Thursday, 8 December 2011

The potato patch, seaweed and manure.

I took advantage of the warm November to give the potato patch a good dig over.

The potatoes were lifted in October on warm drying days and before the first frosts threatened. After drying they were stored in paper sacks in a dark corner of the potting shed and we have been using them steadily since then. The patch will be used for legumes next year, mostly broad beans and peas.

I hope my thorough digging will mean that I will not have too many potato volunteers next year. Meanwhile I dislike seeing the bare soil which is vulnerable to winter rains and liable to sport a crop of chickweed.

Green manures have become relatively popular recently, an idea that has been imported into domestic spheres from agriculture. Personally it doesn't suit my gardening practice.

Having spent hours forking over the soil and removing weeds the thought of having to dig in a green manure before I can plant is extra work I can do without. In addition I expect to plant in early spring and wonder how much useful growth, if any, the green manure would have produced by then. Finally many green manures are brassica crops and it would play havoc with crop rotation.

Instead I resort to an old practice prevalent in Scotland, I collect seaweed after winter storms and spread it over the soil. Collect after rain and most of the salt should be washed off. Spread reasonably thick and the weeds are smothered and the soil protected. During the course of the winter the seaweed will begin to breakdown but you can plant around it if it is still there come planting time. Slugs don't seem to like it and it contains many useful trace elements.

The patch previously planted with legumes will host the brassicas next year. It is treated to a layer of sawdust and straw from the goose and chicken sheds and covered with black plastic. This will protect the soil, feed the worms and later the brassicas, and the plastic allows the soil to warm and remain drier than it otherwise would. Come planting time a sprinkle of lime and the plants are planted without further work.

This coming year I am considering planting the brassica plants through a black weed suppressing membrane to reduce the weeds and keep the soil warm. Should you suffer from cabbage root fly it should help with that and I am interested to see what impact it might have on slugs.

The allium/carrot patch still has vegetables in it but will be next years potato patch. This patch will have some of the compost from the compost bins after the potatoes are planted. I add it to the top of the soil and will hoe off any emerging weed seeds, it will feed the emerging potatoes, add another protecting layer to the soil and young potato shoots, and is an easy way to incorporate the compost to the vegetable patch.

This leaves only the present brassica patch. Still holding winter cabbages, swede, and planted with next years garlic crop on soil which has been harvested of earlier brassicas. This patch gets no extra treatment. The onions and carrots etc. will benefit from the previous years goose and chicken manure. When the winter brassicas are harvested the ground will be almost immediately replanted, if there is a delay I will cover it with black plastic which will warm the soil and keep it drier ready for seed sowing.

Snow, deer and carrots

After the warmest November on record for Scotland we entered December and along came the snow.

The last few days have seen falls of about 3 inches or more which have smothered a still warm soil. This has left soft ground underneath which means that vegetables still in the ground are unfrozen. So when the deer entered the vegetable garden, it's tracks clear in the snow, it managed to pull out the carrots whilst enjoying the tops. It is a timely reminder that they need lifting, usually a job done much earlier but left because of the warm weather. I will sort through and pack the large ones in dry peat which will keep them in excellent condition.

The deer's trespass reminds me of why I plant winter veg in the polytunnel; to avoid predation by hungry animals. Inside the cabbage, kale, winter broccoli, carrots and salads will continue to grow and remain for me to pick when I want them. Outside I have netted the most tempting vegetables.

During the snow showers you do need to be vigilant with polytunnels and greenhouses. Heavy falls of snow need to be cleared from the roof to avoid damage. Last year the polytunnels collected a large quantity of snow which began to melt from below during spells of sunshine, caused by the temperature inside warming the snow, only for it to refreeze during the night. This led to a thick layer of ice which was heavy on the plastic and difficult to shift. Domestic sized tunnels are relatively easy to clear snow from, larger structures present more problems and many suffered snow damage. My tunnel has a double skin which does make it stronger but care still needs to be taken when clearing snow as the plastic can be brittle and easily torn. A brush may take longer but tends to be a safer tool than a rake or metal implement.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Insulating the greenhouse

All the signs are now indicating the rapid approach of winter. A cold drenching day yesterday left the ground running with water and best left alone. However there is plenty to be done in the polytunnels and greenhouse.

This morning a thin crust of ice on the poultry water and a forecast of much colder weather tonight means that there should be no delay to putting up the insulation in the greenhouse.

Each year I put up a bubble wrap layer next to the glass and hang more over a framework of training wire to reduce the height of the internal space. It means that the heater has less volume to heat and reduces heat loss through the glass. It does make the greenhouse feel more enclosed and leads to reduced light levels, but as most of the plants are in a semi-dormant state that is not a big problem.

I do not run a warm greenhouse through the winter, it is more of a frost free place. Tubular heaters suspended beneath the benches provide a gentle continuous heat and a fan heater cuts in if the temperature drops too low. The heaters are usually switched off during the day, unless the frost or snow remains and there is no sunlight. A back up paraffin heater has thankfully not been needed for many years now, they require more attendance and are difficult to adjust to ensure the right heat level. I think in a sustained power cut I would probably resort to moving plants into the potting shed or house rather than use the paraffin heater.

Most of the heating is required during the early spring when nursery and vegetable plants are actively being grown. Then the insulation can interfere with ventilation and light transmission and it is important to be vigilant with seedlings to prevent disease and weak growth. Delaying the sowing of seeds to avoid the worst of the weather conditions is a necessary tactic; this year I had to delay sowing for three weeks or more due to the heavy snow and very low temperatures. Also avoid sowing seeds of tender plants, these should always be left for a later sowing. The hardy seedlings will withstand some drops in temperature but the tender seedlings will succumb or suffer a check in growth which will lead to a weaker plant.

It is always a relief to remove the insulation, though I tend to leave the sections that are on the lower half of the greenhouse and just remove the top half first. Suddenly there is more light and the greenhouse feels larger. This year April was a sunny warm month and the insulation was interfering with the ventilation to such a degree that the build up in heat beneath it was causing significant stress to the plants. The heat cannot escape through the roof lights with the insulation in place and the increase in daylight means that a decision needs to be made: reduce the heat lost at night or gain more daylight and heat during the day, with better ventilation too. Adding some means of absorbing that daytime heat inside the greenhouse will mitigate some of the loss during the night as the absorbed heat is released during the cooler hours. I have a large black tank of water and some concrete paving slabs, all of which act as a thermal store.

The polytunnels have no insulation or heating. If you want to  use them for propagating early in the season consider adding a heated bench with some fleece for keeping the heat in at night, or erect a cold frame or small tunnel inside the large tunnel as a dedicated propagating area or area to keep more tender plants.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Tomato report

Yesterday's sunshine and heat was a reminder of what we didn't have during the summer. The rain showers have returned and we now need to get those tomatoes ripened and any plants that have finished cropping removed.

All my tomatoes are grown in the polytunnel and for the most part the temperatures there have been reasonable but there has been a lack of sunshine and high humidity levels. Mildew has been problematic this year and, though most tomato varieties set fruit well, ripening has been slow.

So which varieties proved best? Earliest to ripen and giving frequent cropping throughout the summer was a baby plum 'Lucciola' and a yellow cherry 'Sungold', though 'Sungold' didn't have the heaviest tresses. These were from 'Golden Cherry' another yellow cherry with a good flavour and now ripening very fast and allowing frequent cropping. 'Chocolate Cherry', an unusual brown/pink, also ripened quickly and has been giving a steady crop throughout the summer.

The larger tomatoes have had heavy trusses of fruit but they are very slow to ripen. 'Brandywine' set a reasonable number (it is never prolific) and the ones that have ripened have been worth the wait. 'Roma', a plum tomato that usually does very well for me, is ripening very slowly and I have not had the crops that I have had in previous years. They do make a very sweet sauce and can ripen in a warm place so I still have hope for the remaining tomatoes.

Friends with tomatoes in greenhouses have had healthier and better crops which I put down to the extra warmth, light and lower humidity levels. For the number of tomatoes I grow my greenhouse is not big enough!

So what to recommend when summers are not warm and sunny enough? First grow a variety, some tomatoes will perform better than others and part of the fun of growing your own is to eat what you can't find in the shops. Secondly try cherry or small tomatoes which seem to be inclined to ripen earlier. Thirdly ensure good hygiene and don't be too greedy, thin out plants to let light and air to the fruits. This will aid ripening and reduce mildew.

Those are tips for next year so what to do now? Continue to pick ripe fruits, cut back new growth and dispose of diseased or surplus growth. If temperatures drop and you still have green fruit try hanging up trusses in a warm sunny place or even bring fruits into the kitchen to ripen.

Friday, 23 September 2011

Broad beans

I first came across broad beans in New Zealand where they were part of Christmas dinner. Young and sweet beans are a treat here in early summer and as a hardy bean they should be part of every northern kitchen garden.

Of all the beans I grow the broad bean is the most reliable and can be successfully grown outside. All other beans only do well for me under cover, but this year has not been good for them, poor flower set and damp humid conditions has led to a lot of mildew. Of the polytunnel beans the borlotti beans have been the most successful.

Outside the broad beans produced a good crop and then I left some pods to produce seed for sowing next year. The wet September has been trying for all when harvesting is due but today I finally cleared off  the weeds and harvested the pods. The very black ones had become damp and the seed spoilt but the green ones had protected their seed and this has been laid out to dry in the greenhouse. Discard any that show rot and when the seed is properly dry store them in a cool dry container.

The seed is from Jade, a short sturdy bean which produces good flavoured beans early to mid summer. This is not a variety suitable for autumn sowing. I start them in pots in the greenhouse in January, they don't require heat and usually germinate within a couple of weeks or so. I always sow the seed on its side not flat. I have tried autumn sown varieties but haven't found any advantage, they don't produce any quicker, and if the ground is very wet the seed can rot. Once the seed is through I will grow it on for a few weeks before hardening it off and planting outside. This will generally be about March time depending on the weather. They don't require any protection or staking and little further attention until cropping.

Friday, 16 September 2011


For many years I have grown strawberries very successfully in the polytunnel. The variety is an everbearer or perpetual meaning that it produces fruit throughout the summer rather than just in one flush.

To minimise slug damage and make them easier to pick I grow them in raised troughs that I made myself from some offcuts of wood. As the demand from strawberries has increased from my family I also grow them in the raised beds under the tomatoes.They fruit well from late May until the frosts and are very sweet.

This year I decided to try some outdoors and planted them last autumn through black weed suppressing membrane on ridges. They looked a little sorry for themselves as the winter started, disappeared from view under snow for a couple of months, and then reappeared in early spring and took off, beginning to flower in May and producing their first fruits in June. The revelation was that these fruits were even sweeter than the ones under cover, and though they started later they cropped heavily and with little slug or bird damage. This despite the fact that this has been the coldest British summer for 18 years! It has been so successful that it will be repeated.

Strawberries are best moved onto fresh ground on a regular basis and new plants used every 2 to 3 years. My experimental bed used up part of the bean/pea patch. To increase the quantity would mean reducing the amount of peas and beans, not good. I have decided a dedicated bed needs to be created. The ridges will run north - south to enable sunlight to reach both sides. Ridges allow the fruits to hang down without necessarily lying on the ground. Water also runs away from the crown of the plant minimising rot. The black weed suppressing membrane kept the weeds out and the fruits clean and dried quickly after rain helping to prevent rotting fruit. Giving adequate space to the plants is also crucial, they grow large and air flow around the plants keeps mildew at bay. Two feet either way is not excessive although it might look too much when they are first planted. Planting in autumn is best, the plants settle in quickly in the mild weather, frost helps flower bud initiation and they are likely to produce an earlier crop. We were enjoying large bowls of sweet, tasty strawberries about 3 times a week with a couple of helpings of homemade strawberry icecream. With a punnet of strawberries selling at £2 or so that is a significant saving for not much effort and much better tasting.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

A new potting bench.

I have just purchased my very first purpose built potting bench and a good piece of kit it is too. It folds away for storage, has a lower shelf, a small galvanised top shelf, substantial galvanised work surface and a drawer. It now stands in the greenhouse and almost looks too good to use.

A potting bench is one of the most useful and used pieces of equipment. When I first started I used the kitchen table, covered with newspaper, and a reasonable sized plastic potting tray. Not the most convenient places to sow seeds and prick out seedlings. Every time I had to bring everything into the kitchen, compost, pots, seed trays etc. In the greenhouse I then had I didn't have space to do much work, it was a space for bringing plants on. In the summer I resorted to working out of a wheelbarrow!

In the nursery I have the luxury of a potting shed and I built a workbench on which I continue to use my plastic potting tray. Everything is to hand and no more need to tidy up afterwards. So why a new potting bench?

In the very early spring I start off the majority of my seeds. In the potting shed there is no heating and the stone walls retain the cold. In the greenhouse there is a heater, and the sun rapidly makes it warmer and lighter. I can be pricking out seedlings for hours, traipsing back and forth to the greenhouse with pots and trays of seedlings. I also put my compost, ready mixed for sowing or transplanting, in buckets in the greenhouse to warm up. (In the potting shed last winter the compost was frozen). So I frequently take my potting tray to the greenhouse and work there, but that uses up bench space, and the bench is not quite high enough and I end up with a sore back. Hence the need for a purpose built potting bench, and when I found the one I liked the look of I knew that it would make spring sowing a much more pleasant experience. As it also folds away I can remove it if necessary or take it down to the polytunnel. It promises to give many years of good service. If you do lots of sowing and transplanting I would recommend you get yourself a potting bench, whether home made or bought, it will be a worthwhile investment.

Thursday, 8 September 2011


Weeds in a kitchen garden are inevitable, how do you expect them to resist freshly turned fertile soil?

The mild weather has now turned into penetrating heavy rain and the wet soil should not be worked. Digging saturated soil will lead to compaction and destroys the soil structure. However the last of my onion crop needs to be lifted before the wet weather causes rot, so I resort to lifting them with the fork and just forking out the worst of the weeds so that the ground is cleared and I can see that all the onions have been harvested.

Of more importance is removing any flowering weeds before the seed sets. Some weed seeds are particularly long lived. Dock seed can remain viable for 50 years or more and one seedhead can produce hundreds of seeds. If these are allowed to fall on the ground it will be impossible to remove them, but on the stalk one snip with the secateurs and the problem is resolved. Even on wet days the flowering stems can be removed and the roots can be dealt with later. Mix these stems with some grass cuttings when you add them to the compost heap and the heat should destroy any viable seed or rot them down in a bucket of water first.

Friday, 2 September 2011

New Perennial Planting

As work in the kitchen garden begins to wind down attention can be turned to other parts of the garden.

In this mild, damp weather the soil is easy to work and it is a good time to remove deep rooted weeds that have crept in and to make changes or additions to perennial plantings.

Personally I leave most divisions to the spring when the plants are growing vigorously. I never divide or move grasses at this time of year as they can succumb to rot during the winter. I will however move flowering plants during this month and they generally have enough time to settle in prior to the frosts. I will remove the flower stems of any moved plants to direct their energies to the roots rather than into producing flowers or seed. Perennials that have been pot grown and are planted now can retain their flowers but will settle in better if you take away the flower stems. This is a perfect time to introduce young perennial plants which will build up their rootstock to produce a good display of flowers next year.

In the garden I am tackling a new area of ground which has been under black plastic. It is easy to remove any remaining roots and weeds but the soil is very dry. I incorporate some compost in the planting hole when replanting the moved plants and that should help the soil absorb some of the rain we are getting during the night. Once the soil is wet again I will cover the bare ground with a fine covering of grass cuttings. The grass cuttings will prevent weed seeds germinating, add nitrogen and humus to the soil when it rots down and, as long as it isn't applied to thickly, will not turn into a slimy mess. It must be applied after the soil has been well soaked or it will prevent the rain reaching the soil.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011


I use a basic four year rotation cycle and I pretty much follow this in the polytunnel too, although I don't grow potatoes in the polytunnel beds (I don't want potato volunteers constantly coming through). Potatoes are grown in containers early in the year, more about that in another post.

To remind myself of the rotation cycle I use the mnemonic Slugs Like Bad Apples, where the capital letter stands for the four vegetable groupings:
Solanum - potatoes and tomatoes etc.
Legumes - peas and beans,
Brassicas - cabbages, kale, turnips etc.
Alliums - onions and garlic, this group also contains the carrots and parsnips.

Crops such as lettuce, spinach, beetroot, chard don't really need rotation and can be slipped in where space is available.

Using the rotation cycle, on the same patch of ground, legumes follow solanum, and brassicas are the next crop with alliums being planted in the fourth year.

Different crops have requirements for particular nutrients, and rotation ensures that crops take these nutrients from the soil without depleting it. For example, brassicas require a fertile soil (with plenty of nitrogen) they enjoy freshly fertilised ground, but will leave enough for the follow on crop (alliums) to utilise without their companion crop carrots producing forked roots, which they would if grown on rich soil.

Rotation also minimises the risk of the crop suffering from pests and diseases, as a build up of the problem is less likely to occur if the crop is grown in different soil each year.

In a polytunnel the rotation tends to be on a rather quicker basis than yearly as you can grow a two to three crops on the same ground in one year. However I try to follow a rotation pattern as much as possible and keep notes or labels in the ground to remind me of what I have done. I also use the non-rotation crops to break the cycle. The spinach I sowed from freshly saved seed on the 19th August is now up and has followed an onion crop. It is a useful winter crop and will provide plenty of leaves in the early part of the year. I will make about 3 to 4 sowings, each sown after the last one has germinated.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

The many benefits of a polytunnel

Today there is a strong cold wind and even for a keen gardener that makes the garden less appealing, however the polytunnel offers shelter and there is always something to do.

My polytunnels are of a domestic scale, just 9m by 3m, but are perfectly adequate for a family of five, combined as they are with the adjacent vegetable patch. One is primarily for vegetable growing, the other is partly used in the summer for vegetables but is mostly dedicated to the nursery.

They are Solartunnels, strong galvanised frames and a double skin with square mesh between which prevents rips (useful when the highland cows get too close!) The sides are vertical and there are two doors which help with airflow. They were very easy to erect and are also capable of being relocated without too much difficulty. Not cheap, but all the space is usable and for the volume of vegetables they can produce they pretty much pay for themselves within 2 or 3 years. I have had them for about 8 years and wouldn't be without them.

As autumn arrives the plants in the polytunnel begin to succumb to more diseases and it is important to be vigilant with hygiene. The spread of mildews and rust can be rapid in warm humid conditions. It is important to ventilate even on cool days, the temperature can rise quickly with only a small amount of sunshine. Remove all infected leaves and fruits and bury them in a hot part of the compost heap.

Watering can be more tricky with the erratic weather conditions particularly if you are growing in pots. Try to water on warm days in the mornings and avoid wetting the leaves. Watering in the evening as the nights cool will further reduce the temperatures around the plants. At this time of year you want to keep as much warmth in the polytunnels in the evenings as you can, remember to close the doors as the sun begins to leave the tunnels.

Keep removing weeds. The protected conditions of the polytunnel enables annual weeds to produce many generations if left. They can start producing seed by February for the hardy varieties, and will continue all year. A sunny day can make the polytunnel too hot to work comfortably in, so a cool day like today is perfect for a thorough clearing of weeds and diseased materials, guess where I'm heading!

Friday, 26 August 2011

A small cauliflower

What to do with a small but perfect cauliflower?

I do a number of sowings of cauliflowers, the earliest, in January, go into the polytunnel as young plants and provide an early crop. The second sowing in March/April go outside and this year produced a bumper crop of large cauliflowers which tend to be ignored by the slugs. A fresh cauliflower has a fabulous crisp flavour and makes the basis of a substantial meal.

This year I then made a third late sowing and three went into the polytunnel after the sugar snap peas had been cleared. Now the first has matured and will go into a medley of vegetables in a borlotti bean stew. The stew will showcase all the vegetables that are presently being harvested; onions, potatoes, carrots, beans, aubergines, courgettes, tomatoes, celery, black kale and the small cauliflower.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Winter salad

A very autumnal morning, with swirls of mist and a heavy dew. The outdoor lettuces will withstand some cold and even a touch of frost but there are salads to guarantee pickings throughout the winter and early spring.

If you don't have a polytunnel a cloche will provide some protection but under cover you should be able to harvest salads in all but the coldest weather. I was picking mixed leaves from early February this year, once the frost had left the polytunnel, and the lowest temperature I had recorded in the tunnel had been minus 19C.

Seeds of winter varieties of lettuce need to be sown now, I sow in a seed tray and prick out into modules. It enables me to grow good sized plants to plant out once space becomes available. Lambs lettuce can be sown direct as can rocket. Mizuna and spinach are extremely hardy and fast growing, again best sown direct, together with the different varieties of mustard.

Pak choi and other Chinese vegetables can also be sown now and I have found them capable of withstanding even the snow outside, though rather difficult to pick then!

Young kale leaves also make an interesting addition to salads, Red Russian, is probably one of the best and very attractive too. It gets my vote as one of the tastiest soft kales, with Black Tuscan being better for more robust cooking, stews etc.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011


If, like me, you are no great fan of green tomato chutney now is the time to start taking action.

