Spring growing, harvests, sowing and seed saving for next winter!

Lemon verbena, chillies and stevia, over wintered indoors, are springing into life (and leaf!) and my fruit trees are blossoming.Watering my baby aubergine, tomato and chilli plants, looking forward to sowing  cucumbers, melons, basil over the next week, I am dreaming of delicious summery dishes, so it may seem a little strange to be thinking of growing next winter’s meals.

This is such an exciting, busy time – every day there is something new…

From the polytunnel we are eating fresh carrots (sown direct on October 15th), cabbages  and module sown spring onions. I am still picking overwintered kale, spinach, chard, salad leaves, parsley and chervil. The polytunnel Cavelo Nero kale is cropping much better than the few plants I put into the front garden beds at around the same time: it has worked so well that next winter I will only grow it undercover.

The broccoli raab is bolting now: I’m leaving it to flower for bees and other insects to enjoy, until I need the space. Two Grenoble Red lettuces, marked with sticks, have been left to grow for seed. I only need one plant for this so will select which one to grow on soon.

Grenoble Red lettuce, growing unpicked so I can harvest the seed

Grenoble Red lettuce, growing unpicked so I can harvest the seed

Early ‘Swift’ potatoes are growing well – some in a plastic tower pot and the others in the ground, earthed up with compost. It is rather cold in the polytunnel at night so I’m using insulating fleece as extra protection. Outside, the rest of the seed potatoes are planted in the back garden, well earthed up with the entire contents of a ‘dalek’ compost bin (more will be planted in pots.) Potatoes could  be stored to feed us over the winter, but I do not have the space to grow enough to feed my family – we have usually eaten them all by mid autumn. My sons have hollow legs…

 

Outside, the perennial kale has been suffering from some kind of kale-lurgie causing the leaves to die, so I’ve pruned it, will mulch with compost next and not pick it for the time being. New growth is mostly green and I am hopeful it will recover – however I’m growing some new perennial kale plants from cuttings just in case. Outdoor harvests include rhubarb, leeks, Brussels, flower sprouts, white and purple sprouting broccoli and herbs – rosemary, thyme, sweet cicely, chives, the first shoots of lemon balm and different mints.

In the perennial bed, perennial alliums growing underneath a small greengage tree are looking healthy, however I have lost the labels and am not sure what they are. Some resemble spring onions, others chives, I shall have to experiment ..! Underneath a rosebush, “spring garlic” is almost ready to harvest. This started off about 8 years ago as some sprouting cloves from the kitchen, planted as companions for the rosebush and have established into a healthy clump of slowly spreading perennial shoots. I have no idea why it is red!

I’m foraging for wild garlic, garlic mustard, cleavers and nettle tops too. In the kitchen, the Uchiki Kuri squash is storing well, parsnips too. This is a parsnip cake which I made for the gardening course at Homeacres on Sunday, decorated with viola flowers from the polytunnel and one of the seasonal lunches I make.

Growing unusual plants which don’t really want to live in England is a fun challenge but takes a lot more work than growing native plants.  Indoors, a small lemon, lime and Tamarillo have become infested with aphids – a sign that they are a bit stressed. I’m not sure if this is the lemon or lime (more disappearing labels…) – the aphids have since been removed. Click on the photos to see the aphids more clearly.

 

In order to have home grown abundance throughout next winter and into spring 2017, I’ve already started some vegetables and  I’m planning the sowings over the coming months for veg in the garden, allotment and polytunnel and also for storing (dried beans, squash, onions, etc). Parsnips sown at the allotment a few weeks ago are protected by fleece and will hopefully show signs of germinating soon. I am looking forward to tasting the radish sown between the rows, which have started to grow (as well as munching them raw, I love making a fresh, gingery sugar-free pickled radish.) In the greenhouse, flower sprout ‘Petit Posy’ is growing well in modules for an earlier autumn into winter harvest (another sowing later on will be for late winter and spring picking) and the celeriac is almost ready to be pricked out. Yesterday I sowed several varieties of Brussels sprouts – again for late autumn/early winter picking – and will sow again later on for late winter/spring harvests of sprouts. I love sprouts, they are absolutely one of my favourite vegetables, I can never have too many and even like to eat them for breakfast!

Oh, I hope it warms up soon!