Project for 2018 – The Great Tomato Challenge

Project for 2018: The Great Tomato Challenge. Tomato, Tomatoes, Grow Your Own, edible, allotment, allotment blog, allotment life, allotments, home grown, tomato growing, grow your own veg, grow your own vegetables, GYO, harvest, Craig LeHoullier, epic tomatoes,

My hunt for some reliable outdoor tomatoes begins – The Great Tomato Challenge 2018

So why The Great Tomato Challenge? I’ve had a few goes at getting some tomatoes from the plants in my little greenhouse but they’ve been much the embarrassment. The plants seem healthy but fruit-set can be poor, the fruit takes ages to ripen and mostly they’ll succumb to either blight or rot before a harvest can be had.

I’ve decided that 2018 is the year of the tomato. Now I have an allotment, with its availability of good light levels and space, I can indulge myself. I’ve tried growing challenges before (see the disaster that was my Chilli Challenge in 2014) so expectations need to be reasonable.

The goal is to find some varieties that can perform outside in the mild climate of Devon. I’m looking for a cherry tomato, a good salad tomato, and a good tomato for sauces. I’ll be judging them based on plant vigour/health, crop weight, and flavour.

The inspiration

I’ve been listening to the Still Growing Podcast this year and Jennifer (over at 6 Foot Mama) interviewed Craig Le Houllier who has grown hundreds of tomatoes as part of his obsession with heirloom varieties.

His book gave me huge amounts of information and a wish-list that neared on three figures for a while. After my initial excitement was tempered by the reality of the space available, and the desire to grow something other than tomatoes on the allotment, I managed to be more discerning and narrow the list down. Once I found a seed supplier in the UK that stocked a large amount of the list I was sorted.

I looked at Real Seeds as usual but the varieties weren’t part of their (excellent) collection.  Plant World Seeds are based just 10 minutes away from me and listed a large number of the varieties on my list.

The Varieties

  • Brandywine Red
  • Brandywine Yellow
  • Giant Syrian
  • Mortgage Lifter
  • Abraham Lincoln
  • Kellog’s Breakfast
  • Black Krim
  • Orange Banana
  • Coyote
  • Mexico Midget
  • San Marzano
  • Black Cherry

I’ll probably sow these in February to give them the longest growing season possible. I best get some pots cleaned ready for the challenge.

Garden Update 18th November 2017

Garden Update 18th November 2017. Allotment, Garden, Gardening, Harvest, Grow your own, homegrown, homegrown, roots, autumn harvest, plot to plate, wooden board, gdnblog, gdnbloggers, gdnblogger, blog, Chard, garlic, Mulch, autumn, crop rotation, greenhouse, astrantia, cavelo nero, romanesco, cuttings, plug plants, leeks, tulips,

Garden Update 18th November 2017

I have a week of annual leave with which to make some progress in the garden. The seasonal tasks of cleaning the flagstones and packing away the garden furniture need to be done. It’s not all chores though, I’m also making preparation for next years display in my Garden Update 18th November 2017.

Previous Updates

Garden Update 4th November 

Garden Update 9th September

Allotment Update

We’eve had some slightly colder weather here in Devon but it’s done nothing to stop the progress of the plot. Aside from the sweet potatoes, which have blackened and retreated, most of the plot is looking great.

My leeks are starting to get some momentum behind them. When they went in they were spindly grass-like plants. I was supposed to wait until they’re pencil-thickness but I’m impatient. They’re doing fine though.

Garden Update 18th November 2017. Allotment, Garden, Gardening, Harvest, Grow your own, homegrown, homegrown, roots, autumn harvest, plot to plate, wooden board, gdnblog, gdnbloggers, gdnblogger, blog, Chard, garlic, Mulch, autumn, crop rotation, greenhouse, astrantia, cavelo nero, romanesco, cuttings, plug plants, leeks, tulips,
Leeks

My brassica bed is starting to produce crops and there’s plenty to come over winter by the looks of it. The leaves of the Romanesco and Purple Sprouting Broccoli are looking extremely healthy. I’m sure they benefited from being netted when young.

