Monday, 1 February 2010
We took a trip over the weekend to Johnstown garden centre and stocked up on this years seed potatoes and I have just ordered a load of seeds from www.seedaholic.com who come highly recomended by many people on the gardenplans ireland forum. As our chillis were so successful last year I'm determined to try a few new varieties this year. I have been looking for a mild chilli without much heat but with tonnes of chilli flavour and was recommended Numex Suave, which is a type of habernero chilli. Apparently this chilli has all the flavour of the habernero but very little of the heat. I'm hoping to make a nice sweet chilli sauce from them. I found it imposssible to source seeds for this in ireland so I've just put an order in with The Chilli Pepper Company in the UK at www.chilliseeds.co.uk They have a huge selection of all things chilli be it chillis, seeds or chilli products. I also have some jalepeno seeds, serrano, and the two apache chilli plants that served us so well are currently overwintering on the window sill and are even beginning to show the start of some flower buds for this season!!!
This year we opted to do potatoes properly as last year we hadn't intended on doing potatoes and threw some generously donated seeds in which tasted fantastic, even if we did get blight.
So this years seed potatoes are as follows:
Earlies: 'Orla' and 'pentland javelin' both a firm waxy potato full of flavour and perfect for boiling and salads. I got two varieties here as I got a little over excited about being in a garden centre again and managed to slip them into the basket before Cillian saw and set my head straight!
Second earlies: 'Kestrel', These seem to be very popular as a good all rounder for mashing, boiling, chipping and I believe are particularly good for roasting as the flesh isn't too floury and doesn't take up too much of the fat.
Maincrops: 'Maris piper', again another very popular and highly recommended potato for flavour and storing ability. Our potatoes last year easily lasted us a few months in storage in spite of getting blight so a full crop should easily keep us until after christmas into the new season of 2011, how's that for forward planning.
As for the rest of the veg going in this year:
Cabbage: Greyhound for summer, apparently a very quick maturing cabbage that lives up to its name, can be sown early spring for summer or late summer for autumn, we'll be sowing these in the next week or two, and Ormskirk, a savoy cabbage for Autumn harvest.
Carrots: 'Solar yellow' and 'Nantes 2'
Parsnip: Tender and True, supposedly large roots up to 3 inches across and very tasty.
Beans: 'purple queen' which grows purple pods to add a bit of colour on the plot, and some other type of green bean I haven't decided upon yet, and we'll also throw in some more of the yellow wax pods we grew last year.
Peas: 'hurst greenshaft' as these are supposed to be very well suited to early sowing and are relatively tolerent of our cooler weather.
Turnip: 'snowball' These small white turnips just look so tasty and are supposed to be quite sweet and mild, I'm not a fan of very strong flavoured turnips or swedes.
Beetroot: 'Boltardy' apparently resistant to bolting and quite tasty.
Courgette: 'F1 Ambassador' which apparently has a nice long productive season.
Leeks: 'Autumn Mammoth 2 Hannibal' a summer leek which matures quite quickly, as far as leeks go, and we'll try 'Musselburgh' again for winter. These failed on us last year as we couldn't get them started early enough but we're going for it again this year but sowing in the next week or 2, a good 2-3 months earlier than last year.
Brussels sprouts: 'Bedford Darkmar 21' a new variety for us to try. We grew F1 Trafalgar last year with resounding success and exceptionally tasty sprouts for christmas so we thought we'll just try another variety this year and see if we can get the same success.
I'm sure there will be plenty more as the season progresses, the above list I must stress is definately not all of it. There will be quite a number of additions to it but its enough to get started with. Its early yet in the season and the allotment will have to share my time this year with my wedding planning for my impending big day out in July so please forgive me if I occasionally say that I 'planted out the new laboutin 5 inch high heels that go perfectly with my dress' instead of the 'lovely 6 inch leeks' which I hope to have ready for planting out in June/July!!!
