What to do in March 2015

The month of March seems to have sprung up on me from nowhere.  Don’t misunderstand me, it is a welcome surprise but it reminds me that now the gardening season really starts  No time for dilly dallying now.  Time to get stuck in and motivated,  To help you all along, here are a few jobs to keep you motivated and organised

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 diggin’

Debb

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World Cabbage Day – 17th February

I had all intentions of writing and uploading a post yesterday in celebration of the world Cabbage day that is held on 17th February, but the closest I’ve got to completing it was in a draft format before the day ran away with me. As I wanted to share this celebratory event with you I thought I would repost my Spotlight on cabbages article that I shared a couple of years ago.

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Spot light on ……Cabbages
World cabbage day is celebrated today, 17th February and in the words of another who is also intrigued by this day “it is a day when the pleasure and simplicity of the cabbage is celebrated”. So in celebration of this family favourite vegetable the humble cabbage gets the spotlight treatment.

Before I really took an interest in growing fruit and vegetables, I didn’t really give a lot of thought to when you would plant the seeds for the various types of vegetables. It also never dawned on me that the sowing of these said vegetables would be done at different times of the year dependent on the season of harvest. Spring, summer and winter cabbages all get sowed and harvested at various times of the year, as the season description for the cabbage would denote. It took me a while to get my head around when each of these should be sowed. Sowing different varieties dependent on the season allow for a succession of crops throughout the year. To make it easier for me to know when each variety need my attention at their various sowing and harvesting times, I designed a simple table that I leave with my cabbage seeds.

Varieties
Cabbages are a member of the Brassica family that also includes sprouts, cauliflower, kale and turnips. They are either conical shaped, otherwise known as pointed, round heads or drum heads (round with a flattened top). They can range in colour from dark and light green to pink and purple. They can be harvested as whole heads or loose leafed in the form of spring greens. Red cabbages are traditionally grown during the Autumn for harvesting around Christmas and are predominately grown for pickling. Savoy cabbages are round with dark green or red crinkly leaves and are very hardy.

Cabbages are probably one of the easiest vegetables to grow provided you do a little research into the type of soil conditions that they like. Cabbages like a sunny, open position with alkaline soil. Many allotmenteers add a sprinkling of lime to their soil where their brassicas are to grow a few weeks before sowing. Some types of cabbage take a long time to reach full maturity and spend many months in the ground so it is well worthwhile taking this into consideration when decided which variety to grow.

Sowing
Before sowing or planting any of the different types of cabbages, dig the ground and apply a top dressing of lime which needs to be raked gently into the soil. Cabbages like a really firm soil base. This can be achieved by treading the soil down really firmly and raking the top layer to a fine tilth to ensure that the roots have a really secure, firm base.

Harvesting
Cabbages can be cut when their heads are really firm and fleshy. Cutting just the central head and leaving the stalk in the ground will enable you to get another crop. Leave the stalk in the ground after the main head has been harvested then cut an x into the top of the remaining stalk to encourage side shoots that can then be harvested as greens.

Spring greens can be harvested when there are sufficient leaves that you want. Remove all spent stalks from the ground after the cabbage crop has been harvested. They take a long time to break down in the compost heap due to their tough exterior so they are either best cut into smaller pieces or not added to the heap at all.

Pests and Problems
Cabbages suffer from a myriad of pests and problems. Aphids, white fly and caterpillars are the usual suspects. These can be prevented by checking the crops on a regular basis and covering with netting and possibly spraying with some homemade garlic spray. Pigeons can also devour cabbage plants if left unprotected.

One big problem that can occur with all brassicas is clubroot. This is a disease found in the soil that turns the roots into a swollen, gnarly mess and turns the leaves yellow preventing the plants from getting the correct nutrients from the soil. This prevents that plant from growing healthily, resulting in severely stunted growth and eventually the plant dies. Some people believe that diluted rhubarb leaf tea is a great deterrent for club root and I myself did try this method when I planted my Spring cabbage a few months back. I was also advised that it wouldn’t hurt to add a few small pieces of rhubarb leaves in the planting hole and I can say that so far, all looks good. Clubroot can be restricted by ensuring that the soil is well limed which improves the PH levels. Make sure that you burn all infected crops and do not plant brassica’s in the same position next season.

Happy diggin’
Debb

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What to do now in February 2015

I’m starting to get really excited now that the growing season has started to creep up on me, but this year, I’m going to have a little more restraint and wait a while before I start to sow the majority of my seeds.

