THE POTTING SHED was literally heaving with seedlings at various stages of needing to be moved on, so this week it was time for some serious planting out work.
Regular readers will have heard me talk about the hare-brained squash project that Mrs Kelly and Youngest Child concocted on a slow day back in the winter. We’re growing well over 100 plants and Youngest Child has a notion to sell the squashes to an unsuspecting chef in the autumn. True to form, most of the actual work has been left to me.
The seeds were sown in module trays and this week I had to pot them up in to their own pots, using about FOUR bags of potting compost in the process. It was relatively quick work, and the plants are now outside the potting shed which, unless this heat wave continues, should mean the watering will take care of itself.
I am thinking I will keep them in pots for about three weeks before planting them out in ground – by then they should be slug proof and hardy.
Sweetcorn and cucumbers
I also planted out sweetcorn and cucumbers in to the big polytunnel; courgettes, celeriac and perpetual spinach outside. We’re eating our first beetroot from the small polytunnel now, which is always a happy culinary experience. These were sown in late February on a heated bench in the potting shed and planted out in April.
This week I planted out another full tray of beetroot seedlings (a module tray of 84 plants) to the veg patch outside which should be ready to eat just as the polytunnel ones start to get scarce.
A final sowing of beetroot will be done in July, to be lifted and stored in October. Those three sowings are enough to keep us in beetroot pretty much all year around. I’ve said it before (ad nauseum I suppose) – beetroot is one of my favourite things to grow exactly because it’s such brilliant value for space and stores so well.
While I am on the topic of beetroot, last week as part of our Eat Together social eating programme for primary schools we served up a beetroot salad as the starter.
Each week we try to have one crowd pleasing course and one slightly more challenging one. I’ve been grappling with how we get kids to try eating beetroot (without the usual tricks of putting it in a brownie etc) and I reckon I’ve cracked it: introduce some toilet talk, specifically the concept of beeturia, ie the passing of red or pink urine after eating beetroot.
Amidst much giggling, and after a five-minute chat about how it affects some people and not others (depending on the efficiency of your gut flora in breaking down the pigment), I said the only way to know whether you’re afflicted by beeturia or not is to eat it.
Of course, some of them still didn’t like it after taking part in The Grand Beeturia Experiment, but that’s okay – at least they tried it, which is always half the battle and really the whole point of Eat Together.
The Basics – Potting Up Brassicas
I’m always super-careful when it comes to planting out Brussels sprouts and purple sprouting broccoli. When you think about it, these are incredibly valuable plants since they will be providing food in leaner times (sprouts at Christmas, and PSB in early spring).
3-4 plants of each is all I need to provide a pretty huge crop. I have a module tray of six of each in the potting shed currently and they are ready to be moved on from the module trays now. The problem is that the plants are only 4-6 inches high now and still very vulnerable – if I was to plant them out now, they’d most likely get some serious attention from slugs.
I was chatting to Richard our Head Grower in GIY about this, and he said the tradition was to start these plants in seed beds and grow them up to at least a foot or more before moving them to their final growing position in later summer (often as late as August).
This was to make sure they were hardy enough to withstand a slug attack. My plan is therefore to plant each plant up in to its own pot and grow them on for another month before planting out at the end of June.
Recipe of the Week – Roasted Baby Beetroot with Balsamic Vinegar
A good balsamic vinegar is crucial to the success to this recipe, which puts new season baby beets front and centre. Interestingly it also puts the leaves to good use. Serves 10.
- 5 bunches of baby beetroot (with leaves), scrubbed
- 50g butter, melted
- 7 tbsp olive oil
- 3 to 4 tbsp good-quality balsamic vinegar
Preheat the oven to 190°C. Cut the leaves from the baby beetroot and set aside. Boil the baby beetroot for 20 minutes, drain and leave until they are cool enough to handle. Peel them – the skin should come off easily.
Halve or quarter, toss with butter, 3 tbsp of the olive oil and some seasoning. Bake for 10 minutes. Sprinkle with the balsamic vinegar and bake for a further 15 minutes, until the beetroot are tender. Cover with foil and set aside.
Just before serving, heat 2 tbsp of the olive oil in a large frying-pan, and add half the beetroot leaves and stir-fry over a high heat for 2 to 3 minutes, until they are wilted and all the moisture has evaporated. Season, place on a serving dish and keep covered and warm while you stir-fry the other half of the leaves in the rest of the olive oil. Season, add to the first batch in the serving dish and top with the roasted beetroot.
Michael Kelly is founder of GIY and GROW HQ.
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