Posted by: ceara08 | April 9, 2009

Give Peas a Chance!

HAHAHA!! What a great title!

This is the second article about gardening in a series by Monty Don.  (You sexy voice!  You could read me the phone book and I would be happy.  hehe)

This will go under “Plant Profiles.”   Why?  Because Monty Don writes better than I can and he did an excellet job.  So no need to reinvent the wheel.

For a bumper summer harvest of home-grown peas, beans and tomatoes, start planting now, says Monty Don in the second part of his teach-yourself guide.

The second part of my series on growing your own delicious, fresh, organic vegetables, is all about moving forward to the harvests that we associate with high summer. That is fully three months away but now is the time to get on and sow the seeds for the fruits that we will reap in July and August.

If you have never grown a single edible plant in your life before, now is the ideal time to get started. April is the perfect moment to begin growing vegetables, as the soil is warming up and the days lengthening to give us all that lovely light that we – humans as much as plants – need to flourish.
Vegetables grow best in full sunlight with rich, deep soil that contains plenty of organic material, which will both drain well and hold moisture. If this sounds contradictory, the ability to regulate and balance the water in the soil is a feature of ground that has lots of organic matter added to it. It does not matter what that is – manure, grass, leaves, clippings or whatever – but well-made garden compost is undoubtedly the very best thing for good vegetables.

However, whatever your soil is like, growing legumes of any kind will improve it for future crops. The leguminous vegetables that are easy to grow in our gardens are peas, broad beans, French beans – both dwarf and climbing – and runner beans. All these host a bacteria – rhizobium – that can convert the nitrogen that makes up around 80 per cent of our atmosphere into a form that can be easily absorbed by plants. In return, the plants feed the bacteria sugars.

As well as peas and beans, leguminous plants in our garden include lupins and clover. When any of these plants die there is always a residual amount of fixed nitrogen left in the soil which is available to other plants – hence the reason brassicas, which need plenty of nitrogen for their leafy growth, especially when they are young, follow peas and beans in a crop-rotation plan. They gratefully hoover up the leftover nitrogen processed from the atmosphere by the legumes. This use of legumes is a key part in healthy organic crop rotation and eliminates the need for nitrates – which are expensive, need oil to produce and are highly polluting.

Nitrogen is essential for green, new growth in plants, but too much creates an excess of soft, sappy growth. This in turn attracts aphids and fungal problems. Hence, a legume crop every two years (three growing seasons) is sufficient if it is followed by brassicas over the subsequent autumn and winter, and by root crops after that.


Peppers, both hot and sweet, are grown in much the same way as tomatoes, although they are much less fussy about water, pinching out or feeding, and are very tough as long as they are kept warm. In fact, it is a mistake to feed them as this provokes foliage rather than the fruits. I grow mine in pots in the greenhouse and in borders outside, where they thrive in a hot summer.

Although the fruits come in many colours, most start out green and ripen to red and taste best when they are fully ripe. The hotter and sunnier it is, the quicker peppers will ripen.


Sweet: ‘Corno di Rossa’, ‘Ferrari’, ‘Sungold’ (yellow). Hot (chilli): ‘Early Jalapeno’, ‘Habanero’, ‘Hungarian Hot Wax’.


Peas should not be sown if the soil is cold to touch nor into wet ground, otherwise they have a tendency to rot. I have found that a double row 9in wide with each 4-5in apart works best.

Either prepare the soil to a fine tilth and simply push the peas into the ground, or draw a shallow drill with a wide hoe, place the peas along it and then rake the soil back over them. There should be room between each of these rows to walk and pick the pods, which in practice means at least 3ft.

Peas need support to make picking easier. I like to use pea-sticks – which can be any kind of twiggy brushwood or prunings, although hazel is the best. However netting or chicken wire supported by bamboo canes woven into the wire and pushed into the ground works very well.

Do not over-water as they are growing but give them a good soak once they flower.

Pick the pods as soon as they are large enough to open which will encourage more pods to develop. They soon shrivel up in hot weather. Any peas too dried up for eating fresh can be stored for next year’s seed.

I see no virtue in short varieties other than their need for less support. Taller varieties take up no more space in the garden, are likely to ripen better and to crop more vigorously over a longer period.

‘Alderman’ is a particularly tall variety, reaching over 6ft in rich soil. Mangetout and sugar-snap peas are eaten pods and all.


