Monday, February 22, 2010


Hi ho, Hi ho...

It's off to plant onions we go.
Crap, that doesn't really rhyme, does it?

Well anyway, that is what I did on Sunday. In a fit of gardening zeal, I went out and planted 250 g of echalotes (which made 2 and a half rows, not really enough, I will have to search out some more of another variety) and 250 of Stuttgarter onions (that made 4 rows, for 1.50 euros, quite a bargain...if they grow). And I was pleased to note that one of the garlic heads is just poking some green through the soil. Phew, I was getting a little worried as they have been in the ground for some weeks. I think the cold had just blocked them.
And I could not resist taking 12 of the early spuds (Agata variety) and planting them too, surrounded by lots of manure to keep them snug. They have predicted better weather this week, warming up by 10 degrees or so which I think will be a big help in starting things off in the allotment.
I also noticed that something seems to be making forays into the compost bin, there was an eggshell strewn in the middle of the path. Hmmm.... to discourage this I pushed some cut raspberry canes around the cracks, those thorns should be dissuasive. Not that I mind, but soon I will dig out some of the compost to use it and I do not want to have a nasty surprise of something rodenty scurrying out over my arms as I stick the form in... eurgh.

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Thursday, February 18, 2010


I couldn't help myself

I went to Lidl.
Guess what?
They had their seeds out. And had just put them out, by all accounts.
SO I had a rummage through even though I have already bought all my seeds from Alan Romans and still have a seed box full of various things. But when I see the 29 cent price tag, it is just irresistible.
I thought I was quite moderate though. I bought a packet of carnation seeds (Oh I just love that flower and thought I would have a go at growing them this year. where??? Oh dammit I will find a little corner somewhere...).
I bought beans, green Saxa and yellow Kingwax. Their beans always work well for me and are quite tasty and have good yields.
I bought tomatoes: Moneymaker and Marmande. This springs from my idea to make garage sale plants to make a few quid and Moneymaker tomatoes, for 80 seeds, seemed an excellent idea for this. I have not managed to make a Marmande tomato grow in previous years, maybe this year I will strike it lucky. Last year all my tomato plants got mixed up but i swear that this year I will solemnly sort and label them. Scout's honour.
And that was it. I felt full of self-restraint and economy!!

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Wednesday, February 17, 2010


Spuds and onions 2010

It seems that I forgot to mention my trip to the garden centre!
I trotted along there on Saturday morning and yes they had put out the onions and potatoes. Cool! I found the onions to be quite expensive! I was sure they were cheaper last year...
Anyway, I chose:
500g of the Jaune Vertus des Pailles onions, which are a light brown, slightly flat variety but which gave a good harvest last year, so I am sticking to them.

250g of ordinary brown Stuttgarter onions,

250g of red onions, Red Baron,

250g of Jelomor cuisse de poulet echalotes, which were quite pricey (even though they are very tasty and keep quite well)! I would like more echalotes so I shall have to try another place, they didn't have any others!

Then I got a bag of Agata which I have never tried before - they are described as being "early, similar to the Bintje with a good yield and good culinary qualities, medium disease resistance". Sounds Ok.

A bag of Mona Lisa: again, firm flesh, good yield, mid-season, average storage, medium disease resistance."

And a moment of weakness on my part, a bag of Ratte potatoes. These are famous in France and rather like the Pink Fir Apples they grow in the UK, they are a long slender spud with delicious firm flesh. The type you really want to just boil until tender then eat on their own with butter and lashings of salt and pepper. Cor. 7 euros a bag mind you, I guess there are about 30 plants in there, but here in the season, you easily pay 4 euros a kilo, so hopefully it is not a bad investment.

I decided that it wasn't worth going for a real winter spud, they are so plentiful and cheap that it seems a waste. But a delicious salad potato, ah now that is worth having.
The whole lot cost me 30 euros. Considering that I am still eating last summer's onions and echalotes and have just finished the spuds, I consider it not be such a bad investment...