Wednesday, 21 October 2009
It was nice to see such an Autumn harvest theme associated with Halloween in both Ettlingen and in Nebraska, originally a pagan festival of the Harvest and signifying the coming of the new year, a display that seems to be sadly lacking in Ireland considering they grow relatively well here in our climate. Ireland has become very commercial when it comes to this time of year and its sad to see the old traditions fade and be replaced by commercial western glitz and glam. It has inspired me to perhaps try growing a few unusual shaped squashes and have another go at the pumpkins next year. This was a festive display shown outside my hotel in Nebraska, showcasing the seasonal harvest of corn, squash and pumpkin.
Our Brussels sprouts look ready and very healthy, I'm hoping for a bit of a frost over the next week or two before we harvest as I believe that makes them sweeter. They are definately a little too early to have for Christmas but I will post up a query on the gardenplansireland forum and see if the good people there can tell me how long I can leave them on the plant before they blow. If I can't leave them too much longer we'll harvest them and freeze them for Christmas, I'm sure they'll taste just as good and we'll be eating our own veg for Christmas dinner. They've proven to be one of our resounding successes with no problems at all through the growing season.
Sunday, 27 September 2009
We pulled the last of our cauliflowers a couple of weeks ago which was once again very tasty, and although small were definately a success.
Our Cabbages are also continuing to provide us with fresh head every week and we've still a good few weeks supply left for the remainder of the season. The cabbage seems happy enough to stay in the ground until its needed and so far has not shown any signs of going to seed so we'll keep harvesting as needed. It does however have to fight with the weeds which we've given up on at this stage due to the end of the season.
Our sprouts are buttoning up nicely!! and the plants look as healthy as ever, even though they are squashed in the nets I am still wary of taking the nets off as there are still a few butterflies about and poor William the allotment guru's brassicas have become covered in cabbage white caterpillars which are feasting on his purple sprouting broccoli. So my nemesis, the butterfly, is still a little too active for my liking. Our sprouts look like they may be slightly early for Christmas but they freeze well and will still hopefully taste great on Christmas day sauteed with some garlic and chopped bacon with perhaps a few roast chestnuts thrown in for good measure.
The sweetcorn now has lovely healthy tassles and cobs are forming large and healthy on every plant. When the tassles go brown the cobs will be ready to start looking at the kernals to ripen. According to my a-z of allotment vegetables book, when the tassles go brown peel back a little of the covering and squeez a kernal gently. If the resulting liquid is clear, the cobs are not yet ripe, if the liquid starchy cloudy and thick they have gone too far. Somewhere in between is just about right, still a liquid but slightly cloudy. Sweetcorn takes up a lot of space for quite a long time so I'm yet to be convinced that it is the most efficient use of so much space for such a low yield of only 2 cobs per plant, but we'll wait for the taste test before we decide if its worth growing again next year.
Now that preparation for the new season is upon us we got stuck into digging last weekend. It's garlic time!! So I got to indulge in my weakness for garden centres without Cillian trying to drag me out by the hair, although I'm sure he considered it when Id chosen not one, but 5 varieties of garlic after I couldn't decide, considered a sixth and sneakily threw in some shallots on my way past the stand for autumn planting alliums! Now understand I absolutely love garlic, I put it in everything and can on occasion easily go through 2 bulbs a week. So I really do need 5 varieties of garlic!! yes....I do.....really.....! The varieties I've chosen to grow are Germidour, a mild garlic supposedly good for roasting, Thermidrome, a full flavoured large cloved garlic which is supposed to be very reliable, Cristo, considered the garlic of choice for chefs due to its excellent flavour and can store for up to 9 months!! so will keep you going almost until your next lot are ready for harvest, lautrec white, which is well I'm not sure, supposed to be good but at that stage I was caught up in a seed buying frenzy and completely lost sight of anything other than buying more garlic, and the previous week it had been sold out and this was new stock. So if it was good enough to go out of stock that quickly its good enough for me to absolutely need it to go into our garlic beds this year, and finally Iberian wight, possibly for the same reason as the lautrec wight. Although I believe the varieties ending in 'wight' are farmed on the isle of wight and are therefore acclimatised to the British and Irish climate so should grow well. I threw in some jermor shallots as at that stage I was just frantically grabbing anything that could be planted now and these popped off the shelf and strangely fell into my hand! don't know how they got there but they're going in.
