3 January 2012

As tradition demands, I sat down with a seed catalogue just after Christmas to choose and order this year’s crops. In fact, although I do get old school paper catalogues, you won’t be surprised to hear that the catalouge I used was online.

The selection was based upon a short list of vegetables I’m comfortable growing and plant varieties which have either been successful in past years or which present a challenge for the coming year.

A quick run through:

Potatoes, Robinta: for the first time since moving to Devon I’ve dropped Desiree from my list. Whilst we love the big red tubers, I opted for a variety coming in a smaller quantity. We’ve had a lot of wastage due to mice helping themselves during colder days. Robinta is another main crop red with fleshy tubers. It remains to be seen if I can reduce worm and slug damage.

Pea, Ambassador: not being able to find a true petit pois, I chose what looks to be a near equivalent. There are left over seeds from previous years though given an iffy strike rate in 2011 I’m not sure I’ll get much out of the old petit pois. “Tolerant of bad weather” it says in the catalogue. Ideal for north Devon, then!

Runner bean, White Emergo: an excellent cropper in 2011 despite wind damage to my canes. We were feasting on beans through October.

Broccoli/calabrese, Fiesta: a slight punt on an F1 hybrid. I can’t remember what I’ve sown before, but I’ve had great success the last two years. The trick in 2012 will be to stagger the plants so I’m not stuck with several kilos of head all at once.

Cabbage, Drago: a winter variety with a pointed head. This should be interesting. I’ve only grown summer cabbages before so not used to harvesting in the dark, wet days of December.

Brussels sprouts, Doric: success in 2011/12!

Tomato, Zuckertraube: a small, sweet, salad tomato that has been supremely pants in terms of cropping. But, the taste is a tease.

Tomato, Mirabelle Blanche: a yellow version of Gardeners’ Delight. If it crops like GD, then should be good. But, does it taste good?

Cucumber, Tanja: I didn’t have much luck with Marketmore in 2011 so decided to try a difference variety. I usually transplant the fruits to an outside plot though under a cloche. The cloche is knackered so I may have to keep the plants in a crowded greenhouse.

That’s it apart from the usual selection of mixed leaves and sprouting seeds. I may have to get some red onions to join my yellow onions, ordered several months ago. Not yet decided whether to buy some chilli plants as I’ve repeatedly failed to get all but a handful of fruits from seed grown specimens.

Finally, what’s the betting my 4 year old Gardeners’ Delight germinate yet again?

I can’t wait to get sowing!



17 April 2011

Briefly, today, I sowed:

  • runner beans – Scarlet Emperor and White Emergo
  • peas – Petit Pois and Little Marvel
  • cucumber – Marketmore
  • Common thyme
  • basil – Aroma 4
  • Curly parsley

Photo of the day – Seeds

21 January 2010


Spring is not far away. Delivery from Tamar Organics including Desiree potatoes, rocket, runner beans, lettuce and tomatoes. Experimenting with a different cherry tomato, Zuckertraube. Also, gone for a white flowering bean, supposedly less prone to bird damage.

Chilli willy

10 July 2008


Residents of southern England may have noticed a few spots of rain over the last few days. Exmoor, just up the road, had 58 mm yesterday. So, you can assume that we had about the same – 2 inches for those hard of metrication. The Met Office would have you believe that June was drier than normal. What’s more, the temperature was apparently near normal.

Hogwash! It’s cold outside.

But, it’s hotting up in the greenhouse as one of the chilli flowers has finally condescended to fruit. Just how do you spell it? Chili? Chilli? Voodoo Chile?


Rain, wind and cold aside, I emptied a couple of potato pots this afternoon as I waited for a heating engineer. (We thought we’d wait until the summer to replace the boiler. Summer 2007 that is – we’re still waiting for that one.)


The chillis have to compete with the tomatoes in the greenhouse. Like just about everything else here, the tomatoes are lagging behind. So far, so good though. We’ve got good strong flowering trusses on all the plants. I clipped off some of the lower branches today, giving the top growth more of chance to develop.


Probably not a surprise that I’m eating a lot of potato salads for lunch. I pack in mixed green leaves, baby spinach and rocket with the pots, a bit of cheese and shop bought tomatoes (boo!). I’m now having baby lettuce leaves from the raised bed too.

To complete my day off, I sowed yet more basil and marjoram.

Onion seeds

17 June 2008


Pretty cool new camera, eh? Onion seed heads off a bolted plant in the raised bed. It’s a plant left over from last year and twice it has bolted. I might try to sow some of the seeds. Any tips on sowing onion seeds?

