Small time harvesting

It’s gratifying that some harvesting can now take place and some of the early rushed efforts when we first moved in can begin to pay off. There may not be very much of everything but we will happily work our way through whatever we can get.

Everything was planted around the first week of June when we moved in to the new place so after about 10 weeks now it’s not probably not that surprising something has made it this far!

Harvesting beetroot, carrots and lettuce
Harvesting beetroot, carrots and lettuce


The most impressive by taste are the carrots which are the Nantes variety and while not overly large they are a reasonable size.

A few more rows of seeds have been planted at various stages over the last few weeks in the hope of getting a regular supply for a little while longer at least.


The beetroot was also very tasty with a more earthy (but not unpleasant) taste than our usual shop bought ones. Some  have been boiled for use with salad but last weekend I also tried roasting them (with some carrots) and they were delicious.

A second batch of seeds have been planted but I’m not sure that they are doing quite so well. Perhaps another row or two should be sown in the very near future just in case.


Unfortunately the lettuce suffers a little in comparison because it’s “just some green leaves”. However that would be unfair because there is nothing wrong with the taste which is just like lettuce should be.

Perhaps I’m influenced by the commonly held belief that home-grown produce always tastes so much better than the shop bought equivalent. I’m not sure that applies to Little Gem lettuces though…


One bit of bad news though is that the potatoes have been a huge disappointment and will probably not yield anything much. Due to the timing of our house move, they were left chitting in trays for 3 or 4 months which obviously didn’t give them the best start in life.

There’s always next year though so I’ll try again and keep my fingers crossed next year.

A chitting dilemma

I’ve seen on various blogs that other people have started to plant out their seed potatoes. As a result I knew it wouldn’t be long before I would be able do the same for my first batch.

Chitting seed potatoes
Chitting seed potatoes

They are looking fairly impressive to my untrained eye and, even allowing for the fact that my small veg garden being roughly at a latitude of 55° North, the weather is getting noticeably warmer lately.

One advantage of living  close to sea level is the difference in temperature  with higher inland areas. This is more noticeable to me of late as we expect to move to a new property in the near future which is 1000 feet up in the North Pennines!

There is another, slightly larger batch of seed potatoes which have made almost no sign of progress. Presumably this is because the first batch were brought into the (centrally heated) house where the others were left on the (unheated) garage window sill.

My dilemma though is whether I can hold off on planting all of the seed potatoes until we move to the new property. Alternatively perhaps I should plant the more advanced ones to save any risk of losing them or damage to the shoots.

This decision complicated partly because I’m always too eager to get things planted but also because we really need to “clear the decks” in preparation for the move so this first batch might well be safer in the ground anyway!

I suspect that the first batch will have to get planted this weekend so that I can get a small amount of planting gratification. Hopefully the second batch will eventually come to life over the next 4-5 weeks so that I can take them with us when we move and plant them as the first job at our new place.


Farewell to the new potatoes

With a final flourish of flavour and texture this year’s harvest of new potatoes has now been completed. There were a few leftovers from the last meal but they won’t last long as I plan to fry them up soon unless they get eaten by someone else before then!

Overall the yields from the handful of plants were quite impressive and if I’m honest probably better than I expected. The plants managed fairly well but it wasn’t an ideal location due to some overhanging growth from next door. The occasional heavy rain also didn’t help and some plants were quite badly beaten into submission in the end.

Half of their veg bed is already taken up with some runner beans and some more of the hand-me-down broccoli seedlings because I’m trying to make the best of my limited space. I’m sure there will be a couple of potatoes that turn up when I dig over the remaining part of the bed before putting in something else.

The most likely candidates to fill this space are some extra carrots which could be ready for planting out by early August. These are a fast growing variety so they should be ready for a harvest before the northern autumn weather sets in (I hope).

More eggs than at Easter!

From time to time our fridge fills up with eggs even though we only have 3 chickens and there are 3 grown adults in our house. Some days we open the fridge door and there are eggs wedged in almost every available space – in fact it’s amazing they don’t fall out!

I know we could probably pass some on to No.1 or No.2 daughter and they would be glad of some free food but somehow that doesn’t always happen. It might be a lack of egg cartons or just simple forgetfulness but the result is 3 more eggs in the morning and the fridge soon fills up.

Obviously we must be more efficient in our egg handouts I guess and we  should  palm them off  give some to work colleagues, friends and neighbours as well. However my first reaction when this glut appears is to wonder what other options are available for cooking with eggs.

On many occasions we have an excess of eggs simply because we’re bored with scrambled, poached or boiled!

This led me to  and an interesting recipe for Ham And Egg Cobbler which looks very quick and simple to prepare although perhaps a little plain. I like “quick and simple” as much as the next person but when I attempt this recipe I will probably be adding some extra ingredients to add “interest”.

Ideally I would like to work with something from the garden but I’m not sure that carrots would go with this and I don’t have time to wait for the leeks to get bigger. However I could try an early harvest of some garlic and even an onion perhaps to liven things up.

