Friday 19 September 2014

Perennial Onions

I've been accumulating perennial onions from several sources. Two sorts of pearl onion for a start, one with a name, one without. The named one is Minogue, with white bulbs. This is the other, which has green bulbs.

The weeds are going mad in the background because I'm currently minus a strimmer, and haven't been well. This was passed on to me by another plotholder who had no idea what it was. It's like a small spring onion, with a bulb up to an inch or so across. The bulb has no rings, as it's fored from the base of a single  leaf.

These are everlasting onions, similar to Welsh onions except that they don't flower. I was sent a little bundle of tiny bulbs at the end of last winter, with the Minogue, and both went happily into three-inch pots. As you see, these have grown like mad. I divided them a few weeks ago, and they're splitting again already. Next year I plan to use them as spring onions, but meanwhile I want to multiply them up for a season.

Potato onions are a new aquisition, along with four varieties of topsetting onion which are just beginning to show. Shallotts are a familiar type; others are rare, and can be stronger tasting or longer lasting. Like shallotts, they flower now and then; the ideal would be to get seed and try breeding them.

The next job is to build another raised bed - this is turning into endless labour, but it's worthwhile once it's done - for the shallotts; I have a nice pile of big bulbs ready to go in.

Friday 18 July 2014

Bees settling in

This little toad was sitting in a seed tray. I haven't been posting much, largely because the plot is in cuch a humiliating state after being off with a bad back for much of last year. I'm getting it sorted slowly, but meanwhile I've no energy for the bits I'm not working on, and much of it is a jungle.

The broad beans have been a success in the main, and the direct planted ones did a lot better than the transplanted ones. I planted 17 varieties this year, and they should be well mixed up in the next generation. Many of the peas have also done well, though some of the last ones I planted are a bit stunted. I wonder whether that's down to summer heat? This one is Carlin Pea, the oldest known variety. It was first recorded in 1562, four years after Elizabeth I came to the throne, and may well be a lot older than that.

The Daubenton's and Taunton Deane Kales are planted out, and the tree collard x Daubenton's cross is now chest high, and buried in weeds. The one that flowered hasn't set much seed, but I'm hoping for a little once it matures out enough to harvest. Right now the flowering stems are all in a hessian bag hanging in the shed.

Butterflies are doing quite well this year; I just wish my camera was better adapted for that sort of thing. I have to get too close to get shots like this one of a small tortoiseshell, and it doesn't work too often. The next one needs to take something like the old-fashioned close-up lenses, so I can get them to fill the frame from further away.

The bees are doing well. I've acquired four swarms in the last month or so; three moved into empty hives of their own accord, and one came from another beekeeper. I'm still working on a video about them, but it's almost done. I've found and marked all four queens - the last one today - and all four have capped worker brood. I'm fairly happy with three of them; the last is a follower, yellow, with a broodnest shaped like a horizontal oval. That's not siomething I see much of; at the moment it's only using the top part of my 14x12 frames. Overall, I think it's one for requeening. I can't stand followers, and they'll scare my neighbour if they start bothering him on the other side of the hedge. They buzz about your head without provocation, in the most distracting way. I assume it's a type of threatening behaviour designed to intimidate and drive away large animals like bears and humans, and it's most unpleasant when they I'm on the plot and some wretched bee starts!

Tuesday 3 June 2014

A swarm arrives... and leaves again.

Bees have a mind of their own, and this wasn't the first time I've had a swarm that wouldn't cooperate. I don't know why it is; I can post my own Youtube videos properly like this, but I can't get it to work with anyone else's.

Wednesday 28 May 2014

Perennial brassicas

I spotted this during a very wet visit to the plot this morning. A Daubenton's kale x tree collard cross is coming to the end of flowering, and strong new shoots are appearing below the flowering stems. A biennial brassica would die back at this stage.

Meanwhile I have flourishing seedlings from HSL Daubenton's seed, and cuttings of green Daubenton's and Taunton Deane kale are well rooted and growing strongly. The variegated Daubenton's I moved suffered a bit in that very sunny spell, but it's now recovering well.

Daubento's is a quite a low growing kale; I'm told Taunton Deane is twice the size, and it certainly looks it on this video:

The kale is on near the end; I can never get videos to link properly for some reason. I find that the best way to propagate these is with small cuttings about three inches long, taken at this time of year. The sort of long cutting shown in the video will certainly root if it's taken in the autumn - I haven't tried at other times of year - but it's expensive to send through the post, and unnecessary. Small plants need protecting from harsh winter weather.

