Hooters Hall

Posts Tagged ‘perennial vegetables’

Lights, Tree cabbage & Apricots

Propagation whether from seed or cutting is the starting point of growing anything so I’ve invested in a bit of kit to assist me in getting the propagation environment just right. I’ve been using a Vitopod propagator from Greenhouse Sensation for a few years with a lot of success. It’s heated with an easy to control thermostat so I can tailor the warmth to the seeds I’m trying to germinate. Not getting too hot is just as important as not being too cold when it comes to germinating seeds. Some seeds just won’t germinate if it’s too warm.

Once seeds have germinated they need light to grow well. Too little light can lead weak to etiolated seedlings. While the polytunnel obviously gets a lot of light and I’ve never had a problem with etiolated seedlings the days are shorter at the end of winter and beginning of Spring. Shorter day length can affect the flowering of plants, this is known as Photoperiodism. I don’t  plan on specifically growing plants that demonstrate photoperiodism currently but I do want to make sure that my seedlings benefit from having the maximum light they can. Using artificial light also means I can start my seedlings inside if I want to, that I can extend my growing year by starting seeds off earlier and I can grow plants that are used to longer growing periods.

With all those benefits in mind I had been thinking about how to use some horticultural light in the propagation area of the polytunnel. Fortunately, Greenhouse sensation have just brought out a light kit for the Vitopod propagator so I treated myself this week. It’s very easy to put together and fixes onto the propagator with suction pads. I’ve plugged it into a timer and set that so the lights come on from 3am to 6am increasing the day length.

Here’s a picture of the lights on the propagator. The support for the lights is made out of clear plastic so it does look like the lights are just floating above the propagator. You can adjust the height of the lights very easily.

As we move properly into Spring the permanent plants in the polytunnel are showing signs of new life. My perennial vegetables the Tree Cabbage and Nine Star Broccoli are flourishing. I’ve got three Tree Cabbage and five of the Nine Star Broccoli. I grew the Tree Cabbage from seed but bought the Nine Star Broccoli as plug plants. As perennial vegetables they stay put all year round. You can pick the leaves from the Tree Cabbage to use as you would a cabbage and the Nine Star Broccoli acts like purple sprouting broccoli but is a cauliflower. It produces multiple small cauliflower like heads and will continue to be productive over at least 3 years.  You can get the Tree Cabbage seed from The Real Seed Catalogue and the Nine Star Broccoli plants from Victoriana Nursery Gardens

We’ve also got fruit trees in the polytunnel. Once again the Apricot seems to be aiming to be the first to blossom.

Hopefully we’ll have another good harvest this year.

Last year we tried growing in straw bales for the first time. It was very successful and the bales have survived the winter. They aren’t quite as sturdy as they were though so I think this year I’ll mainly use them for salad crops. I’m going to leave them in their current position because I suspect they might disintegrate a bit if I start hauling them around the polytunnel.

This is how they look right now.

As you can see the polytunnel could do with a bit of a clean. After the big storm recently we’ve decided to replace the cover so there’s little point cleaning it now. We’ve got the replacement cover ready to put on we just need to wait for a dry, non windy day.




Perennial Vegetables: Plant them once eat them every year

As we progress with our forest garden we’ve been thinking about how to make it more productive. We’ve already planted some soft fruits and have a lot of herbs propagated in the polytunnel. We’re also planning on extending the forest garden into the old orchard area and making a mixed fruit orchard. I’ve tried to include some culinary plants in each of the layers of the garden but many of these are for adding flavour or tend to be used in salads rather than being a main ingredient in a meal.

 Of course we could simply have a standard vegetable patch but growing annual vegetables needs more input throughout the year and doesn’t really fit with the forest garden. However, perennial vegetables do very much work with a forest garden. I had already planned on having one or two perennial vegetable plants in the forest garden but I think it would be useful to add some more particularly oness that are easy to cook without too much preparation. Since the forest garden is our only garden area we’d also like to have some plants with attractive foliage and flowers.

So what are perennial vegetables ? Some are well known and commonly grown such as rhubarbs, asparagus and globe artichokes. Here’s a picture of some asparagus grown in a garden border rather than a veg patch.

Others are a bit more unusual such as daylily and the ostrich or shuttle cock fern.

Daylilies are beautiful flowers but the flower buds are also delicious to eat. According to my research the yellow flowered daylilies tend to be sweeter I’ve chosen the Stella d’Oro variety which is recommended in many books. The flowers can be used raw in salads, battered , fried or stuffed. Unopened buds taste similar to French beans but the flowers are more similar to courgette flowers. Dried flower buds are widely used in Chinese cooking and known as golden needles. We’ve got a dehydrator so will definitely be making our own golden needles. I’ve managed to find some plants on ebay and plan to grow these on and propagate by division in the future.

I love ferns in the garden so having a fern that’s edible is a bonus. The shuttlecock or ostrich fern Matteuccia struthiopteris tolerates shade so does well in forest gardens. The ‘Jumbo’ variety can grow to 2meters high, which would give a very jungle like feel to the forest garden. The edible part is the young fiddleheads (furled fronds of a young fern) which are picked in spring until they reach 5-6cm after which they become too tough. They do need to be boiled for 15 minutes, have a flavour like a cross between asparagus and broccoli with a crisp texture.

Here’s a picture of a fiddlehead

Perennial vegetables don’t have to just be grown in forest gardens they be planted as a polyculture in ordinary garden beds just remember that as perennials they will need to stay in place rather than being moved every year as you can do with annuals. You can even grow aquatic perennial vegetables such as Arrowheads, Water chestnut, Water lotus and Watercress making your ornamental garden pond a productive part of the garden as well.

There are even some perennial grains that you can grow in the garden. A grain plot 3m x 30m planted up with perennial rye or wheat can yield about 18kg of rye or 25kg wheat it’ll need milling but would be very interesting to try growing some.

For all you need to know about Perennial vegetables have a look at Martin Crawford’s book available in our Amazon bookshop http://astore.amazon.co.uk/hoote-21/detail/1900322846