Potato chitting time….

So now it’s potato chitting time and I just had a quick query as to how others start their potatoes off and if so, where do they do it?

image I always sneak some in egg trays on top of the boiler in my kitchen. It’s out of the way, warm and light and hidden from my hubbies eyes! I also place a couple in egg boxes on my windowsill in the kitchen. One year, I had so many chitting that I didn’t have the space for them all in the kitchen so I placed them in my unheated greenhouse. Even though they were covered with fleece the frost still managed to get to a few of them so I thought it was better to be safe than sorry and position them inside.  Where do you place yours to chit?

Happy diggin’

Debb

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Return of digginwivdebb…….

I’ve been off the blogging scene for quite a while, well to be honest round about a year. Life and all other commitments tended to take priority over my blogging. Recently, I realised that I had missed the blogging scene even though I was still keeping up with my writing of my growing adventures by providing monthly newsletters to my allotment site. These were gratefully received by the plot holders, but I missed the blogging community. Although in previous years I shared many posts, I also got a great deal of information and pleasure from reading other people’s posts, so I have decided to return to my blogging and continue to share my growing escapades with you all. 

The posts may not be as detailed and as lengthy as they have previously been, just short sharp words of wisdom or just things that I would like to share as and when they arise. I hope that you find them of use and I hope that you will continue to follow me on my allotment growing journey.

Happy diggin’

Debb

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Tomato seeds at the ready!

So the varieties of tomatoes that I’m growing this year are as follows;

* Sweet Aperitif (cherry)

* Alicante (medium cordon)

* Shirley (medium cordon)

* Oxheart (beefsteak)

* Red pear (cherry)

I have also sown a few unknown varieties. These were tomatoes that were donated to me after seeing a great specimen that had grown. They are collectively named after the people who provided them to me.

* Momma Love (beefsteak)

* Richard (cherry)

* Mini Mej (bush cherry)

Seeds at Day 2 germination

Seeds at Day 2 germination

The first seeds off the block in the heated propagator are the unknown variety courtesy of an allotment friend named Richard. He mentioned that these varieties produced an abundance of tomatoes on his plot, outside his greenhouse.

Seeds at Day 7 germination

Seeds at Day 7 germination

He allowed me to help myself to a few of the stray tomatoes still left on the plant which I then soaked in water for a few days to remove the outer jelly like membrane, then dried on a plate ( no kitchen paper added as I had learned from experience that the seeds, when dried, tended to stick to the paper making it difficult to remove them) and then stored in a paper envelope ready for planting this year. I was very surprised that these were the first tomatoes from all of the varieties that I had grown to first rear their heads. I have grown many more seeds than I need, yet again, but this is so I can pass them on and share with others fellow allotmenteers.

Happy diggin’

Debb

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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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