‘Alderman’, ‘Feltham First’, ‘Hurst Green Shaft’, and ‘Carouby de Maussane’.


Runner beans are one of the favourite vegetables for British gardeners, yet, to my mind, are not as good as climbing French beans. However, each to their own.

They are grown in exactly the same way as climbing French beans (see below), thriving in warm, wet weather. Harvest the beans when they are 12in long and be careful not to overcook.


‘Desiree’, ‘ Streamline’, ‘Painted Lady’.


French beans (which are not French at all, coming from Central and South America) are Phaseolus vulgaris and include haricot beans, kidney beans, dwarf, pole, yellow, green, purple and blotchy ones.

Unlike peas or broad beans, they are frost-tender, and it is a mistake to sow them too early. The secret of sowing French or runner beans is to wait for warm soil that holds plenty of moisture.

I sow dwarf French beans in blocks, a hand-span apart, pushing each bean into the finger-soft soil. Slugs and snails are very fond of the young plants and can reduce them to stumps overnight. For this reason I always grow some in plugs and plant them out when they are established.

Climbing French beans are always superbly decorative with a choice of green, yellow or purple beans, and add essential height to the vegetable garden. By the same token they are ideal for limited spaces and grow well in a large container.

Like runner beans they need rich, water-retentive soil, so I dig a pit and add organic material before covering it back over with soil. I then build a teepee with four poles above it, lashed firmly together at the top, and plant a couple of beans at each corner.


Dwarf: ‘Roquefort’, ‘Purple Queen’, ‘Annabel’, ‘Purple Teepee’. Climbing: ‘Burro d’Ingegnoli’, ‘Blue Lake’, ‘Hunter’, ‘Blauhilde’.


If peas can be slightly temperamental, broad beans are delightfully straightforward to grow. They are very hardy and can be sown as early as October for a late spring harvest, although I find that the first day in spring that the soil can be worked is early enough, with another couple of sowings thereafter until June.

Like peas, a double row, 12-18in apart is best, with the beans planted at 9in intervals. I use my ubiquitous scaffolding plank and crawl along it while pushing the beans into the soil down its length. Like peas, 3ft is necessary between each double row to allow room to pick.

Broad beans will need support to stop them being blown over. The best way to do this is to stick a cane firmly every few feet along both sides of each row and to stretch string between them so that the beans are trussed into an upright position.

Start picking the pods very early as broad beans are best when small and they will soon grow too fast to keep up with. Blackfly are an unsightly problem but do little harm. They are attracted to the soft growth at the top of the plants in midsummer so pinch these off once you see the blackflies collecting on the tips of the plants.


‘Aquadulce’, ‘Red Epicure’, and ‘Express’.


The cucurbit family includes pumpkins, squashes, marrows, courgettes and cucumbers, and all share much the same growing requirements. They all like very rich soil, lots of water and as much warmth as possible. Pumpkins, in particular, are almost impossible to grow in a cold summer. However, marrows and courgettes are less fussy than cucumbers or pumpkins and will grow in cooler conditions.

The seeds for all are large and flat and should be raised in a pot in a greenhouse or on a windowsill. Grow the plants on in individual pots until they are a few inches tall and then gradually harden them off over at least two weeks before planting outside.

Plant out in a shallow saucer of soil (to collect and hold available water) with plenty of added compost. Allow at least 3ft between plants and twice that for pumpkins. Water very well at least once a week.

Cucumbers can be trained up tripods or trellises and I grow mine in pots in a greenhouse, each with a small bamboo tripod. Smaller squashes can also be grown vertically, although the support needs to be very firmly fixed.

Harvest courgettes as soon as they are sausage-sized, depending on how big you like your bangers, but never let them become small marrows.

Squashes and pumpkins will not be ready until September at the earliest and the remaining leaves should be removed by the end of that month to promote ripening.

Lift the fruits from wet soil and harvest with a length of stalk. If possible, leave them in a dry, sunny place for a week or so to ripen further, then store in a cool, dark place.


Pumpkins: ‘Muscade de Provence’, ‘Turk’s Turban’, ‘Jack be Little’. Squashes: ‘Uchiki Kuri’, ‘Orange Hubbard’, ‘Butternut Waltham’. Courgettes: ‘Black Beauty’, ‘Parador’ ( yellow), ‘Tondo Chiaro di Nizza’ (round). Cucumbers: ‘Obi’ (good for outdoor), ‘Paska’, ‘Crystal Lemon’ (round).

