The Real Seed Catalogue

March 24, 2011 § 1 Comment

If you’ve never visited the Real Seed Catalogue its worth a look. We grow around 10 of their cultivars, Napia Early Pointy sweet pepper and Verde Marchigiano cauliflower being the most popular. Their business ethos, general information and seed saving instructions are excellent.

Here are a few of their newer cultivars which we are trialling this year and all going well selling via our website next year:

‘Wautoma’ Cucumber
An excellent cucumber from the breeding program at the University of Wisconsin in the 1980’s, this was recommended to us by cucumber expert Robert Bruns. It can either be used small for pickles or left to grow for use as a slicing cucumber.

The plants set many lightly striped dark green fruit , with tiny white spines that come off easily. We got an awful lot of cucumbers off this one!

Quick to set fruit, bitter-free, and Robert says it resists nearly all known cucumber diseases. (anthracnose, angular leaf spot, CMV, DM, PM, & scab!)

You can grow it indoors or out, and we think it’ll be quite a few years before we find anything that can even come near it in terms of yield or reliability. We grow huge numbers outdoors here in Wales with no trouble at all.

Provide some support outdoors, under cover quite happy on the ground.

Parisian Pickling’ Cucumber
A proper gherkin-type cucumber with a long history – selected in the 1800’s for the cooler northern climate of Paris when cucumbers became fashionable in the city – other ‘southern types’ just couldn’t crop reliably that far north.

It is a very reliable, early and productive cucumber, making lots of fruit with no fuss, even outdoors in the UK. It used to be grown as a pickling cucumber (picked small as ‘cornichons’) – but we find it also works well letting it get bigger for use in salads.

You would of course need to peel it if you let it get huge or over-ripe (like any cucumber), but the skin is just fine to eat up to a normal size, so this a good choice if you only have room for one type of cucumber, but want pickles as well as salad.

We used lots in salad this summer.


Originally collected from Geza Korbely in Hungary in 2001, this is a great early sweet pepper.

Hungary has a tradition of early sweet peppers, and this one was given to us by pepper-collector Sharon Vadas-Arendt in response to our request for the best early-season peppers she knew of.

The flavour is great, and it has large (3” x 6”) sweet & juicy yellow fruit that ripen to orange.

“Thelma Sanders Sweet Potato”

This is a great Acorn Squash we have added. Acorn squash have a good flavour, and we have been trying various types to find one suitable for the UK climate.

We are really pleased to have come up with this one which is much earlier than the others, producing lots of squash even in short summers.

The pale heart-shaped fruit are pointy and have gentle fluting down the sides. When mature, you can simply cut them in half and bake in the oven. (Though of course there are other options for the experts – Kate’s mother once made a very fine acorn-squash soufflé!)

Originally collected by Tom & Sue Knoche in Ohio, USA.

Very productive. Remarkably long-keeping too.

Grushovka (Early dual-use type) WEB SPECIAL
This is a really good producer of big pink tomatoes – halfway between a plum and an ox-heart type – with an excellent flavour.

Compact plants grow to around 3 or 4 foot tall and are easy to manage.

The heart-shaped fruit are shocking pink. A bit like a plum tomato – good for sauces, but also very pretty in salads, or for making a lurid pink gazpacho soup.

Medium sized blocky fruit, very tasty . Tall Bush .

Just a very few packets grown this year by John Wheeler in Pembrokeshire.

plant picture


‘Rainbow’ Quinoa

Quinoa is a high-protein grain you can easily grow at home. It is cooked just like rice, and as well as tasting nice, it is rich in lysine, giving a good nutritional balance to your meal.

This is a diverse population of different colours all selected for an open flower-shape that sheds water easily and helps grow good seed even in slightly damper climates (like, for example, the west coast of Wales where we are . . .)

Note that at first you might question the name – we certainly did to start with. As it starts to grow, it seems to be just different shades of green. But wait patiently! As the seed ripens, they do indeed go all different colours, making an impressive display.

It did very well this year, reaching about 6 feet tall by the end of July, even despite a cold windy spring. The plants flower in July/August, and seed is ready in Sept/Oct.

Bred for home gardeners.

Descriptions and images courtesy the Real Seed Catalogue.

Advertisements Joy Larkcom

March 24, 2011 § 1 Comment

By Francine Raymond

Without a shadow of doubt, Joy Larkcom has had more effect on the way we grow and eat salads and vegetables than all the celebrity chefs put together.

