The diary of two novice gardeners and allotmenteers

Chris and Steve's Weblog – City Chickens

Monthly Archive: November 2009

Sweet Peas – Lathyrus Odoratus

 

swp

Although it is a bit late I am going to chit some saved Sweet Pea seeds and set them in the lean to for overwintering in the hope of some early plants for next season. The seeds are mixed as it would have been impossible to separate the varieties when collecting them. 2009 was a terrible year for us for Sweet Peas but 2008 was great so let’s hope next year will be another good one.

Sweet Pea – Delicate Pleasures

Here are sweet peas on tip-toe for a flight with wings of gentle flush o’er delicate white,

And taper fingers catching at all things  to bind them all about with tiny rings

Keats

Late Autumn Harvest

We surprised even ourselves when we came home with two trays of goodies on our last visit to the plots. I gathered a few tomatoes from the lean to and have left the plants intact as they have quite a bit of fruit still green. I don’t suppose they will ripen but we will give them a chance. The last of the cucumber had shrivelled so those plants are ready to come down.

We brought home three cabbages, a Savoy and a Ballhead plus one red for pickling. One of the sprout plants had fallen over so we pulled it and harvested the sprouts. They were quite small but made a tasty meal. Brussel sprouts are a great source of vitamins A, C, and K. They contain iron, fibre, potassium, and B vitamins. They also contain folate, protein, and beta-carotene. Next I pulled four leeks which were ready to eat and a few sticks of Chard. The surprise find was a beautiful if small Romanesco. We are bringing the pumpkins home one at a time as they are heavy and they should make some tasty soup for us over the Winter with the left over flesh and seeds going to the chickens and ducks.

The Fruit Cage

I spoke too soon when I said there would be no work involved as the fruit cage was up and running. Three of the uprights have snapped off at ground level. My brother Roy has bought some metal rods to strengthen the posts so that will be the first job on our next visit. We have also decided to dismantle the old sprout cage and clear up the bed ready for the rotovator. I am determined to keep all the brassicas in the tunnels next year. The framework on the bean trench has now been dismantled and all the old plants taken down. We will build the new one in the Spring ready for May planting.

Planning for Next Season

We have had some ups and downs this season and got to the point of almost giving up. Mostly because of lack of time and other committments. However I am now thinking about trying to do better next year. I am planning to have a think about what to grow and what to leave out. Some crops seem to need a lot of work for little return and may be cheaper to buy.

Onions is one crop I plan to leave out next year. I can buy a large bag of cooking onions for about £2 so breaking my back planting out onion sets seems a bad idea not to mention the cost of buying the sets in the first place. The crop is also uncertain with the onion fly rife on the site.

Potatoes is another crop that I am changing the rules about. I shall buy only first early seed potatoes and only grow in bags. I am thinking of sticking with Charlotte as they are tasty and reliable.

Runner Beans are easy to grow and soon lead to a glut and a full freezer. Changes this year will include building a new framework as ours was inherited and is now falling down. We plan to grow less plants and to change the frame structure from an upright double frame to a single sloping frame which will allow the beans to hang down. I also plan to grow my Sweet Pea plants amongst the beans next year. I have plenty of saved seeds so no costs involved there.

bean white lady

 Broad Beans is a no no next year. Though a satisfying crop and easy to grow we don’t need to grow more until we have eaten those in the freezer.

Carrots are cheap to buy but fun to grow and not much trouble and I have loads of seeds still to use so no cost involved. The ones grown in the carrot bin were the most successful all season but the ones in the ground only good early in the season. The Autumn King came up diseased and were disappointing.

 

Parsnips are vegetables that we love the taste of but don’t seem to have much success with. I may have a go with a tall blue plastic bin which we have been using as a compost bin. It needs some drainage holes put in and then filling with sand and compost. Again these are quite cheap to buy so I shan’t bother to plant loads in the ground only to lose them. I have read that fresh seeds every year is best so I may be splashing out on new seeds. Maybe 19p from Netto.

Soft Fruit – One of our resounding successes this season has been the soft fruit grown in our new fruit cage. We worked very hard on building the cage this year.  We had loads of strawberries; red, pink and black currants; red, yellow and green gooseberries and black berries. We shall need to clear up, cut back the plants and feed the soil in the Spring but on the whole I am looking forward to lots more fruit next year with a fraction of the work. I still have fruit in the freezer to use over the Winter. The Rhubarb is in its own bed and looks after itself really. I have tidied it up and covered it with straw to over winter.

Tunnels/ Brassicas/ Peas  We have two tunnels, one on each plot, which need tidying up and rotovating. I think I shall erect a low trellis along the sides of both of them to grow peas. They are both used to grow brassicas throughout the season. More thought will be needed about spreading the planting of the brassicas next year to fully utilise the tunnels without having to erect smaller cages for plants left over. Maybe rather than ordering loads from Marshalls we could just buy a few at a time from the local nursery.

Beetroot is an easy crop to grow and we usually grow them in succession in any odd spaces we have available. I still have seeds left and so shall use them up. We have Detroit and Woden which have both been good this year.

Courgette is another plant that is easy to grow and we have a raised bed which we always use for them. We need to top up the compost with plenty of organic matter over the Winter. This year although we planted five plants only one reached maturity. We still had more than enough courgettes to eat.