Original article link:

Posted by: ceara08 | April 9, 2009

A couple of new pictures

I took these pictures yesterday. The first official germination/sprouting plants thus far, for 2009. Yay!!

That is Parel Cabbage. Look real close for pale green among the vermiculite!

3 types of Malva flower mixed together

3 types of Malva flower mixed together

And that is Malva, some colorful perennial flowers.  I got these in a seed trade in 2008 but never grew them.   I’m sorry I waited because I did not know they would germinate in only 5 days!  They are growing in a plastic tub that mushrooms are in from the grocery store.

Recycle!  They are good little tubs for starting seeds.

Posted by: ceara08 | April 9, 2009

More new seed starters!

Well I am in planting mode now!

Here’s what has been started so far today

Sweet Basil
Garlic chives
English thyme
Catnip – for Linx the mighty vole killer!

Posted by: ceara08 | April 8, 2009

Tomato race!

And… they’re off!

Started a whole bunch more veg seeds today!

The tomato race is on. What will germinate first?

New heirlooms I got in a trade this year
Seeds I collected from new heirlooms I grew last year
Seeds purchased last year from Veseys and Greta’s Organic Gardens

We shall see I guess.

Here’s a list of what I started today:

San Marzano tomato – Organic/Purchased 2008 seeds
Roma VF tomato – Commercial seeds 2008 treated with Thiram (WTF is Thiram? Some sort of anti-fungal treatment)
Classica tomato – Purchased seeds 2008
Vilina tomato – from a trade 2009
Guido tomato – from a trade 2009
Italian Gold paste tomato – Organic/Purchased seeds 2008
Blanche du Quebec tomato – Organic/Purchased seeds 2008
Purple Prince tomato – seeds collected from 2008 crop of heirloom

More Spinach Green Magic – purchased 2008
Mei Qing Choi – Baby pak choi – purchased 2008
Chinese Cabbage Kasumi – purchased 2008
Broccoli – Early Dividend – purchased 2008
Rainbow Mix Swiss Chard – Organic/Purchased 2008
Silverado Swiss Chard – Purchased 2008
Perpetual Swiss Chard – Purchased 2008

And, from the last sowing, the following have made their first appearance!

1st Malva – mixed
2nd Broccoli Early Dividend
3rd Parel Cabbage
4th Kale

The Malva seeds were already a couple of years old, AND they germinated in relatively cool environment and were first, before any of the vegetables. Yay flowers!

If I’m up to it after supper (homemade spaghetti tonite!) I will sow some heirloom lettuces. But have been up since 6 am and didn’t sleep too well last night.

On a good note, I just finished watching last night’s episode of Fringe! Oh how I missed that show. Friggin Fox stopped airing Fringe in order to have American Idol. More like American Idle I say!! That show sucks. Fringe is much more entertaining.

Posted by: ceara08 | April 3, 2009

Sowin’ some seeds!

Well I swore I would not start sowing seeds until next week. But could not wait! So I started some today.

Today we were blessed with temperature of 15 Celsius (around 60 F)! Wow! They only predicted 9 Celsius today. But hey, I’m not complaining! Anything to get rid of the blasted snow outside is welcome in my opinion. They have forecasted tons of rain for us though, due to hit later this evening and rain all night. Actually rain is forecasted for us pretty much for the next 10 days. But weather always changes.

35 to 50 millimeters of rain! So the conversion would be something like 1 inch equals 25 millimeters. That should melt a lot of snow! *crosses fingers*

But then of course we need to be prepared for the basement to flood so we will have to keep a late night vigil to make sure that if it does start to flood down there we will be around to take action.

Anyway, I started some seeds today. Here’s the list

Winterbor Kale from Veseys
Parel Cabbage from Veseys
Green Magic Spinach from Veseys
Classica tomatoes from Veseys
Early Broccoli from Veseys
Nigella – Love-in-a-Mist from seeds that I collected
Blue Flax from a seed trade
“Nora Barlow” Columbine from a trade
Eryngium Blue Sea Holly from a trade
Marigold from seeds I collected
Malva – a mix of Zebrina, Braveheart, and Mystic Merlin from a trade
Swiss Chard – heirloom, hoping to get the pink or red stem.

