18th April, 2008

I've listed the vegetables being grown outside in the previous post. I try and get plants established beforehand either indoors on a windowsill or in the greenhouse. At the moment there are:

Leeks: last year I sowed these in modules, but they took up a lot of shelf space in the greenhouse, so this time I'm trying two 7" pots with about 50 seeds in them (that'll be a lot of leeks!). The variety is Porvite and I sowed them in early February. They are very slow to grow and are about 4" tall at the moment.

Notice the labels? I use cut up plastic milk bottles.

Tomatoes: I'm growing my favourite variety (Gardener's Delight) for the greenhouse and Sub Arctic Plenty for outside. Last year blight killed off most outdoor tomatoes but my greenhouse toms survived and I had lots of fruit. I don't grow too many plants and sow just enough to fit in the greenhouse, so I put 6 or 7 seeds indoors to start with in 5" pots and then once the first leaves appear they go in the greenhouse otherwise they get too leggy.

Tomatoes in the greenhouse with basil, their perfect cooking companion, behind. I don't bother to sow basil, I buy a growing plant from the supermarket and then split it into several bigger pots which normally provides enough for the year.

This year I am sowing in my home made compost. I dug up a large area of lawn to provide new beds last year and stacked the turf to make some loam. So I'm using this loam now which I am mixing 50/50 with some peat-free compost as the loam is still a bit too heavy with clay. So far germination is good so this experiment seems to be working.

Sweet peppers, chilli peppers and aubergines: I grow these the same way as the tomatoes. Sown late March/early April. Varieties: pepper - Gourmet; chilli - de Cayenne; aubergine -Florida high bush.

Kohl rabi: I grew these last year for the first time and they were very nice with a good cabbagey flavour. I prefer these to cabbages as they are more compact plants and they can be easily covered with mesh to keep the dreaded Cabbage White butterfly off. I'm growing them in modules. The variety is Kolibri F1 hybrid.

Coriander: fresh coriander is so aromatic and tasty, it transforms a meal. I grow these in modules and the big seeds let me sow one per module although germination is poor this year. Maybe it's because it is last year's seed. I will sow some more later in the year as it doesn't appear to last very long before bolting.

Broad beans: you'd think I have enough of these when I grow overwintering beans already! I grow these (Jubilee Hysor variety) in individual pots for planting out later. It's not essential to do this I suppose but I think the beans get some help in germinating and also protection from any rodents. I have sown a lot, maybe too many but I can always give some to my friends and work colleagues. There is quite a large vegetable growing community where I work.

Melon: I sow individual seeds in 3" pots on the windowsill as they need the warmth to get them going. I still haven't perfected growing melons in the greenhouse. I don't prune or support them properly I think and they are usually last to go in bigger pots so I just try and squeeze them in rather than allocate them their own space. Must try harder. The variety is Edonis F1 hybrid.

Peas: I don't normally grow peas as the pea moth caterpillar inevitably ends up on the plate, which is not very appetising. But I had a packet that came with a birthday card so I'm giving them a go and I'll try and protect them with mesh. I'm starting them off in modules and the variety is called Celebration, let's hope we do.

Lettuce: I'm growing the Little Gem variety in modules, 6 at a time. Is that too little? I will sow successionally through the year, maybe even through the winter if I can. My family like the crispy lettuce, so we'll see how these are liked as I have not grown lettuce in earnest before. Slugs will be the biggest problem.

Parsley: last year I grew the curly leaved stuff. But I think the flat leafed variety is preferred by chefs, so I'm giving that a try this year. I soak the seeds in water overnight first (to help germination which can be slow) and then sow onto a tray of compost. That worked last year anyway.

Beetroot: mmm, I love beetroot. I grew enough to eat fresh but not enough for pickling which I'd like to try, it must be sweet vinegar though. So I've sown some now in modules and I'll sow some later and depending on how they grow use the small ones for pickling. This variety is the common and popular Boltardy.

Sweetcorn: you can't beat fresh sweetcorn! Last year we had a lovely crop. I chit the seeds by placing them on a wet kitchen towel in a plastic container with lid and then leave them in the airing cupboard until the roots and shoots appear. Then I plant them into 3" pots, I've got 48 plants this year and I want to grow them all! The variety is Ovation F1 hybrid.

Sweetcorn seeds sprouting.

Dwarf bean: I sow the seed in pots or modules. I grew a flat podded variety last year which was a bit stringy. This year it's the round pod variety called Nomad, sown a few days ago.

Courgette: last year I grew 4 plants and we had a glut which we made into soups/meals and froze, or we gave some to the neighbours. So it's the same this year! I grow about 5 or 6 seeds in a large pot indoors and then transplant them into their own pots later for the greenhouse and then finally planted outdoors. This year it's a variety called Venus and they were sown a few days ago.

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