Cases of manure contamination are still cropping up see here so it's still important to take care when acquiring supplies. This is especially important in areas where Forefront weedkiller is used.

Harrod Horticultural have a sale - up to 50% off over 80 lines click here

Sarah Raven also has a sale click here

Harrod Horticultural are offering 10% discount on their raised beds click here and quote RB10 at the checkout

Monday, January 26

Peculiar Parsnips

We managed a visit to the plot to replenish our vegetable supplies and to give the fruit trees their second dose of winter wash.

The harvest was more or less the same sort of thing as we have had for a few weeks now.
That savoy cabbage was probably our largest. I always thought that they grew much bigger than this but ours are quite small. It's not that the plants didn't grow well as they we really healthy before winter set in. 

On the other hand what about that parsnip at the back?
I think it has decided to compete with that carrot I posted about earlier this month. It sustained a flesh wound when being extracted and has a patch of canker but it will scrub up nicely and go down a treat. 

PS Would you believe it but our plot neighbours have had some glass taken from their greenhouse - who does that sort of thing? It's unbelievable isn't it?

Sunday, January 25

Snowbird's Questions answered

About a couple of weeks ago Snowbird over at Gardens and Wildlife nominated my blog for an award and posed a set of gardening related questions that she would like me to answer. Flighty,  Garden in a City and Elaine have already answered so I thought that I had better sort myself out and add my answers. If you don't want to read all my answers maybe you'll enjoy the photos.
1. What is the worst injury you have sustained while gardening/plotting? In-depth gory details please….
I don't know whether this counts as an injury as such but at one time rough grass grew under our redcurrant bushes. One day I was picking the fruit when I felt something on my foot. When I looked down a gathering of angry wasps were having a sting party. I had inadvertently placed my foot over the entrance to their underground nest and they were not happy. Picture the scene - I was trapped under the netting and was most definitely not going to abandon a full punnet of redcurrants. 

I managed to escape from under the net punnet in hand thinking that wasn't too bad and wondering what all the fuss about wasp stings was about when the full effect kicked in and my views changed. Luckily I didn't react as badly as a plot neighbour who had an allergic reaction when stung.
2. How would/do you deal with wet, slushy, soggy leaves fermenting on the lawn that refuse to be raked up?
When the leaves are newly fallen we use a lawn mower to 'vacuum' them up. Any that arrive during winter are left where they are unless they constitute a slip hazard. The few that are on the lawn are left for the worms and blackbirds to deal with. Ones left on the garden and on paths little-used in winter are almost permanently foraged by our many blackbirds.
3. Have you ever had an invasion of Bamboo trying to colonize your garden? If yes, how did you get rid of it?
We once had four bamboos planted in the garden and all have been removed but one particular plant refuses to leave. We have hacked at it, cut canes out at ground level with the suckering roots attached but it clings on regardless - so anyone with the know how feel free to let us in on the secret.
4. Do you have any irrational fears/terrors re an animal or insect? If yes, how/when did it begin?
I used to have when I was a child - the usual creepy crawly thing, but thinking back I don't think I was really frightened. I think I was behaving how I was expected to and it was fun really. Now I find mini-beasts fascinating although I would draw the line to having them crawling over me. I also hate touching slugs but its's not really a fear. I have a rational respect for anything that may harm me so would keep my distance from anything that would fit into that category.
5. Has anyone else  ever danced barefoot in the rain  or hugged a tree?
No to the rain but I've hugged plenty of trees. When I was teaching I took my class on residential visits where we stayed in the Dales - or similar places - for a week. One activity was to go into a wooded area. A partner would lead you blindfolded to a tree and you had to take in as much information as you could about the chosen tree before being led away and the blindfold removed. You them had to find 'your' tree. We called the activity Tree Hugging,
6. Do you believe that the moon can influence the growth of plants?
The moon is supposed to affect any object made up of mainly liquid including us so I guess it affects plants but how or if it is a beneficial effect I don't know? I have an open mind to these things but I'm not going to start going out at midnight and planting under a full moon.

7.Do you have a favourite flower legend/story/superstition?
Sorry can't think of one so I guess that the answer is no.
8. Have you ever used a plant medicinally? And I’ll have NO stories of magic mushrooms or Belladonna mind!!!
Nothing I have made or gathered myself other than rubbing a dock leaf on a nettle sting.
9. Which is the most important to you, house or garden?
Both are equally important, I wouldn't buy a new property if I didn't like both or should I say see potential in both.

10. Do you constantly talk/complain about the weather to anyone who will listen?
As Martyn collects data we do discuss the weather quite a lot at home and also it affects our day to day plans. We complain about it when it spoils our plans, prevents us doing something or ruins something in the garden but mostly we see the changing weather as a photo opportunity.
11. What is the most you have spent on a plant over the last year?
We've spent quite a bit on plants this year but each hasn't individually broken the bank, I can't remember how much it was but I'm guessing that last year the climbing rose White Cloud was the single plant that we spent the most on.

