Tag Archive: brassicas


Winter Jasmine looking good

Winter Jasmine looking good

I wish all my blog followers and casual readers a very Happy 2018!!

It’s been a year of ‘ticking over’ in Old School Garden, as a long trip to Australia to be at the birth of our grand daughter fell right in the middle of the growing season… and voluntary activity elsewhere meant my attention was not on the Ground Elder amongst other things on the home patch!

Still, various important projects are underway, most notably the restructuring and renovation of the Kitchen Garden, where I hope by the Spring to have built a new shed, and installed trellis, rose swags and other features….watch this space.

I’ve said before, you might think that January is a month when there’s not much to do in the garden; well there are some useful things you can get stuck into. So here are my top ten tips (with a ‘grow your own food’ angle and with thanks to various websites):

Chitting potatoes- probably only worth doing for first or second earlies. Place tubers with blunter ends upwards (the ones with most ‘eyes’) and place in trays in a cool but well- lit place towards the end of the month.

chitting pots

1. The answer is in the soil.

Remove all plant debris, to reduce the spread of disease and pests. If you need to, continue preparing ground and digging beds ready for next season, but only if the ground is still workable (don’t dig if the soils is wet or heavily frosted).

2. Don’t let the rot set in.

Check your stored fruit and vegetables carefully, for rot will pass easily one to another. Empty sacks of potatoes, checking them for rot and any slugs that might have been over-wintering unnoticed. Your nose is a good indicator, often you will smell rot even if it is not immediately apparent to the eye! Also check strung onions- rot usually starts from the underside of the onion.

 3. Enjoy your winter veg.

Continue harvesting Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbages, celeriac, celery, chard, endive, kale, leeks, parsnips, turnips, winter lettuce, winter spinach, turnips. As you harvest brassicas, dig up the stems and turn the ground over. Because the compost heap will be cold and slow at this time of year, you can always bury these in the bottom of a trench along with some kitchen waste to prepare for the runner beans later in the year.

Red cabbage- lovely sliced and steamed with apple and onion in a little water, wine vinegar and sugar…

Red cabbage- lovely sliced and steamed with apple and onion in a little water, wine vinegar and sugar...

 4. Get ahead of the game.

Continue to sow winter salad leaves indoors/ under glass/ cloches- make your stir fries and salads more interesting with easy-to-grow sprouting seeds. If not already done and the weather is mild, plant garlic, onion sets and sow broad beans (e.g. Aquadulce ‘Claudia’) for early crops. Order or buy seed potatoes and start chitting (sprout) seed potatoes. Herbs are easy to grow on your windowsill and provide fresh greens all year round.

5. Not mushroom?

It’s surprisingly easy to grow your own mushrooms – try growing a mushroom log in your garden or alternatively grow some indoors using mushroom kits.

Mushroom-Logs

Mushroom logs can make you a fun guy…! 

6. Rhubarb, Rhubarb.

Consider dividing well established plants, and at the first signs of growth, cover to exclude light if you want ‘forced’ rhubarb over the next couple of months (growing the variety ‘Timperley Early’ may mean you get rhubarb in February anyway).

 7. The hardest cut.

Continue pruning out dead or diseased shoots on apple and pear trees, prune newly planted cane fruit, vines and established bush fruit if not already done. Continue planting new fruit trees and bushes if the soil conditions allow. If the ground is too waterlogged or frozen, keep bare rooted plants in a frost free cool place ensuring the roots don’t dry out.

8. Clean up.

If not already done, make sure your greenhouse is thoroughly cleaned inside and out and that any seed trays and pots you plan to use are also cleaned and inspected for pests- e.g. slugs and snails.

9. Fail to plan and you plan to fail.

Plan out what you are going to grow in the coming season and order seed catalogues.

pback1_1380165c 10. Put your back into it.

If you must dig, look after your back- remember to warm up and limber up before you do anything strenuous and try to bend your knees to ensure your legs take the strain – and not your back!

Old School Gardener

Save

Advertisements
Cosmos looking good at Old School Garden

Cosmos looking good at Old School Garden

 

To Walter Degrasse

Dear Walter,

Sorry for the delay in this month’s letter. Having been away for a couple of weeks, I find myself playing ‘catch up’ in the garden and in many other respects too! The past month in the garden has been a relatively quiet one. The continued dry, hot weather has had a marked impact on the state of the plants, and not having been here for a fortnight has also left its mark, though I’m blessed with some very kind, helpful neighbours who have at least kept most of the vulnerable things watered – more on that later.

It was a joy seeing you and Lise at the beginning of the month, and I’m glad you enjoyed your visit and what you saw in the garden. That new crop protection netting I was telling you about arrived just before I went on holiday and this meant I was able to get it set up over a wooden and twine  frame to cover my recently – planted Purple Sprouting Broccoli and Calabrese. You remember this has a smaller mesh than the previous one I’d been using and is supposed to prevent Cabbage White butterflies getting at the brassicas? Well, it came just in time (or so I thought), as the beginning of August saw an explosion in these pretty but annoying pests that lay their eggs on the undersides of Brassica leaves leaving a legacy of a host of hungry caterpillars that destroy your best Brassica efforts!

