Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Atlantic Giant

Last year I tried to grow some big pumpkins. They are the most fun plant to grow due to the speed and size. The seeds were some I picked up locally (Hundredweight) and despite reaching football size the floods ultimately put paid to any ideas of grandeur and all was lost. But it had got me started on the right track and 2008 would be a much better year.

Having read up a bit I found the best variety are Atlantic Giant so this year I got a packet of “Dill’s Atlantic Giant”. I sowed the seeds in containers and started to research more such as soil preparation, feeding etc and then I discovered This is a website where serious growers from around the world share ideas and progress with like minded individuals. I read a lot and posted a few questions only to be told (in a nice way) my seeds would be rubbish…gutted.

To get the biggest and best pumpkins you need the right genetics and these have been steadily developed via enthusiasts (mostly USA based) over the last decades. You don’t just get these seeds from your local garden centre either its quite a closed group where seeds are mostly given away to friends but where the most sought after seeds from world record holders can auction for several hundreds of dollars each! Needless to say I carried on learning and after more research proved I was somewhat behind the seed auctions held over winter. It was mid May, getting on in the year and my plants should be in the ground not yet seeds....

...And then I got an offer from a UK grower who’s been an enthusiast for a few years. He sent me a collection of seeds two of which I have planted. These are no ordinary seeds and have very credible genetic history each coming from pumpkins over 900lb!! To say I was/still am excited in an understatement! I got both plants going asap using the airing cupboard for warmth and by the end of the first week they had not only germinated but had started to fill the three litre pots they were in. Right now they are in much larger 50 litre tubs but this can’t last for long. And so we come to plot 61 and the big idea.

Originally I reserved the last two beds on Plot62 for squash plants – butternut, courgette and pumpkin. However this is nowhere near enough for one plant let alone two. It became clear I needed a much bigger space of ground and hence the second plot came about. Right now I’ve cleared the weeds and will dig two pits in the next couple of days. Hopefully I’ll have the plants transplanted at the weekend. I recon I need half a plot for each plant - thats 15’x25’ each (yes really!!) and will try to use compost and possibly manure to give nutrients. I’m also trying to build polythene tents to protect my seedlings when transplanted. Its all a bit crazy and manic and possibly why some of the regular veg growing is having a slow start. But its so fascinating and exciting I can’t wait to see how it goes!

By the way the top picture is what I'm aiming for... Its a picture taken from BigPumpkins of the current world record holder. It was grown last year by Joe Jutras and reached a colossal weight of 1689lbs!

Plot 61?

Well I always knew one plot wouldn’t be enough and so for this summer only I’ve branched out to plot 61... the world takeover starts here!

Before you think I’ve gone allotmenting mad its only a temporary venture and I’m not going to take permanent lease of the plot. Instead its doing myself and my neighbour a favour whilst she is unable to make use of the land this summer. It gives me chance for some BIG ideas as my plot is fully in use and also a means of keeping the site tended and stopping the spread of weeds. What can I be growing?!

Spring catch up

Welcome back and thanks for still looking! Its been a long time since the last update and so many things have been progressing. I passed the year mark in late April but not before I’d got a whole load of potatoes and onions in. I actually started the onions in cells and they were 6” long by the time they were planted out. As for the spuds I think I went a little over the top… oops. Without really considering I bought four bags or seed potatoes – early (Arran Pilot), maincrop (Desiree) and second/salad (Charlotte). This all amounted to quite a lot of potatoes and despite giving them away I’ve still filled one and half beds! I recon I planted over 100 seed potatoes. Progress report: all coming along nicely!

In the next bed came the beans and peas. Each of the beds had been dug over by hand to remove the weed roots from last year. Its taken ages but so far appears worth it. Time will tell if it stays so. I put a couple of trenches of compost down for these as well as the standard canes. I’m growing scarlet emporer runner beans and Blue Lake French beans. They both suffered badly with a three night frost less than a week after planting but have survived and started re-growing. I think I’ll have to keep up with the watering as they don’t appear to like dry conditions.

After that came root plants. I’d already got parsnips on the go in huge tubes. These had been washed away in the mid Jan floods - or so I thought because now small plants are starting to form. I planted more seed direct including parsnip, carrot and turnip. So far its not looking good but maybe I’m expecting too much too soon. I’ve a few radishes in the same area which I’m hoping to catch crop.

The next bed is brassicas. I didn’t try these last year but thought I’d have a go at ome summer varietes. I’ve started everything in cells then transplanted the seedlings. A bit like the roots so far the jury is out but this is more my doing than anything else. In all the literature it says you must net these plants from the birds and butterflies. Unfortuantly the netting I got was rubbish and didn’t really cover the area it should have. What with the delay in me getting new stuff and fitting it the plants have taken a beating, or at the very least a good nibbling. The nets are half done so a big priority right now is finishing the job. I’ve got sprouts (Maximus) and Broccoli (Belstar?) in and Cauliflower (Clapton) waiting to be transplanted.

The last bed so far is for sweetcorn and tomatoes. I haven’t tried outdoor tomatoes before and this year I’m growing Tamina which is a standard sized one. I’ve also got a few cherry type (Gardeners Delight) which are the same as in my greenhouse. Sadly these got planted at the same time as the beans so suffered the frost. They were quite big when transplanted which might just be their saving Grace. We’ll see how they go. Also I think my sweetcorn is too tightly packed. Each is spaced 8” which is very close. I’m tempted to try and move on every other plant but as I also read they don’t like being disturbed I’m somewhat undecided. So that’s it for Plot62. I’ll try and get some better pictures of everything very soon. And I’ll keep blogging the year as we go.Cheers!