Garden Update 18th November 2017. Allotment, Garden, Gardening, Harvest, Grow your own, homegrown, homegrown, roots, autumn harvest, plot to plate, wooden board, gdnblog, gdnbloggers, gdnblogger, blog, Chard, garlic, Mulch, autumn, crop rotation, greenhouse, astrantia, cavelo nero, romanesco, cuttings, plug plants, leeks, tulips,

We’ve been harvesting the Cavelo Nero for weeks and a full handful will do one or two meals (as a side) for the two of us. The plants don’t even look like they’ve been touched after taking just the lower leaves. In the end, I’m expecting to have bare stems as the plant continues to grow up.

Garden Update 18th November 2017. Allotment, Garden, Gardening, Harvest, Grow your own, homegrown, homegrown, roots, autumn harvest, plot to plate, wooden board, gdnblog, gdnbloggers, gdnblogger, blog, Chard, garlic, Mulch, autumn, crop rotation, greenhouse, astrantia, cavelo nero, romanesco, cuttings, plug plants, leeks, tulips,
Cavelo Nero

The colourful chards are growing well at the front of the allotment and the Pak Choi are looking healthy in the bed that had the legumes this summer.

Garden Update 18th November 2017. Allotment, Garden, Gardening, Harvest, Grow your own, homegrown, homegrown, roots, autumn harvest, plot to plate, wooden board, gdnblog, gdnbloggers, gdnblogger, blog, Chard, garlic, Mulch, autumn, crop rotation, greenhouse, astrantia, cavelo nero, romanesco, cuttings, plug plants, leeks, tulips,
Pak Choi Vibrant Pink

Greenhouse Update

The greenhouse is taking to its new role as a store for plants over winter. At the beginning of the year, it’s full to capacity with seeds and seedlings. Later on, it becomes home to yet more seeds, seedlings and cuttings. At this time of year, it has tender garden refugees huddling and sheltering together. The chilli plants are getting the benefit of the doubt and coming inside to see if they’ll perform better next year.

Garden Update 18th November 2017. Allotment, Garden, Gardening, Harvest, Grow your own, homegrown, homegrown, roots, autumn harvest, plot to plate, wooden board, gdnblog, gdnbloggers, gdnblogger, blog, Chard, garlic, Mulch, autumn, crop rotation, greenhouse, astrantia, cavelo nero, romanesco, cuttings, plug plants, leeks, tulips,
Buddleja globosa cuttings

I’ve taken Buddleja globosa cuttings which I rooted in water. These are to be given to my cousin who’s creating a new border in their garden.

I’ve taken delivery of some plug plants from J Parkers. Some Verbascum I ordered myself and some bare root Astrantia plants which were a gift.

The Verbascum are a set of three types of Verbascum phoenicum. I have Rosetta, Violetta and Flush of White. Even though I love Verbascum I have a rubbish track record. However, I’ve decided to give them another go.

My lovely gardening aunt bought us some Astrantia major ‘Florence’ to celebrate the birth of our daughter this year. These will eventually go into some pots that are pride of place in the garden and also contain some honeysuckle plants (also gifts).

 

Garden Update 18th November 2017. Allotment, Garden, Gardening, Harvest, Grow your own, homegrown, homegrown, roots, autumn harvest, plot to plate, wooden board, gdnblog, gdnbloggers, gdnblogger, blog, Chard, garlic, Mulch, autumn, crop rotation, greenhouse, astrantia, cavelo nero, romanesco, cuttings, plug plants, leeks, tulips,
Astrantia major ‘Florence’ bare root plants

Garden Update

The action in the garden has been a little dull this week. I’ve pressure-washed all the flagstones to remove 2 years of accumulated algae. They’re now safe to walk on when it’s wet which is a relief. The garden furniture and barbeque have been stored away for winter.

It’s not all chores though. I’ve planted Tulip Dolls Minuet in the front garden troughs and there’s more to go in this week.

Garden Update 18th November 2017. Allotment, Garden, Gardening, Harvest, Grow your own, homegrown, homegrown, roots, autumn harvest, plot to plate, wooden board, gdnblog, gdnbloggers, gdnblogger, blog, Chard, garlic, Mulch, autumn, crop rotation, greenhouse, astrantia, cavelo nero, romanesco, cuttings, plug plants, leeks, tulips,
Tulip bulbs. Jan Reus and Dolls Minuet

Harvest Roundup 2017 – my courgette and climbing bean totals

Quantifying the haul from my yellow courgette and climbing bean harvest for 2017. It’s my first harvest roundup!

