Category Archives: lettuce

may flies…

May has ended.  It was a month of lots of lovely summery weather and enough rain so as not to feel the pressure of watering the vegetable patches.   From now on we will have plenty of produce gluts from the garden.

We have been picking salads and herbs from the polytunnel since the end of April. I’ll add peppery nastursium leaves and turnip thinnings to tonight’s salad bowl.

Along with succession sowing and planting out, I have been pinching out the side shoots on the cordon tomatoes and removing the lower leaves up to the first truss.

In the heat of the polytunnel, scent volatiles fill the air.  I only discovered this year what a lovely perfume broad bean flowers have.  Having moved the plantings to the far end of the tunnel I was concerned that the bees wouldn’t find the plants.  I shouldn’t have worried.  The pollinators have been hard at work alongside me.  I’m always amazed to see the formation of the pods on the broadbeans.  These tiny beans along with the season first garden peas will be added to a spring risotto – tonight’s supper.

Working in the tunnel is a delight.  I often run my hands through the herbs for a free aromatherapy session – variations on dill, rosemary, thyme and sage. The sweet basil is starting to come through and I have been pinching out the tops of the pot sown Basil ‘Aristotle’ to garnish the risotto.

I have been thinning the peaches and apricots and the gooseberries are fattening.  We already need to think about preserving the abundance – kept in oil, artichoke hearts make a lovely antipasti…

and I shall gather some heads of the elderflower to make a cordial.

Summer is here.

 

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at the back of the north wind…

Oh my, the air temperature has dropped dramatically since the beginning of the week though, hopefully, we have seen the last of the ground frosts.   Of course, being aware of the oncoming weather is to be forewarned.  I have brought all plants in pots undercover and have been draping the tender new plantings with fleece….

which is somewhat ancient and because it has been stored in the piggery over the last year, rather tattered courtesy of the mice.   It reminds me of Miss Havisham’s wedding dress.  Still it does a good job of protecting the plants on chilly nights.

Last week, the lovely OH cut the orchard and the grass of the vegetable plot, leaving the areas where we have spring bulbs. Everything is looking spruce, which reminds of the sage advice on making a garden look good if you have limited time i.e. ‘cut the grass and edge’.

The plums, damsons and gages have finished blossoming so hopefully had good pollination.  The apples are coming into bloom now; I hope the cold weather won’t affect the pollination too much.

Whilst the cold weather has set back germination a little, I have, amongst others, recent sowings of peas, lettuce ‘Little Gem’ and Basil ‘Aristotle’ coming through at the moment.  The latter makes lovely green mounds and is an excellent choice for pots.  No sign of Basil ‘Genovese’ yet; I have bought another packet of seed just in case the lack of sprouting is due to old age.

More tulips are in bloom…

and the artichokes are producing flower heads.  I’ll pick some of these to steam and serve with a mustard vinagrette for a light lunch tomorrow…

Bon appetit!

 

 

false news?…

Earlier this month it was announced in various news streams that some of our larger supermarkets were introducing ‘lettuce rationing‘, to the effect that a shopper couldn’t buy more than 3, yes THREE, icebergs lettuce on a given shopping trip (Tesco) or 2 ‘any lettuce’, (Morrisons).  This was then followed up by the Telegraph reporting that sales of lettuce seeds has soared on the back of ‘lettuce rationing’.

Oh, I believe that there is a restriction on the vegetables coming in from Spain.  Even so, who wants to buy 3 iceberg lettuce per shopping trip? Why would someone buy one when they aren’t even very nice lettuce – even in summer, let alone winter?

As for the rush to buy lettuce seed?  I work in the industry I’ve found that the GYO public isn’t rushing out to purchase lettuce seed at the moment, they are buying their seed potatoes and broad bean seeds like they always do at this time of year.

On the other hand, I did sow lettuce in January in the polytunnel; the variety ‘All the year round’ I recall.  Well, the sowing has rewarded me by producing just one seedling and I’m not even sure it’s a lettuce – it might as easily be a rogue from an adjacent seed tray.  I rather feel that this uncooperative, non germinating seed is reproaching me as if to say – ‘I don’t see you standing around in the nuddy in 0 to 2 degrees so why should we’.

Fair point.

I’ll go back to chitting the potatoes then….

dsc_0047 Reading this week: A Natural History of the Hedgerow by John Wright

 

she sows seeds….2017

Goodbye 2016… hello 2017.

It’s good to be back in the swing of sowing.  One of the best things about growing vegetables is that the majority are, to all intents, annuals, which means the current year is always, potentially, the best growing year yet!