About three weeks ago I did some winter sowing of Delphiniums that I got in a trade, along with some Wild Leek seeds that I purchased from Gardens North. Neither one have made an appearance yet, but I should not give up hope.

Posted by: ceara08 | April 3, 2009

The Case against Heirloom Tomatoes

Scientific American recently published an article about heirloom tomatoes and of course mentioned Monsanto.

Montanto’s name is gently inserted in this article as if to imply they are a kindler, gentler company, merely concerned with the quality of our food.

Lies, all lies.

All Monsanto cares about is profit, plain and simple. They don’t want gardeners and farmers to be able to save seeds from crops to grow in a future season. Monsanto wants total control over all seeds so all gardeners are left with is less-than-quality flavor and low nutritional foods. But hey it will look “pretty!” Who cares about pretty when it comes to tomatoes. Who’s going to cry and complain that their tomatoes aren’t uniformly shaped? Taste is probably the #1 factor with tomatoes. Color and shape usually only matter to materialistic people.

Some of the best tomatoes I’ve ever eaten were not “pretty.” They were funky shaped and sometimes cracked. But the flavor! Cannot even compare a grocery store tomato with a heirloom tomato.

And whoever grew heirlooms and only got 2 fruits has something wrong with them. I have never seen a heirloom tomato plant produce less than 15-20 fruits, minimum.

Read this article from Scientific American:

How to Grow a Better Tomato: The Case against Heirloom Tomatoes

And check out two videos about mass marketed food called “Supermarket Secrets.” (Links below.) There you will find out how they really treat food that shows up on supermarket shelves. You will see just how little big business really cares about the food they sell, which isn’t very much. Yes I know the videos were made in Britain, but it is pretty much the same in North America.

I forget which part, but there is a section where they take mass produced tomatoes and heirloom tomatoes and offer them to buyers in a food market in Spain. The people make faces and say the mass produced fruit cannot even compare to the heirlooms.

It seems in North America the people really don’t know much about their food and where or how it’s grown. They’ve basically consented to be offered low quality food and they do not complain.

Forget the Coke and Pepsi challenge! More and more people need to get out there and have a heirloom vs. mass produced food taste test. Most people do not even get the chance to taste real food, for they are so removed from soil and anything that has to do with producing food. I imagine if more people had access to real food they would never turn back to the mass produced crap.

I guess I was lucky. When my siblings and I were young, my parents grew vegetables to save on the grocery bill. Fresh and tasty vegetables was all I knew. But not everyone is as fortunate.

Supermarket Secrets Part 1

Supermarket Secrets Part 2

Posted by: ceara08 | March 31, 2009


Ah, Elderberry.

Been doing some research on this plant species and I’ve just got to have some growing on our property. Don’t recall ever seeing it growing wild in the area, but according to a website, my location is within the range of the plant Sambucus canadensis.

I’d really like to get a few plants going, but haven’t a clue where to find it growing wild or even a place to purchase it online within Canada.

If anyone in Canada has some of this growing, could you send me some hardwood cuttings please?

Some info links

The flowers can be used in baking, and I got that idea from an old video about WW2 cooking. And the berries can be used in homemade medicinals, such as natural cough syrup or lozenges.

Birds really love the berries too!

Posted by: ceara08 | March 31, 2009

New look

I decided to give the ‘ol blog some spring cleaning, and chose the current design out of the limited amount of templates available to choose from WordPress.

Don’t get me wrong, I love WordPress, but OMG there are just not enough decent looking free templates available. Would have preferred a nice green theme, and even tried one of the existing green themes, but found it SHOUTED too much green. It was literally a neon bright puke green.


So I picked this theme and replaced the header with something custom, and will be replacing the header as the seasons change or when I feel like it.

I cannot even use a regular template because this blog is on the freebie portion of WordPress and I have no access to change certain things without paying. And frankly we’re pretty poor with bills everywhere and we just barely make ends meet. So there’s no way I could afford a real blog on a real private server with a real URL address. I’m afraid we’re stuck with a cookie cutter style blog template, but at least we have a custom banner image at the top.

Soon, within the next two weeks we will be starting seeds indoors! YAY!

Need to get out and buy another bag of potting mix because we don’t have enough. I used a lot repotting many house plants, and split up plant babies and made cuttings to give away to friends.

