February 2019

18th February 2019 - Life Has To Go On At the Plots. Our family had some heartbreaking news in mid-January: our beloved Abi, who was husband, father, grandfather, brother, uncle, cousin, and friend to many, suddenly and unexpectedly passed away. He touched so many lives, and his loss will take a very long time to come to terms with. Life will never be the same, but it does go on, however hard it may be.

It seems a little surreal sitting writing this first ever blog entry alone, without him here by my side making suggestions, reminding me what to include and enjoying the photographs once they are published, but I decided I do want to continue to document growing on the plots and using our harvests: the year is already moving forward at some pace, and growing of course continues to happen. So deep breath, and here we go.....

... with a rather shaky Harvest Monday. The relatively heavy snowfall last month squashed the fine mesh down onto the Cabbage heads, damaging the outer leaves. I had to cut them all and bring them home so that they didn't rot.

As you can see, they were fine inside, good dense heads, perfect for a Winter Slaw or light steaming. There were five of them, and although they do store well in a cool frost free place, I gave four to other people, as with just one of me in the house, I wasn't sure I'd get through them before they deteriorated. 

These are a club root resistant variety called KIlaton, which I have grown now for the past two years... it is on the list for this coming season too, although slightly fewer in number this time of course

I have also cut plenty of Flat Leaf Parsley, pulled up Leeks and Winter Radish, and cut Brussels Sprouts, all without taking a single photo. I must try to get back into the habit of recording harvests again

The new season is underway however, and the leek seeds sown on 2nd February are germinating, pking up their tenuous little green elbows above ground. I have sown three different varieties to span a long harvesting period: Porvite, Elefant and Northen Lights. The Porvite seed was three years out of date, but I decided to give it a chance... there are a few seedlings now, so I am glad I did. I love the way the leaves of Northern Lights purple up in the cold weather; it always looks so cheerful against the snow, and of course Elefant grows huge thick stems, as you might guess from the name. When yu see the grass-like seedlings, it is always hard to believe how large they will ultimately be

The seed potatoes are sitting in egg boxes in the frost free greenhouse, silently chitting away. They have nice dark-coloured chits, short and stout, just right. Earlier in the week I managed to dissuade a friend from keeping her potatoes in the dark until she wanted them to chit, as potatoes respond to the dark by growing long, pale shoots which are easily damaged when it some to planting time. Please don't do this to yours!

Last year I planted half a dozen Swift seed potatoes in the polytunnel at the end of February, with the added protection of a cloche, and this gave us a lovely early crop of new potatoes iat the start of May. This year I am trying another variety, which I bought at the local Potato Day: Ulster Prince, recommended as being resistant to drought. Under cover growing conditions can err on the dry side, so this sounds ideal. Four tubers have duly been planted six inches deep. I look forward to seeing the shoots emerge in a couple of weeks or so

Daubenton's Kale

Usually by now I have chilli plants growing, at around their first true-leaf stage, almost ready to pot on .  his year however our daughter is growing enough for me to have a good selection (Thank you, Miriam!) so the propagator is still under the desk. I shall have to sow some swwet peppers seeds this week though, or they will start fruit production a little later than I'd like, so it'll be out on the windowsill very soon

I have however, sown some seeds of two plants new to me: Daubenton's Kale and Five Star Perennial Cauliflower, both in pots in the greenhouse

Nine Star Perennial Cauliflower

The seeds are not often available for sale, so I am very grateful to a dear friend who sent me these as a birthday present. There is a small group of growers working to re-establish  these and other perennial vegetables, which are so useful to permaculture systems, so they may sson be more readily available

They each grow at least a metre high and if not allowed to flower, can last for about five years. Interestingly, even if they are allowed to flower, they produce a relatively small amount of viable seed.  I am looking forward to being able to crop from these... quite some way off yet, I know! I shall have to re-organise the planting plan to accommodate these large brassicas, which, assuming i can grow them properly, could be in the same place for several years.  I wonder if they will need protection from pigeons and butterflies? 

This time in the year the Citrus plants get their Spring overhaul, as without fail, the tiny scale insects have multiplied during the Winter and their exudant makes the leaves sticky. A wipe down with methylated spirit soaked cotton wool will soon sort them out. The treesW will also get another dose of winter feed, which will help them grow away strongly again

I bought a new little tree last week... I could hear Abi's voice in my head saying he would buy it for me if I'd like it... reduced from £45 to £10, and it was hard to see why. It is a Mandarin, with lots of fruit on it, mainly green when I brought it home but already they are ripening to a decent orange colour. It is living by the front door until the scale insects are dealt with, for fear they will transfer themselves to it. Interestingly, it has quite different leaves to the other citrus plants, being small and very dark green> it has no new flower buds forming however, so a feed will be needed as Spring arrives to encourage it along a bit

The Calamondin Orange flowers all year round, and there are always developing green fruit and a good sprinkling of bright orange ones too

I also  have a  Lemon Tree, which I cut back hard in the Summer to try to re-shape it, and this resulted in a lot of fresh growth low down on the old woody trunk, which is good to see. Hopefully I shall be able to remove further bare branches next Summer. That new growth should flower this year, and hopefully there will be le,ons to harvest again. These are full sized ones and take a very long tme to mature and fully ripen

The Lime tree, which is about 18 montsh old, is ready for repotting in the Spring, and I am hoping to add a Meyers Lemon tree or two as well, by planting some pips from fruit that came home with me from Goa. Miriam's are already growing roots, so the seeds are viable, which is good to know

The flowers of all cirtus are strongly scented, and it is a real lift in the depths of the Winter when they fill the kitchen with their sweet perfume.  

ONce the frosts are over, all the trees will be moved back outside again, to a sheltered spot which they seem to like, shaded from the mid day sun at the height of Summer

These small irises (Histrioides sp) are thriving at the plot,  flowering  unfailingly year after year. Their buds withstood the snow, to open as a glorious splash of colour in the sunshine. I leave them in this trough and plant annuals over the top of the bulbs, allowing the foiage to die down in its own time. 

Next week I shall show you what we have growing in the polytunnels now and talk more about seed sowing.

PS The fine mesh from the brassica beds has been washed and dried, and folded back up, safely in the shed ready to use again when needed

I hope all is well for you

If you'd like to read more about Harvest Monday, hosted by Dave, have a look at

www.ourhappyacres.com/

 

My contact email is

info@alittlebitofsunshine.co.uk

 and I shall reply as soon as I can