Oslo Garden

A blog about gardening in Oslo, Norway


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Seeds for 2016- Part 1: Vegetables

Sowing time is always an exciting time! This year I’m adding a few new varieties of vegetables and flowers, and now I’ve got all the seeds I want (for the moment!) I can start sowing indoors.  Here’s what’s on the list; those asterisked are those  I’ll be growing for the first time:DSC_0060Vegetable seed list

Legumes:

Oregon Sugar Pod Peas*

Norli Peas*

Ambrosia Peas

Vicia faba ‘Hangdown’ *

I’ve not had huge success growing climbing beans here and what with the wet summer last year and the windy school site, I’ve decided not to grow them this year. Instead I’m focussing on growing more cooler-weather legumes. The Ambrosia peas that have, by contrast, been easy growers and have produced tasty crops will be joined this year with two varieties of mange tout- type (flat pod) peas and broad beans.

Brassicas

Red Cabbage ‘Holdbar Vinter’*

Savoy Cabbage ‘Smaragd’*

Green Kale ‘Westlander Winter’

Red Kale ‘Redbor’

Kale is another stalwart so I will be growing both red and green Kale varieties again alongside two cabbages for the first time: a red cabbage, which I thought would be nice for raw salads or even pickling, and a Savoy cabbage which is very commonly found in Sweden but very hard to come by here in Norway.

Salads

Rucola (Salad Rocket)

Winter Purslane (Claytonia)

Lambs Lettuce (Corn Salad)

Cerbiatta Lettuce

Red Giant Mustard leaf

Mizuna

Watercress (Nasturtium officinale)*

Merveille de Quatre Saisons lettuce

Iceberg lettuce

I use the Iceberg and Merveille lettuces to delineate the kitchen plots within the raised beds at the school garden. These are happy as cut and come again crops and their contrasting foliage is pretty. I was intending to grow the other varieties solely at home and sow them in succession to produce continuous harvests of salad leaves, but I may also drop in one or two into the school site, in gaps between crops as time goes on.

I was thrilled to discover that Solhatt seed producers have introduced watercress seeds for the first time this year. I love its peppery leaves so I jumped at the chance of trying to grow some. Watercress thrives in slow-moving water but I’ll grow it at home where I can monitor it more closely and make sure it is kept constantly moist.

Roots (& Beets)

Knollfennikel Perfektion*

Beta vulgaris ‘Tondo di Chioggia’ *;  ‘Robushka’; ‘Burpees Golden’*

Daucus carota ‘Atomic Red’; ‘Milan’; ‘Purple Haze’; ‘Cosmic Purple’

So I ordered the fennel before I realised it’s completely unsuitable to grow with the other vegetables as it’s allelopathic, i.e. inhibits the growth of other plants around it! Dill is the only other plant that it can be grown with without any adverse effects. I’ll try growing it in a pot at home and set it apart from the other vegetables as I love fennel bulbs and am curious to see how it does.

Carrots have an interminably long growing season but are easy to grow, versatile to eat and magical for kids to harvest. I’ll grow four varieties again.

This year I’m growing two new Beetroot varieties which I hope will be as tasty as much as they are attractive; the Choggia with its distinctive candy stripe pattern when you cut it open, and Burpees Golden with its brilliant orange colour.

Tomatoes

Kirsebærtomat-Zuckertraube*

Matina

I’ve been spurred on by the family to grow more tomatoes this year, so I’ll give it a go again and see how we get on. Two years ago three Matina tomato plants grew well outside in our south-facing sun trap, and even the tomatoes that hadn’t ripened by the time the frosts came were perfect to make into lovely green tomato chutney! This year I’ll also try the cherry tomato variety-Zuckertraube.

