Friday 31 August 2018

In My Seed Box for 2019 - Butternut Squash

Historically I was really not a huge squash fan, until converted by the Squash Queen Beryl Randall over at Mud & Gluts, so for the last couple of years I have been growing and eating Butternut Squash. When I get the additional space I will have a bash of some of the other varieties.

Two Packs of seeds picked up in the 2018 Wyevale 50p Seed Sale 

Mr Fothergill's Butternut Squash 10 Seeds Sow By 2021
Johnsons Squash (Winter) 10 Seeds Early Butternut Sow By 2022

Sow Indoors - March to May
Sow Outdoors - May
Sow 3 of each variety into a pot edgeways into the compost, cover with 15mm of compost firm gently and keep moist 
Keep at approx. 15C - 20C 
Germination - Seedlings appear in 7-14 days  
Potting On at 5-6 leaf stage, stand outside for a few days in late May (avoid frost)  Transplant 600mm apart in growing position. 
Harvest July to October, Pick Regularly to encourage cropping

Tip When fruits start to swell give liquid feed every 7-10 days. 

Thursday 30 August 2018

In My Seed Box for 2019 - Parsnips

Parsnips were a bit of a failure in 2018 and in 2019 I'm going to chit them and get them in the ground as early as possible. I'm looking at have a whole 2.4m x 1.2m bed dedicated to just parsnips in 2019

10p Poundland Carters Tested Seeds Tender & True Parsnips 200 seeds Sow By 2020
Free  Mr Fothergill's Student Parsnip 200 seeds Sow By 2021 

£2.45 Mr Fothergill's Palace F1  Parsnip 200 Seeds Sow By 2021
£2.99 T&M Gladiator F1 Parsnip 250 Seeds Sow By Dec 2019

£2.09 Johnsons Tender and True Organic Parsnips Sow 350 Seeds By 2022
£1.00 Wilko White Gem 300 Seeds Sow By 2022

I'm going to try chitting and growing in kitchen towel & loo rolls early as well as direct sowing in 2019, I'm looking to fill a 2.4x1.2m Bed with just Parsnips if I can. 

What Varieties do you grow and had the most success with ?

When do you sow your Parsnips?

Do you chit the seeds or Sow Direct ?

Wednesday 29 August 2018

Wyevale Seed Sale

It had to be done, on the way home from a short break to celebrate our 25th Wedding Anniversary, I managed to persuade the better half to let me pop into Wyevale's to look at the 50p Seed sale and here is what I ended up with:

£2.99 Carrot Flyaway F1 Seed Tape 4m 400 seeds Sow By 2020

£3.69 Suncherry Premium F1 Hybrid Tomato 5 Seeds Sow by 2020
£3.69 T&M Suncherry Premium F1 Hybrid Tomato 5 Seeds Sow by 2020
£1.99 Bajaja Tomato 15 Seeds Sow By 2020
£3.49 Mr Fothergill's Sweet Million F1 Tomato 20 Seeds Sow By 2022
£2.99 Santonio F1 (Small Cherry Plum)6 Seeds Sow By 2020
£2.99 T&M Santonio F1 (Small Cherry Plum) 6 Seeds Sow By 2020
£3.99 T&M Tumbling Tom Red 18 Seeds Sow by 2020

£3.49 T&M White Step F1 Cauliflower 30 Seeds Sow By Dec 2020
£3.49 T&M Winter Aalsmeer Cauliflower 50 Seeds Dec 2020

£2.69 Mr Fothergill's Butternut Squash 10 Seeds Sow By 2021
£2.75 Johnsons Squash (Winter) Early Butternut Sow By 2022

£3.24 T&M Courgette Midnight F1 Hybrid 10 Seeds Sow By 2020

£2.45 Mr Fothergill's Palace F1  Parsnip 200 Seeds Sow By 2021
£2.99 T&M Gladiator F1 Parsnip 250 Seeds Sow By Dec 2019
£2.09 Johnsons Tender and True Oganic Parsnips Sow 350 Seeds By 2022

£2.99 T&M Green Manure Mixture
£2.99 T&M Green Manure Mixture
£2.99 T&M Green Manure Mixture
£2.99 T&M Green Manure Phacelia

£2.75 Sarah Raven's Delphinium High Society Mix F1 25 Seeds Sow By 2021
£2.49 Citrus Cocktail 100 Seeds 

£22 Packs of seeds worth 66.21 for £11 that's what I call a Bargain !

