Sunday 26 June 2011

Perishing Parsnips?

Parsnip seed is notorious. You have to use new seed every year because it doesn't keep. Each seed packet has more seed than you could ever use (400-800).  After offering around you find, most likely, that  everyone else has the same problem.

Rather than just throw out the last 3 years' seed I thought I would test them out for viability to see if the received wisdom was really true.

Here's my test beds:

From left to right

2009 - home saved Tender and True
2010 - Hollow Crown
2011 - The Student

50 seeds in each tray on top of moist potting compost sprayed with water every couple of days.

Two weeks later the score:

2009 - 10 germinated seeds
2010 - 28
2011 - 49

That's 98% for this year's seed! So, contrary to popular opinion, parsnip is a very good germinator. Also seed viability would appear to be better than we are led to believe being above 50% a year after the seal on the packet was broken.

In future I wont be throwing out my parsnip seeds each year.  If I use them a year later I will sow 6 seeds at each station rather than three.

Just two activities at the plot this week: picking strawberries and weeding. Guess which one I enjoy more?

Sunday 19 June 2011

Parsley Sage Rosemary and Thyme... and Sorrel and Savory...

Weeding has been the top priority this wet weekend.  I've clawed back the jungle under the carrot nets to rediscover the remnants of the carrot rows.  I think the slugs have been having a field day. Also strawberry production has started in earnest. Honeoye going like the clappers,  Cambridge Favourite looking extremely big, and on the verge of ripening. I do hope these turn out to be as tasty as promised.  Judibell and Florence are late varities so I have these to look forward to trying for the first time - and then there's everbearing Albion to follow.  It's my "year of the strawberry". If all goes well it will just be the first of many.

Back at home I'm really please with how the herb bed has come on. 

Didn't he do well?

The plan is:

                          C                        C

ROCKET                         SAGE                   ROSEMARY

                          H                        H

  P          A             R          S          L           E           Y

                          I                          I

CORIANDER                SAVORY                   THYME

                          V                        V

 P          A             R           S            L        E       Y

                          E                         E

FENUGREEK              CHERVIL                 SORREL

                          S                         S

Probably the rocket, coriander, fenugreek and parsley belong in the vegetable patch instead of this warm dry bed. I'll replace them with oregano, buckler sorrel and tarragon, which I have elsewhere,  before the season is out.                                          

Thursday 16 June 2011

Surprise Surprise!

From my last posting you might think I was a stickler for weeding, but I do have a a very liberal attitude towards some "weeds".  A rosette of furry leaves appeared alongside the strawberry patch.  I didn't know what it was or what it would turn into, but I left it to its own devices. Neighbours enquired what it was and I had to admit I didn't know.  Well now "the thing" has revealed it's true nature and I am happy to say "Great Mullein, that's amazing!"

Great Mullein!

Leaves like lambs ears

Verbascum thapsus

It turns out that this plant has been used to cure everything from piles to earache, is immune to contact weedkillers (because of its furry leaves) and has at least 40 common names ranging from Adam's Rod to Cowboy Toilet Paper. It seems the dried stems make a good torch  (it is known as the Candlewick Plant). I might try that.

Oh, I mentioned the strawberries. they are coming on stream, unimpressed by their imposing neighbour.

picked 16/6/11

Saturday 11 June 2011

Watching Flowers in the Rain?

Not on your nelly.  I reckon Roy Wood didn't have an allotment!  Wet soil is ideal for weeding the vegetable patch, and if you've only got the weekends to do it, you do it rain or shine!

  Two hours later:


Spot the new shed making its first appearance.

And while I'm at it here's the Canadian Wonder patch all filled up.

Dwarf Beans

 And here's the pea patch. I was surprised to find some podding up in the earliest row, with a second row flowering. Not long to wait now!

Peas galore
 The strawberries in the foreground are everbearing variety, Albion.  I've been picking off the flowers to encourage leaf growth as I don't want strawberries off this patch until the other three patches are exhausted.

I hate weeding but it is the stuff of the allotment  right now.  If you don't get it done now you might as well hand back the keys, because in another week or two the seedlings would have been swamped and the only option to dig the weeds in. The plants will get a real boost from the lack of competition, and the rain, so they'll be able to keep ahead of the weeds from here on, with just a little help.  Generally I  find it easy to weed when I'm getting the reward of a crop at the same time, less so when its weed, weed, weed and no return.

Monday 6 June 2011

Happy Brassica Day

Had a great day yesterday - planted the brassicas out - all of them

All my brassicas in one basket

Of course there was lots of preparation to do.

First rule of brassicas - never plant out until you've got pigeon protection. So up went the chicken wire and out comes the plastic netting (and repair kit) .  I  managed to salvage an old one. 

Second rule: Ground preparation is vital. and plenty of water. Boy is that ground dry and dusty!

Wet and dry
 Third rule : Brassica collars - fit straight away - otherwise you'll never get around to it.

Fourth rule: slug pellets (the more expensive "organic approved" ones). Otherwise you can forget it.

End result:

All planted

OK I just made up those rules but they're the ones I follow.

The yellow flowers (can you guess?) They're parsnip flowers from the one plant I've left to go to seed. I'm wondering now if it was such a good idea now it's in my brassica patch. Oh well. 

After that it only rained! (a little) Woopee.

Ali.  I have my nursery beds in my wee garden at home and grow plants on 3 or 4 miles across town at my allotment!

Hi Lorraine, Ruth (hope your Dad is supplying you with veg from his plot) and everyone who has joined me in my allotment blog adventure. It's great to see you, and get your interesting and encouraging comments.

Saturday 4 June 2011

Brick Raised Beds Update

This winter I built 4 brick raised beds.

It took a bit of time...

... but we got there before spring sprung.

Here's how it looks today:

Right now the brassicas are ready for transplanting,

All except the Pak Choi which doesn't like to be moved.

(Tany, last year my pak choi at the allotment all bolted.  It seems it likes pampering, Lots of fertility and lots of water.  Temperature not too hot -  like a Scottish spring)

The herb and salad beds have been a roaring success too, but the asparagus was a complete failure, producing just one viable plant. No problem: Now I've got room for my outdoor cucumber tomatoes and courgettes.