The Three C’s
Every time I offer some knowledge with regards to growing crops for your business, the first question is always, so how long have you been growing the beard?
It’s not really the first, it’s about the 5th question!
They actually want to know the easiest Vegetable/Fruit they can grow and that’s where the three c’s come in.
Courgettes are by far the easiest in terms of germination, care, maintenance and yield!
But I’m not talking about your average green bog standard courgette.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love a good standard courgette, sliced and cooking in butter on a BBQ but if you’re trying to get people excited when visiting your restaurant, pub or cafe you want something a little different.
At the Pub I only grow a variety called One Ball/Summer Ball. The courgettes are bright yellow and grow to the size of a large tennis ball. They are perfect for hollowing out, stuffing and roasting in the oven.
Other unusual varieties I’d recommend are Eclipse(round), Parador(yellow) and Safari(stripped).
I’ve always preferred the taste of a home grow Cucumber, fresh from my Fathers greenhouse. Shop imported cucumbers are just rather tasteless!
So last winter I went on a cucumber internet safari and was blown away with different cucumbers varieties you can actually grow!!
Two I’ve chosen to grow this year are Poona Kherra, which is an Indian cucumber with a brown/orange skin. It’s really refreshing to eat but you must remove the skin as its super bitter.
The other is called Crystal Lemon/Apple which I’m sure some of you have already tried. They are very vigorous and produce large amounts of round cucumbers. I pick them when slightly green in colour as the skin becomes slightly tough when yellow.
Slice them like a lemon and pop them in your favourite alcoholic/non-alcoholic beverage.
I’ve also grown three high yielding varieties which are Carmen, Louisa and Bella. The reason for this is I wanted to try and get the pub to no longer buy in cucumbers throughout the year. That way we don’t have to buy them from abroad, save money and it’s just generally better for the environment.
I’ve grown nearly 100 plants in a new poly tunnel and they’ve produced over 500 cucumbers to date.
It’s safe to say they no longer buy in cucumbers and we’ve even had enough excess to sell them inside the pub!
It used to be just Two C’s but then I discovered Cucamelons! These little beauties were said to be the ‘next big thing’ but I’m yet to see them catch on.
I love them; they originate from Mexico which makes them drought resistant. They grow like crazy and produce copious amounts of grape sized fruits which taste like cucumber with a zesty kick.
They are very simple to germinate but can be a little tricky to get going as they can suffer from damping off and drying out but once they are off you can’t stop them.
As you can see from the pictures I tend to grow them up string and let them ramble everywhere.
What can you use them in I hear you ask??
Well, now I’m more than happy to eat them as they are but if someone “forced” a large gin and tonic in front of me I’d chop a couple down the length and throw them in for good measure! They are also lovely in a salad or any fish dish.
You’re not growing them?
If you’d like any more info or tips about the varieties listed here, just pop a comment below!
Now where did a leave my gin and tonic…..!
Everyday there is something else to pick, cook and preserve. If Gooseberries are your thing this year’s harvest has given you something to shout about. So many in the freezer, given away and eaten it has to be a record year.
That goes for all the harvest of the other soft fruits we shall be eating blueberries for months, no hardship as they are my favourite along with cherries.
Despite my best efforts at netting the tree a dear little squirrel has managed to get inside and eat all the flesh just leaving the stalk and stones hanging there. Tell tale teeth marks on the stones!
While I was away my husband kept everything watered and was giving veg boxes to neighbours and family. I don’t think they want any more courgettes for a while. Growing both yellow Parador and green Defender at least makes the dish look a bit different. While away I was eating a Cretan dish made with potatoes, courgettes and cheese which I shall attempt this week as my vegetarian granddaughter is with us for the school holidays.
All the shallots are now dried off and stored, have hung them and the garlic in the nets that covered the garden ready plants from Thompson and Morgan this year. Anyone else found a use for them?
The rain has boosted the growth on the squashes and carrots and the cabbages look spectacular. I am continuing to sow lettuce and spring onions and radish to go with the bumper crop of tomatoes and cucumbers we are getting.
The flower garden took a bit of a battering again with the heavy rain but a bit of prudent trimming and dead heading has brought it back round.
Firstly may I apologise for the lack of a May blog, I’ve been busy in the garden, but I also had a major setback. As some of my regular readers would know for the past year I’ve been fighting ovarian cancer, but many of you might not know I was born with a life limiting condition known as Fallots Tretology. It basically means I have four things wrong with my heart and although I had surgery as a child, I was still left with two heart murmurs and some dodgy heart valves.
