Monday, December 30, 2013

Last of the summer tomatoes

One of the delights of summer, for me, is a plentiful supply of tomatoes so that I can enjoy grilled tomatoes on toast.  Here is my final such meal of the year, consumed a few minutes ago,  made with 3 different varieties, which had been sitting on the kitchen window ledge to ripen. They were delicious; roll on next summer!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Winter Weather in the Veggie Garden

It's often said that there isn't much to do in the garden in winter; however, the veggie garden is still yielding loads of vegetables, and, if they are to be enjoyed for Christmas then, whatever the weather, I just have to go out and get on with it. (Which is all I had to do - apart from clearing a blocked drain in the road. Many others are far less fortunate, having to endure widespread disruption across the UK).

As I took these two pictures, I could barely stand, the wind gusts were so violent, whilst the rain lashed down - we've had the best part of an inch of rain in the last 24 hours.

Winter vegetables
Leeks, red cabbage, parsnips, carrots and turnips (sprouts too but in another container)

Winter vegetables in the rain
Carrots to the right and rain everywhere else

Friday, December 13, 2013

Soggy Day

It really is a soggy day here in Dorset, though at least as a friend said last night, it will be washing the mud off the lanes.

So, whilst I am here catching up on a few things at the computer, Mrs Soggy is being much more productive, filling the house with the delicious aromas of home baking - Stollen loaf, cherry & almond cake and mince pies!

Soggy day in Dorset
Soggy day in Dorset - view over flower garden

Delicious country kitchen
Delicious country kitchen - Cherry & Almond; mince pies; Stollen loaf (rising).


Seeds are at the very heart of gardening, yes we can reproduce plants through division and cuttings, but it is only through seeds that plants maintain healthy genetic variety. (A simple illustration of this is to think of a tree being used as a source for cuttings, being widely distributed, used and grown - all effectively the same plant genetically and therefore all susceptible to the same threats ans diseases in the same way. Contrast this with work in the UK, underway at present, to identify those ash trees which have a natural resistance to the disease now threatening our native ash population).

In my latest news message from Garden Organic, I see that the proposed regulation of seeds within the EU, which had been adjusted and improved, in response to representations, from Garden Organic amongst others, is now being put back on the table (by the EU’s Chief Rapporteur for Agriculture, Sergio Silvestris) in its more restrictive form.

Regulation of seeds for a healthy environment is to be welcomed, yet not if it is to the advantage of large scale seed producers over small businesses and individuals and certainly not if it has the effect of reducing genetic diversity and resilience.
More information from Garden Organic

I am happy and able to buy some commercial F1 seeds, and do not mind paying the price for the research that has made them possible, for example this year's included: CARROT Fly Away F1, COURGETTE Black Forest F1 (Upright), CUCUMBER Bella F1 and TOMATO Ferline F1

From other plants and varieties I have enjoyed I wish to keep back some of the seeds, below are pictures of bean and tomato seeds which will hopefully do well for me again next year.

Tomato and bean seeds
Black Prince and Cosmonaut Volcov tomato seeds with French and runner beans behind
Who knows what new, exciting or useful varieties might pop up, just through the chance of gardeners and growers keeping back seed.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Great British Garden Revival

What better way to spend a winter's evening than with feet up watching a garden programme on the television (well yes, there are other ways of spending a pleasant hour or so, but for the purposes of this blog, let's stick to gardening and leave aside all thoughts of chocolate cake ...)

I have just watched "Wild Flowers and Front Gardens" - the first of 10 episodes in the series. Normally, as my friends and family will tell you, I only really notice vegetables, however, the one thing no organic gardener can ignore is the inter-connectedness of the natural world, and this programme was a useful reminder to the likes of me. Not that I have paved over my front garden - I haven't got one - rows of cottages often don't - but I will admit to not thinking enough about the plants I could be growing to improve the habitat for wildlife in the garden and hence the diversity of species that may thrive there; no organic grower wishes to preside over a desert of uniformity.

