Sowing Courgette, Squash, and Nasturtium seeds

With Spring in full force, it’s time to get the courgette and squash seeds sown.

The weather has been much more spring-like these last few days, with a few days of sunshine, and nature is bounding ahead with lush green foliage. I’m even potentially going to need to cut my lawn again.

Apparently there’s a ‘heat wave’ (by UK standards) next week. Although it’s chilly today, I headed to the shed with some more seeds, to get a few more sown.

Sowing Squash

First up was my Squash ‘Spaghetti Stripetti’ – I grew this for the first time last year, and whilst it completely invaded my garden – grabbing every plant, twig, and blade of grass in the garden as it spread 20 feet, it gave me about a dozen big yellow squashes to eat. In fact, I’ve still got two in storage, and they seem fine.

The largest Squash 'Spaghetti Stripetti' a few weeks ago.
The first Squash ‘Spaghetti Stripetti’ early July 2017.

My initial sowing last year saw me grow two, but after one being snapped by wind within hours of putting it out, and a second one being re-sown, it was really only the one surviving original plant that I needed – and it took over.

This year, I’ve sown just one seed on its edge (apparently helping to avoid it rotting off when being watered from above) in some multipurpose compost. I expect this to germinate in just a couple of days.

Sowing Courgettes

This is joined by 3 Courgette ‘Zucchini F1 Hybrid’ seeds. This is the first time I have grown this variety, as I’d always stuck to growing the ‘Black Beauty’ type, but let’s see how this one gets on.

a courgette and flower growing
Some sunshine and rain are all it needs to swell the fruit and open that Courgette flower.

Last year, I sowed 6 plants, and had a total glut of 45 courgettes weighing in at more than 15.5kg.

Whilst I’d like some courgettes, I don’t think i’ve eaten a single one since the end of last year!

Sowing Nasturtiums

I like nasturtiums, but have had trouble growing them in the past. Their bright yellows, oranges, and red flowers, with their greeny-blue waxy leaves attract a lot of useful insects into the garden – namely the hoverflies – which can then help address any aphid issues.

Sadly, they also attract the Cabbage White Butterfly, and their caterpillars can demolish a soft and tender nasturtium plant in a few hours.

A caterpillar eating a Nasturtium leaf
Caterpillars soon much their way through Nasturtiums.

I’ve found an older packet of Nasturtium ‘Whirlybird Mix’ seeds, so I’ve planted a dozen of these, hoping that at least a few will make it up out of the compost and eventually into the garden where they can climb and flower, bringing in those important hoverflies, without getting gobbled up too quickly by caterpillars.

Thanks again for reading, and I hope that you’ve had a happy weekend of gardening.

Andrew.

Garden Review of 2017 – my Top 5 Vegetables

Looking back to the 2017 season in my garden, and highlighting my vegetable growing successes.

The spring and summer of 2017 have long since ridden off into the sunset, and the memories of my first spade into the tired old lawn of my new garden are beginning to fade.

So, what better way to beat the February chills or driving myself crazy with wanting to sow every seed, than to look back at my five favourite vegetable successes that grew in my new garden.

Squash ‘Spaghetti Stripetti’

Three Squash Spaghetti Stripetti
Three left!

Having never grown a squash before, and rarely tasted them in anything other than soups, I decided to grow 2 Squash Spaghetti Stripetti seeds.

I greatly underestimated what these plants could do, although the wind sorted one of them out in just a few hours of planting it out into my new raised bed. I sowed a replacement, but really didn’t need to.

Within only 6-8 weeks of sowing the first one, I was already expectantly watching the first of the squashes form under a mass of leaves and tangled stems.

Small Squash Spaghetti Stripetti forming
The first Squash forming after about 6-8 weeks of sowing.

I ended up with the original plant meandering and clinging to all other plants (including the lawn), with a radius of about 20 feet.

By the time that the plant had peaked, it had given me about 15 edible big plump squashes. I swiftly learnt how to roast them up and have enjoyed eating their soft, spaghetti-ish, kind-of sweet yellow flesh. I still have three of these in my kitchen – they store really well.

Courgette ‘Black Beauty’

Courgette plant on flower
One of the Courgette ‘Black Beauty’ plants on flower. They went er.. bananas.

The Courgette ‘Black Beauty’, just like the namesake horse, galloped along and took over my diet for about 3 months, allowing me to legitimately infiltrate the courgetti fad crowd with my tricky-to-clean spiralizer gadget.

