Friday, 20 July 2012

New Introductions On The Allotment

The monsoon like weather conditions have not made gardening very easy the last couple of weeks. To get to the allotment you have to wade through ankle deep water and the soil is transformed into a (smelly) muddy soup. So I had to wait until conditions were a tiny bit better before planting out some new plants. These are a mixed bag of left overs from Vreekens which are for the most part quite unusual plants. 

First up is the Yacón (Smallanthus sonchifolius, Syn.:Polymnia edulis, P. sonchifolia) or apple root. This is a plant from the Andes (this seems to be theme with this shipment) and produces crisp sweet edible tubers. Growing style is not dissimilar from the Jerusalem artichoke. Once the foliage has been damaged by the first frost you can harvest the tubers. It is not very cold hardy so any left over bulbs in the ground probably won't survive. However to keep it over winter I will just put a couple of left over tubers in some moist sand and keep that in the fridge.

 Next up Alternanthera sessilis or Mukuna Wenna 'Purple threaded'.  This is a bit of a cypher to be honest. It is a tropical perennial that is also sometimes sold as an aquarium plant even though it won't survive long submerged. It likes soggy ground so for now it should be loving its conditions. You can eat the leaves in a salad and they are said to be rather healthy because of high levels of anthocyanins which gives it its colour.

This is Rhubarb 'Valentine' which I planted in the rhubarb patch. None of the rhubarb is looking very good at the moment so here is hoping for next year.

Another slight disappointment, namely a rather sad sprig of bog standard chocolate mint. I just plunked it into the herb department and I don't really care whether it survives because I got a big fat clump of this in a container at home.

This is one I am rather excited about, it is Tropaeolum tuberosum or Mashua 'Ken Aslett'. You can see by the leaves that they are related to garden nasturtium. This is a plant from the Andes that you grow for its tubers. I planted it to climb into the pea fence. It is said to be a really easy plant with high yields and resistant even repellent to pests. As a bonus the flowers are also quite nice.

Clinopodium douglasii or Yerba Buena, it does not look like much now but this is so far my absolute favourite. Though it is not a member of the mint family it has THE best minty fragrance, better than any mint I ever smelled. You can use it in tea or cocktails and should form a good perennial patch. I planted it close to the seating area so you can smell it while on a bit of a break. Seriously this plant smells sooooo good.

Hog Peanut (Amphicarpa bracteata), interestingly if the ground is loose enough the pollinated flower digs itself into the earth and forms a nutty bean like fruit that you can roast and eat as a nut. I don't have the ideal conditions for this (shady woodland) so I am not sure whether it will thrive but it is worth a try.

Garlic chives or Allium tuberosum. This should be a nice replacement for the wild garlic in omelets and with a bit of luck and mild winters it should also be perennial. Which is good because I really want a lot of perennial veg.

I have some more tuberous veg that I will plant out in the next couple of days but because the mole crickets are eating everything in sight I will make a makeshift raised bed to try and protect them.

 Sadly the bad weather has started to be quite detrimental to the sweet peas. There are not many flowers on there now and most of them are damaged by the rain.

The sweet pea plants themselves are turning yellow so that is not a good sign either.

The pumpkins on the other hand are doing very well. Theoretically there could be 6 different varieties but so far I can distinguish two of them. One a flat yellow and the other a rounded orange. It is a bit annoying because I want to grow some for food (keeping them small and tasty) and other just to see how big I can grow them. So I need to make some decisions soon about which vines to trim.

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