Sowing for winter

I’ve just sown Florence fennel, half a dozen varieties of lettuce and two plants new to me – Kailan, a kind of Chinese sprouting broccoli and Celtuse, an heirloom lettuce whose stems, when it bolts, are edible.

Lettuce seeds before pricking out
Lettuce seedlings sown tightly together before being pricked out

I’ve also sown some Palla Rossa chicory and some frizzy endive, called Wallone.

They pair up well with the lettuce to provide colourful leaves for winter salads.

The mizuna I was given has flowered as has the rocket – it’s too hot for them and they should be sown earlier or later in the cooler months so they don’t bolt, flower and run to seed – so I’m growing some more in modules to plant out at the end of August.

Some more dwarf green beans are on the go, again in modules, for a late crop which will probably need fleecing in October.

The carrots I sowed in spring have done well – no sign of carrot fly.

Carrot thinings with some of my glorious sweet peas from saved seed – best year ever for them

They’re cheek by jowl with my Chicken Thigh Shallots (cuisse de poulet is the variety I grew from seed) which so far show no signs of white onion rot!! Fingers crossed that continues.

I also interplanted my red cabbage with carrots and the white kale has a line of beetroot between the rows.

Alex and I weeded them today.

We also built a structure for the Crown Prince squash on the compost heap!

That was fun.

We filled up a “new” compost bin I scrounged for free off a village Facebook page.

There were two but I gave the other to Alex as she said she needed one.

Tomorrow Mum’s gardener, Sarah is coming.

I was going to ask her to help me plant my new Myoga plant but I think I will pot it on first and wait until it gets a bit bigger and tougher before finding it’s forever home!

By the way I picked some kale for supper as we had the covers back while we were weeding.

I’m not sure what I’ll make with it yet.

But a white cannelini bean and white kale stew/soup is crying out to be made.

And finally today I saw a tiny iridescent turquoise beetle while I was pruning back the silver birch.

We also see greater spotted and green woodpeckers, the swallows have fledged and are fattening themselves up for their epic journey back to South Africa and Jonathan who mows the lawns and cuts the hedges took this photograph of a White Admiral in our garden!




Squashed In

I’m growing winter squash on top of one of the compost heaps.

The two Crown Prince plants seem to love the protected, sunny site with unlimited access to rich nutrients.

I’m growing my other smaller squash (Hokkaido) up a trellis –  also an experiment.

Two failed but there are six or seven more that have thrived despite being rolled on by pheasants trying to make shallow scrapes in the soil to nest.

My courgettes are just beginning to fruit – they take a good month to get established once they’ve been planted out but should now romp away.

The unknown variety of dwarf green beans are in flower so I have high hopes of harvesting them soon.

I’m looking forward to my favourite green bean and cashew curry for lunch!

I’ve mounded up my potatoes (Sarpo Mira, Sarpo Axona, Charlotte and Pink Fir Apple) with extra compost to stop light getting to the tubers and turning them green – I took Charles Dowding’s advice and just tipped a two litre pot filled with homemade rough compost over the base of the haulms or stems of each plant.

They should be ready in a month or so.

Finally we’ve been eating the artichokes dipped in olive oil and vinegar dressing.

Here’s a link to a very informative video by Sarah Raven showing you when to harvest and how to cook and eat artichokes.

We have two varieties in our garden.

Gros Vert de Laon is a traditional French heirloom variety producing the largest hearts of any artichoke.

The others are the smaller Green Globe artichokes.

Both have been grown from slips that my friends Julie and Cilla gave me about three years ago.

Apparently after you’ve harvested them you can cut the plants to the ground, leaves and all, and expect them to crop again six to eight weeks later.

I might try that with a couple of the plants to see if it really works!




Weeding is as important as a drop of rain.

That’s what an old Norfolk boy, Pinky, told me when I got my first allotment fifteen years ago.

The white kale – from seed sent to me by my old friends Loz and Kirsten – is doing really well

Today Alex and I weeded the white kale and red cabbage – interplanted with carrots and beetroot.

We also hoed the other beds.

The Hokkaido squash are looking good, as are the leeks edging the bed.

I love using my oscillating copper hoe – it only disturbs the top couple of centimetres of soil and introduces a bit of air to the mix.

We planted out seven lemon crystal cucumber plants.

A jostaberry, which I bought for a couple of quid at East Anglian Potato Day back in February, is now in residence at the bottom of the garden.

