Thursday, 27 January 2011

Dreaming of summer whilst placing my 2011 seed order

I made a leek, kale (both off the plot) and potato soup and Nigella's chocolate chip cookies on Thursday night.

Then on Friday morning I made a rice pudding, because I had a pint of gold top milk to use up.  So that was Friday's evening meal sorted, as I never have much time to cook on Fridays anymore due to volunteering at the shop.  Which is a shame, as I enjoyed cleaning the house all day, then cooking up a wholesome meal and pudding.  It made me feel quite housewifey, which was nice.

I went to the shop's first Business and Finance sub-group meeting on Friday afternoon, I wasn't really looking forward to the meeting as I thought it was going to be very serious but it was OK.  I volunteered to be on the group because I'd like to learn more about financial monitoring and planning and putting together funding applications.  We also discussed placing monthly bulk wholefood orders, for people who use large quantities of lentils etc (not me - yet!).

I nipped into the wool shop and bought some more braid at 40p a bundle.

I also bought some more fabric off the market.

Steve's been enjoying sleeping on my fabric stash.

It was my friend Emma's birthday on Saturday and we met up and went for a curry.  I ordered a chicken tikka garlic chilli curry.  I'd finished the curry and I thought I'd eat half a chilli just to see how hot it was.  Well, it was the hottest chilli I've ever had and it completely blew my head off!  I thought I was going to embarrass myself by not being able to handle it, I had to keep swilling water around my mouth and hoping no one would notice!  It was unbearably hot!  The rest of the food was really tasty though.

For Emma's birthday present we bought her a tomato greenhouse and seeds, a chocolate Faith in Nature gift set, some Landlife teasle seeds and some healing incense.  I also made her a tote bag and Chris made her a wooden box.  I baked Mary Berry's best ever chocolate fudge cake (great recipe) for Emma's birthday cake and Chris iced it.

For the rest of the weekend I pretty much chilled out and didn't do much other than my seed orders.

I've ordered seeds for all the chillies recommended by Thomasina Miers in her Mexican Food Made Simple cookbook.

We've already got the free Serrano chilli seeds that our friends Andrea and Dan got from Thomasina's Mexican restaurant Wahaca (did I mention I'm vaguely related to Thomasina, my brother in law is her cousin).  I'm especially looking forward to growing the Ancho Poblan chillies, as I haven't been able to get dried ones anywhere and they're referenced in lots of Mexican recipes, and I also ordered some Chill de Arbol seeds.  I got the chilli seeds off Nicky's Nursery's website.  Seeing as I was placing an order I also ordered some other seeds, including spearmint to make tea with, some honesty seeds and some dog violet seeds.  Jenny (my allotment neighbour) grows honesty on her plot and I'm always envious of the circular dried seed pods the plant produces.  I spotted dog violet growing wild down the allotment last year, and I loved how pretty and delicate it looked.

I also placed a seed order with Thompson and Morgan.  I got some more Sungold tomato seeds as these were by far the best tomato variety I grew last year.  In fact, I think I'd be quite happy with a greenhouse solely full of Sungold seeing as they tasted so delicious, and COMPLETELY different to shop bought tomatoes.  I also ordered some Rosado tomato seeds and Cucino cucumber seeds, an all female F1 variety that produce mini cukes suitable for small families, both which were recommended on Gardener's World last year.  I would never grow a non-all female cucumber again, as it was lots of faff last year pulling off the male flowers, especially as cucumbers grow like triffids when planted in the greenhouse border soil.  They're prickly plants too, so the less handling you have to do the better.  Last year I must have missed pulling off some male flowers and a few cucumbers were bitter. I also ordered some trailing viola and some chilli Padron (Spanish tapas chilli, which can be grilled and served with salt.  Apparently they're mostly mild, but 1 in 10 chillies will be firey hot, adding a Russian roulette element to the dish).  I got a voucher for £5 to spend on Thompson and Morgan seeds but when I tried to use the voucher on their website it wouldn't work.  So I emailed Thomposon and Morgan to let them know the £5 voucher didn't work.  I also complained about the poor performance of three varieties of their seeds that I sowed last year - viola sweeties, heliotrope dwarf marine and narsturtium cobra. They got back to my email straight away to say sorry, and issued me a £5 refund and said they would send me replacements for the 3 packs of seeds that didn't do well.  So I thought that was nice of them. Hopefully the seeds will perform better this year.  I did manage to get one heliotrope plant last year and it smelt gorgeously like cherry pie.  One plant isn't enough though, I need a whole army of them making my garden smell like cherry pie.

