Tag Archive | Growing mizuna

Carrots, Carrots And More Carrots

I wanted to start by saying ‘thank you’ for your lovely comments after my post on Monday.  I love receiving your comments as they spur me on to continue writing.

I’m also sorry there was a bit of a delay before I answered your comments this week, but unfortunately my laptop broke and I had to borrow one, which was a bit inconvenient.  Luckily Mr Thrift works in ICT and he and his friend have managed to fix it.

The first daffodil to show at my allotment

The first daffodil to show at my allotment

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One of the comments I received this week was from ‘Mum’, who incidentally writes a beautiful blog called

‘Mum’s Simply Living Blog’.

Following on from my post on Monday about slowing down, ‘Mum’ wrote the words to a poem that I had long forgotten about.  This is a poem that we read at school, but unfortunately it meant nothing to a teenager…but now, I see how powerful these words are so I thought I would share the poem with you:

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Leisure

By William Henry Davies

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What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.
No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

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Thank you for sharing this ‘Mum’

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This week at my allotment I weeded around my ‘Woodland’ area.  I noticed that my bluebells are beginning to grow around my plum tree now, you can just see them in the photo below.

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Unfortunately, I bought the bulbs a couple of years ago, paying extra to make sure they were ‘English’ Bluebells and I was very dissapointed to find that they were actually ‘French Bluebells’, which I wasnt very happy about.  I did however contact the suppier and complained!

My primroses are flowering lovely too now and it’s lovely to have a bit of colour, together with the snowdrops:

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I also noticed my Christmas Rose (Hellebore) has a flower on too

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and the daffodils will soon be flowering

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I also noticed that I have the first little flower on my Aubretia.  I moved my pond to the far (sunny) corner of my Woodland area and transplanted the Aubretia around it in the Autumn…it’s nice to know it has survived the move:

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Finally, I also noticed that one of my favourite flowers is beginning to grow, the Aquilegia.

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So you can see that this week, as the poem said, I did make time tostand and stare’.

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This week I also moved my one raised bed that I use to grow carrots in.  I had no luck whatsoever trying to grow carrots until I used a raised bed.  So now, each year I move the wooden frame to another part of my plot and fill it again.

I started by removing the environmesh and pulling up the remaining carrots

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I then moved the wooden frame to another part of my allotment plot, to avoid the build up of pests and diseases e.g.carrot fly.

I refilled the wooden frame with a mix of my own homemade compost (made from all types of perennial and annual weeds) and leaf mould that had been sitting decomposing for the last year.

I then covered it up with black weed suppressant to let the worms do their work and mix it all thoroughly.

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In May I will mix in some sand to help to ‘lighten’ the soil, before sowing my carrots.

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I froze the carrots without blanching them.  I had two large trays altogether, which I open froze so they didn’t stick together in the bags.  After freezing all of my left over carrots, I had orange hands!

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I also pulled some carrots up that were growing in my polytunnel this week and froze them.  The carrots were smaller in my polytunnel as I had sowed them later than the ones outside:

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I gave my polytunnel a good weed ready to spread some of my homemade compost over the empty soil next week.  I also removed the old Cape Gooseberry plants and removed the last few berries to keep for seed.

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  All I did was cut the berries in half and spread the seed on a piece of paper towel to dry.  When it is dry I will put the seeds in an envelope to keep.  When I am ready to sow them, I will just plant the seed with the paper towel still attached (incidentally, this method also works exactly the same for tomato seeds).

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In my polytunnel I still have beetroot, perpetual spinach, mizuna, corn salad and winter hardy spring onions.  I also found another two rows of carrots that I had forgotten that I had planted, but I will leave these in the ground for the moment.  Unfortunately we have eaten all my winter lettuces now, so I will have to make sure I plant more next time.

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I found that the mizuna had started to flower, probably because it has been such a mild winter.  So I removed the flowers in the hope that I can keep it going a bit longer.

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One last thing I did this week was to plant the garlic that I sowed in January.  I’m hoping it is wasn’t too late to plant it as it needs a period of cold to enable the bulbs to split into cloves.

I planted the garlic into ridges to help with the drainage incase the wet weather we have been having so much of continues.  This area had been covered in a plastic sheet for the last few weeks, so the soil wasn’t as waterlogged as the rest of my plot.

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So that is enough for this week (I do seem to get carried away and write long posts).

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Thank you for reading my blog today.

I will be back at my usual time on Monday.

Have a good weekend.

Winter Salads – A Winters Delight

Hi all.