Monday, 25 February 2008

2008: Ready, get set, go!

Its been a while since I last posted and thankfully the flood didn't have the impact I thought it would. The plot definitely flooded but no more than a couple of inches deep. I've visited the plot a few times in the last couple of weeks and am pleased to report its all dried up and no harm done. If anything its kick started my grass into action!

So the days are getting longer, the sun warmer - it must be time to start planting! So far I've bought about half of my seeds and the order for the other half was sent in the post this weekend. I started my onions and leeks a couple of weeks ago. he onions were sets and I hadn't realised they were getting a touch mouldy so I planted them in cells and they are nicely tucked up in the greenhouse. They'll be planted out in the next few weeks.

With my leeks I'm trying a new technique. Basically I'm trying to growth in close quarters for the first few months. I have a couple of 8" pots and I've sow roughtly 30 seeds in each. The leeks will stay in these until pencil thick before transplanting on. Although the roots will get bound apparently its fine to trim them right back when planting on.

This weekend also saw the sowing of tomatos. These will be kept on the kitchen window sill for the next few weeks because of the cold and should come through in a couple of weeks. I'm trying peat pots with these (biodegradable pots that you just plant straight into the soil). 18 gardeners delight and 18 tamina (moneymaker size) so its a good job I like toms!! The usual will go in the greenhouse and the rest on the allotment. I think outdoor tomatos can be difficult because of blight but its worth a try. Might put a few in the garden too.

So thats the seeds but I've also been preparing the plot. Grass paths are almost finished and a bit more seed will see the job done. As I mentioned earlier the existing grass is superb and has really taken well. Not only does it stop claggy boots but it makes the plot look so more professional and orderly. Next jobs are to start preparing the beds. They really need a full dig and fine comb. There are still so many weed roots following last year these must be removed as a priority. I had a quick try of a soil sieve which worked well to a point. The seive is too fine for general use and I was finding half the content left in the basket! Its definitelt the way forward and I'll have to make a coarse version. This can be kept for compost.

So thats it for now. No pictures but I'll get some added. Oh yes potatos are chitting nicely in the garage by the window. I thought I'd try a few varities so grabbed a few bags (1st, 2nd and maincrop). Its only when you see how many there you realise we've enough to feed a (small) army! So at this rate it looks like a summer of chips and ketchup...

Friday, 18 January 2008

Here comes the rain again...

...Falling on my head like a memory...

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. It was all going so well as well.

The bad news folks is I'm fearing the worst: Plot62 may well be drowning again.

I visited the plot a couple of days ago to check on the adjacent stream and it was doing ok but yesterday and today have seen the fields starting to flood. It just hasn't stopped raining for days and what with the saturated ground rivers are bursting their banks everywhere. The tell tale signs were there that water was high when I couldn't use my normal 'across the fields' route. Even a diversion I use was flooded meaning I had to remove my socks and shoes riding my bike through a huge puddle!

Still it could be worse. The ground is bare so no lost crops and theres still a few weeks before I want to plant. I'm popping down later to have a look and I have my camera so I'll post some pictures.

Friday, 4 January 2008

Happy new year!

Happy new year from Plot62, here's hoping for a great growing year. Below are some of the pictures as promised.

This is the front of the plot now I've created it into beds with grass paths. Hopefully close mowing the grass in summer will suppress the existing weeds and provide me with lots of greenery for my compost bins!

A zoomed in view showing the middle of the plot. The beds at the front are quite square which should be good for sprawling veg like pumpkins.

A view of the last four beds. These are all about 1.5 metres wide at most. I plan to grow potatoes, root crops, peas and beans and onions here. The paths will be all sown with grass seed once spring comes.

Saved the best for last! Here are my prize winning beetroots.

Thursday, 13 December 2007

Champion Beetroot

Well the year wasn't quite a washout after all...

After my original comments about being a novice and "seeing how things go" its been brought to my attention that I've been selling myself short. In actual fact I'm very green fingered (emerald I like to think) and have got quite an aptitude for this veg growing lark! Champion standard veg growing if we're being precise....!!

As you may know following the disaster of the floods it was only my lone beetroot crop that survived (two varieties Boltardy and Forno). Well not to be outdone I submitted a photo of the Boltardy to a national (ahem) veg growing show.


That's right first time attempt, one crop shot and winner straight out. Well you can't say fairer than that can you? 100% perfect record. I might as well retire now. Lewis Hamilton eat your heart out!

I'm pleased to say you can see my handiwork in this months edition of GYO magazine. For those who don't have a copy my winning photo will be/is posted below.

So for all the would be champion growers seeking advice from the pro here is my (patent pending) secret method:
  1. Buy cheap value seeds from B&Q. Lose them in the garage and find them by chance the next year.
  2. Sow roughly into a field you've just dug over.
  3. Leave them be. Weed very occasionally.
  4. Apply copious amounts of water in mid July. 3 feet deep should do the trick.
  5. Come back in two months time and discover they are still there under all those weeds.
  6. Harvest and keep in a bucket for evermore.

So I'm now deciding whether to grow these again next year and defend my crown. I'd previously decided I wouldn't grow them because I'm not keen on eating them but given my skills maybe it would be a waste. It does make me think though about last year. If there hadn't been a flood just imagine what the rest of the veg would have been like....?!

[By the way even if Helen did plant the seeds I dug the ground, weeded and harvested them. I'm sure she planted the Forno variety though.... honest]