Some other good general links I found were the Good Food Channel from UKTV and the BBC Good Food site but  something I’ve definitely noted for future reference is this Scotch Egg recipe from The Guardian website.

Please let me know about any other good egg recipe ideas and watch this space…

A belated growing update

What a busy couple of weeks! A change of job to work nearer home, ongoing preparations for the impending wedding for No.2 daughter, Open University assignments and of course the work needed in the garden.

Recently planted runner bean seedlingsFinally I think I have managed to find time to update the blog with a few key pictures to show the progress made.

Newly planted

It was fast becoming clear that my plan to follow the potatoes with the runner beans was not going to work. Mainly down to my impatience and planting the beans a bit early.

As a result I had some healthy looking runner bean seedlings desperate for planting out and nowhere to put them.

A quick trip to the local pound shop soon solved this problem with a large tub so now i have the canes in place and the first batch of runner beans in.


Limited space

Onions in pots among the flower border

There is something of a common theme developing as time goes on now with a distinct lack of space for the many big ideas – hardly surprising though given the name of my blog!

This means that I have assorted veg plants all over the place and a very good example of this are the onions in a range of spare pots that I have managed to sneak in among the flower borders.

I have previously avoided plants in pots because they are higher maintenance with care and watering but this time there wasn’t much choice with the amount of plants I wanted to get in the ground.

Pride and Joy

Potatoes nearly ready, just waiting for flowers to appear

I am most proud of my potatoes though and to my untrained eye they look as if they are doing really well.

I noted on a comment made on Gardeners World this week that watering is not needed until the flowers appear but with our recent damp weather that hasn’t been a concern.

I might be deluding myself but I’m sure that on closer inspection there are some early signs of flowers…


A mean brew

Ginger wine successfully bottled

And finally the ginger wine has now been bottled. Obviously it needed a quick taste beforehand just to check the quality and it’s a mean brew with quite a kick on it!

I’ve got no idea if its supposed to be cloudy like this but im just impressed that something vaguely drinkable came out of all my efforts.

Not a bad result after 3 weeks of fairly low-key effort on my part but then I haven’t tried more than a couple of sips.

I’m a little worried that this may have the potential to take paint off the woodwork and disinfect the kitchen floor.

We won’t know until we try some but I leave that for later this week…

Pleasing potato progress

First early potatoes coming along nicely

Just for the record here is the current progress with my very limited potatoes after 6 weeks in the ground. There may only be two short rows but I have very high expectations for them!

It’s all looking very good at the moment and there has been very little signs of weeds or pests (so far). Last weekend I even went through a token effort of earthing them up.

It may not have been strictly necessary to do any earthing up but the work helped to emphasise the progress the plants are making.

To my untrained eye these are looking good and I anticipate a first harvest somewhere around early July.

However I’m not sure I can resist the temptation to dig up one plant towards the end of June just to see how things are going.

I’m not so sure that my efforts with chitting in two batches has made any difference though. The row nearest the fence started chitting a few weeks ahead of the others but the plants all seem to be the same size at the moment!

The only remaining work that I really should get sorted out is to install a soaker hose which I plan to run off the newest water butt. At this rate I think the harvest may well be in before I get around to putting the irrigation in place!


Vegetable progress update

The potatoes are finally starting to show signs of life which is encouraging. That is only when compared to the apparently interminable wait for anything to happen of course. I’m sure that I will soon need to worry about earthing them up but for the moment they should be okay.

early potatoes coming up - May 2012

The onion sets that were planted in the veg bed are looking very good – it may not look like that in the photo but trust me on this! Even the extra ones that I planted in various pots around the garden a little later are coming on nicely. I would have planted more but I ran out of space and containers to put them in!

onion sets coming on nicely (with cabbages)

In a probably futile attempt to seize some more vegetable space in the garden I decided to hide some broccoli seedlings behind a few French Marigolds. I’m not sure if that will help with the companion planting but I had some marigolds left over and didn’t want to waste them.

This area is really supposed to be a flower bed anyway but I don’t have anything special to put in there at the moment so I figured it was worth a try. I think I got away with it but only time will tell..

trying to hide the broccoli behind some french marigolds in the flower bed

Keeping on top of the Spring jobs

After another extended time away from home on business I know that there will be plenty of tasks waiting for me on my return. All of these will be in addition to the usual concerns about the contents of the vegetable beds and how they have coped in my absence.

Here is a brief run-down…

Vegetable beds

After the range of planting that I did a couple of weeks ago I’m hoping to see signs of progress from some if not all of them.

The seed potatoes have been under cloches so they should have been well protected from any frosts recently. Unfortunately the cloches will also have kept the rain off too so I;ll need to check that.

It is much the same for the carrot seedlings I planted out but these are a fast growing variety so I suspect I will see more progress with those.

The onion sets got planted out in a bit of a rush and as a result all I had left to cover them was some netting. Hopefully even that has been some help to keep the worst of the weather off them while they get established.

Planting Out

By this time the French Marigold seedlings will probably be a little too big for their current home and desperate to get out into the real world.

