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Alison's Blog

Alison Mundie

  • Date Joined: 15 Jan 2007

Recent Comments

  • Mucking and Weaving

    Alison Mundie on 20 Mar 2009 at 03:17 PM

    Very busy times in the garden now and the warm and dry weather has meant great progress in the new kitchen garden.  Most of the soil preparation is complete, to the relief of all the gardeners involved (some were beginning to get overload - see picture), with the mushroom compost, manure, composted bark in place, rotavation done, levelling of areas, ie. the real donkey work! 


  • Plenty of Beds but no rest ...

    Alison Mundie on 24 Feb 2009 at 12:52 PM


  • Extreme Gardening

    Alison Mundie on 05 Feb 2009 at 03:14 PM

    Despite the current ‘challenging' weather, work is progressing apace in the new productive area, and we have discovered one of the muddiest garden tasks ever.  Yes, lugging turf pieces to build the stacks for 2 days on the trot was truly dirty and very hard work. Add the slippery thawing frost on clay and you get extreme gardening, plus the new winter Olympic sport of mudskiing! 


  • Decluttering and Recycling

    Alison Mundie on 01 Dec 2008 at 10:53 AM

    The old kitchen garden is just about cleared now - today's task was emptying out the shed ready for it to be moved to the new productive site.  Anyone who has a shed will understand what that can really is amazing how much stuff accumulates, and what can be found behind shelves and tables -quite a few things thought lost for ever, eg. scissors, pens and pencils, odd gloves, the elastic band box, some packets of seeds & lots of labels!   Gardening mags always advise a good clean up and clearout at this time of year, when there is perhaps less to do in the garden (except when you have a new kitchen garden to build) - and it is worth doing, just so that when the spring rush starts, all your labels, pots, and seedtrays are ready-cleaned - there is nothing so frustrating as having to do this as you sow.  It also helps to avoid overwintering of pests and diseases, and identifies things that need mending, replacing and what you have run out of.   And may make it possible to actually get inside the shed ...



  • The great Kitchen Garden move - the plot thickens...

    Alison Mundie on 19 Nov 2008 at 01:42 PM

    Now you see it...

  • Final Feast

    Alison Mundie on 05 Nov 2008 at 04:13 PM
      The great kitchen garden move means that all the remaining veg needs to be harvested or replanted/moved – that’s quite a lot.   There are some gorgeous leeks, kales, leafbeets, and parsnips, all of which would normally crop over the winter.  Jerusalem artichokes usually would stay in the ground and be harvested as needed (the frost improves them), but we have lifted them, saved some of the good tubers for propagation, and distributed the rest among the hungry gardening hoards!   We are also picking lots of salads – oriental leaves, winter lettuce, chicories, and edible flowers  Despite a recent week of fairly severe frosts, these have all survived intact.   Chard or leafbeet is a really good spinach substitute, by the way – it made a great lentil and ‘spinach’ dahl the other evening (it doesn’t go as slimy as spinach).  You need to cut out the thick stems and just use the leaf for this, but the stem is also edible.   For the new veg area, garlic which would normally be planted around now in the ground has been put into pots to grow on over winter.   Also in pots are the overwintering broad beans, to give an earlier crop next year.   There is still a lot of colour in the 3x3 plot – purple, dark green and bright green kales, red chicories, blue-green leeks and multicoloured oriental leaves – veg gardens really don’t need to be bare and boring in winter. 



  • Veg on the Move!

    Alison Mundie on 05 Nov 2008 at 02:57 PM


    Visitors to Harlow Carr will notice lots of activity in the kitchen garden over the coming weeks – veg growing is moving to a temporary site elsewhere in the garden, so that work can start on our new Learning Centre.  Gardeners are currently busy lifting perennial veg plants, taking cuttings, etc, and will move on to dismantling the existing beds and fencing, with the aim of recycling as much as possible.   Lovingly nurtured soil from the raised beds will be stored and reused in the new area.  The area is now closed to the public, but its possible to see what’s going on from over the kitchen garden fence.    We are going to be moving to an area just below the new Alpine House, and there are lots of positives, despite the work involved.  For a start it’s a more sheltered area than the current wind-swept hillside!  Its also an opportunity to redesign the raised beds, widen the range of plants grown and incorporate some new ideas.    Progress is good, with the main paths and drains in place, and some of the soil levelling completed.   Over the winter we will be preparing the soil, installing fencing and planting hedges, and building raised beds ready for spring.    Plans for the new area include raised vegetable beds, herbs, a cut flower area, containers, and more fruit, as well as some interesting new elements to link in with the developing forest garden, such as growing our own plant supports.   Watch this space…..    



