November III: seeds for 2018….

The end of November is seed ordering time.

This year I have used five suppliers for everything (just new potato seed tubers to order still), trying to support small British suppliers who have, in my experience provided good service in the past three years or who are worthy of a small test purchase in 2018:

1) Real Seeds Ltd http://www.realseeds.co.uk – a husband-and-wife team in SW Wales.

2) Chase Organics – the Organic Gardening Catalogue http://www.chaseorganics.co.uk – a well established Surrey operation.

3) Medwyns of Anglesey http://www.medwynsofanglesey.co.uk – specialist seeds for exhibition growers, from an 11 times gold medallist at Chelsea Flower Show.

4) Seeds of Italy http://italianseeds.co.uk – a family firm based in Harrow, NW London.

5) SH Organic Seeds http://sh-organic-seeds.co.uk – a new cooperative supplying biodynamic open-pollinated seeds from a Lincolnshire base.

I usually use JBA for seed potatoes, a reliable Scottish supplier, however I may pay a potato fair a visit this year too.

 

I have made my own biodynamic seeds of the following:

1) Aquadulce Claudia broad beans

2) Cobra Climbing Beans

3) Cupidon Dwarf Beans

4) Alderman Peas

5) Kelsae Onion

6) Multiple Tomato strains.

2018, I will attempt to make seeds of radish, grenoble red lettuce and pablo beetroot.

November II: season review and lessons learned….

2017 was the first year I gardened no-dig with good compost. As a result,some crop yields improved spectacularly, meaning a glut of over-production occurred. Equally some crops are proving difficult for reasons I am not clear about.

1) Radish yields in good compost were spectacular, suggesting one 1.5m row sown each two weeks from the spring equinox to the end of April is more than sufficient for a family.

2) Carrot yields have also risen hugely, both in the soil and in bags. Indeed, four 18 litre polypot bags would last all winter on the yields achieved in 2017. Yields of carrots sown in early May were higher than sown in early April.

3) Maincrop potatoes mulched with plenty of cut comfrey yielded very well, perhaps due to plenty of rain from mid July to mid September. Early crops were very poor in the arid spring. Pot-grown first earlies yielded very well.

4) Successful late sowings were:

i) Pick and Come Again lettuce sown early June and harvested August and September;

ii) Cavalo Nero Kale sown early June, harvesting from October onwards;

iii) Leaf Chicory, sown early July and harvested from mid October;

iv) Florence Fennel, sown late June and harvested late October and November;

v)Winter radish, sown early August to be harvested through winter

Spinach, chard, rocket and cabbage have established successfully for spring harvest, however Augusta Onions did not.

Ongoing challenges remain with:

i) Autumn turnips – plants which established yielded roots, however pest damage is still too high;

ii) Winter cabbage suffering from leaf damage and only small hearts, barely worth five months in the ground;

iii) Pak Choi continues to be eaten within 3 weeks of transplantation.

iv) Allium leaf miner continues to devastate winter leek stands, such that only growing early crops is now the reluctant conclusion.

 

As a result, the following changes are envisaged in 2018:

1) 75% reduction in rows of carrots sown, expanding onions instead;

2) Growing Red Kuri squash instead of Musselburgh leeks;

3) Reducing beetroot sowing by 33%;

4) Adding three brussels sprouts plants in the sunniest location;

5) Attempting Borlotti beans for the first time;

6) Replacing leaf chicory with chicory hearts.

 

I will expand the growth of roots in bags/35 liter pots to include parsnips as well as carrots.

2017 was a big step forward.

2018 will tell me whether this was by luck or by design….

November I: compost and over-wintering….

So, on the last day of autumn, one year of gardening finishes and the new one begins. In a no-dig garden, that new year begins with laying compost on bare ground.

The garden still has the following crops to harvest:

1) Cavalo Nero Kale, Leaf Chicory and Endive;

2) Autumn King Carrots and Parsnips;

3) Winter radish and Mulatka beetroot;

In addition, spinach, spring cabbage and chard are being over-wintered.

After a year of intensive composting, 5cm of compost/horse manure has been laid down to date on 24sqm of cleared ground in the main beds, plus 6sqm of asparagus and boundary beds, as well as surrounding the pear tree. Green manure was sown on 7.5sqm.

Around one cubic metre of compost remains to cover remaining 13.5sqm of main beds, 5sqm of raspberries and 1.5sqm of other beds in the fruit cage.

In addition, autumn has been the season of leaf collecting for two purposes:

1) Starting a new leaf mould generation process –  280 litres have been packed into eight 35l pots:

2) A major last cut of autumn grass has been mixed with leaves/twigs to fill a one cubic metre builders’ bag:

All that remains to do is:

1): build a new horse manure/straw pile;

2): Treat the garden with biodynamic horn manure;

and pre-Christmas work is complete.