You may have seen on my Instagram and Twitter feeds and previous posts that I have been keeping a tally of the amount of harvest collected from some of the crops on my allotment this year. I’ve been nerdily weighing everything that makes it home. This year, for my harvest roundup,  I concentrated on the yellow courgette and my two varieties of climbing bean; Cosse Violette and Trail of Tears.

This was for three main reasons;

  1. I’m a big geek
  2. To see if there was any difference in yields between varieties
  3. To see if I could justify the costs of keeping the allotment

Previously on the allotment

Garden Update 22nd July: Courgettes, cuttings and a Leaf-cutter Bee

No Dig Newbie

Allotment layout ideas

Harvest roundup: Yellow courgette

These plants were sourced from one of my favourite local nurseries, Hill House Nursery in Landscove, Devon. I got my allotment in April/May this year and so it felt like a late start to the season so I cheated with some purchased plants. I’ve lost/forgotten the name so I’ve been calling them ‘yellow courgette’ all year. I also bought a green variety but it’s been pants so hasn’t been worth tallying.

Harvest roundup - my courgette and climbing bean totals for 2017. Harvest, allotment, courgette, yellow courgette, yearly harvest, grow your own, edible, edibles, allotmentblog, allotment blog, home grown, summer squash, climbing bean, bean, beans, cosse violette, climbing bean cosse violette, trail of tears, climbing bean trail of tears, gardening, garden blog, gdnblog, devon, green gym, harvesting,
Yellow courgette

My total harvest haul comes to 1194g!

That’s near on 1.2kg from 2 plants. Not bad considering it was a dry start to the year.

I quick look at our nearest supermarket has standard green courgettes at £1.90/kg with the organic version (which I could claim) at £6.67/kg. So being generous I have saved £8. Since you can’t buy the superior yellow courgettes in supermarkets they are priceless.

Harvest roundup - my courgette and climbing bean totals for 2017. Harvest, allotment, courgette, yellow courgette, yearly harvest, grow your own, edible, edibles, allotmentblog, allotment blog, home grown, summer squash, climbing bean, bean, beans, cosse violette, climbing bean cosse violette, trail of tears, climbing bean trail of tears, gardening, garden blog, gdnblog, devon, green gym, harvesting,
One of only 2 yellow courgette plants

Harvest roundup: Climbing beans

I chose two varieties to grow from seed this year. Cosse Violette I’ve grown before and I know they’re straightforward but beautiful on the allotment. I also went to Trail of Tears after hearing about it for years and I was interested to see what all the fuss was about.

Cosse Violette harvest: 2296g

Trail of Tears harvest: 2763g

The standard green beans in the supermarket are £4.50/kg with the organic option £6.67 (are they choosing the same price for all organic veg?). So at around 5kg of produce, I’ve saved  £33.75.

 

What’s been a success on your allotment/ plot this year?

Garden Update 4th November 2017

Garden Update 4th November. Allotment, Garden, Gardening, Harvest, Grow your own, homegrown, homegrown, carrots, beetroot, chioggia, bolatardy, touchon, roots, autumn harvest, plot to plate, wooden board, gdnblog, gdnbloggers, gdnblogger, blog, Chard, garlic, Mulch, autumn, crop rotation

Garden Update 4th November 2017

I’ve been a bit quiet on the blog and social media for most of October due to competing demands on my time. We’ve have some visitors, a mini-break, and all the usual work and childcare necessities. That’s not to say things have been quiet on the garden and allotment front.

It’s a time of renewal on my allotment. There’s always talk this time of year about putting the garden or allotment to bed for winter. What nonsense. It’s a time for clearing last seasons spent crops and getting the next load in. I may even have all my plot planted for the first time since we broke ground in April. I’ve also nominated myself to the my allotment committee.

Previous Updates

Garden Update 9th September

Garden Update 2nd September

Allotment Update

The autumn and winter greens are the main crops nearing harvest. I’ve been starting to harvest my Cavelo de Nero leaf by leaf and these are great. The herb bed is still productive and I’ve taken bunches of Rosemary and Bay to dry for use over winter. The New Zealand Spinach has taken over the understory of my herb bed so I’ve made batches of wilted leaves and have them in the freezer for when they’re needed.

