Sweet Peas and other seeds

I absolutely love sweet peas – both the fragrance and the pretty flowers and such a variety of colours.  There is only one year that I can remember not growing them – not quite sure what happened that time – but I missed them terribly.  Last year we had a lovely lot at the allotment that I grew from seed, then later in the Summer I bought some in the sale from Sarah Raven. My seeds were definitely better, although with the ones from SR it was more to do with my care than the quality of the plants that were delivered – which were fantastically wrapped in paper, I just took far too long to get them into the ground instead of planting them straightaway.

This year I am hoping to harvest from seeds left from my 2016 purchases so these have been duly planted in root trainers and will be put on a cool window sill upstairs.  It worked last year so I am expecting the same this year, but my plan will be to share the plants between the allotment and my back garden.

These are the varieties that I am growing.  It is a mixed bunch – am afraid my flower planting just tends to be a little that takes my fancy rather than there being any grand design.

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The ‘Free’ packet I didn’t plant last year – but all the rest I did and was very pleased with the result.

Working at the allotment is a little hit and miss atm, it’s either too cold, too wet or too dark.  We did however spend last Sunday morning creating a new manure enclosure at the end of my ‘new’ bit of plot (‘we’ is me, my brother and husband).  It was hard work, cold, very wet but worth doing.  It also meant that I had space to finally plant the gooseberries and white currants I had purchased a month or so ago which had been healed in to pots waiting for the right time.  Below is the picture of the new half before the enclosure.  The ‘new’ bit is from the bottom of the photograph to the polytunnel, the polytunnel and beyond is my other half which we have been working for a few years.

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I will post a photograph of what it looks like now once I get back there in the dry.  We ended up with a lot of woodchip mixed into manure which had been left by the guy vacating the half (and also a lot of broken glass but lets not discuss that shall we) but this has now been all piled up and I guess we just leave it to break down over the next year or so.  There is still plenty of room for more manure and also space to put a leaf mold compost cage as I am lucky that my son is a tree surgeon (or arborist for the posh amongst us) and gave me two huge builders bags of lovely leaves last Autumn, obviously not ready to use yet but for the future.

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Sweet Peas and other seeds

Jerusalem artichokes

If there was ever a plant that gives an incredible return it is the jerusalem artichoke.  Last year I purchased just 5 tubers and they were planted the same time as the potatoes.  Of course they grew, and grew, and grew, until they had to be staked (that’s one lesson learned right there, stake them before they topple) and in the autumn when the foliage had died back we chopped them off (leaving a foot of stalk so that they would be easy to find) and left them until we thought the time was right to harvest more.  November came and we harvested the oca and yacon and one of the j.a. plants.  It was a good harvest off one plant and I duly made some meals and some fantastic soup.  Unfortunately, I discovered to my cost that I am one of the people who can’t cope with the inulin very well but it seems that soup reduces the impact dramatically.  I have also bought a spice called Asafoetida which is also supposed to help but haven’t tried it yet (will get back to you on the result of that one).

Christmas and New Year are a distant memory and this afternoon we thought it would be worth harvesting another one of the plants. My word what a crop from one plant – I weighed it and there is almost 3 kilos of tubers there, and most of them are whoppers.

 

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So in terms of return on investment it’s a definite winner. 1 tuber which cost 44p gives 3kgs worth of tubers which would cost £8 to buy.

Now to find some more recipes to try, now where did I put that spice.

Jerusalem artichokes

A plot of two halves

I took on my allotment plot 3 years ago and as it was my first time as far as the allotment committee were concerned, I was offered a half plot  –  but having had my name on the list for a few years I took it on very gratefully.  Last year after 2 Summers I took on another half plot (called Plot B as it was by the bee hives).  We planted plot B up with tubers and despite the potato blight had a good crop –  potatoes, yacon and jerusalem artichokes (are still harvesting these) as well as storing our manure.  I had started to plan for this year with ideas for developing the plot properly with raised beds etc. However, now all has changed as my plot neighbour has decided to take a half plot elsewhere on the allotment and is releasing the other half next to my half so now I will have one whole plot instead of two halves and I will release Plot B to a new allotmenteer.

Am so happy to have the whole of one plot to develop instead of two halves but it means rethinking plans as now I can get better organised not having to split my plan between two locations.  We have a couple of jobs to do to get started, namely moving the manure, lifting and moving some globe artichokes (hopefully without killing them) and harvesting the last of the jerusalem artichokes.

Now where’s my paper and pencil.

A plot of two halves

I blame Carol Klein!

Carol Klein is one of my gardening heroes it must be said, admittedly she is not the only one but today I am carrying out one of her tips.  I have not had great garlic harvests in the last two years. 2015 was Ok’ish, but a bit – was there really much point? and 2016 succumbed to rust although we did have a teeny weeny harvest.  While the rust means that I have to move where we put the garlic for 2017 (and for a few years) the lack of a good harvest means that this year I am being pushed to experiment.  Firstly the location.  The garlic this year will be in raised beds (and as I have rather too much some pots too) and also at the top of a slopping bit of ground on plot B.  My soil is heavy clay so am rather hoping one or both of these new locations might pay off.

