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.

Hedgerows, puppies and yukky things

I’ll start off with hedgerow photos.  Outside my house starts a bridlepath.  There’s a multitude of things along the bridleway however at the start of it, where my fence is, are bramble bushes.  Now I was mightily excited about these when I moved here, thinking we’d have hoards of brambles coming out of our ears and planning all I could do with them.  So I was disappointed to say the least when we got none!  They looked like they were starting to develop but just never did.  So I am wondering if we should cut them back down to the ground and let them start a fresh? 

I think we will strim the whole area and see what’s what.  I think there’s room to plant some small fruit trees/bushes out there.  I’ll chat with Steven about it this weekend.  We do have enough on our plates already, but my brain doesn’t switch off it seems!

Poor quality, my hands were freezing and wet.  The area I’m talking about is on the left.  Hi Rodney 🙂
More of a close up
My gorgeous girl, she could run this place single handed, she is so good.

Seen as though Rodney snuck into the top photo I thought I’d show you the dogs (I still call them puppies a year on) playing in the barn the other morning, whilst I was doing the horses.

Obviously something has been here, but what?  15 mins then were here for.
Rodney got bored before Buster

He realised he may be there for some time, waiting for his brother


We didn’t find anything Mum

Finally to the yukky bit.  My veg box arrived on Wednesday as expected so I used some of it to go with tea.  Jack, my son, love cauliflower at the moment so I was pleased to see one in the box.  Cutting into it, the flesh seemed a strange texture and on investigation it looks like slugs have been enjoying their winter in there.  I rescued some of it but as you can see in the yellower coloured photo on the top middle floret, there was lots of slug slime (?) all over.  I think I stabbed the slug when splitting it down.  Ooops.

The joys of growing your own (even if I didn’t grow this one)
Happy Friday everyone and have a fabulous weekend.  We’re hoping to start our next project this weekend, more soon. 
Tracy 🙂