  • Flaming June

    Alison Mundie on 27 Jun 2008 at 04:18 PM


     Spent the early part of the week repairing damage from Sunday's gales and heavy rain - propping up the broad beans, tying escaping peas back in, staking battered cut flowers.  Last week's blog about plant supports turned out to be uncannily appropriate... 


  • Visible Means of Support ...

    Alison Mundie on 20 Jun 2008 at 04:33 PM

    Planting out  French beans on the 3x3 plot today in a fairly strong wind on our open site brought home forcibly the need for good, strong supporting frames for climbing veg to grow over.    The beans - a type of borlotti bean to supply beautiful red-splashed pods for eating as well as beans for drying - will grow up hazel poles with brash (branchy material from birch and beech mostly) from the woodland here at Harlow Carr.   Hazel pole bean tunnels have peas and runner beans rambling over them. 


  • All Systems go ....

    Alison Mundie on 30 May 2008 at 02:30 PM


    The recent rain and warm weather has really brought everything on, and plants that were gasping in the heat a week ago are now looking green and perky.   At last we are able to plant out our tender veg - so this week courgettes, French and runner beans, sweetcorn and squashes, which have been hardening off in the shade tunnel for the last week, can go out into the kitchen garden.  The courgettes, squash and pumpkin plants can suffer on our windy site - a few twiggy sticks put around them to form a sort of tripod helps to stop the plants from blowing about in the wind. 


  • Rhubarb Triangle

    Alison Mundie on 23 May 2008 at 10:45 AM


    One of the things Yorkshire is famed for is rhubarb growing, and the 'Rhubarb Triangle' - an area between Leeds, Bradford and Wakefield - has recently been recreated in miniature at Harlow Carr.   English rhubarb production has been centred on West Yorkshire since the late 19th century and the scaled-down version is in celebration of our local culinary heritage.  The new bed (near the kitchen garden) contains over 40 varieties, including 'Grandad's Favourite', 'Cawood Delight', 'Muriel' and Yorkshire-bred 'Paragon'


  • The Dumpy Bag Diner

    Alison Mundie on 20 May 2008 at 03:23 PM

    Bags of Potential


  • Frosts and Flowers

    Alison Mundie on 20 May 2008 at 11:52 AM

    Its so easy to be lulled into a false sense of summer after a few weeks of warm, sunny weather - we nearly brought out our courgettes and tomatoes from the nursery to the net tunnel on Monday, but fortunately checked the weather on the web first.   They would certainly not have liked 2 nights of frost, one down to -3C!    Even with 2 layers of fleece covering them, the emerging potatoes have suffered some damage, where the fleece was resting on the leaves.    


  • Extreme Veg Growing

    Alison Mundie on 28 Jun 2007 at 02:04 PM

    These are exciting times here at Harlow Carr with all the flooding over the last 2 weeks, and much time being spent mending paths washed away by the torrential showers.  Thankfully, a desperate team effort managed to avert the potential disaster of a flood in Bettys cake shop!   Our kitchen garden and 3x3m plot are luckily at the top of a hill, and apart from the paths have come off very well.  Add to the list of advantages of raised beds that floodwater runs around them on the bark paths!

    The 3x3m plot is looking really good just now, as all the tender plants such as French beans, courgettes and squashes have all been planted.  For the beans, borlottis will provide both fresh pods as well as beans for drying later in the season - a climbing variety makes full advantage of the space available and adds height to the plot.  Courgette' Venus' was the variety grown for the programme - it produced 17 fruits last year, and is perfect for the small area, maintaining a compact bush shape, so we've grown it again


  • Take a Leek

    Alison Mundie on 01 Jun 2007 at 04:12 PM

    One of my favourite vegetables, I can never plant enough leeks so they had to be included in the 3x3 plot!  They're a good choice for a small space, and look very ornamental.  Ours were sown back in February in a 9cm pot, and are now ready to plant out - not quite ‘pencil thickness' (as all the books say) but sturdy plants like thin spring onions.   Made the planting holes with the end of a rake (forgot to bring the dibber), and emptied out the leeks, shaking the soil off the roots.  Interestingly the books all have different takes on cutting the roots down inlength, varying between to 2.5cm or not at all.  Basically, it makes putting the leeks into the planting holes easier, plus you don't want the roots twisted round at the base of the plant, so I cut mine down to 3-4cm.  If the leeks are taller than around 20cm, cut some of the leaf off too.   The variety is Varna, a dual purpose leek (as many are)  that can be broadcast sown & then thinned to grow as a baby leek, or grown on to a larger size to harvest in autumn or early winter.