I’d tried growing these over the years with intermittent success. In this new garden though, for some reason I thought 6 plants would be ok. This gave me heaps of courgettes resulting in a great soup recipe, and new-found friends at work (gardening really is sociable!).

Courgette, Potato, and Cheddar Soup
Courgette, Potato, and Cheddar Soup – one of the tastiest ways to reduce my courgette glut.

Considering that the seed ‘should have’ been discarded about 8 years previously, they did very well. After drowning in courgettes, and the plants experiencing mildew that eventually suffocated the courgettes and the marauding squash plant, I pulled up both after a long and happy harvest.

I kept a tally, but gave up at the end of Week 7’s harvest. At that point, i counted a total of 45 courgettes, weighing a cumulative 15.5 kilos (that’s 15,500 grams – the equivalent of just less than 1 London Bus).

French Climbing Bean ‘Blue Lake’

French Bean 'Blue Lake' beans
Just a few of the French Bean ‘Blue Lake’ beans that cropped well in the new garden.

This was probably my best harvest yet, and these French Bean ‘Blue Lake’ beans soon took to the wigwam and cropped. They were the second plants to be planted out into my new garden, as the seedlings had spent most of April crawling around my old house’s windowsills desperate to be planted out whilst solicitors did their job.

French Bean Blue Lake seedlings with wigman
My French Bean ‘Blue Lake’ seedlings had been desperate to be planted out in 2017, so they were 2nd out, in week 1!

Heavy assaults from snails were seen off with some magic sweets, enabling me to have many harvests right up to the frost. I’ll definitely continue growing these, as the beans are so tasty, and I love to pop a few in a stir fry.

Mixed Salad Leaves

handful of mixed salad leaves
The mixed Salad Leaves have been lush and delicious, and I’ve enjoyed picking them in the morning sunshine before work.

These did really well, considering that they were supposed to have been sowed ‘before 2012’. They were desperate to be planted out when they were filling up the windowsill of my old house, so they were the first plants in – just a few days after getting my new house keys.

A red leaf lettuce planted out.
The slugs don’t seem to like these red-leafed lettuces. I’ll grow some more.

I grew a mixed range, and I soon realised that one of the red leaf varieties did not appeal to slugs and snails. I think I’ve identified the variety as Lettuce ‘Red Salad Bowl’ (ingenious name, right?), and will be growing it again in 2018.

Pea ‘Alderman’

Last year, I returned to growing one of my first garden successes from when I was a child – Peas. Armed with a packet of Pea ‘Alderman’ seeds, and a newly erected fence, I sowed my line.

Handful of Peas 'Alderman'
My one and only handful of Peas ‘Alderman’ from my 2017 garden. Delicious.

They germinated fast, but the woodpigeons and slugs were fast too. I managed to pop some wire over them but they’d already taken heavy slug damage. I managed a harvest though – a handful of pods – and well, a mouthful of fresh peas. They were delicious, but brief.

Small harvest of Pea Alderman
My 2017 Pea harvest. That’s it. Baby steps, Andrew. Baby steps.

I hope to improve this in 2018, and be two steps ahead of my pea-nibbling foes.

So, those are my vegetable highlights of 2017 – all of these grew from seed, and were planted out in my new garden.

What did you grow in 2017?

Did you have any vegetable growing successes in 2017? What are you planning to grow in 2018? Let me know in the comments below.

As ever, happy gardening (or simultaneous seed catalogue browsing and dreaming). I’ll post the garden review of my favourite flowers in a few days, but for now – thanks for reading.

Andrew

Planning the 2018 garden

I’m planning my 2018 garden. Always have a plan!

This April, it will be 1 year since I bought and moved in to this house.

During that time, I have broken a garden laid entirely to a tired lawn, moved fences, planted a hedge, and enjoyed a lot of homegrown vegetables and flowers.

Now that I’ve begun to understand my garden a bit, I’m creating my plan for 2018, based on what I’ve observed so far.

Above is my 2018 Google planner for the seeds that I want to sow this year – helping me to keep on track.

 

1. There’s a shady bit

Close to the fence, patio and house, there’s a shaded area which is also pretty heavy clay. The water sits here sometimes for a while, trying to escape the patio. My potted Ferns like this area, and I successfully transferred a few self-sown Foxgloves that had tried to make home in my garden pots that I moved with me from my previous house.

This part of the garden will be getting some Aquilegia ‘McKana Giants’ in 2018, which apparently enjoy more shaded moist conditions.