My second test is to start the garlic off in modules undercover outside now at the end of January instead of in the ground in Novemberish. Hopefully, if the cloves sprout, they will be in to the ground in 6 weeks in mid-March.  I have chosen 3 spring varieties Solent Wight, Lautrec Wight and Picardy Wight so hopefully this test will be successful.  Of course there is a bit of a problem that might arise – if all the cloves sprout I might have too many to plant (I have today put 90+ cloves into modules) but then if they are successful I am sure I will find homes for some of them.  We can live in hope.

Fruiting Shrubs and Trees

I also purchased some seed from Agroforestry, 4 of which have also gone into some of the spare modules with the garlic.  All of these the information says need stratification and cold so am hoping.

First is the Arbutus unedo or Strawberry Tree which if it does grow will eventually be located in a container to keep it small.  It is pretty and an evergreen, not sure about the fruit but we shall see if it is successful.  Am pinching the picture from Crocus website (they sell them), it does look lovely.

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Next is the Chaenomeles japonica or Dwarf Quince again to ultimately located either at the allotment in my expanding fruit section or in a container but again it will take a while.  Have used the following picture from the Gardeners World website.

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Another one that I tried last year but failed to successfully germinate is Zanthoxylum schinifolium similar to Szechuan pepper but am having another go.

Finally Actinidia arguta a smooth skinned Kiwi, this if successful will eventually go to the bottom of my garden next to the garage so that it has space to climb.

The other seed from Agroforestry is Allium ampeloprasum babingtonii or Babington Leek.  I grew one last year and it seemed fine but I haven’t yet seen it reappear after it died off at the end of the summer.  So this year I am starting another batch off.  If it does get going it will go up to the allotment but again away from where we were growing the garlic last year as it did appear to get a bit of rust but seemed less affected than the garlic.  The following photograph is from the Guardian website from when Alys Fowler (another hero) wrote an article on them – you can find the article Here.

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I blame Carol Klein!

Like a kid at Christmas …

I have just received my parcel from the first seed circle I have ever joined,

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I have already written out everything that is in it and now I am off to research planting times and methods so I can plan everything out.  So excited I feel like a kid at Christmas opening her stocking.

Thank you to Twitter  and @mudandgluts for organising. I think that even if I have a dire season I will seed save something so that I can reenter 2017 seed circle – this is just so much fun.

Like a kid at Christmas …

Growing ginger …

Last year I optimistically planted lots of ginger roots as I had read that the route to growing ginger roots was an easy one.  It is true, it isn’t difficult, your plant will grow – but in the UK we don’t quite have the warm environment to grow it outside except through the summer months and my ginger grew but we haven’t actually yet had a harvest.  Following is a picture of what I was hoping to get (pinched from James Wong article on the Guardian website),

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The roots have sat on my kitchen windowsill (lots of warmth and light) and last year green shoots appeared that reached about a half a metre in height but as the summer progressed they were left alone and as other things took time and priority were left to pretty much fend for themselves other than the occasional watering when I noticed that they had become particularly dry.  Oddly they had survived, however, today I decided that in fact they were dead, all that was left was a dried dead grass leaf – or so I thought.

When I emptied it out of the pot I discovered a bunch of about 8 or so healthy succulent roots (apologies I didn’t take a picture at this point – wish I had).  These I have now decided to repot to wait and see what happens next.  My hope is that soon (when the weather starts to warm) I will get lots of lovely green shoots at which point I will repot the ginger into separate pots. The following picture what it looks like at the moment.

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I used up the last of the compost that had been mixed with sand yesterday for the willow sticks as I figured the ginger probably likes good drainage.

Growing ginger …

Just a bunch of sticks …

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Well hell yes, I have planted a bunch of sticks.  There is method in my madness however.  G and I are going on a course at the National Botanical Gardens in Llanarthne in April to learn how to make garden supports out of willow.  I had been wondering about where you get willow from and watching the great Alys Fowler recently gave me the idea.  Her ‘Edible Garden’ series is currently being repeated on a Sunday morning and in the second episode she too decides she would like to use willow and she and her ‘willow’ friend go to their local park and pick from bundles left after pruning (or coppicing I guess).

I remembered that my local cycle path has willow growing next to one of the ponds on the route.  The willow was originally a beautiful willow tunnel

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Copyright Caerphilly Country Borough Council

but unfortunately the tunnel has separated and it is now just a path with lots of young willow trees growing either side of it.  Ah-ha I thought, I just go and prune a couple of lengths of willow, plant it and see what happens.

So G and I cycled down to the willow this afternoon, cut a couple of lengths  (hopefully we won’t get into trouble for doing this) and brought it back to plant.  In my research into the willow it seems that also the thinner cuttings just need to be left in a vase of water and they too should root.  So (apologies not a great picture) I also have a vase of sticks.

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Well you just never know.  I think in our first year however we may need to rely on more commercial sources for our willow, unless of course Caerphilly Borough Council will give us permission to go and coppice from the willow that is there. Hmm, now there’s a thought.

Oh, remember the tomatillo from the last post – well they have germinated already.  None of the sweet peppers have as yet though.

Just a bunch of sticks …