January 2022

31st January - I couldn't access any of my new photos last week, having first misplaced my camera, and then accidentally bathed it in coffee when I dropped, obviously accidentally, a full cup into my bag [[[deep sigh]]]] 

Things photography-wise are a bit hit and miss, and the delivery of my longed-for bed has been delayed, but I feel I have made good progress on the plots this week, towards having a good season, as well as having some good harvests. February tomorrow, and days are already noticeably longer!

Harvest Monday starts with a "first" harvest of Purple Sprouting Broccoli. Lightly steamed with butter and black pepper, it felt very indulgent. Plenty more to come, too!

Most Leeks are still good to eat, with only a couple throwing up flower stalks so far. I shall have to keep an eye on them though, as at this time in the year they soon grow, and can make a hard stem up through the middle

Parsnips are still at their best, and sowing small pinches has given me the small roots I like. These were excellent roasted alongside some Potatoes from the store in the garage

This is the largest of the Red Cabbages from this season. I gave it to my daughter as there are six in her family, and, a week, later, she is almost at the end of it! I am pleased with them all this year, andam looking forward to harvesting another smaller one next week, for pickled cabbage

Other harvests have included Sage, Rosemary and Parsley

Out On The Plot This Week:

I feel I have worked really hard this week, a lot of the time helping to clear out sheds etc on vacant plots, ready for new tenants. It was very satisfying but very hard physical work. Lots of useful things were taken to the "Pre-Loved" area, most of which have already been adopted

However, I was determined to finish that large cold frame, which, after several false starts, is now ready for its cover. The blue hoops are secured over metals spikes in the ground, and the cover will tuck in under the edges of the wood all around. The addition of a few weighty bricks on the edges will hopefully stop it blowing away. There is still a little bit of painting to do, but that won't take long. I am really pleased with it, as apart from buying the cover, everything, including the paint, has come free, and it seems very robust

I am now planning what I can initially grow in it: Beetroot, Khol Rabi, Carrots and Radishes, Turnips, wih Early French Beans a little later, perhaps  It will free up polytunnel space for more really tender crops, as well as providing an excellent spot to grow on Brassicas, especially when the polythene cover is replaced with an enviromesh-style one in the Summer. Pots of cuttings will now also have a home, where they will be seen and I might remember to water them.

Taking out the raggedy Lavender bushes along behind this area has provided a space where I can grow a few flowers for cutting, alongside the Roses planted before Christmas

The coldframe is not the only new addition to the plots: I now have  a Hotbin!! OK< it's not very glamorous, being essentially a large black polystyrene box, with a hatch at the bottom and a hinged lid. However, I am assured it will compost at a rate of knots, and bearing in mind I often run out of space for compostables, well, perhaps this is the answer

I am busy reading up on the most effective approach to using it, and have ordered an integral base tray to help collect the "ooze", which of course makes excellent plant feed, as well as the recommended straps to ensure the hatch stays secure

I have moved it from between the polytunnels as it will be awkward to unload there, and have found a suitable spot over on #145. There are now some slabs laid to sit it on, which will hopefully keep it steady, and there is enough space to put down some tarp when the day comes to extract compost

The other job this week has been adding extra wood around some of the veg beds on #145, as the height of the soil inside them was up to the top edge. Extra height retains the soil nicely and make it easier to add an even layer of compost mulch from time to time, without it ending up on the paths

 

 

In The Polytunnels This Week:

These have been somewhat negelected, although I don't think anything has suffered as a result. The lowest temperature inside has been -6.5C, which is pretty cold, too cold I think to sow those early Salad leaves I had hope to get in. At least I still have plenty of Lettuce, as well as Corn Salad further down the bed, and some Evergreen Onions

The Rocket plants I sowed in Janaury last year have now died away, leaving no doubt, plenty of seeds for the next generation, and as you can see The Red Winter Onions are steadily getting taller

In the other tunnel I have stored a lot of compostable material, and once that is gone I can get on the with the prep for the Pea and Bean area

At Home This Week:

Seeing Snowdrops growing amongst the ivy always remind me of the little posy my Mum made for me to wear on my wedding day. This month would have been our 45th Wedding Anniversary, so the memory ws tinged with a little sadness.

