Friday, 30 August 2013

harvest and a half

I've got a ridiculous amount of garden produce backing up on the scullery bench, waiting to be used.

That monster cucumber at the front is supposedly a mini cucumber La Diva, "La sinka lika stona" more like!
Ugly brute ain't it? I wonder it it will last until the allotment show.

The tomatoes are ripening thick and fast too

 The yellow ones are sungold and very delicious, I will try those again next year.  The green one is just a green one that fell off, but I gather that there are some varieties which are green when they are ripe.  Not quite sure why you would want that, but I'm probably a bit of a traditionalist where toms are concerned.

Another half a bucket full of runner beans.
And some of the Bedfordshire Champions drying in the garage.

And the weather is still good, I cannot believe how good this summer has been, it almost makes up for the last two stinkers we have had.
I'm beginning to worry about next year now, it's going to have to work hard to compare with this one.

Monday, 26 August 2013


Is this a first in living memory? - A hot and sunny bank holiday? And boy was it hot!
I just had to get outside after two gloomy days stuck in the house, but it was too hot to do anything so I sat in the shade and tidied the onions.
They are looking dry enough to take home now, I had rigged up the poly cloche over the onion drying rack and it has kept off the worst of the last two days rain.  Some of them will need to be used soon, but it looks like quite a lot of them should keep well.  I will have to bring the pram to take them home soon.
The Bedfordshire Champion that I grew from seed are turning their tops over now and are quite a pretty onion, with a squat, flattened base and a pretty pink skin. I can easily tell the difference between those and the Sturon, which are more rounded with a yellowy brown skin. The red onions (red baron) have done quite well this year too, I don't know if it because is a different variety (I have grown Kamen in the past and normally they are almost a total loss), or the weather, but they have liked the dry warmth this summer.
Those small onions are the ones that I planted too close to the rhubarb, I will use them whole in a casserole. Or I could try the ones from seed as sets next year.

I picked another bunch of sweet peas, but they are definitely going downhill.  The lower leaves are covered in mildew and the flowers have suffered from the attentions of greenfly and heavy rain.

Picked some courgettes and more cucumbers, but left the beans to grow a bit more.

The cabbage seedlings which have been struggling at four leaves, are looking better after a half-strength feed and being moved into the shade, they've got two more leaves in just a few days. They definitely don't like warmth.

The phacelia seeds are sprouting already.  On the bed where I sowed in lines it is clear to see, but the bed which I broadcast, has millions of little seed leaves coming up.
 I'm pretty sure I didn't sow that many phacelia seeds, so they must be all the weed seeds coming out of the old compost.  I will wait until they get bigger and turn them into the soil before they flower.

The leeks have recovered from the shock of having their leaves and roots snipped...
 and are growing again.  There is hardly any difference between the snipped and unsnipped (unsnipped have pink arrows) and they all except one (ringed in yellow) seem to be flourishing. (Get the fancy editing! thanks, Lee for that link!)The purpose of  trimming the roots is supposed to stimulate new root growth, but trimming the leaves, as far as I can see, only helps to easily tell whether they are growing again.

The strawberries I trimmed a week or two ago, have decided not to take the hint, and have started putting out more runners.  But I don't want them yet, so cruelly, I cut them off again.

I promise to remember the camera on my next visit (Just did!)

Saturday, 24 August 2013

more cucumbers

Another eight cucumbers picked today

There is only seven in the picture because I managed to mug an unsuspecting neighbour with one. They also took some runner beans and courgettes, Yay!

Very wet today and last night, but I still had to plodge down the the plot to water the tomatoes in the greenhouse and pick the vegetables, that's the downside of a greenhouse on the plot. The sweet peas are looking very droopy with the rain.

I picked some tomatoes from the plot

top to bottom
Gardeners Delight,  Sungold (the photo makes them look redder than they really are),  Sweet Million and an unknown variety (might be red alert, they are oval rather than round).

Friday, 23 August 2013

cucumber overload

My morning at Moorbank and the cosmos bed looks beautiful

And the prairie bed next to it is looking pretty good too....

The last open day ever at Moorbank is on Sunday 8th September from 2 o'clock till 5.  Catch it while you can!

