Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Seedy tales

All my planning led to the inevitable lengthy wishlist of seeds and plants - my favourite kind of shopping!

I've ordered all mine from Thompson & Morgan this year - a departure from my usual habit of getting everything from The Organic Gardening Catalogue, but then I thought I'd try someone different. And besides, all the mainstream suppliers are now offering organically-produced seed so Garden Organic have some competition at last.

New varieties (for me, anyway) which I'm trying out this year include the carrot Red Samurai, a deep red maincrop; Sungold tomato, which I've been told is the best of the cherry varieties; and the purple-podded climbing bean, Blauhilde. I'm going to be having another go at growing sweetcorn - last time the rats got the lot, so I'm hoping to confuse them a bit by growing it in the "three sisters" system, a companion planting technique where you grow beans to climb up the corn stalks and underplant with squash (Harrier - a butternut type). I'm also trying growing two types of Brussel sprout, Trafalgar - early, and Maximus, a late-cropper, so I can get the longest season possible from them. And I'm having a go at kale (Dwarf Green Curled) for next winter, and I've even bought "proper" pumpkin seed ("Jack of All Trades") since we've entirely failed to provide ourselves with a Halloween lamp tonight and have the shame of having to buy one in!

It's all very exciting: the new season has officially begun!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Green gold

The plot is starting to go to sleep now so I'm working my way through my beds to get them ready for overwintering (those I'm not going to use, anyway - I have four still up and running, mostly for winter brassicas but also for chard and Japanese onions).

The main weapon in my arsenal against the winter weather is green manures - I'm a real convert, after trying them last year. They're basically just weeds under a different name, but you harness them to your own ends. So long as you don't let them get out of control (not difficult, since you basically kill them in spring) you've got free fertiliser that looks after your soil all winter, too.

This year I've branched out from grazing rye and am trying red clover, too. This is the bed where my mid-season peas and beans were growing - full of lovely lush green foliage, keeping the soil surface from cracking up, holding goodness in the soil and preventing the rains from washing it all out.

I'm hoping that this (a legume) will be a double boost for fertility: not only will it help inject nitrogen when I dig it in in the spring, but it'll also fix nitrogen from the air, a quality common to most legumes. That's also why I chose it for this particular spot - you should always choose green manures of the same vegetable group as the one it's following. So if the bed was used to grow legumes, like peas and beans, you can use a leguminous green manure; but I wouldn't have used, for example, mustard, as that's a brassica and I'm planning to grow cabbages here next year so if the mustard caught club root, I'd be clobbered.

It sounds complicated but it's actually quite easy once you get the hang of it. Who would have thought there would be so much involved in growing a load of weeds?!