Setting up our tunnel cloche

It had no instructions, some of the parts were missing and the box had been partially eaten by snails.

But we weren’t going to let those sorts of details put us off trying to erect the tunnel cloche we inherited from the previous plot holder.

And besides, the greenhouse was overflowing with plants and the risk of frost diminishing daily. It was time to think about moving our plants to the plot. We would need a structure to give them a little bit of protection while they were hardening off.

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Recipe: roast radishes 

Roast radishes, tomatoes and mushrooms
Andrew and I have gone from not liking radishes to loving them. Just as well since this is our first and only crop so far, and we’re harvesting them in abundance!

But apart from raw, is there any other way to eat them? Of course there is!

I decided to try roasting them. If you have a recipe for radishes, please share it in the comments below.

Newly harvested radish

I had heard that roast radishes are delicious. And since I was roasting some vegetables anyway, I decided to throw a few in. I’m glad I did – what a treat!

Roasted, they become tender and moist, lose their sharp peppery edge and take on a mild flavour that is vaguely reminiscent of turnip.

Below is a description of how I cooked them. It isn’t really a recipe as such. It’s more a case of throw what you fancy into a roasting dish with some seasoning and olive oil. Cherry tomatoes and mushrooms are a favourite at Quest for Veg HQ. But you could add red or yellow peppers, for example, vary the amounts of the vegetables used, or leave out the other vegetables and just roast the radishes.

I used dried mixed herbs but you could try a single herb such as thyme or use fresh herbs. You could stir in a crushed garlic clove. Or you could sprinkle over a little lemon juice just before serving.

But as a starting point, here’s our basic recipe.


Roast vegetables with radishes

Serves 2 as a side dish

200g chestnut mushrooms, halved (or quartered if they are very large)

12 cherry tomatoes

12 radishes

2 tsp dried mixed herbs

Freshly ground black pepper

Sea salt

2 tbsp olive oil

Place the mushroom halves and cherry tomatoes in a shallow roasting dish.

Top and tail the radishes, saving the green leaves, if you have them. Halve the radishes and add them to the roasting dish.

Sprinkle over the herbs, a few twists of black pepper and a little salt. Add the olive oil and give it all a good stir.

Bake on 180C for 15-20 minutes or until the vegetables are shrivelled and softened, and a little brown round the edges. Roughly chop the radish tops (you did keep them, didn’t you?) and stir them through the hot vegetables to wilt them.


And that’s all there is to it! Since the oven was on, I baked a couple of sweet potatoes at the same time.

At the moment, we’re harvesting radish scarlet globe. But we have also sown Unwin’s bright and spicy mix – we can’t wait to try our recipe on the different varieties in this mix.

If you have a favourite way to cook or serve radishes, please let us know.

Preventing damping off disease

A zinnia seedlings which has gone brown at the base of its stem

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It looks like we’ve been visited by damping off disease. We found this little zinnia seedling flopped over, and going brown from the base of the stem upwards.

It looks as though we have been lucky in that we only seem to have lost three zinnia seedlings to date. It can wipe out a patch of seedlings in a tray or spread to the whole tray or beyond.

What causes damping off?

Damping off is caused by several types of organism, particularly certain types of fungi and bacteria. They live in the soil and are usually carried by water.

You might see fine fluffy white threads of fungus on the surface of the compost or on the affected seedlings. But sometimes the only thing you’ll see is the dead or dying seedlings. Or you may find that a tray of seeds has only come up in patches because the rest have been affected as they germinate.

The organisms that cause the disease are widespread in soil so it can affect seedlings planted outside. But it is the growing conditions that we create in the greenhouse that can encourage it to spread: damp, warm, humid conditions with a high concentration of seeds.

What can you do to prevent or cure damping off?

It used to be that there was a copper-based treatment but this was deregulated in 2012. So, there are now no longer any treatments available for the domestic gardener in the UK.

What you can do is try to reduce the likelihood of it occurring with a bit of good housekeeping. Here are our top tips:

Do

  • Disinfect the greenhouse regularly using a product suitable for a garden situation – in other words one that won’t poison your plants. For example, Citrox*, Vitax Greenhouse Disinfectant* or Jeyes fluid*.
  • Wash/disinfect pots, trays, tubs, capillary matting, etc thoroughly before you reuse them
  • Use commercial compost – although not entirely sterile, the chances of infection are greatly reduced
  • Watch your temperature control – use a raised temperature for germination, move seedlings to an area with a lower temperature for growing on

Don’t

  • Use rain water or water from water butts
  • Reuse compost
  • Plant seedlings too densely – check the packets for advice on spacing for each variety
  • Over water

*Amazon affiliate links – you can click to buy and we may get a small percentage, but it doesn’t affect the price you pay. Thank you for your support.

Our first harvest

Quite unexpectedly, Andrew spotted a radish that looked ready to eat. 

He carefully extracted it from the soil and here it is: the first vegetable to be sown and harvested on the Quest for Veg plot.

Our first harvest was a small radish

Radish Scarlet Globe

We carefully carried this little jewel home to wash it and try it.

I should say at this point that neither Andrew nor I like radishes. I have wondered why we are growing so many. So we were a little bit apprehensive as we sliced into this tiny prize.

Let me tell you, my friends, it was absolutely delicious!

The gleaming, snowy flesh was moist and softly crunchy, the flavour subtle – smooth and creamy at first then gently peppery with vaguely citrus notes. Not at all like radishes as we remembered them.

We can’t wait for the next one!

End of April tour of the plot

On the face of it, the allotment looks pretty similar to how it looked at the end of March. This is partly because much of the obvious activity has happened in the greenhouse, and partly because the things that we’ve planted – mainly potatoes – have yet to show much growth.

But we have come a long way. It’s good to look back to remind ourselves of the progress we’re making.

April started with the exciting news that our blog was featured in Grow Your Own magazine.

Page from Grow Your Own magazine featuring our blog

Andrew made a sign for the allotment using a pyrography tool. This meant that we were complying with regulations because we were once again displaying our plot number.

Andrew and Sandra posing with the handmade allotment sign

We planted our chitted first early potatoes. Rolling back the geotextile revealed a host of pale, leggy weeds that all needed to be dug out before the potatoes could be planted.

An array of weeds hidden under the weed suppressing membrane

We continued to sow seeds and pricked out seedlings in the greenhouse. Andrew won some Purple Prince zinnia seeds from Mr Fothergill so we have several trays vying for space among the veggies.

Andrew holding a tray of seedlings in the greenhouse

We were given a couple of tools by our good friend David – a soil miller and an oscillating hoe. We cleaned them up and they proved very useful in helping to keep the weeds down.

Our soil miller and oscillating hoe

We were asked by Westland if we woud be interested in reviewing some of their products and began with a selection of Unwin’s seeds.

Andrew in the greenhouse holding packets of seeds

Immediate jobs for may are planting the main crop potatoes that have just arrived. We will also try to harden off some of our greenhouse

Once again we are grateful to Richard Anderson of Anderson Landscapes for continued use of his greenhouse.