The Chard plugs that I planted outside in September have really started shooting up and the stems look amazing when we get some sunlight. The Pink Passion is more of a blood-red but I don’t mind that at all. The Golden Chard is currently 10cm tall so plenty of growth still to come.

Garden Update 4th November. Allotment, Garden, Gardening, Harvest, Grow your own, homegrown, homegrown, carrots, beetroot, chioggia, bolatardy, touchon, roots, autumn harvest, plot to plate, wooden board, gdnblog, gdnbloggers, gdnblogger, blog, Chard, garlic, Mulch, autumn, crop rotation
Elephant Garlic Bulbs

I had my order of garlic from Marshalls Seeds arrive this week. Unfortunately 2 out of 12 Elephant Garlic bulbs were starting to rot off. I’ve put them in anyway and we’ll see how they do. The Carcassonne Wight and Provence garlic bulbs were in good condition. Out of 2 bulbs each I got 20 cloves from the Provence and 29 from the Carcassonne Wight.

Garden Update 4th November. Allotment, Garden, Gardening, Harvest, Grow your own, homegrown, homegrown, carrots, beetroot, chioggia, bolatardy, touchon, roots, autumn harvest, plot to plate, wooden board, gdnblog, gdnbloggers, gdnblogger, blog, Chard, garlic, Mulch, autumn, crop rotation
Turf stacks at the back of the plot have been covered

On a practical front, I’ve been meaning to get some tarpaulin to cover over the turf stacks left over from clearing the site right at the beginning. We had some logs delivered for the house so I bought some cheap ones to get ready for their delivery. Now they’re all stacked in the dry store I can use these at the allotment. This should keep the weeds down and I’m hoping come spring I’ll have some nice topsoil for the beds.

The courgettes were looking miserable, as were the squash plants, after a few wet / cold spells of weather. The climbing beans have done really well but they’ve been left for seed and now cleared away. My early sweetcorn didn’t produce and the later sweetcorn was also badly pollinated. The beds have been cleared, weeded and prepared for the next crop. In place of the courgettes are the Elephant Garlic, and in place of the 3 sisters I have Broad Beans and Peas.

Garden Update 9th September 2017

Garden Update 9th September. Allotment, Garden, Gardening, Harvest, Grow your own, homegrown, homegrown, carrots, beetroot, chioggia, bolatardy, touchon, roots, autumn harvest, plot to plate, wooden board, gdnblog, gdnbloggers, gdnblogger, blog,

Garden Update 9th September 2017

The warm and wet weather in Devon this week has been great for the weeds. I’ve done two tidy-ups at the allotment and managed to fill my large bendy bucket three times. It’s also the end of my tomato adventure for the year.

Previous Updates

Garden Update 2nd September

Garden Update 19th August

Allotment Update

 

We were giving some new chairs from a family member and they’re perfect for the allotment. The weather wasn’t that great so we haven’t christened them yet.

Garden Update 9th September. Allotment, Garden, Gardening, Harvest, Grow your own, homegrown, homegrown, carrots, beetroot, chioggia, bolatardy, touchon, roots, autumn harvest, plot to plate, wooden board, gdnblog, gdnbloggers, gdnblogger, blog,
New seating at the allotment
Garden Update 9th September. Allotment, Garden, Gardening, Harvest, Grow your own, homegrown, homegrown, carrots, beetroot, chioggia, bolatardy, touchon, roots, autumn harvest, plot to plate, wooden board, gdnblog, gdnbloggers, gdnblogger, blog,
The squash plants have been tidied back on the borders to clear the paths

The squashes are really enjoying the damp and warm conditions and had spread over the paths. I wasn’t too bothered initially but they’ve got the point that it was hard to reach into the beds for harvesting. They also were concealing a lot of weed growth on the paths.

Garden Update 9th September. Allotment, Garden, Gardening, Harvest, Grow your own, homegrown, homegrown, carrots, beetroot, chioggia, bolatardy, touchon, roots, autumn harvest, plot to plate, wooden board, gdnblog, gdnbloggers, gdnblogger, blog,
Pak choi settling in

The module Pak Choi seedlings are doing much better than the directly-sown batch which has been munched to stumps. I think I’ll do more of this transplanting even thought it’s more work overall.

