Planting out seed potatoes

I know what you’re going to say. Isn’t it very late to be planting out seed potatoes? Especially first earlies? Especially an extra early variety such as Abbot?

You’re right, of course. But circumstances have conspired to keep us away from the plot: major works on the flat, snow, rain, Andrew’s condition, a kite flying weekend … Life, basically.

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Sowing French climbing beans in deep root trainers

Purple and yellow climbing French beans growing up bamboo canes

Our climbing French beans were such a hit last year, that we were definitely keen to sow them again.

They were relatively easy to grow, looked great, tasted great and were even better with the recipe we found for preserving them. What more could you ask for? More beans, of course!

Learning from last year

We decided to stick with exactly what we did last year – Suttons’ colourful climbing mix.

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The start of our chilli trials

Apparently, 2018 is the year of the chilli. When we went to Glee, the trade show of the garden industry, last September, several companies were featuring them.

Here’s part of the Thompson & Morgan display at Glee which has what we thought was a well-designed heat indicator.

A Thompson and Morgan chilli seed display with clear heat indicator

We thought we would take the opportunity to do our own mini trial of a few varieties of chilli to see how they perform.

Sowing the seed

Here’s Andrew in the greenhouse, explaining our trial and sowing the first seeds: Continue reading

Growing oca or New Zealand yam

If you’re growing vegetables and you haven’t tried oca (also known as New Zealand yams), you’re missing out. They’re easy to grow, easy to cook and super tasty!

Sandra kneeling by the oca bed holding a bunch of freshly harvested oca

When we took on the Quest For Veg plot, one of our goals was to grow unusual produce. So when we spotted oca in the Thompson and Morgan catalogue last year, we didn’t hesitate – even though we knew nothing about how to grow them, how to cook them or what they would taste like.

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How to prick out seedlings

In this video, Andrew demonstrates how to handle seedlings during pricking out.

Aim to prick out seedlings as soon as you can get hold of a seed leaf (called a cotyledon). That is the only part of the seedling you should handle. This is because the cotyledons are very hardy. Other parts of the seedling can be damaged easily which may at best put the plant under stress, and at worst damage or even kill the seedling.

Choose a container that is going to be big enough to allow them to grow to the size you want for planting out into their final position. We used a range of cells trays and pots depending on the size the plant is likely to grow to – pumpkins went in larger pots than alpine strawberries!

The compost used for pricking out can be potting or universal /multi purpose compost. We use peat free.

When you have potted up your seedlings, give them a good watering, and water regularly. When the plant shows signs of growth, such as developing more leaves, you should consider adding a fertiliser to encourage root growth.

Andrew holding a cell tray containing newly pricked out zinnia seedlings
The seedlings shown in the video are Zinnia Purple Prince that Andrew won from Mr Fothergill.

Planting our first earlies

Here we go. Second week of April. Chitted potatoes ready to be planted. Lots of seeds that can be sown directly into the soil. Bring it on.

Chitted potatoes on the kitchen work surface
We started the day full of hope and ambition. What can I say? It was a lot harder than anticipated.

Part of the problem was, of course, the weeds. We uncovered the planting area only to see a host fresh weed shoots.

We rolled back the geotextile to reveal an array of weeds that needed to be removed

They all had to be dug out carefully because even the smallest amount of root can grow a new plant (or two!).

A piece of bindweed root about an inch (2cm) long and the plant that has grown from it

Bindweed generating a new plant from about an inch (2cm) of root

 

Green alkanet shoots growing from a piece of root that had been missed and left in the soil

Green alkanet looking slightly alien

So, by the time it came to digging trenches to plant the potatoes I was pretty much exhausted.

Sandra digging over the area where we wanted to plant our potatoes
Nevertheless, trenches were dug and potatoes planted. You can see how we got on in this video.

We’re also trying out planting potatoes in bags that Andrew is making. He is using the plastic fabric from some spare one ton builder’s bags. He cuts it to size and sews two seams up the side and attaches a base panel. Here is the prototype.

Andrew's homemade potato planting bag

Andrew’s homemade potato planting bag

It will be interesting to compare the crop yield with those in the ground. He is also using the fabric to create other things such as this hanging bag.

Andrew's homemade plant hanging bag prototype
You’ll notice that we didn’t plant any seeds. I’m afraid we exhausted ourselves dealing with the potatoes. The seeds will have to wait for another day!