Sunday, 20 May 2012

What is going on?

In the last three weeks the weather has been crazy. The bank holiday weekend was a scorcher followed by two weeks of cold windy weather, then a solid week of rain and now this weekend gorgeous weather again. All this changeable weather has made planning my sowing and planting out a nightmare.
If that wasn't enough I have a new friend living in my greenhouse. I say friend, I mean arch nemesis. My friend is probably the most sneaky, despicable creature I have had the misfortune to encounter, with an appetite for just about any seed known to man. My new friend is a mouse. He has eaten more peas, marrows and courgettes seeds than I have ever grown leaving me with no giant marrow for this years show. However as always the members of the NVSUK forum will hopefully be helping me out with a new seedling.
Baby Grapes

Anyway enough of the problems here's how the other stuff is going. My first tomato of the year has formed. The   concerns about having sown my Cedrico seeds too early have gone now as the plants are growing away well. My first attempt at growing long parsnips is going well as the first true leaves are formed so I will thin them down over the next week or so. I planted out my blanch and pot leeks today they are growing well at the moment with the blanches growing nice and straight in the foam lagging I am using to stretch them. I had a nice surprise in the greenhouse with my grape vines when I noticed the grapes had formed. They look like those beads you get on 'jazzies' the chocolate disc shaped sweets at the moment and I am hoping they will give me a crop because I have never had fresh grapes before.
Blanch Leek
It is a weird time of year for me filled with fear and anxiety about whether my crops will be good enough to win at this years shows especially as I did so well last year. Every small defect, failed germination and late sowing in my garden seems to be the worst thing that has happened to any vegetable grower ever. I would be interested to hear if anybody else feels the same way. I know i am not the best veg grower in the world but I do set perfection as a minimum standard and obviously I fall way short of anything like perfection which I take as a personal attack from the vegetables themselves right up to the point where the doors to the school hall where our local show is held and I see the cards next to my crops.
Parsnip Seedling
First tomato of the year!

Sunday, 29 April 2012

End of April.

With the end of April being something of a wash out I took the time to review my progress in the garden. To start with I have started my tomatoes way to early they are in the greenhouse now but are so far ahead that I am worried their season will be over before show time. My parsnips have just poked there heads out of the soil in the long veg bed. This is brilliant for me as I have had no success with parsnips in the past, that's why I decided to bite the bullet and go the whole hog to set up a deep bed of sand to grow them in.

Parsnip Seedlings

My early potatoes have survived late night skirmishes by our local badger and are now pushing out from their muddy homes. I planted these two weeks behind everyone around me and I now seem to be catching up. So if you do find yourself having to delay sowing / planting don't worry to much as the temperature increases so does the veg growth rate so there won't be to much of a difference. Although it should be mentioned it doesn't feel that way when you are looking at your neighbours big healthy seedlings when yours are just getting started but patience is a virtue and you will get there.

Potato shoots.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

I planted up my chilli's and peppers today, they are currently under the light in the loft but in around a couple of weeks I will take them to the greenhouse. I recently asked a question on the NVS forum about tips for growing them for showing but the information is pretty thin on the ground. Does anybody know of a font of knowledge on the subject of capsicums? I think i have sown my cedrico tomatoes way to early the plants are massive and I am being forced into risking them in the greenhouse!

Chilli's & Peppers on the loft

Monday, 16 April 2012


I have just finished the coring of my stump rooted carrots and my parsnips in the taller bed. What a time consuming process that was. The hardest part was sieving the bags of peat ,soil and sand as well as granulating the calcified seaweed. Saying that what a lovely texture the final growing medium was I think next year I will try to buy the composts etc. a bit earlier and prepare everything in the winter whan theres less to do. Filling the two beds for a total of 72 core holes has cost around £150 in total. this is alot of money however I will save £120 of this next year as I have the sand for a few years now. Obviously this is very expensive for the sake of vegetables showing however if you still fancy a go and don't have the cash then I have had success with coring straight into the soil in the garden and filling these with sieved compost. This does give results however so carrots / parsnips did tend to fork (produce more than one taproot). The number of these crops you grow more than makes up for the few loses.