 

Garden Update 9th September. Allotment, Garden, Gardening, Harvest, Grow your own, homegrown, homegrown, carrots, beetroot, chioggia, bolatardy, touchon, roots, autumn harvest, plot to plate, wooden board, gdnblog, gdnbloggers, gdnblogger, blog,
Chard seedlings planted out

I’ve also installed the Chard seedlings in one of the new beds around the perimeter of the allotment. I’m hoping they’ll give me some fresh greens to each over autumn and into winter.

Greenhouse Update

Garden Update 9th September. Allotment, Garden, Gardening, Harvest, Grow your own, homegrown, homegrown, carrots, beetroot, chioggia, bolatardy, touchon, roots, autumn harvest, plot to plate, wooden board, gdnblog, gdnbloggers, gdnblogger, blog,
Stachy byzantina seedlings

The Stachys byzantina seeds that I collected have germinated extremely well and very quickly from sowing. They’ve been pricked out and set into their own little module home.

Garden Update 9th September. Allotment, Garden, Gardening, Harvest, Grow your own, homegrown, homegrown, carrots, beetroot, chioggia, bolatardy, touchon, roots, autumn harvest, plot to plate, wooden board, gdnblog, gdnbloggers, gdnblogger, blog,
Geranium phaeum alba seedling

Another sowing that I made from home-collected seed was the Geranium phaem alba. I am the proud owner of one seedling!

The tomato story this year hasn’t been very successful. Blight has struck and the fruits that were threatening to ripen were being munched by slugs before they were harvestable. I’ve taken off all the tomatoes that were salvagable and cleared away the affected plants. The foliage is now in the council green waste bin. I think I’ll use the fresh border for either bringing on perennials over winter or some winter salads.

Garden Update 9th September. Allotment, Garden, Gardening, Harvest, Grow your own, homegrown, homegrown, carrots, beetroot, chioggia, bolatardy, touchon, roots, autumn harvest, plot to plate, wooden board, gdnblog, gdnbloggers, gdnblogger, blog,
Tomato harvest 2017

There’s nothing like an Instagram filter to make even a poor harvest look great.

Garden Update

Garden Update 9th September. Allotment, Garden, Gardening, Harvest, Grow your own, homegrown, homegrown, carrots, beetroot, chioggia, bolatardy, touchon, roots, autumn harvest, plot to plate, wooden board, gdnblog, gdnbloggers, gdnblogger, blog,
Overhead shot of The Far Garden

It’s been a while since I’ve shown what’s happening in the Far Garden. You can see the new boundary shed has a great grey colour that matches the furniture. The chillies are slow in the rectangular planters but I might get a harvest. My new Musa and Echinacea plants are looking awesome.

 

Garden Update 2nd September 2017

Garden Update 2nd September. Allotment, Garden, Gardening, Harvest, Grow your own, homegrown, homegrown, carrots, beetroot, chioggia, bolatardy, touchon, roots, autumn harvest, plot to plate, wooden board, gdnblog, gdnbloggers, gdnblogger, blog,

Garden Update 2nd September 2017

Yesterday was the first day that I had time to get to the allotment for anything other than harvesting for some time. We had people visiting for the bank holiday weekend so nothing much was achieved in the garden.

Previous Updates

Garden Update 19th August

Garden Update 12th August

Allotment Update

Yesterday I spent over an hour at the plot and managed to fill two large bendy buckets with weed growth that’s now been put on the unofficial compost pile. We’re mainly plagued by dandelions and docks persisting as deep tap roots. They’re capable of regrowing after hoeing and have enjoyed the extra rain recently.

I don’t like to leave huge gaps in the beds for two reasons. Firstly, there isn’t much growing area as it is and dedicating space for hoeing seems silly when, secondly, weeds will colonise bare ground as well as between plants which you have to hand weed anyway. I use the hoe on any unused ground that’s waiting for the next crop or where there is space between plants in order to give them room to grow.

Garden Update 2nd September. Allotment, Garden, Gardening, Harvest, Grow your own, homegrown, homegrown, carrots, beetroot, chioggia, bolatardy, touchon, roots, autumn harvest, plot to plate, wooden board, gdnblog, gdnbloggers, gdnblogger, blog,
Lots of Thelma Sanders Sweet Potato winter squash

The Thelma Sanders Sweet Potato winter squashes have been very prolific in number but I’m struggling to find a good kitchen use for them. Growing something to then have to hide it in food just to use it up seems silly. Roasted pumpkins should be used for roasts, soups and risottos but the bland flavour and silky texture of these leave me a bit disappointed. If I can’t find a use for them that I will look forward to next year then I’m afraid they’re off the plot.