2. There’s an old shed

The old decrepit shed needs to be demolished, as it’s empty, somehow has stood the countless gales we’ve had with little more than an occasional door swing, and it’s taking up precious growing space. What it is doing though, is helping to provide some privacy between the bottom of my garden and the houses who back up to my fence. I’m thinking about having a new fence installed, but first I just need to take it down. I hope it’s not concrete under that!

3. More raised beds

Having demolished the old shed, then I’ll have space and a pile of wood from which I aim to make some more raised beds. This part of the garden fared really well for my French Bean ‘Blue Lake’ and my ‘sow-by-2012’ salad crops. It also gave me the occasional courgette, although these were the only ones grown in the ground (rather than a raised bed) so they were a bit slower. The new raised beds will fit in the old shed space.

4. Blackcurrants

I’ve bought a couple of Blackcurrant ‘Ribes Nigrum’ bushes. They’re just budding at the moment, but I hope to eventually get a crop from them in the next couple of years. I think these are also going near the shed footprint.

5. Birds

This morning, I participated in The RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch with my independent adjudicator, RubyCat. The garden is busy this weekend – now that the snow, wind, and rain, gave everyone a few hours break. I noticed that there’s a reasonable range of bird life coming in, and so I hope that my B&Q birdbox (which incidentally split) will get its first use, and I hope the birds are enjoying the 4 bird feeders and the sunflower heads I left on. I’ll be growing more sunflowers for them and the bees.

6. Up

Last year I learned that Squash ‘Spaghetti Stripetti’ loves to crawl, climb, grab, grasp, and strangle. That was my first ever year of growing squashes, and they gave me plenty out of just one plant. This year, I need to make that plant go upwards, instead of letting is maraud its way over, through and around a 20ft radius of garden. I shall be looking for either a trellis, or an arch that will suit my needs.

Elsewhere in the garden, I also want to solve the issue I had last year with the reluctant Sweet Pea ‘Cupani’ and Sweet Pea ‘Royal Mix’. They were happy to flower and grow where i’d planted them, but they refused to climb. I put it down to the climbing ‘frame’ being made of string rather than wire, and so I will swap my intricate string grid with wire, and see if I can finally persuade them and my new Honeysuckle ‘Lonicera’ to reach upwards and give me scent and blooms this summer.

Flower and vegetable seed packets
My seed packets are raring to be opened!

Right! My seed packets are all alphabetically filed in a new storage box, and ready to go… c’mon budge over Winter, let’s have some Spring!

What are you planning for your garden this year? Are you trying anything ‘new’ in 2018? Let me know in the comments below.

As ever, thanks for reading, and happy gardening,

Andrew

 

Squeezing out the 2017 harvest

My first attempt at growing Squash Spaghetti Stripetti, keeps me in food into 2018.

As 2017 heads towards its inevitable end, I’m pleased to find that I still have three large Squash ‘Spaghetti Stripetti’ in storage.

Three Squash Spaghetti Stripetti
Three left!

These were grown by me for the first time, and were a complete success.

I enjoyed watching the squash plant shoot across my garden, clasping on to so many plants – including the lawn and the Fennel. Every so often a big yellow flower would open followed by a swelling fruit. By the end of the season I counted 12 squashes (there would have been a couple more if i hadn’t have snapped a stem, or the mildew hadn’t choked the leaves). Still, for one plant, that’s a tremendous good job and I’d certainly recommend them to anyone to try.

 

Squash Spaghetti Stripetti seedling
One of the Squash Spaghetti Stripetti seedlings (after about 8 days) in April 2017… just days before i moved house.

Next year, I’d like to grow them upwards though, as they were a bit of a space hog, and I’ve seen that you can persuade them up an arch or trellis.

The largest Squash 'Spaghetti Stripetti' a few weeks ago.
The first Squash ‘Spaghetti Stripetti’ early July.

Cooking Squash Spaghetti Stripetti

Once I’d got these impressive orangey squashes, I then thought I should learn how best to cook them.

Once you’ve finally managed to cut them in half (which is by far the hardest bit), use a spoon to scoop out the seeds. Then, put a little olive oil spread around the insides of each half, and season with some salt and pepper, and then turn them face down on a baking tray and put them in the oven at about 180C for 35 mins.

Roasted Squash Spaghetti Stripetti
Roasted Squash Spaghetti Stripetti is delicious!

Flip them over and let them cool. These spaghetti types are great for roasting and then using a fork to strip them out. They collapse into a delicate spaghetti shape with little effort. They’re pretty sweet and buttery as they are, but really quite versatile.

I’ll definitely be growing another one in 2018, once I’ve got an arch or trellis up.

