It’s been a while since I last posted. I actually didn’t realise it had been so long. If you’ve read my blog before, you’ll notice I have a new look. Putting that together has taken a chunk of my time, but everything should now be a bit ‘snappier’. I realised that my original design was a little too ‘graphical’, so I went back to basics with a simpler, cleaner design.
I have still been visiting the plot daily. Not always for a great deal of time. Sometimes just 10 minutes, sometimes an hour or two – occasionally for a full day. Being able to do that is still something of a novelty, but I’m loving it! The hot, dry weather for the last 6 weeks or so has been both a help and a hindrance. It’s allowed me to do ‘weather sensitive’ tasks such as painting woodwork, assembling the polytunnel etc. But it’s also meant the ground, which was already heavily compacted, was like concrete in parts. Despite this, I’ve managed to dig over 90% of the plot now. There’s a few areas that are simply too solid to get into, but with rain forecast this week I’m hoping to reach 100% very soon.
The crops I planted within my first 10 days on this new plot are, for the most part, thriving well. Given relatively little preparation and certainly not the amount of care I would like, this surprises me. I currently have the following growing;
I have 2 pots with these, each with a 1m tall obelisk in the centre for them to climb. They’re not clinging rigidly to this. I suspect I’ve planted too many and they’re simply overcrowded. Despite this (and the weather – not the best year for growing in pots!), pods are forming and they’re looking healthy enough. I’ve also sown a 3m row, staggered, at the front of the plot. I haven’t put up any support for these. Mostly because I didn’t actually have anything to hand. They’ve grown so fast that it’s a little too late for me to do so.
However, they ‘seem’ to be supporting each other and it looks sturdy enough. Almost like a mini hedge at the front of the plot now. These, which went direct in the ground, look healthier than those in the pots. But marginally so. I’d confidently say that’s simply because the pots have been too dry at times
I’ve planted ‘Dobbies Purple‘, which I’d started from seed in the old greenhouse earlier in the year. These are looking really healthy with huge colourful leaves. I was concerned that there was no sign of bulbs forming on these until I remembered that this variety has long, tapered roots (rather like a carrot). Presumably less obvious above ground (I hope!).
Sweetcorn (‘Incredible F1’)
I planted 9 of these, again started from seed indoors on the old plot. One of them sadly died in the first week, but the remaining 8 are still going strong. In the last fortnight, in particular,r they have almost doubled in height and the cobs are forming well. Knowing that sweetcorn dislikes root disturbance, I planted these seeds into fibre pots, which were then planted into the ground here. The pots however don’t seem to have disintegrated fully, and (as far as I can tell) the less disintegrated ones are directly affecting the growth rate of the plant. My guess is that this is because the ground hasn’t been as wet as you’d generally expect here (and thus not ‘softening’ the pots.
But for now, I’m going to leave everything as it is and see how they go. I’m especially interested to see how much of the pot is left there come harvesting. Next season, I’m inclined to try root trainers instead though.
Carrots (‘Flyaway F1’)
Late last year I bought some carrot seed tape. I can’t actually recall ‘why’ I bought it, presumably it was on offer. This is the third time I’ve tried growing using seed tape. And the third time I’ve experienced really poor germination. The tape is 6m long, which I split between 2 rows. A grand total of 2 have germinated. That’s 2 carrots, not 2 metres! When I’ve grown from loose seed in the past, the germination rate has been much better. Time to give up on the seed tape, for me at least!
I’d already planted potatoes on my old plot, which I had to leave behind. I had no intention of planting any more here. However, a plot neighbour kindly left me around 2 dozen seed potatoes of various varieties, so I’ve planted those in bags. There are 8 bags in total, and I added some comfrey leaves during planting. Other than that they’ve been pretty much left to themselves aside from a bit of water once or twice a week. From the top, they look healthy enough and I’ve been tempted to give them a ‘tickle’, but have resisted so far. I can see flowers starting to form on 2 of them. It shouldn’t be too much longer before I discover how well they’ve done.
I dug these up from the permanent beds at the old plot. They were already growing strongly there, so I didn’t hold out much hope for them. But they’ve thrived well. They’re in bags as I didn’t want to put anything ‘permanent’ in the ground before I had the raised beds in place. They’ve still supplied a decent harvest. Though I suspect the birds have had many more than we have!