Chris went into Wilkinson's and got me a 6 pack tomato seed collection by Johnsons.  Keith sowed these last year and he had some amazing and impressive looking tomatoes in his polytunnel.  The 6 pack cost £3.99, but I didn't think it was too bad for 6 types of seeds.

I also ordered some seeds off DT Brown.  I ordered a calendula mix, some pot marigold, and a basil mix.  I'll plant these amongst the tomatoes.  The basil will be nice to eat with the toms, and the marigold/calendulas will help to attract beneficial insects and hopefully keep away whiteflies.  I got some rainbox mix chrysanthemums and some petit pois seeds, as Chris said he loves petit pois.   I also got some habanero seeds and some chocolate tomato seeds, which I couldn't resist because you can't get them in the shops and they're apparently full of anti-oxidants.

And that was that for online seed ordering.  I'll probably need to pick up a few more seeds from Wilkinsons, but I've still got 3 tubs full of  seeds to use up from last year.  My seed stash is pretty impressive/obsessive.

This year I'm trying to grow things that you can't buy in the shops, or that are very expensive to buy, for example rhubarb.  I'm really looking forward to being able to crop the rhubarb we planted last year.  Last year we could only pick a small amount, to give the crowns chance to settle in, but this year we can pick as much as we like.  The baby rhubarb shoots have already started to appear, little pink stems with a green leaf on top.  I love rhubarb crumble and I might make rhubarb jam this year.  Rhubarb is meant to be very good at flushing out toxins from your system, and I like to drink the juice after it's been stewed.  My mum always saved me the stewed warm apple and rhubarb juice when I was little.

I want to try and make the garden easier to manage this year and I don't want to waste time and effort growing things we won't eat.  I need to keep things low maintenance.  Some crops (e.g. brassicas) were lots of work last year, and I wasn't over keen on the end result.  Things like sweet pea are gorgeous, and it wouldn't be summer without them, but a full fence takes lots of maintenance picking flowers (especially when I can't access part of the fence and have to lean over a flower border without falling into it).  Pansies and violas are great but they need to be deheaded or else they stop flowering and go to seed.  So I just need to be more clever about what I plant and where I plant it.

I know not to sow seeds too early this year, or else you end up with a greenhouse full of tender plants that all need planting out, but you can't plant them outside because the risk of frost hasn't passed.  I also know which seeds grow quickly (e.g. runner beans and squash grow like wildfire) and which seeds grow slowly (e.g. chillies and aubergine need to go in very early in order to get a long cropping season before the autumn frosts arrive), so this will be a big help when scheduling this year's seed sowing.  I also need to sow seeds direct into the soil this year, as that saves a lot of repotting later on.  If you follow this blog I'll give you a blow by blow account of all the seeds I'm sowing, so you can follow along if you need help with your planting schedule.  Please also feel free to ask me any questions.

I take back everything I said about liking winter.  I wish it was summer all year.  I miss the colourful flowers and scents, late summer evenings, al fresco dining and picnics, and bright summer mornings.  I long to wear (homemade) skirts and sandles and strappy tops and no coat.  I want to feel the hot sun burn my skin.  OK, the burden of watering, weeding, feeding and deheading remains, but it's a pleasant burden, and it gives me an excuse to be outside in the fresh air.  I hope we get a nice hot summer (with no hosepipe ban like last year).

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