Today I thought I would talk about the winter salads that I grow at my allotment, especially now that Autumn is approaching.

On the 14th August I sowed some winter hardy lettuces, mizuna, corn salad, perpetual spinach and winter hardy spring onions.  As the weather was still warm then, they germinated in just four days which I was quite amazed at:

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This week they were big enough to plant out:

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I cleared away some of my old crops in my polytunnel and then raked in some ‘Blood, fish and bone’ before planting them all out.

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All the above salads are great to grow all through the winter.  All they need is a bit of protection i.e. under a cloche, cold frame, a cold greenhouse or polytunnel.

I tend to treat the salads like cut and come again leaves, as I just pick a few leaves from the outside of each plant each time we want a salad to go with our meal.  This way the plants continue to ‘heart up’ in the centre.

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The photo below shows some different leaves I picked on a winters day at the beginning of the year.  There are two different winter hardy lettuces, corn salad leaves, mizuna, winter hardy spring onions and ‘baby’ perpetual spinach leaves.

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They all make a lovely salad mixed together:

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The two photos below show the salads growing last year in my polytunnel:

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The photo on the right shows the corn salad, mizuna and some younger winter lettuces.

I like growing mizuna as I particularly like the peppery taste of it in a mixed salad and as it’s a brassica, it looks beautiful when it eventually flowers in Spring and attracts the first butterflies of the year:

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Winter salads are usually sown in August and September and grow slowly over the winter under protection.  They have a lower proportion of water than summer lettuces, which is why they survive after being frozen.

A few winter salads you may like to try are winter hardy lettuces (I use a variety called ‘Artic King), mizuna, rocket, corn salad (lambs lettuce), mustards, winter purslane, land cress and winter hardy spring onions.

If you haven’t tried growing winter salads then have a go and I’m sure you will be pleasantly surprised.

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Thank you for reading my blog today.

I will be back on Monday at the usual time.

An Onion Trial, Tomato Soup And Freezing Parsley

Hi all, I hope you had a good weekend.

Since the New Year, I have only been blogging twice a week and I am finding it really hard to cover everything I actually do in just two posts a week.  So I try and cover as much as possible, but I do miss out a lot, so I would like to apologise for that.  If there is anything you would like me to write about, or anything that puzzles you, please let me know.

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The weather was good here yesterday, so I managed to dig up two more rows of potatoes and dry them ready for storing.  These potatoes are a variety called ‘Piccasso’ which I have grown a lot over the years.  They are great for roasting, mashing and baking and I find they boil and hold their shape well.  So they are a good all rounder, which are great for storing over the winter.

My potatoes drying in the sun

My potatoes drying in the sun

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A couple of weeks ago, I took up my over-wintering onions.   This is a job I usually do in July, but this is another crop that was behind due to the cold spring we had.

My over-wintering onions last year didn’t do very well at all, due to an attack of the ‘allium leaf miner’.  So in autumn last year, I planted seed sown over-wintering onions (rather than sets), in the hope that they would grow stronger than the sets I usually plant.  I also covered them in environmesh to protect them.

My onions growing under environmesh

My onions growing under environmesh

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The allium leaf miner is a pest that was only detected in Britain in 2002.  It has been spreading rapidly since and spread to many places in the Midlands for the first time two years ago. 

The allium leaf miner isn’t choosy which allium it attacks.  Alliums include onions, leeks, garlic and shallots.

You can read more about the pest here.

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I am really pleased with the results, as none of them suffered from the allium leaf miner and this year I have lovely, large onions, which are now drying in my mini greenhouse ready for use:

My onions drying in my mini-greenhouse

I will use my over-wintering onions first, as they don’t store for as long as summer onions do.  I usually chop them up and freeze them, ready to use when my summer onions have ran out.  However, as it’s been such a good growing year, I am struggling with space in my freezers.

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Yesterday, I also managed to pull up my summer onions.  I planted a variety of onions this year so I could compare them and find out if one variety was more resistant to the allium leaf miner than the others, as my summer onions also suffered badly last year from this new pest.

  I sowed some seeds back in January called Bedfordshire Champion and in March I planted two different varieties of onions sets, one variety called ‘Sturon‘ and another called ‘Turbo‘.  Incidentally, both of these onion sets have been awarded the RHS Award of Garden Merit (AGM).

My onion patch at the beginning of July

My onion patch at the beginning of July

The results (drumroll please)…..