Germinating seeds always cheer me up...uness they are weeds in the middle of the veg beds of course... and the Aubergines sown on 21st were up two days ago, 8 days is pretty good going, and I noticed some Espalette and Padron Chillies and Sweet Peppers pushing through too. 

The trays are now on the heat mat in the greenhouse, still with a plastic cover, which will keep them nice and snug whilst giving more light than they would have on the kitchen windowsill

 Out in the garden, the scent of the Christmas Box is amazing, a mixture of honey and something warming. Every year I think I should plant more of these, but then cannot seem to find a suitable space in my already crowded borders. 

The Spring Onion seeds I put in the propagator were up in record time, as were the Leeks on the heat mat. Both of these are now sitting on the benching in the greenhouse, as they don't really need extra heat, just a frost free space for now. Always amuses me that I am sowing next Winter's crop of Leeks whilst still harvesting last year's plants. 

I love their little green "elbows" poking through the soil, such a fresh and cheering sight. I am looking forward to growing some of these clumps on in the shelter of the new coldframe, where, out of the harsh weather, their leaves should stay unblemished. That long wooden planter will be ideal

 

In the coming week I shall finish painting the front section of the cold frame, and fix on the cover. I really need  another maximum and minimum thermometer to check the temperature in it before sowing anything. That would be the most sensible thing to do!

I hope the straps and base for the Hotbin arrive soon, as then I can fix it up proerly and then half fill it with all the compostables I have saved: grass cuttings, shredded paper, vegetable peelings, weeds with soil still on the roots, and part rotted woodchip. I am aiming for enough to at least half fill the bin in one go, so may move some part rotted bits from one of the pallet bins to make sure there is enough material to warm up nicely

Broad Bean Pea and Mangetout seeds are ready to sow, plus some Sweet Peas, and perhaps some Beetroot in the greenhouse too. Must check the seed packets as there are going to be other crops i could get underway in early February under cover, as well as flowers perhaps!

I shall try to be back next Monday, with straightened out Spring Onions and Leeks, and plenty of Chillies showing their heads too, I hope

info@alittlebitofsunshine.co.uk

 Comments and suggestions are most welcome, and I shall reply as soon as I can

And if you'd like to know more about Harvest Monday, look at

www.ourhappyacres.com

17th January - the days are whizzing by at the moment, and are noticeably longer too. I am able to leave the curtains open unitl 5pm, and at 7:30 am it is proper daylight again ...hurray!! 

With the renovation of the front bedroom making really good progress towards the main tasks finishing, I have been bale to focus a little bit more on the jobs that need doing to keep up a steady supply of food

Seed sowing is of course one of those jobs. There is a fine balance between getting plants off to any early start, germinating seeds in the propagator, potting them on and so on, and being able to provide good healthy growing conditions until they can be planted either in the polytunnel or outside, which for many crop is late April at the earliest. You can end up with massive leggy plants which are never going to thrive... so sit on your hands, and don't be too keen!

Having said that, I have started a few seeds off, but there is a clear plan for their well being past germination, I promise!

Harvests are  pretty much the same all the time at the moment: Celeriac has got a bit frosted... I must earth it up next year.... and Purple Sprouting Broccoli not quite there yet. Cabbages however are superb, and this week's delight is a beautiful Red Cabbage. Totally delicious steamed, made into coleslaw or slow cooked in the oven with Apple and Winter Spices. I do have a couple more, so all these things will happen, as well as there being enough to share!

Other harvests have included Celery leaves, Lettuce Leaves, Rocket, Parsnips, Rosemary and Parsley

Out on The Plots This Week:

I have mainly been working under cover this week as the morning have been frosty, often with freezing fog as well.

