Veg Patch

To read the story of my Veg Patch in chronological order use the links in the Blog Archive

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Blooming Marvellous

The start of this week saw levels of excitement reaching fever pitch here , Well alright maybe not quite that high but I was certainly a bit more excited than usual. There were two reasons for this. The first was that I was due to attend a workshop entitled "grow your own cut flower patch", and the second, I was waiting delivery of a new piece of gardening equipment.

Wednesday morning dawned, quite literally, and I was up and out of bed with a spring in my step. A 50 mile drive on narrow roads awaited and it was pouring with rain, but nothing was going to stop me getting to the workshop. My destination was Common Farm Flowers , in Charlton Musgrave, Somerset. I had first heard about this business, growing and selling British flowers, and its owner, Georgie Newbery, on Twitter. Georgie is one of a growing number of UK flower growers. Their aim is, to decrease the number of miles each bouquet of flowers travels, before it reaches your home, and encourage us to buy british. The variety of flowers available to us is astonishing, but most of us will only ever buy whatever the local supermarket is selling. 

Regular readers will be aware that I had some success using one of my veg beds for flowers this summer. Now I was hoping to try and improve on this summers efforts and plant for year round homegrown flowers. 

I arrived to be greeted with a beautiful  willow heart on the side of the farmhouse. 


The day was as wonderful as I had hoped. We were a diverse group of potential flower growers with varying levels of skill. Georgie was a great teacher, full of enthusiasm for her subject and very knowledgeable. We spent the morning sat around her huge wooden table, learning about soil and seeds and what to plant when. All accompanied by pots of tea and homemade flapjacks. 

Then lunch was announced, so into the kitchen for beetroot and goats cheese tart with salad and a cheeky lunchtime glass of white wine. The conversation with the other ladies and 1 man was wonderful. Graham, the sole gentleman present turned out to be the gardener for a beautiful property in Somerset called North Cadbury Court. Its a very old house, which you can rent for house parties or weddings. They are working hard to replant the gardens and want fresh flowers for the house. 

Anyway after lunch we went for a walk outside, now as this is a business, the flowers are grown to be cut and sold, so I wasn't expecting to see loads of stuff in bloom, and anyway being October, not much flowers now. 

I was wrong, the most glorious beds of Dahlia's I have seen for ages were swaying gently in the breeze. 




I was very jealous of the huge new polytunnel currently under construction.


and next summers flowers were already growing in a coldframe. 


I left that afternoon feeling like I had actually done Ok this summer, but armed with lots more knowledge to make sure next year my bed produces even more. 

Next time you are out shopping and fancy buying a bunch of flowers, think for a moment about how far they have travelled and then go home and plant your own flower patch, its far more rewarding and ultimately a whole lot cheaper. 

There are other workshops at Common Farm so have look at the website which I linked to at the start of this blog ,and get yourself along to one. If its too far for you, there are other British flower growers all over the Uk doing similar things and you can find one near to you on The British Flower Collective website. 

And now the second thing causing excitement. I had seen a fancy new piece of kit on various gardening websites this summer and had been hankering to buy it for myself, so finally I decided I should. What is it I hear you asking your computer screens... well hold onto your hats... I bought myself a new Hoe!

A Hoe.. I can hear you say. Well not any old Hoe. Its the Sneeboer Royal Dutch Hoe. The Rolls Royce of the Hoe world. As I type this I am beginning to realise how sad I am becoming, but I really was excited about this, all the blurb claimed that it would make my life easier to remove and collect weeds from my beds. 

Friday morning arrived and so did the Hoe from Harrod Horticultural a rather nice online garden store.  


It was soon unpacked and outside in the greenhouse for closer inspection. 


The reason it is special is because of the pointy bits on both edges of the blade. It makes it easier to uproot the  weeds with the bottom edge and then pull them back towards you with the top edge. 


It also has a handle on the top to make the pushing and pulling action easier. 


I immediately gave it a try in my flower patch and was very pleased with how easily and quickly it cleared the few weeds that had grown. 


I think my Royal Dutch and I are going to be very happy together. 

I did actually do a bit of work in the garden as well this week, well actually more like in the greenhouse. Yes it those Chillies again. I promise that this is definitely the last time I mention them this year.

I have decided to try and overwinter a couple of plants to get a head start next summer. The last of the Naga were ripe and ready to pick


Once they were picked, I reluctantly cut most of the plant back


and then wrapped it in fleece to protect it. My greenhouse is not heated, so I wanted to give the poor plant the best chance of surviving the winter.


I had also finally grown one of the rude chillies to look exactly as its proper name suggests it should.. No sniggering at the back please. 



Once this one and the 12 or so others on the plant were picked, the rude chilli plant got the same  treatment as the Naga 



I shall give them a small drop of water once a month to keep them alive and then uncover them next spring. 

Finally, the sweet peas I planted in the root trainer a couple of weeks ago are all up. After going to the workshop, I realise that I have rather overdone it again, but I shall give some away and maybe sell some at my charity shop in the spring. They have a few cold months ahead of them, so lets hope they all make it. 


The cucumbers that had re sprouted continue to grow, much to my amazement, so maybe, we shall be having fresh homegrown cucumber for christmas. 


Thats all for this week, hope you have all had a great week and are looking forward to another . 

