Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Moonplanting Onion Trial Part 3

Exciting News!! I have onion seedlings!! Yay!! Look...

And what is really interesting is that Pot 2 (on the right, and planted according to the correct Moon Phase) has twice as many seedlings as Pot 1, which was sown a week earlier...fascinating stuff!

Monday, 20 December 2010

Moonplanting Onion Trial Part 2

Here we are, one week later and my second pot of onion seeds is sown. So now we wait and see what happens.

Interestingly, there is a total lunar eclipse tomorrow morning (around 6.30). I wonder if that will have an effect, or whether this will already have been calculated into the Lunar Planting Calendars (I asked Zazen, but she didn't know). I've also had a look on, which has a moonplanting calendar you can look at for free, but it also doesn't mention eclipses having an effect...interesting, very interesting.

Edit: I've been doing some research on the web, and suggest that whenever there is an eclipse, conjunction or opposition, it is best not to do anything in the garden or at the allotment, so this trial may be flawed, but it's still very interesting. Well, I'm intrigued enough to maybe buy myself a moon planting calendar.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Moon Planting Onion Trial

Today I am starting a Moon Planting Onion Trial with my lovely friend Zazen.

She's very into Moon Planting, and is our resident guru on the 'Grapevine'. I've often 'looked in' on her trials but never actually taken part, but this evening I thought 'to heck with the rain outside, I'm going to do this one!'

What makes it doubley exciting for me, is that I've never grown onions from seed before, only from sets.

Here's the rules:
  • Take 2 pots and fill with the same compost.
  • Take a pinch of onion seed, and sow today, into one of the pots, and label.
  • Next Monday sow a pinch of seed into the second pot, and label
  • In 12 weeks time we'll compare pot 1 against pot 2

Sounds simple doesn't it?

Well, here are my two pots, with pot 1 duly labelled. I'm using Suttons 'Long Red of Florence' onion seed, purchased a few weeks ago, so it's completely fresh, and peat free multi-purpose compost (coz I haven't got any seed compost in at the moment, hopefully that won't make a difference). I've placed the pots on the kitchen floor, which has underfloor heating, and in next to the French Doors, so they'll get plenty of light.


Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Snow in November!?!

What is going on with the weather? Snow in November, it's incredible! I do love snow, but I was really hoping to get some Aquadulce Claudia Broad Beans sown this month if it stayed mild. Looks like I've well and truely missed the opportunity now. Nevermind, I'll just have to sow plenty in the spring. I might try and do a successional sewing as I've got a long pod variety as might extend my season a little bit, if I can just keep the blackfly off.

Anyway, mustn't talk about seed sowing too much, or I'll get all excited and try to do some now!! I've already got withdrawl symptoms from not sowing anything for a few months. My next seeds to sow (as I mentioned in an earlier post) are onions. I've bought Ailsa Craig (big'uns for the shows!), and a long red variety, but I really must sit on my hands until the day after Boxing Day, or they'll get confused, bolt and then run to seed.

In place of actual gardening, I took some piccies of the back garden this afternoon, swathed in its wintery glory...ooh pretty!

Thursday, 18 November 2010

A half day holiday

Well today I did the unthinkable (for a workaholic anyway)...I took a half day holiday...okay, so by the time I prised myself away it was more like a third of a day, but lets not split hairs ;0).

So what did I do with this precious time off...I went up to the lottie of course! Even though it was threatening to rain.

It was pretty cold and grey up there today, but it was an important visit.

The shallots and onions have been in for a few weeks now and the local bird population just love pulling sets up, So I wanted to make sure they were all just as I'd left them.

I only found the odd one or two completely pulled up, several were planted, but the whole set exposed (I imagine the heavy rain we've had recently had washed the soil away). No problem, I just replanted the uprooted ones and pulled some soil round the exposed ones.

I did have quite a few gaps in the onions and shallot beds, and I was concerned that I'd lost 20 or so sets, however, just a gentle bit of furtling in the soil revealed the sets had just got covered up! Phew! 

 The sets have made good top growth already, so hopefully I'll get a nice crop.

I'm also planning to grow some Ailsa Craig and Long Red onions from seed this year, but that will have to be my day-after-Boxing Day treat. Hopefully they'll be good enough to show...perhaps I'd better revisit vegmandan's Show Veg website (see my list of links) so I give them the best start possible.

I did a little light weeding while I was there too. Onions and Shallots really don't like to compete with weeds, so its important to keep on top of this task.