However, yesterday was a lovely sunny afternoon so I cleared the area where I envisage a large coldframe to be a possibility, (where the Strawberry tables used to be) added a new wooden planter box, which is about 3.5m long and 30ccm wide and deep, then got out some of the materials I hoped to use and fiddled around for a bit

In my mind, this would be made from the triple wall polycarbonate sheeting, with a sloping, lift up lid

Issues:

1. It is not transparent enough to let sufficent light in

2. I would have to cut various pieces to fit (!)

I then added a hinged, open based planter box, to make a small area to contain potted plants to see if that brought any more ideas

Issues here:

1. The pathway through this area becomes very narrow

2. The sides are not tall enough to allow potted Brassicas to grow without touching the cover

3. What cover?????

So I left it

But last night I had another thought, enought to wake me up: I am going to start again, still with the long rear planter box, but this time wth blue hoops and polythene. The open based box can be used over on #146, thus leaving enough space for a wider path, needed to get a wheelbarrow past without damaging anything

More pictures next week!!! I am determined to make this work, because it will not only give me more sheltered growing space for early crops, maybe Beetroot in the long box, moving the polystyrene Carrot box off the staging in the polytunnel, early Dwarf French Beans and so on, but also, with a fine mesh cover later in the year, will be perfect for protecting young Brassica plants growing on before being planted out on the plots 

Just have to work out the structure for these two interchangeable covers.....

In The Polytunnels This Week:

Plenty of clearing up done, and it is looking much more purposeful The Mixed Lettuces are growing well, as it the Lambs' Lettuce,and the Red Winter Onion sets, planted to follow on from these Lettuces, are now starting to poke their heads up. They are slower than others to show outside too, but I am sure they have plenty of roots

 

The staging is working out nicely, and there will be ample space for the more tender Chillies and the Okra plants there in the Summer, with space for Potatoes underneath in a week or two, which of course will be out before the slats go on the staging again. Havne't yet decided what to grow along thr front yet... it will depend on how large an undercover space the new coldframe might provide. Beetroot is one thought, Spring Onions too, possiby Khol Rabi.....

Although I have filled the two planter boxes, the compost in them is still dry, so that, if necessary, I can move them.. Once they are watered, the large on if far too heavy for me to lift.

At the moment I am thinking to have the Carrot box, the larger of the two, out in the coldframe, and use another box this size, whih as yet has no holes in the base, for an experimental crop of Water Spinach. More on this to follow in late Spring

At Home This Week:

Major action in the front bedroom... big three door wardrobe now in situ, thanks t oClive and Theresa... eventually the wardrobe had to come to pieces as it wouldn't "bend" around the stair newel post, and then of course be re-built!! Very, very grateful for their help on this one for sure. Lots of clothes for charity donation, and all the drawers I had kept to temporarily house stuff have gone to the tip now, which feels very good indeed

I also oiled the oak worktop where my sewing machine will live ... and the new bed is arriving on Friday!

I finished my Seed Stock Take, which is always a bit of a mission, and have lots of packets of various vegetable seeds to share, initially with close friends and family, then planning a Seed Swap Day on out Alloment Site in February. 

I actually listed everything I have this year, as it makes checking so much quicker, and saves buying things I really don't need. At least, that is the theory

Sowing is underway. Chillies and Sweet Peppers are first out of the traps. I am aiming not to grow so many different varieties this year, or indeed as many plants, so the list is:

Cayennetta, Espalette, Scotch Bonnet, Tangerine Dream, West Indian "Flavour", Padron, Early Jalapeno. Anaheim and Long Red Marconi

Aubergines are next, with Black Beauty and Long Purple as last year, but adding in Green Knight, a long green vareity which I liked the sound of. The past couple of years Aubergines have done well in the polytunnel so I am hoping they do this year too

And Broad Beans (Aquadulce) , Curly Early Petit Pois and Early Onward Peas are in module sin the frost free greenhouse.  They'll' not be big enough to plant out in the polytunnel for a few weeks yet, which will give me time to feed the soil in their area and give it a good soak. The wire supports for the Peas are in place already though.

Mangetout will be following along soon

I am chancing the cold weather salad mix in a planted box in the polytunnel, as it is well insulated, although it is a little bit early. Not tred this one from Pennard Plants before, but the description sounded tempting

I shall also sow some in a wide pot in the greenhouse, and also sow some Amsterdam Forcing Carrots in a pot tomorrow too... again, just a little bit early for germination in the polytunnel! 