I have great hopes for these mainly for the companion planting benefits however they are also one of the few plants that  I am growing from seed this year specifically just for the flowers. Unfortunately I don’t have such high hopes for success with the old poppy and foxglove seeds which I sowed after finding them in a corner of the garage.

The leek seedlings in toilet roll tubes seem to have taken ages but I suspect that is down to my impatience more than any inherent weakness on their part. If my calculations are correct then the first batch should be about ready for planting out. I just hope I left enough room for them when planting out the carrots a few weeks ago but if not then some leeks will just have to suffer a temporary home until the (early harvesting) carrots have gone.

Construction work

The work to reroute the guttering on the garage was completed (fairly roughly) last time but I need to adjust the slope to get a proper flow and finish off the supports as well.

Of course I still need to get the water-butt to use with this but that’s just a minor detail really! It’s just a shame that I’ve missed an opportunity with all the wet weather at home over the last 2 weeks. Never mind I’m fairly confident that the North East of England is not likely to suffer a drought just yet.

Rearranging things

There are always plenty of other (non-vegetable) jobs to get done though and one of them will to rearrange some other plants that have managed to spread their way around the garden.

As usual we have a lot of  self seeded Campanula and they will mostly be left where they are this year. However I will clear out some of them in an effort to create the illusion of a few select areas  rather than having them all over the whole garden.

I think the time has come to leave the Bluebells alone after many years of removing them from certain areas. This year I got the impression that they looked a little more under control so I think they deserve to break.

It may not be the right time but I think we have a Philadelphus in need of some tidying up. There was an ill-advised attempt at pruning a couple of years ago which didn’t go well – no names of course but it wasn’t me!

If I remember I may add a post with a picture of the Bay tree before I tackle it as we have left this for many years now. What used to a be a fairly well-trimmed but large standard-style tree is now getting out of control and needs a firm disciplinary hand.

At this point I should make it clear that I’m no expert with plant names but I always use these names for the plants in question so if I’m wrong then at least I’m consistent!

Planting update

First early potatoes planted and under a clocheWhat a busy bank holiday weekend that turned out to be. Thankfully the weather was kind and I was able to finish just about everything on my list. It’s good to see the new raised veg beds getting some use finally and all the effort getting to this point seems worth it at the moment.

The potatoes are now in the ground – there are only two fairly short rows but I have limited space for the moment so I am only able to put in a little bit of everything.

I’ve left a cloche over them for the moment as the weather forecast for the coming week seemed to be predicting some pretty cold nights. As we are near the coast any colder nights may not be a huge problem but I’d rather be safe than sorry.

Trust me though, there are definitely two rows of potatoes under that plastic in the picture and hopefully I have planted them far enough apart unless my measuring went wrong!

Carrot seedlings planted up and under a clocheThe carrots have also been planted out now and they were kept in the toilet roll tubes which made planting a really simple task. I have also recently come across this old page on the web which claims that this approach helps to prevent pest problems too!

They might have been just a little too small to plant out but I figured that as they should really have been planted directly into the veg beds in the first place then this won’t matter too much.  By using the toilet roll tubes and leaving a cloche over them I think I’ve covered my bases fairly well.

Unfortunately the leek seedlings are just not quite ready for planting out as they are still only about 3 inches high and pretty thin, I would say weedy but that’s unfair to my leeks.

Garlic making good progressHowever this minor delay is probably not a bad thing because the weather has still not warmed up properly here in the North East of England.

It doesn’t seem to be affecting my garlic though because that is making great progress. I planted 3 cloves in this small terracotta trough (as well as in other locations) and they are already coming up strongly.

The bluebells in this picture look good as well!


I’m keeping my fingers crossed

We have a few days away coming up so the Small Plot will be left in the hands of No3 daughter and although I’m not particularly fussy, I just know that things won’t be done exactly how I’d like. Okay, maybe I am a little fussy but then again I have invested a fair amount of time and effort getting the seeds to this stage so I’d rather not have any setbacks now.

The assortment of seeds and new plants have been careful arranged in the mini greenhouse or the reclaimed cold frame so I’m hopeful that they will make it through relatively unscathed. I suspect a text message cashing in some past favours may be needed if I hope to get them watered while we’re away though.

With luck the seeds that have been planted more recently (a 2nd batch of carrots, some lobelia & other flower seeds collected last year) will be perfectly happy. At least any water loss through evaporation will be less now that the weather is a little cooler.

We’ve tried to explain the limited complexity of the daily routines when keeping chickens but these have mostly been met with the comment “Yeah, yeah, whatever…”. There were some tricky episodes earlier this week when the chickens decided to go “exploring” when they were allowed into the fenced run we added. As a result it seems certain that the chickens will have to make do with their (roofed) run for the whole time we are away.  Better safe than sorry I guess.

Obviously I’m looking forward to the time off from work but I’m also looking forward to getting back as well. There will be the chitted potatoes to plant out, my onion sets have been delivered, the first batch of carrots and the leeks should be well advanced and the French marigolds for companion planting may also be ready.

Exciting times ahead!