    The weather is very hot and sunny at the moment, despite the prediction of heavy rain (we wish!). The plan was to put out the tomatoes, basil and courgettes last week, but a forecast of lashing wind, hailstones and temperatures of 4 degrees put us off!  It is proving to be a very confusing early summer - for the honeybees too, as they are swarming like mad!  So next week, all the tender stuff will go out - they have been in the cold frames for several days now so should be Ok. 


  • Showtime!

    Alison Mundie on 14 May 2007 at 11:22 AM

    Long time no blog!

    Its been a crazy time here getting ready to take the 3x3 plot to the Leyburn food festival in the Yorkshire Dales  - never been done as a show stand before so it was very much guesswork, fingers crossed and hard graft, but in the end it worked very well and looked good. Visitors really liked it and were interested in the small space veg growing idea, and many had seen the programme or book, but found it useful to see the plot in the flesh


  • Keeping your Cool

    Alison Mundie on 18 Apr 2007 at 03:40 PM

    Another gorgeous day, albeit cooler than the roasting weekend temperatures - everything is growing before our eyes, and watering is a constant demand already. Covering our hardening off plants in the cold frames with green shade netting seems to help stop them wilting & keeps them cooler.

    Our Veg Day last Wednesday was a huge success, with loads of interested visitors and lots of people very keen to start veg growing.  Most striking were the questions about some of the most basic growing techniques - a timely reminder not to take a level of knowledge for granted!  Most topical was how to water small seedlings without washing them flat.  First of all you will need a fine rose (the sprinkling attachment on the end of the spout) on your watering can - this governs the size of the water droplets.  Ensure the sprinkling side is facing upwards, then start pouring before you are above the tray of seedlings to get an even flow, and don't stop until you are no longer over the tray - otherwise there is a tendency for the spout to dribble.  Have a look at the picture in my gallery - hope it is helpful


  • Not enough hours ....

    Alison Mundie on 06 Apr 2007 at 01:29 PM

    With the fantastic warm sunny weather over the last week or so, things are really getting going & we could easily fill twice the time we have each day!  Apart from keeping up with the sowing and planting, we're frantically preparing for next week's Veg Day - Get Growing!  on Wednesday, 11 April.  Its part of the RHS's Veg Year activities, related to the Grow your own Veg programme, and  there will be lots of veg-related talks and demos, a product corner (including a variety of raised beds on show) and children's activities.  You could also come and visit the 3x3 plot, and the kitchen garden in general!  With all this work to do, we didn't really need the diversion of chasing young rabbits from a burrow found in the kitchen garden...

    Back to the 3x3 plot, the material that was being hardened off in the cold frames has now been planted out  - very satisfying as the beds begin to look as if something is happening!   Broad bean, peas, kale, spinach and lettuce have all gone out, and I've sown some beetroot, oriental leaves, more carrots and Paris silverskin onions.  The beetroot has been sown in groups again, with lettuces planted in between.  All these leaves can be harvested as cut and come again, ie. a few leaves from each plant at a time to make up your salad.  Don't take too much off the beetroot or the roots won't get enough energy to develop properly


  • Watching the Seeds Grow

    Alison Mundie on 31 Mar 2007 at 12:03 PM

    The seeds I sowed under the cloche in the 3x3 plot have germinated, so I uncovered them in the sunshine on Thursday in the morning.  They had literally grown and spread their leaves by the afternoon when we were closing the frames down for the night - amazing what a bit of warmth and light will do.  This is the most exciting time of year for growing as well as the busiest - when things change before your eyes and you can almost watch plants grow - brilliant!  This thrill of seeds growing never goes away, no matter how long you have been doing it - its still amazing.

    I've sowed a tray each of the 3 ‘virtual' lettuces - Pandero, Freckles and Little Gem Pearl - in the glasshouse, and also plan to sow some direct in the plot - it will be interesting to see how they compare re development.  We tend to keep a constant supply of lettuces & other salad leaves growing on in modules in the glasshouse or coldframes, so that any space in the plot can instantly be filled with a further crop, without waiting for seed to germinate and get away.  It's the key to having an uninterrupted supply of salad leaves for your tea


  • Case Hardened

    Alison Mundie on 27 Mar 2007 at 11:15 AM

    Several of the plants we started under glass have been moved out into the cold frames next to the kitchen garden and 3x3 plot, to begin the hardening off process before being planted out.   We will probably do another sowing in the greenhouse before we start sowing direct into the soil in early April.  Before then germination can be a bit unreliable.   The good news is that you don't need to have a greenhouse to raise plants in modules or pots  - I sow mine at home in a cold polytunnel, in seedtrays with clear plastic lids and it usually works fine!  The little plastic patio greenhouses would work as well, or a coldframe.   Sowing in modules gives us a couple of weeks start in the season (the plants are ready to go when conditions outside improve) and a reliable result.  If you do get behind with sowing, don't panic - later-sown crops often catch up anyway!