 At last my leeks seem to be making a little progress...not much, but they are starting to fatten up a little bit. The thickest one is probably the same as my index finger. Something tells me these little blighters will be in the ground until April/May next year.

I pulled one beetroot which was big enough to cook, and when I got home I popped into the garden and pulled a handful of these lovely multicoloured carrots to go with it. The carrots are quite dinky, I sowed them in a flowerpot by the back door quite late in the season, as a last ditch effort to get some carrots this year, as all other attempts had failed miserably. And I also picked the last couple of bunches of grapes from our vines. Now the frost has got to them, they are incredibly sweet and juicy - yum!!

And finally for today...Look! A Figlet!! We were given a little pot-grown Fig tree by MrPB's brother. I say little, its probably four or five foot tall. Back in the summer we planted it into one of our raised beds in the back garden, and it seemed really happy, and here it is with fruit on! I think I might just have to fleece it to improve our chances of keeping it. 

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Gardeners' Society AGM 2010

Last night was the Gardeners' Society AGM. It was held at the beautiful 'big house' of the village, with oak panelling and roaring log fires (sorry, no photos, you'll just have to believe me).

Lucy (Chairman) opened the meeting by saying what a lovely year it had been, with a really hard winter, a late spring full of flowers, a warm summer and a long colourful autumn. Which I found interesting, because I really struggled at the beginning of the year. The late persistent snow and frosts set all my seed sowing plans right back and I just couldn't make up for it again. My repeated attempts at parnips and carrots just wouldn't grow at all, and lack of rain in the early summer set my pumpkins and squashes back a bit too. Hey ho, the great thing with gardening is, there's always next year!

We discussed the current state of the finances, which caused some debate, and eventually we amended one of our proposals and voted to scrap cash prizes at the shows, and give extra certificates out instead (in addition to the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and Highly Commended certificates we already award). We also currently award points for each place which decides who wins the Society's trophys and cups throughout the year. We agreed to make this 'league table' much more public to inspire a real sense of competition! ...Not that I need much encouragement! My Dad came to the summer show, and heard me talking about what I'd entered for each class and about how I was trying to keep my aggregate points up in the hope of winning a trophy, and he said 'What happened to my shy little girl?' to which I replied 'She found her competitive spirit!'

We then went on to talk about the various visits and social evenings we had lined up for 2011. This includes our own take on the RHS 'Dig Together' campaign (4-5th Sept '11), which we have decided to expand into a series of events over the year, including masterclasses on topics like seed-sowing, taking cuttings, pruning etc. Our intention is that these will be outdoor events, and will encourage non-members to join in, and maybe join-up!

We also talked about the brand new website that a subset of the committee are working on (I'm supposed to be helping, but have managed to miss both meetings so far - hopeless girl!). Again, the idea of the website is to encourage new, and potentially younger members to join in and take part. The society has been praised for having over 100 members and 3 official shows a year, but the committee is conscious that without new members we won't be able to maintain this. The Society is well over 100 years we really wouldn't want it to fizzle out on our watch!

The evening was rounded off with a glass or two of wine and lovely nibbles, courtesy of our kind host and hostess who have invited us back next year too. I'm looking forward to it already.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Cheap lunches for work - Souper!!

I've grown some really fantastic Squashes and Pumpkins this year, and I like to put them to good use. My Squish soup is notorious at work, so here's me making a batch yesterday.

I started with a large Iron Bark squash (approximately 3.5kg). I put it in a roasting tin in the oven at 160 degrees for 1 hour 10 minutes, til it was soft when gently prodded. This is it with the skin being stripped off after cooking:

Meanwhile the stock veg (carrot, celery and onion) were softened in a stock pot in some olive oil, then about 500ml of stock added. Sometimes I use homemade chicken stock, this time it was a Kallo organic stock cube - they're not too salty. The stock volume isn't a fixed thing, it depends how thick you like you soup and how watery the rest of the ingredients are. I like to use less liquid at this stage because I can always add it later, once its been pureed.

Once the squash has cooled a bit, I peel off all the skin, halve the squash and scoop out all the seeds and add the flesh to the stock veg. I also add a teaspoon of turmeric, half a teaspoon of cumin, a pinch of chilli powder and some freshly ground black pepper.

Then it gets blitzed down with my trusty Sainsbury's Basics stick blender (£4.99 - bargain!!).

This time I ended up with 10 servings for the freezer, that's two weeks worth of work lunches for the price of some seeds and a stock cube - another bargain!!

Sunday, 10 October 2010

What a stunning weekend!

