Wednesday 15 June 2011

Novelty value

Last night's moon, there is a partial eclipse tonight but the clouds are back.

None of the things I'm going to write about are in a photogenic mood at the moment so this post will be illustrated rather randomly.

Observant readers may have noticed that this year there's not been much talk of unusual vegetables or agrobiodiversity experiments or interesting new plants that I'd like to try. This is because after several years of poor results I had become so depressed by it all I decided to refocus on things that I can make work, build some small successes and remotivate myself into attempting greater things another year. So far, this has been working quite well, the vegetable garden is looking pretty good and the problems are acts of nature. Laxness and accidie on my part are not to blame.

Still, although I've tried not to worry about new stuff for this year there are a few old experiments that still require some nurture.

more raven
Madam Raven in sunlight

Oca is an old friend, and hardly a difficult subject for me to grow any more. Even so, after deer attack last autumn and a very cold snap in the winter it seemed I had only a handful of rescued tubers to start the bed this year. Into the ground they went, but the saved tubers have been extremely poorly and slow growing compared to the vast tranches of volunteers which survived the frost and double rotavation in the spring. It's been hard to weed these healthy survivors back and I've modified the planting plan to allow for the self promoted 'row' to grow on. I just need to time harvesting a little better and I think we'd have these cracked.

bronze arrow lettuce and weeds
Bronze Arrow lettuce from the HSL

Ulluco: After several years of decline all I had left of these were five baked bean sized tubers I found when raking through last year's bed this January. With little hope I potted them up and left them on the kitchen windowsill. And they grew, four did anyway. I suspect they are all the same (hardiest) variety and undoubtedly riddled with virus and other debilitating diseases but they are still growing quite vigorously in a large pot. I'm going to to keep them in the pot and bring them indoors in the autumn in the hope of producing more growing stock for next year. And I really must get on with teaching myself micro-propagation techniques so that I can clean them of whatever it is they may have.

Sauromatum venosum a stinking arum

And then there's the Hopniss. I thought I'd been very clever to take a tuber as insurance against losses in the ground over winter. That was until I threw the insurance away, mistaking it for a horribly deformed seed potato. In the meantime the plant in the garden appeared to be completely dead, showing no signs of growth and rather unfortunately becoming a favourite dust bath and bed for a couple of very bad cats. I thought I'd lost it but finally in the last week of May new shoots appeared. I hope it will make up for lost time in the warm, humid weather we're having which should suit it perfectly.

And this has gone on long enough. Another day for the tuberous peas, the papalo and the chinese artichokes. There is one plant I'm trying this year which is entirely new to me, Achocha. This has seeds that someone on the web has noted as like 'witches teeth' and it's a perfect description. My plants are doing fine for now, just beginning to form flower buds. By all accounts these should be a home run. Let's hope so.


Rhizowen said...

Good luck with your achocha - is that fat baby achocha or lady's slipper?

Fat baby (Cyclanthera brachystachya) does fine outdoors in the UK and will often self seed. It's very vigorous.

The lady's slipper (C. pedata) isn't as hardy, but I saw it growing quite successfully outside in Belgium last year.

Bejdzix said...

nice cat :)

Catofstripes said...

@Bejdzix Thanks, she's a very precious princess.

@Rhizowen I'm not sure, it's the one the HSL supply and they don't seem identify it precisely either. Presumably brachystachya but the name Fat Baby has only recently become popular and I don't know if refers to the original form or a selected cultivar. Seems to growing well though, so I'll find out soon!

Rhizowen said...

"Fat Baby" as a name has been doing the rounds since the early 1990s when I got hold of my seeds from Semillas Solanas (RIP) in Ecuador. They had a great catalogue for lovers of exotic Andean crops. Where for example can you get hold of Basul- Erythrina edulis these days?