    Beans, peas, onions, lettuces, spinach, and kohl rabi are hardening off nicely - the plants are lovely and sproingy when you brush your hand over them.   They have been going into the cold frames over the last few weeks, and the lids are being opened in the daytime (fully opened on good days, just a bit on chillier days) and will gradually be left open overnight as well before we plant out.    It is so important to harden off nursery grown plants (& this will include the plug plants you buy at the garden centre, unless they are outside) before you put them out - the shock of the sudden change in environment from glasshouse to outdoors will surely kill them or severely check their growth, leaving them vulnerable to attack from disease or pests.  Strong, so-called ‘hard-grown' plants will always be able to withstand attack better than those that are tender or overfed, sappy ones. 


  • Shirtsleeves and Shivers

    Alison Mundie on 20 Mar 2007 at 03:12 PM

    Spring has certainly felt as if it has sprung here over the last week - we were working outside in shirtsleeves in the sunshine - its so tempting to sow loads of stuff, but still a bit risky.  This week the sharp winds are back, and frosts - you really have to take a full wardrobe out with you to cover any weather permutation.  

    I did succumb and sowed some cool season crops for a salad mix under our ornamental Victorial glass cloche - peas, red-veined spinach, lettuce and beetroot.  I've multisown the beetroot - a couple of seeds in each hole - so that ultimately there will be a group of small beetroots which push each other apart as they grow.   Beetroot leaves are good in salads if you collect a few at a time along with your lettuce, spinach, rocket, etc.  Chioggia pink or Barbietola di Chioggia has amazing pink-striped roots when you slice them open (the stripes are more defined in smaller beets), and the leaves are a lovely fresh green.  The red-veined spinach also has a gorgeous leaf.  I've sown the peas for pea tips - if you haven't tried these, grow some this year.  They are truly delicious - you can sow thickly in a pot to grow lots purely for pea tips - best to choose a dwarf, fast growing or early variety.  If you want to grow them on peas, don't take too much off each plant.  Definitely worth a go.


  • First Sowings in the 3x3 Plot!

    Alison Mundie on 02 Mar 2007 at 04:04 PM

    Friday, 2 March 2007

    The plastic cloche used to cover the soil on the 3x3 plot has done its work well - soil temp is now 10 degrees C, so great for sowing.  Just as well really,  cos it blew away yesterday and had to be rescued from among the shelter belt trees.  The site is very windy and exposed, not ideal for veg growing.  The plants need some shelter and protection or growth can be seriously stunted and plants damaged.  


  • Snow, seedsowing & shallots

    Alison Mundie on 16 Feb 2007 at 03:54 PM

    Friday, 15  February 2007

    First part of the week was spent recovering  from the free veg event  held last Saturday - lots of visitors and enthusiasm for veg growing, and a really hectic, busy day.  It was the worst possible weather - icy rain on top of the snow, and freezing cold, but everyone I think had a good time, and hopefully went away with some ideas to get them started with veg. The 3x3m plot seems to have really struck a chord with people


  • New 3 x 3m Plot

    Alison Mundie on 15 Feb 2007 at 09:01 AM

    Here is picture of the new 3 x 3m plot at Harlow Carr.  I'm still learning about attachments so please bear with me!  This should have been with the last blog.


  • Jerusalem Artichokes

    Alison Mundie on 15 Feb 2007 at 08:57 AM

    Here is the photo of artichokes Gerrard and Garnet - you can see they look quite different.


  • Backlog!

    Alison Mundie on 14 Feb 2007 at 02:52 PM

    Wednesday, 31 January 2007

    The new 3x3m plot is up and ready to go!  The soil is a wonderful mixture of compost from the garden's own heap, spent mushroom compost, and loam from work going on elsewhere in the garden.    It's a lovely friable mix and should grow great veg.  For this year's 3 x 3m plot, we will pretty much follow the same plan as last year, with a few tweakings here and there


  • First Blog! from the Harlow Carr 3 x 3m Plot

    Alison Mundie on 23 Jan 2007 at 02:56 PM

    Tuesday, 23 January 2007

    The 3 x 3m plot at Harlow Carr has survived the gales & torrential rain of last week, &  in spite of some really heavy showers, the soil in the raised beds is still workable -  fine even for seedsowing.  To one used to working on heavy clay, this seems like a miracle