Whilst the chemotherapy did its job in killing my cancer sadly it severely damaged my heart. Two and a half weeks ago a blood clot formed in one of the heart chambers causing long term dysfunctional heart failure and temporary kidney failure. To say I’m lucky to be here is an understatement. I’ve never felt so rough in my life. But I’m back home and I’m in the garden, and I’ve got an awful lot to be thankful for. My cardiologist says I have to rest and take things easy, but with the gorgeous weather we are having this week, I find it way to difficult to sit around, so I’m doing lots of supervising and planning and possibly nagging poor Mark to do stuff as well as and talking to the plants, setting of new seeds, transplanting, misting and pollinating.
The greenhouses have gone mad, I have absolutely no idea what Mark did, but when I came out of hospital the plants had gone ballistic- maybe they were just happy to see me – because within two weeks they had grown a hundredfold. I asked Mark had he given them liquid feed – he said no, apparently his secret is to open all the doors and vents, hang the sock airer or small clothes horse in there, with lavender scented conditioner on the clothes to attract pollinating insects, (poor things being tricked like this) water just before dusk, as he still has to do all the housework, eat, have a shower, visit the patient and do everything else that needs doing, and that’s it – simple! I think he deserves a medal, or a holiday poor man.
So in May the little greenhouse was full to the brim with seedlings, and baby flowers, I had also ordered Lucky Dip annual plug plants, and dahlia plug plants from T&M as well as Gardeners World perennial plug plants. There were close to 500 things growing on the shelves. Not to mention new pots of germinating grasses, veg, flowers and fruit. I was in my element, I was getting ready to return to work and I was really excited about the plant sale I would be holding the second week in June.
Then it went all went a bit wrong….. Mark had no option but to plant the bigger flowers outside, move them to the cold frame or sheltered positions – However, he doesn’t know a Phlox from a Nepeta, or a Carrot from a Cornflower, so my plants for sale were planted in our garden by mistake. I gave mum about 144 plug plants for her garden, as well as tomatoes, aubergine, and pepper. What’s left are pot bound and in dire need of planting but there’s not enough left for a good sale and I don’t feel like I can charge people for something that I know will grow perfectly but looks past it’s best. My lovely friend Trisha from work has said she would deliver any plants to my other colleagues if need be so maybe there’s a solution after all.
This month in the little greenhouse I have pots of germinating grass seeds, English Marigolds, Liatris plus mixed grass seedlings, geranium, phlox and begonia plug plants left to move to the cold frame or plant out. I have spinach beet, and cornflowers that need transplanting, as well as a very slow T&M aubergine, hollyhocks and hyssop. The greenhouse border is full of Aloe Vera flowers, the cacti is growing slowly and the money tree is bigger too. There are a number of seeds that I can start off in June, but I think I have enough for the moment. The only thing I will continue sowing are my Radish – they are delicious – they have a mild peppery flavour and we have recently been using them with our new potatoes and a red onion to make potato salad. I also want to try my hand at Beetroot, but I appear to have lost the seeds. I am wondering if I gave them to my niece, but I don’t think I have.
The big greenhouse has turned into one of the best and interesting places I can get to at the moment. But it misbehaves when I’m not at home, the watermelons are trying to get into bed with the tomatoes, and the peppers think it’s fun to push up amaranthus seeds. I’ve never grown amaranthus in the big greenhouse so the peppers must have decided to do some gardening for themselves.
There is equal growth between the yellow stuffer and sweet aperitif tomatoes. They are only about two and a half feet at present, but they are exceptionally strong. Although tied to a framework they appear to have better roots than the ones I grew last year. The tomatoes are situated on the left border and under planted with French Marigolds to deter whitefly.
The back border is filled with aubergines; I am doing an experiment to see which grows best, a normal purple skinned type, a green and white type and a pale purple type. Unfortunately the one from T&M is still in its three centimetre pot as it’s extremely slow growing – I think it’s gone dormant as the temperature soared.
The right border has two Sweet Peppers and a Chilli, plus a watermelon and a cantaloupe melon. The melons, might not be a good idea, not that I don’t want them, because I do, but because they are putting tendrils everywhere. They are climbing and flowering well, but left to their own devices I fear they will take over the ten foot greenhouse no problem. On the shelves of the same greenhouse, I have Zinnia Red Spider that have not germinated as successfully as I hoped, out of forty seeds only ten have popped up. I think the reason for this was the unexpected frost towards the end of April that knocked everything back and caught out lots of gardeners. There are also a few pot bound tomatoes, a spider plant, a Poinsettia, an orchid, two money trees that have successfully rooted, some hyacinth bulbs that still haven’t died off and a massive Begonia. Although I seem to have lost my Banksia Hookerina seeds.
