Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Broad bean (Fava bean) landrace year two

I was originally planning to plant garlic in most of these beds, but garlic ideally goes in on the shortest day of the year which I think is still a month away.  Broad beans however, when planted in the Autumn, are I am told best sprouted and a couple of inches high by the first frosts.  But not high enough to flower.  Last year I think I got them a bit late, and the odd seed popped out of the soil as the frosts hit them.

All of these beds are pre-existing ones, except for the one on the right with the stones alongside it.  Those stones came out of the ground as I was digging it.  There are two rows of two bean varieties in the two larger beds (front right and front left), and one row of two varieties in each of the three long beds behind.

The beds were not amended with anything other than a covering layer of home-made compost, and were prepared solely by breaking up the soil after removing the grass/weeds that had grown over them since Spring or whenever whatever was in them was harvested.  Two beans are planted together at each spot along each row, and the weakest will be either transplanted or discarded.  I used the English RHS planting recommendations, which I think were 60cm between double rows, and around 23cm between each of the rows in the double rows, and 20 cm between each planting in along a row.

Broad bean, Landrace - 2016-05-04 - 01 - Beds prepared and planted'

The selection criteria for now is whatever grows best, given no fertilisation other than the compost.  And as this is the second year all these varieties (around 10) have been grown alongside, there should ideally be some visible sign of cross-pollination.  Of course, they were completely neglected last year, so hopefully there was some cross-pollination.  In any case, I came out of last year with more seed than went into it, so it wouldn't be a complete loss if cross-pollination between varieties is poor.

I'm hoping to find the time to get a paint brush and hand-pollinate maybe the first five plants in each row, perhaps as a limited but doable experiment that doesn't require too much time investment.

Monday, 9 May 2016

Apple butter revisited

Gave away a jar of apple butter today, and we all tried a bit.  I have to say I was pleasantly surprised, as it was a thick spreadable paste with a strong tangy flavour.  Everyone liked it.  Of course, I dumped a lot of sugar into the pot in order to give it a better chance at preservative qualities, and in theory I think there could be a kilogram of sugar between two jars - which was not so appealing.

Either I need to get a sweet apple variety, which does not require added sugar, or to work out the repercussions of not adding sugar to the less sweet varieties.

If you're thinking of making apple butter, I'd recommend giving it a go.  In theory it's a shelf stable preserve that does not require pectin for it to set.  Really, really simple to make.

Green Mountain Potato Onion

I quite like the idea of potato onions, as I understand them.

There are crops which are grown by giving people vegetables to replant, like potatoes for instance, where rather than getting seed to grow, you get given pre-grown tubers to plant, which sprout and grow more tubers.

One of these crops, is the potato onion.  From what I understand it was rare for them to go to seed, and seed just wasn't available.  Then they went to seed for one guy somewhere in the states, and he saved the seed, and gave some away or sold it.

Normally, when you plant a onion seed, it grows one onion.  So you need to plant at least as many seeds as you want to have onions to harvest.  The potato onion however, once it has grown, is supposed to split into multiple bulbs per plant.

I got sent some potato onion seed, which was imported from the USA via Australia.  I've grown out around 22 seedlings, which can be seen below.  This was a germination test, but I planted them out for the same of it and it can't hurt to see if they survive the upcoming Winter.  The green allium in the foreground is garlic chives.

Potato onion, Green Mountain - 2016-05-04 - 01

I plan to plant out a lot more in the Spring, with the intent of getting some to go to seed, so I can expand the amount of seed I have.