Anyway, don't take my word for it - let the presenters inspire you. In the UK you can probably catch up on BBC iPlayer - not sure about abroad - I'm sure you have your ways!

Wild Flowers and Front Gardens

Meadow photograph
Meadow in May

Monday, October 7, 2013

The Seasons Advance

According to the calendar, summer has given way to autumn here in England, but we have had some fine days which still feel much like summer, though the forecast is for that to change drastically from Wednesday, with much colder weather on the way.

We have enjoyed good crops of virtually everything on the veggie patch this year, with plenty more to come, lots of leeks, parsnips, carrots, Brussels sprouts, cabbage (red and green), kale, turnip and swede still to enjoy, on top of everything safely in store.

As one crop finishes in a bed, so it makes way for the next, sometimes punctuated by green manure.

For green manure, I generally do a mix of buckwheat, field beans and winter tares, they do a mix of bringing up some deeper nutrients and fixing nitrogen, as well as adding bulk to rot into the soil.

So far I have sown:
BEAN, Broad. Aquadulce Claudia
ONION Hi Keeper F1

I have planted
GARLIC Early Purple Wight (Soft neck)
GARLIC Marco (Soft neck)
GARLIC Thermidrome Home (Hard neck)
GARLIC Elephant Home
GARLIC Elephant
(Home means divided from home grown garlic)

Onion Sets:
ONION Senshyo Yellow
ONION Red, Electric


Carrots and parsnips, with Brussels sprouts filling out well in the background

Left: Red cabbage, broccoli, kale. Centre: green manure chopped down. Right: Leeks

Climbing beans left to mature to seeds for gathering

Onions, seed in foreground, sets behind.

Garlic shooting already, only planted on 29th September

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Two Potato Plants

Yesterday I wanted some potatoes to roast (Greek style) to enjoy with green beans cooked with tomatoes. So I went to one of the Toluca rows - they really are the most potatoey-tasting potatoes - and dug up 4 monsters, which I have kept for today's dinner. So, I went to a row of Harlequin, and dug, and dug, and just kept digging and they just kept coming, what a haul from one plant. The picture tells it all, a few giant Toluca, and the rest of the basket all Harlequin, one plant of each dug up.

Harlequin and Toluca potatoes
See how the Toluca have that creasing/indentation, they always seem to do that with mine.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Watch Out For Your Potatoes and Tomatoes

I have just had an email from Blight Watch warning of a Smith Period in my area, and with all this wet, humid weather, it's probably widespread.

There is useful advice about Potato Blight here and Tomato Blight here.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Potatoes, the good, the bad and the struggling

The bed of early potatoes is not doing as well as the later potatoes. Oddly enough, some Charlottes in the earlies bed aren't doing as well as Charlottes on the other. I puzzled over this for quite some time,  until the other day I saw some soil collapse by one of the earlies plants and I saw revealed - a nice mole hole!

The Earlies bed is on the right in the picture. The other picture shows some potatoes I dug this morning and then cooked as Greek roast potatoes.

Earlies on the right

Premier, 1st early and delicious. 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Bee and Spider

I have just spent a rainy morning in the potting shed, sowing a range of salad leaf seeds. Now,  I suppose there may be, somewhere on the planet, and yet to be discovered, a spotlessly clean, spider's web-free putting shed;  mine is not that shed.
I had just finished off and, heading for the door, saw a bee fly in to become immediately entangled in a huge web. My first instinct was to free it, but my instincts are plainly not as finely tuned as those of the resident spider, who was onto the bee in an instant.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Veggie Garden in Summer

At the start of May, I did a post with pictures of the beds and greenhouses. Here is an update, all pictures taken on 5th June 2013, just a month after the previous ones. It has been a cold spring, and you can see that some progress has been very slow, especially the potatoes and the tomatoes (in an unheated greenhouse).

The potato beds, with the 2nd earlies (on left) looking more advanced than the 1st earlies.

