Chris's Weblog – City Chickens

Vegetables

Easter Sunday – Roseval Potatoes and Swiss Chard

“If you want your life to be a magnificent story, then begin by realizing that you are the author and everyday you have the opportunity to write a new page” — Mark Houlahan

RosevalIt’s Easter Sunday and we had an early start and a fine day. The allotments were busy and Rob made a start by planting the next potatoes. They were Roseval, a second early, small red skinned salad variety. The tubers are long oval, very red and smooth. The flesh is yellow but can have an attractive pink blush. Cooking quality and flavour are said to be excellent. We are looking forward to striking foliage with ruby red stems. Roseval is popular in France but rare in the UK. I went over and pinched a couple to put in a big terracotta pot at the edge of the nursery bed.

 

rainbow chardspinach matador

I dug over one of the salad beds and sowed a row of Rainbow Chard, Bright Lights, a row of Swiss Chard, Lucullus and a row of Spinach Matador. I covered them with a plastic cloche for a bit of warmth to help germination. Rob laid a path alongside the nursery bed with some concrete blocks Frank had given us. Then after weeding the fruit beds he cut a pointed cabbage for tonights meal and we went home for a well earned rest.

 

 

 

British Queen

Rob planted fifteen potatoes British Queen on plot 17 while I just pottered about doing a bit of hoeing and weeding. British Queen is described as a superb flavoured mashing potato originating in Scotland. In Ireland it is known as “Queens”. It is fairly susceptible to blight but matures quite early. The flowers are white with yellow centres, and the haulms are fairly light. The texture is light and floury. Said to be the best mashing potato, fluffy and white with very good flavour. Also steams well, roasts well, bakes well. Bred by Archibald Findlay. 1894.

The brothers gave us six cauliflower plants and eight summer cabbages and we gave them six eggs each in return. primulaWe  gave Mick Market’s wife Audrey six eggs and she gave us six primula plants.

Whoops

Another fine day so we went and finished the sowing in the new seed bed. 36 Parsnip Hollow Crown and a row of Carrot Autumn King. Next we sowed 25 Cauliflower All Year Round and 10 Cauliflower Graffiti, all that was left from a packet of 30 because the rest fell through the bottom of the packet on to the path and were impossible to see. They are in the nursery bed and covered with a cloche to keep the cold off. We scattered a little bone meal on all the beds in use to give everything a spring booster shot.

Cauli Graffiticauli all year round

 

Spring Onion White Lisbon and First Early Potatoes

Filled an 8″ black plastic pot with compost and sowed spring onion white Lisbon seeds. They should be ready to eat in six to eight weeks. May do the same every few weeks throughout the season. The tomatoes sown four day ago are almost all through this morning. We spent a very productive three and a half hours at the plot today. All the first early potatoes are now in the ground. Lady Christl, International Kidney and Aaran Pilot, 35 in all. They should be ready to harvest in ten weeks time.

potato trenches plot 17

Happiness – £30

Happiness is not having what you want but wanting what you have.”

Arrived at the allotment at 8.30am to find the car park full. A bit blustery but dry and warm, perfect. We put the chicken bedding over the new brassica bed and Rob raked it over. First stop was to check in the shed for our delivery of potatoes and shallots from Mick Market. He brought us three bags of white shallots and a large bag of Winston seed potatoes. Next we checked on the seedlings in the lean to and everything was doing well. Even the rhubard was showing some growth so we removed the plastic covering in readiness for planting it out into its permanent bed later this month.

Parsnip GladiatorCarrots

We sowed about twenty parsnip (Gladiator) into a small bed adjacent to the carrot bin and rigged up a wire cage to protect them from the pigeons.

After topping up the carrot bin with some clean compost we sowed a couple of rows of carrots, Early Nantes, and a row of small white salad onions De Barletta which we covered over with a polythene sheet. They should germinate in a couple of weeks.

The Winston seed potatoes were put into the lean to on a tray to chit and we set about preparing the bed for the shallots. Rob dug over a full width bed which we then broke down with the hoe and raked fine. Using a plank we firmed two rows and Rob planted the shallots with just the tip on the neck showing above the soil. I am a bit concerned that the pigeons may pull them up but we shall have to see.

We had a word with Trevor about the rent and he said it had gone up to £15 a plot so we have to give him £30 for our two plots in the next couple of weeks. A bargain. We popped to Keith’s plot to have a look at how he had put in his potatoes and as usual it was immaculate. He has used the trenching method and has fleece on hand in case of the threat of late frost Our second plot is immediately above his so we have a lot to live up to to keep up with our neighbour. We spoke to Joe and he advised us to trench too. He said sprinkle some slug pellets and Bonemeal in the base of a trench 6-8″ deep, place the seed potato on the bottom then cover and earth up leaving valleys between the rows.