Meanwhile, the wind blew off a few runner bean leaves, but otherwise the plants look in fine fettle. I’ve sprayed my infected potato with Bordeaux mixture. Salad leaves everyday from the raised bed. Tomatoes going great guns. Even the spinach is growing. Everything is good.

Peas ‘n’ beans

26 May 2008

As those of you in the south of England will agree, this was a typical bank holiday Monday: wind (gale force) and rain and not too warm. All the more reason to huddle up to the PC, watch the cricket and do a bit of planting.


In the spirit of ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’, I’ve used a reused bread tray (from the village shop) and some unused plastic beer glasses. In doing so, I’ve recycled an idea from Alex up at the allotments.


Peas. Late, I know. But, if you look carefully at the photo above, you will see that peas can be planted until July. So, nya-nya.


Little Marvel are, I think, the same variety that we used last year. We got a fair crop in a small space. Unfortunately, we left the unused seeds in a tin with onion sets. The resulting mess stank to high heaven.


In the other half of the bread tray, I’ve sown ten runner beans seeds. I will sow another ten beans and peas in a few weeks time; and then again.


Last year’s beans were a mixed bunch. The original seeds took a hammering in a May storm much like the one we suffered today. I planted replacement seeds and we got some plants from the village plant sale. But, the wind and rain continued to play havoc. The spot I chose was in direct line of the prevailing wind whipping around the house. At 150 metres, facing south-west, we get a fair amount of prevailing wind. (I should point out that, unusually, today’s storm was brought nor’ easterlies.)

Anyway, I have learned lessons from last year and I’m not fussed that I’m probably the last person at the allotment to plant their beans and peas. I dodged the May gale.


I have to admit I have no chance at matching next doors’ highly engineered bean poles: look at those cross braces!

The sweet smell of success (or ‘you stink of Jeyes fluid’)

27 April 2008

An unexpected window of sunshine allowed a couple of hours digging this afternoon. But, I gave in around 5.30 and collapsed into the bath.

Not that I wasn’t busy in the morning. Jeyes fluid made another appearance as I disinfected a whole load of small pots in preparation for sowing seeds. Late sowing, this was.


We are well behind on greenhouse crops. Not that this leaves us worried. There have been enough disappointments in the past: see above. So, waiting until late April to sow tomatoes and cucumbers is not such a big deal.

I hope.

Tomatoes have never been our strong suit. And, I think it’s down to not understanding which shoots to prick out; too many plants craving too little sun; too much or too little water. Whatever it is, I’m determined that we do better this year. A little light reading in the evenings from my extensive, yet hardly touched, gardening library should put us right.

From this disastrous experience, we plumped for a couple of varieties that any idiot should be able to grow.


Moeymaker: just the name inspires confidence. ‘Well known for reliably producing heavy crops.’ Er, not in our experience, but we’ll give it another go. It is a medium sized fruit on large trusses, so a bit of scaffolding might be required.


Gardener’s delight: it sure should be. ‘Bite sized fruits…sweet flavour. Heavy crops…’ Can’t go wrong! (Note: The tray also contains some parsley I sowed.)


One of last year’s surprises was some success at cucumbers. We’d not tried them before and because we crammed the greenhouse full of tomatoes, the cukes wound up outside. Three plants ended up under a cold frame and half a dozen or so lived in one of the few sheltered spots in the garden on the greenhouse staging.


Not the greatest yields, I’m sure. The leaves got a bit brown and powdery, a sign, of some horrid bug. Nevertheless, we got a steady stream of 10-15 cm or so fruits through until September. I love cucumber, so a bit of a bonus.


Let’s see how Green Fingers -‘early cropping, high yielding baby cucumber…powdery mildew (ha!) resistant’ – do.

Let’s go for it!


As a coda, I popped in one of my maincrop potatoes – Desiree – into a pot to sit in the greenhouse next to my thriving first earlies.



Later on, I trundled up to the allotment for some back torture. The trip did yield something tasty: some lovely purple sprouting broccoli and spinach, courtesy of Barry (not his real name, of course).

I benefited from scone and tea around 4.30.

The late planted onions are starting to produce green shoots. I felt the earth yesterday and it has definitely warmed up, so no excuses now you boys!

Another four potato plants have poked above the soil. Another three of four spots show cracks in the soil, so the shoots are about to reach daylight. (Eight weeks from planting to digging: six weeks to go then.)

Bathed before dinner – including purple sprouting – but I still smell of Jeyes.