Dan – My Gardening Guru

I still class myself as a relatively new vegetable grower and value many people’s opinions on the most productive way of growing things. One person in particular that I admire and follow with enthusiasm is Dan at Allotment Diary.  I have watched all of his videos from when he first started to upload them on YouTube, (some many times over) and read most of his posts on his webpage.  I trust the way that he talks about how to grow his vegetable on his allotment plot in the Yorkshire Dales.  His mannerisms are funny, his knowledge of growing exhibition size vegetable is informative and his methods of doing the same jobs year after year with exceptional results are reassuring.

I would honestly say that he has to be my favourite gardening guru and I look forward in earnest for his regular video uploads. I have taken many hints and tips from him, especially growing potatoes in 30 litre buckets.  As one of his followers mentioned, he should be getting commission on the plastic buckets as I believe that the sales of these has dramatically increased since he mentioned how easy the potatoes are to grow in these.  I for one purchased a few of these to grow my potatoes in.

I take on board some of his tried and tested methods and pay particular attention to the varieties of crops that he uses. I now grow, Cobra French beans, Zebrune Banana Shallots, Sarpo Mira blight resistant potatoes, Shirley tomatoes and Hurst Green Shaft peas – all because Dan tried and tested them with fantastic results.

So thank you Dan, for your enthusiasm, expertise and interesting informative videos. May there be many more to come.

Happy diggin’

Debb

 

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What to do in April – 2

First of all let me apologise for the late posting of this guide. Due to the British summertime springing on us last week, I have been making the most of the additional sunlight hours and spent more time within my garden and at my allotment.

Looking back at my post the same time last year, I was surprised to read my own notes where I described my frustration of not being able to get to my plot to do any work due to the wintery white snow that covered my ground. What a difference this year has been so far. I was worried last year whether the crops would catch up due to the late planting, but I shouldn’t have worried. They performed above and beyond my expectations.

Bearing those thoughts in mind, here is a list of some of the things that you could be doing this month to keep you organised for April.

Jobs to do………in April

  • Continue to harden off and transplant autumn sown cauliflowers and cabbages
  • Rake areas of the soil that need a fine tilth weekly.  This will help to break down the soil ready for sowing fine seeds
  • Continue to pot on plants that need transplanting, trying to accommodate them best you can under cover until the risk of frost has passed
  • Weeds will grow strongly now so keep the hoe busy to save more work later on
  • Remove all overwintering leeks and parsnips to make room for more crops
  • Feed Spring cabbages with a top dressing of nitrate of ammonia.  This helps to encourage lush, leafy green growth
  • Continue to pick salad crops to encourage more leaves
  • Sow a selection of herbs in pots ready for transplanting later
  • Improve your soil by adding well rotted manure or compost
  • Pot up tomato seedlings when they develop true leaves
  • Cover newly sown crops and seedlings with cloches to help protect a little more from the elements
  • Collect rain water from outside buildings for use in the next few months

What to sow………Indoors (Heated or Unheated)

  • Aubergines
  • Broad Beans
  • Lettuce
  • Peas
  • Chillies
  • Parsley
  • Melons
  • Celery
  • Onions and shallot seeds
  • Kohl Rabi
  • Kale
  • Tomatoes
  • Cucumbers
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Winter salads
  • Summer Cabbages
  • Summer Cauliflowers
  • Calabrese
  • Early variety peas
  • Parsley (curly leafed)
  • French beans
  • Sweet corn
  • Leeks
  • Sweet peppers
  • Spinach
  • Radish
  • Courgettes
  • Summer squash
  • Marrows
  • Pumpkins
  • Winter squash

What to sow………Outdoors (Under Protection)

  • Spinach
  • Salad Leaves
  • Lettuce
  • Rocket
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Sprouting Broccoli
  • Red Cabbage
  • Summer Cabbage
  • Autumn Cabbage
  • Tomatoes
  • Early Cauliflower
  • Leeks
  • Calabrese
  • Spring Onions
  • Herbs
  • Radish
  • Mangetout
  • Calabrese
  • Early Peas
  • Carrots
  • Beetroot
  • Broccoli (Summer variety)
  • Broad beans
  • Onions
  • Parsnips

What to plant………in April

  • Plant rhubarb sets
  • Fruit bushes
  • Asparagus crowns
  • Jerusalem Artichoke tubers
  • Horseradish
  • Strawberries
  • Second Early and Maincrop potatoes
  • Garlic
  • Onion sets
  • Shallots

Crops in season now

  • Broccoli (Sprouting)
  • Spring onions
  • Spring cabbage
  • Spring cauliflower
  • Chicory
  • Jerusalem Artichokes
  • Kale
  • Lettuce
  • Parsnips
  • Forced rhubarb
  • Spinach

Happy sowin’

Debb

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Spot light on…….beetroot

Beetroot is such an easy to grow vegetable. When planned, successional crops can see you through from early July to mid May the following year. The swollen roots have an earthy taste and can range in colour from deep red to golden-yellow and even pale white.  The traditional red colour associated with common beetroot is from a combination of betacyanin and betaxanthin. There are even varieties that have concentric pink and white rings! When harvested at the right times, the roots and leaves can all be eaten making it a very economical vegetable to grow.

