November update plus over wintering seeds and planning for 2018 sowing

Now Autumn is half way through, it’s got me thinking more and more about seasonal sowing and growing.  As well as preparing the ground for the next season (bean trenches and manuring) I’m also thinking about what I can over-winter, that will give me extra early harvests next year. 

This year (2017) my broad bean harvest was abysmal.  I don’t know what got to them, but it just did not work for me.  variety that can be planted in the Autumn here in the UK is Bunyard’s exhibition.  I’ve purchased some from Victoriana Nurseries and have been sowing them.  As I live in the North East, to grow these over winter, I feel these plants would need some protection to get through so once they start to show, I cover them with a small cloche tunnel of some description. 

Broad beans are part of the legume family and as I follow a 4 year crop rotation, they are to be planted where the onion and root family were the previous year.  The broad beans I have sown directly are 2cm deep in double rows.  The double row is (about) 23cm apart and the space between each double row is 60cm to allow me to get in and harvest the beans.  A double row of these Autumn planted beans will be followed by double row in February, March then April. That should see us through.  Depending on how prolific they are, these plants will hopefully be cropping well into July and August and therefore once the seeds are sown, that bed will be unusable for anything else until the plants are spent.

Other legumes that I have decided on for 2018 growing is a climbing pea called Victorian Colossal.  I’m really excited to grow this variety based on research I’ve done.  According to Victoriana Nurseries, this pea also does well when grown on a trench, so I’ve dug a trench where the peas will grow next year too.  This variety doesn’t seem to be an over-winter one so in the meantime, I looked into what variety would be good to try and over-winter.  Douce Provence comes up regularly and I grew this in my first year here which was a good crop. 
If you recall, I ordered my Autumn planting garlic, onions and shallots in mid-September which I’ve now received and are mostly planted out.  A few garlic are left to do.  These all come under the ‘onion and root’ part of crop rotation (along with leeks) and need to be planted where the potatoes were.  Next year, the legumes will follow on from the onions and roots meaning I might be able to get a late summer crop but I’m getting ahead of myself now.  They are coming through spectacularly, especially the shallots.

We’ve also got a visitor for a couple of months.  The guy over the river, who helped us with taking the pigs to slaughter, offered us a tup for a couple of months to hopefully cover the girls, giving us April lambs.  He seems nice enough so far, though sometimes they can get aggressive when they are with their girls.  The kids have been told not to go near him just in case.

 Steven and I had a child free morning today, something we never have, so we headed down to the area where the pigs had been, to see how many weeds have come through.  Not too many to be fair.  No more should grow now as the day time temperatures are consistently below 6C I would say.  We’ve some exciting things planned for this area next year.

I’ve also given the greenhouse a further tidy, binning another few plants that were done for.  Sadly, the courgette plant which serviced us so well has gone to compost heaven.  It was a golden zucchini variety – a freeby from the GYO magazine and I will definitely be growing them again next year.

Things are slowly returning back to normal here after our busy times.  I’m looking forward to a normal week at work, Monday night preserves tomorrow and bring you updates on the meat birds which are growing at a steady rate.

Back into the swing of things – runner bean trench

We’re back home and had a lovely, much needed, relaxing holiday.  We were back in the UK Friday night, at home by 3am and back out on the smallholding to open up at 8, which is a bit late for a weekend but I think we were allowed! We felt fully refreshed and raring to go!  I noticed the drop in temperature overnight though, it was very chilly at 3am!!

So now autumn is well and truly here, many vegetable plots may be slowing down in terms of production, however there’s still plenty I want to be getting on with in anticipation of keeping food coming into the kitchen through the winter and to ensure we have a cracking year in 2018. Not to mention the repairs, pruning and more preserving that’s on the cards.

Kicking things off is my decision to make a traditional runner bean trench.  I first heard of this on the blog notjustgreenfingers which I love and was so sorry to see the lady close it down.  I hope she will be back one day. I made a trench for 2017 runners, but I didn’t start it early enough, so I am making sure I don’t make the same mistake for next year.  Runner beans do not have to be rotated like many crops do.  They’ll quite happily grow in a spot that is convenient for you.  They do prefer a warm, sunny spot though.  According to the RHS “This kind of position also benefits pollinating insects, which are essential for the beans to set pods”.

