Saturday, 22 June 2013

My turnips have gone to seed - post 3

Back in the summer of 2011, I was trying to grow turnips in containers.  I disappeared for a week's holiday and when I returned the turnips went to seed and flowered.  It was probably due to the lack of watering in a week that had triggered this - growing in a pot they don't get as much moisture and I think they need cool, slightly damp soil.

Last summer, I grew turnips directly in the earth and I was blessed with some beautiful golf ball sized roots - they were so nice I ate them raw in thin slices in a salad.

In conclusion, I would suggest that turnips do not grow well in pots but love to grow in open ground so if you have a small urban container garden with some flower border edging - plant them in the flower borders!

The flowering veg plot

I love nothing more than giving plants the room to do their thing with a little bit of natural abandon.

I think its a bit along the lines of permaculture - but I still dig ground over now and again before I plant my garlic bulbs or sew some seeds in a bed and I only grow a few perennial edibles so I don't quite think I'm one of the perma crowd set yet.

What I like to do is allow my veg to self seed.  My first motivation for this was to save my own seed as I became more and more of a Heritage Seed Library addict.  So I like to encourage my plants to flower and seed and it makes the veg plot look beautiful!  My favourites have to be the umbellifereae flowers of the parsnips, carrots and parsley.  Brassica flowers can look very bold with their bright yellows.

Right now in mid June, the veg in full flower is kale, kai lan, parsnip, parsley, chives, broad beans
and soon I will have radish (followed by their tasty radish pods), salsify, amaranthus, pea flowers, bean flowers, garlic scapes, egyptian walking onion flowers and if I'm lucky the globe artichokes.

Since I've been letting my kales flower at abandon I've been spotting ragged jack kale sprouting up all over the place.  Performing its very own crop rotation.  Eventually when its self seeded enough around the plot I will dig over the bed where I've been growing the kale and grow something completely different.  By then I'm sure I'll have kale growing where it wishes in different spots around the plot.

I have this idea that when a plant germinates naturally it will germinate earlier and at more optimum conditions with a longer growing season than when I deem it safe and warm enough to plant the seed direct.  I first starting thinking about this when I found things germinating from seed that got into my wormery compost.  When I found it particularly hard to germinate seeds I started to chuck those difficult ones in the wormery so that when I used the compost on the patch I would get seedlings springing up randomly.

I really enjoy this type of veg patch - its relatively low effort a little like helping nature along and guiding it with your choice of what you want to grow rather than you physically cultivating it.  Its not completely easy gardening - you do need to manage the weeds you don't want growing in your plot.

There are some seeds I will always plant myself such as peas and garlic but wouldn't it be wonderful if the carrot and parsnip flowers self seed across the plot and I get some surprise roots growing in a new place.  The weeding will be such an adventure of discovering new seedling gifts from my flowering veg plot.

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Grandpa's strawberries

Back when I moved to my Tooting garden in 2008 I took some baby strawberry plants from my Grandfather's garden.  He'd recently passed away and it was nice to have a little something that had been nurtured by him growing in my container garden.

Now strawberries do best with space to crawl about and send their runners out in all directions but I had a container garden so these poor strawberries had to survive in a pot and I kept encouraging the runners back into the same pot.  To be fair I didn't get many strawberries but the ones I got I savoured.  I even fed them worm compost.

So since 2008 these strawberries have been soldiering on but not doing much except making runners.

I realise the school of thought is to throw plants away every 3 or 4 years and replenish but I couldn't part with these plants - they were my grandfather's afterall.  So the last few years I've been concentrating on feeding the runners into new pots to establish new plants from Grandpa's parent plants.

This year I had a lovely surprise... From Grandpa's original plants I have some  nice big flowers and promise of fruit.  I don't quite know how this has happened. Maybe its because I moved the plants back closer to their original home when I brought them to my current garden in Birmingham (grandpa's garden was in Oswestry, Shropshire).  Maybe it was our harsh winter.  Maybe it's because a borage plant grew in the same pot as the strawberries last summer and as it shrivelled away last autumn it fed the strawberry plants.

Whatever the reasons I'm going to celebrate the fact that Grandpa's strawberries are flowering on plants that should by all rights be well past their best!