The seed potatoes are sitting in the greenhouse quietly chitting away: 


1st Early: Casablanca

2nd Early: Kestrel & Elfe

Main Crop: Sarpo Axona & Sarpo Mira

 

For the week ahead: 

- Complete the large cloche at the plot

 - Sow Spring Onions and Leeks in modules, in the greenhouse 

- feed the soil around the Spring Cabbages in the polytunnel : chicken manure pellets

- continue with adding woodchip to the paths

- start to prepare the bed for Onion sets (Spring planted) on#146

- mark off the branches to prune out of the Lord Derby Apple Tree, and, if possible, the Bramley too

And if that all happens I shall be delighted!!  Time is being taken up showing new tenants round on our site once more, which is of course a good thing to be doing, but I need to make sure I get my head down with work that needs doing on my plots too

I shall see you again Monday!

info@alittlebitofsunshine.co.uk

 Comments and suggestions are most welcome, and I shall reply as soon as I can

And if you'd like to know more about Harvest Monday, look at

www.ourhappyacres.com

10th January - The Christmas lights and decorations are put away, the dust that always seems to accumulate behind them wiped off furniture and picture frames and we have had some decent seasonal frosts this week, making it feel more like Winter.That will certainly help with fruit bud formations, which relies on a period of very low temperatures to fully form, and of course the frost kills off a few of those sneaky Aphids too.

Big fat seed catalogues continue to arrive through the post, with ever increasing prices and reducing numbers of seeds in the packets too. Makes me glad I save a lot of my own, and that I bought other seeds I needed in the Autumn sales at less than half the current asking prices. I do still enjoying browsing though the photos in them though, and thinking of the sowing season just beginning: Broad Beans and Aubergines at the ready!

Harvest Monday held a bit of a surprise for me: A modest sized head of Romanesco, protected by the crown of leaves around it. I was delighted to spot it, as I really thought the huge plants were never going to head up. Perhaps some of the others will too!  I shall try to remember to sow them a little earlier this year, as they will then perhaps have more chance to succeed with their beautiful lime green heads

These are Chard leaves, which I use in place of Spinach from time to time. This variety is called Fordhook Giant, but they are certainly not particularly large!! It is not my favourte vegetable, but nonetheless some fresh greens are very welcome. I must remember  to pick some more Brussels sprouts this week. Just thought about that!

Other harvests have incuded Rosemary, Bay leaves, Lettuce leaves and a few tiny Purple Sprouting  Broccoli spears. Hopefull these will grow quite quickly now to give a goodly amount to harvest

Out On The Plots This Week:

The rain this week prevented me for continuing with woodchip carting.

The Garlic and Onions continue to grow, and I shall have to put up their net covers soon, or they will attract the eye of the local Pheasants, which will come along and snip all these lovely green shoots down. The fine net will also protect them from the ravages of various insect pests, including the dreaded Allium Leaf Miner, whose pupating grubs damage the inside of the bulbs, meaning they soften and rot

My daughter sent me a very interesting article about this particular nuisance, which I am looking forward to reading, as it, coupled with Leek Moth and Onion Fly, can so quickly ruin a whole crop of Garlic, Onions or Leeks. Any organic means of protection apart from barrier netting would be good to find out about

In The Polytunnels This Week:

I have spent a long time bent double weeding in the tunnels, and trying to decide where each crop will be planted. With two tunnels it makes four beds, so in theory rotation of the crops should be easy, but there is always something that I end up planting in the "wrong" place due to lack of space last year, so then I have to take that previous occupant of the soil into account with the new plan.

This year I am going to try hard to keep "families" together where possible, starting with the space for Broad Beans, Early Peas and Mange Tout. I have moved the wire support for Peas into the right place and measured out that it will take space half way down this bed for the first planting.

Tomatoes will jump over to the bed opposite, and Chillies will roll on down into the second tunnel

 

And this is where things change. This tunnel is a couple of degrees cooler, so to keep the Chillies and Peppers warmer, I am going to grow them in pots up on the new, part constructed as yet, staging. After the unsuccessful effort with Okra , these will join them up on here too, and I have chosen a variety allegedly suited to the British climate:  Bhut BIndi.