Other vegetables

Chard ‘Rainbow’, ‘Rhubarb’

Summer Squash

‘Sunbeam’; ‘Pattypan’; ‘Gold Rush’; ‘Zuboda’

Winter squash

Cucurbita maxima ‘Uchiki Kuri*

Even though last year’s squashes were a bit of a washout I am going to try growing the same varieties again alongside a new winter squash variety: Uchiki Kuri. I’ve chosen it in particular because its pear-shaped pumpkins are small but store well and are reportedly very tasty. It also grows as a vine, so I’m hoping it’ll not only look impressive on a trellis but also free up some space to plant out more things in the plot. Squashes tend to be space hungry so having a bit of extra room to squeeze in other things would be very useful.

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Sowing in sunglasses

While we may be enjoying the beautifully warm and bright Spring weather, it’s still too cold to sow our vegetables directly outside. It is, however, the perfect time to start them off indoors. This year I made my first sowings  just before Easter (end of March), the year before that it was in mid February. Ok ok, so I’m new to blogging, it’s taken me this long to tell you that! But it’s still not too late now to start sowing to get a harvest of vegetables in mid summer.

Here in Oslo the (frost-free) growing season is relatively short (May-October- ish). So rather than wait until it is warm enough to sow directly outside, you can extend the growing season by sowing seeds inside first. Once the soil has warmed up sufficiently and risk of frosts have passed, you can transplant them outside.

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Certain vegetables will prefer to be sown directly outside, carrots for one (but there’s nothing to stop you trying!) but for the most part this can be done with most vegetables.

When potting up, I have found it helps to add some vermiculite to my potting compost (usually called here ‘så/kaktus jord’), to lighten the soil even further, about at a ratio of 1:2 (soil). My pots were reused lego packaging and I sowed a 1-3 seeds in each individual pot depending on the size of seed. Then I put them in a small propogator and gave them a good watering with a watering can with a sprinkler head (turned up so the water comes out more gently), before putting the propogator lids on and setting them on the window sill. You don’t even need a propogator: a pot with a clear plastic bag over the top secured around the pot with a rubber band will do the job just as well. Adjust the ventilation or loosen the band if too much condensation is forming.

Amazingly within the first week, there were first signs of sprouting seeds.

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A few weeks on, some of the seeds were ready to be potted into bigger pots – below are the beans racing ahead!

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As you can see they are straining for light so I have made a reflector using cardboard from a cereal packet and some kitchen foil. Placed behind the plants it reflects the light from the window and provides another light source so that plants don’t end up leaning towards the one.

Whilst these seedlings are getting bigger, it’s time to sow another batch. By keeping some seeds back and sowing again a few weeks after initial sowing and so on, you get the bonus of later harvests, thereby potentially giving you a continuous harvest throughout the growing season.


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Sow what?!

Now is a good time to start thinking about what vegetables and fruit you want to grow. Here’s a handy checklist to help you plan:

  • What do you like to eat? Stick to things you enjoy eating or want to try for the first time. The last thing you want is an endless supply of something you don’t like, though you can be generous and share it with friends, family or neighbours!
  • How much space have you got? You don’t need a big area but some fruit and vegetables like to have deep soil to stretch out in so if you are planting in pots, make sure they are deep enough. Think about the eventual height and spread of some plants so that they get what they need and you don’t get crowded out!
  • Spread out your harvests. Don’t sow things all at once. That way you can harvest gradually rather than having one harvest at the end.
  • Where are you going to grow? Make use of the space you have so that you maximise your potential. Is it south or north facing? Do you catch the sun for part of the day or for the whole day? Is it windy, is it by the sea? As a general rule find a sheltered spot that gets at least some sun in the day.
  • Match your growing space with the plant’s needs. You’ll get better results if you give the plant conditions it prefers to grow in. For example, lettuces, like to keep cool and can tolerate a lot of shade. Plus they don’t require a lot of space. Whereas courgettes like to spread out and adore the sun. Keep them happy and they’ll reward you!

Look out for seeds at your local garden centre: Plantasjen and Hageland are the largest in Oslo; some supermarkets and whole food shops. There are also online retailers such as solhatt.no and gardenliving.no that sell varieties specifically suited to the Nordic climate.