After my exertions at Moorbank I am, as usual, completely knackered so did some gentle pickling this afternoon... those cucumbers!  I managed to use up five making this...

Pickled cucumber with mustard and dill. I haven't tasted it yet as it is usually best to leave these things for a week or two for the flavours to blend.  It is looking promising and I've got to find some way of using the things up!

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

mouldy onions

Watered the tomatoes in the greenhouse, crawled around the netting tunnel, weeding and feeding the broccoli and kale.

As I go along I am pulling out any onions that have turned over and lying them down to dry with their roots facing south, but today came across one which pulled out suspiciously easily and had lots of white mould underneath on the roots. The same on one clump of spring onions too. Neighbouring onions didn't seem to be affected, I just hope it isn't the dreaded onion white rot, as that stays in the soil for years.

Sowed some winter hardy salad onion seeds (White Lisbon) and a couple of small rows of corn salad.

Picked some more runner beans, some more cucumbers, a few tomatoes.  There are still a lot of green tomatoes at the plot, but the ones at home are ripening fast and I am picking three or four every day (that's not counting the 100s&1000s which are very prolific but only the size of raisins) The big tomatoes haven't ripened yet (the marmande and the one black russian) but they went in later than the others.

The cucumbers are reaching epidemic proportions, I've gone through the pleading with neighbours to take some stage, and I'm starting to throw them away at the slightest excuse.  I have a recipe for cucumber piccalilli which I am going to try when I have assembled the required ingredients.  Flaked sea salt is one of them, I don't think they sell that at the local offie or Medina store.

Monday, 19 August 2013


The hugelkultur bed in full use, The gap is where a removed a redundant pumpkin

 View looking towards the gate

 The two butter-nut squashes, Cor! what whoppers!
The rust-resistant antirrhinum from Which? - look no rust! (although neither has the other ordinary antirrhinum next to it)
Current plotplan

Sunday, 18 August 2013


One of the butter-nut squash's leaves were turning a bit yellow, and when I looked at the whole length closely, every flower was male, with only one female flower right at the furthest tip of the plant.
Considering that the year is getting on and the nights usually start getting cold in September, plus the fact that the plant itself seems to be saying "no more", I decided it was time to pull it out.

The only butter-nut which produced any females was also the only one which grew tendrils for climbing. It made two large squashes only and I had hand pollinated those.

There was also a pumpkin and a sweet dumpling in the same state, no female flowers, one nearby and one in another bed, so they came out too. I can only assume that there was something in the growing conditions that those plants didn't like, because even though they were a bit yellow they weren't damaged or chewed, and were growing quite vigorously with yards and yards of leafy stems snaking around the beds.

I've still got two butter-nuts, courgettes, and lots of pumpkins and sweet dumplings.

I cut off a few more pumpkins which I am going to pass on to my son who is a much more adventurous cook than I am, the last of the corncobs, and a few tomatoes,
Picked more runner beans and some spinach beet leaves for the dinner tonight.

 Found four more diva cucumbers (they really are making up for lost time!). I still like cucumber sandwiches but the novelty is beginning to wear thin.

I picked a few more tomatillos, I might try making some soup if there is enough. I added a chopped one to the potato salad and it fitted in very well, little sharp spots of citrus in the mayo mix, a bit like a very green pepper.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

phacelia sown

Used up the last of the comfrey feed on the celeriac

and fortunately there is a new crop of comfrey waiting to be harvested.  Oh, joy! another bucket of pure nostril-searing niffiness.

Picked more runner beans and sweet peas.  I certainly cannot fault the performance of the legume family this year.

Sowed some green manure (phacelia) seeds in a couple of the empty beds.  In rows in the onion bed.

There only a few onions yet to turn over their tops so I sowed around them.  It is looking amazingly weed free for the time of year.  I'm usually knee deep in buttercups and plantain by now, but the weather has been so fine for so long, I've been able to get to the plot just about every day for an hour or so, watering, weeding and picking, for weeks now.

I also broadcast sowed some phacelia in the old strawberry bed
 where I had dumped the old compost before I was stopped by the wasps' nest.

