Saturday, 31 January 2015

January sowings in the Greenhouse

It's cold, wet and there is even snow on the ground but there is still lots to do in the greenhouse to keep the gardener sane. So that is where I have been for  few hours today I needed to do a bit of tidying up of the greenhouse first I haven't been in there for a while. So there was lots of pots on the benches and there was still a couple of pumpkins in there as well that where well and truly past there best.
First on the agenda was Shallots I potted up my 1" shallots into 3" pots using a mix of multi purpose mixed with top soil. These are for the village show in September so fingers crossed they grow well and we get the red card.
Now I missed the boat with the peas and beans last November so I have made a sowing in some module trays in the greenhouse. I should point out that the greenhouse is unheated so they will take a while to come through but they will be good hardy plants when they are big enough to plants out.  I also sowed some big pots with spinach, rocket, lettuce and radish so we get an early crop. I will be sowing lots of other crops carrots, beetroot etc. in big pots over the next few weeks to get lots of early crops from them.
January is also a good time to sow slow growing crops such as Chilly's Peppers and Aubergines although I sowed them in the greenhouse I did move them on to the window sill. To get the heat from the house to help them germinate I will grow them on the window sill until the temps start to rise enough to put them in the greenhouse. It's always great sow a few seeds it encourages you on to get the garden ready for when the whether warms up and we can sow outside it won't be long nw.

The all year round veg

If there is one Veg that has become very fashionable in the last few years that would be Micro Veg they have become loved by Michelin star chiefs.
They also go under the name of speedy veg, sprouting seeds and several other names but what ever you call them they are all grown and eaten in the same way. You are basically eating seedlings they are packed full of nutrients and make a great salad or garnish all year round. Best of all they only take from seven days from sowing to eating depending on the variety you are growing. Where once there was only mustard and cress now there is a multitude of variety's to choose from. Broccoli, leek, alfalfa, beetroot, sunflower, basil and many more. They are all grown in the same way the only difference is the time they take from sowing to eating. To get started chose some good seeds on this occasion I have chosen Suttons seeds. Best to choose variety's that have been specially bread for sprouting as you get much more seed in your packet and also the price. Get yourself a container any shallow plastic pot/tray out of the recycling I have a tray which is split up in to several individual containers.
It had Christmas nibbles in which where very nice and instead of it going in the bin I am re using it for Micro Veg. Place about a centimetre of compost in the bottom sprinkle the seeds on top and give a little water being carefully not to over water as there is no holes for drainage. Place on a window sill and just keep an eye on the watering they will germinate within days of sowing. When they are about 3-4cm tall simply clip them off at the base give them a quick wash and you have a great salad or garnish for your table. For a constant supply sow new batches regularly I tend to just grow Micro Veg through the winter when there is very few other salad's available. They add a bit of summer to the plate which is not needed the rest of the year when salads are in plentiful supply.
Newly sowed Micro Veg
One of the biggest fans of Micro Veg is Raymond Blanc I was lucky enough to be able to visit Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons at the end of the summer last year. Hear they have a whole greenhouse dedicated to Micro Veg celery, beetroot, basil etc. are all grown for the kitchen. They have to make a new sowing every day to keep up with demand as several full size seed trays are needed every day. It reminds me of a propagation house except not one seedling will every grow up they are all sent off to the kitchen from 7 - 20 days depending on the variety. I don't know of any other restaurant that goes to this much trouble to get the very best produce for there table. But they are one of the best restaurants in the country they also grow about 10% of the vegetables they use in the kitchen in there own vegetable garden I am going to write a post on the veg garden soon.
Micro Veg ready for harvest

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Getting Fruity in the garden

Winter is a great time to plant fruit trees and bushes as this is the dormant season so we can buy bare root trees and bushes. These are generally much cheaper than the pot grown plants that you can buy the rest of the year. But what every plants you go for now is still a good time to plant, You will only get good fruit if you start with good stock so buy the best you can afford. It may seem a bargain at the discount shop when you see a gooseberry bush for £1 but you will generally be disappointed with it's performance. Besides the fact that you don't actually know what you are getting when it is just labelled Gooseberry it could be any old variety. It is always best to go to a specialist nursery whether it be for Fruit or any plant there is one fruit nursery that I would recommend. Is Lubera
 But they are not just a fruit nursery they are also breeders of some of the most modern variety's around. In fact they are they run the largest private breeding program in Europe and have brought to market over 80 new variety's. The company was started by Markus Kobelt and has carried out much of the breeding work at there nursery in Switzerland in very harsh surroundings so you know that the plants you are getting are tough.

