Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Sowing the seeds with love

After much pouring (and pawing) over books, catalogues and manuals I have finally decided the seeds that I'll be sewing in the vegetable garden and food forest in 2017. I've ordered many of them over the last couple of months and my daughter kindly gave me several packets of seeds for Christmas to complete the seed collection.
 For many of the crops I will be planting several varieties, this way I hope to extend the season of our fresh food and if one variety fails, there may be a chance that one of the other varieties will do well.

Onion Sturon
Onion Radar
Spring Onions
Shallot Zebrune
Leek King Richard
Leek Autumn Mammoth
Leek Carantan 2

Our onion crop was a bit of a let down this year. I planted two varieties and one of them almost completely failed. Well no, that's not exactly true, if one wanted small onions about an inch in diameter then I had a spectacular crop. If however, like me, one wanted tennis ball size onions that would store well throughout the winter, then I had a fairly miserable result. So for 2017 I will be growing two varieties that have given me reliable results in the past and some spring onions and the banana style shallot.

The leeks, on the other hand, have been very good this year. I sowed them into a seed tray and then planted them in a couple of short rows where they grew on until I was ready to plant them in their final positions. I ended up with around 200 healthy young leek plants which should see us through to the end of spring. The white part of each leek isn't terribly long (about six inches), but they have an excellent flavour and texture, which to my mind is more important.

Squash Marina Di Chioggia
Squash Uchiki Kiri
Pumkin Baby Boo
Butternut Squash F1 Hunter
Butternut Squash Waltham
Spaghetti Squash
Squash Jumbo Pink Banana
Squash Blue Hubbard
Squash Delicata
Squash Turks Turban
Pumpkin Howden
Courgette Verde Di Milano
Courgette Soleil F1
Summer Squash Delikates
Summer Squash Sunburst F1

This year the pumpkins and squashes grew much better than I expected them to, given that they didn't start the season very well. 

So for next year I plan to grow as many varieties as I can find organic seeds, in the hope that we will have a greater number of winter squashes to store and use throughout autumn, winter and into the spring. The summer squashes and courgettes were a mixed bag this year, so hopefully the weather will be better next year in June and July and they will do well too. I wrote about the squashes I'd like to grow here.

Swede Lomond
Swede Best of All
Savoy Cabbage Vertus
Swiss Chard White Silver 2
Swiss Chard Rainbow
Cabbage Red Acre
Kale Dwarf Green Curl
Kale Curly Scarlet
Kale Nero Di Toscana
Kale Brussel Sprout Cross Flower Sprouts
Brussel Sprouts TrafalgarF1
Spinach Perpetual
Broccoli Sprouting Early Purple
Broccoli Sprouting Summer Purple
Broccoli Red Arrow Sprouting
Tree Cabbage Paul & Becky's Asturian
Aztec Brocolli Huauzontle

I made the mistake this year of growing January King cabbages which although very successful, we didn't like their taste. So, for 2017 I have a savoy cabbage seed and may grow the January King for the birds as they are very partial to it. I forgot to sew swede seeds this year until very late in the season and have been harvesting small, thin swedes which I've been adding to soups and stews. The chards were grown primarily for the chickens, but Mr J and I found that we liked the taste of the rainbow chard stems when added to a tray of vegetables roasted in the oven.
The kales grown this year have provided additional green leaves for both the ducks and chickens until the lockdown earlier this month, so I will grow them again next year to add variety to their diet. The tree cabbage and Aztec brocolli will both be planted in the Food Forest as will some of the chards and dwarf kale. The latter two will act as ground cover for the year.

I started to harvest the purple sprouting broccoli about six weeks ago and we've enjoyed large portions of it weekly (or more often) since then and it looks as though we should be able to continue enjoying the crop for a couple more months. By planting two varieties this year we've extended the harvesting season by several weeks and I plan to do that again next year. So far I haven't frozen any purple sprouting broccoli as I think the flavour and texture diminish too much when it's frozen.

Carrot Chantenay Red Cored
Carrot Cosmic Purple
Carrot Rainbow Mixed
Beetroot Monorubra
Beetroot Boltardy
Parsnip Tender and True
Potatoes early
Potatoes maincrop

Mr J and I have been surprised this year by some of the vegetables that I've sown. Beetroot was the biggest eye-opener for us, I have always liked beetroot in a salad, although prefer it not to be in vinegar as I find that the flavour of the beet becomes over-powered. Mr J tolerated beetroot, but certainly wouldn't have listed it as a preferred vegetable option. We've both been delighted by roasted beetroot, it seems the slow cooking with a selection of other root vegetables allows the sugars to sweeten and caramelise making them delicious. I also made a tasty beetroot and apple relish.