Got to find all the seed trays in the basement, clean them up, organize the south facing unheated sun porch, get some new fluorescent bulbs to put over the seed trays, and finish folding a gazillion paper pots. The paper I’m using for the pots looks like blank sheet newspaper that we were given by the mover to pack our stuff from the last time we moved. Waste not, want not!

My Oxalis shamrock plant was overgrown in its pot. Some tubers were over 5 inches in length and the pot was absolutely packed with tubers, many of which didn’t even grow because there was no room. So I separated them all, and now have two large pots in the living room and one tiny pot in the kitchen window. Even gave some away! Oxalis is such a cheery plant.

Got some new cacti pups to pot up, probably tomorrow. They’ve been sitting out getting nice crusty ends and should be ready to make roots. They will go in teeny tiny clay pots until rooted.

So now that the house plants are all set for another year and Spring is coming, it will be time to start vegetable seeds. Will begin with veg that does not mind some cold, like Kale, Cabbage, Swiss Chard, possibly some Spinach and definitely some lettuces.

Posted by: ceara08 | March 28, 2009

Foolproof Guide to Growing Your Own Veg

Below is an article by one of my hero gardeners, who’s been a huge inspiration to me the past year, Monty Don from the UK. He used to host Gardener’s World television show in the UK before he had a stroke. He seems to have recovered well, however, and will be submitting some articles over the next few weeks.

Part one of our foolproof guide to growing your own veg

By Monty Don
Published at the Daily Mail

The clocks go forward this weekend and my world leaps into spring.

There is no better moment in my calendar, and the fact that this happens every year does not diminish the sense of surprise, a sudden gift of light and time.

But what is different this year, more so than any other in my lifetime, is the sense that the world has changed since last March. We are, to a great extent, in uncharted territory.

Financial systems have collapsed, governments are floundering, climate change is increasingly revealing the extent of its impact on human life and I believe that there is every reason to be seriously concerned about our food supply.

Yet I am full of hope. When things fall apart you are presented with the opportunity to put them together again better.

We can learn from our mistakes, and one of these follies is that we have largely abandoned our personal connection to the land and our food.

Most people under 40 have no real idea of how, where or why their food is produced. It is dispensed to them in some form of packaging, has steadily got cheaper and cheaper, and there is no sense of personal responsibility for any part of it, other than consumption.

We can – and must – change this, and the place to start is in the garden, now, as spring opens out into the light.

This is no hardship. The ability to grow your own vegetables, fruit and herbs is not only practically important for your health and well-being, it is also immensely satisfying.

No amount of wealth will ever purchase vegetables that give you the pleasure of ones that you have grown yourself.

No amount of scurrying to the gym will be as good for you as regular exercise outside in your garden or allotment. No amount of vitamin supplements or health-foods will be as good for you as fruit and veg eaten in season fresh from the garden.

If you have a normal back garden or an allotment, then there is a huge range you can grow. But no garden is too small. A window box or pot is ideal for herbs that will transform many dishes, and a patch of ground 1 metre square will produce a regular supply of salad leaves throughout the year.

Over the coming five weeks I shall be covering a brief guide to growing a wide range of vegetables, fruit and herbs. It is intended as an introduction to inspire those of you who have not tried it to start, and a reference for even the most experienced grower.

But the best way to learn is by giving it a go. I have been doing it for 40 years and am still learning. The enjoyment is the same wherever you do it, with failure providing experience for next year, success ensuring a rich seam of pleasure.


All vegetables grow best in good soil with plenty of sunlight. Most will cope with some degree of shade but choose the sunniest spot that you have, remembering that evening sun is better than morning sun.

If you are growing them in the soil rather than containers, it’s worth adding plenty of compost or well-rotted animal manure. But plants adapt to a wide range of conditions so don’t worry if you can’t get hold of this. Make your own compost and remember that most riding stables are only too happy to give away manure!

Learn to know your soil. Pick it up. Smell it. Trust your judgement. Good soil feels and smells good. If it is thin and stony it will be short of nutrients and needs lots of extra organic material. If it is wet and cold to touch, then it is not ready for working, let alone sowing. If it is sticky and heavy it needs opening out with – you guessed it – organic matter. Once you have nurtured your soil so that, in your judgement, it is good, it will only need a thin layer of compost every year to maintain it.