To ensure the soil is constantly moist, it is also advised that one way to achieve this is to plant them in a previously dug trench.  I.e. Dug the previous year, so that’s what I started on Saturday morning and boy was it a task.

Dig a spade depth down or 2, where the beans will be planted and start to fill it over the winter with veg peelings, spent tea bags, fruit etc. 

It was super hard work, but it is done now.  I’ll start filling it tonight.  I dug over and tillered the rest of the bed.  I must say, my Christmas present from last year came into its own when I was doing that.  Some people don’t tiller/rotivate but I’m all for anything that makes my hectic life easier.

Once the bed was finished, we covered it with ground membrane which will keep the weeds down and that last bit of heat in the soil I hope.

In January or February or whenever it is full, I’ll cover it back over with soil until mid-Spring when the peelings have rotted into a lovely compost ready for the beans to thrive in.  This does mean that part of the bed will be out of action until then however I can use it to plant quick crops such as lettuce and radish early in the year so that when they come out, the runner beans can go in.

Thinking ahead, I’ll start the beans off in April indoors and then plant a later crop outdoors in June.  Hopefully that will keep the store cupboards full and the preserves flowing.

This year’s runner beans are coming to an end and today I picked a trug full.  I am going to pod the biggest ones and use in stews, which I didn’t know you could do until I watched Monty Don on Friday.  We’re one of the only countries that eat the green outer, most places use the beans!  I didn’t know that.  I’ll keep you posted as to how I do this.

Today I also dug the Jerusalem artichokes up which is a bit early I think, however they’d all snapped in the wind.  They’re drying off a bit ready to be roasted or frozen.

Steven brought a pallet out to the veg patch and I didn’t know what he was doing until I saw this:

The tools will go away over winter, but this is a great interim solution.  I might turn them the other way so no one gets their eye poked out though!  I also dug up the potatoes which I cut the tops off a month or so ago as they had blight.  I’m pleased to say the ones I used to make today’s soup looked healthy enough, let’s hope it isn’t just a one off.

They made a lovely onion, pea and potato soup or witches broth as I called it today.
I also noticed the cranberries are coming through from the plant I bought this year – I’m so pleased.
Rodney is pleased to have us back.  He hasn’t left my side, even snoozing on Ste’s trainer whilst I pottered.

Bank holiday plans.

Our surrounding farms are in full swing.  They have their cattle out in the fields, who were obviously really interested in something, so much so they lined up in a semi-circle for it.
The currant bushes are laden!  I am really excited as I can’t wait to make those delicious cordials again that we made last year.  I’ll be stocking up on them this year though, to preserve rather than use right away.
We’ve been eating asparagus and purple sprouting broccoli a few times a week.  So far we’ve had it whole and in stir fries and it’s delicious.  I’ve got a load of PSB in for 2018 as it’s a lovely crop to have and fills the gap when waiting for the next years crops and finishing the last of the leeks and so on.  It takes almost a full year to harvest, so it’s in a separate bed near the fruit trees.  Time will tell if it’s any good there.

This coming weekend is a bank holiday and we’re spending some of it with friends and the rest of it in the veg plots and paddocks.  The pigs will hopefully be moving to their new accommodation on Sunday.  We’re out Saturday otherwise we’d do it before and if they escape, we need to be on site for it.  We’ll be home Sunday and Monday as normal, so that seems sensible.
In the veg areas I want to get some more plants out but I’m hesitant after this week’s frosts.  I also need to get a lot of things potted on and some more sown to ensure successional sowing.  I’ll give the ones that are out already a feed and some pellets for the slugs (no hedgehogs can get in, it’s rabbit proofed for those who worry).
I’ll be checking on the fruit and nut trees that we have recently planted but I won’t need to water them as we’ve had rain, snow and sleet in parts.  Shot lived but enough to water them.
The main crop potatoes are showing through so I will earth them up and cover them in the ongoing battle with the chickens.
I am also going to try and get something done with the field that I flattened.  I used my fiesta, as in my car.  I asked the farmers, tried to pay people and looked online.  No one could help, so I used my initiative.  I knocked myself sick going backwards and forwards, but the job’s done.  Now I need to get the grass seed sown.  Obviously the ground is flat and hard, so I need to get my thinking cap on.  I have basic tools only!
I’ve been weeding as often as I can, to try and stay on top of it so they don’t take a hold.  The weeds get thrown onto the pile of ‘scrap but useful’ items we keep behind the barn and the chickens see to it.  They love scratching round in them.
A busy weekend planned.  It’s all too much for Rodney and Buster.