Seiving the peat
Stump carrot cores.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

A quick catch up

I just thought I would do a quick review of everything under my lamp as it has been a while since the last look. My shallots have gone and are in the greenhouse no.2. The tomatoes (Cedrico and red cherry) have shot up and I am considering putting them in the greenhouse. The cucumbers (telepathy and telegraph) are growing steadily but will need potting up this week. The giant onions are looking good and the kelsaes have filled the pots nicely. The toughball onions definitely need potting up as soon as there is space. On the leek front my initial batch of Robinson's pot and blanch leeks are growing strongly and I think the leeks I got from Mr. Brereton from garden news have taken and I am hoping they will catch up. My main concern at the moment is whether I should put the insulation around my blanch leeks now. If anybody thinks so (or not) I would appreciate a response.

Friday, 23 March 2012

Greenhouse No. 2

Having 'Sourced' a new greenhouse over the winter I have been constructing it and filling the borders in preparation for the onions i am growing under my lamp. The greenhouse I got was free and I would highly recommend that people search eBay and free ads of local newspapers for used greenhouses available at a very reasonable prices. The greenhouse borders are split into three sections, the back for the giant onions, one side for the kelsae onions and the other side for toughball onions. Now i only have to fill the carrot bays with sand and foll out the cores with compost and i will be back on track.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

LLaingoch and District Spring Flower Show

Today I attended the LLaingoch and District Spring Flower Show, it is a very small show with only a few entrants however the standard is still pretty high. The organisers do a fantastic job of putting on this show selflessly giving their time to the community. (And their cakes are pretty good too!). I also had to go so I could ask the secretary how to join the society. (These people are very approachable and anybody thinking of joining their local horticultural society should, as you get to know fellow growers, exchange advise and gain information of the other events happening on the local community) The reason for joining the society was so I could be entered into the members trophies section of the summer show. Anyway here are a couple of snaps of the show.

Friday, 16 March 2012

Llaingoch and District spring flower show

Tomorrow sees the first show of the horticultural year with the Llaingoch and District spring flower show being held in the village hall. The show is open to all from 1pm onwards. Whilst I am not exhibiting this year I will be there to support the excellent work done by the organising committee.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

First rant of the year!

There is a recent resurgence in the growing of food and gardening and with this there follows that the demand for allotments and other areas of land to be turned over to horticulture increases. This increase in my favorite pastime is welcomed as the more people involved means there are more views, techniques and experiences to share and subsequently a much brighter environment to live in., However there are two types of 'gardener' that i despise beyond all other things. These are the 40+ earthy types that think that because ~I am young I don't know the first thing about gardening offering unwelcome out of date advice that contradicts everything that I am doing and doing well.
The second are the 'One week wonders' who turn up to their newly obtained allotment in there jeans and berghaus hiking boots on a nice sunny spring morning with all the energy and excitement of a toddler in a ball pool, brandishing the polythene clad set of tools that they have just been to Homebase or B&Q to buy at a premium rate who can be spotted a mile off. 
I do not want anybody to think that I don't want people to start on allotments as everyone has got to start some where and out of the band of the enthusiastic there will be a small number that do carry on and develop their plots into crop producing patches of heaven. Its the Jamie Oliver watching, Hugh fearnley whatnot wannabes who watch their latest episode of river cottage and use terms like 'The Good Life' and 'Gardening by the moon'and think they want a slice of rural life not realizing that the two men in question are both millionaires and have a full horticultural and production team behind them.
Just recently I read an article in a popular kitchen gardening magazine about allotment size and allotment sharing. I did not realize but alot of local councils have reduced the average size allotments and now there are half and more worryingly quarter size allotments being offered to people on the waiting list. I can get my head around half allotments and welcomed the incorporation of these onto a small proportion of a traditional allotment site but a quarter plot. This seems unacceptable to me as what is the point of a quarter plot. On my plot a quarter of the plot is for potatoes and another quarter is for flowers with the other half for everything else. If i only had quarter of a plot what would I grow? It suddenly dawned on me who the sort of people asking for these plots and complaining about being on the waiting lists of councils for years at a time were. Where were these people when allotment sites were empty struggling for numbers and being swallowed up by housing developers and the like. It seems to me that these Easter weekend gardeners are just looking for the latest middle class accessory and not a way of changing dietary or food producing attitudes of themselves and their families.

My spuds in my hands!

My potatoes arrived today from JBA potatoes. I ordered two varieties Winston and Maxine for show purposes these are two of the best. I will grow Kestral and a few other varieties for the kitchen but for the thirty show tubers I will use for the show entries I have ordered some new poly pots. Last year was the first year that I had used these pots and what a difference they make to both the finish through the clean sieved peat and the lack of pest damage through he sterile conditions they provide. I have not had a lot of success with potatoes at my local show and this year i am determined to reverse this trend. This batch of potatoes will be chitted straight away in egg cartons, rose end up in my back bedroom where it is reasonably warm and light. The main crop of kitchen potatoes will be chitting in the next couple of weeks.