On the right, gone-to-seed land cress, climbing beans (French and runner) hardly showing,
but mange tout peas off to a good start. Broad beans, slower than usual in the middle. The green on the path is the pulled-up green manure for composting.

Garlic onions and shallots on the right. Brassicas on the left, where I had left mustard to grow with them,  which I had just started clearing back. The mustard had protected the young brassicas well.

Detail of young brassicas exposed after removal of mustard green manure.

Spring planted onions, spring greens and peas, all looking quite happy.

Spinach, parsnip, carrots and beetroot under the near net and more brassicas (Brussels sprouts and Tenderstem broccoli) under far net, with mustard green manure having been cleared from around them).

The cucumber plants, surviving rather than thriving after the cool spring.
Sunflowers in 2 pots in the background. Lettuce leafed basil not exactly coming on by leaps and bounds.

Tomato plants, marigolds and lettuce in the other greenhouse

The two upright-habit courgette plants looking quite happy in their pots, hardening off outside the greenhouse.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Welcome to Autumn

No, I haven't moved to the southern hemisphere, but I have just come back indoors, having walked the dog, and peeled off my waterproof and fleece hat that I usually reserve for cold days or mountains!

All the plants and trees are straining under the weight of new growth, laden with rainwater; on top of which, there is a weather warning in force for high winds, exactly what is not needed right now.

Talking of warnings, I had an email from Blightwatch, we have just had a near miss "Smith Period" - so it looks as though it could be another dodgy year for potatoes, tomatoes and the like.

It's not all doom and gloom though. We had a delicious stir-fry the other day, including from the veggie patch: mangetout peas, broad beans, courgettes and pak choi.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Plant List, 2013

You may spot some flowers listed, that's to help Mrs Soggy, or bees (or both)

BASIL Lettuce Leaved
BEAN CLIMBING Borlotta Lingua di Fuoco
BEAN BROAD Aquadulce Claudia
BROCCOLI Purple Sprouting Red Arrow
BROCCOLI Tenderstem
CABBAGE Christmas Drumhead
CABBAGE Marner Early Red
CABBAGE Ruby Ball F1
CARROT Amsterdam Forcing
CARROT Autumn King 2
CARROT Fly Away F1
COSMOS Brightness Mixed
COURGETTE Black Forest F1 (Upright)
CRESS American or Land
GARLIC Thermidrome
GARLIC Elephant
GREEN MANURE, Phacelia (sown on bank for the bees)
KALE Dwarf Green Curled
LEEK Giant Winter
LEEK Oarsman F1
LETTUCE Little Gem
LETTUCE Lollo Rossa
ONION Salad Performer
ONION Senshyo Yellow
ONION White Lisbon Winter Hardy
PARSNIP Panache F1 (T&M)
PARSNIP Pinacle F1 (T&M)
PEA Mange Tout Kennedy
PEA Mange Tout Norli
PEA Oregon Sugar Pod
PEA Rapido Petit Pois
PEA Twinkle
POTATO British Queen 2E (White Fl)
POTATO Casablanca 1E (White Multi)
POTATO Charlotte 2E (White Firm)
POTATO Harlequin EM (Waxy)
POTATO Orla, EM (Multi)
POTATO Rosabelle 1E (Waxy)
POTATO Sherine 1E (Floury)
POTATO Premier 1E (Floury)
POTATO Toluca 2E (Multi)
RUBBECKIA Cherry Brandy
SALAD Leaves Speedy
SUNFLOWER Giant Single
SWEDE Magres
SWEET PEA King Size Navy Blue
TOMATO Black Prince
TOMATO Cosmonaut Volcov (Semi bush) - did not germinate, I think I kept seed too long.
TOMATO Ferline F1
TOMATO Legend F1 (Bush)
TURNIP Snowball
WILD FLOWER SEEDS Floral Meadow (For Bees) Mix Anual and Perennial

Still for sowing: some over-wintering carrots (Eskimo) and Spring Greens (Durham Early)

