The Cottage Smallholder


stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Kitchen garden update February 2010

 

Photo: Brussels sprout top

Photo: Brussels sprout top

I’m so pleased that we have planted lots of Tuscany Kale as it has really come into it’s own after the frosty weather. The other kale Frosty – has toughened up a bit so next year we will harvest this first before the cold weather sets in. We are also still harvesting Brussels Sprouts, Swiss Chard, leeks, parsnips salad and stir fry leaves. Although the Savoy cabbages have headed up well they are disappointingly small but still taste very sweet. The early purple sprouting broccoli has just started to sprout and  if we get a bit of sun we should be harvesting this next week. This will be the first vegetable to grace the gate side stand along with the Tuscany Kale.

I sowed 24’ (8 metres) of carrots in the autumn under a giant homemade fleece cloche. No a single one germinated. Perhaps the seed was eaten by mice? I’ve set three types of carrot seed in unheated propagators in the green house, and after a couple of weeks they have just started to germinate.

Despite catching a few mice in the traps, set amongst the seedling peas, coach loads must have been feasting as they have stripped the peas quite bare. I’m planning to set some more seed in the green house this weekend – using halved 4 litre milk cartons. I will not be beaten by mice!

The garlic is finally peeping through and the shallots are sprouting.

The biggest disappointment is the leeks. Mine went in as thin as cocktail sticks and have swelled to chunky pencils. Even John’s resemble walking sticks. Hope to have better luck this year.

Our cheap electric propagator is working flat out 24/7. I am sowing/planting/tending by the moon with promising results. The seeds are germinating fast and each afternoon I focus on the biodynamic group for that day. Flowers, leafed plants, roots or fruit. This is a good system as I could easily become overwhelmed if I was tending them all at once. Obviously they all need to be checked daily and watered if necessary.  When I look at the seedlings it’s so hard to believe that they will grow into vegetable plants and flowers.

We are growing a lot of herbs this year too. The mint seedlings are teeny dolls housed sized plants and they are three weeks old. Meanwhile slugs are celebrating the arrival of thyme and coriander seedlings in the green house. Hopefully they will have the beer fest of a lifetime tonight.

I’ve started mixing potting compost with vermiculite as I’ve had problems with seedlings damping off for the first time this year. Perhaps I started my tomato seed too early?

The weekend until early Tuesday is a fruit period. So I’ll be tending tomatoes, peppers, chilli peppers, tomatillos, cucumbers. I’m planning to sow courgettes, runner beans and French beans in the green house as these count as fruit too. I’m going to pot on the strawberries which germinated quickly but seem to be living in suspended animation on the windowsill in the sitting room.

I’m saving the Brussels sprouts stalks to put in the runner bean trenches along with loads of semi rotted kitchen waste. This worked very well last year and we had a bumper crop of beans.

Roll on the warmer weather. Best of luck everyone with your sowing and planting plans.


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9 Comments

  1. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Katyvic

    The dogs usually catch our mice but I noticed loads of mice in he garden this summer so perhaps the Min Pins have given up hunting.

    I’m protecting my bean and pea shoots with traps. The peas in the garden are stripped quite bare.

    Hi Pamela

    What a great idea I must ask when I’m next in town. The olive tins are free too and available reasonably locally but they sound as if they are smaller than the oil tins.

    Hi Dantom

    Great idea. My parsnips are taking ages to germinate but my carrots are doing quite well in the greenhouse – so far.

    I grew BS for the first time last year. They do need to be staked and firmed in well. They are also very heavy feeders so a couple of top dressings of blood, fish and bone goes down well. Apparently the sprouts have a tendancy to blow if they are not fed well.

    This year I sprouted the seed for two varieties in pots with a plastic bag over them. On a warm and sunny windowsill they germinated very fast.

    We are still harvesting them! They have been harvested since October.

  2. dantom

    Hi Fiona,
    If you are having problems with your carrots not germinating try seed tapes, I use them for both carrots and parsnips (a little more expensive but well worth it) each packet has enough seed for about a 3 metre row.
    Can you give me any tips for sprouts as my past attemps have been terrible to say the least.

