I've been loving this extended settled weather, we have had lots of sunshine and calm days with a bit of rain here and there. There has been the odd cold night but until this week not really that winter chill. Looking at the weather forecast though looks like that could soon change. But in other words its been almost perfect weather and my cut flower patch has been reinvigorated with a second flush of flowering by many of the annuals which were flagging a bit. Having cut them back quite hard I've had second flushes of Calendula's and Californian poppies, also from Nigella and the vibrant blue Clary sage. Then there are some flowers that have just gone on and on, like the Scabious and Cosmos, they have been fabulous. I've also grown a lovely single Dahlia this year which has been vibrant and flowered well with the Cosmos. It is called 'Bright Eyes' which I bought from Sarah Raven.
Regarding the veggies on my plot I've planted my overwintering onions which have all got going well. I'm growing the red onion 'Electric' and then a variety called 'Senshu Yellow' both reliable and easy to grow. They can look a bit battered after a hard winter especially if we have snow but a bit of a extra feed of fish, blood and bone in the spring soon gets them going again. I'm wondering whether to even bother with a maincrop onion next year as these last well for me too and with my shallots I have onions to last me all year almost. The garlic is in the ground too. I'm growing some more elephant garlic and then two other varieties which I'm not sure of the cultivar names now. I'm just splitting some of the garlic that I grew myself this year rather than buying in a new bulb. I need to look back and get their names though as I've been a bit neglectful at labelling. Here are the onions growing either side of my parsnips, again an unnamed variety collected from a plant that was allowed to seed. They were nice big parsnips and the great thing about collecting seed is you have loads and can sow lots of this sometimes difficult to germinate crop. I plan to allow one of these to flower and set seed again as parsnip seed doesn't keep very well.
I've also been harvesting some cauliflowers, now I've often struggled with this as a crop and I know lots of people do. I often get the white curd developing but then it gets damaged or goes off-coloured. They often need protecting by folding the leaves around to protect the developing head. Anyway this year I tried a variety called 'Di Sicilia Violetto' from Suttons which I bought in the half price seed sale at my local garden centre. It is, as its name suggests, a variety from Sicily and is said to be winter hardy. It is said to produce side shoots after you pick the main head so I will see if any develop. I've found this a lot easier but maybe that is because we have had good weather when the curd was developing. Anyway, I've still got a few more to come, the florets turn green when cooked. I will hopefully grow this variety again next year
In the Brassica bed I still have some calabrese 'Marathon' which I'm still harvesting the side shoots from. I also have some sprouts, I've grown the purple sprouts that I grew last year, though these have stayed very short this year and I'm not sure why. I'm also trialling a new crop called Flower Sprouts, which are a cross between a Brussel sprout and kale. These have grown well and are just starting to develop the 'sprouts', so more about these later in the year.
Another winter crop are leeks and they are doing well, though I've not got as many as I'd normally grow as they got eaten by slugs in the seed tray! But I managed to salvage some. These are a heritage variety called 'Walton Mammoth' which I'm loving the blueness of. I often get some rust on my leeks but these look to be clear of that which is great, they've certainly developed quickly into a thick stem as I was a bit late transplanting these this year. I must write about my experimenting with a few Heritage varieties this year.
So things are looking set for a good crop of vegetables over the winter though one crop that I'm really missing this year is Kale, I usually have a few varieties but I especially love the Cavolo Nero variety. But the slugs put paid to my whole crop this year which is really frustrating and with everything going on this year I wasn't organised enough at the time to resow. Oh well you win some and you lose some.
The nasturtiums continue to take over and hide my pile of cutdown thick stems from last season. There is a mix of varieties now from vibrant orange to dark brown, and look so lovely when backlit my sunshine with dewdrops glistening.
I'm making the most of them as with the frosts forecast for this week I fear they will soon be gone.