The Parsnips, Carrots, Turnips… and Cats

The root vegetables are growing happily in the raised beds, whilst I devise a method to divert cat bums elsewhere.

This year I’m growing three types of vegetables that I’ve never grown before – parsnips, carrots, and turnips.

Parsnip ‘F1 Gladiator’

I love a roast parsnip, and so after realising that I was buying several of these, I thought that I would try growing them myself.

parsnip seedlings and a row of turnips
The Parsnips were transplanted out, whilst the Turnips were direct-sown.

I sowed the parsnip seed back in February, so I’d hope to start being able to pull them in about September.

Rather than sowing direct, as per the packet, I sowed mine in a small tray – only about a dozen seeds – and then transplanted them out in early April. These were the first plants out the door and into the ground, so I’m hoping that they’ll grow into something worthwhile.

Parsnip and Turnip plants in a raised bed
The Parsnip and Turnips have grown well in the raised bed.

The plants are looking healthy at least, and apparently they are ‘full of hybrid vigour’.

Carrot ‘Flyaway F1 Hybrid’ and ‘Sweet Imperator Mix F1’

I honestly don’t remember ever growing carrots before – not even as a child. They’re pretty much a vegetable 101, but it took me many years of childhood to begin to appreciate them.

These days I can’t get enough of them – not so much raw (yet) but I love them steamed, boiled, and roasted, and I’ve been using lots of them to create Carrot and Lentil Soup. They’re packed full of Vitamin A, and so I thought that I would try to stop buying them, and grow them instead.

I sowed two small rows (one of each) in my raised bed.

The Carrot ‘Sweet Imperator Mix F1’ was first – these could be sown in April, and they should produce those ‘vintage’ kinds that you see in the likes of Waitrose and M&S adverts – purple, red, orange, yellow etc, and the Carrot ‘Flyaway F1 Hybrid’ variety are just the standard modern orange colour, but have been developed to be carrot fly resistant (apparently). We’ll see – but I sowed them next to the others in a hope that they mask those too.

Turnip ‘Snowball’ and ‘Armand’

I’ve never knowingly eaten a turnip, but that hasn’t stopped me wanting to try them for myself. I now have two rows of turnips in my raised bed – the first, Turnip ‘Armand’ was sown weeks ago on XXXX and these are now showing lush green tops.

The Turnip ‘Snowball’ variety were sown this morning, so should follow up in a few weeks with their lush greenery.

If you have any interesting recipe ideas for turnips, then please leave them in the comments, but even the Snowball packet suggests that I ‘try glazed turnips – boil the roots then caramelize in sugar’, which sounds a little bit calorific and luxurious. I was thinking of soups, salads, and roasts?

Within 3 months I should have some ready to harvest.

Sowing into the raised bed

The raised bed is certainly making growing these easier, as the root vegetables need the depth. I have some pretty heavy clay soil in most of the back garden, so this will help the veg to head downwards, and should help me to get them back out again without a pickaxe.

I’m not very good at sowing thinly, and can’t quite reach across safely without risk of falling in.

I found that I had to construct some simple removable wire frames over the top, as RubyCat and her feline foes see every single raised bed as a convenient toilet.

anti-cat frame on raised bed to protect from cats
One of the anti-cat frames on the raised bed stops it being a full-time toilet.

Her fat bum has despatched broad beans, raspberry plants, and squash plants in the past, so by cutting some hard wire mesh that I picked up for £1 from poundland, and then using little plastic cable ties to secure the long edges to two wooden beams across the raised bed, means that I can guard them with a simple solution.

I’ve also fashioned a moveable board to block the edge, so that nothing gets under them, and more importantly, the cat excavations don’t creep into the veg rows.

Black cat Ruby with her tongue out
RubyCat will have to find somewhere else to dig for victory.

This allows the veg to grow happily without cat or bird interruption, and eventually I will be able to move them when the plants are big enough.

How have you managed to deter cats from permanently digging up your raised beds? I’d love to hear your ideas.

It’s a roasting bank holiday Monday, and so I’m not doing any gardening in the sunshine. I hope you’ve had a happy gardening weekend. Thanks for reading!


Why isn’t it Spring yet?

Filled with dreams of Spring 2018, I’ve found myself browsing and buying next year’s seed.

I’m feeling impatient.

Snow is on the ground, the garden is brown and sleeping, and I’m thumbing the Sutton’s 2018 seed catalogue impatiently. Sometimes my eyes glaze over and I catch myself drifting off forward in thoughts of filling seed trays, potting up, and bright spring sunshine.

garden in snow December 2017
The back garden is covered in snow.

I’m lacking in the TARDIS department, so I return to the cold winter window view of 2017, knowing that at least my planning will be good.

Over the last year I’ve been tuning in to videos by Vivi, who has been allotmenting for years, but in 2017 she put herself out of work and aimed to become self sufficient. Her videos have kept me inspired to keep gardening, to keep trying when it doesn’t quite go to plan, and also to try growing new things (as well as making soups!). She inspired me to grow squashes after watching her harvest a wheelbarrow load off her allotment, so in 2018 I shall be growing some new things… well, new to my gardens anyway.

First Grows

In 2018 I shall try growing:

  • Turnip ‘Snowball
  • Carrot ‘Flyaway F1 Hybrid
  • Carrot ‘Sweet Imperator Mix F1

I bet i’ve tried growing carrots before – i mean, who hasn’t? But the harvest can’t have been successful as I’d have remembered what happened. The latter of the three firsts are those ‘vintage’  kinds of carrots – the yellow, purple, red and orange kinds. So these will be fun to grow. The ‘Flyaway F1 Hybrid’ carrots should, as their name suggest, be ‘fly-away’ for the carrot fly larvae.

Turnips are completely new to me, and I don’t remember them growing on my parents garden either. I’m really into roasting veg, so I shall be roasting these snowy white turnips. I think I can also eat the tops too.

I’ll also be growing a range of Peppers, because I’ve realised that I use quite a lot of these in my cooking – far more than tomatoes, so I shall swap to growing those instead. And what I’m sure will be a mixture of disbelief and amusement of my mother, I’ll also grow some Broad Beans in 2018.

From what were bland-tasting, smelly warts as a child, after 30+yrs, I finally realised that they’re actually quite tasty, healthy, and filling. I know that you can get varieties that can be sown in Autumn, but having missed that boat, I’ve got my eyes on some Spring varieties like Crimson Flowered or Listra instead. Thankfully, you can get away with sowing these as early as February.

But I’ve got to wait to sow the rest of these seeds. Months.

Instead of Christmas shopping (it’s December after all), I ended up on the “1 present for you, 2 presents for me” routine at a local garden centre. Oops. I came home with two packets of seed and a propagator.

Other garden tasks for 2018

Once it’s dry enough, I am going to demolish an old little shed in the back corner of my garden. There’s a much bigger and newer shed opposite it, and I don’t have enough junk to fill both. How this little shed has survived the gales of 2017, it’s anyone’s guess. It has no felt, the door regularly swings open, and I think i could push it over with one generous poke from my index finger… yet still it stands.

A lawn garden with sheds awaiting planting
The little shed on the left is going to get it!

My plan is to carefully remove the pane of glass (I think it’s glass anyway), and then deconstruct it so that I end up with a pile of planks. I then want to recycle it into raised beds, as my one from last year really worked well.

The end of April 2018 will signal the end of my first year in this house, and hopefully by then, I’ll have worked out how areas of my garden perform, and will be able to plant appropriately.

For now though, I shall continue watching the winter garden, feeding the birds, and dreaming of warmer, greener months ahead.