working week in the office.

Digging my garden

Digging my garden

Now you don’t have to dig your garden if you do not want to, particularly since it is now commonly acknowledged amongst experienced gardeners that as an alternative to digging you can mulch and cover your soil with compost or well rotted manure.  And you can just let the worms get on with the task of incorporating the organic matter into your soil.
Personally I prefer to dig my vegetable plot every winter because of the nature of my soil – heavy clay which benefits from being broken up and enriched regularly.

As I am writing this I realize that I am behind on my digging and currently I am still tackling the area where my squash, sweet corn and dwarf green beans were grown last year.
Naturally my faithful mascot – Fat ball Rob – will come and join me and seek any little worm which I have exposed in the process.

Obviously any arduous activity such as digging is always followed by a comforting cup of English tea and that’s me for the day!
Top TipMy top tip: if there has been a lot of rain recently it is best not to dig the ground not just because it will be messy (this has never stopped me!) but trampling over wet ground only compacts it further.

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• Sunday, January 18th, 2009

This is my first post in this blog and I am really looking forward to an exciting journey of gardening going through all the seasons, and sharing with you all the surprises, successes and failures that gardening will bring along the way.

Robin in the snow

Robin in the snow

This is January and it’s time to prepare for the growing season, although I tend to think that November is when it all starts for me as I look back on what has been cultivated and start clearing the dead crops and flowers from the garden.

So this week I shall take another look at all the seed catalogues to see what new varieties will tempt me (what with so many varieties of flowers, vegetables and fruits to choose from!).

I shall also look back at which seeds I will continue to grow this year and establish a sowing schedule for the calendar.

Already it looks like the first seeds that I will grow this month will be chilies. Chilly seeds are very easy to grow and the plants do well on a sunny window sill which is ideal if you do not have a garden.

I hope that you will follow me on this journey as I am aiming to post my gardening activities on a weekly basis. So look out for my next post on my gardening plan!

I am only an amateur gardener and therefore welcome your comments and ideas for improvements.

May 2009 be a Happy gardening year for us all! (with a lot of sun…)

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