Did I really need any more tomatoes, in reality NO! I have so many tomato seeds and more coming via the seed circles and Seed Swap BUT isn’t there is always a but! There are varieties there that I have gown and I do like and then there are some that I have not grown and would like to try especially the smaller pot, container varieties, and yes we do like and consume a huge amount of Cherry and Cherry Plum tomatoes.

Parsnips were a bit of a fail this year and next year I want to chit them and get them in the ground early and if at all possible have a whole 2.4 x 1.2m bed dedicated to just parsnips.

The Green manure mix is going on vacant beds as soon as they are cleared and I could really do with picking some more Green Manure seeds up to use on new beds early next year.

I can see another visit to perhaps a different Wyevale is in the offing, what about you?

Do you wait for the sales for seeds and are you also a bit of a seed-a-holic?

Sunday 26 August 2018

Saturday Not Sunday

A change of allotment day this week as its going to rain Sunday and we have had an invite to Sunday Dinner by my eldest daughter. Said daughter asked if I had any more of those really nice early spuds and any large tomatoes, so I took the opportunity to swap days and harvest some of both for her, well us really as she is cooking us all dinner. 

I had six to seven flower buckets worth of early spuds still to harvest and I was quite happy with the quantity of the harvest and the range of sizes of spuds. I harvested another two trays of green Crimson Crush tomatoes as there are some early signs of what could be blight and I wanted to open up the foliage to let a little more air flow and also take the large heavy tomatoes off the plant to let the next batch to bulk up. 

Have you found that your potatoes are smaller than usual this year? 

I dug up some of the Kestrel potatoes and they appear to be a bit scabby. I also dug up some of the Albert Bartlett Purple Majesty potatoes and was shocked how many small egg sized potatoes there were, perhaps I should have watered them more during the two months when we had no rain. 

Were your spuds smaller & scabby this year? 

Anyone have a theory why that is? Only two red Crimson Crush which came from the middle of the plant, I always find it crazy that the ones shielded from the sun in the middle of the plant always seem to go red first, so if you have a theory why that is please let me know? 
The Rapunzel are also doing really well this year, I will defiantly be growing Crimson Crush and Rapunzel on the plot again next year, and I'm thinking two of each plant next year and trying the wire cage on one and the bamboo pyramid on the other and seeing which support method I like the best to use in future. 

I laid three 600x600mm slabs along the back of the shed under the rear extension, then I had a brain wave and went and got the frame from the blow-a-way greenhouse that has been assisting holding down the weed membrane on plot 1 and it fitted exactly within the cheeks of the extension. So I need to find where I put the mesh shelving and I will have two layers of shelving in the covered extension. 

I've already stacked the framework to my greenhouse on the top shelving, The buckets of Hawthorn cuttings to keep them dray and I have stacked my large gravel trays as empty flower buckets, and I must say I can see the difference gradually finding homes for this stuff is making on the plot.   

Despite the development at the rear of the site being now 80% populated with owners, Mill Green is still a peaceful place to be, and I'm loving that I can now have the stove set up and can make a coffee when I want one, I now see why Sean James Cameron loves having his cup of tea.  

The two mushroom trays of Crimson Crush tomatoes have been added to the other three trays worth already on the second shelf of the Space Saver Greenhouse at home to go red.  A quantity of red tomatoes, spuds, red and white Onions were dropped off to our daughters so she has them for tomorrow.

Friday 24 August 2018

Drying Tomato Seeds

Now that the fermentation is over for all but the Crimson Crush seeds, the plastic lids to KP Nuts and Bisto Gravy have been dug out as they are ideal for drying off the seeds on. They are currently on the top of the upright fridge freezer near the airbrick, and at the moment there is no need for the little dehumidifier to be used to speed up the process, I will just let nature take its course. 

I'm contributing to the Grow Your Own Grapevine Forum Tomato Seed Circle 2018 this year and checking this morning the numbers have increased from 16 to 18, so I need to make sure I have enough seeds for 8 -10 per pack, if not I shall have to harvest some more and do another batch. 