Having the polytunnel means I can start on sowing peas, broad beans, (Sutton and crimson flowered)…

dsc_0001leeks, cauliflower (All The Year Round), lettuce, (also named All The Year Round), and red onion, (Brunswick).   So, half tray of each except the peas which I’ll plant up in guttering.

dsc_0002A little late, but I’ve sown sweet peas in root trainers.  Ideally, these would have been sorted around mid-December but I’m hopeful that I’ll still get good strong plants.

The trays have gone into the polytunnel, joining the onions and shallots which were planted in modules last autumn.

dsc_0003The beans and sweet peas are currently in the utility room until germination as they are mouse candy.  I need to dust off one of the propagators and sow the chillies and then get the decks cleared for the tomatoes and aubergines.   Coming on the horizon are the local potato days so in preparation I’ve, (more or less), finalised the long list to:

  • First earlies: Belle de Fontenay (for salad and boiling); Red Duke of York (for mash and roast);
  • Second earlies: Anya; International Kidney; Charlotte for salad; Nicola for boiling; Kestrel a good all rounder
  • Main crop: Ratte, Pink Fir for salad; Maris Piper and Arran Victory for mash and roast.

We’ve grown most of these varieties before, indeed some appear on our list every year, flavour is everything!  This year we’ll ring the changes and try one or more of Nicola, Kestrel, Maris Piper and Arran Victory.

Work on the ornamental garden bounds forward. The lovely OH is hard at work constructing a metal arbour from rebar…

dsc_0009Once this has been set along the paths and the angle iron/wire fencing has been cemented in then the box hedges will be planted.  We’re heading for a cold snap later this week so I’ll look at finishing the pruning the gooseberries and orchard fruit the other side of the weather front.  If the ground dries out a bit I can also set in the hornbeam whips.  Plenty to do.

No sign of snowdrops yet but my Helleborus niger is a lovely substitute.

dsc_0006Reading this week: Hops and Glory by Pete Brown

 

 

sugar baby love…

The lovely OH has set the strings for the melons and cucumbers in the polytunnel.  As we are pushed for space we grow the cucurbits in pots and train the vines up canes attached to the cross bars.

DSC_0016This year, alongside the honeydew and cantaloupe melon varieties, I’m trying out a dwarf watermelon, a ‘Sugar Baby’ type.

DSC_0017The fruits are small, around 8inches in diameter, handy for a single serving.  Even better, Sugar Baby are, reputedly, one of the sweetest watermelons.

I’ve cleared away the early peas and have thinned out the leaves on the cordon tomatoes to ensure good ventilation around the vine.  Along with not getting water on the plant, I think leaf thinning helps to keep blight at bay.

DSC_0018The lettuces, Little Gem, are plumping up, the chillies are setting fruit; Loco is looking a treat ….

DSC_0022DSC_0023and the lovely OH has finished topdressing an old shed brick base, next to the house, with gravel. This side gets the late afternoon sunshine – a perfect place to have a glass of chilled rose and watch the sun go down.

DSC_0026

all dressed up with nowhere to go….

 Look at all the hard work the lovely OH has done.  The main veg. plot is fully dug; strawberries weeded; brassica tunnel up; climbing bean structure up; strimming done.  All ready to go…..

Shame about the weather.

DSC_0384The temperature is swinging from 10 celsius down to 4 within the hour.  We have sun, then hail and sleet.  If I plant out now it would be a vegetable armageddon.

Far better to sit in the potting shed with a cup of tea and prick out seedlings.

DSC_0382DSC_0386Reading this week: The Wild Life by John Lewis-Stempel.

 

the big tidy….

DSC_0736I’ve been clearing the decks in the potting shed.  Which is exactly the sort of job to do on a blustery January day.   It also means I can actually work again in the shed as the pots are stacked on shelves rather than piled on the floor and the table.

DSC_0740I still need to clean down and oil the tools, a job I should have done at the end of the last growing season – even so – a clear table to work at and space for a kettle and radio though it is our local ‘Potato Day’ this coming weekend hence the appearance of the egg boxes, (for chitting) competing for space.

We have started the sowings in the polytunnel; peas in guttering as well as radish and salad crops.

IMG_20160115_123532611In the beds – turnips, more radish, flat leaf parsley and coriander, in modules – cauliflower and globe artichoke.  More herbs and leaf salad sowings to follow.

DSC_0742Onwards!

Reading this week: In Pursuit of Butterflies by Matthew Oates