Monday, April 30, 2012

Meanwhile, back at the ranch... (part 5)

It's been a while since I wrote about how our veg is growing at home. There's some new stuff growing, so I guess now is an appropriate time to write a blog about it. 

I'll start with the tomatoes. 
These have been planted outside for a week or two now, albeit underneath a sheet of transparent perspex (which has fulfilled the duel role of slightly warming the air underneath it and also protecting the tomato plants from overnight frost).

They're growing well, our next job is to put wire up in the troughs to allow the plants cling to when they send out creepers. 
All the troughs (or pots) that the tomatoes are growing in are filled with compost that's been rotting down in our compost bin for the last two years. 

The leeks we planted are growing taller by the day. Clare rotates the box the leeks are planted in every day to ensure they all receive an equal amount of sunlight. They'll be left in the box for another month (till June) before we plant them out in the plot. 

Cucumbers (the pots to the left)
We're also growing cucumber - the seeds were quick to germinate, and the plants are even quicker to grow. In the above photo, the cucumber plants are the large plants in the pots to the extreme left (the next two rows to the right are peas, but more of that below). 
We had good success with the cucumber plants we grew the year before last - growing decent sized (and delicious) cucumbers. 
The cucumbers will be planted out in our back garden, as I think they'll require more care and attention than the other veg that we'll plant out in the plot.

The reason that we're growing additional peas is that by "staggering" the growth of the plants should give us a constant harvest of peas throughout the summer. 

Clare's also growing some veg we've never tried before - Cos Lettuce (pictured left) and "Purple Teepee", a type of bean that grows long, purple (surprise!) pods. I'm looking forward to see how these come along (pictured right). We're experimenting by germinating the seeds in "Jiffy 7's", which are basically recycled coconut fibres packed into a small disk. After watering them, they expand and you then sow your seeds into them. So far they seem to be working out pretty well. 

We split our chilli plants into two different good sized pots, suitable for sitting on the windowsill where they'll reside all summer. They're growing well, and already we're starting to see the first flowers coming out . These will of course eventually transform into hot chilies. 
 Now, time to go back outdoors. Last year we bought a shoot off a blackcurrant bush (pictured below). To be honest, as it looked like nothing more than a twig, I didn't really hold out any hope for anything growing from it. How wrong I was. Over the course of last summer, the twig grew into a bone fide blackcurrant bush. It eventually reached a height of about two and a half feet before the autumn kicked in and slowed its growth. 
A couple of weeks ago, buds started to appear on it, and at this point, it's continuing its skyscraper-like growth. We're collected a bucket of composted manure from the plot, and scattered it over the base of the bush. 

The blackcurrant is a really decent addition to the garden. It's a decent looking plant, and gives off a fantastic aroma. 

(Pictured right, you can see the original "graft" that the blackcurrant grew from - its the straight "twig" in the dead centre of the bush). 
The extent to which the blackcurrant has grown this year is obvious from the photo to the left - last years growth is the "woody" grey part of the stem towards the bottom. All the green stem is this years growth (so far!). It's about fifteen centimetres growth so far. 

I'm training some of the branches against the trellis to ensure they don't get crowded. Hopefully this will also make it easier to pick the fruit in years to come.
The leaves will come in useful to make a fruit tea. 

And, leaving the best news for last, our blackcurrant bush has started to produce fruit (pictured right). There are several bunches of these berries growing on the bush. I'm really excited about when I can finally harvest them, though I'm in several minds as to what to do with the berries - jam? - cordial? 
Any ideas greatly appreciated, please just leave a comment on the bottom of the blog.
There's also some good news on the gooseberry front. The gooseberry sapling I planted this year hadn't shown any signs of life, and after the frosts of early April, I had given it up for dead. 
However, after checking on it today, I discovered a few buds shooting up. 
It's not much, but the blackcurrant had small beginnings too, so I'll be patient. The idea of having both gooseberries and blackcurrants growing in our back garden next year is a very satisfying one!  
Last year we planted out a few strawberry plants, which grew some decent strawberries (every single one of which was enjoyed by Thomas!). In the autumn, these plants sent out "runners", which I replanted around the garden. These runners are now starting to blossom, as can be seen from the picture above. Not sure quite yet how many strawberry plants survived, but every one is a bonus. More details will follow on my blogs in the future.

On a final note - the forager in me wouldn't be happy unless I mentioned that some "hairy bittercress" (Cardamine hirsuta, pictured left) is growing fairly prolifically at the bottom of my garden. 

Most people would think of this as a weed - myself included. However I also know that this is a perfectly edible little gem of a weed - and it's not bitter at all.
As its name suggests, it tastes almost exactly like the "normal" cress most people will be used to - i.e nice and peppery, a lovely addition to a summer salad. 

1 comment:

sarah gill said...


With the blackcurrants. For my face-hole.