Garden Update 2nd September. Allotment, Garden, Gardening, Harvest, Grow your own, homegrown, homegrown, carrots, beetroot, chioggia, bolatardy, touchon, roots, autumn harvest, plot to plate, wooden board, gdnblog, gdnbloggers, gdnblogger, blog,
The root harvest begins

I’m glad to be getting a better carrot and beetroot crop at the allotment. This batch suffered in the early dry spell we had so germination and subsequent growth was slow and poor. I was then too eager to try them so picked some small offerings last month. This lot are more substantial but there’s better to be had. The carrots went into a beef curry and I am plotting what to do with the beetroot. We’re having a picnic tomorrow if the weather holds and I’ve been hoping to make a roasted beetroot, walnut, goats cheese and rocket salad since sowing the seeds earlier this year

We had a bumper picking from the three crops from the allotment I’m monitoring this year on Friday;

  • Yellow Courgette – 370g
  • Climbing Bean ‘Cosse Violette’ – 700g
  • Climbing Bean ‘Trail of Tears’ – 770g

I’ve cleared out most of the pea bed as they’re coming to the end of their productivity and the powdering mildew is making them unsightly. The Peas, mange-tout and broad beans are out. In their place, I’ve planted the Pak Choi seedlings which I started in modules last month. The other side of the bed will have winter lettuce.

Greenhouse Update

The tomatoes continue to be a complete let-down this year. I think I have blight. Initially, I thought it was some cold scorching on the leaves that poke out of the windowless opening in the greenhouse but it’s since spread. I’ve taken some evasive measures to cut away the affected fruits and leaves but it’s fingers crossed for the remainders.

Garden Update 2nd September. Allotment, Garden, Gardening, Harvest, Grow your own, homegrown, homegrown, carrots, beetroot, chioggia, bolatardy, touchon, roots, autumn harvest, plot to plate, wooden board, gdnblog, gdnbloggers, gdnblogger, blog,
Chard ‘Pink Passion’ Seedling

The seedlings of the Chard and winter lettuce are growing well and are soon to be transplanted to the allotment.

For the ornamental side, the Stipa and Stachys seedlings are coming along well. I’m hopeful that my Penstemon cuttings have taken.

Garden Update

The new grey backdrop to the Right Border of the Far Garden is settling in well. I’ve bought some Echinacea Magnus Superb and Musa from Hill House Nursery down the road. I was inspired by my recent visit to Wisley where I had a good look around their Echinacea trials.

This part of the garden has always meant to be an exciting, bright, exotic garden but we’ve never achieved that. The Echiums did well but completely dominated the space so I’m hoping to introduce more exciting plants over winter that will mix well.

Garden Update 19th August 2017: The harvest floodgates open

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Garden Update 19th August 2017

I have been triumphantly carrying back the harvest from the allotment this week. I’ve had two good picking sessions. We’ve been munching through two types of climbing beans, two types of mange tout, peas, broad beans, asparagus pea and courgettes.

 

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My first large harvest from the allotment this year

Previous Updates

Garden Update 12th August

Garden Update 5th August

Allotment Update

The amount of veg harvested from the allotment is really exciting. I’m keeping a tally of what I harvest on some of the crops. I haven’t grown the Climbing green bean ‘Trail of Tears’ before so I’m comparing it to ‘Cosse Violette’ which I have grown in the past.

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Mollie dog is getting the hang of allotment etiquette – the pumpkins aren’t

The totals this week from 2 pickings;

  • Yellow Courgette – 388g+110g = 498g
  • Climbing Bean ‘Cosse Violette’ – 200g + 212g = 412g
  • Climbing Bean ‘Trail of Tears’ – 300g + 280g = 580g

Not only is Trail of Tears a very tasty variety but the amount of harvest is even beating Cosse Violette. I like this variety and think I’ll save some seeds to keep growing it. I’ll still keep Cosse Violette going as it’s such a beautiful plant and still tasty. I’m really impressed with the yellow courgette. I think I’ll not bother growing a green one next year as they tend to be more watery and not as useful in the kitchen. I’m going to try a patty pan type one instead.