As we departed on holiday (I’ll be doing a few posts about the various gardens we visited whilst in Devon and Cornwall), the Agapanthus was coming into flower and I had hopes that my Tithonia (‘Mexican Hat flower’) and Cleome (‘Violet Queen’) were finally putting on flower buds. The late Spring seems to have delayed their development somewhat.

What it is to have good neighbours!  Our next door neighbours Rob and Wendy were happy to water the containers and greenhouse etc. whilst we were away, though they were themselves due to go on holiday a couple of days before our return, so I was a little concerned that things might just wilt before I could get to them. I had no need to worry, for on my return – in fact the very evening I went round and started watering things – I stumbled across our next to next door neighbour, Norman, who had just finished watering the containers in the Courtyard! He had apparently been tasked by Wendy to carry on with the watering in their absence! I thanked him for this kindness and remarked on my pleasant surprise at the healthy look of most of the plants.

On closer inspection, and looking beyond the containers, greenhouse, cold frame etc., I discovered that the pests had been at play while we had been away! Moles had decided the time was right to dig up various spots in the lawn (their activity might have been prompted by one day of heavy rain) and when I inspected the brassicas I found not very much left of the Cauliflowers, Calabrese and Broccoll previously mentioned! In fact the caterpillars had been busy and stripped every last leaf! The Red Cabbages looked reasonably OK, though even here there was clear evidence of caterpillars starting to munch their way through the tightly drawn heads. So a quick harvest of those was in order (and the 4 heads i salvaged are being cut up and cooked for storage as I write). So, i can only guess that the little varmints (in egg form) had somehow been deposited on the plants before my new ‘butterfly proof’ netting was in place! Oh well, it’ll be different next year… I might just try one last sowing of Sprouting Broccoli and Calabrese, to get us some home-grown greenery in the winter months. We’ve also been harvesting courgettes (some interesting ‘patty pan’ ones  included), and the tomatoes and cucumbers as well as autumn raspberries and blackberries are looking great. The apple and plum harvest to come is also looking very promising and I’ve even found a first pear on one of the ‘super column’ fruit trees I planted a year or two ago. This year looks like a good one for fruit, as everyone is saying.

The flower garden is hanging in there. The Tithonia and Cleome have fulfilled their promise and are adding some bright colour (along with cosmos, Achillea, Phlox, Helianthus, etc.) to the late summer borders, once again complemented by the burnished stems and seed heads of the various grasses that intermingle in the main borders. I’m especially pleased with the mix of Verbena bonariensis and Nicotiana that underscores the view to St. Peter’s church. The Nicotiana’s perfume of vanilla is wonderful too.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Having had the late ‘bank holiday’ my mind definitely turns to autumn and so the coming month will be very much about managing a mix of harvesting (especially fruit), dead – heading and coaxing the last flowers as well as gradually clearing up those plants that have finsihed flowering and whose foliage won’t add anything to the winter garden in terms of structure or wildlife value.

Further afield I popped into Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse Museum (where you know I’m a garden volunteer). The gardens here seem to be surviving the hot dry weather pretty well. However, the sweet peas and container plants are obviously struggling with lack of water (though I was told that the Museum had had some pretty heavy showers at the weekend). I spent a couple of hours watering, dead heading and weeding and also helped contribute to a new film being produced for the museum website . This is going to ‘cameo’ some of the many volunteers here in order to provide some information for anyone thinking of joining the volunteer team. I had to say a few words about my time as a volunteer, how I’d helped to redesign and renovate some of the gardens and my time as a Heritage Gardening trainee last year. This all seemed to go well, but a few hours afterwards I received an email from one of the film crew saying that because the sun had glinted on my glasses, that this had somehow affected the focus of the whole sequence – hence the need for a rerun next week- at least I’ll have had practice at my lines!

Its back to school here next week, and so Deborah is gearing herself for the return to our local primary school. I will no doubt also be having some discussions with the Outdoor Learning Coordinator about the year ahead in the School Garden, Hopefully we can build on the progress we’ve made this year and ensure the children all get a chance to work, learn and enjoy the garden through the different seasons.

That’s about all the news from here at present. Hopefully you and Lise are enjoying  the late summer sun, as we are. It somehow seems easier to sit and view (and snooze) in the garden at this time of year, occasionally harvesting some produce, pulling up the odd weed or cutting the lawn, rather than the more frantic, continuous activity needed to cope with the surge in growth that is spring and early summer – an altogether more relaxing time!

Old School Gardener

Other posts in this series:

Dear Walter…. letter from Old School Garden 22nd July 2013

Dear Walter…. letter from Old School Garden 21st June 2013

Dear Walter….letter from Old School Garden, 20th May 2013

Dear Walter….letter from Old School Garden, 18th April May 2013

Dear Walter….letter from Old School Garden, 11th March 2013

Dear Walter… letter from Old School Garden: 15th February 2013

If you’ve enjoyed reading this post and others on this blog, why not comment and join others by signing up for automatic updates via email (see side bar, above right ) or through an RSS feed (see top of page)?

