Wednesday, 31 July 2013

peas finished, old strawbs out

The peas and mangetout have finished.  I pulled off what pods there were and the plants are on the compost heap.  They have a pretty short season, I could have extended it by planting a second crop, but by that time I had filled the plot up with other things. I think next year I might not over-indulge in squashes and cucurbits, and maybe I will have room for more peas.

 The middle of the pea bed is still occupied by very tall cosmos which I put in with the peas when I ran out of space. They have gone really leggy to get some of the light between the pea plants.

The winter onion bed is now empty, the last few are drying in the garage.  They have been really good this year, well worth putting in even though onions are so cheap in the shops.  I have filled the bed up to the top with some soil improver that I kept back for the purpose.
I think this bed might take the Hispi cabbage which is sprouting nicely in the cold frame.  Because it is a small bed it should be easy to cover with netting.
 The cut flower bed has performed as I hoped, but a bigger variety of flowers would have been nice.  The cosmos (the white flowers) were good, but the oenothera....
wasn't a very good cut flower as its current open flowers are at the top of a tall spire, with the dying flowers lower down, so it looks a bit bedraggled most of the time.

The pumpkins and tomatillos in the hugelkultur bed at the back of the picture look nice and green and are growing well. The squashes are a bit crowded now in what seemed like loads of room when I put them in.  The book did say 3ft between plants but I didn't really believe it.

But the sweet peas have been, and still are magnificent this year, in both sight and smell.
All in all, the plot is looking good!

I took the old strawberry plants out today.  I felt a bit traitorous because they have performed well for me, but the next generation is doing a good job in the "new" bed, and I shouldn't anthropomorphise, they are only plants after all. I decided against keeping some of the newer plants from that bed, as there is plenty in the new bed and I don't want to start another strawberry bed somewhere else.

I picked 4lbs of gooseberries from MGG's plot as he was fed up with getting scratched and torn from picking.  My gooseberries died in the flood last year and my new plants are just babies yet and produced a total crop of two berries, so MGG kindly offered his surplus to me.. Well really, to anybody who was hard enough to brave the thorns. So after rubbing some Savlon onto my arms and hands I am going to make gooseberry jelly.

While I was weeding I came across this character...
A ladybird larva, I think.

Final mystery seed update

Mystery Squash update. 
I kept it for a week or two and the skin went from green striped to the light brown of a proper butternut squash.  It was quite immature though as when I cut it open the seeds were hardly developed at all.

 But it made good soup, nonetheless....

Monday, 29 July 2013

Leeks planted

Time to plant the leeks....

 I have decided to trim them at both ends to make them easier to plant. I haven't done this before but I gather it makes very little difference to the development of the leek and makes them easier to drop into the planting holes. The picture below is before trimming, although many of them had much more roots to trim

 And this is it after trimming.  I hope I haven't cut too much off, I'm relying on the leek's resilience to carry it through.

Not very good at straight lines.  The ground was raked over nice and level(ish) yesterday and because the soil was good and damp, the holes made with the fat dibber (spade handle) kept their shape allowing the trimmed leek to be neatly popped in.

 I then filled each hole with water to wash the soil around the roots, and job complete. (I left some of the leek tops untrimmed, to see if it made any difference)

Latest plotplan:

Sunday, 28 July 2013

rain at last

Lots of rain last night and this morning (bad for my son's roof, good for the garden), 33mm of rain recorded on the weather station, I think there has only been about 3mm in the previous four weeks. The wheelbarrow had a good four inches of water in, but the garden didn't flood so I was able to rake the empty potato bed into a fine tilth (ha ha) without the soil sticking to the rake all the time. I had things to do today so I didn't have time to put the leeks in but the bed is all ready. The damp, but not saturated soil made weeding a lot easier too.

Picked some more runner beans, they are coming on well, and the last of the broad beans.

Still waiting for the tomatoes to start ripening.  The 100s & 1000s are getting going but they are so tiny they can't be taken seriously, and there is one orange one on the Gardener's Delight outside, but the rest are slacking badly. The black russians are not fruiting at all, they have lots of flowers which just fall off leaving no fruit behind.  The others in the greenhouse seem to be getting pollinated okay, so I can't see why the black russians are so shy.

I picked a corncob but it wasn't ready even though the silks were quite brown.

Friday, 26 July 2013


There has been some rain at last, but only about 20 minutes of proper rain yesterday, so still watering as it is still very warm.  The squashes are looking really well, though, and the courgettes are producing at a rate I can cope with.

Took about 8 good sized runner beans off today, the first ones this year. They seem to have appeared overnight, I'm sure they were nowhere near that size yesterday.