Wow, the weather has been fabulous this weekend, so I made the most of it in the garden and at the lottie. 
Saturday afternoon I took down the 'summer' baskets from the front of the house. They really were on their last legs! The baskets have a coir liner, which I have then lined with a piece of compost bag with holes poked in the bottom. This time I cleared out the old plants and scraped out about half the compost, but left the ivy and liner in place.

Then I added fresh compost, and planted up two colours of pansy and two white ericas into each one. Then gave the ivy a bit of a haircut.
...not bad! And a darn site tidier than the remnants of the summer baskets that's for sure!!
Today, the weather continued to be fine, infact it was even better, as the strong breezes from yesterday had dropped right down. I took the opportunity to pop up to the lottie and plant out my onion sets and shallots. Normally I miss that window of warm dry weather, the Autumn rain sets in and it becomes too wet to plant them out. I end up having to wait until quite late in the year before doing this and the little bulbs sulk in the cold wet soil until the spring, so I am really chuffed that I timed it so well this year. I wore a fleece to walk up to the allotment, but once I arrived I decided it was t-shirt weather. Here's the lottie in the middle of a tidy up... I pulled up the remaining broad bean stalks and supports from bed 1 (in the foreground). Gave it a jolly good weeding , dug it over a bit and then applied Blood, Fish and Bonemeal.

I lightly dug this in and then planted out Shallot Jermor and Golden Gourmet, and 50 Onion Radar sets. Bed 2 got a similar treatment once I had pulled up the last of the pumpkin and squash vines, and here I planted out 100 Shensyu onion sets. I also hacked back a bit of the horseradish foliage (the big green blob in the middle of the picture). The leaves will die back naturally soon, but I needed to get a bit more light to the beetroot growing just to the side of the horseradish. I think we'll have to lift and divide the horseradish as its just a bit too happy where it is, it may try to take over the world soon!! I also applied a dressing of blood, fish and bone to my seriously pathetic leeks! I thought that the recent rain would have really got them off to a flying start, but they've made very little progress in the last month and are still no thicker than a pencil. I had a similar problem last year too.  Last year I bought plantlets of 'Autumn Giant' (phah, that's a joke!) from Sutton Seeds. This year a kind neighbour donated about 100 young Musselburg plants to me.  I just hope the extra feed will get them going again, otherwise I'm at a bit of a loss.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

It doesn't always pay to be a tidy gardener.

I remember being told this time last year (by Two_Sheds on The Vine), that you shouldn't pull up your sweetcorn plants once you've harvested all the cobs. This is the reason why...just look at these little darlings all tucked up for the winter.

Seeing a sight like that just makes me smile all over. I love Ladybirds!!

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Very pleased with the results

Well, I'm back from the Garden Society Garden Show, and I've been surprisingly successful:

Four 1sts
Three 2nds
One 3rd
and a trophy for aggregate points in the cookery class - I'm really chuffed

Here's some photos of the highlights:

Apparently the judge was very complimentary of my Yule Log and my method for tying off my onions and shallots (thanks for that go to Vegmandan from the Vine)

The Holly on top of the Yule Log is made out of Royal Icing sugar. I mixed it with cocoa powder. Piped the outlines in a soft-peak mix, then flooded the centre with a runny mix, then made a soft-peak white mix and piped on the veins while the rest was still soft, so it sort of flowed into the runny mix. They were then stuck on with more royal icing after the cake had firmed up in the fridge over night.

Oh yeah, I put a nip of whisky in the butter wonder the judge was raving about it!!!!

Thursday, 16 September 2010

My first post...I'm very nervous.

It's two days before the Garden Society Autumn Show, and my garden is looking a bit disasterous.

  • My huge pink Dahlias have been munched by earwigs (must remember to put straw-filled flowerpots out next year to catch the little blighters).
  • My tomatoes are looking great...but they are all green - not a red one in sight!!
  • I have one pathetic french bean
  • My carrots are tiny

However, I might be able to scrape together a fair set of shallots, my grapes are looking super, I've got quite a few pumpkins and squashes, some lovely tiny purple chillies called 'Pretty in Purple', and I've managed to grow celery (thanks to my friend Zazen's advice), its quite slender, but its worth a go.

I've entered 21 classes for this show, but I don't think I'll  have enough produce to actually exhibit in that many classes on the day. I haven't looked at the lottie for a couple of weeks, so I'll either get some nice surprises, or some nasty shocks! Eeek!

I'll post an update with some piccies after the show on Saturday.