Monday, February 22, 2016

You Can't Beat a Beetroot!

Photo by Helen

You can't beat a beetroot!  I plant some every spring and autumn. As we are approaching the end of summer I will be sowing some seeds into punnets ready for an autumn planting.

Beets are one of the easiest crops to grow and are a versatile vegetable to have in the kitchen.  You can pickle them, boil them, roast them or grate them raw into a salad and of course you can eat the greens too! 

The variety I like to grow is called Perfect 3 and is a smooth rounded beet (photo above) with a sweet flavour. It tends not to bolt and sits well in the ground. 

You can direct sow into the ground or like me, grow first in punnets to transplant later. I prefer the grow in punnets method as there is no need to thin seedlings as you can space them out at planting time.

Beetroots like full sun and given the right conditions should be ready to harvest around 3 months from planting. Before planting you need to do a little work on your soil, fork it over to make sure it's free draining and dig in some of the lovely organic compost you are all making in your gardens, then fork in some general fertiliser like blood and bone for example. 

Now you're ready to either direct sow into your ground or transplant those seedlings you've been growing. If you direct sow, then when the seedlings are around 1-2 inches high you'll need to thin out in order to leave room for those lovely fat roots to spread. Keep the plants watered and I usually give mine a fortnightly feed of an organic liquid fertiliser.

You can harvest your beets when they are baby or let them grow on to maturity. Then you can take them into your kitchen to turn into a beetiful delight for your taste buds. 

So why not add some beetroot to your crop this season.




Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Pumpkins!



Helen with one of her Potimarron Pumpkins


This year I decided to try my hand at growing a rare French variety of pumpkin called Potimarron. It is said to have a rich chestnut flavour and an edible skin. The plant is supposed to produce fruits of 1-2 kilos (2-4lb) which are ready to harvest within 13 weeks from planting. If the plant is given the right conditions then it should yield up to 7kg  (15lb) of fruit per plant, (so the brochure says.)
Photo by Helen

Pumpkins need a fairly long warm summer to produce their best, so pick a nice sunny spot to plant them, where they will get at least 6 hours of sunshine a day. I prepared my soil by digging in some lovely compost and manure, so that they have a good organic bed to rest their roots in. Then I planted out my seedlings, at least 3 ft. apart and mulched with some pea straw. 

I gave them some love and attention and a liquid feed every now and again and was so excited to see how well they were doing.  There's nothing nicer than looking at a healthy plant in your veggie plot.

Pumpkins are heavy feeders, so once a fortnight through their growing period is a good idea. You can vary what you feed them from liquid organic feeds, to a sprinkling of blood and bone, whatever you give them they will gobble up.


Photo by Helen
My excitement at how well they were doing was doubled when the first pumpkin embryos started to swell. Each fat little ball held the promise of things to come.

I kept them well watered especially through very hot days (our summers can be and are scorching on some days) and they did suffer a little from the heat, (we also have sandy soil) but they picked up again on the cooler days. 

As the sun shone down on them they carried on growing and turning a lovely gold colour and now I'm able to harvesting them. 

How does one tell when a pumpkin is ready to harvest?  I've heard tell that one way is to give them a bit of a thump and if they sound hollow then they're ready.  The colour is a good indication too, if they're that lovely golden colour all over then they should be ready. The last way is to check on the stalk. When their stalk is dry, woody and brittle then your pumpkin is ready!

I can't wait to try these babies and see what their chestnut flavour is like.  If you don't have a garden plot big enough to take one of these, they do tend to sprawl all over the place, then you can grow them in a tub and let them creep over the sides and down a path.

Once planted they are easy to grow, just remember to water and feed them and they will reward you with those lovely fruits at the end of summer.