I was going to dig over the potato bed, but I was too tired and hot after my morning at Moorbank, so I watered the greenhouse, weeded a bit, picked the runners.  The leeks will have to wait a while longer.

Sowed some Hispi cabbage in two five inch pots.

A friend let me pick some of their huge bed of strawberries, so I could try them out in the new dehydrator.

I put in strawberries and broad beans, and the cloth in the bottom one is to stop cranberries from falling through the holes.  These cranberries have been in the freezer since last year because we overbought and there is a limit to how much cranberry sauce we can eat at Christmas.  So, as I like dried cranberries with my cereal for breakfast, I thought I would try drying them.  I'm hoping that the cloth won't interfere with the circulation of air.  The instructions are pretty minimal, so I am feeling my way along here.

a place for the leeks at last

I have taken up all the potatoes from that bed.  It started to rain while I was doing it, and it was amazing how quickly I was covered in mud, where all was dust dry a few minutes ago.
I got a full bucket of potatoes out of it, all nice and clean, with only a bit of scabbing on some and a little damage from the fork.  It seem to be a law of nature that your fork has to go through the biggest one.

There is a bed free now for the leeks.  They have been waiting so long that they are actually pencil thick, like the books say.

I've been swotting up on what can go in now, lettuce, pak choi, spring cabbage (or Hispi which should work all year round), corn salad, radish.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

drying beans

After clearing the bean bed I took about half a hundredweight of beans home.
It took me about an hour to shell them all and I ended up with a 1.5 litre jug full of beans, some big, some small. The smaller ones I have frozen and the big ones I have dried in the oven on its lowest setting. (The dark ones are red epicure and the lighter ones are Bunyards Exhibition.)

The oven temperature won't go lower than 200F which is not really cool enough for drying, and seems to be expensive on gas. So I have sent away for a dehydrator and I'm going to give drying a go.  It's that or get a bigger freezer which I haven't got the space for anyway.

I read that the La Diva cucumbers need to have the male flowers removed, and the growing tip should be nipped out at five or six leaves.  So I hotfooted it to the plot to check them out. I couldn't find any male flowers, so either there wasn't any or I don't know what they look like.  All the flowers, both current and ex, had mini cukes behind them, but nothing bigger than an inch long, whereas the Marketmore has produced two 6 inch fruits already.
And as for nipping them out at 6 leaves, it was way too late for that, so I nipped a few random growing tips out and left it at that.

One runner bean is big enough to pick, but I think we will wait for some more to grow up. They are looking promising, I might have enough to dehydrate!

broad beans are finished

The broad beans are finished.  A scene of devastation!
We were getting a bit beaned out, broad beans for dinner every other day for two weeks is quite enough until next year.  I have cut most (there are still a few young pods on) of the stalks down and they are on the compost heap and I'm leaving the roots to die back (if they do, last year there was a second flush)unless I need the bed for something else.

I'm going to have to think of something to fill the empty beds soon.
  1. Bed E is where the broad beans were,
  2. bed H is a potato bed and I'm going to dig them all out soon.  
  3. The three onion beds will be ready to come out soon. This is the last of the winter onions.
  4. The old strawberry bed is finished and those plants are coming out.
I don't particularly want to plant any more brassicas, although some spring cabbage might come in useful, but there isn't any room in the tunnel at the moment.  Maybe I could put some under a cloche until the tunnel is free of onions.

There are the leeks, of course, patiently waiting for their turn in the soil.  I will put them in the potato bed, I think.

I will put some field beans in the old strawberry bed as green manure, and I could put phacelia in somewhere else.  I have a book on growing winter vegetables, so when I have skimmed that I will maybe have some ideas.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

redcurrants harvested

There has been a little rain, but not enough to wet much. 0.6mm Friday night and 0.3mm on Saturday night, but it is overcast and muggy so things aren't drooping so much.

I weeded the cutting bed.  I had been leaving it thinking that the wild flower seed I chucked about last year might come up, but all I can see are some californian poppies, which I do love.

Instead the ground is covered with speedwell, which, in my mind's eye, I visualised as a carpet of blue with the white cosmos above, but the reality was a messy mass of greenish brown instead, as the lack of water and the heat seems to have discouraged most of the flowers.

The cosmos has coped very well with the dry conditions, there have been loads of flowers even though I have hardly watered that bed at all.

It is quite easy to weed the speedwell as it comes up in a lump if you chip away at the base with the trowel and just roll the top growth back, it is quite satisfying to make a big impression on it in a short time. The knotgrass in amongst it isn't so easy, as it has tough stems which need to be dug out.

Harvested the redcurrants yesterday.  Got about half a pound of fruit, enough to half fill a punnet which isn't bad from a plant I thought was dead last year. They are in the freezer to use with other fruit.

