Six on Saturday – 9/1/2021

It has at least been mainly dry this week and my feelings of guilt at having spent most of December indoors finally got the better of me. I have been excusing my lack of engagement on my allotment on the grounds of it being too wet but this week I have dug out and spread all my accumulated compost and started to consider the coming season.

I moved my tunnel up there in the middle of October, so a bit late to have sown anything that would germinate and overwinter. I’d sown some lettuce and had small plants in pots; some of them are now planted, the remainder potted on. Yesterday I sowed a few more, they’re in the house to germinate. I also sowed a couple of pots of carrots; they need some heat to germinate at reasonable speed, so are in the propagator but will then get grown on in the glasshouse and planted in the tunnel. It’s not something I’ve done before, I may do repeat sowings at intervals, see what seems to work best. Also on the seed front, some of the small order I got from Plant World have now been sown and put outside in a tray with plastic lid. They’re the ones that need a bit of cold treatment.

In the garden, apart from a minimal amount of tidying, I have done nothing and there is very little happening. There are bulbs starting to come up here and there, a couple of Camellias flowering, Hellebores starting but not out yet; all the usual. I think I’ll do my six entirely from my allotment.


One.
Lettuce ‘All Year Round’. Sown 3/10/2020 in cells, then potted into 9cm pots. I planted out 9 into the ground in my tunnel on 27th December. They have since had a few frosts which they’ve survived and are so far untouched by slugs, mice or voles. I figured if they survived the first week I could breathe more easily. The seed packet gives a sowing range of February to August and a harvest interval of 10-12 weeks from sowing. I’m well outside the sowing date range and after 14 weeks they’re a good way off being usable. I sowed some more yesterday. I sowed a short row of Radish alongside the lettuce in the tunnel, to see what happens.

Two & three.
One of my Rhubarb varieties is already growing away. Bought unnamed, it might be Victoria. A couple of leaves are frost singed but mainly it’s OK. It’s the earliest, most prolific and least tasty of the four I have.
Just above it is a weed patch on which I have spread a couple of bags of shredded stuff that normally I’d have composted. The compost has all been spread, the remaining rotten pallets put aside. I will go a year with no compost heap, just shred and spread, see how it works out. All was explained in a mid week blog.
I was accused of heresy, to which I plead guilty and which puts me in good company, historically speaking.

Four
Chard. I have grown Chard a couple of times and it hasn’t done very well. This plant may be self sown, except I’m not sure where the seed would have come from. Suffice it to say I don’t think I planted it but it has done very well and yielded a few small portions for the kitchen. Unfortunately it’s all alone and one plant isn’t really enough. I thought I’d leave it to go to seed but it may need another plant for pollination.

Five.
Purple sprouting broccoli. ‘Rudolph’ is the variety, according to Kings, an extra early variety. They really should check their online blurb about it, in the description it says spears from late January; in the more details section under “maturity” they say late February to April and in the Sow/Plant/Harvest box they have September to February for the harvest period. I have instructions to grow more, I may get another variety though.


Six.
I am very fond of blackcurrants and have a number of bushes of three varieties. In 2020 they were not great, having had two years where they’d not made a lot of new growth, mainly for lack of water. Strips of Mypex between the rows are good for keeping the weeds down but if gardening on a slope, the rows need to run across the slope or most of the rain that lands on the mypex will run the length of it and not get to the plants. In 2020 I carried a lot of cans of water and kept the bushes watered, which meant I had a decent amount of new growth. I was able to prune out lots of older wood and I’m hopeful of a good crop this year.

There’s something very satisfying about growing your own food, not least that it can be very challenging, with pests and diseases much more of a problem than they are in the ornamental garden. Since one of the things that motivates me is to eat food of the best possible quality, I don’t want to contaminate it with chemical pesticides though I don’t describe myself as an organic gardener. I just want to keep it as simple and as natural as possible. It sometimes seems like I’m living in a world of people who think they need to spend hundreds of pounds on tanalised timber to build raised beds which they will cover with plastic mesh so they can grow half a dozen “organic” carrots.

On the whole, gardeners are a sensible lot, and the SoS lot will be telling tales of hunkering down through this cold weather while some of their plants put on a show of defiance. I’ve had a quick look at the Prop’s post, heading back there dreckly.

