Monday, 17 February 2014

A good big'un beats a good little'un ... Growing Big Vegetables in 2014


We've decided this year to try to grow larger varieties of a few vegetables :-
  • Onions - Kelsae
  • Leeks - Exhibition Pot Leeks
  • Tomatoes - Beefeater
  • Carrots - Sweet Candle
In mid January, we sowed 120 onion seeds and 60 leeks.  We started them off indoors in covered cells.  By indoors, I mean on the various south-facing window cills in the house, particularly the kitchen window which is 2.4 m (8') long.

To give us even more growing space within this large window, I've built a rough-and-ready free-standing shelf from white MDF furniture boards, and this now sits on the cill.   It's very much a temporary addition, for the winter months only, and it'll be dismantled and removed to the shed as soon as we can get the plants out into the greenhouse when it warms up a little outside.


six seed trays in the kitchen window...



We already had a couple of covered seed trays and we bought eight more from Wilkinsons, at £3.25 each.   Seemed a little pricey to a tightwad like me, but they're quite robust and so hopefully we'll get several years' use out of them.  They also have the transparent cover which helps to minimise moisture loss through evaporation.

At around 50 mm, these new 30-cell trays are twice as deep as the smaller type of seed trays, of which we also have a dozen or so in the shed and we've used in the past to start the onions and leeks.  

Four of these trays fit nicely on top of the new shelf in the kitchen window, we can get three more below and we've another two in the workshop window.

The onion and leeks seem to be doing well, better than I expected to be honest, and I'm a little concerned that they could outgrow the cells before the time comes around to plant them outside in the garden.  Of course, I expected faster germination within the relative warmth of the house, but we had several shoots appear in less than a week.  In previous years, when we grew them out in the cold greenhouse, we were lucky if they showed any signs of life after a month.

Last year our carrots were quite poor, having been planted directly in the vegetable plot. This time, the carrot seeds will be sown directly into deep containers filled entirely with fresh compost.  This was on offer recently at B&Q for £6 for a 125 litre pack.  

the two carrot planters - an old waterbutt and refuse bin,
and 250 litres of fresh compost...

So the carrot containers are prepared but it's still a little early to be sowing the seeds at these latitudes - maybe in three weeks or so.

We're also yet to sow the tomato seeds - that'll be around the end of February, in individual 3" pots on the kitchen window cill.  We'll also sow cucumbers at the same time.  We've already started-off a few sweet peppers, chillis and aubergines, all of which need indoor warmth to germinate and can take an age to get going.

So we've done all we can so far - it's still too wet to get outside and start digging over the vegetable plots.  


We'll update this post as things progress.....

Update 29-Mar-14

Things are moving along - we put the onions and leeks out into the small greenhouse around a month ago, because they weren't getting enough light indoors, and they seem to have now recovered from the initial thermal shock and are growing on well....


onions....

We planted the Beefeater tomato seeds in the kitchen window on 23-Feb-14, and after a month they're flourishing.   Out of fourteen seeds, we have 12 plants but that's a few too many for this year's plan so we'll give 3 or 4 away.   Still need to wait around a month before they can go out into the big greenhouse....


tomatoes going well - note the melon at the left !  We have six.

We sowed the Sweet Candle carrot seeds in the two new planters almost three weeks ago, but they're yet to show any signs of life - the weather has been reasonably warm throughout the days, but we've had a couple of sharp frosts overnight, so maybe a few more weeks before they sprout.

On the other stuff, we started melons, aubergines, sweet peppers and chili peppers in the house, and also broccoli and cauliflower in the greenhouse.   Very pleased with the broccoli and caulis, almost 100% germination.

Today, we potted-on the peppers and aubergines into 3" pots and have now put them out in the big greenhouse - the melons were also potted-on, but they'll remain in the warmth of the house for at least another month...


nearest first, upper shelf - chili peppers, some flower seeds, aubergines,
sweet peppers, broccoli and cauliflower (and an amaryllis at the end !)
Lower shelf, sunflower seeds, more aubergines and another amaryllis

Out of the six cucumbers we planted at the same time as the tomatoes, only two germinated successfully and so we dug out the dead seeds from the other pots and have recently re-planted fresh seeds.

So, tonight the clocks go forward (at last !), and it's time to spend more time outside in the light evenings and prepare the vegetable plots.  

The wife's already done quite a bit of digging already (I have a problem with my shoulder at the moment, honestly !).   Radishes and dill will be the first to go in the plots, although we still have some cut-and-come-again spinach and a few rows of spring onions in the ground from last year...

Update 28-Apr-14

The tomatoes are now out in the big greenhouse....

8 tomato plants, plus chilli & sweet peppers, and aubergines....

The carrots are up and just starting to form their true leaves...


a high germination rate, just a few gaps in which I'll sow some more seeds....

And the onions and leeks are now outside in their permanent positions...


some of the leeks & onions, and the cut-and-come-again spinach behind....

And elsewhere, cauliflowers and broccoli now planted out....


under a makeshift pigeon net....

In big pots within the small greenhouse, two Russian cucumbers, a melon and two more aubergines.  We've several more cucumber and melon plants to go in eventually, but at the minute they're all smaller and still in the warmth of the house....


the white stuff in the cucumber pots is just a dose of Epsom salts....

Update 01-Jul-14


onions now starting to bulb....
leeks are fattening up too....
the carrots have a lot of greenery....
the first of the Beefeater tomatoes - the middle
one is already the size of a golf ball...

Update 18-Aug-14

Quite a few big tomatoes, but the very first ones are only just starting to ripen and it's the middle of August....








Harvested a first batch of the Kelsae onions today and set them out to dry off in the small greenhouse, all of a good size and we've another fifty or so still growing....







And just pulled the first Sweet Candle carrots - not exactly show quality, but hopefully some good eating.  We've another fifteen or so that we'll just leave in the tubs until we want to eat them....




The leeks continue to fatten up, although slowly.  We'll update with a picture when we pull the first one.

Also on the big stuff are the first Pattisons, a beautifully-shaped marrow / squash that is very popular throughout Europe but hasn't really taken off in the UK - we've already stuffed and eaten a few of these ones...




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