I know that many seeds can be started now but I don’t want to fall into the trap of having lots of little plants hanging around waiting for the weather to warm up enough for them to go outside.  I have a couple of greenhouses that I could house the plants in, but in all honesty, no time to tend them.  Seeds started a little later on will catch up and not end up into leggy specimens waiting for the opportune moment to be planted into their final growing positions.

That said, if you do have the time, space and patience to nurture the seedlings, here are a list of seeds that can be sown now.

Jobs to do………in February

  • Continue to plan what you intend to grow this year and order seeds before your favourites become unavailable
  • Harden off autumn sown cauliflowers and cabbages
  • Sow salad crops in succession under cloche protection
  • Check your soil’s PH level to test for alkalinity and acidity and add lime if necessary
  • Mulch around raspberry canes to encourage strong shoots and prune Autumn varieties to about 6″ above ground level
  • Turn the compost heap to aid decomposition
  • Slugs can still be a nuisance this time of year.  Check your brassica leaves for signs of them.
  • Remove the dead leaves from brassicas leaves such as cabbages and sprouts to help prevent mould and downy mildew
  • Check your vegetables in storage
  • 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
  • Garlic can still be planted this month as long as the soil isn’t too waterlogged
  • Check that shallots in the ground are still firmly in place and not been pulled up by the birds.
  • Continue digging over the plot adding plenty of well rotted organic material.
  • Start to save the cardboard tubes from toilet and kitchen rolls and newspapers to make your own biodegradable pots for seed sowing next month
  • Collect plastic meat and mushroom containers and yoghurt pots to use as seed trays
  • Make sure pots and seed trays are cleaned ready for sowing
  • Start to save empty plastic veg and meat trays to use for sowing seeds
  • Collect egg trays for chitting potatoes
  • Lift and store the remaining winter parsnips
  • Plant and divide chive plants
  • Secure netting on remaining brassica plants
  • Cover late crop vegetables that are not winter hardy such as salads and oriental leaves
  • Continue to hoe all weeds where possible
  • Plant out cabbage transplants that have been hardened off under cloches or fleece. Close planting will allow some to be used a spring greens giving the remaining plants a chance to grow and develop further.
  • Don’t forget to feed the birds

What to sow………Indoors (Heated)

  • Aubergines
  • Broad Beans
  • Leeks
  • Lettuce
  • Peas
  • Radish
  • Chillies
  • Parsley
  • Melons (Late Feb)
  • Celery (Late Feb)
  • Onions and shallot seeds
  • Kohl Rabi
  • Kale
  • Tomatoes (only greenhouse destined varieties this early)(Late Feb)
  • Cucumbers (Late Feb)

What to sow………Indoors (Unheated)

  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Winter salads
  • Summer Cabbages
  • Summer Cauliflowers
  • Calabrese
  • Early variety peas
  • Parsley (curly leafed)
  • French beans for a successional crop (Late Feb)
  • Chillies, peppers and aubergines in heat for an early start
  • Leeks (min temp 13c)
  • Spinach
  • Radish

What to sow………Outdoors

  • Garlic
  • Autumn onion sets and shallots
  • Broad beans
  • Early Peas (In a sheltered area)
  • Parsnips
  • Turnips
  • Autumn sown onions

What to plant………in February

  • Winter salad crops – protected by some sort of cloche
  • Plant rhubarb sets
  • Fruit bushes
  • Jerusalem artichokes
  • Bare root container-grown trees

Crops in season now

  • Broccoli (Sprouting)
  • Brussels sprouts (tops)
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Chicory
  • Endive
  • Jerusalem Artichokes
  • Kale
  • Kohl Rabi
  • Leeks
  • Lettuce
  • Parsnips
  • Spinach
  • Swede
  • Turnips
  • Winter Radish

Happy diggin’

Debb

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Frosty Foliage

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A quick trip to the allotment with my camera today gave me some amazing frosty images that I thought I would share with you all. Nature truly is wonderful.

Happy diggin’
Debb

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What to do in January

January brings the start of the New Year and the planning and preparing for the upcoming growing season. I love the fact that the days are getting longer and I can spend more time on my plot but this year I need to organise myself a little more by not growing so many crops that I either didn’t like or were a poor harvest. I will be giving away the seeds within my collection that I didn’t like and hopefully someone else can get to reap their rewards.

Below is a list of jobs that can help keep you organised this month.