And finally there are pots of dahlia tubers baking in the heat on the path of the greenhouse. I usually bake them until the first flower buds start to appear, then they get put in a sheltered position for a few days, before being moved to their final place. My cold frame is full of pumpkin plants needing a home I have enough for myself and some for the family so I might contact the secretary of the allotmenteers here and see if they want some free plants. I also have tree seedlings from The Woodland Trust, that are putting on strong growth.
Finally, I have six Hyssops that are big enough to be planted in the grassy knoll. Speaking of which, my neighbour’s gave us a lovely blue grass to add to it. It’s a stunning plant, the colour compliments the red Acer and it will look amazing when it seeds. The lady said to Mark that as her and her husband are no longer well enough to garden; they enjoy walking past ours and seeing what’s in flower, or what’s looking good in the greenhouse. It’s such a compliment when someone gives you something for your garden, or says that your garden cheers them up, it’s especially nice to think that we have inadvertently enriched their lives.
I have been banned from growing or buying any more plants until the autumn and I have been asked by Mark to “just grow fruit and veg next year!” The thing is, I’m sort of addicted to the thrill of nurturing seeds and seeing something grow – I can’t promise I won’t buy anything, but I might just stop growing seeds until September. Oh and I definitely need flowers in my life, so I won’t be growing just fruit and vegetables either. Sorry!
Until next time,
Love Amanda xx
I just love growing peas throughout summer. Possibly because it brings back happy memories of foraging in amongst rows, the enjoyment of hunting for the largest pods and trying to hide the fact you’ve eaten half the pods your mother needs for dinner!
At the pub (one of the businesses I grow at) this year I’m growing four 12 metre rows, sown every two weeks. The variety is ‘Shiraz‘ and grown as a Mangetout. The plants have colourful flowers and stunning purple pods. I find they have a slightly more earthy taste to them which I really like. Working with the chefs we’ve found that if you stir fry them very briefly they hold their colour and keep their crispness!
It’s never too late to sow peas in my book, especially if you’re after mangetout and shoots. I’ve sowed small rows in August/September and still had a decent glut.
I start by getting my peas to shoot in an air tight container. I find the best ones are my partner’s cake boxes (she’s never that happy about that) but any sealable container will do. Place a layer of damp newspaper in the bottom; add the peas and a little water. Cover with another layer of damp newspaper and seal up. Leave for around 48hrs or until they start to shoot.
Not only does this give them a kick up the backside, it also stops rodents using them as an all you can’t eat buffet.
You can sow them in pots, tubs or gutters but I’ve always sown direct and I’m yet to have a failed crop.
I rake out a furrow along the row with a depth of roughly an inch. It’s important not damage the shoots that have appeared on your peas when you remove them from the container.
Spread them along the length of your desired row, no need to be too precise or stingy with the coverage as they won’t struggle being so close. Cover them all with a layer of soil and a sprinkle of water if the weathers dry!
I also cover the ground with a homemade chicken mesh cover but you can get proper cloche hoops/kits for small rows.
This is mainly to stop your not so friendly pigeons indulging in fresh pea shoots!
Once the peas have reached around 15cm I set up a 4/5ft post and netting support frame. This is perfect for long rows but for small rows you can use string, twine, hazel and sycamore…. basically anything they can grab hold of!
After that just sit back and wait for your first pods…..
Peas always behave and I can’t wait!!
After several weeks without any significant rain last night we had 21mm enough to create puddles and fill all the water tanks. The potatoes have visibly grown during the day and everything looks green and healthy.
The spring onion White Lisbon and the Radish Bacchus only sown 6 days ago are up as are the Little Gem lettuce and the Lollo Rosso. We’re looking forward already to fresh salad from the garden.
I have sown the first Parsnip Tender and True; this seems to do very well here and overwinters nicely in the ground. I shall do another row in a couple of weeks. The cabbage Hispi and Red Jewel and beetroot Boltardy seeds sowed in cells will be ready to go out in about a week, then I shall do a second sowing of them as well. The runner beans are out as they were growing very quickly, the second sowing will go out a in a few weeks to stagger the crop a little.