So far based on those that know what their contributions they will be making, it look like I will be getting:- 

Black Vernissage
German Red strawberry
Giallo d'inverno
Golden Sunrise
Livingstons Favourite
Nellies Black
Okeron Yellow
Salisaw Cafe
True Black Brandy Wine
Yellow Pear

Most of these I don't already have in my Tomato Seed Bank, plus I'm also picking up

Alaskan Fancy
First In Field
Peacevine Cherry
Red Alert
St. Pierre

From the Grapevine VSP Virtual Seed Parcel or Seed Swap using the excess seed I have as an exchange. The Tomato & Peppers List can be found Here. The Virtual Seed Swap is where you can swap seeds you don’t want for ones you do. It's open to everyone who has been a member for 3 months or more, who has made more than 50 posts in the last 3 months and who has a UK return address

Monday 20 August 2018

It's That Time of Year Again

There are currently 16 of us on this years Grow Your Own Grapevine Tomato Seed Circle 

So I have started fermenting the seeds from Red Robin, Balconi Red, Micro Tom, Rapunzel, and will submit two of these, to the seed circle. The seed circle concept is very simple, you save seeds and with tomatoes, the fermenting method results in the cleanest seed with high germination rates but is not the only way to save seeds. 

Then 16 of you (this year) send in two varieties with a return stamp or envelope and you get back 31 packs of different varieties of seed to add to your collection and try next year.  

One of the two varieties I'm sending in has to be the Micro Tom which is a very small and can be grown in a pot on the kitchen window cill, I was really impressed that such a small plant can yield so many tomatoes. I will see what others are sending in and will select one of the other three based on what's not already on the list. 

Not for the seed circle but I'm also saving the next generation of Non F1 Crimson Crush from the original plant which grow so prolifically every year, and so far appear to have kept the Blight Resistance.

I'm also saving next generation of a TESCO Tomato called Vitarino that again has performed a lot better than some of the other toms I have grown.

My brother-In-Law doesn't understand why I save seeds and try different varieties each year, but he is a Gardeners Delight and Moneymaker kid of guy and grows the same varieties every year. Gardening is very much like that, you do it the way you like too and still get the enjoyment of growing from seed

Next year I should have the two greenhouses on the allotment both erected and empty ready for a load of small mini and micro type of plants as well as Crimson Crush and Rapunzel out in some new beds on plot 1.

Saturday 18 August 2018

Rear Extension

Today I fixed the sides to the rear extension to the back of the shed supporting them off upturned flower buckets and offcuts of timber to get the top of the extension nicely tucked over the shed roof overhang. Two timber roofing battens were then fixed between the cheeks at the front and back and the polycarbonate sheeting was screwed in place. 

If I can find some more offcuts to fit I may extend the cheeks down to just off the ground, if not a timber leg will go in once the paving has been laid behind the shed. 3 number 600x600mm slabs will do it. The covered area to the rear will allow me to keep stuff like the Hawthorne that I'm cutting up dry until October when we are once again officially allowed to have fires on the plot.

As you can see the onion rack shelfing has been placed in the upright position as the onions are now dry and have been top and tailed and the dry skins removed.

After six years of sitting in the other shed the gas stove was finally used today for the first time with the camping kettle I bought from Wilko in the sale to make a couple of cups of coffee. 

Much better than taking a flask to the plot, and now finally when my Brother-In-Law and his wife are on the plot I can make them a coffee rather than them always making me one.

Another mushroom tray of large Crimson Crush and Rapunzel tomatoes have come home together with another two cauliflowers. 

I took four food buckets worth of apples to go into the Dalek, but it had not sunk enough to get them into the double width Dalek no 5 so I set a new Dalek up on plot 1 sitting on cardboard on top of the membrane and added a layer of woodchip mulch grade to the bottom, then the four buckets of apples and topped it off with another layer of mulch grade woodchip, then the onion trimmings and the leaf's off the cauliflower, and dampened down each layer as it was added to the Dalek.    

Tuesday 14 August 2018


So after all the wishing for rain, we have had it. the grass is starting to green up again and the weeds have gone wild. Rain stopping play has given me the time to cook off 2/3 of a bed of beetroots, slice and for some dice then preserve in vinegar. Lack of some surgical gloves did delay the process a day, but this year I used the Pyrex dish with lid, 13mm of water and the microwave to cook them off.    