Jobs to do………in January

  • Plan what you intend to grow this year and order seeds
  • Continue digging over the plot
  • Spread a layer of well rotted manure over empty beds but leave in clumps ready for spreading when the weather conditions improve
  • Warm up seed beds by covering with a layer of polythene, carpet or cardboard
  • Buy and chit seed potatoes
  • Make sure pots and seed trays are cleaned ready for sowing
  • Start to save empty plastic veg and meat trays to use for sowing seeds
  • Collect egg trays for chitting potatoes
  • Check for slugs under brassica leaves and secure netting
  • Continue to check over crops that you have stored from previous months
  • Cover late crop vegetables that are not winter hardy such as salads and oriental leaves
  • Continue to hoe all weeds where possible
  • Mulch asparagus beds
  • Lime your soil if needed
  • Prune fruit trees such as pears and apples
  • Prune blackcurrant bushes and take hard wood cuttings
  • Don’t forget to feed the birds

What to sow………Indoors

  • Winter salads
  • Summer Cabbages
  • Summer Cauliflowers
  • Early variety peas
  • Onion seeds for giant varieties (min temp 13c)
  • Parsley (curly leafed)
  • Chillies, peppers and aubergines in heat for an early start
  • Leeks (min temp 13c)
  • Calabrese
  • Spinach
  • Radish

What to sow………Outdoors

  • Garlic
  • Autumn onion sets and shallots
  • Broad beans

What to plant………in January

  • Winter salad crops – protected by some sort of cloche
  • Plant rhubarb sets
  • Fruit bushes are best planted now
  • Jerusalem artichokes
  • Bare root container-grown trees

Crops in season now

  • Broccoli (Sprouting)
  • Brussels sprouts (tops)
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Celeriac
  • Celery
  • Chicory
  • Endive
  • Jerusalem Artichokes
  • Kale
  • Kohl Rabi
  • Leeks
  • Lettuce
  • Mustard Cress
  • Parsnips
  • Spinach
  • Swede
  • Swiss chard
  • Turnips
  • Winter Radish

Happy diggin’

Debb

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Looks aren’t everything!

Comical carrots 8I hate waste and will always refuse to see the logic that a misshapen vegetable is sub standard in flavour to its perfectly shaped counterpart. Yes they may not look like the conventional shaped uniform veg that we are used to seeing in the supermarkets, but where they lack in appearance they make up in abundance in taste. I defy anyone to taste a freshly pulled carrot or parsnip and decide that a plastic wrapped supermarket specimen is better. The homegrown, misshapen veg may be a little harder to prepare with their knobbly bits and uneven edges, but the taste is superlative.

What has prompted this rant I hear you ask????? An episode of Jimmy and Jamie’s Friday Night Feast highlighted the topic of ugly veg and this made me realise how fickle a society we really live in. The carrot and parsnip farmers who they spoke to claim that A grade vegetables (uniform and without blemishes and splits) can get up to £800 per ton yet the misshapen vegetables will sometimes earn them a mere £10 per ton. There are times that they cannot even get £10 per ton and the veg may even be destined for landfill or animal feed.

Allotmenteers are used to harvesting so called ugly veg, but we wouldn’t dream of throwing away a carrot that had 2/3 legs, a deformed potato or a curvy cucumber just because it doesn’t look right!

We need to change our mindset when it comes to shopping before the big supermarkets will get on board and start selling the non perfect vegetables. After all, they claim that it is customer demand that the produce they sell is perfect. We all need to realise that this is such a wasteful food resource, especially when there are half a million people within the UK that rely on food banks! Farmers abroad in third world countries are thankful that a vegetable has grown and are really not concerned with how it looks. It is a food resource to feed their family!

We should do more to support our local farmers wherever possible and encourage others to grow their own. This way, people will realise that looks are nothing compared to taste that should help to reduce waste.

 

Happy diggin’

Debb

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How do you like your eggs??

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/bb9/38552972/files/2014/12/img_1458.jpgPersonally I’m partial to a boiled egg or two but I love scrambled eggs every now and again. I especially love cooking with eggs just so I can build up my collection of shells destined for use on my plot.

It used to take ages for me to build up a big enough collection of shells, which would then be dried slowly in a cool oven then ground to a fine(ish) powder; well that was until a friend of mine came to visit. She works in a cafe and had collected the day’s worth of egg shells for me that were happily sitting in a couple of carrier bags. Now, she already thinks that I am a crackpot (excuse the pun ) wanting eggs shells but as a non gardener she doesn’t see the benefit of them.

I had heard (or read) that crushed eggs shells can be used to deter slugs but I’m not so sure now after reading this blog post here. My intention is to use them as a fine powder, courtesy of my spice grinder, to add calcium to the soil, especially where I plan to grow tomatoes and peppers as they benefit from a calcium boost.

Maybe you could get friendly with your local cafe owner and see if they can spare a few bags of shells for you too.

Happy diggin’

Debb

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