Raised beds

Filling a gap

So with harvesting the turnips we now have half a raised bed empty, the other half still has beetroot in. I had thought about planting some more carrots but J suggested that I kill two birds with one stone and transplant some of the cauliflowers that I needed to thin into the space. We will always use cauliflowers and they have the advantage of not needing to be picked straight away (you can cover the head over with the leaves and keep them in the ground for a while) so it seemed like a sensible decision. So this morning C and I dug some holes in our empty space, only about 7 along the row.

Then we watered the ground well and pulled up a few cauliflower plants from our existing over crowded bed and planted them soil all into their new homes.

I then gave them another quick water. C and I were then out for the rest of the day and I didn’t get to revisit the raised beds until gone 7:30pm. This was the sight which I found.

Not a good look. There has been a big heatwave in the UK this week so I’m guessing (hoping) they just need more water as they settle into their new home. Worst case scenario and they don’t take I can always pull them and plant some seeds before it gets too late. The heatwave is supposed to be ending tomorrow so maybe they’ll fair better then. Fingers crossed.

Raised beds

Pulling up the turnips

So unfortunately my excitement about planting turnips (and hence my sowing all the seeds at once) has come back to bite me squarely in the backside. For now all of my turnips are ready to harvest. At the same time. Unfortunately turnips aren’t the type of crop you can leave in the ground until ready as if they keep growing they end up rather woody and unpleasant to eat. So we have had to pick them. We’d already had about half a dozen picked the other week for when we had some friends come round for dinner. And have picked another 30+ now.

Now there are only so many turnips you can eat at once. Especially when the weather is as hot as it has been recently. So last night I peeled, diced and boiled a big pan full of them and mashed them up to freeze for future roast dinners when the weather cools down again. However, that still leaves me with about 20 to use. For the moment they are sitting in a bowl in my kitchen but I know that should only really be a short term home for them. I guess my afternoon will have to be spent googling “ways to cook and use up turnip”. One major plus point is that they do have a lovely delicate sweet flavour and I do really adore the taste. And if nothing else this abundance has taught me the importance of planting rows in succession to spread out the harvest!

Raised beds

Turnip seedling review 

So we are finally able to harvest our first crops of the season. We’ve just started to pull up our first crops from the raised beds – our turnips. The variety we planted was called ‘Purple Top Milan’ and we originally received the seeds from Grow Your Own magazine, which we subscribe to. I love turnip and reading the seed packet they seemed fairly easy to grow so they seemed ideal for a first time veggie grower. I was so sure that none of the seeds would take so I did end up sowing them rather thickly directly into the raised bed. The plan was to have two rows sown two weeks apart but as both C and I were a little over enthusiastic in our sowing we ended up planting both rows at once. 

A couple of weeks after they had started to sprout I thinned them. The above picture shows one row thinned and one row still to thin. The thinned seedlings went to the chickens as a lovely treat. On reflection, next year with more confidence in my ability I would try and sow my seeds less densely. 

I have sprinkled crushed egg shells around them as I have with most of our seedlings as a deterrent to slugs. Apart from that we have just watered them. We did a little weeding in the early days but very soon the foliage grew enough to prevent weed growth. 

This is them on the right, you can see how much their leaves have grown, this was a couple of weeks before we started picking.

Now turnips are best consumed when small and sweet – too large and they have a woody taste. So today we picked our first ones to serve with Sunday lunch as we had some friends over. They were delicious. We tried to pick fairly spaced out to give more room for the remaining ones to grow. We will get the rest of the harvest out in the next few weeks and then I’ll need to find something else to put in where they were. No idea what though. The turnips are definitely down on my to grow list for next year again!

Raised beds

Netting crops

As I’m sure I’ve already mentioned J spent lots of time planning the design of the raised beds. So as we have some strawberries now which are looking close to ripe, it has become essential to protect them from the birds. This is where J’s forward planning has really come into its own. When constructing the raised beds he attached these black quickcrop cormer brackets at each corner and halfway down the longest side as shown below. 

Then into these he inserted cut lengths of black 25mm water pipe in semicircles as shown below.

Then the net can be draped over these and secured to soil using pegs. That should keep the crops safe from birds but still easy enough to access for picking and weeding as required.


Raised beds

Salad wastage

I read an article the other week saying that 40% of bagged salad is thrown away in the UK each year (about 178 million bags). First of all I thought that it must be rubbish, I mean that is a huge figure. But then I started to think about it. As a household we try to avoid food wastage as much as possible, freezing leftovers and batch cooking etc but the other week we ended up throwing away a bag of salad that we’d bought for the BBQ and not used. Why did we end up throwing it away? Well firstly we had purchased too many bags of salad, secondly it didn’t fit with any of the meals we had planned and thirdly (and most important to the issue of food waste I feel) it wasn’t that fresh anymore. It was still within date (just) but it had gone all soggy and just didn’t look appetising. Now I don’t think this is down to our storage of it (we follow all packaging and storage guidance given on the product) or down to the retailer we buy from, rather I think this is a problem with salad leaves. They just don’t last that long. They are designed to be consumed fairly quickly after picking. And once gone past their best they aren’t really edible. 

So we are going to try and grow some salad leaves in our raised beds. Salad leaves are ridiculously easy to grow, require little attention, and can just be picked when needed, hopefully reducing waste. The cost of a packet of seeds is comparable to one to two bags of salad and the number of leaves produced per packet of seeds will be way more, most of the varieties I’ve planted will regrow and can be picked up to four times. Which means fresh salad and no waste. I had an abundance of salad seeds free from magazines so I’ve planted short rows of four different varieties. For us, if there are any excess leaves then they will be greatly appreciated by the chickens. The varieties we’re growing are Lambs Lettuce (Valentin), Mustard Leaves (oriental colour and bite), Spinach (Samish F1) and Lettuce Salad Bowl Red and Green mixed. They all look like the type of leaves we enjoy in our salads and so we should hopefully avoid waste. Any leaves which need to be picked but we can’t use ourselves can always go to the chickens as treats. 

Raised beds

Asparagus foliage 

So when I planted the asparagus I read that for the first year you are supposed to not cut the asparagus and let the foliage grow to build up strong roots. You may remember my debate at the time of our first spears appearing that I just couldn’t wait as I was desperate to try our first home grown asparagus with poached eggs. Well I’m glad I managed to resist as I can now see what asparagus foliage looks like. So what ends up happening as the asparagus is left to grow is that the tips which are so prized for their exquisite taste branch out so that the asparagus looks like miniature trees. So this is what asparagus being left to go to foliage looks like. It looks like every crown we planted has taken so hopefully we will have asparagus for years to come. 

Raised beds

Thinning seedlings

Yesterday I did my first thinning of the turnip seedlings. When I planted the seeds I did so rather thickly thinking that with my success rate of growing then I would be lucky to get any to sprout. However as luck would have it we have had a good number sprout and now they need to be thinned. Thinning just involves picking out seedlings to give the required gap between plants. C was very helpful in pulling out seedlings although needed some guidance about actually leaving some to grow. I will probably need to thin some more but it’s enough for a start to give the little turnips more room to grow. As an added bonus the thinned seedlings make a great treat for the chickens. The photo shows one row thinned and they other still to do.