44 thoughts on “Six on Saturday – 9/1/2021

  1. Growing vegetables, generally speaking, doesn’t seem to be the easiest thing in the world to do, well not for me anyway. I made a decision not to grow them in the summer as the weather is so hot here, but of course, this year it was been cool and wet so far, so I probably could have done.

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  2. Interesting stuff, I will be watching to see how you get on. I had to check who called you a heretic, I might have guessed! Those lettuces look splendid, as you say, almost there. Perhaps one day I will get a half plot, would be nice to grow veggies in quantity again. But then ….. Have a good week!

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  3. Purple sprouting broccoli is one of my favourite vegetables but, unfortunately, we won’t have any this spring as it all bolted last summer. We’ll have another go at it this coming year. I’m with you on the blackcurrants by the way, a great fruit – and the most delicious ice-cream! Oh, summer days!

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    1. Have another go, the essential mantra for all vegetable growers. What is completely incomprehensible to me is how I can have a great crop of something while the bloke on the next plot gets nothing and vice versa. Same year, same soil, same weather. Different malevolent spirits perhaps.

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  4. I agree with growing veg, I think more people will devote time and space this coming year. Mr S too loves blackcurrants, and at present I have quite a few jars of jam, from fruit picked from a friend’s garden. I have bushes coming along in the garden now.

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    1. It’s been interesting seeing several newbies start on our allotment site. Only the ones with prior experience have had much success. It’ll be interesting to see how many keep it up. You need a few encouraging easy wins, but they’re the things you can buy in the supermarket for pence.

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      1. I had an allotment for a number of years, and it was amazing how some people thought a couple of hours a week would do. My biggest win was asparagus..picked it in such huge quantities. Grown from a packet of Franchi seeds, I had enough plants to share with the ‘good gardeners’ who were in for the duration. It was having room for compost heaps on which I put all my chicken bedding that was a big plus point. Also I just loved a bonfire! Not been able to make one since then. I wouldn’t get one now though, as it does take time and effort, and we have a very good market which I love to buy from.

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  5. As someone who is putting herself through unnecessary effort to make 18 day compost because as a no-digger I never have enough, I can totally understand what you are trying. In permaculture they call it ‘chop and drop’ which I like the sound of. I have tried it but unfortunately, the weather was very wet that year (about 6 years ago)and I had an uncontrollable slug problem. They were all hiding under the chopped up stuff and I had no outdoor lettuces. However, I do think there is mileage in doing it as it so much less work. I think the shredder is a good idea. I have a sturdy old bosch shredder but it doesn’t do green materials. Does your Stihl do green stuff?

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    1. Chop and drop eh? I had a feeling someone would have got there before me. I was thinking of patenting “shred and spread”. I must look for info on their experiences with it as a method. I always have problems with slugs and it is one of my bigger concerns that it would make things worse. I’m currently thinking that if it is spread fairly thin it won’t provide much cover and will quickly break down. Mainly the slugs hide under the plants themselves or under carpet or mypex that I have down on the paths. The Stihl GHE250 does greens provided its fairly dry, tends to clog on wet stuff. It doesn’t like stringy stuff, fine tough grass for example, just wraps up the blades and stops them cutting.

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      1. The chard is beautiful – the color, the gloss. A very ornamental vegetable. I planted purple sprouting broccoli this year but have yet to see any florets. I am hoping that this is because the broccoli I bought are not an early variety, or perhaps I’ll chalk it up to difference in climate. The fact is, I have no idea how to harvest this vegetable and its slow rate of growth has given me extra time to conduct this essential research.

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      2. Even amongst the six plants of psb that I have, there has been no agreement about when to start producing shoots. I think that may be because it’s not a crop that the breeders have working hard to breed uniformity into. Suits me fine to have it cropping over a few months, I don’t want it all coming at once.

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  6. I keep trying with vegetables and my biggest success has been the Swiss Chard. Yes, there have been a few nibbles but we have had numerous portions from just 3 plants. Strangely, again, you will see blackcurrants feature in my Six-on-Saturday this week.