Next job was planting up the Bluberry bushes that had been waiting in the lean to. We had prepared a bin with some ericaceous compost and just had to top it up with some decent compost before planting them. When we opened the packaging we found that there were three roots in each pack so we had six instead of two and they were only £1.49 a pack. After planting them we rigged up a wire cage and secured it with string to protect them until they get established.

Finally we checked in the fruit cage to find that there was plenty of new growth on most of the plants but the two gooseberry bushes we bought from Ken Muir still look dead. However, the three roots we were given by Joe and the cheap red gooseberry Rob bought from Dudley, were covered in green shoots.

The broad beans along the trellis down by the shed were pushing through. We may need to replace four of the seeds as there are gaps. Could have been bad seeds or pigeons maybe.

broad beanspeaswhite onionsprout spiral

We sowed a couple of rows of Pea Fortune in the bed alongside the brassica cage and covered them with a cloche. Rob tidied the brassica cage and cut a head of broccoli and some Kale to take home. He also dug up a stem of sprouts. When we got home Glenn commented on how beautifully the sprouts spiralled up the stem. I had never noticed that when I used to buy them in bags from Sainsburys.

Sunny Sunday

After all the rain we have had lately it was a welcome change to be working in the mild sunny weather we had today. We arrived at the plot early and before long the good weather had brought all the plot holders out to play. We moved the small Wilko greenhouse into the lean to and it fitted perfectly along one side of the back wall. I moved the Sweetpea seedlings in there. They are coming along nicely, only one pot yet to show anything. I will need to keep a close eye on them as they have to be pinched out to stop them going straggly. I moved some Cauliflower seedlings from under a cloche and sowed another tray of Cauliflower All Year Round and put both in the greenhouse. We also sowed thirty or so Leek Musselbrough seeds in a 7″ pot. We sowed a few more Broad Bean Aquadulce along the back of the trellis where the ones we sowed in October are about a foot tall now. They have flowers but we don’t expect them to fruit as they will probably be taken at the first frost. We will see.

leekspeascaulibroad beans

We also put in a row of Peas (Fortune) as an experiment alongside the carrot bin. I have put wire netting protection along but haven’t covered with any plastic or fleece as yet.

Rob finally screwed the brass plot number 8 to a stake and hammered it in at the top of our plot. We were given it by a nice lady on freecycle.

Keith confirmed again that we could go ahead and start planting on his old plot so we came back and made a detailed plan of where we are going to plant our seed potatoes. At present they are laid out on egg trays in the garage which is probably too warm but was the only space available. I shall be happy when we have signed on the dotted line and paid the rent on both the plots which should be in April. The chap who has the plot immediately above ours gave us two Celeriac and loads of Artichoke slips. My first feeling is that we will probably plant some of the Artichoke slips for the flowers rather than to eat and give some away. I roasted a few tonight but am not too keen. Haven’t tried the Celeriac yet. Exciting moment of the day. We noticed heads forming on the Broccoli in the brassica cage.

To Chit or Not to Chit That is The Question

Rain, rain and even more rain. Temperatures are very mild for January but there are bound to be frosts and low temperatures to come. Nothing much happening at the allotment so apart from delivering the poo for the compost all we have done is tie down fences etc which have been loosened by the high winds.

The seed potatoes arrived yesterday from Alan Romans with no substitutions. Everything exactly as we ordered. International Kidney, King Edwards, Cara, Pink Fir Apple, Lady Christl, British Queen, Charlotte, Picasso and Roseval.

International Kidneybritish queenrosevalcara

All we have to do now is decide what to do with them while we wait for planting time. A lot of discussion going on on the forums about whether to chit or just plant but our first concern is how and where to store them. We have decided to put our little Wilko greenhouse inside the lean to and lay the potatoes on the shelving when we are ready to chit them. They are in very good condition at the moment so we want to keep them that way. We are planning to grow some in pots and bags and the rest in the ground. I have e-mailed Alan Romans for advice about storage and planting times so we will wait and see what he says. I will have to look up again which are earlies etc as I have forgotten now. Later this month we are planning to sow another row of broad beans and peas outside and sow cauliflower and leeks in pots undercover. Hope the rain slows down a bit though or we may have to wait until February.

Still More Rain, Snowballs and Sprouts – 2006

sproutsWe visited the plot yesterday to put the chicken poo in the compost. It was very windy and wet. We harvested our first sprouts and were amazed at the toughness of the stalk. First a gentle tug then a mighty pull followed by a hacking with a knife all to no avail. Feeling great empathy with the old lady and the giant turnip we gave one last heave and at last it came up and Rob fetched a spade to slice the root from the stalk. Today I had the much easier job of cooking them along with a couple of snowball turnips and we both agreed that they were very tasty and would pass muster for Christmas dinner.