Friday, 29 December 2017

White Out

View from the window today:

It snowed on Christmas Day evening and the temperature has fluctuated around zero C since then so we still have that snow before this lot arrived this morning.

Just outside Edinburgh the Pentland Hills are transformed:

OK White Out /Wipe Out   - It's an easy mistake!

Thursday, 21 December 2017

A Short Post for the Shortest Day

To mark the winter equinox I went to the plot and dug up our first parsnip.  A single row at the edge of the bed overshadowed by a high grassy path they had been rather overlooked this year, but I have got some return for the very little effort I lavished on them.   Roast parsnips are on for Christmas dinner!
While the parsnips have developed multiple side shoots the carrots growing next door remain nice and cylindrical.  This reverses our tradition of "good parsnips, rubbish carrots"  !

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Now You See Them...

I have decided to plant out my broad beans, even though the onset of winter is nigh. Planted in cells on 24 October the intention was to plant them out in spring.  But they prospered in the cold greenhouse and developed roots which were bursting out of their cells. Following the guide that plants shout be transplanted once the roots appear through the holes at the bottom I accepted that they were too far advanced to be kept in their cells.  Fortunately I have been experimenting with a fleece tunnel at the plot and so have constructed a sheltered home for them:

Broad beans planted out

Now You Don't!

and covered

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Cut and Come Again Microgreens - cont

Here is the current state of play with my cut and come again autumn sowings. Set in the (unheated) greenhouse I have half trays of  "Nice and Spicey"(N&S) to the rear and "Speedy Mixed" (SM) in the front. The earliest sowing was 19th August followed by 8th September and both of these have been harvested once.  I think the slugs had a nibble of the earliest sowing when it was still outdoors, so there isn't much "come again" about that one. The 26th September sowing of N&S and the 7th October of SM are currently harvestable as Macrogreens whereas the SM sown 27th October could only qualify as Micro, still being at the cotyledon stage of leaf development.

In fact they are pretty much the same as my most recent indoor sown rocket microgreens,

Microgreen Rocket at 10 days old
To date I have yet to get a second harvest off any of the Cut and Come Again sowings. 8th September is nearly there but all growth is in abeyance now that the temperature has dropped. I might squeeze it onto the kitchen windowsill for a week or so before cutting!

On the left, cut and coming on again - 3 week later sowing on the right just about big enough to harvest for the first time.

So I have been having fun experimenting how far in the year  I can push the cut and come again salad cold sowing.  I think I have definitely reached the limit and both heat and light would be required between now and next spring.

And yes I still have some basil and coriander microgreens under lights.  The coriander that has germinated (about half) is nice and tall but the basil is very low growing. No chance of getting scissors in there.  I am beginning to see the advantages of mustard and cress!

Sunday, 26 November 2017

Fabaceous Broad Beans

Looking rather perky today are these broad beans, I sowed them in cells on 24th October in the (unheated) greenhouse

By 18th November they looked like this:

Now I have the headache: Have they outgrown their cells already? Will they survive the winter if planted out at the allotment?  Should they stay or should they go?

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Microgreen Micromanagement

As of today here is my Microgreen set up.

I started out 4 weeks ago using a bespoke microgreen growing tray from Johnsons. Following the instructions scrupulously I sowed coriander and basil which, according to the packet, should be ready in 10-16 days and 16-21 days respectively. Well I am now 28 days in and it is time for some intervention.  Progress has been painfully slow, and I make the following observations:

The design of the kit needs to be modified.  What you get is a clear tray that holds a reservoir of water over which the growing trays are suspended.  At first sight I thought the clear tray was a cover to retain moisture in the atmosphere above the seeds but no, it is the base and there is no lid.  After the slow progress of three weeks I have enclosed the unit in a polythene bag to rectify this omission. 

Also after three weeks I was having doubts about the design from the point of view of the growing medium.  Spraying kitchen towel 2-3 times a day doesn't seem particularly onerous.  Once you have been doing it for 21 days without fail you begin to wonder who is the mug!  If you miss one session the kitchen towel soon dries out.

So after three weeks I took the third packet that came with the kit (Rocket - Ready in 16-21 days) and sprinkled it on the surface of a more conventional set up. A half sized seed tray with potting compost and a cover. This had the advantage of being moveable without the reservoir of water sloshing all over the place.  I put this enclosed unit in an internal cupboard and forgot about it for 4 days. On first checking it looked like this:

so I removed it to the kitchen windowsill alongside the designer model.  Given the time it has taken for germination of the first sowing I have to conclude that our kitchen is colder than your average kitchen.  (Although it gets hot from cooking and the boiler is located in there too, there is no radiator so the temperature can drop.) I also have become convinced that there is a decided lack of sunlight.
Time to deploy the growlight setup in our (former) coal cellar.  The tray can be heated but I haven't switched the heat on just yet.  Now that germination has occurred I feel sure that the level of light is the  crucial factor in producing green microgreens.

So, in conclusion, my purchase of the right kit for the right job turns out to be a bit foolhardy.  It is less faff  just to use the same system as I do for cut and come again salads but harvest them a bit sooner and pamper them a bit more with indoor temperatures and the supplement of some artificial light.  No bother really but it has taken a bit of working out! To grow a seed needs adequate moisture warmth - and light.

