Life in Crouch End, bikes, trying to be green and other randomness

Archive for vegetables

Asparagus, Broad beans and Garlic

Very little can be started off in the veggie plot at this time of year – but there are a few things that can get started, that like the cold and provide some winter joy. Asparagus isn’t one of them, but this is a good time of year to plant crowns of asparagus. These are young plants of one year, which can be transplanted live and replanted in another plot.  This is very much a long term effort. Although some tasty stems will grow next year, they must be left to add strength to the plants, meaning that in 2009 we should have a good crop of purple asparagus. In the mean time it is important to feed the plants as much as possible. I dug in lots of manure beneath the crowns before planting them – which should nourish the young shoots. I’m then going to inter-plant some broad-beans in the bed. As these are legumes, when they have died back in may/june their roots will be full of nitrogen, as they decay below ground this Nitrogen is released by bacteria into the soil.

There are other crops that are still in the soil that are overwintering are parsnips, cabbages, kale and broccoli. With some luck some of my Swiss Chard will survive too. I’m trying to overwinter some chilli plants and aubergines in little pots.

The best thing I’ve discovered so far for winter is garlic – i ordered a mixed set of planting garlic from the Isle of Wight garlic farm – from which I’ve planted about 80 cloves, each of which should end up as 80 bulbs between May and August. There are seven different varieties – so they should be ready to lift at different times. In the mean time they push up green shoots , not unlike leeks (same family!) which give some green to the bleak winter garden.


Onion Selling Frenchman

On Friday at around 5pm there was a man stood by a bicycle in crouch end outside Woolworths, on the bike were bunches on onions and shallots. There was a small notice on the bike saying “stop me and buy one” so i did. The man had a ridiculously thick French accent, which led me to think he wasn’t actually French, but regardless he has plaited bunches of shallots and pink sweet onions for sale for £2. I bought some shallots, and very nice they are too (here they are hanging in my kitchen). No one else i know has seen him there before – did anyone else stop and buy onions? I should have taken his picture, but it was Friday night, I wanted to get home….but Paul kindly has taken a picture and put it on his site!.Shallots



Kids have been wandering the streets in Halloween garb, there were fantastic fireworks at Alexandra Palace last night – this is the time of year when you get some amazing winter squash and pumpkins. There were some incredible huge examples at Borough Market on Saturday – some of these are the size of a small child!

Different Veg

These are white carrots, Kuttiger carrots, which I decided to try as an alternative to orange carrots. I’ve decided that this is going to be my approach with the majority of the stuff I try to grow, if you can buy it in Tescos I’m not interested – variety is the spice of life! These have a wonderful taste, a bit like a cross between a carrot and a parsnip. That might just be my mind telling me that because they look like parsnips.

Very Local Food

It doesn’t get much more local than this – Central Hornsey and District allotments and horticultural society are having a produce sale at their annual show at the Moravia Hall on Priory Road at 2pm on Saturday September 8th – I’m definitely going to take a look in!

CHADAHS Annual Show

The Annual Show for the Central Hornsey and District Allotments and Horticultural Society takes place on Saturday September 8th, at the Moravian Church Hall in Priory Road, N8, on the corner of Redston Road, close to the lower entrance to Alexandra Palace (buses 144, W3 and W7). See below for a form if you wish to enter one or more things you have grown or made.

The Show is one of the largest in London and is now in its 58th year and more popular than ever.

Along with exhibits of vegetables, fruit and flowers, arts and crafts and the children’s art competition, there will be plenty for visitors to enjoy all afternoon, from stalls selling plants, vegetables, flowers, honey, hand-made cards, to the exhibits of flowers, fruit and vegetables, plus artwork, and not forgetting the delicious teas with home-made cakes and the exciting End of Show Auction of produce of all sorts. All this plus a raffle, gardening quiz, tombola, caption competition and Guess the weight of the cake!

The Show starts at 2pm, prizes will be presented by the Mayor at 3.30pm, and ends with the Auction of cakes, fruit and flowers at 4.30pm. Entry is 30p.

After the rains

According to the RHS vegetable growing blog the hard part of the growing season – now its just maintenance and reaping the rewards. So it seems like an appropriate place to take stock of what has worked and what hasn’t. It is still raining and its still way too cold for August <grump grump>

Things in pots

Ok – this is more of a general thing than a specific crop – but this is one area where the hard work will be on going, with daily watering and regular feeds needed to keep the crops going. The heavy rains leached away alot of nutrients from the soil, so some of the hungrier plants have suffered a bit and are needing regular feeds.

Things that have worked

1. Garlic – wow – really easy, stick in it the ground in October – it loves being amongst the roses, and then pull it up when it is ready, it even tells you when – because it falls over and then turns brown – perfect. I’m going to get even more next year, so that my crop is spread through the year a bit more evenly. The Garlic farm on the Isle of Wight do a fantastic garlic lovers growing kit that contains no less than 8 varieties for £25. Considering i grew 500g from just 3 heads this year, thats alot of garlic potential!

2. Swiss Chard – lots of it and grown like a weed

Potatoes in buckets – really easy

Things with promise

3 Tomatoes – lots of them but only just ripening

4 – Courgettes, at least the ones in a big barrel are starting to fruit like mad

5 – cucumber – i started them late but there are lots of fruit on the vine i did put in

Things that didn’t work

6 Beans – mostly my bean plants have become slug food – the snails get past the copper tape with ease in this weather.

7 Broccoli – slug food!

8 Basil – been to cold

9 Aubergines – too cold – need to be under glass really

10 – chillis – ditto with aubergines – lots of slug food, rubbish in hanging baskets!

Container Vegetables

A challenge in a small urban space is to make the most of the area you have available for growing. This means growing things up walls, on widow sills, or improvising something else completely.  Hanging baskets hang from the most suprising places, and they have the added advantage of not getting too cold – at my last flat we had no outside space, but there was a dead satellite dish that was adept at carrying 2 hanging baskets without breaking sweat.

Here’s some of the things i’ve been trying:


This is a basket with a big bush tomato (Smadar i think – although annoyingly Garden organic don’t list them at the moment so i can’t link), a Hungarian Hot Wax pepper, severely nibbled by a slug the somehow managed to get into the mini bottle clotch (there’s a little shoot or recovery but it is slow progress). There’s also a little Cinnamon Basil seedling, this should help add some flavour to the tomato, and the three plants together are complimentary.

butternut seedling

This Butternut squash seedling in a patio pot is protected from snails with the copper tape around the base of the pot. The canes are for training the plant up. Amazingly butternut squashes are supposed to be good climbers, I only realised this last year when in a fit of boredom i had a look at the types of squash you can grow to eat…. last year the plants went in the soil, snaking between flower beds. The slugs and snails had a field day.


This is a window  box of salad. Quite excited about this because last year just a tiny pot of cut and come again salads produced loads of leaves, and this year we have about 3 of these on the go – plus some  odds and sods elsewhere. The leaves in this one are Rocket, Miznou, Corn Salad, and Giant Red Mustard. The thing that impressed me is how much more flavour the leaves have than shop or grocer bought.

Lastly the potatoes, they have come  along somewht since the last picture – i’m now having to remove flower buds from the top of the ones in the black bucket, so that they work more on producing tubers than flowers… not long until the first new potatoes – <fingers crossed very tight> cimg2165.jpg