I didn’t suffer very badly this year at all with the allium leaf miner, even though my summer onions weren’t covered in environmesh.  However, a few onions were affected on all three varieties, so I can safely assume that the allium leaf miner is not fussy about which onion variety it chooses and it didn’t make a difference whether the onion was grown from a seed or sets.

I don’t know yet which onion I prefer, as I need to taste them first and I would like to see how well they all store over the winter.  But on first impressions, it’s definately ‘Sturon‘ that has given me the biggest onion.

I have now set out my onions to dry for a few weeks, ready for storing over the winter:

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Last week I sowed a green manure called ‘Phacelia’ and I am pleased to say that it has germinated and growing well now.  I like using this particular green manure as I don’t need to worry about my rotational beds as it isn’t a brassicca, legume, allium or part of the potato family.  I usually sow it at this time of year in any areas that become available.

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‘Phacelia tanacetifolia’ is good for sowing between March and September and it takes between one and three months to grow depending on growing conditions.

It is a green manure that tolerates most soils, which is why I chose it, as I have a heavy clay soil.

If you leave phacelia to flower, it is a beautiful lavender colour that the bees absolutely love, which is why I grow it in my wildflower area.  The one drawback is that if you leave it to flower it self seeds like mad.

As I am sowing it as a green manure, I will chop it down and fork it in to the soil before it flowers, so it doesn’t grow and become a weed to me next year.

Phacelia in flower

Phacelia in flower

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I just thought I would tell you about the winter salads that I mentioned on Friday’s blog post.  I am amazed to tell you that the winter lettuce (arctic king) and my mizuna have germinated in just four days!  I am amazed by this.  These will go into my polytunnel when I have a space in a few weeks time:

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I’ve been busy in my kitchen this week too, blanching and freezing my crops.  One of the things I have frozen is my parsley.  I don’t bother drying it, as I only really use it in a handful of recipes, including homemade garlic bread (you can find the recipe here).

It is really easy to freeze parsley:

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Start by chopping all the leaves off the stalks and wash them

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Leave the  leaves to drain so the leaves are not too wet when you freeze them.

Pop the leaves in a freezer bag and put the bag in your freezer.

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Use the frozen parsley straight from the bag.  You will find it crumbles easily ready for use when it is frozen.

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My tomatoes are ripening well now, both inside my greenhouse and outdoors at my allotment:

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I decided it was time to make my tomato soup as my daughter loves it.  This is how I make it:

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Tomato and Basil Soup

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1400g ripe tomatoes cut in half

2 medium onions chopped

2 medium potatoes chopped small

2 tablespoons of olive oil

550ml of vegetable stock

2 garlic cloves chopped

3 teaspoons of dried basil

Salt and pepper to taste

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Gently heat the olive oil in a large pan, add the onion and potato and soften for approximately 15 minutes, without it all browning.

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Add the tomatoes and cook for a couple of minutes.

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Add the stock, garlic and basil.  Cover and simmer for 25 minutes.

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Use a hand blender to blend the soup roughly and then pass the whole lot through a sieve to extract the seeds.  Throw away the contents of the sieve.

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Re-heat the soup and serve.

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I hope you have enjoyed reading my blog today.

I will be back on Friday at approximately 4pm.

Have a good week!

Tomato Blight And Planting Winter Salads

I thought I would start today by telling you about a couple of things we did at the weekend:

On Monday it was my dad’s 82nd birthday.  It has been a long time since my family all got together, so I decided to throw him a surprise birthday party.  He thought he was just coming to our house for tea and loved it when our whole family appeared.

It was a really lovely evening.

My eldest daughter decorated the cake

My eldest daughter decorated the cake

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Another thing that happened last weekend, was my husband and youngest daughter did a ‘Car Boot Sale’.  We had spent the whole of the last week having a massive clear out and decided we would try and make some money from all the things we didn’t want anymore.  It’s amazing how much ‘stuff’ you collect over the years isn’t it.  You can see it all in the photograph below:

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I am so very proud of them, as they made just over £90!  It just goes to show that one man’s junk is another man’s treasure.

We still had some things left at the end, so we took them down to our local charity shop the next day, in the hope that they would make some money out of it too.

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A butterfly on our window, captured by my youngest daughter.

A butterfly on our window, captured by my youngest daughter.

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This week I have been preparing for the long cold winter by sowing a few winter hardy salads to plant out in my polytunnel when I have some room.

I have sown a winter hardy lettuce called ‘Arctic king’ and  some winter hardy spring onions.  I also sowed some mizuna and corn salad as these were both so successful last year.  Lastly, I also sowed some perpetual spinach which will hopefuly be ready in early spring if I plant it under a cloche outside.