It’s a cross between gooseberry and blackcurrant.

I can’t wait to try it.

I pruned my outdoor tomatoes which again has given the plants some more air and space around them.

The tomatoes like the protected site between the warm brick wall and the flowering asparagus

Good I think.

Congestion and overcrowding are not a good thing as they encourage disease.

Crimson flowered broad beans are not very productive – only three or four per pod – but they’re extremely tasty

I’ve harvested all my broad beans and have cut the plants down at the base – leaving the nitrogen bearing roots in the ground.  

The coriander plants have also been pulled up – they’re drying indoors with the seeds on.

I’d like to save them as they’re a brilliant variety that are slow to bolt.

I had to pull up a few young sprouting broccoli that were badly stunted by aphids. 

The other brassica cage after we’d pulled up the diseased PSB. We left the self sown rocket.

I washed the less affected ones with water gently rubbing off the grey woolly insects.

So today was a very productive day of tidying, tending, staking and tieing in wayward young plants to give them their best chance of success.

The next couple of days I’ll be sowing florence fennel, endive, chicory, lettuce and a late row of parsnips.

I’ll also be planting out some large well developed Swiss chard seedlings, hoping they don’t get decimated by whatever attacked the last lot I put in when they were much smaller.














Full Circle

This week – a tale of serendipity.

I ran out of my favourite Borlotti bean seed.

Then I remembered my friend Di, who took over my allotment when I left Trowse, grows them every year from seed I gave her.

So I asked her to return the favour.

Nearly all of them germinated and I now have 20 planted out round four bamboo tepees I constructed today.

I’ll eat some fresh, the rest will be dried and saved for winter soups and stews.

Di has also brought me a shoot of my favourite perennial flower, Cephalaria gigantea, which I had planted at the gates to my old allotment from seed I collected at my previous garden in Rougham.

The giant yellow scabious will grow to at least eight feet tall and hopefully self seed at the back of one of our borders.


Heaven Sent Help

I was feeling really overwhelmed last week.

I have so many pot and module sown plants that are bursting out of their containers desperate to get into the ground.

Two weeks ago it was the cold weather and strong winds that made me hold off.

Now it’s my physical limitations which are slowing me down.

Over the past week I’ve managed to plant eight tomato plants in the lee of the warm brick wall where they’ve done well before.

They’re a mixture of Baby Plum, Red Star and Tigerella.

A month or so ago I  popped in a couple of rows of blight resistant potatoes, Sarpo Mira and Sarpo Axona joined a few days later by some Anya and Pink Fir Apple.

Four courgette plants, yellow and green and two cucumbers are also safely tucked up in the same bed at the bottom of the garden, fringed by a line of sweet peas.

I then wrestled for a whole day to erect the brassica cage to net my PSB (Purple Sprouting Broccoli).

I was running out of steam and wondered if the baby leeks, beans, squash and mange tout peas would ever see adulthood.

As if on cue, our half-a-day a week gardener, Sarah, has been approached by a friend who wants to volunteer (to get experience) in our garden.

She’ll supervise her in the ornamental garden but I’m hoping they may also be able to help me a little with the veg.

And luckily my friend Alex was free today.

She helped erect some trellis and wigwams for climbing plants.

It took us all day to do – the ground is so hard and dry that it was quite hard to get the stakes in.

The Hokkaido squash which are my favourites have gone in next to the trellis – I’m hoping to grow them vertically for the first time.

The Carouby de Maussane mange tout peas have some chicken wire and bamboo poles to scramble up.

We’ve protected them from the pigeons with some netting.

And I’ve planted the Cosse Violette climbing french beans rather too close together around a bamboo  tepee.

Last but not least, I think I have found somewhere for the remaining couple of winter squash (Crown Prince) – the compost heap at the top of the garden looks the perfect place for them.

By the way it’s not all hard work; we are harvesting spinach,  asparagus, artichokes, coriander, parsley, rhubarb, the odd volunteer potato and chives.

I’ve also been baking sourdough bread twice a week.

It’s taken a couple of goes to get into the groove but I reckon I cracked it on loaf number 3!

Thanks to Fynn, Jo, Caroline, Kate, the Elliots, Norfolk Organic Group, Willy, Di, my Mum/Jan and others from Norwich Seed Swap for seeds and plants.

Rob for moral support.

And Jenny for the sourdough starter.

You are all amazing.