I’ve been working at Suttons for six months now, and when I started one of my first projects was the James Wong plant range booklet. I had to do lots of research and read his Homegrown Revolution book cover to cover (a great read for gardeners and food enthusiasts like me). Naturally I wanted to get stuck in straight away so as early as February I had selected my favourites from the seed range and sowed them indoors. I must point out that I am a very amateur gardener and previous attempts at sowing and growing have ended in failure. But James’ book was very inspiring and each variety comes with comprehensive instructions so I was determined to give it a go. If I can do it, anyone can!
Once the weather warmed up I moved my seedlings to the greenhouse and watched with curiosity as my strange new plants started to take shape. I had some encouraging successes, and also some ‘learning curves’ which I thought would be interesting to share with you:
I planted 10 of these little guys because I was desperate to have success and thought they might be tricky. I needn’t have worried. All 10 germinated and are now happily romping round my greenhouse. In fact, I had too many so I’ve given a few out at work. I’ve also experimented by growing Cucamelons outside as well as in the greenhouse. The greenhouse ones are very lively – they started sending out runners and climbing up my other plants, but now I’ve provided them with some supports of their own they are energetically reaching for the sky and producing cute little fruits. I can’t wait to try them but I have been advised by our veg expert Peter to be patient and wait for the fruit to grow to the size of large grapes.
The outdoor ones have really surprised me. I grew two up a fence – one was demolished by a snail, but the other has started to cling on and is fruiting. I tried one up a rough stone wall and that one has really taken up the challenge – sending runners into crevices to get a grip. It’s now really firmly stuck to the wall and also fruiting.
Of the whole James Wong range these are the ones that intrigued me the most, but sadly the giddy tingling taste that James writes about seems to be catnip to slugs (slugnip) and my harvest has been decimated over and over again.
I sowed the whole pack at once and they took a very long time to germinate, but once they had taken shape they just seem to attract slugs from miles around. They have recovered well each time though so I still have high hopes of tasting these ‘lemon sherbet battery flavour flowers’ for myself.
I’ve got two sets of electric daisies growing outdoors and two sets in the greenhouse, but the photo looked a bit too gruesome after the latest slug raid, so I’ll hold off and persevere and hopefully will have something better to show you in a few weeks. Funnily enough the outdoor ones are doing better than the indoor ones.
I cheated a bit on the musk melons and bought the grafted version from the plant range. They were HUGE when they arrived and burst forth out of their packaging with great promise, but stupidly, instead of potting them up straight away I forgot and left them in a too-small dish of water in my greenhouse, on the hottest day of the year so far. I was resigned to the fact that they would be dead, and when I got home they did look very sorry for themselves so I had to cut them back to a few leaves and hope for the best. The vigorous grafted root stock really did its job and they all survived my abuse! I’ve got two growing in the greenhouse and one outdoors – all looking healthy again so I have my fingers crossed for juicy sweet melons in the late summer.
I’ve planted three of the squash flowers outside and they are really healthy, one in particular is getting massive and already has about five baby fruits growing beneath its huge leaves. I am looking forward to a plentiful supply very shortly.
Radish Rat Tails
Of all the seeds I planted the Radish Rat Tails were the first to germinate and the fastest to grow. First they took over the seed tray, then the burst out of their pots, so I planted them outside in a row and they are a very health size. It’s not the white root you harvest, I am supposed to wait until it sends up a seed head and wait for this to form a cluster of little seed pods. It’s these seed pods that are the ‘Rat Tails’ and they will hopefully taste like mustardy chillies.
These guys are huge. I planted 6 cloves of elephant garlic outside in early February, which was a little too late, but with the Spring being late to arrive I’m hoping they will be ok. The leaves have now grown to almost a metre high and they have a very pleasing ‘twist’ form which looks decorative next to my straight onion spires. I’ve read that if elephant garlic try to flower I need to chop the head off, but up till now there is no flower. Beneath the soil I can see the cloves, which were large when I planted them, have swollen and started to divide into massive garlic bulbs. I am very curious to dig them up and try them but I’ve read I need to wait until the twisty leaves die back. Watch this space.
These are very cute and elegant. I have had a few flowers forming on the ones in the greenhouse, but actually it’s the outside asparagus peas that are doing best; the greenhouse ones have got a bit sun-scorched. The plants are very pretty little things with stems growing out neatly in all directions like the spokes of a wheel. And the flowers look like mini-sweet peas.
I ordered a potted plant cocktail kiwi and keenly awaited its arrival. I couldn’t believe the size of it when it arrived – it was about the size of clematis you would buy from a garden centre, with shiny waxy leaves, and it already had 10 beautiful flowers; like mini white passion flowers, with a lovely delicately sweet scent. I was delighted with it. It’s so pretty I’ve given it pride of place in the conservatory and the flowers have matured into tiny fruit. I am so excited to try them and with all the sun that is forecast for July I hope it wont be long.
I’ve had great fun so far and certainly learned a lot. I gave my mum a set of JW seeds and a signed copy of James’ book for her birthday so I’m looking forward to seeing what successes she has. Hopefully I can report back on bountiful harvests for both of us in a few weeks time!