TopVeg – growing veg,fruit&herbs

October 31, 2012

What to do in November

Filed under: Uncategorized, calendar — Tags: , , , — TopVeg @ 8:36 pm

There are still a lot of jobs to do in the garden in November, particularly in this mild weather; there are seeds to sow, crops to harvest & there is the general tidying up of the vegetable garden.

Sow in November:



Plant in November:

November Harvest:





Other gardening jobs to be done in November:



  • digging, if it is not too wet, otherwise leave till the new year
  • applying well rotted farm yard manure or compost to ground where next year’s crop will be peas, beans, onions, leeks, celery or spinach
  • clear fallen leaves and put them on the compost heap
  • collect, clean and store bean supports
  • check stored crops & remove any which are starting to decay
  • keep an eye out for pigeons & slugs which may be a problem in November

March 1, 2012

Exquisa Potato

Filed under: potato — Tags: , , — TopVeg @ 8:16 pm
Exquisa is a new variety of potato.  The supermarkets try hard to keep exclusivity of the latest entrants on the market and the seed is kept under wraps.
Janette has asked TopVeg if we know of any suppliers of Exquisa potato seed.  I have spent ages looking for a supplier without success. 
Charlton Park Garden Centre sold it last year, but not this.  I wonder why?
The Exquisa variety was bred in Holland in 1997- and seems to be easier to find there! 
Exquisa Characteristics:
  • yellow flesh
  • smooth skin
  • oval shape
  • small to medium size
  • very high yielding
  • fairly firm texture on cooking
  • multi-purpose or salad type

If anyone knows where to find some Exquisa potato seed please do contact us!

February 11, 2012

How Not to Grow Potatoes

Filed under: potato — Tags: , , , — TopVeg @ 10:45 pm


This example of how not to grow potatoes has proved rather successful. We tried it last year and it worked then, too.
Instead of lifting potatoes before the first frost and storing them in nice Hessian bags, we have left them in the ground.



We have covered them over with a blue plastic sheet to keep some frost off – and the snow, hopefully, has provided some insulation.

We lifted some Kestrel today, after pulling the sheet back.



We dug 2.5kg of Kestrel potatoes (the gardener said it was just from one side of the root!)



The skins do look a bit scabby, but the skin scraped off easily and left a clean potato.



They do taste good!  Kestrel are a second early.  Click this link to buy some Kestrel seed potatoes.

But there is a risk to this strategy.  If the frost gets down into the potatoes they will go soft and to mulch when they thaw out, rendering them useless.  But we had a good 5C degrees of frost last night and the soil was still quite warm.  Last year after a prolonged period of very cold weather we did loose one or two.  So this exercise is definitely an example of how not to grow potatoes!

January 30, 2012

Planting Broad Beans today!

Filed under: pea&beans — Tags: , — TopVeg @ 1:39 pm

We are planting some midwinter broad beans today, before the ground gets too hard.  Frost is forecast, and the frost freezes the soil making it too hard to dig.

Midwinter broadbean seed

Midwinter broadbean seed

Midwinter broad beans are an ideal variety for planting in January.

January 23, 2012

Swift early potatoes

Filed under: potato — Tags: , , , — TopVeg @ 9:54 pm

My gardening friend always grows Swift early potatoes & has the first boiling in early May!  Here are some of his tips:

·         Swift are the earliest variety, ready within 7 weeks of planting

·         Les plants Swift in January

·         He grows them in flower buckets

·         The buckets are kept in the greenhouse all the time

·         Swift only have short tops, so don’t fall over

·         Les pulls the plant out of the bucket, picks of the largest potatoes & returns the plant to the bucket to continue growing!

Swift is ‘The earliest early” according to the British Potato Council variety database.

 Characteristics of  Potato Variety:

·         exceptionally early maturing potato variety

·         good yields

·         attractive, medium sized potatoes

·         good skins

·         good cooking quality

Click this link to buy Swift new potatoes from Unwins

Swift is a very early potato variety!

November 9, 2011

Courgette ‘Black Forest’ Climbing Zucchini

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — TopVeg @ 8:27 pm

Courgette ‘Black Forest’ is a climbing Zucchini;  an F1 Hybrid, latin name Cucurbita pepo.

This climbing  Courgette is an ideal variety for growing in containers on the patio.  As it grows upwards it saves space and is more ‘controlable’.

