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Geoff Hodge Web Editor Peterborough

I've been a horticultural journalist for 20 years, a gardener for longer than I want to think about and a veg grower for 25 years.

  • Date Joined: 21 Nov 2006

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Getting back in the saddle

Posted by Geoff Hodge on 17 Mar 2009 at 09:20 AM

Having had a prolonged veg-free start to the year - I blame the weather and too many other things to do - I've finally managed to getthings started in the veg garden.

I know it sounds like an excuse, but last year we started too early, everything grew too much before the weather was right for planting out/planting up and we spent a fortune on heating and supplementary lighting. This year we're taking a more natural, relaxed approach. Well, that's the plan (and the excuse) anyway.

I made a start during the first week in March and sowed a couple of rows and a couple of trays of broad beans, including an old heirloom variety called 'Martock'; don't know it, never grown it.

The following weekend we bit the bullet and made the brave decision to go to the allotment - fearing the worst. We were pleasantly surprised - it wasn't up to our armpits in weeds! Apart from the fact that it was blowing a gale, it started raining/sleeting/hailing/snowing and was just flippin' cold, we got quite a bit of tidying up done and even dug over quite a lot of it too.

Last weekend we had a good old blitz at it.

The garden frame has been sitting on the raised beds all winter, so the soil was lovely and warm and welcoming for some early crops. So in went a row of rocket, a row of beetroot 'Detroit' and one of lettuce 'Stoke' (a variety from the Heritage Seed Library) which joined the broad bean 'Martock' sowed previously.

Outside I put in a row of salad onion 'White Lisbon', Continental salad mix, radish 'Amethyst', celtuce and carrot 'Egmont Gold' (another from the Heritage Seed Library) plus some 'Early Purple Sprouting' broccoli in a seed bed for transplanting to their permanent positions later.

I'm also testing a new product - the Seedbed Roll from The Master Herbalist. The company produces a couple of different types and I've used the English Summer Salad - a mix of lettuce and salad leaves. This is a professional way of growing veg that is meant to produce better and faster germination, stronger growth and needs less water and no chemical controls. The seed comes pre-sown on a biodegradable paper mat that is covered in a clear layer of compostable film that conserves moisture and warmth and acts like a propagator. It'll be interesting to see how well it performs.

We then set up our 'exotic veg seed sowing production line' - filling pots, firming compost, writing labels, sowing seeds, covering with vermiculite and watering. We've sown our first batch of indoor tomatoes, aubergines, sweet and chilli peppers, basil and courgettes. Last year we sowed too much too early and all in one go - this year we're doing things more carefully and steadily to prevent the seedling mountain we suffered last year.

On Sunday it was back to the allotment - yes, twice in quick succession! The main reason for going was to (finally) plant out the garlic, shallots and onion sets - both red and white.

We'd also been given a couple of blackcurrant 'Big Ben' bushes by Suttons and these needed planting out. This spectacular new blackcurrant has huge fruit - double the size of other varieties - and is very high yielding too. The fruits are produced early in the season and are sweet and juicy. Plants show good resistance to mildew and leaf spot.

After a spot of weeding and tidying up we'd more or less finished for the day - apart from harvesting a whole load of leeks, a load of cut daffs and some pretty unspectacular celeriac. They may have looked unspectacular but they have made some really delicious cream of celeriac soup.

So the precedent has been set - let's hope I can keep it up!

Comments

All About Gardening said:

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on 17 Mar 2009 at 10:27 AM

Febcos said:

Hi Geoff, will you be posting a review of the seedbed rolls, as i am a stockist and very keen to hear your thoughts of the product.

on 14 May 2009 at 02:30 PM

Febcos said:

Hi geoff, will you be posting about your outcome of the seedbed roll, As i am a stockist and very keen on your thoughts.

on 14 May 2009 at 02:34 PM

miranda said:

Hello Geoff, I've been growing Martock broadbeans for a few years now and like them very much. It's a short pod and the beans are small, with just three to five in a pod, but they are very tasty and not at all bitter. I also noticed that they coped far better with aphids compared to the other broad beans I grew. I save and share my saved seed every year.

I also had my beans from the Heritage Seed Library and they put a little slip of paper in with it, which said this:

'An old landrace variety grown in Somerset for centuries, probably not much changed from the small-seeded beans that were a mainstay of the medieval diet. Donated to the Heritage Seed Library in the 1970s by Steve Oxbrow, who came across an advert in his local paper where the Bishop of Bath and Wells was offering samples of the beans in exchange for a donation to the cathedral roof restoration fund. The earliest reference to them is in the manorial account rolls of 1293. A robust bean with small pods and a meaty taste that was welcome on fast days. “Martock men be full of beans! If you shake a Martock man he rattles!”'

on 08 Jun 2009 at 06:47 PM