Saturday, 10 January 2015

Summing things up and new to grow!

Well, what a busy year. I make no apologies, when things are busy you just have to knuckle down. So last year I only made a few significant posts on here.

I finished my teacher training in February, and almost a whole week later, was signed up to do another qualification - it came with a virtually guaranteed bursary and was a new qualification so it was hard to walk away from. I started off at one uni, doing the diploma and when I realised that the tutor was [to say the least] hard work, I thought I'd pull out. But when the notification came that the bursary was approved, and a list of other providers came straight after, I set about to find a new provider. After a few weeks, I found one, who was doing the qualification internally but was willing to accept me on their course. And now, I have finished that, and the bonus was - they weren't doing the diploma, but a degree. So that's nice.

I'll put it on here once I have been awarded the qualification but for now, lets just say I'm looking forward to having some spare time again. I've been doing some supply work and spreading the word about food growing in schools.

And to the future - my Heritage Seed Library seeds turned up yesterday. I have got Jordanian cucumber, Kelper gigantic swede, Paddy cabbage, Shishigatani squash, Cantalun melon, Relon Broad Bean, Cantalun melon [donated originally by one of the Nottingham Organic gardeners], and some Snake Bean as a lucky dip. I can't wait to try these, some are new to HSL and if they grow well for me I'll try and save some seeds for my seedy friends and share them out. Pic below.

If you haven't joined Garden Organic and the Heritage Seed Library then the link is here - there is still time to join and to choose your HSl seeds for 2015. If you already grow and save seeds, and have a bit of space to become a Seed Guardian and grow some seeds to give back to HSl members, then find out about Seed Guardians here. And if you are in the UK and want to be part of our seed circle, you have a couple of weeks to send me your 2014 saved seeds, so contact me through this blog and I'll let you know what you have to do.

And if you don't want to do any of those, but just want to sit and watch TV - then please watch Rob, another Seed Guardian for HSL, who won best in show for his Boothby Blonde Cucumbers this week, on The Big Allotment Challenge on BBC1. Come on Rob, we are all rooting for you!

And Happy New 2015 to all my readers, here's to a healthy and hearty year of growing scrummy food.

Monday, 14 July 2014

Egyptian Walking Onions, Topsetting Onions

I've been growing these for about 8 years now - I just leave them to grow and harvest the bulbils for giving away, or for selling etc; and I've not encountered this before.

The tops are usually quite small, a few mm in diameter, sometimes a cm but this year, they are the size of shallots.

From this:

To this:

And this is also the year that I got garlic that did not split:

I usually note if something strange happens and this is it. 

We didn't have much frost last winter; can it be something as simple as frost that makes such a huge difference to our perennial crops? 

I shall eat some of the Walking Onions, I mean it's a bonus as usually they are not worth peeling let alone eating; and I'll sow one large and one small and see what happens. But I am liking this new style Walking Onion alot.

Saturday, 31 May 2014

Garden Organic Members experiments 2014

This year, I thought I would have more time as I am not employed full time, but only now teach 2 1/2 days a week; but it seems I am busier than ever as running a business, getting new funding and designing and delivering new courses is a very time consuming job! 

I had signed up to do the members experiments and wanted to document them on here to remind myself to make the necessary records as much as anything. 

Firstly; the Biochar experiment.

 We received a bag of biochar - enough to cover one square meter of soil.

I duly measured and marked out the area and spread the biochar over one half of the two square meter trial area.

I then dug the bio char in and marked out the rows, and sowed the seeds. I didn't have time to sow the cabbages and replant so I had to sow those half in each side, just like the carrots and beetroot that were also provided. The sowing date was 5 May 2014.

I will update herewith photos as the trial progresses - with the biochar side always on the left.

20 June 2014...I have counted 15 beetroot on the non-biochar side and 9 on the biochar side. I have harvested 2 of the non bio chat beets as they are at eating size.
27 June - harvested one carrot from biochar side. Notable comment - loads of weeds on the non biochar side but very few on the biochar side.

Harvests to date:
2 Carrot 124 g                
1 beetroot - 339g    
1 beetroot - 180 g

Non Biochar
3 beetroot, 220, 200, 251g
2 beetroot total 194 g

Secondly - Oca. I have grown Oca several times and already have tubers but I'll follow this through properly this time. Again, sown on the 5th May 2014.

Thirdly - I have Bronze Arrow lettuce that I will be sowing but I'm not going to sow until after 22nd June as I have so much lettuce already and I want to see if the trial also works on lettuce not bolting if sown after mid summer's day and it grows quickly enough to get a crop in before the autumn so it's win-win.

Organic gardeners do not use peat...

And in any normal context I wouldn't even consider it. 

However at college, in one of the compost bins that we 'manage' [even though other people put things like whole trees in there and we have to regularly take them out again] I found someone had emptied around 10 very large pots into it. They had obviously bought the pots, filled with peat and mixed shedloads of slow release fertiliser in, planted them up and then forgotten to water them. So the plants died and instead of r-eusing the pots, they had been tipped straight into our [until then] organic compost bin. 

A dilemma then ensued.

As a group, we have no funds to buy compost so we make our own. And this peat is in fine condition, barely used. Seriously a complete waste of resources. What to do..leave it, where the fertiliser [not needed] will continue to rot down and infest our lovely compost....bin it as it is not organic or take it out, remove the remaining roots and fertiliser pellets and just bin the pellets and reuse the compost in our own pots. 

Of course, the cornerstone of organic gardening is that if you try to spend no would be pretty much organic even if you don't know much about organic gardening...and on that note I decided that there was no way I could let this precious resource slip through the net. 

So we have been sieving and picking out all the balls of fertiliser...and all the roots...and mixing it with our own leaf mould to bulk it up and using it for our potting mix

I would never buy peat, I find that my own compost and leaf mould mix is more than adequate and our dalek compost added to worm compost is wonderful for the more greedy cucumbers, peppers and tomatoes grown in pots; whilst everything else is fine in the ground...but I just can't see this resource thrown away and added to a general compost mix that won't get used until after I have left the college. 

So for the first year in many, I have used peat. Weird.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

And more sowing

Today it was chilli peppers, tomatoes, quinces from the fruits off the quince tree they gave me when I left Ryton, and some grape seeds. Pic of the seed circles ones sown to follow. 

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Sowing and growing

It is starting to look nice and green in the aptly named greenhouse now. 

I have some of my favourite things germinating, agastache, beetroot, kale. 

Chioggia from own saved sweet, and the first little agastache from home saved seed. 

And I am sowing seeds from the latest seed circle, today's were peppers, along with a few varieties from my own box. And peas, namely Kent Blue, and my own golden sweet mange tout are already on their way up. 
All seed circle seeds are being photographed upon sowing so that I can track their progress this year. 

Golden sweet mange tout. First of them up...and yes the compost is wet as I had just watered it. 

Kent blue 

Sunday, 26 January 2014

New courses for 2014

I've been asked to run some courses for Garden Organic, at their flagship gardens Ryton Gardens this year.

True to form, they will ALL be activity based hands on learning experiences very much driven by the needs of the delegates.

The first one is on March 13th, it is called Veg Growing for Beginners. Seeing as I spent alot of my time teaching people new to gardening how to do it [and to do it without breaking the bank or your back] this is one that I am enjoying planning as much as we will enjoy the day.

I've just sown some trays of seeds for this, for the delegates to get some practice on the day in transplanting and identifying seedlings. If you are coming along, I hope that you enjoy the mix of seeds that I've just sown, all for you to take home with you.

Can't wait!

The course should be on the Garden Organic website in the next few days. It was only booked last week so get it whilst its hot - as they say.