The long stems are tied onto a trellis or netting to help them grow upwards.

courgette black forest

courgette black forest

Courgette Black Forest:

  • produces heavy yields
  • dark green, smooth, cylindrical 15cm (6”) courgettes
  • height: 120cm (48″)
  • spread: 60cm (24″)
  • sow in April, May or June
  • flowers June – August
  • likes full sun

Click this link to buy some seed of the climbing Zucchini Courgette Black Forest.

April 26, 2011

Seed Tape

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — TopVeg @ 9:42 am

 Seed Tapes are a clever invention that definitely make vegetable gardening easier.  Sowing small seeds at the correct spacing can be difficult particularly when you are ‘all fingers & thumbs’! 

seed tape

seed tape

Seed Tapes contain pre-spaced seeds in a tape.  A seedbed has to be prepared as normal but then the tape is rolled out into a groove on the soil.  The tapes are ideal for outdoor vegetable growing.

The advantages of using seed tapes are:

  • easy to handle small seeds
  • give an even distribution of seeds
  • thinning seedlings is no longer a problem
  • the paper tapes are bio-degradable
  • easy to achieve straight rows!
  • helps arthritic hands


We have been given this packet of perpetual spinach (leaf beet) in a tape which we are going to ‘lay’ today.



The carrots sown in a tape last year were very successful.

The big disadvantage of seed tapes is that they are expensive, but they do make for efficient gardening and will be a useful tool for those vegetable gardeners who are short of time.

October 11, 2010

Mammoth Onions

Filed under: root veg — Tags: , , — TopVeg @ 9:53 pm

The craze for growing mammoth onions continues.  In fact the size of the ‘biggest’onion is increasing.

In 1975, the world’s heaviest onion weighed 4lb 15oz. The record  onion in 2010 is 16lb 8oz!!

William Robinson started the craze 100 years ago when he began developing giant vegetables on his father’s nursery.  He prefixed all his large vegetables with ‘Mammoth’.  Onions were one example of his mammoth veg.   The seed company grew and W Robinson & Son still sell the mammoth seeds, including onions, all over the world.

August 10, 2010

Rhubarb Seed

Filed under: fruit — Tags: , — TopVeg @ 3:32 pm

We left a flower of rhubarb on the plant in the vegetable garden so that it could develop into a head of seed.








 The usual way to get a new rhubarb plant is to replant a piece cut off the crown (or root).  It will take a long time to establish a useful rhubarb plant from a seed.

July 18, 2010

How to Plant Brassica Seeds

Filed under: brassicas — Tags: , — TopVeg @ 4:31 pm

Seeds for leafy Brassicas are usually sown into a small patch known as a plant bed, and when the seedlings are strong enough, they are transplanted into their final position.  So growing leafy brassicas is a two stage process:

  1. raising the young plants from seeds in a bed
  2. transplanting the young plants, from their bed, out into their final growing position

Sometimes gardeners miss out the first stage and buy the young plants in.

Leafy brassicas include brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower & brocolli. Root brassicas, such as turnips and swedes, are not transplanted.  The seeds of root brassicas are usually sown on the site they will grow for their lifetime.

preparing-to-plant-seeds preparing-to-plant-seeds


  • It is most important to prepare a seed bed to give the best growing conditions for the seeds. 
  • Place markers in position at either end of the row, using a tape measure to give the correct row width.
  • Gently firm the soil down.
  • Use a walk-board, which is not resting on the soil, but supported at either end of the bed. Line the board up with the row markers.
  • Draw a seeding groove with a spade. Use the walking board to produce a straight line, & work carefully to get the correct depth.
making-seed-row making-seed-row 
creating-seed-row creating-seed-row 

Sowing Vegetable Seed

    * *only place a few seeds in the hand
    * *pinch a few seeds between finger and thumb and work them out
    * *try to get them dropping singly, not in a bunch
    * *take plenty of time, as it is worth the result
    * *make a mark in the row, before taking another pinch of seeds from the hand, as you loose sight of the last seed
    * *avoid sowing doubles

seed line seed line 

*Cover the seed with fine soil. Then put a few small cobbly bits on top & gently firm in. These lumps help to keep the soil open and prevent capping

*Water  the vegetable seeds in.

 Planting brassica seeds carefully will allow them to develop into good, strong plants.

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