Sunday, 14 September 2008

The Good , the Bad and The Runners up.

So, I'm starting to clear up from this season and look towards next year. Yes, I know we can grow crops through the winter but in reality it means artificial means or just leaving something in the ground that won't rot or run to seed. I have no desire to chew the leaves of something that farmers can't force cattle to eat in winter so I rule out the so named winter salad crops. Oriental radish is great but, let's be straight here, how much radish can you eat?

As popular as they may be in the Northern parts of Scotland, turnip leaves do not thrill me. With the greatest respect to Scotland's legendary chefs(OK, that's Gordon Ramsey and.....?), deep fried pizza is popular up there too but I'm not about to recommend it either.

So, back to the point, I am planning next year and clearing away the remains of this years crops.

The beans have been cut off at the root, the old cabbage stumps lifted and crushed and the strawberry foliage has been sheared back. The sweetcorn failures are now crushed and composted and the marigolds are all a distant memory.

It's time to give the grass a good cut and to tickle over the top of the soil to expose grubs and bugs for the ravenous birds to devour. The best solution to next spring's pests is to make them this years bird food. The only birds I won't encourage are pigeons. Nets over late greens will keep them at bay and keep your leaves in better shape than the net curtains at home but it also means the other birds can't get to the caterpillars and shield beetles so remember to uncover those caulis and spring cabbages for a spell while you tend to a distant part of the plot.

As the beans are past their best and beginning to get to tough for the kitchen, I have selected my best looking pods for next years seed crop. I have taken up the practice of selection over the last few years but still grow purchased seed so I can compare results and decide if self selection brings any weakness in disease or pest resistance. It also means I will eventually have a crop in perfect harmony with my own very locally specific conditions. This is my third year and I started with 'Lady Diana' as the original donor seed. This year, the seed I had selected and saved was sown in exactly the same compost and at the same time as the packet seed,still Lady Diana to remain consistent.

The saved seed germinated earlier and more strongly than the commercial seed. The plants were plated out in the same spot on opposite sides of the same trench and the saved seed plants were larger and got away earlier. Overall, both sides gave good crops but there were some very oddly deformed pods amongst them and some early casualties falling to what looked to be pest damage. I have again selected the best from both sides so I'll be keen to see how the crops look next season. I select using a number of specifications; Health, size, straightness and smooth skins with no sign of seed or stringiness.

This way, I only get good healthy plants and not long pods riddled with viruses. I provide the same sort of conditions; Trench filled with compost and manure, bamboo supports and plenty of water. Every year they are moved to a new part of the plot to avoid a build up of soil borne problems but both crops, are grown together.

I'll report back on my results but so far, I think the special selection has the lead.

It's time for a few hard decisions and home truths too. I know I can enjoy growing certain plants, vegetable fruit or flowers, but I am coming to the conclusion that I can either grow for my own pleasure and end up giving , or worse, throwing away most of my results or I can restrict myself to growing whatI can use. If my family and friends don't eat or use what I grow, should I grow it or is that wasteful?

Alternativey, am I a farmer or a gardener? A provider or enthusiast?

In the end I will hopefully decide to continue growing and enjoying what I grow but whether I will still seek out new types of foods and plants or just try and refine the varieties.

I know this much already; I am not a great writer and my opinions are just that, mine, and they bear no difference to what others choose to do or how they see things but I enjoy writing and I will always write. With the existence of blogging online there is no problem of wasted materials or out of date product so the blogging remains. The content however, well, times and topics change as the seasons and the weather does.

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