Sowing and Spacing

Beetroot can either be sown in modules under cover from early March, or directly sown outside from Late March to early April.  Warming the soil a few weeks before hand will help with germination.  Beetroot like weed free, fertile soil, preferably manured the season before, alternatively, you can add plenty of rich compost.  Try and remove as many stones as possible and create a fairly fine tilth for the seeds to grow.

Create drills 2cm deep, water liberally, then space the beetroot seeds 5cm apart in rows with 25cm between rows.  The beetroot will probably still require thinning out as each beetroot seed is in fact a small cluster of seeds, unless you have specifically chosen to plant a monogerm (single seed) variety.  However, do not discard these thinnings.  Last season, I had tremendous success by creating additional rows of beetroot from plants that would have otherwise been destined for the compost heap!

For a continuous supply of beetroot, sow seeds monthly.

Protection

Beetroot do require plenty of watering in dry weather but too much water promotes leafy growth at the expense of the swollen roots. Keep the area weed free to stop the beetroot having to compete for nutrients.

Harvesting

Beetroot is ready for harvesting, approximately 90 days after sowing, or when the size of a golf ball for baby beets, or the size of a tennis ball for main crop.  Gently prise the roots out of the soil with a fork, lifting them by the leaves.  Twist the leaves off the tops rather than cutting them to reduce the beetroot bleeding.

Storing

Beetroot is best stored in boxes of damp sand for winter storage.  Ensure that they do not touch each other in the box and store in a cool, dry place such as a garage or shed.  Stored this way the beetroot should remain fresh until April if stored correctly.

Pests, Problems and Diseases

Beetroot are relatively pest and disease free.  The most common problems that occur is bolting when temperatures fall below zero which is common in early Spring, but this can be rectified by growing a bolt resistant variety.  Birds may also find the very young leaves very tempting so covering with a cloche for the first few weeks is beneficial.

Varieties

Globe

  • Boltardy (Bolt Resistant)
  • Pablo (Bolt Resistant)
  • Detroit Globe
  • Pronto (Bolt Resistant)
  • Wodan
  • Rubidus
  • Bettolo
  • Detroit 2
  • Moneta
  • Red Ace
  • Solo (Monogerm)
  • Kestrel (Bolt Resistant)

Cylindrical

  • Cylindra
  • Alto

Yellow Fleshed

  • Burpees Golden
  • Touchstone Gold

White Fleshed

  • Albina Verduna
  • Albina Ice

Striped

  • Barbabietola di Chioggia
  • Candy Stripe

Hints and tips

The leaves of beetroot, when picked young, can be added to salads along with other mixed salad leaves.  If a little older, the leaves can be cooked as you would spinach.

A stain free way of slicing the boiled beetroot to prevent staining of the hands is to slice with an egg slicer.

Some interesting facts and recipes for beetroot can be found on this link love beetroot.

Happy diggin’

Debb

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Super sized Strawberries!

 

 

My children and I love fresh strawberries but I refuse point-blank to pay over the odds for them when they are fresh.  When they are in season, I stock up on these, often freezing them to add to yoghurt or milkshakes, or most times I make jams to last throughout the year.  I buy them in bulk when they are on offer at the local markets and supermarkets, and I was very surprised when I recently came across some supersized fruit!. 

20140320-132504.jpgNow I grow many strawberries both at home and at my allotment, but I have never come across any as big as this!.  FYI – you’d be mistaken into thinking that this was my daughters’ hand – it is in fact mine! (For those who know me personally, you will also know that I have quite large hands for a lady!). In contrast, the size of the fruit really astonished me but I just had to have them.

Cut up and smothered in yoghurt they were delicious, but I can honestly say that they lacked the fresh strawberry taste that you get when you grow your own.20140320-132513.jpg

My youngest daughter didn’t seem to mind though and as soon as they were washed, couldn’t wait to get them in her mouth!

Happy diggin’

Debb

 

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New beginnings in the herb garden

20140310-135148.jpgI made the most of the beautiful weather that we had on Sunday and redesigned my herb bed. I divided the clumps of chives and spaced them out to encourage them to bush out a little more. Eventually these will be used around my carrot bed to ward off the carrot fly.

Whilst taking a break I also designed a few labels using wooden stakes just to add another bit of interest to the herb garden.  So far the herb bed consists of Spearmint, Apple Mint, Thyme, Flat Leaf Parsley, Curled Parsley, Spring Onions, Chives and Rosemary.  The mint is planted in pots and these are buried in the ground to minimise them spreading too much.

