Monthly Archives: January 2014

Seeds at Amsterdam’s Bloemenmarkt

The floating stalls of Amsterdam’s flower market

Among the many sights of Amsterdam, there is the floating flower market, although one is not really aware that the row of large stalls is floating alongside one of the many canals, being so securely fixed in place. Its claim to be the world’s only floating flower market is, then, not nearly as impressive as it might at first appear. January is not the ideal time to visit such an attraction. The great many bulbs and some early flowers were equally matched with tourist tat, but I was pleased to find a wide range of fruit and vegetable seeds for sale and whiled away an hour or so looking for those varieties that are on my ‘list’ as well as one or two new varieties to try. Continue reading

Jerusalem artichoke Violet de Rennes

Last spring, 16 April according to my notes, my dad and I planted ten tubers of Jerusalem artichoke Violet de Rennes in the perennial bed, alongside the horseradish and rhubarb. The bed had been well dug, weeds removed as best we could, and the soil improved with horse manure and composted green waste. I cannot recall whether we also added a little fish, blood, and bone, but it is quite possible. After this preparation, nothing more was done. We left them to their own devices. We did not even water them through the dry periods. They grew to a height of eight feet or more, developing hefty stems and healthy foliage, but they did not flower as we were anticipating. Continue reading

Seville orange marmalade

Seville oranges

Recent thoughts concerning the quince, being the original fruit that eventually led to our orange marmalade, meant that, when the Seville oranges appeared in the stores, I simply had to buy some for homemade marmalade. Marmalades can be made with all sorts of fruits, especially various citrus. The classic British version, though, has to be made with the bitter Seville oranges. These are in season for just a short time around January to February. Although a veteran preserver of various jams, chutneys, and pickles, I had never before made marmalade, although I was broadly familiar with the method. The first task, then, was some research. Continue reading

Healing in the fruit trees

Package of bare root fruit and nut trees

The traditional time for planting various trees, especially fruit trees, is in the winter dormant period. Specialist suppliers generally provide bare root specimens, which can be dug and shipped whenever the ground allows, but only in this dormant period. Bare root trees are said to establish more readily, whereas I have noted pot grown root balls be somewhat reluctant to spread out. They are certainly cheaper than container grown specimens, but whatever the merits or otherwise of bare root trees, many of the varieties that I am interested in are only readily available in this form. Continue reading

Orchard oddities

Yet another article looking at varieties of fruit for our small orchard, this time examining a few orchard oddities. A mixed orchard such as ours is composed primarily of apples, pears, and plums, but there are other fruits that one might consider, four of which we have picked out for planting this winter: crab apple, medlar, quince, and mulberry. None could be called rare, by any means, yet aside from the crab apple, they do not seem to be planted so often now and I am keen to grow at least one of each. Continue reading

Sowing plan – peppers, chillies, aubergines, and tomatoes

The miserable days of winter might dissuade one from venturing forth to the plot, but it is the ideal time for reviewing one’s seed collection, browsing catalogues, and deciding what to sow in the coming season. Whilst there is generally some time left for this task, some plants need an early start for best results, so it was time to look through the seed box and check the pepper, chilli, aubergine, and tomato seeds, which will probably form the first sowings of the season, any time from the end of January through to March. Peppers, chillies, and aubergines generally take a couple of weeks to germinate and are not too quick to get established, so are good candidates for early sowing. If the germination or early growth of the first batch is poor, there is then time for a further sowing. Tomatoes germinate more quickly and establish themselves much more readily, so I tend to sow those two or three weeks after the peppers. Continue reading