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Chillies - The Finale


The first day of 2013 saw me planting my large collection of chilli seeds, and over the summer I have kept you up to date with the progress of both the chilli trial plants and the various others I was growing. 

Even if I say so myself, they have been brilliant. Only three of the chilli trial plants made it , all Chiltepin, but they are huge and healthy. 

I have done my best to preserve as many as possible in the last few weeks but I began to realise that growing 12 plants was probably a bit of an overkill. Especially as chatting to an artisan chilli sauce producer, I discovered he used only 2 plants to make his entire years products.

So what on earth was I going to do with them all. Especially the Dorset naga. I had managed to grow three very healthy plants each with about 50 or more ripe chillies, waiting to be picked. If you like a hot chilli, This is the one for you. I love them, but even this one is a little off the scale for me. 

And not forgetting the rude chilli, they have caused me  much entertainment over the summer .

So I stood at the greenhouse door and suddenly it came to me. I use twitter as a way of keeping in touch with other gardeners and getting help with things. I had met a lady online and then subsequently in the flesh, who runs a very successful local company making chutney's and sauces. The Hampshire Chutney Co seemed to be the best place for my chillies to go. 

A few emails and conversations later, I was ready to pick the fruits. 

The Chiltepin were first



Followed by the smaller rude chilli's. For some reason this plant grew long skinny Peters and the other two are fatter, but as yet have not ripened. 



And then the Dorset Naga




This is what I picked 


So it was off to Chutney HQ in the depths of the Hampshire countryside. A short drive and I was with Shelley in her chutney kitchen watching the daily batch of products being made. The smell was wonderful. I think she was pleased with the chillies and  in exchange for them, I came away with three wonderful jars.


We have had the spicy pear before, its delicious with cheese, the other two are new to me so am looking forward to trying them. 

Shelley was planning on making a batch of her rocking roasted red pepper & red chilli sauce and her chillirific chutney. Thats is where my chillies were destined to go. 

So if you want to try some wonderful sauces and chutneys, and get a taste of one of the chillies I have been writing about all summer, go to her website by clicking the logo below, you will not be disappointed. 


With the chillies almost gone, the greenhouse was looking very tatty. There are only a few tomatoes left, so it was time to start clearing. This is always a sad time, as it really means that the Summer is over. 




But as I was clearing, I noticed that my cucumber has started to grow again. 


I shall give it a bit of a chance and see if I get anymore. I had left one on the plant to try and collect some seeds, so I finally cut it. 


and managed to pick out quite a few seeds. 



And finally, it was time to cut the strawberries back, they have been throwing runners all over the place, I have saved some, but now they were just messy. 


I was amazed to find they were also still trying to grow fruits, but with cold weather due this week, they didnt get a reprieve like the cucumber. 



And finally, the oak trees all around my garden are now dropping leaves and acorns everywhere, so it was time to get the blower out. Gibson loves the blower, so he was having a wonderful time, while Jim was trying to clear up. I made a short film so if you want to see it click here 

Have a great week .

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Viva Espana

I have gone a bit continental this week, well I did for 4 days. A flying visit to see my dad in Spain meant that I have spent very little time in the garden. I have though managed to rustle up a few bits and pieces for a post. (I can hear you groaning) . 

Every gardening publication or website I have looked at in the last few weeks was telling me to get on with planting next year sweet peas.  I mentioned in my last post I had ordered the seeds and bought some fancy planting thingies to put them in, so before I headed to the most boring airport in the world (Bournemouth), to join in the scrum for a seat on a Ryan Air flight to the Costa Blanca, I decided I had better get the job done. 

The root trainers looked like clever contraptions. They allow you to grow a nice compact root system that will not be disturbed. The containers open like a book so you can just ease the whole plant out. As the pack says, it also allows you to check the root growth at any time. 



They were a bit fiddly, but were soon all in the rack. 


Then it was simply a matter of filling them, which was also rather fiddly, as most of the compost went straight through and out the bottom!! But eventually I managed to get them full.


and then pop the seeds in. Now I had to be careful as I had loads of different varieties, and regular readers will be aware that I have had issues with mislabelled plants this summer.. 





One of the rows was planted using seeds I collected from this years Beaujolais sweet peas



To ensure I know what is what, each row was numbered and then I made a list in my planting book. I am  going to post a picture here, so if I lose the list or the book before next summer, I have some hope of knowing what I actually planted.. 



I also remembered to record what was in each row of the flower patch , so that in the spring when the labels have been nicked by squirrels or birds, I still stand a chance. 

Well that was the sum of my gardening activities this week. Not really much, so while I was away in Spain,  I took a few pictures of some beautiful flowers that were just growing in random places, mostly abandoned building sites and in cracks in pavements!! 






I think a couple are various Hibiscus and the 2nd pale pink one is an Oleander. 

So yesterday before my return fight for a seat, I had a wonderful lunch with my dad overlooking his local beach. 


This is La Zenia beach and this was my lunch



Russian salad, marinated mussels, Anchovies in garlic oil and small squid fried in spicy batter . YUM

Finally today, I had a wander around the garden and managed to scrounge together enough flowers for my last three vases of home grown blooms of the season. 




Have  great week and a very Happy Birthday to my oldest friend Diane.