Red Love Apple
If there was only one variety that you will know them for it will be the Red love Apples which are your traditional red apple on the out side. But they are red all the way through with fantastic flavour there are many variety's in the red love range now check out there website to find out.
Lubera video talking about Red love Apples

But what ever fruit you are planning on planting this year you need to start with good soil preparation. Dig in well rotted manure and a dusting of Bone meal then dig out a hold much bigger than the root ball of the plant. Before planting dust the root ball with a mycorrhizal fungus such as Root Grow this will greatly increases the root growth of the plant and in turn bumper crops of fruit.
Place the root ball in the centre of the hole making sure that the plant is being planted at the same level as it was in the pot or nursery. Not too high as you can dry out the root ball or too low as you can cause the plant to rot or encourage suckers from the graft to grow. Back fill with soil making sure there are no air holes between the roots then firm in gently with the back of your boot. Depending on what fruit your growing or the size of the plant you may have to provide some support in the form of a stake. Water in mulch with garden compost or wood chip and you will be rewarded with years of fruit.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

A Busy Week

Sorry I have not written anything for a while there seems to be a million and one things that need doing at the moment. With writing, work and the wife and children like to see me occasionally as well but the good news is I have managed to get a lot done out in the garden this weekend. Although the ground was frozen it did not stop me cracking on with some more of the raised beds it's taking longer than I expected. To build them as I am using them to level out the slope on the right of the plot so there has been lots of digging to get the level right.
But hopefully this weekend I should have it all sorted weather permitting it's best to get all these big jobs out of the way now at this time of the year. Because when it all starts growing there becomes even less time to get these big jobs done and I don't have much time now. I still have some stored veg there are lots of onions still in good condition and a bucket full of spuds.
There is also some leeks, kale, cabbage and lots of different salads growing in the garden. so we will still have lots to eat out of the garden for the next month at least. By then so of our new salad seedlings should be ready to pick in the greenhouse and there is always the micro veg to keep us going in fresh crop of salad's
The Chickens have started to slow down on there laying now that the cold weather has set in but there is still more than enough for us to eat. The girls have taken to trying to train the chickens so far they have got dusk to perch on there arm like a parrot. January is normally a quiet month in gardening terms the ground is normally frozen or covered in snow but this year is extremely mild making it easy to get on with lots of jobs in the garden. This would normally not be possible in a normal year but I'm so glad that it is mild as there is so much to get on with. Although we may be paying for it latter on with plagues of pests that have not been killed off by the winter frosts.
During the evening I have been sorting through my seeds getting rid of all the old out of date seeds. Putting to one side all the seeds I am going to sow this year and everything else I will be swapping at Northampton's Seedy Saturday. This is a great new event taking place at The Looking Glass theatre right in the centre of Northampton bringing together gardeners and food lovers to swap seeds and generally get seedy. It is being run by a new group Fruitful Abundance this group has been set up to try and reduce food waste in Northampton it is also trying to get as many people growing there own and generally living a more healthier lifestyle. Would be great to see some of you there it is taking place on the 14th Feb 11am - 4pm.

Monday, 5 January 2015

First five days of self sufficency

Well it's been 5 days now since I started the challenge to produce at least one piece of food every day of the year. The 1st started with 3 lovely fresh eggs off our hens you can not beat your own fresh eggs freshly layed in the morning. Day two it was all about the onion you can not beat a home made onion bargee to go with a good curry and the onion was also used in the curry. Day three we turned to the store cupboard for the jam we made at the end of last summer from our raspberry's already looking forward to this summers harvest of raspberry's. Day four was a lovely omelette from our eggs two eggs beaten up with a pinch of slat, pepper and a splash of milk yummy. Day 5 we have turned to the salad patch for the last bit of rocket as the chickens managed to eat the rest to go in my sandwich. I am also going to knock up a batch of scotch pancakes or drop scones as some people like to call them they are lovely still warm straight from the pan dripping in butter.
There has been lots of activity in the garden too lots to prepare for the coming year as I need to get the maximum form every square foot. If I am to be able to feed myself with something everyday of the year. Part of the garden is on a slight slope so I have been making some raised beds. This is to try and level out the soil there will be two beds one above the other. This will make growing much easier as a level surface is always easier to work with than a slop. I should point out that all the wood that I am using is all recycled out of skips the boards are marine ply wood that was used as hording on a building site. They just put it all in skips when the project is finished as they have no use for it else where. The other project I have been working on is fitting a cold frame to the end of my other new raised bed.
The cold frame lid is an old shower door that came out of another skip the bed is just built around it. This will be great to start off early salads use as a melon pit in the summer and then fill it back up with winter salads in the autumn when the melons have finished. I am terrible for sticking my head in a skip but it always amazes me what useful stuff people do put in them and at the end of the day why pay for wood when you can get it for free. I did not quite get to finish it so I will put the last through screws in today and then I need to sow a few early crops in pots in the greenhouse.

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Show me your garden

I watched Sky 1's first episode of Show Me Your Garden where three couples judge each others gardens in a style similar to come dine with me. Each couple can award up to 50 points and the couple who get the most points at the end of the show wins £500 and the golden trowel.
But im just not sure if I like it it's not the gardens they all look great gardens well maintained and the owners put a lot of time, passion and money into them. The couples themselves are great very lovely people and they certainty know there gardens Malkanthie sedums in pots is a great idea that I may use myself especially as they are fairly maintenance free. But it's just the way the show has been put together I just felt it didn't work as a gardening program. The format works quite well as a cookery program but dose not lend it's self to gardening as well as it dose cookery. I nearly nodded off half way through watching people walk round a garden is a bit like watching paint dry not a lot of fun. I did have high hopes for this as a program it sounded a great idea unfortunately it just did not work. I will watch the next episode just to see if it dose improve but I am not holding out much hope.
The next episode is on Friday 9th Jan if my review has not put you off watching did any one else watch it what did you think.