If you are growing in containers, use peat-free general-purpose potting compost – and do not attempt to re-use compost once a crop has finished as all the nutrients will have been used up. Also, ensure that each container, whatever it may be (and literally anything that holds soil can be used), has holes for drainage and a layer of stones or crocks at the bottom to prevent roots from becoming waterlogged.


Rotating the crops around your plot (that is, not planting the same crop in the same place each year) will help to avoid the build-up of pests and diseases, increase fertility and enable you to keep your soil in excellent condition.

Vegetables are usually divided into three main groups which share the same cultivation needs. Within the demands of space and the desire to keep the garden looking attractive at all times, it is worth trying not to mix the elements from each group and to sequence them in the following order:


Legumes include all peas and beans. They have the ability to ‘fix’ nitrogen from the air and leave a residue of it in the soil. This means that plants that succeed them can tap into extra nitrogen, which will encourage green, leafy growth. Although not legumes, tomatoes, salads, sweetcorn, pumpkins, celery and cucumbers are usually included in this part of the rotation.


Brassicas include all cabbages, cauliflowers, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and kales – all of which benefit from being grown in soil that has just been cleared from legumes. I add a thin layer of compost before planting, which I work lightly into the topsoil, to encourage extra growth.

Swedes, turnips, radishes, kohl rabi, land cress and mizuna are also brassicas and should share the same rotation. Brassicas are subject to clubroot, a serious fungal disease which thrives with a low pH, so lime is often added before planting if your soil is inclined to be at all acidic.


Nitrogen will encourage leafy growth at the expense of good roots, so root crops usually follow on from brassicas, which will have taken up all the nitrogen left by legumes, and no extra compost is added to the soil.

This group includes carrots, parsnips, beetroot, onions, leeks, garlic, salsify, scorzonera, but not turnips and swedes which are in group 2.

Although they are roots, potatoes like a very rich soil and I grow them ahead of legumes.

Tomatoes should be grown well away from potatoes as they are from the same family and can catch blight from them.


The first rule is to grow what you like to eat. Perhaps this is obvious, but far too many (male) gardeners take pride in growing food which they then disdain to eat.

The second rule is to grow what wants to grow well in your particular garden. Obviously there is a certain amount of trial, error and cossetting involved in this, but there are limitations of conditions and space and time imposed on all of us. Accept them and enjoy what you can do. Plan your choice as part of the process of making food rather than just gardening.


Seeds will germinate when the conditions are right – which is not always when you want them to. Very few seeds will germinate in cold soil and, even if they do start to grow, all seedlings grow slowly in cold weather, making them much more vulnerable to predation, particularly by slugs and snails.

Vegetables are best if grown steadily, neither forced into unnatural growth nor restricted by cold or dark. Remember that shelter from cold winds is essential.

As a rule, if weeds are not actively growing then it is too cold for your vegetable seeds. You can use this as a guide. Prepare the soil for sowing and leave it. When weeds start to grow, hoe them off and immediately sow your seeds. The soil will be warm and your seedlings will then avoid unnecessary competition in their first vital weeks of growth.

Sow the seed in rows so you can see them as soon as they emerge and avoid confusing them with weeds. I use a scaffolding plank sawn to length as a spacer between the rows and to enable me to stand and kneel in the borders without treading on the soil.


The weather in April can turn cold and some crops grow better than others if sown early. These are the ones that I sow outside first.


The secret of homegrown lettuce is succession – sowing a few seeds every couple of weeks so that as one small harvest is used, another is ready to take its place. Most lettuce take about a month to six weeks to grow large enough to eat and will last for another month or so if kept watered and cool.

Lettuces prefer cool, wet soil so sow 6-12in apart in an area that is shaded in the afternoon. Keep weeded and thin to a final spacing of at least 4in. If you have a greenhouse sow into plugs and plant out the seedlings when they are growing strongly.


Cos: Little Gem, Lobjoit’s, Rouge D’Hiver. Butterhead: Tom Thumb, All the Year Round, Valdor. Looseleaf: red and green oak leaf.


Rocket, mizuna, mibuna and spinach are my favourite leaves to grow for eating raw along with lettuce.

Rocket and mizuna have peppery leaves that become hotter in summer. All prefer cooler conditions and can be sown throughout the season to give a year-round harvest.

All are ‘cut-and-come-again’ crops that regrow when cut. Grow as lettuce, but mizuna and mibuna must have plenty of space to develop strong plants. If any leaves become too big and coarse to eat raw they can all be cooked, just as you would spinach.