All potted up and nowhere to go!

I potted up all my shallots and mammoth onions into 5" pots and kelsae into 3" pots today. The grow lamp area is getting pretty cramped as you can see in the picture below. The celery has started to peek through the thin top layer of compost and will need to be potted up in a few weeks. I normally pot these up when the second true leaf comes through.


There I was sat basking in the glory of managing to keep up regular entries on my new blog when a dark cloud loomed and I realised I hadn't posted anything just saved the drafts of my newest posts so today there are three  posts dated for today that were ment to be for last week.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Celery Seed is so small!!!!

Today my first sowing of celery seed got done. I choose two sowing's, one at either end of the month because i have experienced some mistiming in the past. Last year was my first year of showing celery and whilst it was a personal achievement to get the crop to the bench the overall quality of the exhibit was fairly poor and due to a small number of entries I still managed to get a second place card. The main problem was the tightness of the head as alot of the stalks were lacking a bit of thickness. It is important when sowing this seed that you do not cover the seed with soil and have the compost in the tray pre-moistened.
Meanwhile the rest of the seedlings in my loft are doing really well having recovered from the transplanting into pots and are growing away again.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012


The greenhouse is looking pretty full at the moment with overwintering onions, garlic and shallots beginning the hardening off process. This is the first time I have grown them in pots overwinter so will be interested to see what differences there will be come July. Broad Bean 'Aquadulce Claudia' was sown by my mum on a recent visit one seed into an old toilet roll tube full of compost. These are invaluable for sowing the likes of beans and sweetcorn as the roots are guided down but the cardboard becomes week enough to allow the roots to breakout after planting. I should stress that these are not beans for show use just as an early crop of beans for the kitchen, the show beans are sown much later in the year.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Month 1 finished already!

I have just finished potting up my seedlings that are under the lamp in my attic. I am concerned that my leeks look nowhere near as advanced as others that have shown pictures on the NVS forum. However mine have only been in since boxing day so I suppose that the extra month and a half of growing is showing.

It is the first year that I have grown shallots from seed and they really have taken off. I am growing matador from medwyns as I am looking for an alternative to hative d noitre which are extremely expensive. I think I saw £12 for 6 bulbs and I know Dan Unsworth from the allotment diary blog said they were expensive and that he wasn't happy with the quality really. Is there any reason why this variety is so expensive?
Its also a sad week for anybody who follows Simon Smiths blog as he has taken a break from blogging for a while due to other commitments. I can certainly understand where hes coming from as time seems to become extremely stretched at times for us all and something has to give. I will miss the twisted humour and very helpful advice on a fantastic blog that's success I can only hope to emulate.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

The end of the beginning

Today i sowed the last of the alliums under grow lamp. The small onions i am using will be 'toughball' from medwyns seeds. I also put in a pinch of the blanch leeks and pot leeks to use as replacements for the couple that haven't germinated in the batch from boxing day. These seeds need regular watering now and increase in size every day which is good to see. There is now a break in the seed sowing diary and I will use this time to mix the carrot compost for short and long types. The recipe will be a follows:

4 parts peat
1 parts sand
1 parts vermiculite
1 part topsoil

For every 7 gallons of this mixture (which will be put through a 1/4 inch sieve to remove any debris that will cause the roots to fork) add 1oz of super phosphate and sulphate of potash and 2oz of lime and calcified seaweed. The first two ingredients come with a fairly small grain and can be added straight but the lime and calcified seaweed need to be ground to a fine powder by either using an old blender or manually by pestle and mortar.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

'Getting started on the showbench'

I have just finished reading 'Getting started on the showbench'. What a fantastic source of information for newcomers to the show bench it was. It promised to be full of pointers to aid the newcomer into the world of competition vegetable growing and didn't disappoint. The book arrived extremely quickly and my initial impression was at the price of £4.95 including delivery this glossy magazine style full colour booklet was a bargain. The contents was written in a simple easy to follow format and everything was explained comprehensively. My advice to anybody considering purchasing this booklet either as a new shower or just to improve your general vegetable growing is get it as soon as you can. There isn't another book that builds on the basic knowledge given by all the other gardening books.