As ever, happy gardening!

Andrew

The Minibel Tomatoes begin to ring in the harvest but the Squash comes under attack

The Minibel Tomatoes begin to crop, but the Squash and Courgettes are under attack from white mildew that threatens to kill them.

My Tomato ‘Minibel’ plants are beginning to regularly provide me with some juicy red cherry tomatoes, a little over 4 months after I sowed them.

They’ve been a tough grow as usual, because they are desperate to fall over 10 times a day, particularly when there’s no breeze, and they’re always fried. I go through this each year, but this year seems to be the first one where I’ve got quite a few tomatoes on the plant.

These were the first batch of red 'Minibel' tomatoes of 2017.
These were the first batch of red ‘Minibel’ tomatoes of 2017.

I’ve already enjoyed eating my first batch of red tomatoes, but there’s plenty of green ones yet to ripen.  When I look back to 2013 at my previous house, it wasn’t until the middle of September that this variety would finally yield a crop. However, that was a shadier garden, and these are in the south-facing garden for most of the day, being roasted by the sunshine.

The tomatoes have overcome blackfly, which I only gave one treatment of the old washing-up liquid wash too.

Blackfly on Tomato 'Minibel' plants
Spot the Blackfly marching up and down the Tomato ‘Minibel’ plant. Their sap sucking holiday came to an end.

I eat a lot of salads, so it’s been great to get to now pick tomatoes, that go alongside my home grown lettuce leaves. I’ve learnt that the slugs in my garden don’t seem to like red leaf lettuce, or a crinkly variety that were both in the old ‘sow by 2012’ Erin seed kit that I almost threw away, but gave a chance and grew a forest.

A red leaf lettuce planted out.
The slugs don’t seem to like these red-leafed lettuces that I planted in my new veg garden back in May 2017. I’ll grow some more.

So, now that a few of these plants have bolted, and it feels like the plants are getting a bit old, I’m aiming at sowing some more of these this week so that I can extend my season.

Victor: Mildew

Sadly, on the other side of the garden, the Squash ‘Spaghetti Stripetti’ plant is under attack, and as it is now covering about 15 feet radius, it’s looking a bit sad. The outer edges are still roaring across my lawn, with wide open flowers, and more little squashes forming (i’m up to about 10 now, from one plant). The culprit this time is the frosty white powery layer called Mildew.

Mildew coats each leaf and blots out the sunshine, therefore slowing down the plants ability to photosynthesise, and therefore it dies. I’ve seen this before, when it killed off some of my courgettes at my old house, but this time it really has taken hold, and fast.

When the Squash and the Courgettes began to rapidly grow, I did realise that they were too close together, but as they were so desperate to go outside (having been waiting for my house move), I decided to let them go out whilst I followed up with creating the rest of the garden around them.

The downside to this close planting is that the compact space in which their leaves have grown, means that the cool breeze has not been able to get amongst the leaves and dry them – resulting in this damp environment where this mildew mold (it’s a fungi) can thrive.

Mildew on Squash and Courgette plant leaves.
The white powdery Mildew has taken hold of my Squash and Courgette plants. Left, it’ll starve the plant of sunshine and kill it.

I’ve bought some spray (coincidentally the one recommended by the RHS), and I’ve sprayed most of the infected leaves, and the nearby Courgette ‘Black Beauty’ plants, and hope that the plant stays alive long enough to finish ripening its many squashes. I’ve also previously given it a spray with watered down milk – I read online somewhere that this introduces a protein that kills the mildew… but I don’t think my skimmed milk is really going to help much.

My garden looks a bit like a winter wonderland… but hopefully it’ll live long enough to reward me with my first ever crop of squashes.

Any ideas to deal with the mildew is gladly received, but in the meantime, thanks for reading, and happy gardening.

Andrew

I don’t think you’re ready for this Courgetti

I’m drowning in Courgettes, and I’m spiralizing them as fast as I can go…. but I fear this is only the start!

You might remember that I planted 6 Courgette ‘Black Beauty plants earlier this year, and when I moved into my new house at the end of April, I swiftly built a raised bed and planted 4 of them in it, and 2 of them nearby.

Two Homebase raised beds stacked on top of each other and filled with soil.
I built my raised bed at the end of May, and planted 4 courgettes, 2 squash and 2 aubergines.

Well, having since had weeks of hot weather and sporadic heavy rainfall, I’m now in the midst of a Courgette-valanche, a Zuchinni-overload, I’m drowing in them. Plus, i somewhat foolishly gave them all liquid fertilizer at the weekend! :S

Today I went out and picked 8 courgettes.