The overwintering onions and garlic were also doing fine so I decided to 20140310-135206.jpgtidy up their bed and do a little well needed weeding between the rows. At home, I have some red onion sets that will be planted in the middle 2 rows of this bed and shallots that I grew from seed that will be also planted around the rows of carrots.

20140310-135213.jpgNot realising that so much time had passed by after doing all the tidying jobs, I still managed to find time to sit back and admire the flowers that had once again surfaced around my pond.  Surprisingly, the fish even looked pleased to see me, swimming near the top waiting for their first feed of the year. 

Happy Diggin’

Debb

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What to do in March – 2

I get excited when I see the 1st March approach on my calendar because for me that brings about the start of seed sowing.  The beginning of the month seed sowing depends a lot on the weather that we are experiencing, but they should be ok inside a heated greenhouse or kitchen windowsill.  Remember to let the weather dictate whether or not to start your seeds and not the information on the back of the seed packet.

The following post was originally uploaded in March 2013 but the jobs to do and seeds to plant still apply….

Jobs to do………in March

  • Continue to plan what you intend to grow this year and order seeds before your favourites become unavailable
  • Harden off and transplant autumn sown cauliflowers and cabbages
  • Finish digging all of the vegetable beds, cultivating the soil weekly to produce a fine tilth in the soil
  • Finish any construction work that you may have left to do as your time will be needed more for the plants in the coming months
  • Lift the remaining leeks and parsnips that have been left in the ground
  • Continue to chit your potatoes in a frost free place to encourage strong shoots
  • Warm areas of your soil with clear polythene, carpet, cardboard or black plastic
  • Check that shallots in the ground are still firmly in place and not been pulled up by the birds.
  • Continue to save the cardboard tubes from toilet and kitchen rolls and newspapers to make your own biodegradable pots for seed sowing next month
  • Harden off vegetables that were sown in January or February in the cold frame
  • Make sure pots and seed trays are cleaned ready for sowing
  • Prune fruit trees while still dormant such as apple, pear, currant and gooseberry

What to sow………Indoors (Heated or Unheated)

  • Aubergines
  • Broad Beans
  • Lettuce
  • Peas
  • Chillies
  • Parsley
  • Melons
  • Celery
  • Onions and shallot seeds
  • Kohl Rabi
  • Kale
  • Tomatoes
  • Cucumbers
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Winter salads
  • Summer Cabbages
  • Summer Cauliflowers
  • Calabrese
  • Early variety peas
  • Parsley (curly leafed)
  • French beans
  • Leeks
  • Spinach
  • Radish

What to sow………Outdoors (Under Protection)

  • Spinach
  • Salad Leaves
  • Lettuce
  • Rocket
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Sprouting Broccoli
  • Red Cabbage
  • Summer Cabbage
  • Autumn Cabbage
  • Tomatoes
  • Early Cauliflower
  • Leeks
  • Calabrese
  • Spring Onions
  • Herbs
  • Radish
  • Mangetout
  • Calabrese
  • Early Peas
  • Early Carrots
  • Early Beetroot
  • Broccoli (Summer variety)
  • Broad beans
  • Onions
  • Parsnips

What to plant………in March

  • Plant rhubarb sets
  • Fruit bushes
  • Jerusalem artichokes
  • Asparagus crowns
  • Bare root container-grown trees
  • Horseradish
  • Strawberries
  • Early potatoes
  • Garlic
  • Onion sets
  • Shallots

Crops in season now

  • Broccoli (Sprouting)
  • Spring onions
  • Spring Cabbage
  • Spring Cauliflower
  • Chicory
  • Endive
  • Jerusalem Artichokes
  • Kale
  • Lettuce
  • Parsnips
  • Spinach

Happy sowin’

Debb

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Planning my potatoes

20140126-212010.jpgWe recently purchased our potatoes for the year and they arrived a few days ago in plastic bags.  We concentrated more on main crop varieties this year; the decision being made either after fantastic results from last years crop or from recommendations from others.  We have Melody, Desiree and Sarpo Mira.

The Desiree are a red main crop and we had fantastic results from these last year.  They were a good all-rounder and produced the smoothest mash and the crispest roasts.

We haven’t grown Sarpo Mira before and is a recommendation from Dan at Allotment Diary . He had great success with these last year.  They have the added benefit of yielding vast amounts of tubers and also being resistant to blight which in our climate is a brilliant addition to their quality.  They are a floury variety but also have the reputation of being a great all-rounder.  I’ll let you know how they fare later on in the year.

Melody are an oval shape and are great for mashing.  We grew these too last year and I loved the versatility of them too.20140126-212026.jpg

They are all chitting away nicely now in mushroom crates on the floor in my kitchen to develop strong , short, stubby shoots.  More information of the chitting process can be found on my previous post shown here.

Happy diggin’

Debb

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