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Mizuna and corn salad last year in my polytunnel over winter

Mizuna and corn salad last year in my polytunnel over winter

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My allotment is still providing a feast of salads and vegetables everytime I visit it.

The runner beans are doing very well, even though they started to produce slightly later than normal.  This has had a knock on effect as I have noticed my french beans are nearly ready to pick now and I usually start to pick them when my runner beans have just about stopped producing.  So I will soon have double the amount of beans to harvest and freeze at the same time.

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My outdoor cucumbers are having a fantastic crop because the weather has been warm and I am picking them daily and giving them away as we just can’t eat the amount they are producing. The variety I am growing is ‘Burpless Tasty Green’ which I have found to be a reliable outdoor crop (though last year I only managed to get three or four cucumbers all in all,  due to the rotten weather we had).  The skins are a bit prickly so we peel them before we eat them and they taste lovely.

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I picked my first kohl rabi of the year this week.  Again, they are a little late this year, but it was worth the wait.  Kohl rabi can be grated in salads or used in stews, soups or casseroles.  I don’t get to cook mine, as they are eaten the minute I bring them home.  My family love them peeled, chopped and eaten raw, dipped in salad cream.

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You can see in the photo above that my outdoor tomatoes are finally starting to ripen.  They seem to have been ‘green’ for eternity this year.  When I get enough of them I will be making soup with them and lots of passatta to freeze and use over the winter.

So far my tomatoes are free from tomato ‘blight’, but I am checking them daily for signs.  Below I have written some information regarding tomato blight, which you may find interesting if you are growing your own tomatoes:

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Tomato blight

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Tomato blight

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Tomato blight is caused by the same fungus as potato blight.  It is called ‘Phytophthora infestans’, but it is more commonly known as ‘late blight’.  It is a windblown fungus that can travel long distances.  It spreads when the temperature is above 10C and the humidity is above 75% for two consecutive days, known as a ‘Smith Period’.   In the UK outbreaks can occur from June onwards and it is said to be usually seen in the south west first.

The disease is common on outdoor tomatoes, though tomatoes grown in a polytunnel or greenhouse have some protection from it, as the spores have to enter through doors and vents.

The early stages of blight can be easily missed and not all plants are affected at the same time, however it will spread rapidly.

Symptoms usually seen are brown patches that appear on the leaves and stems and spread very rapidly. The fruit will also turn brown. The underside of leaves can develop a downy white coating of spores in moist conditions.

The first signs of 'blight' on my tomato plants last year

The first signs of ‘blight’ on my tomato plants last year

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What can you do to prevent blight?

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You can grow varieties that are not so susceptible to blight e.g. ‘Ferline’ and ‘Legend’, but remember that some varieties can resist some strains of the fungus but not others.

I like to choose an earlier maturing variety that is ready to harvest before blight strikes, though the tomatoes are usually smaller.

Do not save seed from infected plants as it can survive in the seed and reproduce next spring. Instead, buy good quality seed from a reputable supplier.

Remove any potatoes that were left in the ground from the previous year as the pathogen over winters in rotten potatoes. 

Keep the plant foliage as dry as possible by watering in the morning and at the base of the plants.  Mulch will reduce the amount of watering needed.

Try to avoid brushing past tomato plants when they are wet as this can increase the likelihood of spreading the spores.

Space plants wide apart so the air can flow around the plants.

Keep monitoring your plants and act quickly if you see blight on them.

You can use a ‘bordeaux’ mix to control blight, but you need to spray before blight takes hold as it protects the foliage.  It also needs to be sprayed on your plants regularly so organic gardeners do not favour this method.

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 My tomato plants have blight, what can I do?

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 If you catch it early you can strip the tomatoes from the plant and ripen them on a windowsill.  Be careful to check them every day as some of them may already be affected.

If you haven’t caught it really early, you can use the green tomatoes to make chutney, as provided they haven’t turned brown, the tomatoes are safe to eat.

Take up your blighted tomatoes plants straight away and dispose of them, so you don’t help to spread the spores to your neighbour’s plots.

 According to ‘Garden Organic’ the stems and leaves of affected plants can be added to your compost heap, as the spores won’t survive on dead plant material, but do not compost any blighted fruit as the spores survive in the seeds.

Tomatoes ripening on my windowsill last year

Tomatoes ripening on my windowsill last year

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I hope this information has been of use to you.

I will be back on Monday at 4pm.

I hope you have a good weekend.