Courgette harvest of week 4
4th week of courgette harvests – 8 of them!

Introducing the Courgettometer

Because I love a good bar chart, I’ve decided to keep a tally of how many courgettes i’m picking per week, and how much they weigh. I’ll probably do the same for the French Beans, although the Courgettes will win on weight easily.

Here’s the Courgettometer’s cumulative courgette weight chart so far:

Courgettometer - week 4
A chart showing the cumulative weight (in grams) of Courgettes from my garden – week 4

I knew I’d get more than I needed (I’m the only one here to eat them), but in just the 4th week of harvest, they show no sign of giving up. Thankfully I traded in my wrist-achingly manual spiralizer for a Morphy Richards electric spiralizer a few weeks ago, and after a few very disappointing and messy squishy attempts, I’ve pretty much mastered it and now I’m eating a courgette most days via the magic of courgette spaghetti – or ‘courgetti’ as I like to call it. I don’t eat pasta or noodles, so turning a courgette into a noodle form gives me a lovely bulky meal that’s also far healthier (and less uncomfortable) for me to eat. It also means I can eat them alongside a load of other vegetables without realising I’m eating a whole courgette.

A bit of a squeeze

The Squash ‘Spaghetti Stripetti’ are likely to give the courgettes a run for the title of heaviest veg harvest this year, with the one surviving plant in the raised bed having gone potty (I almost wrote ‘bananas’ there) in the last few weeks. It has probably reached a good 15 feet in spread, swamping and strangling anything in its path, and there’s loads of squashes littered around the garden under its leaves.

The largest Squash 'Spaghetti Stripetti' a few weeks ago.
The largest Squash ‘Spaghetti Stripetti’ a few weeks ago.

I originally planted two squashes in this raised bed, but sadly (and probably fortunately), the wind snapped one of them in half. Stupidly, I sowed a replacement, which is now sitting impatiently on my kitchen windowsill as I wonder whether the hell I can let it grow.

As for the courgette overload, I’ll keep eating them, but at some point I’m probably going to have to start giving them away to neighbours and friends. That’s one of the great things about being a vegetable gardener – if you produce too much food, you can be sure that you can give it away. Veg gardening can be a very sociable past time.

That’s it for now – but let me know whether you’re drowning in a pile of fruit/veg yet? I’d love to hear of more recipe ideas too – I’m thinking about Courgette muffins, courgette cake, and wondering whether they convert to soup very well.

As ever, thanks for reading, and happy gardening!

Andrew 🙂

 

Squeezing a Squash into the propagator

I sow my first ever Squash ‘Spaghetti Stripetti’ seed, and there’s something odd in my Aubergine ‘Early Long Purple 2’ seed pots.

I’ve been enjoying using my spiralizer over the last few months, but so far i’ve only ever used it on courgettes (my one failed attempt on a carrot doesn’t count – too hard) to turn them into a far healthier option to spaghetti. I love making a stir fry, and so this option fits into my healthier lower-carb lifestyle.

However, I’ve been curious of trying a Squash, and so on Friday I caved whilst shopping for some more pots at Twentypence Garden Centre, and I ended up buying a pack of Squash ‘Spaghetti Stripetti’ seeds (let’s not talk about the toasted tea cake smothered in butter and a big pot of tea, okay?).

These can be sown now until mid-May indoors, or outdoors in late May.. so having picked up a mini propagator too, I had no excuse.

Filling a small pot with multi-purpose compost and adding just one seed (a second one might get sown yet), I sowed the seed on it’s edge – which is something the packet directed me to do. I’ve heard many other gardeners say this too for Squash and Courgette etc, in a bid to reduce the chances of these large flat seeds rotting.

To be honest, I’m already thinking ahead to being about to try something like another spaghetti alternative, or even something like this Au Gratin recipe. In a few months, all going well, it should look something like this:

I then gave it a little watering, and it’s now in my mini propagator alongside the three Aubergine ‘Early Long Purple 2’ seedlings.

One of those aubergine seedlings looks different though, and is curiously right in the corner of the pot. Has the seed not germinated, and a seed of something else made its home by chance? I guess we’ll find out in a few weeks.

Aubergine and Squash seedlings
The Aubergine ‘Early Long Purple 2’ seedlings, with the freshly sown Squash ‘Spaghetti Stripetti’ pot, and the what-are-you? seeding.

So, as I squeeze this pot into my propagator, I hope you are having a very happy long Spring weekend.

Happy gardening!

Andrew