The blurb, as well as telling me these will be stunningly beautiful plants, also say they grow around 1.25m to 1.5m tall, clearly taller than the space above the pots up to the roof of the tunnel, but I have a cunning plan .... by the time the plants reach this dizzy height (if indeed they do!) I can move the pots down to ground level as the weather will surely be warm by then. We shall see

In case you are wondering, there are long wooden slats to rest on  the ends of each table, making a longer supported area. I have left them off for now, as the space underneath is where the Early Potatoes will be grown. These will be out of the ground before it is time for potting on Okra and Chillies etc into their final pots, which will then go on the staging

You can better see what I mean in this photo, and you can also see the large polystyrene planter boxes too, ready to be filled for sowing Carrots and Salad Leaves. Once they are full they are far too heavy for me to move, so I need to make sure everything is in exactly the right place first

In complete contrast to the Okra, the West Indian Cucumber plants were so successful last year that they overtook a large section of the tunnel. This year I have re-organised their net support (moved to the opposite bed) to be sloping, so hopefully the fruit will hang down and be more readily seen, and the straggling stems can use the ground beneath too. Always sounds so good when I think it, but in reality of course, anything could happen! We shall just have to wait to find out

At Home This Week:

I have continued with moving things back into the main bedroom again, and one wardrobe is now in ...  a large pile of clothes for charity donation too, which feels good. No point in keeping clothes I am very unlikely to wear is there?

The other big job has been the Seed Stock Take. I have lots and lots of packets of seeds that are either duplicates, so far out of date it is not worth attempting to germinate them, or I just will never grow... a bit like with my clothes... if I am not going to use them, someone else can, so once I have finished , immediate friends and family can help themselves and the rest will go to the Seed Share box on our Allotment Site. Not the out of date ones, of course

This coming week I shall have to tackle the second wardrobe, as I have had confirmation that the new bed is being delivered on 21st. It is much easier to manipulate large furniture when the room is mainly empty!

Another task that always takes longer than I think it should is the sorting of houseplants on my kitchen windowsill, to acommmodate the propagator. However, at least this year I have somewhere I can house some of them: a nice new plant stand for the back bedroom, where, without the wardrobe, there is plenty of space! I'll show you a photo next week

Plot tasks in the coming week have to include completing the staging, to make sure the second tabe is in exactly the right place, filling the planting boxes ready for Carrots and Salad Leaves to be sown, and prepping the soil in the polytunnel where the First Early Potatoes will be planted under a cloche

There is always something else that comes up as well that I haven't thought of or that takes priority, but it keeps me busy for sure!

I shall be back next Monday, hopefully with Potatoes chitting in the greenhouse and Broad Beans and Aubergines sown

 

I shall also be deciding o

info@alittlebitofsunshine.co.uk

 Comments and suggestions are most welcome, and I shall reply as soon as I can

And if you'd like to know more about Harvest Monday, look at

www.ourhappyacres.com

3rd January - Happy New Year!! I am sure we are all hoping for similar things this year: a little more freedom from Covid and its variants, spending time with loved ones and staying fit and well.  We can but hope and try our best to bring these about.

Growers however will no doubt have much more specific wishes, often linked to weather conditions, absence of pests and diseases on our crops and the bounty of harvests. I am trying hard to resist the oh-so-tempting seed sales, as I doubt I have soace for anything more..... or do I ???

Harvests in the Winter always seem more special somehow, as anyone who has been able to provide vegetables for a Christmas meal from their plot will know. It has a very cosy feel to it doesn't it?

The first Harvest Monday of the year starts with a beautiful January KIng Cabbage, which I felt very proud of indeed. Most of you know I only grow a few of each kind of Cabbage now, rather than whole beds of the same, which gives lots of variation in their eating. This one was for a family meal on New Year's Day, and was just the right size for  nine servings

It looked so lovely it reminded me of a story my Art tutor told us, about a teacher who turned up with a cabbage week after week fpr her class to draw: whole, cut in half, sligthtly slumping, and so on. No chance with this one... it has been totally consumed!

 

Technically, this next harvest was gathhered some time back, but I have only just cleaned it off ready for storage, and of course, using: Coriander Seeds

The ribbon is to cover up a sticky bit on the jarm which I couldn't remove! Looks festive though. I have a feeling there are still some seed heads in a bucket inone of the polytunnels, so I must have a look soon.The more the merrier, plus I can use some to sow as well. Nearly time!

