The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Kitchen garden update: June 2009

Photo: Flowering broad beans

Photo: Flowering broad beans

“I’ve brought you some broad beans and some new potatoes.”
My heart leapt as John Coe passed me the bags. We haven’t grown new potatoes this year – just concentrated on our main crop.
“Just wipe the potatoes and the skins will fall off. Easy.”
He placed a pack of plants wrapped in newspaper carefully beside his Wellingtons.
“What are those?”
“Purple sprouting broccoli.” He beamed.

My mind whirled. The kitchen garden is choc a bloc. The baby purple sprouting broccoli plants usually are planted in July. I had been planning to put them into the space freed when we lifted the garlic.

Sensing the problem John suggested that we might dig up our broad bean plants. These had been planted towards the end of November and the frosty winter meant that they didn’t germinate until the spring.
“They looked pretty miserable the last time I was here.”
“But they are finally developing bean pods.” Danny would kill me if we dug them up now. We love eating the tiny broad beans, pod and all.
“We’ll find a space somewhere. I’ve brought a lot of plants.” John was determined.

Purple sprouting broccoli plants need nine months to develop and a year from planting the seed. Baby plants go into the ground in July and are finally harvested the next April. Far sweeter than the sprouting broccoli available in the shops, these are well worth growing at home. They do have to be grown under nets so they are not eaten by the birds and you need to keep your eyes peeled for the cabbage white caterpillars that can destroy the crop in just a few days.

When we walked down to the kitchen garden we found no free space.
“Why don’t we interplant them in the gaps between the broad beans?”
“But I was planning to do a makeover on that bed when the spuds and beans are harvested. Lots of compost and chicken pellets. Nothing really thrives in that bed.”
“Let’s fork in chicken pellets now, with the claw tool.”
“But the chicken pellets need to go in a few days before planting.”
“But these are good strong plants. They’ll be fine.”

John is as stubborn as I am.  Just as I left for work he announced
“I’ve got four rows in. That’s about 50 feet of broccoli plants. I can bring some more next time to go in the fruit cage.”

I couldn’t do without John’s bi-weekly help and must remember that he’s King Pin in the kitchen garden. He is passing on fifty years of experience. Growing your own veg can be tricky, especially the winter crops. I’ve been given a rare and valuable opportunity. John is not sentimental about his plants. If things are not thriving they are chucked out to make way for something that will do well. John takes no prisoners in the kitchen garden. And this evening I reckon that he is right. Why waste time nurturing plants that are not thriving? But we generally harvest our braod beans in July so they will share the bed with the PSB until then.

On the Grand Potato Challenge front he gazed at Danny’s beds that were bristling with strong plants. Even though they are being watered every evening with our drip feed watering system and John remarked how moist our soil is, I noticed that he was watering D’s border with the hose. An honourable gesture in my book. When I mulled over the reason for doing this I twigged that the leaves must need water as well as the roots.

Like Cassandra, John explains if I ask. But often I don’t know what to ask.

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  1. S.O.L.

    Broad beans are yummy. And if you get a glut and you cant freeze any more we make Falafal! mmmm yummy

  2. Bridget

    Lucky you to be given the plants and have the assistance of an experienced gardener. It’s winter here in NZ as you know and our garden is sadly quite neglected, although we are putting up a good strong windbreak fence at present so it should improve things come spring/summer planting!
    Best wishes

  3. Sue Weasel

    We sowed our broad beans in October and the pods are swelling nicely – we should start harvesting next week. But as soon as they are over I will get the old plants out to make room for something else. Not sure what at the moment, but like evweryone else I have trays of seedlings ready to go and not enough space to plant them all.

  4. Michelle in Nz

    Oh,wow – Dear Dad planted out some broad bean seedlings just a few days ago. Rats – I wont be up with them when the BBs are into their spring/early summertime glory.

    Have to cook a chook (chicken) on Friday. Self, dear sister Liz and her lovely partner Pete will cook in a proper oven – Mother wants to cook it in the microwave oven, only ahe wont be here for the cooking. Will sort of use your chook cooking method!

    Allaspects of chickens – ckicks, chickens, hens, poulets, roosters, cockeralsetc…. are Chooks.

    Would welcome the Min Pins sleeping beside and on top of me tonight – expect to get down to 2C.

    Care and huggles, Michelle minus Zebbycat just now.

  5. Mark Daymond

    It has been very dry so far this year so lots of watering is probably a good thing. I have just bought a new hose after I cut through my last one with a hedge trimmer!

  6. magic cochin

    !!! I wouldn’t dream of hoiking out the broad beans before you’ve started harvesting them. Could you use the small pods on some plants and leave some to mature a bit more for shelled peas? It is a good idea to interplant them and use the area after the beans for the broad beans – the ground will be nitrogen rich from the nodules on the bean roots which is perfect for brassicas.

    Our veg plot is crammed full! And a queue of things still to go in somewhere! I bet yours is romping away with all that watering. I’m a bit mena with the water – only when absolutely necessary.


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