Sunday 21 August 2011

More harvesting, and green manure

I must say thank you to the weather, for hearing my plea and making the weekend predominantly sunny, or at least,  not very rainy, as it did rain for 1 hour on Sat. My lottie was ever so pleased to see me today.

Thankfully I got there just in time before some of the courgettes started becoming marrows. This particular courgette, verde di Italia, has yielded quite well, though I do have to be quick about getting to them before they become marrows. They taste much better when smaller. As usual, another good variety I got from Real Seeds.
Courgette verde di Italia

I only had to dig up a couple of beetroot to get enough to make some brownies...

One of them was quite large compared to the others (see right side in the picture below). This was a variety called Devoy, which rather than giving you round beetroot, gives you longer more carrot-like beetroot. This one was quiet chunky. Mmmm, brownies....

The St Valery carrots were also doing well and taste really sweet, like sunshine in your mouth.

The green manure I sowed a couple of weeks ago is coming along wonderfully. First is the Tares, (with the errant pumpkin elbowing in for some space) which over-winter without any problems from frost damage. I planted the tares after pulling up the garlic. Tares are from the legume family, and fixes nitrogen into the soil as well as improving soil fertility.

The following bed is a mix of winter salads and pak choi to the left, and Hungarian Grazing Rye to the right.

I will be putting a cloche over the salads and pak choi, so carefully marked out the space it will need for when I have to put it on. This will be just before the first frosts, probably in October. Well, hopefully in October and not late September when I'm on holiday in Bavaria!

Because the rye is a cereal it can fit anywhere in a rotation. I thought I'd try it because it is supposed to stop nutrients from leaching, for example, from heavy rains or flooding. Apparently it can really take off and put in deep roots in Spring, so I need to remember to dig it in, in early Spring. Ok braincell, remember that...

You dig in green manure in Spring, at least 4-6 weeks before you want to sow seeds. The freshly dug in green manure can inhibit germination, which is why you need to wait a few weeks to let them break down and release their manurey-goodness before spring sowing can commence. My plan in general, is to have some kind of green manure growing through winter in any bed that I don't have veg over-wintering, such as my Brassicas, Spinach/Chard and the winter lettuces.

Whilst I was busy harvesting, weeding, and sowing more Spinach, Chard and an overwintering cabbage, Wintergreen, Kevin was working on digging out weeds and preparing another raised bed.

Our great aim(!) is that for a change, next year all the beds for the potatoes will be ready when it is potato planting time (traditionally Good Friday), rather than the desperate rush in mid-late May as has been the case in the last two years! Oddly, the late sowing of the potatoes doesn't seem to effect the yields, but still, it would be nice to not have rush in May for a change.

My final photograph is of a poppy that has self-seeded in my spinach/chard bed. Seems a bit late for a poppy to be flowering, but hey, not complaining. I mean - pretty! Ok, perhaps it is flamboyant, but still, pretty...

Thursday 18 August 2011

Dear weather...

Dear weather,
I don't want to sound ungrateful. Because I'm not. I'm really pleased that I don't have to lug heavy watering cans around the lottie for an hour tonight. My maincrop and late potatoes are no doubt swelling with joy. And it's great that my water butts have been filled up again.

But, you know, it would be nice to see the sun again. My green tomatoes would flush red with delight. The bees would be able to get back to working on polinating the flowers of the corn. I'd be able to collect the courgettes before they turned into marrows and pick some carrots before the slugs start some serious munching.

So, if you wouldn't mind, could the rain stop for now and we have a lovely few sunny days? Just in time for the weekend. Everyone in Oxford could enjoy the choice of attending creative wood workshops at Barracks Lane Community Garden or the Elder Stubbs Festival on Saturday, and my lottie would be ever so pleased to see me on Sunday.

And I promise not to say "it's too hot" next time it gets over 20 degrees.

Yours affectionally,

Tuesday 16 August 2011

Potato harvest begins

On the weekend we started digging up the 1st and 2nd earlies. Yes, we could have started digging them up earlier, however they were planted quite late (mid-May), so I held off starting to dig them up to soon. Or rather, I asked Kevin to hold off digging them up... He is the master potato digger in our household.

Master digger seeking Charlotte taties

So here are the first five types of potatoes we dug up. When it comes to yields, for small potatoes I add them up, then divide by 2. For expected yields, I use the Alan Roman's potato guide.

Foremost. 1st early, for baking, boiling, mashing and salads. First time I've grown this potato. I planted 3 seed potatoes and the result was 4 extra large, 10 large, 5 medium. I was expecting a yield of about 15 and got 19.

Lord Rosebery. 1st early, for baking, boiling and mashing. Again another one I am trying for the first time. I planted 8 and we dug up 4 large, 15 medium and 12 small. Yield expected was 40, but only got 24. A few of the taties did have a bit of scab on them, though as it was the first time taties were growing in the soil for some years (if ever), this can happen.

Red Duke of York. 1st early, for roasting, chips, baking and boiling. This is one of my favourite taties. It's a great baker/roaster and yields are usually good. This year the yield was down slightly, but could have been because I did squeeze in 6 seeds potatoes into a small space. We dug up 1 large, 22 medium and 10 small, so a total of 33 (expected 30). In 2010 I planted 5 seed potatoes and ended up with a yield of 42, so yes, definitely down on previous years. However, i'll forgive it as 1. it was probably my fault and 2, it's such a good baker!

Anya. 2nd early, boiling and salad potatoes. Another new one for me. Only planted 3 seed taties and expected no more than 10, but got 35, 5 large, 18 medium and 12 small. So great yields - looking forward to seeing how they taste.

Charlotte. 2nd early, salad potato, but also can be roasted, baked, boiled and mashed. This is the classic salad potato and I do rather like them, hot with a bit of butter. Yum. Planted 5 and expected about 25-30 though , got 39. These were 7 large, 26 medium and 6 small.

The late planting doesn't seem to have effected the yields and I am pretty pleased so far. Will dig up the rest of the 2nd earlies soon, they are down at the lottie. Will leave the maincrop and late maincrops until September, maybe even October - they were planted late May... 

So the potato recipes start now. Tonight it was a potato and tomato bake (yes, with my own tomatoes too - will write about them later). 

Kevin having a well-deserved beer after all that digging.

Potatoes ready for storage

Wednesday 3 August 2011

Oxford Sow & Grow launched

I have just launched my little business, Oxford Sow & Grow, which offers gardening advice and support for beginners.

I've found from chatting to visitors at Barracks Lane Community Garden and when running the recent women's gardening workshops, that there seems be a need for someone who can just be there to help people get started with growing their own. So it seemed like an opportunity for me to maybe try and do more gardening related work and have fun encouraging others to grow!

So if you know people in Oxford looking for help, do direct them to my website!