November 27

Reviewing the hugelkultur bed

In the spring I built a hugelkultur bed because I had plenty of time on my hands, the tip was closed and I had a lot of wood and prunings. I thought now would be a good time to review how it has worked and whether it was worth all of that digging. The short answer is ‘Yes!’  but below is the longer answer.

Strawberries on the west-facing side of the hugel

I built it in March and then didn’t take many photos of it during the summer so I am afraid I can’t show what happened.  The long side of the bed faces west as I read that it should be placed facing the prevailing wind to shelter what lies behind it. I planted strawberry offshoots from the allotment on the west side – Guarigette – half way down the slope and then lettuce seedlings below them on both the west and east facing sides.  The west facing lettuce bolted before those on the east-facing side and so for a longer harvest of lettuce the east side is the place. On the east side I also planted spare coriander seedlings but they just bolted and seeded. However, the seedlings are doing well now and showing no signs of bolting and so for the first time ever, I have a fairly decent crop of coriander. I didn’t know October/November were the best times here for this plant. It is definitely not what it says on the seed packet.

Beetroot on the north-facing end

On the short end which faces north, I planted 6 beetroot towards the bottom of the slope because I wanted some plants for seed.  I have left them because they won’t flower until next year but they are massive. I wrote about them in this post. The mulch that you can see behind the beetroot is Strulch which I had left over from using on my big flower bed so that I don’t have to go ferreting around to weed quite so often. It has worked a treat. I have only had to pull out 22 weeds from the mound and have had far more in the vegetable beds.

The biggest success has been the fact that it was a very warm and dry spring and early summer here and from March to now, I have only had to water it twice whereas during the dry spells I had to water the vegetable beds once a week. It is just as well it hasn’t needed much watering because it is not easy to water – it just runs straight off it if you are not careful.  The second time I watered, I created little bowls behind the strawberry plants and watered into those so that it didn’t run straight off.  It is for this watering reduction alone that I will build more of these beds both at home and on the allotment.  What I do need to get better at is which plants to put on which side of the mound to maximise its different elements.

Have you built one of these and if so, what do you plant in it?

June 25

First and last harvests

 

This year is proving to be different as far as the weather is concerned. Having had one of the wettest winters and a very late spring, we are now experiencing heat and no rain.  I love the heat but the allotment is starting to droop so watering is important at the moment and seems to be taking longer and longer.  The heat also means that produce is either early or over quite quickly. However, lots of things are just starting to get into their stride.

Mara de Bois strawberries and Loganberry

These are the last of the strawberries for the moment. I understand that Mara de Bois  are meant to be perpetual strawberries but I suspect they have worn themselves out and won’t fruit again for some time. They are worth it though because the taste is fantastic.  They took along time to get going and didn’t really fruit for 2 years. I think they were too dry in our soil – the name does not suggest sandy dry conditions. I did wonder about trying some planted between the fruit trees as if they were in a wood.  What really helped was a mulch with Strulch, a straw based mulch with an inbuilt slug deterrent. It is expensive but I didn’t lose many strawberries to slugs. The other berries in the dish are the first loganberries. Again, there aren’t many but they are just about to get going. The thing about loganberries is that once they are ripe they have to be picked and eaten or frozen on the same day. They do not keep at all which is presumably why you can’t buy them in the shops.

Globe Artichoke Gros de Leon

The first globe artichokes of the year. They are fiddly to cook and eat but I love them dipped in mayonnaise. They do all seem to be ready at the same time so that means I have about 20 on the plants all good to go.  Sarah Raven’s globe artichoke tart is another favourite way to eat them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other firsts are the outdoor garlic, courgettes and sweet peas.  I grew soft neck garlic but have just learnt that if you want garlic scapes you need to grow hard neck garlic. Next year!  The courgettes are British Summertime (dark green), Yellow Stripe and Tondo Chiaro di Nizza (globe).  Over the last few years I have found the yellow courgettes to be more productive than others so British Summertime is a new variety to me and I am hoping more productive than Green Bush which I normally grow.

Lettuce Iceberg 4

This is one enormous lettuce! It fills the sink.  The seeds were free with a gardening magazine and I only sowed them to see what it was like, not having much hope that I would like it as I don’t really like the iceberg lettuces you can buy in supermarkets. However, this is a winner!  Large, green and crunchy with a good lettucy flavour. I will be growing these again.

What’s growing well in your garden?

Many thanks to Dave at Our Happy Acres for hosting the Harvest Monday posts. Do have a look at all the linked posts.

January 2

New seeds for 2018

I have just finished listing all of the seeds I have for 2018 and am just wondering if I have too many. Of course I do but there is always something new that catches my eye.  Here are this year’s new seeds:

Chinese Cabbage Scarlette

I saw this on Our Happy Acres on the posts that list what they harvest every Monday. I have not grown Chinese Cabbage before but what really drew me was the colour! I got the seed from Simply Seeds and I understand that they are best grown in the autumn so something to sow in June.  The packets says that they are frost hardy, not that we get a lot of frosts down here on the south coast.

I am not entirely sure how you cook Chinese cabbage. Stir fry? However, good ol’ BBC food has a selection here to get me going.

Lettuce Pigale Pills

I think I might have a bit of a thing for red vegetables this year. This is a Little Gem type of lettuce that is said to be sweet-tasting and has good resistance to bolting, tipburn and mildew – all of which I need.  The interweb says that it can be sown from March to July so can be grown over a fairly long time span, the later ones probably better off outside rather than in the polytunnel. We eat a lot of salads in the summer – have you seen the list of lettuce I grow on the page at the side?  We eat tons – tons I tell you! This will add colour to the salad bowl.

 

Cabbage April

No this is not a red cabbage – ha! This is a cabbage for early spring to be sown in July or August. I can never grow enough of these so I am going to try this one outside and in the polytunnel to try and stagger the harvest. The thing that attracted me was the description that it grows well in well-drained soil and that is definitely what we have on our plots. Some might call it sand.  The 5cm of compost/manure I am adding to each bed every year as part of no-dig growing is starting to ameliorate this but I thought it was worth a try.

Tomatoes

I can not lie! I know what I like in tomatoes and it is Black Russian, also known as Noir Crimee, Costoluto, Sungold, Tigerella and St Pierre and I have grown these every year for the last 6 or 7 years. I do also like to throw in Green Zebra every now and then and will do so this year just to give a range of colours. This year I am trying out a couple of new varieties just to see how they taste and crop – taste being the most important thing. This year it is  Rosella and Zlatava. Why have I picked them?  That is a really good question. I have to admit that it was more stick a pin in the page than a careful, thoughtful choice but she who dares wins as they say. Kings describe Rosella as a deep-pink cherry tomato (nearly red!) with the taste of blackberries, raspberries and other summer fruits. I couldn’t resist but I am a little doubtful. I will of course update you. Zlatava is orange on the outside and guess what colour on the inside?  I thought they might be an interesting. Kings do say that they have an excellent flavour.  We shall see.

What are you growing that is new to you this year?