Thursday, 27 August 2009
Our sprouts are really trying to burst out of their cage of netting and you can see the beginnings of little sprouts forming at the intersection between the leaves and main stem. I have high hopes for out brussels sprouts this year, they seem to be growing healthy and tall, with no sign of any diseases or deficiency, so heres hoping for homegrown sprouts for christmas dinner. This picture was taken the weekend before last, and since then they have started to push the netting right up and look packed underneath.
Our onions are finally bulbing up a little. We sowed them around the 26th April and so far they haven't exactly thrived, probably due to the poor soil, and the leaves have grown relatively small in comparison with everyone elses, with slightly yellowing tips but other than that they have faired ok. Many other peoples onions up on the allotments have bolted and gone to seed and I'm wondering perhaps we did the right thing not manuring the onion beds that late in the season. Yes the growth hasn't been as lush as some other peoples onions, but they haven't bolted or gone to seed and seem to be bulbing up now. The veg growing books I have recommend a growing time of 22 weeks for onions growing from sets which would mean we are pretty much right on schedule to have our onions ready by the end of september. If too much manure is added too late in the season onions can bolt and go to seed as they grow too quickly in the rich manure. I believe the general rule is you manure in the Autumn and lime in the late Winter so this year we will manure the beds around October or November, allow the winter weather to break it down and settle the nutrients into the soil and then come January or early February, we will lime the beds we didn't do this year. Hopefully between this and growing as much of our veg as possible through weed suppressing membrane next year, and successional sowing, we should have even more success with our veg next year.
Our sweet corn is finally putting out male flowers, I'm hoping its not too late in the season to get cobs, (I suspect it may be!) but the seed pack did say harvest from end of September to October so theres still hope yet. The sweetcorn has shot up and looks tall, strong and healthy.
Now that our broccoli and cauliflower is pretty much done, the next thing we are looking forward to is our cabbages. We had one pointed cabbage and one savoy ready for picking and another 15 or so cabbages we hope will be ready over the coming weeks. Unfortunately I sense another glut coming on and I'm not quite sure cabbage takes to freezing as well as cauliflower and broccoli so any ideas on what to do with excess cabbage? Answers on a postcard please! (or in the comments section.)
Our pumkins are making a break for freedom!! I definately underestimated quite how much pumkins spread out. Our plants are putting out vines all over the place! here you can see one of them making a B line for the sweetcorn. The traditional native American Indian way of companion planting is to plant pumkins, sweetcorn and beans together and I can certainly see the pumpkins have an affinity or affection for the corn. This vine is about 6 feet long and is budding with new flowers. Traditionally the pumpkins are grown around the base of the sweetcorn which suppresses weed growth due to the enourmous pumpkin foliage. Beans are planted around the base of the sweetcorn and use the height of the corn to climb up and the flowers from the bean plants attract bees and insects to pollinate the flowers of the pumpkins. So the three veg, or holy trinity, all help each other out and there you have it! Companion planting at its finest.....in theory..!! We'll try this way of planting next year and see how it works. In the meantime with our pumpkins making a break for freedom we just do our best and hope for pumpkins at halloween. Below you can see one plant edging towards the sweetcorn, and another climbing through the deer fencing trying to escape towards the river!!
Thursday, 20 August 2009
Our chard bright lights was looking delightfully colourful and I really hope it tastes as good as it looks!
I'm not quite sure but I think we may have the first pumpkins showing a hint they they are going to turn up on plot 103 for halloween.