Picked more sweet peas.

They have been wonderful this year, long straight stems and the smell....There is a vase in every room and fresh ones every two or three days.

The tomatillos haven't grown very tall, but they seem to have plenty of little lanterns on.  Not sure if there is any fruits inside though.

 The maincrop onions are starting to turn their tops over already, not huge bulbs either and still quite green.  It is probably the lack of water.

 Runner beans developing....

 And at home in the back garden we have a proper carrot! Well, we was just bite sized.

Friday, 19 July 2013


It is so very dry now, the soil is dry well down under the surface.  It is just about polar opposite of what it was like last year.  We have had no rain since the 23rd June and precious little before that from mid-May.

But we do have tap water readily available, for which, as Lee says in his blog, we are very grateful, as so many don't have that luxury.

Where it hasn't been worked, the soil is baked hard and no way can you get any weeds out that have deep roots.  The tops get knocked off and that is it. But I am developing quite a tan even though I'm using factor 50 sun cream.

I found two dead (I thought) mice in different parts of the plot, but on reflection I realised they they were too big for mice, and they had hairy tails not naked like rats'. I looked it up in my book and it looks like they may be voles of some variety.  It is strange to find two dead bodies in one day, when in five years I don't think I have ever found any before. They both seemed undamaged apart from where the insects had been at them.  I didn't investigate the C.O.D. (as they say in CSI) any closer, my curiosity isn't that strong. Is it coincidence or could it be something to do with the abnormal weather?

The strawberries are coming to an end, they might have lasted longer if it had rained, but they have been lovely while they lasted.  I have picked about 14 lbs altogether and they have been quite large but not so prolific as 2011.
A cucumber! (Marketmore)

 And peas and mangetout with our fish fingers today.  How exotic!
Was going to be broad beans as well but I'm fed up with shelling peas and I'm not going to start on beans until I've recovered.  

I'm going to make peapod soup with the overlarge mangetout and empty peapods.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

redcurrants are red

Picked a carrier bag full of broad beans, I'm intending to sit in front of the telly tonight shelling them and they will go in the freezer for winter fodder.

I've got a feeling my sunflowers won't be tall enough to win the sunflower competition

The tallest so far, is less than 5 feet, but I'm not giving up yet, there is one on the right which hasn't opened yet and is still growing.

This is the redcurrant which I thought had died last year.


I was weeding around the onions and noticed the marked difference in size as they near the rhubarb. So, lesson learned, give rhubarb plenty of room. I wonder if a dose of miracle-gro will work.

This is the mystery squash I saved from a wintery doom last autumn, and what has happened? It has met a summery doom instead, but will provide us with a nice roast butternut soup, I hope.  I've got a few assorted courgettes which could go with it.

I have cucumbers....

Both on the marketmore, there are some vestigial ones on the la diva, but these ones grew overnight, it seems.  The veg spaghetti gets bigger every time I look at it.

The sweetcorn has tufty bits and fluffy bits
This is my view of the plot as I sit drinking my cup of coffee in the shade of the compost heap.
And mighty fine it is too, what a contrast to last year!

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Picking, picking...

Picked loads of mangetout, I'm sure there weren't any there last time I looked, but today there are tons of over-the-hill mangetout.  I cooked them all because I am not sure what size is the best, and some were stringy, some were not.  I now have a better idea of which ones to put straight on the compost heap.

I also had the first peas, but I didn't cook those, they are too nice raw to spoil by cooking them.

Also picked a load of broad beans.  I've got three kinds ready now, but I think of all I like the red epicure best, although the others are good too. There is a bed of red epicure by itself so I think I will leave that bed for seeds for next year as we are getting a bit fed up with eating broad beans and there are still plenty to come in the main bed. The next lot I pick will go in the freezer.

I spotted a bean on the runners today, I would've taken a picture but the camera ran out of battery.  It will still be there tomorrow.

Picked more strawberries and I think they taste better since I gave them a seaweed feed. Could be wishful thinking though...

The trouble with all this harvesting is that I don't have time or energy to do much weeding, so it is getting away from me a bit, as it does every year, but this is the first time I have realised why it happens.  I will have to be more disciplined and not faff about so much.

Today we had the first completely home-grown dinner (except the chicken). Potatoes, turnip, mangetout, broad beans, and strawberries for afters.  I have to admit that I didn't grow the Bisto gravy, the meringue nests or the ice cream, but the rest was all mine.

A huge bunch of sweet peas, this is just half...
And the front room window has been opened for a third time...
And the results of yesterday's cooking...
There were two jars but one was approved and adopted by visiting family.