Posts Tagged ‘Vegetables’

Our four-year crop-rotation fantasy plan

Getting to the end of our first year in the garden, we’ve been a bit chaotic. Digging beds just in time to plant chitted potatoes, or seedlings outgrowing their seed trays, and we’ve only managed to get three-and-a-half of the eight beds dug (each bed is 5ft x 20ft, and double-dug)

I’ve finally had a chance to sit down and plan it all out properly, ready for next year, and – several books later – I have got a full four-year crop-rotation plan mostly complete: Our Crop-Rotation plan (pdf)

Now I’ve just got to dig and manure the remaining beds, and buy a million-or-so seeds. It’ll be interesting to see if reality even slightly matches the plan . . .

Edible Perennials – Siberian / Pink Purslane

800px-Claytonia_sibirica_EglintonI’m keen to try as many edible perennials as possible – I like the idea of not having to re-plant things every year, with all the work that involves. I’ve been having a great time watching “A year in a Forest Garden” from Martin Crawford at Agroforestry, and it’s been giving me lots of ideas for new plants to try. One I’ve ordered is Claytonia Sibirica, or “Siberian / Pink Purslane”.

Siberian purslane. Not from Siberia, this North American short-lived perennial grows 20 cm high in any moist soil in sun or part or full shade. The leaves are edible, raw (an excellent salad plant – beet flavour) or cooked, and the plant can be used for ground cover – it self-seeds freely. Hardy to -35ºC.

Plants for a Future have more info on it:

  • “It is in leaf all year, in flower from April to July, and the seeds ripen from June to August. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bees, flies. The plant is self-fertile.”
  • It seems to handle any soil and shade situation, as long as it is not too wet.
  • The leaves can be eaten raw or cooked. “They usually have a fairly bland flavour and are quite nice in a salad or cooked as a green vegetable”
  • I particularly like their cultivation notes. It just sounds too good to be true – I’ll have to give it a go:

A very tolerant and easily grown plant, it prefers a moist peaty soil and is unhappy in dry situations. It succeeds in full sun though is happier when given some shade and also grows in the dense shade of beech trees. Plants usually self-sow freely. This is an excellent and trouble-free salad plant. It is extremely cold-hardy and can provide edible leaves all year round in all areas of the country even if it is not given protection.

Now I just have to sow some. Apparently it can be sown in spring or autumn, in situ. I’m planning to put it in a shady spot under the Aquaponic growbeds in the polytunnel so I’ll have to see whether their spot is ready before winter really gets going. If not, they can wait until spring – apparently they germinate quickly.

Eat Seasonably – save money and the earth

Eat Seasonable Fruit & veg

Eating seasonable fruit and veg can be a great way to save yourself money, and reduce your impact on the environment. It can be hard though to work out what really is in season now that you can get pretty much anything at any time of year.

Luckily there’s a great new website – – that tells you what to eat now, and even what to grow. It’s all presented in a great format and can be printed out and stuck to the fridge. We’re going to try it out and see!

Planting our tomato seeds

We’ve been taking (false) hope from all these false springs and started our January plantings with tomatoes. Planted them in little seed trays in an unheated propagator on January 24th on a beautiful south-facing windowsill and here’s the result two weeks later:

They are Beefsteak tomatoes “Big Boy” and Sweet Olive cherry tomatoes, and have been going really well. They survived a week of us being on holiday and a couple of days ago were ready to be potted up. I really wanted them to go straight into the polytunnel, but that is still dropping to near freezing overnight, so now we have them lined up along the windowsill in the kitchen

Before potting up:

And all the beefsteak seedlings, now without propagator lids, on a slightly cooler windowsill:

We didn’t have space, or enough pots, for the sweet olive tomatoes – they’ll have to hang on for another week or so.

Feels great to be growing seedlings again!

Protecting your Carrots from Carrot Fly

Carrot Fly is apparently a major source of grief for British carrot growers. I don’t fancy losing my hard-won crop to the little flying pests so I was happy to hear that there is a fool-proof way to avoid them. Set aside plans to wrap them my carrots in fleece or surround them in polythene:  

Carrot Root Fly has a limited altitude – it can’t fly higher than 18-24 inches (depending on which site you believe).

So if you grow your carrots in tubs at least 30in high you will have no problems with Carrot Root Fly. I just saw it on UKTV Gardens so it must be true Very Happy

Avoiding Potato Blight

Sarpo Una

Sarpo Una

Potatoes should be one of the staple foods we’re going to grow, they store well, are relatively low maintenance, and everybody likes eating them! However they do have one major issue: potato blight. Potato blight can reduce the yield of your plants, and one infected potato can turn an entire sack to useless mush. What is Blight? Here is a description from CALU:


During warm damp conditions spores are produced on the leaves of infected plants. If the weather then becomes dry, the spores are released and can travel considerable distances on the air. If humid weather persists the infection will continue to multiply within the infected plant. Periods of highest risk are called “Smith Periods” and are defined as:
“A period of two consecutive days where the minimum temperature remains above 10oC over the whole 48hr period and where relative humidity remains above 90% for at least 11hrs each day”

When the spores land on wet foliage they “hatch” to release swimming zoospores (or “swarmers”) which may encyst on the leaf, or may be washed down into the soil and infect the potato tubers. Infected leaves show brown or black lesions, these may also appear on plant stems. Infected tubers show mottled brown lesions. A severe infestation can reduce a healthy crop of potatoes to a slimey mass within a matter of weeks.

So how can we avoid the devastation of blight?

There are many methods, including early harvesting, that are discussed to reduce the impact of blight. The most significant factor though seems to be selecting blight-resistant varieties. I’ve just been looking at this great leaflet from the Centre for Alternative Land Use where they have done a test between three varieties:  Orla, a first early; Sárpo Una, also an early; and Sárpo Mira, a maincrop.

They found that the two Sárpo varieties survived the season with no blight damage, where the Orla (supposedly highly resistant) started to show signs of blight well before harvest time.

Less scientifically comes this comment from Dan Pearson in the Guardian:

 You live and learn, but the waxy ‘Lady Christl’ were the best spuds I’ve eaten in a long time simply because they were mine. They were true to their description and were resistant to the blight that felled others not so far away.

Interesting note on the Sarpo varieties:

For more than 40 years the Sárvári family have been breeding for high blight resistance in potatoes in Hungary. The Sárvári Research Trust was established to develop and promote this work. The resulting varieties are called Sárpo (Sár from Sárvári and po from potato). 


Scribbled Planting Wishlist for our Vege Patch

Need to empty my head of this, my first thoughts on what I want to find out more about for our vege patch:

  • Globe Artichokes
  • Golden & normal Beetroot
  • Potatoes – preferably something a little special, maybe low GI, or heritage varieties
  • Mushrooms – Chestnut, Morels, Shiitake, Oyster
  • Garlic
  • No green beans! (request from my wife)
  • Beans for Cassoulet?
  • Mange Tout
  • Red Onions (and some brown?)
  • Tomatoes – probably cherry/sweetheart
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Parsnips
  • Pumpkin
  • Peppers?

Plus some fruit:

  • Rhubarb
  • Raspberries
  • Strawberries (a few for the kids)

And the herbs:

  • Rosemary
  • Sage – varied
  • Mints
  • Thyme
  • Oregano/Marjoram
  • Chives
  • Flat-leaf parsley
  • Bay Tree

There – a nice simple wish list 🙂 – I wonder how this will evolve over the next year, as I realise that we don’t have 10 acres to plant!