Monthly Archives: March 2014

The prospect of peaches

I do tend to waffle on about peaches rather a lot, but, although they are something of a labour, a perfectly ripe peach has to be one of the most delicious of fruits. A few weeks ago I was busy hand pollinating the peach blossom – see previous post tickling the peaches. On a good sized fan trained tree with heavy blossom this takes quite some time to do properly. It is important though, as there are few pollinating insects flying when the peaches are in flower. Today, I noticed that we appear to have achieved great fruit set, so that the effort looks like being rewarded. Small fruitlets are clearly visible now amongst the fading petals, and a very high percentage of flowers appear to have been successfully pollinated. It is, of course, a little too early to get excited – there is often a natural drop of fruit later in the year – and many things can go wrong before we get any ripe fruit, but there is, at least, a great prospect for our peaches this year. Continue reading

Sowing this week

Regular sowing is necessary for regular cropping without gluts. We try to sow a few things every week or two throughout the growing season. This week we started with the cucurbits: summer and winter squash, melons, and cucumbers. I used a mixture of a free draining soil based seed compost with some organic peat free multipurpose, relieved of any large bits of woody material. Cucurbits are rather sensitive to excess moisture; the seeds will readily decay and the young plants collapse under damp conditions, which encourage rots and fungal problems. Whilst some moisture is obviously needed, the compost must be free draining and the pots should not sit in water. The seeds of squash, melons, and cucumbers, are somewhat flattened, and it is common practice to sow the seeds on their edge, supposedly so that moisture sheds from the seed more readily. Whether this really makes much difference or not I have not bothered to find out, but one might as well continue the tradition. The larger seeded squash are planted a good ¾” deep and the melons and cucumbers perhaps ½”. Continue reading

Pumpkin crème brûlée

After being on a diet for some weeks I was getting desperate to make something a little bit naughty. Some months ago I tried, for the first time, a slice of pumpkin pie. I suspected at the time that the recipe was far from a traditional pumpkin pie, but it was delicious, something like a crème brûlée, but with a rich flavour and texture from the pumpkin. I decided to try and create something along those lines, but without the pastry base. We have friends coming for dinner next weekend and I thought it would fit well with our menu, and it was a good excuse to practise the recipe in case adjustments were needed. The result, though, was every bit as delicious as I imagined, and quite straightforward. It will certainly be making further appearances. Continue reading

First outdoor sowing of potatoes

Seed potatoes chitting nicely

Seed potatoes chitting nicely

Although the garden centres start to sell their seed potatoes in early January, mid March is a suitable time to think about a first planting outdoors. I keep my seed potatoes in the refrigerator, where they can store successfully until the autumn. Three or four weeks before planting they are placed to chit, rose end up, in egg boxes. I have sometimes seen it suggested that they be chitted in a dark place, but this is, in my view, incorrect. They should be placed somewhere light but not overly warm. The dark results in the production of spindly pale shoots that are rather weak, whilst in the light, they form short, strong, shoots ready to grow away well. Traditionally, earlies would be planted first, followed by second earlies, then late sorts, over a period from about mid March to late April. The planting of main crop potatoes was often undertaken around Easter. Continue reading

Disbudding the peach bush

In our polytunnel we have a small peach tree, a Pêche de Vigne, which I planted in a very large container sunk into the main bed to keep the roots from spreading into the other growing areas. The tree will, if the hand pollination was successful, bear for the first time this year. Last year there was a little blossom but the tree was too young to carry any fruit and in any event it would have been unwise to let it try, as it is better in the long run to give it time to establish properly before bearing. This year, it has carried a great deal of blossom and I have pondered the dilemma of how best to contain its growth within the confines of the polytunnel. Continue reading

Seed list 2014 – part 6 – odds and ends

This final article in the series looking at our sowing plans for 2014 covers those odds and ends that did not fit well in any of the previous parts. Included here are the tubers – potatoes and Jerusalem artichokes. At some point I would like to experiment with other tubers, such as oca, but I doubt that we will get around to it this year. Also included are various leafy things. Continue reading

The weather finally allows the main crop onions to be planted

One of the first things we plant outdoors is the main crop onions, shallots, and garlic. We overwinter a crop in the polytunnel, which will be ready several weeks before the outdoor sowing. We found that those overwintered outdoors did not perform quite so well. Whilst they can stand the cold, the damp is problematic. Instead, we fill two of our 14 foot x 4 foot beds with our main crop in the spring. Though I would like to grow more from seed, sets are very convenient and several hundred can be planted out in just a couple of hours. At the moment we only grow a few special sorts from seed, mainly quick maturing ‘cipollini’. Sowing of the main onion crop is really at the mercy of the weather. Whilst it would be good to get them in early, there is no point whilst the soil is too wet and cold. Thanks to the heavy winter rains this year, the conditions have only just become suitable. We prepared the beds at the weekend and sowed today. Continue reading

Cordon training of plums

Apples and pears are ideal candidates for cordon training. Oblique cordons were commonly planted along the walls of the traditional walled kitchen garden. Stone fruits, including plums, are more likely to be grown as fans. There exists, amongst some contemporary authors, the notion that stone fruits are not suited for cordon training and will bear poorly if so grown. However, I am not at all convinced about this, and, at least in the case of plums, am fairly sure that one can grow these quite successfully as cordons. Continue reading

Germination problems

Whilst many of my posts are quite positive about the crops we manage to produce from our kitchen garden, sometimes things do go wrong. I recall one particularly bad experience when an entire bed of overwintering peas and beans was destroyed by bean seed fly larvae – a pest I had never even heard of and, thankfully, have not seen since. Such things do happen from time to time, but more normal is the loss of a small and entirely tolerable portion of a crop. This year, though, I am very disappointed to already report a bit of a disaster with our chilli, pepper, and aubergine seeds. Continue reading

Seed list 2014 – part 5 – cucurbits

The fifth article in the series looking at our sowing plans for the coming season covers the cucurbits – cucumbers, melons, summer and winter squash. Whilst melons are a somewhat marginal proposition, we have a great harvest of cucumbers and summer squash, both of which are prolific. We also reserve one of our large borders for winter squash, which, if they store well, can provide many winter meals. Continue reading