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Wellington Fields Allotments - Hixon.


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By Mrs FM

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Alan J Hartley



More Unusual Seed Sowing.

Like some other people of my age I am finding it more necessary to make notes and record things, or else they get forgotten. I was never one for keeping a Diary, but do get on quite well recording the growing plans of my Allotments on my computer and also writing these Diary Articles. However, last year I did forget to grow one thing that I was really disappointed about and that was Chicory - of the Winter Forcing type. I was particularly put out, because the year before I had gone to a lot of trouble to make a large raised bed under the staging in my greenhouse using heavy concrete building blocks that took a lot of effort to manoeuvre under the staging and then last year I simply forgot to grow any Chicory to put in it. I quite like it as a Winter vegetable because the Chicons you get are so different from getting just green leaves that you get from so many other Winter vegetables like Kale, Chard and Cabbage. Also the Chicons can be used either hot, or cold and they are not as bitter as the normal Chicory such as the red Raddichio, but they are a lot more trouble to grow. One more point worth mentioning is that the Chicons are very expensive to buy in the shops with a packet of two Chicons usually costing well over one pound.

As we are only in the beginning of April it is still to early to sow Chicory seed yet along with Outdoor Tomatoes and Beans, but some of my vegetable seeds including Cauliflower, Calabrese, Cabbage, Kale, Leeks, Brussels, Parsley and Turnips are all coming up well now. Shortly I will sow some Radish Mooli, Swede and Chard, but do look on the packets for the best sowing times, because they do vary with different varieties of the same vegetables. Some Kohl Rabi and Beetroot varieties in particular can bolt if they are sown too early. The other day I learnt another valuable lesson in seed sowing and that is donít try sowing Parsnip seed on a windy day! The seeds are fairly large and flat - just ideal to catch the wind! It was a case of a few for me in the seed drill and a lot scattered far and wide for the birds. It is a good job that you get plenty of seed in a packet!

As usual this year I will be trying a few unusual vegetables Ė some from seed. Cucamelons is one that I have grown before, but I will try them again and will sow them later in April. I found the skins a little tough when I grew them last time, but maybe that was down to the dry weather. Celtuce, or Stem Lettuce is completely new to me. Apparently, you can pick the leaves like a ďCome again,Ē Lettuce, or peel and eat the elongated stem when it forms. You can use the stem in salads raw, or you can lightly steam it. I donít normally bother with Lettuce, but Celtuce sounds a bit more interesting.

I have grown Scorzonera once before and found the roots, that need to be cooked and peeled like beetroot, a bit fiddly to prepare, but quite tasty. Mine were particularly awkward as most of the roots forked, which they have a tendency to do. Like a lot of root vegetables they are probably best sown in situ and not transplanted. 

Last Autumn, after digging out one poor specimen of my Cinamon Vines, I decided to leave the rest of them in and see if perhaps another year will be enough for them to bulk up their tuberous, edible storage roots. However, I do think this is one unusual that would benefit from being grown in a Poly Tunnel. 

For a couple of years I have grown Yacon which is another little known vegetable and I have had good yields of tubers from them, but I may try the new purple skinned variety that is supposed to be a bit hardier. Previously, I have had no trouble keeping the growing buds in dryish compost, in a frost-free greenhouse over winter. Last winter I tried several different ways of keeping them, but it is too early to tell the success, or failure yet, because they havenít started into growth. A new hardier variety might give a longer growing period though, as normally they canít go outside until well into the growing season.

I donít think Iíll bother with Celariac, or Fennel (Florence) again. My Celariac didnít bulk up the way they should and were poor, weedy little specimens, but that may have been down to not enough goodness in the soil. The Fennel were all right until the wet and frost started to get too much and then the outer layers rotted. Florence Fennel is a bulbous vegetable that has an Aniseed flavour and is not to everyoneís taste, so to be honest, I didnít really know what to do with it anyway as I am not one for strongly flavoured foods. Perhaps, I should point out that there are two types of Fennel with one a vegetable and the other a herb whose feathery foliage is sometimes used in flower arranging.

Seed catalogues are still flying through the door and the new season hasnít really got underway yet, so there is still plenty of time to sow more seed. We keep reminding ourselves that the first year we had our Allotments we didnít occupy them until May and we all grew a wide range of things. So, perhaps I will come across some more new things to try this year.


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