The good thing about the tree collard cross is its height and shape; it's a tall plant with space for another crop underneath. These have grown since the pic was taken, and are now level with the highest flowers on the one that's blooming. There's plenty of leaf there, and no doubt it's there all year round!

Sunday 25 May 2014

Plot Update

My bed of Negresse potatoes is thriving, for the moment. It's a late late, like all very old varieties, and it's vulnerable to blight. I didn't get any last year thanks to the dry weather, and I'm hoping it'll stay away this year. The disease has been dreadful for a few years, as it thrives in a wet summer, then overwinters in the tubers people miss then they lift their spuds. It spreads from the next season's volunteers, which are often left by plotholders. After a dry year, however, there's a lot less of it around.

The broad beans are just beginning to flower. The bed above was sown directly after pigeons had most of my original transplants. These are doing better, but they're obviously behind the first lot. The bean above is a Crimson Flowered Bean; I've put in sixteen varieties and mixes, and one thing I'll be looking for is the red flowers. I've just planted 'Cote D'or' favaroles, which should flower after these have finished, and give me seed to add to the mix next year. Favaroles are BB's, but the size of a large pea. This particular variety is a mixture of mottled and near-black beans. 

One of my Daubenton's Kale x Tree Collard crosses is flowering. It's a perennial, so I'm hoping it'll survive the experience. These are big, tall plants which could potentially be undercropped with something that wouldn't mind a bit of shade. As you see, they produce plenty of leaf when they're not putting all their endergy into flowering.

 I'm getting some very useful help from a horticulture course, getting this area dug over. It's all going to be raised beds; health permitting (right now I'm recovering from a thoroughly unpleasant virus), I hope to have another seven raised beds done by next year's growing season.  The beds are making a real difference, as plants like shallotts, which I could never grow before, suddenly start flourishing once they're well above the water table, and it's a lot easier to keep them weed free. It's likely to take three or four years, but the plan is to do the whole plot.

Friday 14 March 2014

Getting Sorted

It's going to be a long haul after seven months away from the plot, but Ive started getting things sorted.  The three raised beds I managed to build last year have been cleaned, topped up, and planted. The one closest to the camera has my racist potato, Negresse, in it.

This is a 200-year-old (or thereabouts) French variety, with deep purple skin and violet flesh. I haven't had any luck with it so far; I grew it for several years, or tried to, but blight, which is endemic on the site, hit it year after year. Like all very old spuds it's a late maincrop, and the tubers don't begin to swell till October. So blight coming around midsummer meant that it barely produced tuvbers big enough to survive at all. I wrote it off.

Last year, we had a dry summer, and no blight. The few plants that managed to survive being swamped by massive rat-tailed radishes produced enough tubers to plant up a bed, so I'll see how it does this time. After a dry summer, there should be a lot less blight on the site this year, other things being equal.

The other beds are planted up with alliums. I'm now digging as fast as I can go, trying to get two more beds done in time to get the broad beans planted out in them. These are already started, in pots. Sixteen varieties and mixes, with a tremendous range represented. Big seeds and pea-sized seeds; red, green and almost white seeds. One variety has deep red flowers, and one pure white. I'll see what I end up with in a few generations!

Friday 10 January 2014

Back to the Plot

I did a little work on the plot today, for the first time since I did my back in last June. It was a very little; I forked over a couple of square yards of a raised bed, and got home knackered. It's a start, anyway.

As you can see from the above photo, the rough ground across the lane from my plot is completely waterlogged, with standing water. The level on my plot is a little higher, and there's no water showing, but I know from experience that if I tried to dig it now, there would be water at the bottom of the trench. This is why I need the raised beds; the waterlogging makes it impossible to grow some simple crops, like shallotts, successfully without them, and a really wet summer can wipe out a great deal.

It's the first time I've been on the site for a month or so, as I really haven't been well, and I was relieved to see the brassicas have remained untouched by pigeons. Once they lose the habit, they don't touch them until we get a spell of hard frost or snow, and then they don't stop till things start growing the following spring. Occasionally, they keep at it all summer. I didn't have the energy to net them after doing a little digging.

It's going to be a slow process, but at least I've made a start. Next time I'm down, I should get some pots and a seed tray, and get some true potato seed started on a windowsill. The earlier the better as far as I can see.