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The need for seed

For me one of the best things about the last couple of months has been having a cuppa, sorting current seed packets and pouring over seed catalogues looking for new crops to grow.
There’s nothing quite like buying seeds to generate enthusiasm for the new season, no matter how last years crops have performed.
Of course i’ve looked through blogs, magazines, deliberated and cogitated, as well as reflected on previous years harvests before making the all important choices.
So here they are, the potential stars of 2015, the crops and the varieties that i will be growing this year:-

Potato – Pentland Javelin/Charlotte/King Edward
Tomato – Sakura/Gardeners delight
Parsnip – Tender and True
Climbing Bean – Cobra
Runner Bean – Scarlett Emperor
Courgette – Tondo di Piacenza/Defender
Kale – Nero di Toscana
Chard – Bright Lights
Brussel Sp – Trafalgar
Beetroot – Boltardy
Swede – Brora
Carrot – Early nantes
Pumpkin – Amazonka
Cucumber – La Diva
Leeks – Musselburgh
Leaf/lettuce – Various to include gem/all year round/big red mustard
Chillis – Jalapeno/habanero/apache/Navaro

Any variety recommendations are gratefully received!



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Testing Testing

We’ve harvested the last of the potatoes that we overlooked from last year, and the Kale that has been gamely clinging on to it’s vitality is finally coming to it’s end. So the January days are all about sorting, tidying, organising and preparing for the growing season to come.
We must have been good this year because Santa gave us a liberal sprinkling of gardening gifts and nick nacks. One of which was a very comprehensive soil testing kit, a kit I had one eye on…even if the other eye was on the price tag.
It’s not that it was very expensive, indeed what it gives you back is very good value. It’s more that you can tell an awful lot about soil from the sights, sounds textures and feel, so whenever it came to buying a kit, I thought that my senses were a good substitute for the science.
That may be so, but it’s always good to confirm (or deny) your suspicions when wanting to maximise your crop yield, and besides, with the help of all the family in the soil testing production line, it turned out to be a fun afternoon.
The results? Well we still have to complete some nutrients tests, but to sum them up we have an alkaline soil (ph 7.5) with low nutrients.
Lowering the ph can take a lot of time, and indeed it isn’t always needed, as it depends on what your trying to grow. Most crops can tolerate this ph score, even though potatoes for instance may prefer a slightly lower ph.
So generally the plan is to add some well rotted organic matter throughout, (apart from the brassica bed) and increase our knowledge and use of the composting bins, which despite being a permanent fixture, have been somewhat underused.

testing testing

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Whisky in the jar

The new year weather has really tested our resolution to get out in the garden on these cold wet days, but with a host of Christmas gardening gifts to give us a boost, we have not quite ploughed on regardless, but at least managed to do some cleaning, clearance and cut the autumn fruiting raspberries down to base.
In addition we planted a rather special rose in the garden in the form of ‘Whisky Mac’.
This particular rose is a scented hybrid tea rose, which basically means that it should produce long stems with quality amber/yellow flowers, ideal for cutting and popping inside in a vase or jar.
The variety may not be as vigorous and disease resistant as it used to be, but we really don’t mind because it’s a special reminder of a very special lady who loved this rose and gave garden inspiration to Jane from an early age – her nan!
Here’s a picture of the proud grand daughter and great grand daughter planting memories for years to come!

photo 1 photo 2

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Feeling Chilly

Having resolved to keep working the garden through the winter, my thoughts turned to whether some of our tender plants might also make it through the colder weather.

I had read somewhere that certain chilli plants, with protection, can go on to produce bumper crops in year 2. So without further a do I headed down to our unheated greenhouse, pruned our chilli plants back and tucked them up for the winter with fleece, an old greenhouse cover, a brick surround and some straw. I actually have no idea whether our variety, ‘ring of fire’ ,will make it through, as to be honest, they recommend you bring them inside. But thought it was a good experiment to maintain the winter interest and take the mind off the more mundane gardening chores.

chilli plant


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In previous years,come October we have been increasingly drawn more towards a cuppa in the kitchen rather than the garden. It would be fair to say that whilst we weren’t fair weather gardeners, you could sense the lack of enthusiasm for getting outside for the clearance and maintenance.

This year however there’s a change in the air. Ok, with the dark evenings it isn’t really possible when returning from work in the evening. But at weekends we have continued to invest our energies in the garden, that will bring it’s rewards come spring, and we’ve eve…en had some welcome assistance from a little helper.

One of those jobs has been bulb planting, and not just in the borders but in pots on the patio too. Hopefully come spring we’ll have swathes of daffodils greeting us when we pull back the curtains and burst open the patio doors.

Daffodils, narcissus or yellow trumpets as they are sometimes known tend to be fairly long lived bulbs, so we are hopeful of a fine show for the next few springs.

We’ll see how our efforts are rewarded next spring, but for now, even though it’s a little premature, we’ll give ourselves a little pat on the back for not giving into the weather.

Our little garden helper!

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Johnny Cash

For me winter finally begins when it’s time to clean out the crops from the greenhouse. Ok, so we can continue to grow lettuce, microgreens and pea shoots but i’m talking about the end of tomato and chilli production, to my mind the ‘big shots’ of our unheated greenhouse.
What to do with last of these crops? Well the delights and versatility of using up remaining tomatoes are well known. Whether that’s pasta sauces, making green chutneys or simply by fully ripening on the windowsill.
Chillies deserve their own moment to shine and should be far from forgotten.
Of course you can always pickle them, then use with hot or cold meats and cheeses. But we’ve made a chilli jam, equally good with cold meats or cheese on toast, but also as a spicy sweet addition to gravy or stews.
We’ve also made a string of dried chillies that look good hung up in the kitchen, and can provide all year round chilli use.
Our variety, ‘ring of fire’ really packs a punch (a bit too much if i’m honest), and prompted us to get some more johnny cash on the playlist.

chillies 001 chillies 014 chilli

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Over the last 15 years, since the blogging phenomenon started, many blogs have come and gone. Indeed beanshoots and butterflies, our very own short lived attempt stopped for various reasons in 2010 . However since then, not only has our love of growing vegetables and gardening continued, but we have 2 more children (to add to our first) to enjoy and share the garden with. In order to capture these shared times, and to remember our gardening exploits, we have made new resolutions (a little bit before new year i grant you) to start blogging again. You can of course still see all of our previous posts, but these are soon to be joined by a wheelbarrow full of new posts sprinkled with gardening wisdom.

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