The spring garden is all finished and everything is growing very fast now for the summer. Bearded iris, Peony, Alliums and Perennial wallflowers are all colouring up. Soon it will be planting out for the bedding and tubs. Have bought some colourful pots today and will fill them with Garden Ready plants as I do not have enough greenhouse space to grow on small plugs. The pots are destined for decorating a wedding venue in August so I have got to get that right!
No garden? No allotment? No problem. You can grow plenty of vegetable varieties in containers. Follow our 4 steps to successful vegetable gardening in containers.
As our so-called spring gets under way, we’re noticing that one of this season’s hot trends is growing vegetables in containers. Like many other aspects of our lives, this is all about maximising time, space and effort. Well aware of the health benefits, many of us are keen to grow our own vegetables, but are time poor, so we’re looking at ways to make things easier. Lots of people don’t have a huge garden or allotment, so growing in containers, whether flowers or vegetables, seems to be the way forward.
Here’s some advice on how to get the most out of your container vegetable patch so that you can enjoy that ‘fresh-from-the-garden’ taste even if you only have a small patio, balcony or roof terrace. Use these tips as your next step to fresh and delicious – and convenient – vegetables
1. Soil – Starting your seeds and plants in good soil is really important. If you’re using containers and pots that you used last year, remember that it’s fine to reuse the soil as long as you give it a bit of a boost of nutrients with compost and fertiliser. You should try to avoid growing plants from the same family in the same soil as last year – it’s the same theory as the crop rotation principles that farmers work to. If you’re just starting your container veg growing experience this season, then you can’t go wrong with our incredicompost® which has been independently trialled and verified as the best overall compost for raising seeds and young plants. Using this, along with our incredicrop® fertiliser, will go a long way to giving your vegetable plants the growing environment they need to produce really good crops of tasty and nutritional vegetables.
2. Sun – It’s important to consider how much sun your patio/balcony/roof terrace gets when choosing which vegetables to grow in containers. Plants that you will pick fruit from, such as tomatoes, need a good dose of sunshine – 6 to 8 hours a day – whilst vegetables that you pull out of the ground need approx. 4-6 hours. Leafy greens can manage on just 3 to 4 hours. Don’t panic if your outdoor space isn’t graced with non-stop sunshine – plenty of edible crops will thrive in partial sun and you’ll still get a good crop. Just be mindful of keeping your plants watered and fed, especially if they ARE in full sun.
3. Size – It’s worth considering the size of your container when you come to sowing your vegetable seeds and planting your vegetable plants. Think about it – for some plants, you’ll need deeper pots, planters or tubs – it’s not rocket science. As a guide, for shallow-rooted vegetables, such as radishes, lettuce and other leafy vegetables, and herbs, you’ll need about 20-30cm (9-12in) of depth in your container. For medium-rooted plants, you’ll need 30-35cm (12-14in) depth and for larger plants, such as tomatoes and potatoes, you’ll need 40-45cm (16-18in) depth. Of course, there are many options when it comes to buying containers for growing vegetables – there’s a huge choice of patio planting bags which have the benefit of being easy to move and position, as well as being reusable, and they’re easy to fold down and store when you don’t need them. Have a look at our brilliant VegTrugs™ which are just perfect for growing vegetables in!
4. Selection – Most edible vegetable plants can be grown in containers, but these days there are many varieties which have been especially developed to grow in pots and containers. These varieties will be more compact – meaning that they won’t get too big – and easier to harvest. See below for some of our container variety suggestions.
Start your shopping list here:
TomTato® – amazing variety from Thompson & Morgan’s own breeding – tomatoes and potatoes on the same plant!
Egg & Chips® – aubergines and potatoes on the same plant! More brilliant breeding from T&M!
Courgette ‘Black Forest’ – this unique climbing courgette is a great space-saving container variety
Tomato ‘Bajaja’ (tomato seeds) – great tomato variety for growing in containers and it doesn’t require side-shooting. Try Tomato ‘Balconi Yellow’ if you prefer your tomatoes yellow – this variety makes a lovely colourful feature on the patio or balcony – and the tomatoes are very sweet and tasty too.
For another decorative and productive vegetable plant, go for the superb dwarf Runner Bean ‘Hestia’ or another dwarf bean, French Bean ‘Mascotte’.
Other varieties for container cultivation are radish, carrots, beetroot and salad leaves. And of course, many potato varieties can be very successfully grown in containers or potato growing bags