Saturday, 28 April 2012

first new potatoes

Although April's weather has been far from ideal for getting crops off to a flying start there was a little ray of sunshine today when I harvested the first of this year's new potatoes.

These are Lady Christl, planted in a sack in the greenhouse ten weeks ago. There were lots of pea-size tubers as well and before anyone says I should have left them another few weeks I'm like a kid in a toy shop when it comes to new potatoes. I just have to have them. 

The taste was fantastic, better than the Jersey Royals in the shops and a helluva lot cheaper than the £3 a kilo the supermarkets are charging. I'm going to try and resist the temptation to lift any more until next weekend, by which time they should have bulked up a bit more.

With the cold nights I'm still having to fleece over the outside potatoes and I'm bringing the tomatoes and peppers into the house. As an experiment I've been leaving one of the potted tomato plants in the greenhouse and it is a good three inches shorter than the ones that are brought inside. Same variety, same compost, etc. so the extra heat at night really is beneficial.

The only things that seem to be thriving outside at the moment are radishes and spring onions which is just as well otherwise our salads would be looking a bit miserable.

French Breakfast radishes picked yeasterday

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

time for a furtle....

The first of the greenhouse planted potatoes have been in for nine weeks now so I thought it was time for a furtle under the compost. I carefully scraped some away and hey presto ....tatties.

I covered them back up, gave them a feed of tomato fertilizer and will see if I can get a meal out them next weekend. Ooh, the anticipation!!
These are Lady Christl, in my opinion the tastiest of all the 'new' potatoes I've tried.

Of course, such things are subjective but this is a variety that seems quite happy with my growing technique and conditions. In the greengrocer's the other day I noticed that Jersey Royals were £3.50 per kilo but I've never found them that tasty. Certainly not worth paying that kind of money for.

A lot of the outside crops are sulking at the moment due to the cool weather and if the forecast cold May turns out to be reality we could be in for some poor harvests. Last year was a bad one for potatoes and tomatoes but I got some great onions and soft fruit so it'll be swings and roundabouts as usual.

There are some insects around but not as many as there should be at this time of year. I keep rescuing bumble bees trapped in the greenhouse and I managed to snap this ladybird yesterday.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

having a herby day

It's been a good day for sowing herbs so I did Basil (two types), Cumin, Dill, Hyssop, Oregano, Russian Tarragon and Summer Savoury. Some will go in the propagator but others can take their chances in the cold greenhouse.

The perennials are springing back into life with some nice flowers on the Rosemary

and fresh growth on the sage.

Some coriander I sowed last month has been potted up and is looking good. 

Coriander and basil are two that I make regular sowings of in order to have constant supplies of fresh young leaves.

But today wasn't all herbs. I've had to put some tomato plants into their final containers as they were getting pot bound. It's still too cold to leave them in the greenhouse at night but it shouldn't be long before they can remain outside.

Although the days are not particularly warm outside there has been a lot of sunshine which has meant anything in the shelter of the greenhouse, where temperatures are often up in the twenties, is really putting on some growth. These potato plants should really be outside but I just daren't risk it.

The trouble is the greenhouse growth tends to be quite soft and they are unable to cope with any winds so are easily damaged. I'm hoping for the first pickings in two to three weeks, by which time I really will need the greenhouse space.

Monday, 9 April 2012

wet and windy

Wet and windy today (the weather, not me) so I've been in the greenhouse pricking out and potting on. I'm trying to decide how many alpine strawberry plants I actually need. The seed is so fine that it's impossible to sow any other way than just scattering on the surface and then you end up with hundreds of these tiny plants. Separating them is a fiddly job as the roots all tangle together.

I've also put coriander plants into individual pots in which they'll be grown on to maturity. There's still loads of sowing to be done but it's going to have to wait until I can find more space for seed trays. I think the trouble is that the warm weather in March tempted me to sow far more than I usually do at that time of year, rather than spreading it out over a couple of months. Consequently I've run out of space.

The cauliflower plants that I put out under their plastic bottle cloches are getting well established, although it's a bit tricky to photograph through the plastic.

I always put a sprinkle of pelleted chicken manure in the planting hole which gives a nitrogen boost and gets them off to a flying start. It is also alkaline which should help deter the dreaded clubroot.

Because I forgot to heed the weather forecast one day last week some of the emerging potato shoots got badly frosted. They are putting out new growth but it's likely to have set them back by a week or two.
new potato growth to replace frost damage
And the moral of the story is....don't ever imagine that you can beat the weather.

Saturday, 7 April 2012

it always happens in April

Running out of space, I mean. It's still a bit cold at night so the greenhouse is filled up with container grown crops waiting to go outside and there are dozens of pots and trays with seedlings waiting to be pricked out. Except, they can't be at the moment because I don't have any space for the pots. The first sown tomatoes really should be going into their final positions as their roots are escaping and I'm already nipping out side shoots.

Strawberries in hanging baskets are flowering but there's been a shortage of insects since the weather turned cooler.

I did manage to make a little bit of space today by planting out some cabbage and cauliflower plants. Just five of each but that way I never have a glut to deal with and there will be successional plantings right through till late summer. They have their own mini-cloches made from plastic water bottles with the bottoms cut off.

Eventually the whole brassica patch will be covered over with debris netting to keep the dreaded cabbage whites at bay.

Autumn planted onion sets are thickening up nicely and the shallots are making good progress so all is looking hopeful at the moment.
Senshyu onions in a large fish box. Close spacing means smaller bulbs.
For the first time this year I've grown some onions from seed rather than sets. I pricked forty of them out into individual cells but the trouble is the onion bed is now full. It's going to be a real shame to pull them as salad onions so I'll have to find a couple of containers and stick em in among the flowers. I can always say I put them there to deter black fly on the roses.