This harvest was a big surprise for me, as by this time last year the plant had all but died down: Oregano. This will be just right with some roasted Butternut Squash.

I should really pick more to dry, as the jar in the spice cupboard is almost empty. It might not be the "right" time to harvest it, but it will be better than having none 

Out On The Plots This Week:


I am still carting woodchip for paths on #146, and the whole plot is looking so much better for it too. Another couple of days and I can move on to #145. The paths there won't need digging out so it will be a much quicker job, and give me a non-slip surface on which to walk

I have to pace this job though, as it is hard work, so I have worked out that if I cart ten large trugs full to the plot, by the time I have weeded the area and laid it down, I have enough energy for another job as well. Seems to be working!

Yesterday's job was to clear out a corner that hasn't been touched for two years now, the area behind the large Oregano plant. Where branches were touching the ground, some had "layered" themselves and grown roots, making a new plants just ready to be cut off the parent and moved

I left one growing in the path surface for now, but moved this one to the Herb Bed right at the other end of the plot. A free plant, that's good!

 

This scrappy corner, which has been full of massive Stinging Nettles, is also home to a very prickly Tayberry plant, whic was like some sort of spiny Octopus. After cutting out as many of last year's fruiting stems as I could, I realised that there was in fact another plant, grown where the tip on  abranch had been tuoching the soil on next door's plot!! Oooo-errr..... I cut off as many stems as I could, knowing for sure that my neighbours wouldn't want this plant, and I certainly don't. I shall have to ask if i can come over and dig it out before it shoots out more spiny  branches to tangle everywhere!

The stems from the orignal plant are now neatly tied onto wires, to keep them under control. The plant usually fruits well, and even after sharing them with the Blackbirds, I have more than enough 

I've dug out as much of the Nettle roots as I could, but I know that even a tiny bit left will grow quickly, so I shall have to try to keep cutting them out as they appear, because them I shall be able to reach the Oregano plant as well as harvest berries

All these plants from the Blackberry family that grow long stems can multiply by growing roots where a stem end touches the ground, which is how Blackberries can very quickly form a thicket. In the untended corner there were two that had reached far along the path and done just that.... I pulled one up carefull to show you, although both were later discarded in the green waste!. This trait helps Blackberries become very successful colonisers of empty ground

Mine are now all tied to wrires again, stretching along the plot boundary, hopefully to once again produce a good crop in late Summer through into the Autumn

Tne incredibly mild weather, together with plenty of rain, has helped the Garlic and Elephant Garlic start to grow above-ground shoots. Under the ground, they will have developed a good strong rooting system too

Hazel Catkins are turning yellow with their ripening pollen, and are a beautiful sight along the roadway. My small tree, grown from a nut planted by a Squirrel, is joining in too. Last year it even grew some hazelnuts, although guess what? They were eaten by a Squirrel!

And Primroses in sheltered spots are flowering too.  There are a few slightly sleepy Honeybees around, so at least there is food for them

Surely we shall have proper Winter weather soon? It is the first week in January, not the first week of March!

At Home This Week:


 I packed up all the seeds that were to share with others, and posted them off, and will need to do a proper audit of my own stocks, to ensure noting it too old to reliably germinate. Next wet day, that must  be the task I think

Other than that, I have either been vsiting family and friends, or sorting through things that might be returned to my bedroom soon. My son did lots of carpentry work, so I can begin moving books related to sewing, and trays of silks etc in now, my Indian clothes are all hanging neatly on their new rails and the new curtains are up on the landing too. 

I shall be continuing with hmoving the woodchip mountain for path maintenance, and the polytunnels now need some attention too, getting them ready for new crops

I hope you all enjoyed a peaceful Christmas, and, like me, are dreaming of the potential for growing this new year brings

Next week I hope to be back, with a sowing plan, well, at least a draft,  and some semblance of order in those polytunnels too

 

info@alittlebitofsunshine.co.uk

 Comments and suggestions are most welcome, and I shall reply as soon as I can

And if you'd like to know more about Harvest Monday, look at

www.ourhappyacres.com