It’s not all about the veg. The cut flower patch is getting colourful with some Dahlia, Anemone, Ranunculus and Gladioli.

Greenhouse Update

I’ve given the greenhouse a little spruce to tidy up the various tools and instruments. Instead of taking up valuable work surface space, they are now hanging handsomely on the wall.

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Secateurs, trowels and watering cans are now hanging up all tidy

The battle to ripen these tomatoes continues but the modules of winter leaves are coming along well.

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These tomatoes are refusing to ripen
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Cut and come again mixed salad leaves
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The winter leaves after a heavy dowsing – they did look much better before.

 

Garden Update

The neighbours have finished the shed at the back of the garden so we have a secure boundary again. Now comes the challenge of incorporating the change into the look of the garden. I still haven’t decided on whether I am installing a new boundary wall / screen etc.

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The right border now has a new backdrop
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The left border is getting colourful

The Buddleja, Phlox, Japanese Anemone and Nasturtiums are flowering their socks off. The right side of the picture shows the impact shade can have on flowering plants. The overhanging hedge is casting a lot of shade.

 

Cheap and cheerful – how to create more basil plants using water cuttings 

Cheap and cheerful - how to create more basil plants using water cuttings

A simple way to take basil cuttings to make new plants for free

I have a terrible record when it comes to growing basil from seeds so I was really intrigued to hear about taking cuttings from plants to create more. I can’t believe it’s never occurred to me before to take basil cuttings. Usually, I cheat by buying a plant in a supermarket, with multiple elongated seedlings crammed together, and try to divide and plant these out. This has given me a small amount of success if I can harvest the leaves before the slugs get them.

I was listening to a recent podcast episode of Still Growing and was inspired to try basil cuttings myself.

How to take basil cuttings

The vigorous growth on basil is perfect for softwood cuttings. I took lengths of stem around 2-3 inches long and removed the lower leaves. Cutting under a node (where the leaves were emerging from the stem) encourages roots to develop at a point where the hormones are concentrated. The very softest growth at the top of the cutting was pinched out.

The leaves and tips that I stripped off were used in a pasta dish so no wastage.

Cheap and cheerful - how to create more basil plants using water cuttings
Basil cuttings in water

Since basil is related closely to mint it should root as easily as mint. At the same time as I took the basil cuttings I also took Peppermint and Sweet Potato. These were placed into small glasses somewhere sheltered, out of direct sunlight. The downstairs toilet windowsill is perfect. An unexpected bonus is the aromatic wafts you get from the basil and peppermint.

Cheap and cheerful - how to create more basil plants using water cuttings
Basil, Sweet Potato and Peppermint cuttings

Waiting for roots on my basil cuttings

The Sweet Potato and Peppermint definitely won the root race and had grown some adventitious roots within 4 days. I had to wait a long 10 days to see some action on the basil.

Cheap and cheerful - how to create more basil plants using water cuttings
Roots showing after 10 days

Potting on basil cuttings

Once there was a good amount of root on each basil cutting, and when I had time to do it, I potted them on into loose multipurpose compost to establish.

Cheap and cheerful - how to create more basil plants using water cuttings
Good amount of root ready for potting up

This was a really easy bit of propagation and was quite successful. A couple of minutes work to prepare the cuttings was all it took to get the process going. One cutting had to be discarded due to rot (It needed to be removed from the water) and I replaced the water twice over the 10 days. That’s it! I’m hoping they’ll establish well so I can pot them on again before starting to harvest.

No Dig Newbie – Starting a no dig bed from scratch

No Dig Newbie - Starting a no dig bed from scratc

Taking a bare patch of spare earth and turning it into a productive allotment bed using the no dig method

I’m still constructing the bones of my allotment beds and it’s getting to the stage where I think I’ve got too much border to reasonably plant up this year. There’s a lot of the plot that I want to fill with fruit trees and bushes but that’s going to be at the end of the year. The joy of digging and removing hundreds of dandelion tap roots has worn a little thin. So as an experiment and to be a little lazy I’ve decided to see how a no dig border turns out.