I’ll put this in the failure category for now. Seeds were started on the old plot and really left in pots for far too long. However, I planted them out here and they’ve grown massively. Unfortunately, though, it’s all leaves – not a curd in sight! The weather hasn’t helped, and the ground wasn’t prepared anywhere near well enough. So I can’t say I’m too shocked it hasn’t worked. Cauliflower does have a reputation for being tricky to grow. I do use a lot of Cauliflower though, so I’ll certainly be making a bigger and more prepared effort at this next year. See my later update on these here.
I’ll be the first to admit that flowers don’t really ‘excite’ me in the same way as growing fruits and vegetables do. Sure, I can ‘appreciate’ them, and I’ve caught myself smiling at these a few times. But they are an ‘accent’ to the plot, rather than anything else. These seeds were planted by my 5 year old. She definitely has green fingers – none of her seeds ever seem to fail to germinate! She claims it’s because she sings to them – who am I to argue?! Sadly I don’t know which packet she got them from, so they’re simply marked as ‘Rudbeckia’. They’re certainly brightening up that part of the plot.
From the heritage seed library, the packet simply stated ‘Achocha, Achocha’. I suspect them to be ‘Fat Baby’. Of the 12 seeds I planted, only 2 germinated and they’ve certainly had a somewhat rough ride. They very quickly outgrew the pots and the height at that stage was tricky to manage. They were knocked over more times than I could count. I planted them out here and gave each plant a pole to climb up.
They’ve needed some gentle encouragement to do so at times. As I type, they’re a little over 2m tall and I can start to see (what I assume is) some fruits forming. I’ve never grown Achocha before, and I’ve certainly not grown these in the best way. But I’m hopeful of at least one or two fruits to taste and with luck some seeds for a more robust attempt next year. From what I’ve seen, these should be a good candidate for growing over some of the arches on the plot (with mesh support).
Again, no idea what variety these are(!). The plot move resulted in a few labels being misplaced, and a lot of plants not getting the attention they deserve. These two plants rather hastily were added to pots and placed outdoors. It was very much a case of doing that or compost them. Despite that, and somewhat irregular and insufficient watering, they are fruiting. The fruits actually looking pretty good, much to my surprise. It’s not going to be a mammoth crop, but I’ll savour whatever they provide.
(Rouge vif d’Etampes, and an unknown variety). These have been something of a revelation this year. I have 9 plants, and they’re all thriving well. Half are Rouge vif d’Etampes. Currently a nice pale yellow and a few already the size of a small children’s play ball. The others are unknown – more planted by my daughter (who I really must teach to label everything!). These appear to be bushier, and as they were all planted in a single pot wilted terribly within minutes of being planted out. They really did look like they had no chance.
But, they picked themselves up and are by far the more vigorous of the two varieties. They’ve become very much a talking point on the site! Each plant has at least 3 fruits forming, with some already the size of footballs. This unknown variety (pictured) is certainly the more visually appealing of the two due to the bushy habit. I’d very much like to know the name of these if anyone happens to know.
That’s all we have planted for now and will be until autumn planting starts.
Aside from preparing the ground and copious amounts of watering, the polytunnel is now in its temporary position and functioning well as a make-shift shed. The build instructions weren’t the best. They were downright wrong in places – though luckily at a point where it was reasonably easy to figure out! But the finished product is solid and worth the money. I’m hopeful of having somewhere to put this permanently.
As it stands, I won’t have space on this plot for both the tunnel and a greenhouse/shed. I had hoped to be able to take on the adjacent plot too. While I may still get the opportunity to do so at some point, at this stage, it’s still ‘occupied’ (though I use the term loosely!). Worst case, I should be able to get a half-plot in the centre of the site when they’re ready later this year, which I can use until I’m able to ‘double up’ the current plot.
I’ve also modified the old compost bins, which were originally solid on all 4 sides. Aesthetically pleasing – as much as a compost bin can be, anyway – but impractical, especially when you actually want to retrieve compost from them! They still need some ‘finishing off’ to tidy up and straighten up the front, as well as adding supports to create ‘slots’ that boards can be placed into. But they’re in the final position now. I’ve also started painting these – which for a compost bin is probably excessive. But it did seem like a good place to test the appearance of the chosen colour, which is ‘Botanical Retreat’ from Johnstons. I’m happy with this colour and will use the same elsewhere on the plot, which a further accent colour (yet to be decided) in parts.
The focus now is getting the raised beds ready and positioned, central path and greenhouse base ready. All before the weather turns, and in plenty of time for me to get the beds filled before autumn planting. Suddenly it feels like time isn’t entirely on my side to get everything done this year!