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  7. I also sowed salads around the same time as you. There are some outside ( grilled of course ) but some under a tunnel, and the last in the greenhouse. I have not yet gone to see if they have withstood the night frosts.
    In the meantime, these purple broccoli looks very appetizing! I always grow common broccoli but these look beautiful too.

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    1. I’m not sure of my facts here but I think what you’re calling common broccoli is what we grow as calabrese and buy in the shops as broccoli. Purple sprouting broccoli is what my dad was growing 60 years ago before all this fancy foreign stuff started to take over; it’s what I would think of as common broccoli. My seed catalogue lists 8 Calabrese, 7 of them F1, and 3 purple sprouting broccoli, 1 of them F1. It’s an old fashioned, low yielding, long harvest season veg, great for amateurs, useless for commercial growers. Lovely flavour.

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      1. Thank you for these clarifications Jim ; indeed I was thinking of what you name “calabrese”. This is the one I grow for years, thanks to my father’s sowing . ( It’s him who is 83 and always provides my seedlings of cabbage, broccoli, leeks, onions… but it won’t last for years… )

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      2. My father used to grow lots of veg when I was young and then as I got older I took over from him until I moved away. Then I hardly touched veg growing for around 4o years. There are things I need to ask him but he’d be 101 if he were still alive.

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  8. Your tunnel will be great, you’ll be able to grow so much. I share your love of blackcurrants. Mine need a prune soon too – I love that the prunings smell of blackcurrants.

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    1. People complain they they’re fiddly to pick but apart from back ache I quite enjoy it on a warm summer’s evening. Like weeding, you have something to show for your effort.

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  9. I’m lacking enthusiasm for the veg patch currently. Still got sprouts on the go and broad beans in the polytunnel at work. But we have got some chard out the eco pantry at work. We get sent the supermarket extras. This week beetroot and chard obviously not selling well.

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    1. Unfortunately it is mostly down to plenty of fertilizer and zero tolerance of pests and diseases. A carrot crop full of root fly and wireworms is money and effort spent and no return. I asked an organic grower once what they did about potato blight and was told that if necessary they got a derogation and used the same chemicals everyone else did. I don’t know how widespread that is but there are some crops that would be very difficult to grow without chemicals. Good luck with your carrots.

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  10. My rhubarb went missing! I had been growing it since I was five, and put some on one of my properties until I can get my garden going again. I do not know what happened to it, but it was missing after the CZU fire. The spot it was is in did not burn, but it is just . . . gone, as if eaten by gophers from below. After the forest and several homes around the parcel burned, I can not complain.

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  11. I think a lot of folks will be re-thinking vegetable plots…..We live in a postage -stamp sized garden on a big slope…..but my neighbor started growing vegetables in three raised beds in his driveway! I keep looking over at them and might find myself going that way too! I was waiting to see if the Home Owners Association made them take them down! But they are still there!

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    1. The pandemic has created a stampede for allotments, veg seed, and the like over here and I wish people every success with it but it’s all too easy to put a lot in and get next to nothing out, and it’s hard to keep going, correct the mistakes and try again.

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  12. My thoughts turned to blackcurrants this week. There is something rather comforting about feeling that around the country gardeners are beginning to emerge and take stock ready for the next growing cycle. On we go again!

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    1. At least at this time of year, I get that feeling of being part of a wider community of gardeners more from blogging and social media than from being an allotment holder, more often than not there is no one else there. Gardening can be a pretty solitary activity, it’s nice to chat over the garden fence, even if it’s a virtual fence. Comforting is exactly what it is.

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  13. We seem to have such varied success with rhubarb, and I’m not sure why. A few plants last then disappear after the second year, while others do not even last that long. I’m starting to think it might be due to the high humidity combined with the high temperature. Such a pity as I love rhubarb! The purple headed broccoli is interesting and I might suggest to Mr S that he try and grow some too. It was interesting to see how you grow the black currants.

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    1. My allotment neighbour has a row of rhubarb which has never thrived. It gets infestations of a tiny beetle very year so its leaves are full of holes. Mine is perhaps 20 feet away and grows like stink. It leaves me feeling slightly guilty, though it’s absolutely no fault of mine.

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