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Sow sow sow your boat

Ok I plagiarised that, I admit it. But as it is still so bloody cold here, there's not much else to be done. SO I pulled out the potting mix and started off this season's seeds. I sowed:
- 10 Aubergines, Black Beauty variety from Alan Romans, and another variety I got from lidl whose name escapes me.
- 10 sweet peppers, Canapé and Robertina varieties. The Canape is only a semi-sweet variety so I am trying Robertina too which is a true red pepper. But I hate wasting seeds, as I am not short of room!
- A tray full of De Carentan leeks, this year they grew but the leeks have remained small, due to the cold I think. Still, they are cheap to produce and even when small they are tasty. I like the way they stop the garden looking completely empty in the winter!
- 6 Cauliflowers, All Year Round variety
- 6 red cabbage - ok not quite the season, it's true but I wanted to see if I couldn't get them growing until early summer, so I can make salad from them.
- 6 broccoli - again a bit early but I will grow them under protection and plant them out in April so maybe I will get broccoli before it gets too hot.
I still have herbs to sow too (sage, marjoram, oregano, and basil for the window sill, I can't get it to grow outdoors...), and I want to start the tomatoes. I had an idea, as I want to do a garage sale this year, I thought that I would sow some extra plants, even maybe some lettuce in the cold frame later on, and I could sell them off at the garage sale. 50c a tomato plant, or a small tray of lettuce, or a pot of herbs, something like that. For a seed packet that costs less than a quid, it's a good way to make a few bucks, maybe at least enough to pay for a post-garage sale beer :-)

***POST SCRIPTUM*** Today is the 24 Feb and I am finally seeing some movement from the brassicas and leeks, nothing yet in the peppers and aubergines, which I have moved to a sunnier position. SO the 7-14 days germination was spot on.

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Friday, February 12, 2010


Big freeze continues

I fear there will be no gardening this weekend, except perhaps indoors. The highest temperature predicted for the whole weekend is 3deg C. SO I am sure that the ground will still be frozen. Perhaps if the sun comes out I might at least be able to spread some manure. But I fear that any more than that will not be possible.
Roll on Spring!
My seeds have been shipped! Goody! now just wait for the postman. I am going to choose my spuds and onions tomorrow. That will be a great and indecisive moment. Although now I am starting to get some favourites. I love the "chicken leg" echalotes but I have found that they tend not to keep very well and the yield is lower. So I might go more for the round varieties this year. Also I liked the Jaune Paille des Vertus onions, slightly flat ones, they give big onions that keep well. Although I always do some ordinary yellows too. As for spuds, well, I think that I will have to stick with the tried and tested varieties, like Belle de Fontenay. The Charlottes weren't too bad last year but I don't find them extraordinary. I want some really tasty ones this time! GIVE ME FLAVOUR!

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Thursday, February 11, 2010


Seeds! ordered...

Right, that is my seeds ordered for the year! Again, I got them from Alan Romans. And this year I have made a sheet to tell me about the sowing times etc as it is not printed on the packets (part of why they are so economical, only 50 or 80p a packet! My whole order cost me £16 or €18, bargain! Here, just a packet of bean seeds is about 3 or 4 euros so I am definitely ahead.
Here is what I decided on:

Now just need a trip to the Garden centre for spuds and onion sets. Bugger those "Fontana" late potatoes, they were hopeless. This year I will go for fancies, Rattes and belle de fontenay and red varieties. And lots of onions! Still using last year's crop! Shallots, red onions, yellow onions! Delicious!

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Monday, February 08, 2010


Gotta hurry up!

I have been looking at my old blog posts from this period last year and realise that at the same period I had done a hell of a lot! Much more than this year! And yet curiously enough the garden seems tidier. Maybe this is because of the very harsh winter we have had which killed off so much "dead wood", leaving the allotment quite desolate. Anyway I welcome it because it means that the weeds have not had time to take a hold, I will have a little more time to get the first planting in then concentrate on the tidying and preparation of the rest.
Yesterday I went down. Firstly the visit was dampened by the sobering news that one of the neighbours had passed away. One of the "old boys", his mates will be saddened to see someone else gardening his plot later in the spring.
Despite this, I did some work, a bit of pruning and tidying, more manure spreading (it's a long process!) and my masterpiece, I finally got around to building the elusive coldframe! Just a few tiles and an old showerscreen but it looks sturdy enough! I am so proud of it, and plan to keep surrounding it with covered pots etc to grow more things outside, as I feel the seedlings do better that way, they are hardy and vigorous. I am just hopeless at hardening off when I grow inside so best just to do most outdoors, except the real tenders of course. I will use it to seed brassicas, lettuce, beetroot (I will try two methods this year, in place and via seedlings as I am always disappointed with my crop), sweetcorn, herbs, flowers, maybe even spring onion.

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Monday, February 01, 2010



Yesterday full of good intentions, I went to the allotment. I should have guessed something was amiss as I was the only person down there. I soon worked out why. Everything was completely frozen, the ground was rock hard.
I took some nice pics:
This is the path that leads from my house to the allotments. The grass crunched underfoot...

And here you can see the allotment site just to the right.

And in the allotments themselves, it was so cold, all the plants were covered in a heavy frost:


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