Looking good- Winter Jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum)

Looking good in Old School Garden at present – Winter Jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum)

 Planning your crops- to rotate or not to rotate…

Well, I guess that I’m sold on the benefits from rotation. Basically, you reduce the chances of persistent pests and diseases building up (which affect a particular plant or group of plants) and you manage the demands placed on the soil from different crops (and in the case of peas and beans actually stand to replenish, or if not that, then at least not deplete the store of Nitrogen).

Fine in theory, but it’s posed a real challenge to me in planning my crops in the kitchen garden. I’ve survived to date (just) with hasty diagrams on odd scraps of paper and scribbled ideas about what to grow where. To be quite honest, I’ve become muddled about what was previously grown in the different beds, what needs to follow what and whether I should manure, fertilise and/or add lime….sound familiar?  With just the two of us at home to cater for it’s also been a bit difficult avoiding growing either too much or too little of the right things (generally the former).

Part of the problem is that my Kitchen Garden is divided up into a number of raised beds of different sizes and aspects, so it’s a challenge fitting things into the spaces available. I also feel that it’s important to max the growing potential by putting in follow-on crops once early harvests of things like Broad Beans, onions and early potatoes have been ‘garnered in’.

Then there’s the issue of focusing on what we like to eat (sounds simple, eh?). Over recent years we’ve had mixed results:

  • some rather exotic looking French Beans which turned out a pretty yellow on the plant and then went a sort of beige when cooked- not inviting,
  • peas -they seem to involve an awful lot of trouble for not much reward
  • main crop potatoes– they take up a lot of ground and don’t taste that different from a large bag bought for a fiver…

So we’ve started to focus on the crops we like (with a bit of experimenting), things that can be expensive to buy, freezables for the winter months (Courgettes come to mind) and some particular varieties that ‘float our boat’- Mangetout for instance in preference to those whopper peas that pigeons seem to rather enjoy!

So yesterday (after pruning the apple trees), I spent a couple of hours drawing up a proper diagram of the plot, tried to think through what could go where (once I’ve taken permanent crops like fruit, Rhubarb and Asparagus out of the equation)- and also whether there’s potential for second crops in some areas, too.

I’ve tried to follow the rules on rotation (brassicas following legumes, potatoes following brassicas and onions and roots following potatoes), but I must admit it’s a bit hit and miss, taking all of the other variables into account! What’s your experience and do you have any sure- fire tips to help me?

At last, a cunning plan for food growing in 2013! (I hope)

(click on the image to enlarge and see a panorama video of the garden as it looks today at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rZ20lLrTLIc&feature=youtube_gdata_player)

kitchen gdn layout

P.S.  A note on manure:  if you can get some well rotted animal manure it could be good to either dig it into your beds or just lay some on top for the worms to incorporate into the soil. I’d be careful about putting it down everywhere though, as root crops like carrots and parsnips don’t like freshly manured ground (they tend to fork and not grow well in the heavier conditions that are created). However, ‘hungry’ cops like potatoes, brassicas (cabbages, calabrese, cauliflower, broccoli), courgettes, squashes and legumes (peas, beans) would all benefit from some, as would a greenhouse if you’re planning to grow tomatoes. Ideally it needs to be obtained and placed or dug in in the next few weeks in order for the weather to break it down and help to incorporate it into the soil.

Further information: Vegetable Gardening for Beginners: The Complete Guide

Quizzicals: answers to the last two…

  • Private part of a old crooner Periwinkle
  • The organ that enables you to say ‘2 plus 2 = 4’Adder’s Tongue

and just for fun two more ‘gardening ditties’:

‘Pepper’s got a brand new bag’

‘Spice Oddity’ (topical huh?- thanks Les)

Old School Gardener

A view of the Kitchen Garden looking west- east (left to right on the diagram)

PushUP24

Health, Fitness, and Relationships is a great way to start living again.

TIME GENTS

Australian Pub Project

Vanha Talo Suomi

a harrowing journey of home improvement

How I Killed Betty!

The Diary and blog on How to Tackle Depression and Anxiety!

Bits & Tidbits

RANDOM BITS & MORE TIDBITS

Rambling in the Garden

.....and nurturing my soul

The Interpretation Game

Cultural Heritage and the Digital Economy

pbmGarden

Sense of place, purpose, rejuvenation and joy

SISSINGHURST GARDEN

Notes from the Gardeners...

Deep Green Permaculture

Connecting People to Nature, Empowering People to Live Sustainably

BloominBootiful

A girl and her garden :)

gwenniesworld

ABOUT MY GARDEN, MY TRAVELS AND ART

Salt of Portugal

all that is glorious about Portugal

The Ramblings of an Aspiring Small Town Girl

Cooking, gardening, fishing, living, laughing.

aristonorganic

"The Best of the Best"

PetalPushin

Thoughts from a professional Petal Pusher

Free Spirit Publishing Blog

An idea exchange for kids' education

%d bloggers like this: