Monday, 19 November 2012

Quinoa Quest

I have recently started volunteering at the wonderful site that is Urban Veg, a whole acre within the gorgeous Winterbourne Botanical Gardens.

With so much space and a patch of ground that needs a crop, I was inspired to suggest quinoa, rainbow quinoa to be exact.  I know Real Seeds can provide the seeds, I've never grown it before (so there's the adventure of growing something a bit different) and the idea of this multi coloured super food crop is both beautiful, nutritious and something I'm really eager to try.

So far I've been asking a few friends who've grown it before what they're experiences are.  Fiona (Viveka Gardens) said that it was OK to germinate but went really leggy before planting out despite putting tin foil underneath their pots (to try and counteract the leaning towards the light effect).  Fiona blogged about Quinoa earlier in the year.

At the Urban Veg garden on Sunday, we pondered over the instructions - puzzled as to why Realseeds suggest sowing seeds as late as May on the seed packet.

We wondered whether the reason was due to daylight sensitivity, after all they originate from the Andes.  Cool in temperature but quite close to the equator.

From my many recent twitter discussions (thank you to all who shared their experiences) I think it may be to avoid planting out very leggy, pale seedlings.

However, the scientist in me wants to run an experiment of planting a few seeds weekly from March (to test which is the best time to sow in the UK) and then plant out the best seedlings in final growing position in late May/early June depending on how favourable the weather is next summer.

In any case, when I start growing quinoa I'm sure my vast experience of growing chard will come into play as it is a fellow chenopod favouring similar growing conditions and an alkaline soil.

Any quinoa tips would be massively appreciated  before we venture into our very own quinoa experiment next Spring.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Preparing the garlic bed

Its way way time to plant my garlic.  I usually aim to do this in October, but we had a holiday away in Singapore and with the nights drawing in its hard to find time in the garden.

However, we had it today.  There was pleasant sunshine, if a little cold but a fair autumnal day all the same.

So I set myself to the task of preparing the beds for garlic and shallots.  I decided upon the spot where the peas grew this summer.  Some of the pea plants had not quite given up the ghost, but it's time for the garlic all the same.  Its unlikely the few flowers I spotted would materialise into peas.

Interestingly this year, peas were the most surprising of my veg plot survivors.  I planted them in April, they took a long time to appear as the ground was not warm (I thought the birds were stealing them but I'm pretty sure now it was the ground temperature preventing them from germinating) and then from July through to late September they just kept producing peas.  Usually the heat of July kills them off but as we had such a cool summer, they survived through the summer into autumn.  But today it was time to turn the soil to its next occupant.

The old pea shoots were added to the wormery for my worms to chew their way through and turn into wonderful worm casts.  Then I started to weed the bed.  The soil that the peas had been inhabiting now looks incredibly rich and loamy.  The weeds were easy to pull as the ground is nice and moist.  As I was weeding away, it made me think how much we get to know our soil from weeding.  The aromas, the weeds that succeed there, it tells us so much.

And what weeds was I finding in the soil today?  Well as the veg patch was a grassed over patch of earth some 6 months ago, there was plenty of grass.  There were also a few docks and their long tap roots and buttercups.  There was also the aroma of mushrooms and interestingly a strong aroma of carrots being pulled.  I have never planted anything from the carrot family there so can only assume that there was a wild member of the carrot growing away happily until I chose to weed.

I was not surprised to smell mushrooms as my garden seems to be full of them at the moment.  As to what kind, I have no idea as yet but I am eager to find a local mushroom foraging course and as soon as I know more I will be able to share. 

If you know of any Midlands based fungi foraging walks please do pass the details on to me.

As with usual gardening sessions in November, I started to lose the light and my fingers and toes started to get very cold so I only have 2 sections out of 3 prepared for my garlic and shallots but I am hoping for another fair afternoon tomorrow to get those bulbs planted in.