However celebrations weren't to begin just yet. We had a look at our potato bed and in the space of a week all the plants had deteriorated drastically with confirmed blight. Once it strikes unfortunately theres not much you can do but try and prevent the blight spreading to the tubers in the ground and rotting the potatoes. So we cut down the foliage to ground level, earthed the mounds up and I dug up 2 of the plants to see if there was any hope of salvaging some spuds. The roosters are small but thankfully no sign of blight in most so we'll leave them in the ground for another week and then just harvest what we can of them. Unfortunately with the foliage cut back there is no possibility of the spuds getting any bigger so the best we can hope for is baby roosters. It would seem that most peoples potatoes on the allotments succumbed to blight including William the allotment guru who generously gave us a rather large bag of his spuds, british queens. (Thanks William, they were very tasty!!)
Overall not a bad haul at all though up in plot 103. This is the beautiful table full of food we managed to harvest and provided us with plenty of veg for the week. The broccoli and cauliflower went into a very tasty broccoli and cauliflower gratin and tasted absolutely fantastic. For the first time we discovered just how cauliflower is supposed to taste and it was surprisingly different from the shops, not quite so bitter and much sweeter. The heads are small but his is probably due to the lack of manure in the soil this year and can be fixed for next season. I loved it before but now!!! I'm an addict!
Finally I had plenty of opportunities to continue my rehabilitation programme to eliminate my fear of butterflies. The plot was crawling in them!!! There are so many up there now we are very glad we put nets over our brassicas, but even so one or two still managed to get in as we found a couple of stray caterpillars in the broccoli (thankfully before I cooked them!!) theres nothing worse than enjoying the wonderful taste of home grown food only to look down on your plate and see half a caterpillar!! So heres a picture of one of the butterflies sunning itself on one of our marigolds around the pea and bean bed. I have to say, with so many butterfies flitting about I have definately begun to run slightly less, I didn't really have much choice, if I ran away from one of the fluttering monsters I ended up running into another 2 of them dancing in the air so in the end I just gave up running and closed my eyes momentarily instead. I think my rehab plan is working!!!
Wednesday, 12 August 2009
We had hoped to have these sprouts for christmas, but I'm wondering if we might not see them sooner.
Our cabbages are hearting up nicely and this one was ready to take home with the rest of the weekends bountiful harvest comprising of, yes more baby carrots and more beans which were all absolutely delicious.
Our corn is growing nice and tall and looks quite healthy. We would hope to see cobs around the end of september or so.
We were met with a bit of a surprise when we inspected our raspberry canes. It would appear our raspberries were not quite happy with their performance this year and have begun flowering again to give it another go. Hopefully this will mean we might have some autumn raspberries aswell as the small few we got in June.
Our brassica bed was hiding a little secret among the weeds and overcrowded cabbage and cauliflower. I gently pulled apart some of the leaves on our cauliflowers only to reveal these cricket ball sized heads looking tight and unblemished. I'll wait a bit to see if they get bigger before picking and keep and eye out in case the head splits before harvest. Hopefully we should be harvesting some over the next 2 weeks or so.
We had a rather scary visitor to plot 103 as we continued to wage our war on weeds. This guy was a good inch and a half long and got us thinking, hmmmmm I'm not sure this thing belongs here!!!! and that massive sting type barb looks absolutely terrifying....but I crept close enough for a picture anyway. I did some research to find out what it is and it turns out its a great horntailed wasp!!! Particularly large, and very mean looking, but apparently relatively harmless and quite common in Ireland where the female lays her eggs in wood using that enourmous stinger like barb, which is not in fact a sting at all.
Unfortunately it appears that our rooster potatoes may have blight. These were not sprayed and we found that some leaves had these brown blotches which seemed to go through to the underside of the leaf. I will post the photo up and ask the good people in the gardenplansireland forum if this is well and truly blight and if so, can our spuds be saved if we cut down the foliage early and hope that the tubers continue to develop for a while to an edible size.