The veggie beds in Spring

 Potato beds, with the wild flower and elder bank behind

Broad beans, climbing beans and peas

Brassica and leek seedlings in trays) under net. Garlic, elephant garlic, onions, shallots and spring onions

More broad beans on a spare patch

Last of the Spring greens with more onions behind, plus petit pois

Brussels sprouts, calabrese and broccoli, with recently hoed mustard green manure 

Cucumber, French marigold with odds and sods sheltering from  frost

Tomatoes, plus two climbing courgettes in pots, plus some more tender plants hiding away.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Black Gold

Black Gold was a term (according to Wikipedia) coined during the outbreak of the Industrial Revolution concerned with the value and usefulness of oil. It has probably been assigned to other things as well, and I'm surely not the first gardener to think of compost or soil in those terms.

The other day, as I was emptying compost from one of my several compost bins, more or less with every fork or spade full, I was thinking what valuable stuff this is, and all for free! It has now been spread onto some of the veggie beds, with some held back for Mrs Soggy's tubs and baskets.

It can be disheartening if efforts at making compost do not turn out fine and healthy results, just getting a few things right can make a big difference  perhaps the most important of which is to get a good balance of material to compost. If you pile in lots of grass cuttings and little else, it'll just be a slimy mess you produce;  on the other hand, lots of egg boxes, cardboard and shredded prunings will likely stay pretty much looking like a pile of dry kindling. However, mix those 2 together and you should be in business!

For some good advice, visit Garden Organic or the RHS web sites.

Digging out from a compost bin

Each bin yields between 2 and 3 barrow loads.
(Next to it you can see the last of the shredded Brussels Sprouts stems
going into the bins for the whole cycle to start again).

Friday, April 5, 2013

Hot Weather Tolerant

Just doing plant labels (while I wait for it to warm up before heading out onto the veggie patch today) for April sowings and just had to share the banner emblazoned across the Calabrese "Hot weather tolerant" - so am I, but will either I or my Calabrese ever get any to tolerate, it doesn't feel like it right now with a northerly wind whipping 2ºC air round about outside.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Early morning

These few mornings, as I walk the dog, I have been able to enjoy the sun just above the horizon or linger to examine the work in and around the fields off our lanes. Here is quite a stretch of hedge laying, towards Childhay. 

Hedge laying near Childhay

Friday, March 15, 2013

Spring Jobs and seed sowing

This is transition time, from the over-wintered crops to preparation time for new sowing and planting, of course some crops for this year were planted in the autumn, garlic, broad beans and so on. The carrots, parsnips, spinach (leaf beet) beetroot are having to make way and the Brussels sprouts, leeks, kale and spring greens will have to give up their beds soon too.

It's also a confusing time weather-wise, alternating between dry frosts (with occasional powdery snow) and today, rain and 8 deg C.

Parsnip, carrots and beetroot ready for use (see the lovely Tête à Tête enjoying the spring sunshine)

The parsnip and spinach (leaf beet) cleared and off-cuts of leaf beet left to rot in.
I'll be putting manure on here very soon  in preparation as one of the potato beds.

These are over-wintered alliums: Elephant and ordinary garlic, onions ans shallots.

One of the broad bean beds, some gaps to be filled by fresh sowing after Jack Frost re-visited

Cabbage (spring greens) just staring to leaf up, so ready for use soon.

The last few leeks (I'd just dug some - we had leek and potato soup for lunch today).