Monday, 20 November 2017

Clamping Down on Carrots

It has been a good year for carrots. So much so that, despite chomping away on them as fast as rabbits, half the crop is still in the ground.  So rather than moving the mountain I have revived an old idea with a new twist.  Harvested root crops in the past have been stored in clamps: put in a pit, covered with straw and then earth, to protect from frost.  Having the thrip netting in place already it occurred to me that, duvet style, the straw could float above the undug carrots for warmth.  It is not going to blow away because the net is retaining it.

To recap we sowed a double tunnel of carrots this year, only lifting the netting for thinning and weeding on two occasions

By September it was clear they were growing away well

The netting kept off the root fly and the roots were happy just with the normal Edinburgh steady rainfall,

I have every hope that with this blanket of protection we will be eating our own carrots right up until next spring even if it turns cold and icy.

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Corn Stripper

Corn Patch Former Glory

A Mixed Bunch

Given that it is November and we have frosty nights it is time to accept that the sweetcorn harvest time has arrived.  Then comes the process of saving the edible part of the crop.

I've used what Lakeland call their Corn Stripper.  It looks like a computer mouse (remember them?)

The underside houses the cutting edge.

Running the device along the length of each cob strips the kernels into the chamber above which can then be emptied into a freeezer bag.

If you have, as recommended, blanched the cobs in boiling water the whole process is still fraught with hazard. Disposable gloves are recommended both for hygiene and some protection from heat!

Debris from the Corn and Courgettes
Music maestro please:

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Gardening On A Windowsill

We have had three sub zero nights here in Edinburgh, so the outdoor gardening is severely curtailed. 

Time to retreat to the kitchen (windowsill).

I bought this kit early in the year in a fit of  online gardening enthusiasm but haven't deployed it until now.

It is simply a water tray with a drainage tray propped on top of it.  The growing medium (a sheet of kitchen towel) you supply yourself!

Once the tray is filled with water and the paper wetted you sprinkle the supplied "microgreen seeds" on top and, using a water spray, keep them moist for two weeks....

The microgreen seeds I have selected are coriander and basil.  Perhaps unsurprisingly they appear the same as my other coriander and basil seeds.  There is a little voice at the back of my head that says. "Ah but these have been specially selected for microgreen growing and have no fungicide or insecticide treatment that garden seed might have been treated with" but I really do wonder if they are any different.

Thursday, 2 November 2017

A Consort of Violas

You may have detected that I am not really a flower gardener.  Very much of the edible tradition I admit.  But I am learning.  At this time of year violas are thriving when all else has gone to sleep.  Today I potted up the seedlings above.  

But I also potted on these All The Year Round cauliflowers..... add to my collection of overwintered broadbeans

So I haven't entirely abandoned my principles!

Monday, 30 October 2017

First Frost

-0.7 C registered on the outdoor thermometer last night.  Ice on cars this morning.  Like a punctuation mark at the end of a sentence we had our first frost of the season. So it is goodbye to these Bishop of Llandaff dahlias that have been so stunning by the front door all this summer.

I will of course attempt to dry them out and store over winter, but the greenhouse temperature was down to 0.6 C and the shed was down to 0.9 C so I am not sure I will find a suitable home for them.

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Successional Sowing Success

In the past I have annually regretted my lack of foresight when it comes to successional sowing. But this year I have experimented with late sowings of cut and come again salads sown in half seed trays. The dates on these four are 19 August, 8 September, 26th September and 7th October (see below).  The earliest tray has already been chopped and is regrowing. The second is currently being trimmed  one section at a time and the last two are coming on nicely.  Looks like our lunches will continue to be pepped up for a few weeks yet.  Although this picture has been taken in the greenhouse the trays have been sitting out in the elements and have only just been moved inside now that the tomatoes and peppers have been cleared out my small greenhouse.

While I am on the subject I will admit that the successional sowing at the plot has been a little disappointing.  Second and third sowings of beetroot, lettuce, pak choi, even leaf beet  have produced very patchy or non existent rows -  probably as a result of all the rain and the resulting slug action.  In future I will sow more thickly to allow for poor germination and heavier predation.

Sometimes it is a good idea to sow more more more.

Diminishing Returns

Specifically the courgettes are giving up.  Here is today's harvest...

and last Sunday's.

I think that's it for this year.  Can't complain because  two plants kept up a steady supply throughout the summer. A third yellow one came to nothing - I think it was wind damaged soon after planting out.  Two Jaune et Vert Squash failed to produce any fruit either.  Kabocha (I guess it is a winter squash) produced a half dozen fruit even though it was crowded out by the Sharks Fin Melon which was as rampant as ever.

previous crop of sharks fin melons

Really Going Down

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

One Man Went to Mow...?

Nature likes a bit of a mess, and on that basis we have regressed to a very natural garden.  The "wildflower meadow bed" is looking as bit raggedy and the leaves are littering what remains of the lawn. In the past I might have felt guilty about this scenario, but now I have that warm autumn glow of knowing that I am a habitat creator. 

Earlier in the season it could still pass as a formal garden of sorts:

Of course some of the wildflowers are biennial and won't flower until next year (foxgloves for one).  Others require a cold snap before they will even germinate (Yellow Rattle for one). So it would be unfair to judge the project so early on.

Reverse view now

Reverse view in summer (Scottish Summer that is)
Other environmental enhancements in recent years also mature year on year.

Pond Set Up

Pond with Bee Nesting Annex

Bug Hotel Newbuild

Bug Hotel Today

Here is a gallery of just some of the meadowflowers that flowered in the first year:


Oxeye Daisy - or is it Corn Chamomile?

Red Clover