I sow my tomatoes early and by the time they are being sold in April/May they are beginning to flower. This ensures an early crop and this year my tomatoes, despite a cold May and June, began to produce (in the polytunnel) in June. They have been steadily cropping since but are eager to produce more. This they must not do. These later tomatoes will not ripen and will slow down the ripening of the ones which have set. Time to be ruthless and remove new flowering trusses as they emerge. Let the plants concentrate on the tomatoes they have already set. Feeding is not important now, and personally I only remove leaves that are showing disease or dying back. Later you can defoliate to increase ripening but where tomatoes are still being formed the leaves provide the sugars necessary for their growth.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Onions and shallots

'Toughball' harvested in June from September sowing.

For a number of years now I have been growing onions and shallots from seed.

Why? Because the seed is often cheaper than the sets, you get more seed, and I enjoy sowing from seed. I have also found that the shallots are bigger and the onions tend not to bolt.

This year my saved onion seed didn't germinate well so I bought some onion sets, rather late too. They have produced a crop, but with the dry start to the year and the damp summer the crop is not brilliant.

The shallots however have been fantastic. The seed, Ambition, germinated well and I did two sowings. One group were planted out in what seems to be a damper part of the patch and produced shallots almost the size of my fist! They have a lovely sweet flavour. The other group are smaller but will keep better. We only finished the last of the previous year's crop as I began to pull this year's crop.

I also grow autumn onions for an early crop in June. Last year I sowed Toughball, not as the seed supplier directed but in my usual way, in a pot and pricked out into modules. They were sown in September and looked very small as winter started. I only grow in the polytunnel and good job too with the snow we had! They made it through the winter and romped away in the spring forming good solid large bulbs. They were so successful that I have recently made a sowing of the remaining seed (if it fails to germinate I should have time to order some fresh seed). I cannot direct sow into the polytunnel as it remains too crowded until the summer crops have been harvested, and I have never found direct sown onions or shallots to be successful.


'Albigensian' harvested July from outdoor crop.

A fantastic garlic crop this year both indoors and out.

Red Sicilian was grown in the polytunnel and was harvested at the end of June. The bulbs have been left to dry in the polytunnel but we have also been using them. The crop was followed with some young purple sprouting broccoli which is now making healthy sized plants, they will ensure we get a crop no matter the weather.

Outdoors I grew Albigensian, from my own saved cloves, and have had a successful crop of large bulbs, harvested in July as the foliage went yellow. Again drying in the polytunnel they are about to be stored in a cool dark place. The space they left behind was cleared and now has a selection of lettuces.

Last year as I harvested the bulbs I discovered that a number, particularly Early Purple Wight, had bulblets on the stem. These I removed and planted around the sides of shallow pots. When they began to sprout they were planted in their groups, but without the pots, in a spare part of the polytunnel. They produced this year either small bulbs with individual cloves, or large single cloves/bulbs. These singles will be planted outside this October. The others will be eaten!

As the Albigensian have produced bulblets I have done the same again. A useful way of increasing the crop!

What's happening now?

Seed saving. It is always with some reluctance that I start taking seed from crops. It is a recognition that the autumn harvest is beginning and winter will follow.

Saving your own seed is worthwhile if, like me, you otherwise would end up spending large sums of money with seed suppliers each year. Many vegetables produce quantities of good seed which are viable and produce the same variety next year. Presently I am drying Oregon Sugar Snap peas, an excellent cropper both in the polytunnel and outdoors. Eaten as a mangetout or left to produce peas, I always take seed from pods that have gone over. Leave them to dry thoroughly in the greenhouse or a sunny windowsill then store, labelled, in an airtight box in a cool place.

I keep my seeds in a plastic tub with sachets of silica, to absorb any moisture, and the seed will keep in many cases for a number of years.

Broad bean seed is still on the plant, but harvest the pods as they wither and blacken before damp weather causes rot.

An autumn start

The approach of autumn may not be an obvious place to start, however this is the time to take stock or to make plans for next year's kitchen garden.

I have a dedicated vegetable patch, about 10 metres square, divided into 4 parts for potatoes; legumes (peas and beans); an onion and carrot bed; and the brassicas (cabbages, kale, broccoli etc.). I also have a polytunnel for tender crops and to extend the growing season, and a greenhouse for propagation.

Despite many people thinking not much will grow this far north, I and many others, find that most vegetables will crop well and that we can produce plenty of variety over a long period of time, especially when polytunnels are also involved.

My aim here is to encourage others to have a go and pass on my own experience, highs and lows.