In the summerhouse (easier to keep warm than one of the greenhouses)
celeriac germinated and taken from the cosy propagator 

In the last week or so, I have sown:

BASIL Lettuce Leaved
BEAN, Broad. Aquadulce Claudia (Infilling)

BROCCOLI Tenderstem Green Inspiration F1 (one of my all time favourite vegetables)
CABBAGE Marner Early Red
COSMOS Brightness Mixed (helping out Mrs Soggy)
CUCUMBER Bella F1 (A new variety to try)

LEEK Giant Winter
LEEK Oarsman F1
MARIGOLD French (For companion planting with the greenhouse tomatoes)

ONION Salad Performer
ONION Salad White Lisbon
PEA Mange Tout Kennedy  (In root trainers)
PEA Rapido Petit Pois (In root trainers)
PEA Twinkle (In root trainers)
RUBBECKIA Cherry Brandy (helping out Mrs Soggy)
SALAD Leaves Speedy
SWEET PEA King Size Navy Blue (helping out Mrs Soggy)

I have gone back to root trainer module sowing for the early peas, after experimenting with sowings in plastic guttering last year. The idea is to slide the peas and their undisturbed roots out of the plastic gutter and into the soil; I think there was more root disturbance than with modules.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013


In one word the sub-title of a Guardian story (to which I was alerted by Lucy Jones, who will be speaking at our garden club meeting in March) sums up much of what underpins my commitment to gardening organically.

I do not doubt that science, research and development have much to offer, after all gardeners have always tinkered about, experimented and sought to build on what nature offers us, but I do not think it is any kind of progress if what we do breaks our relationship of stewardship for the land and responsibility to those who will follow us.

So, the story of Bhutan's commitment to organic production couldn't fail to be of interest to me. In the UK our government at one time talked about measuring happiness, which perhaps shows that at least someone was thinking outside the usual box, but Bhutan has gone much further, basing its economic development on the pursuit of collective happiness. (Now there's a topic for the political philosophers amongst us; here's one for you conspiracy theorists too - when I originally miss-typed "amongst" the browser's in-built spell checker offered Monsanto as an alternative.)

The full story of Bhutan's commitment is told here in The Guardian's article - enjoy.

Sunday, February 10, 2013


I was Potato Day here yesterday and I now have quite a range of varieties to try - working on the assumption that whatever the weather, the more the merrier and more chance of something doing well.

My potato varieties (including 2 of our favourites, Charlotte and Toluca):

British Queen (2nd early, floury)
Casablanca (1st early, multi-purpose)
Charlotte (2nd early, waxy)
Harlequin (early main, waxy)
Orla (early main, multi-purpose)
Premier (1st early, floury)
Rosabelle (1st early, waxy)
Sherine (1st early, floury)
Toluca (early main, waxy)

So, let's see what the seasons bring.

I also bought onion sets. The over-wintering onions will give an earlier crop, but the spring planted ones generally keep better. I bought Turbo and Red Baron.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

I can see the back wall of my potting shed again!

Do you marvel at people with neat sheds and workshops, with immaculate tools set out, gleaming and ready for the next job? I don't know how they do it, my shed seems to have its own force-field, not repelling  but attracting every manner of junk to its heart, slowly but surely accumulating such quantities of rubbish that I can barely open the door and shove a fork or rake in there before swiftly securing the door again.

Well, today, not being wet for a change, I was able to empty it all out (now I know what that smell was: a dead mouse) busily brushing corners that had lain undiscovered seemingly since the last ice age. It is now the perfect example of horticultural order, at least until the force-field once again draws all unto itself.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Organic Advice and Information

I am always on the lookout for information about organic gardening and (through Google+) I came into contact with James Middleton who runs the really informative blog on anything organic gardening or allotmenting. Don't just take my word for it, have a look here

As you've probably noticed, if you can't eat it, I tend not to write about it, but James covers much more ground (hopefully not with weeds), it even seems to tie in quite nicely with the seasons. Nice one James!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

First Snow

The temperature outside (and in the unheated greenhouse) is half a degree above freezing, and when I looked out of the window this morning, what did I see, but a light sprinkling of snow. Just as well Mrs Soggy took the net off one of the broad bean beds.

Light sprinkling of snow

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Signs of life in the wood

Not my veggie patch - enjoyed a walk in nearby woods this morning, with lots of bulbs reaching up through the fallen leaves and amongst them this bold display of snowdrops.

January Snowdrops