Tuesday, 16 March 2010

An Exotic Experiment

I've seen ginger for sale in a few garden centres recently, and decided to give it a go. After reading up online about it, I've gone down the thrifty route and bought some ginger from my local supermarket. According to most of the articles online, there is barely any difference between ginger from the supermarket or the garden centre - apart from the price!

I soaked it in a bowl overnight, then planted it in a deep pot. Since ginger is an exotic plant, I'll be keeping it in the greenhouse where it can be in a nice hot, humid environment. Despite the fact that I only planted it a couple of days ago, I'm already inspecting the soil regularly, looking for signs of growth. I use ginger in most of my cooking, so I really hope I manage to pull this off.

All Hands On Deck

We've had a very busy couple of weeks in the garden. Along with continuing with successive sowing, I'm trying to keep on top of transplanting the young seedlings that are fast outgrowing the propagators.

Although I've seen most of my seeds germinate, it seems that I didn't provide them with enough light :-(

The broccoli in particular have long white stems, but tiny little leaves. Fortunately the weather is warming up nicely so today I moved all the plants out into the greenhouse, where there's a lot more light.

I've also started to sow directly out into my raised beds. Hopefully within the next few weeks we'll be seeing red and green mixed salad leaves, iceberg lettuce and radish. I've also sown onions, leeks and broccoli, which will hopefully provide us with food right through the year.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

The First of the Seeds

These little seedlings are jalapeno peppers that I planted on 14th Feb. The other peppers sown at the same time have also begun to come through, but as yet they don't need to be planted on. The onions are coming through slowly, but the leeks are doing very well and I've planted about 2o of those seedlings into pots too.

On 21st Feb I sowed some strawberries, mint and some more friggitello and jalapeno peppers. There's no sign of the peppers so far, but I've got a grand total of 1 strawberry seedling and 2 mint! I'm expecting the peppers through any day now, and I'm starting to wonder if I've done something wrong.

Yesterday was a really busy and enjoyable day spent indoors, while the finishing touches were being made to the raised beds and the greenhouse outside. While the man was occupied with heavy lifting, I took the opportunity to sow over 20 varieties of seed; mint, 7 types of chilli pepper, cucumber, sage, 5 types of tomato, onions, carrots, broccoli, sweetcorn and leeks. There's now a huge number of pots covered with sandwich bags all crowded round the radiator in the office, waiting for the weather to warm up. I had wanted to start a few off directly outside too, but the nights are still below freezing, so unusually for me I've displayed some restraint and am holding off until the frosts have well and truly passed.

The biggest lesson I learnt last year was about avoiding gluts, and ensuring a long cropping season. Whilst Cabbagetopia was immensely successful, giving us convenient frozen cabbage right through till a couple of weeks ago, I'd like to avoid having the smell of cooked cabbage permeating throughout the house this year! Therefore, I've become almost obsessive about successional sowing.

I'm aiming to sow a new batch of seeds every fortnight, following a "little and often" approach. In order to ensure the longest possible cropping season, I've worked out the maximum amount of times I'll be able to sow. For example, if my seed pack says to sow from March to May, I'll be able to have 6 batches. Whenever I've tried successional sowing in the past, I've always ended up using them all up to soon, or having some left over when it's too late to plant them. In thinking it through like this, I'll hopefully have a long cropping season, with a manageable amount of fruit and veg, and no left over seeds. Here's hoping!

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

The Veg Patch Wakes Up

Well, after the coldest Winter that I can ever remember, it's been fantastic to get outside and start preparing for Spring. We constructed three raised beds and I've been busy sowing seeds ready for when (if!) the frosts finally stop. On 14th Feb I used my new propagator to sow leeks, onions, golden bell peppers, Romanian peppers, Hungarian hot wax peppers, jalapeno peppers, red cherry peppers and frigitello peppers.

Since my job involves being away for days at a time, my main focus this year is on keeping my plants watered. I've got a self watering propagator, which has capillary matting to keep my seeds from drying out while I'm away. Hopefully I'll have some success with this propagator, as I'm planning to sow a lot more seeds over the coming weeks, including tomatoes, sweetcorn, lettuce, courgettes and cucumbers.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Transplanting leeks

Well the veg patch has finally been flattened. Work is slowly progressing on the garden and most of the plants have been moved to their new home. The final project will be to create a new set of raised beds in the end third of the garden. The dimensions of the new area will be about 20ft x 30ft, in what is currently the lawn. Although today was rainy and very windy, it was my only opportunity to save what veg I could, so I braved the wind and mud to keep my 14 biggest leeks.

I prepared the new area by removing all weeds, and digging in some compost. Although I wanted to keep all the leeks, I have finally started to get my head around the idea that plants don't do well when they're overcrowded. So I got the biggest plants, spaced them about 6in apart and watered them thoroughly. I'm really pleased that I've managed to save so many leeks. My absolute favourite winter meal is leek and potato soup and it'll be great for it to be home grown as well as home made.

What to do with butternut squash?

Loosely connected to Halloween, I am stuck for ideas on what to do with the only butternut squash growing in the veg patch. On Saturday Kitchen yesterday I watched a clip where they recommended seasoning the squash and sticking it in the microwave for 5 minutes. This is an appealing idea as it's so convenient and is probably the healthiest ready meal you could get. However, I just can't bring myself to nuke it when there are so many delicious recipes out there.

The clip also inspired me to explore more of the many varieties of pumpkin and squash there are out there. In particular I'm looking forward to trying the red onion and blue hubbard varieties. http://www.squashgrowingtips.com/ is a really useful site that gives details on some of the most popular winter squash varieties.

The aftermath of Halloween

Yesterday I got into the spirit of Halloween at the very last minute. I bought the last pumpkin in the market and did a very bad job of carving. I'm now left with all the pulp and seeds from the inside and I can't bring myself to just throw them in the compost bin. Instead I've decided to keep a few of the seeds and have a go at growing my own pumpkins next year.

For me, the carving was a resounding success as I managed to get away without any accidents with the knife. However, it was quite embarrassing when I saw the fantastic creations of my neighbours. So, determined not to be outdone two years in a row, I have already started researching templates for next year's effort. I have been particularly inspired by the Pumpkin Lady's fantastic designs. My favourite is the bewitching witch, but perhaps that might be a bit ambitious. Still, I do have 12 months to practice...