  3. Pamela

    Hello Fiona, just read your post about getting more olive tins for planting in. Not as pretty maybe, but the indian restaurant next door to me regularly puts out large veg oil tins (frequently found in my bin but that’s another story!). Painted they would look good as planters and I’m sure that many restaurants have these type of catering size tins to get rid of. Size wise, they half fill my small wheelie bin. You would have to find a way of removing the top to make a planter as they have pouring spouts but I’m sure that is just the type of challenge you would enjoy. There are currently 4 stacked up by the restaurant kitchen so a plentiful supply to be had. Just wondered if this might be an easier/more local source of planting containers for you. BTW, I’m not suggesting you come and get the tins from my neighbours but that there may be sources close to you that you hadn’t considered. I’m sure any restaurant would be only to pleased to give them away.

  4. Katyvic

    I’ve also had low-level problems with mice this year in the greenhouse again – they eat the young broad bean seedlings. I’ve used the live capture device (Rentokil) and have relocated the mice (2 so far), as usual, a mile or two away from us.

    They seem quite unaffected by the experience, and scamper away into the undergrowth.

    The infallible bait appears to be chocolate cake – instant results the minute it goes down. (I froze the results of a baking disaster last year and pick off a chunk to set the trap each time!)

    Relocating the mouse may seem to some just to be moving the problem on to someone else’s garden, but we are in a very rural and far-flung village. There must be hundreds of thousands of mice – but I’m just trying to dissuade the ones who have worked out how to burglarize our greenhouse!

    Katyvic

  5. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Suky

    Like you my toms and peppers germinated super fast. Good idea pricking them out into deep pots, thanks. Some of mine are so leggy that they will go into loo rolls!

    Following your tip I went onto the “grow your own” forum. Square foot gardening sounds exciting. They use this method (or something similar) in the mini suburban farm – Path to Freedom http://urbanhomestead.org/. Well worth a look for inspiration.

    Hi Joanna

    I do hope that your kale and Swiss chard survived.

    I’ loving walking through the kitchen garden and seeing lots of vegetables. Very heartening.

    Two of the three types of carrots have germinated in the greenhouse. The others are still asleep!

    Hi Jan

    What a shame. We have been very lucky as, apart from the carrots and peas, all our seedlings have survived – undercover. Brassicas are tough plants – they look a bit peaky when it’s really cold but perk up quickly when the weather gets warmer.

    Hi Small Pines

    Great to hear that you will have more time to grow stuff this year. We are going to try growing more stuff in containers in the front garden as it gets so much sun. I’m going to get more giant olive tins from the River Farm smokery as they work well for tomatoes and peppers and they look great too.

  6. Small Pines

    Glad things are looking good and most everything is working out. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about it, bought seeds, but I still have a few weeks before I can even plant starts of the 10-weekers. I’m doing all containers this year. (Albeit, very large containers, and lots of them.) Best wishes!

  7. You’re doing fantastically well. Obviously you’re far better organised than we are! We’re down to a tiny bit of chard and parsnips. This winter has killed off everything else, even the things that were under cover.

  8. Joanna

    Shheeesh! I feel exhausted reading that list and all I can think is when the kale and the Swiss Chard appears from under the snow will they have survived? We ordered our seeds at the weekend as there was just no point any earlier. Hope you get some carrots this year

  9. Glad it’s mostly going well. My tomatoes are all up, a bit leggy but when you prick them out/pot them on you plant them to just below the first set of leaves and they will be fine. My chillis are up too, planted by the lunar calendar and only 3 days behind the tomatoes,nowhere near as long as they were supposed to take, looking promising.
    I lurk on the Grow your own forum where there is a current interest in ‘square foot’ gardening and I might try this in one of my new raised beds. If I use lunar gardening too the results ‘might’ be amazing 🙂
    Bought some F1 Strawberry ‘Sensation’ seeds today specially for container growing. Going to look at the lunar calendar to see when to plant them.

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