Herbs and tomato flowers

I have made some progress with starting our little kerb garden, but of course nothing like what I originally thought.  I ordered the following herbs from Victoriana Nurseries and instead of planting them into the ground, I’ve potted them on into larger pots until we decide where we want to put them permanently. 

# 1 x Angelica Plant
# 1 x Bay Plant
# 1 x Chamomile Plant
# 1 x Chive Plant
# 1 x Curry Plant
# 1 x Feverfew Plant
# 1 x Lemon Balm Plant
# 1 x Mint Plant – Moroccan Mint
# 1 x Oregano Plant
# 1 x Rosemary Plant – Common Rosemary
# 1 x Thyme Plant – Common Thyme

# 1 x Horseradish Plant Available from approximately late April 2017
# 1 x Hyssop Plant – Blue  Available from approximately May 2017
# 1 x Lovage Plant  Available from approximately late April 2017
# 1 x Marjoram Plant Available from approximately May 2017
# 1 x Lemon Grass ‘East Indian’ Plant Available from approximately May 2017

This is the bay plant which I’ve taken one branch from to see if I can grow it on into a tree.  I have plenty of time to offer.

This is the tea plant which is coming on well now it is in a bigger pot.
I think it was Dawn who introduced me to this website, so thank you.
A lot of the herbs double up as medicinal and not just culinary.  That’s what I love about the VN as on their website they give you ideas as to what to use the herbs for.  For example Angelica grows best along riverbanks, which is perfect for me as I’m beginning a new project to transform our riverbank.  This herb is supposed to be good “As a ‘bath oil’ for aching muscles and rheumatism” which is what drew me to it.  Working and running the smallholding, both Ste and I have plenty of aching muscles!!  Also it can be used in pot pourri which I’m hoping to make as part of the Christmas hampers.
Image from google
As I use them, I’ll be sure to do posts to show if they are worthwhile or not.
Mid April and I have flowers on my tomatoes (Garden Pearl) variety and also the Brandywine.  These were sown at the end of January and brought on in the house.  I’ll be doing the same next year too.
I’ll start feeding them with tomato feed as I think that’s what you need to do once the flowers form, or is that just when the fruit starts?  I’ll have to check.

Tomato update

Early in January I sowed some beefsteak tomato seeds.  The first lot failed which was my fault, they shot up before I realised.  Some I saved by replanting to their first leaves and some I started fresh.  Both have done fine.  Here’s the beefsteak one (Brandywine) which needs potting on again.  It’s also starting to produce side shoots which I am nipping out.  I’ve planted the other one which is as big as this one directly in the polytunnel bed to compare which one does best so I can just do that in 2018.
The tomatoes below were all getting far too big for their pots, so instead of a pot bigger, I potted them on into their final resting pots so to speak.
It took the best part of an hour but now I have 18 tomato plants ready.
The tomatoes are the big pots, the smaller ones are caulis, cabbage and calabrese.
 These little things are Gardeners Delight, sown after the first tomatoes in the hope of extending the season as long as possible.  I have some that have just germinated too and will keep sowing for a little while yet.

I also have a variety called outdoor girl which, as the name suggests, will be going outside when they can.
This weekend I will pot on everything that needs it and plant out the PSB for next year.  It’s too big for its pot now and I don’t want to have to pot it on again. 
I think I am going to need more growing space !
Have a lovely weekend all, it’s due to be sunny here so I plan to get in the greenhouse and polytunnel before they get too hot, then in the veg plot to get some much needed vitamin D.  I think Sunday afternoon may be a day of rest and enjoying some rhubarb cocktails…..