Potatoes prefer a rich soil with added organic matter. There are two methods of planting. Either make deep V-shaped drills or trenches and space the seed potatoes (available at garden centres) at 18-24in intervals. Leave 3ft between each row. Put back the sides of the drill to make a ridge along the length of the row.

Or plant each seed potato using a bulb planter. Harvest is normally 90-100 days for 1st earlies, 110 for 2nd earlies and 120+ for main crop.

Harvest early potatoes when ready, main crop in late autumn.


The easiest way to grow onions and shallots is from sets – small bulbs that you plant.

Make sure the soil is friable enough to sink your fingers into and press in the sets at 6in spacing in rows a foot or so apart, so they are firm but submerged with the tops showing.

Water and check that the birds do not tug them out before the roots grow enough to anchor them into the ground. Keep weed free and watered until the leaves start to bend over and the bulbs are fully formed.

Bend over the leaves before harvest and let them dry out for a week or two before carefully lifting.


Parsnips should be grown in the same soil as carrots but, since they are slower to germinate, I always sprinkle radish seed along the same row as well. These grow fast, mark the rows to make weeding easier, and are harvested before they get in the way of the growing parsnips.

The seeds are large and easy to handle but the final spacing should be no closer than 4-6in. They will not be ready to harvest until autumn and taste better after a frost, and they will last in the ground all winter.


Carrots grow best in stone-free, light soil, and fresh compost or manure will encourage the roots to fork. The seed is very fine and must be sown into warm soil.

Place two planks parallel to each other the width of a plank apart and broadcast the seed between them creating wide rows of broadcast seed. Do not thin but pull as needed.

Weeding is essential until established. Carrot fly can be a problem. By not thinning, and harvesting in the evening, the scent (which attracts the fly) is kept minimal. [Blogger note: He’s talking about the Carrot Fly here. I have yet to see this in Canada or the USA when I lived there. Must be a UK thing.]

Here is a video of Monty talking about compost. I just love his voice!

Posted by: ceara08 | March 27, 2009

Starting Beans and Peas in Cardboard Tubes

Interesting, there was a search linking to my blog about starting runner beans in paper towel rolls. I had intended to write something about it before. Coincidence? *laughs*

I have never, ever done this before. But will use this method for the very first time the 2009 growing season. We have been saving toilet paper tubes and paper towel tubes all winter, and I have almost 3 plastic containers full now.

Paper towel and Toilet Paper cardboard tubes

Paper towel and Toilet Paper cardboard tubes

You can still see we have a lot of snow outside!  But it’s melting fast now that we’re experiencing above zero temperatures all week.  Winter’s back has broken and Spring is officially on its way here in cold Zone 4.

For uniformity’s sake, I put a toilet paper tube against the paper towel tube, draw a line and cut. This way, when they are all stacked into the plastic containers, they are the same height. You can get two out of one paper towel roll with a bit left over. These little bits I put into the fire starting material box near our wood burning stove. But you could put them into your compost, or even just cut into two and have some longer tubes and some shorter tubes.

Anyway, I have been doing some reading about growing pea and bean seeds in these tubes, and have learned from more than one source that there might possibly be residue of some sort left over from the manufacture of these tubes that may prevent seed germination within the tube itself.  But there should not be a problem growing once they are transplanted into the tubes.

My method will be to germinate the seeds in a damp paper towel on a plate, and once I see that little tap root pop out from the seeds, they will be gently transferred to the tubes and left to grow.

Some folks recommend a product called “Root Trainers.”  These are plastic containers that you can open up longways and stack in another container like books.  By being able to open the plastic up you don’t have to yank on the plant above the potting mixture and no need to push up underneath, destroying your seed trays.  (My dear hubby, bless him, has destroyed more seed trays than I can remember.)

Read on a blog, <a href=”“>Daughter of the Soil, where she uses the Root Trainers and also discusses the cardboard tube method.

She’s a bit braver than me and purchased some root trainers. I find them a bit too expensive for my tastes. Perhaps in the future we will buy some, but not this year.

Besides, the cardboard tubes are free pretty much. Well, not free exactly, for the price of the tubes is included in the price of the paper roll product. Any time you purchase something, you’re paying for the container and anything that comes with the product. So why throw it away! Better to recycle. Or if you don’t want to use tubes at all, then please put into your compost pile or bin.

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