Our home grown carrots have been so nice that I am now slightly reluctant to buy them from a shop as so much of the flavour is lost in the time it takes from harvest to plate. We've also decided that we prefer the rainbow mix carrots and in particular the darker colour carrots, so next year I will grow more carrots and also try some Chantenay carrots too.

I grew oca for the first time this year, they were sent to me as a gift from Joanna who offered them on Twitter. I had no idea what they would be like, but they have been easy to grow and harvest and taste delicious. We ate them with our Christmas lunch and my daughter and her partner were equally impressed with them. This week I am sending some oca tubers to another gardener, who has sent some perennial nasturtium tubers.

Salad Curcurbit Melothrie
Lettuce Gourmet Mixed
Lettuce Lollo Rossa
Celery Red Soup
Radish French Breakfast
Tomato San Mazarno 2
Tomato Thessaloniki
Tomato Brandywine Black
Tomato Moneymaker
Cucumber Chinese Slangen
Asparagus Connovers Colossal
Corn Fiesta

This year I grew 12 tomato plants in the greenhouse and next year I plan to grow many more. I will plant them in the greenhouse and in the garden and rig up some sort of protection for the ones grown outside to give them conditions similar to the greenhouse and thus, hopefully, reduce the risk of blight. This year I made about 12lbs of tomato and vegetable sauce, but next year I'd like to stock the larder with enough tomato sauce that I don't need to buy any tomato puree. We also have a large bag of tomato halves in the freezer which we use for breakfasts and adding to other meals, it has been lovely to have 'fresh' tomatoes that still taste as though they've just been pulled from the vine.

Runner Bean White Lady
Runner Bean Greek Gigantes
Mangetout Oregon Sugar Pod
Pea Progress no.9
Pea Ambassador Maincrop
Broad Bean Aquadulce Claudia
Broad Bean Leidse Hangdown
Climbing Bean Blauhilde
Borlotti Bean Lingua di Fuoco
Dwarf borlotto Lingua Fuoco Nana
Yellow Dwarf French Bean Minidor 

The beans were a great success this year, we had sliced runner beans with our Christmas lunch and they also tasted like we'd just picked them. I feel that this year I have finally cracked the method of preserving our food to keep the best taste and texture. I didn't manage to freeze any of the fresh peas as we ate them all (often before they got to the kitchen!), but I did freeze a couple of pounds of mangetout which I have been adding to stir fry meals and into omelettes.

So it looks like I'm going to have a busy spring in the greenhouse and if we can find an affordable one, in a potting shed. The outbuilding that was going to become my potting shed has been turned into the chicken palace because of the DEFRA enforced lockdown and now it's been converted I see little point in changing it back again as it means we are ready as and when another lockdown happens in the future.

Our move towards self-efficiency seem to be working well. We continue to eat a majority of food from the garden and are looking at ways that we can exchange our home grown food for foodstuffs that we don't have.
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  1. We're so pleased your garden has done so well this year!

    It is still a mystery to us, one that we hope to solve over the next few years (what grows well?, how to grow various things? etc). The only way to learn is by trial and error, we think and James already has a plan of what he'd like to grow and has eyed up some of the more wind-sheltered areas. . .

    Wishing you even more success next year and looking forward to learning from you and with you! :)

    James & Dee
    Happy Homestead

    P.S. Feeling inspired to keep ducks because of you!
    P.P.S. I like the idea of putting your blog's name on your photos. May give it a go!

    1. The trial (but not so much the error) of growing our own food brings constant delight and there's nothing quite like looking at a plate of food that was still in the garden half an hour beforehand.
      So pleased that you are inspired to keep ducks, they are so much fun and very good company. They are also superb at ridding the vegetable garden of slugs and snails, sadly that sometimes also includes a fair quantity of veg too!
      I use 'paint' as it's already on the laptop to add the blog name to photos, only takes a few moments for each picture.
      I'm looking forward to hearing how the eggs in your incubator do and will watch with keen interest as your new life unfolds.


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