The background to the no dig method

Charles Dowding is the most famous champion of the no dig method. He has gardened organically since the eighties, way before the science was there to back it up and certainly before it became fashionable, and continues to inspire generations. For example, my mum was a huge fan of his when I was born and now I’m just starting to find out about him and his approach.

Essentially the idea is that the ritual turning and digging of soil destroys the natural structure, loses moisture, and exposes more and more dormant seeds to the light to germinate. By layering large quantities of organic matter you get the worms doing the digging for you and without destroying the structure of the soil. Ongoing maintenance involves repeated mulching to trap moisture in and reduce weed growth.

Books by Charles Dowding

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I’m still alittle dubious on leaving perennial weeds in situ as I’m convinced that they’ll fit their way through the layers.  Here’s how I did it;

No Dig Method – Stage 1 – starting with bare earth

No Dig Newbie - Starting a no dig bed from scratch
Bare dry earth

This is what was left after the turf was lifted right at the beginning of the allotment project. There’s been enough time for the perennial weeds to break out again (mainly dandelions). However, we’ve not had enough rain toget the annual weeds joining in.

No Dig Method – Stage 2 – Using what you have

No Dig Newbie - Starting a no dig bed from scratch
Leftover turf

I have oodles of leftover turf from stripping the whole allotment. I thought it would add a better depth of loam and it’s another way of getting rid. So in it went.

No Dig Method – Stage 3 – Addition of manure

No Dig Newbie - Starting a no dig bed from scratch
Manure layer

Courtesy of my lovely cousin and her muck producing horse! I added a layer of well-rooted manure over the turf for improved worm activity and to increase the organic matter.

No Dig Method – Stage 4 – Covering up

No Dig Newbie - Starting a no dig bed from scratch
Landscape fabric

The landscape fabric that’s on the paths is really better suited to covering a border than being a surface to walk on. I wanted to use it to keep the weeds down. It’ll also keep the soil underneath really warm. The makeshift weights are leftover wood and stones dug up from the plot.

No Dig Method -Stage 5 – Planting Up

No Dig Newbie - Starting a no dig bed from scratch
Squashes planted through

I didn’t want to waste the space and I had more young squash plants looking forlorn in their pots. The solution was to make use of the space and plant through the fabric. I’ve installed watering bottles to avoid the area drying out. The squashes can spread over the whole area.  I’ve planted Squash ‘Little Blue Hubbard’ and ‘Thelma Sanders Sweet Potato’.

Getting started with the No Dig Method

That’s me getting started with this whole no dig thing. Like I said, I’m a little sceptical about its ability to keep perennial weeds down so watch this space.

If you’re keen to learn more from someone who knows what he’s doing then take a look at Charles Dowding’s website www.charlesdowding.co.uk.

Chilli Challenge 2014: part 1

chilli challenge

Introduction to the Chilli Challenge

A while ago Southbourne Gardens started a topic on their own Chilli Challenge with an impressive selection of varieties being trialled this year. I’m going to attempt, on a smaller scale, to join in.

The contestants

I’ve restricted myself to just 1 hot chilli variety as space is limited and apparently they crop so profusely there’s a danger of drowning in the glut. Of course I’ve never had any success with chillies so can only dream of this level of success but perhaps 2014 is my year. I sourced them from the wonderful Real Seeds as they’re open pollinated and, I hope, more able to produce a crop in less than ideal conditions. I’ll also be able to save my own seeds for the 2015 chilli challenge. I have previously posted about Real Seeds here.

Also chosen is ‘Lemon Drop’ as I was intrigued by the description that there is a slight lemon tang to the flavour which is ideal as we love fajitas.

To finish the group I also got 2 types of sweet pepper.

Progress

Interestingly the chilli seedlings are slightly yellow on emerging. I don’t know if is because their fruits will be yellow or whether they just need some more light so they’re now out of the propagator and in a south facing window.

How is everyone else getting on?

Chilli seeds emerging
Chilli seeds emerging

UPDATE: See the full story 

Where we started: Chilli Challenge 2014: Part 1

Seeking some help: Chilli Challenge: Part 2 Reinforcements

Success: Chilli Challenge: Part 3 Flowers!

More posts about seeds:

Springing Up

Beans

Chinese Lanterns

RHS Seeds 2014

Totnes Seed Swap 2014