I'm not going to pass on the award as I know some people don't like them and I'd also find it really difficult to decide which blogs to choose but feel free to add your answers to any of the questions in the comments (especially if you know how to get rid of bamboo that is inconveniently growing where digging it out isn't an option and it is close to other plants that I don't want to kill).

Copyright: Original post from Our Plot at Green Lane Allotments author S Garrett

Friday, January 23

The French can climb too

Last year after reading all Mark's (Mark's Veg Plot) enthusiasm for Cobra - a climbing French bean we decided to give it a try. We were impressed.

We like to grow a mixture of runner and French beans. In the past the runners have been grown up canes arrange teepee or wigwam style.
Often this method of support makes picking a bit difficult as the beans mass together at the top of the frame and also the beans inside the structure are well hidden and difficult to access. Maybe if we planted less plants and spread the canes further apart this would be less of a problem. Anyway we decided to try out a different method and arrange the canes in a sort of tent formation.

As you can see in the photo above we also employed our new best allotment friend - weed control fabric.

This set up was very successful. Not only was it easier to harvest beans but the arrangement seemed to stand up to the wind better - although I should have attached some canes as cross pieces along the sides of the frames for a bit more strength.

Last year as usual we grew three varieties if runner beans. Our total yield was just short if 38kg

Each of the runner bean varieties produced what we considered a good harvest considering that the discrepancy may be in part die to out inability to keep on top of the picking.

To be honest we probably don't need three varieties but we like to have a variety of flower colour.

If you don't have a vegetable area I think these plants would fit into an ornamental garden well.

The climbing French bean - Cobra had a smaller yield but the beans are smaller and we felt this was good. 

I've decided to compare the harvest of the dwarf bean harvest for 2013 as to be honest we rather neglected picking the dwarf beans last year (2014). This was for the same reasons as we will only be growing climbing French beans not dwarf varieties.
  • The yield per plant is better
  • The beans stay cleaner
  • Slug damage is reduced
  • Less beans twisted as a result of touching the ground
  • Easier to pick
We still wanted to have some purple and yellow beans.
We've found a yellow - Corona d'oro - and a purple - Cosse Violette - variety. As well as producing a variety if coloured beans these should also produce different coloured flowers.
Let's hope that they are as good as Cobra.

Wednesday, January 21

Getting ready for the RSPB Birdwatch weekend

Join in the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch this weekend - click here for details

 Copyright: Original post from Our Plot at Green Lane Allotments author S Garrett

Tuesday, January 20

Sweet smell of success

Up until last year we had always bought mixed packets of sweet pea seeds on the grounds that we just wanted to be able to pick plenty of flowers for the house not the show bench.

A group of us in our site are members of the NSALG and one of the benefits is that we can order from their special discounted seed catalogue. On browsing the catalogue I spotted a collection of named sweet pea varieties selected for perfume which were very reasonably priced and so I decided to order a pack.

In most people's eyes we maybe sow sweet pea seeds rather late - early April and planted out the young plants at the end of May.
As the photos show we grow squash in the same bed as the sweet peas and these intermingle. You may have also noticed we also plant through weed control fabric. I'm not sure whether either or both of these factors help retain moisture but last year we enjoyed a long flower production period. The first bunch of flowers was picked on 14 July and the last bunch picked on 23 October.  
The only downside was that one of the varieties - Beaujolais, a dark purple variety - only produced short stems.

This year I have decided to select individual varieties. I've chosen 9 varieties so I should end up with the same number if plants as last year. I've tried to find a good colour range which are recommended for cutting and where most have good scent. One or two may not have strong perfume but my theory is that as I pick a mixed bunch the highly perfumed varieties will make up for those with little perfume. My selection is as follows:
Candy King - deep pink
Claire Elizabeth - white with pink edge
Gwendoline - pale pink
Diamond Wedding - white
Blue Velvet - deep blue
Black Diamond - dark maroon
Millennium - red
Linda C -blue
Noel Sutton - blue/purple

Sunday, January 18

What you lose on the swings

I mentioned in an earlier post that we had cut down on the number of tomatoes in our garden greenhouse where in the past they have been a dominant feature. This had a beneficial effect on the sweet peppers and aubergines which as a result had more space and received more light. They were probably also given a bit more TLC too as they were less easily overlooked. In the past bell pepper crops have been small and we have resorted to the smaller carrot shaped peppers which seemed easier.

Last year most of the pepper plants were grown in large pots, (they are actually old florists buckets with holes drilled in the base), on the wide staging at the far end if the greenhouse
By most standards our crop wouldn't be considered large, we were satisfied. Maybe if we had harvested more at the green stage other fruits would have had the chance to develop.
This year we are growing King of the North and Redtop which is described as "Particularly sweet and very early for unheated greenhouses" (Maybe it's not too late to add Orange Bell)

We will be growing aubergine - Jackpot again this year. These are compact plants from which you can pick the fruits when quite small or leave them to grow larger. The aubergines were grown in large pots and placed on the staging.
We were concerned that the first lot of flowers didn't want to set fruit but eventually they 'came food' and we harvested 24 fruits again not a huge harvest but pleasing to us.