A visit to Wilko on Sunday as rain stopped play resulted in a purchase of  Wilko PVC Coated Green Garden Fencing which is made from a triple strength, heavy duty wire that's ideal for border or low boundary fencing. Highly durable, this fencing is made from heavy duty steel wire, hot dip galvanised and then plastic coated. The wires are welded together forming a very rigid sheet. This precludes the need for support wires or concrete-set posts necessary for more traditional forms of fencing. 

This versatile fencing can also be used as a plant support or garden arch. 50mm x 100mm mesh approx. Overall size: H 900mm x L 10m approx.

Reduced to £4-50 a roll I picked up one roll as difficult to carry back to the car with the two bags of shopping, to make some sloping climbing A frames for the cucumbers next year and some circular support frames for the tomatoes grown on the allotment.

I picked up 4 packs of "Cylindra" Beetroot seeds as 25p each for 150 seeds so that's a pack a bed for next year, but they are good until 2021. A single pack of Ramrod Spring Onions and three packs of seed tray modules at 50p a pack. 

It appears that not all Wilkos are selling off seeds at 10p a pack as has been said on a number of forums and asking the guy at the service desk it appears that there are different size of store and it's also a regional thing and they don't all do the same thing at the same time. At 25p a pack I'm happy to pay full price for the Beetroots.

Monday evening a swift visit to the allotment and with the rain comes growth of yet more cucumbers & courgettes that believe they are marrows, and what I believe will be the first and the last crop of runner beans, the hot weather really screwed up their growing potential this year.

What was good to see what that there is a Beetroot seedling in nearly every planting location in Bed 1 

There is a similar level of germination in Beetroot Bed 10, this initially brought joy to my heart, and then dread to my mind at the thought of two beds worth of beetroots to cook off and preserve, but I'm telling myself that these will be smaller and easier and faster to cook.

I will ensure that next year I sow in batches and harvest in batches of 35 beetroots every 3 weeks, and that I start them off earlier under cover and extend the planting and harvesting season and reduce and spread the load of processing the harvest. No point getting older if you don't get wiser based on experience. 

I screwed some tool hooks again curtesy and cheaper than the £1 Shop from Wilko's (75p) on the door to the shed and now have my hand tools ready and accessible on Plot 1 as well as Plot 1A

The brambles had enjoyed the rain and had taken off over the paving and had started making headway under the shed, so they were cut back and I think that I need to remove the rest of the Hawthorne and brambles during what's left of August and September ready for burning in October. 

The perfect weather for me for working on the  plot is semi overcast and dry, I have done snow, I don't mind cold but I don't do wet, well not until I can get into and potter around in the greenhouses once the first one is finally clear and the second one is actually erected.       

Friday 10 August 2018

Pickling Beetroots

Pickling the beetroot and this year I'm using the microwave again. It's not much faster but it's cheaper and less stream is produced and less energy used to cook them.

Get one Pyrex dish with a lid that just fits in the microwave
Prick the Beetroot so they don't explode!
Add 13mm or 1/2" of water and place the beets in the dish, put lid on.
Microwave on FULL power for 3 minutes 
Rest for 10 minutes

Turn beets over 180 degrees, put lid on
Microwave on FULL power for 3 minutes
Rest for 10 minutes

Turn beets over 180 degrees, put lid on
Microwave on FULL power for 3 minutes
Rest for 20 minutes

Test to see how easy the skins come off and if necessary
Turn beets over 180 degrees, put lid on 
Microwave on FULL power for 3 minutes 
Rest for 10 minutes

Peel off the skin, slice and dice as required

Tuesday 7 August 2018

Feed Me Seymour!

I cant help it I look at the Cabbage and I can hear "Feed me Seymour!" my head

Picked during an early visit to the allotment this morning to water and harvest what's ready and do what ever else I can before 9am when It's time to make my way home to work.

Cheeks to a possible extension to the rear of the shed to create a covered storage area for flower buckets and other items or a self standing unit to go up against the wall to the rear of the shed for growing tomatoes under cover and hardening off plants, I can't make my mind up at the moment which one would be more useful, perhaps I will build both

 Started to treat the timber for the raised beds