Often described as the original hunter gatherer, Joy studied horticulture at Wye, and her academic background encouraged her to dig deep — everything she writes has been researched in depth. She writes about what she knows and what she has grown.

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A quick note on bolting

March 18, 2011 § Leave a comment

Bolting is when a plant produces flowers prematurely. In the vegetable garden this is most commonly seen in mid to late summer with plants like lettuce and spinach. Day length and light intensity are natural triggers for flowering in plants and of course lettuce and spinach are cool weather short season (short daylength) crops.

Plants also bolt as a survival mechanism: if they think they are not going to live very long even very young plants will try to produce a flower to produce seed, even if day length is optimal.

Here is a Palla Rossa lettuce beginning to flower. This extending of the central portion of the plant is characteristic of heading lettuce:

Note the following:

Plant is very healthy so not bolting in response to ‘survival issues’;

Bright, sunny day implies mid-summer day lengths …

… we can conclude the person who planted it put it in the ground at the wrong time. I can confirm she did. I can also confirm said plant tasted like an old boot.

As soon as most of the brassica, celery, root vegetables, lettuce and most soft herbs flower proper they lose flavour and texture. Picked within a few days of the first signs of flowering they won’t taste too bad, though in some cases it might be better to leave the plant flower; appreciate its beauty, maybe use a few flowers as garnishes and/or collect seed from it.

The broccoli in the image below is a few days to a week past optimal harvest date- you can see that a few of the florets are about to open into yellow flowers.

Conversly some cultivars have an improved flavour if left to flower- purple chuy sum (a flowering brassica), kailaan chinese stem broccoli and some kales, for example.

Bolt resistant varieties take longer to develop a seed stalk and so focus on vegetative growth for longer, but there is no guarantee that bolting will not occur. Managing environmental factors (see below) will mitigate if not eliminate the likelihood of bolting in vegetable crops.

Watering regularly and shading from the sun is key to keeping cool weather crops happy if you’re growing them out of season. See companion and inter-planting for some ideas on how to create shady conditions in your garden.

A very comprehensive guide to beating the bugs

March 15, 2011 § Leave a comment

I found this on an old memory stick, its a 130 page e-book published in 2005 by the Sustainable Agriculture Network (US based) called ‘Manage Insects on your Farm: A Guide to Ecological Strategies’ (click here to read it)

When I say its comprehensive, I do mean comprehensive. I recall reading it in summer 2006 and feeling distinctly smug to be in possession of such a battleplan.

The Veggie Patch Re-imagined – A fine blog!

March 15, 2011 § 5 Comments

I’ve added a noteworthy blog to the blog roll. Its a really lovely blog with a mildly formiddable back catalogue of interesting articles. I learn so much  from this blogger.

The Veggie Patch Re-imagined garden is in Ottawa- check it out!

Here is a sample post that I particularly like entitled ‘Seed Starting – an irreverant primer’:

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Seed Starting – an irreverant primer

I am going to pause the exposé of rot to write something timely for us gardeners. Just when winter is at its bleakest, we open packages of promise and start to sow. My guide to breaking the rules.

Tomato plant ready for outdoor living.

1. Don’t start your plants too EARLY!

No! Stop! Don’t plant cucumbers now! It’s bad! They might eat your house! Or at least scare the children with their weak, limp tendrils growing cave-light pale on your window sill. It’s true, unless I had a fancy greenhouse, I wouldn’t start cukes this early. It is way easier to sow in direct in the garden or to start in transplantable containers a couple weeks before setting out. However, I start strawberries in early winter and some plants need months of stratification to break dormancy so I sow them in the fall. This rule is mainly aimed at getting people in short season areas to start their tomatoes in April, or late March at the earliest, rather than in February.

I’ll cop to planting tomatoes in February one year. You know, earliest possible last frost date of the beginning of May minus eight weeks gives you March so last week of February sounded reasonable. They did fine. The problem, as I see it, is if you are growing a tomato that tends to crop all at once such as determinates, then you might get a flush of flowers on your root confined seedlings, lowering your yield. There are even tomato varieties that are bred to withstand low indoor light, such as Red Robin, that will hopefully give you fruit in the dead of winter!

So when do I start seed? All year.

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Soil secrets of ‘carbon neutral’ Welsh farm – Green Living – Go Green – WalesOnline

March 10, 2011 § 1 Comment

Soil secrets of ‘carbon neutral’ Welsh farm – Green Living – Go Green – WalesOnline.

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