I saw the fox again yesterday, a few feet away, as it dashed down the central path from one end of the plot to the other, and out through the gate, all in a split second while I was standing gaping.

Thursday, 15 August 2013


I picked a couple of tomatilloes, I'm not sure when they are ripe, but their little paper cases had split and the green shininess was peeping through.  

So being someone who never likes to resist a temptation, I tried one. And it was surprisingly pleasant, firm like a slightly underripe tomato, but with a limey/lemony taste.

I will try leaving a few a bit longer to see if the taste changes. I'm told they are good in salsas, but I rarely make tex-mex (I like it but my sister lived in tex-mex land for a lot of years and got fed up with it ??! and husband can't take spicy foods), so I am going to have to think of other uses for them. Chutney might work.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

wasps nest

Just because I haven't written my diary for a few days doesn't mean there is nothing happening.  It is just that it has been the same every day and it gets a bit repetitive, as follows...

Picked runner beans, picked sweet peas, picked cucumbers, picked tomatoes (that's new), put onions to dry, watered tomatoes and squashes, weeded.

I decided to do something different by starting to empty the oldest compost heap. I am sieving the worst of the undigested matter out and using it to fill up the old strawberry bed, on top of the layer of cardboard and compostable material I have been putting there.

I hope that after the winter has done its worst it will all have broken down to a reasonable growing medium, and the bed will be a genuinely raised bed.

I say starting to empty the compost bin, because I got halfway down and there was a sudden increase in wasp activity.  I backed off and watched lots of very small wasps zooming in and out of the corner of the compost bay. I crept in on hands and knees, braving the buzzing, and could just see the insects busily doing insecty things in their little hideyhole.
Apparently wasps are really valuable allies in the war on pests in the garden, so as I had been very uncharitable to them when they wanted to build a nest in my hut, I thought I would not disturb them any further and left finishing the compost bin for another day.

The strawberry bed was just about full anyway, and my back was beginning to mention politely that it had had enough for the day.

Friday, 9 August 2013

butternut getting bigger

The celeriac seems well today, I gave it a comfrey feed today just in case the seaweed feed yesterday wasn't enough. They'll probably split now...

The butternut squash has gone green instead of brown like it is supposed to, I think I have a changeling.
But it is getting quite big.

More onion tops turned over, and have been put to dry.  Some of the onions grown from seed have made flower stalks.  I'm disappointed, I thought the seed onions might not.  It might be the sudden wet after the long dry period.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

celeriac emergency

Late last night I was browsing my fave website and was horrified to find out that celeriac needs to be fed! And fed at least once a week and every day if possible.  Horror of horrors! I haven't fed them once, never mind every day!

I was all set to hotfoot it down to the plot, until I realised it was almost midnight and it would probably survive until the morning. But, oh no! I had an appointment in the morning!  Would the celeriac last out until the afternoon???

Relax, dear readers, as you might guess, the celeriac was fine, if a little small. One of them had been mined by something and was seriously caved at one side, but the top was still growing away happily. All of which probably had nothing to do with being undernourished.

I gave them a generous dose of maxicrop, pulled off the outer leaves and weeded around them and the Chioggia.

Phew! Disaster averted!

It was a bit of an anticlimax to spend the rest of my visit cleaning and tidying the onions, but quite satisfying to finish with rows of shiny red onions.

I also found 5 cucumbers, one Marketmore and four Diva, and a Sweet Dumpling winter squash. 
Yes, I know there are only four cucumbers on this photo, but we had one for tea, and very sweet it was too.  I haven't decided the best way to deal with the squash.

The lilies in the back yard are fairly busting a gut at the moment.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

potato bag

I emptied the bag I've been growing some potatoes in.  They were in the greenhouse at first and when the weather warmed up they went out into the back garden.  I'm sick of tripping over them every time I go to that part of the yard. They've been watered and fed constantly since March and its time to open the box!

Bit of an anticlimax, eh?

Seems a long time and a lot of nurture to get to about 2 kilos of potatoes.  Oh well, that's gardening for you. I would have been grateful for that amount of potato last year.

Another let-down was the sweet corn, which wasn't quite ready.  It would've been better to have left them for a few more days, but I got impatient.  My fault! I forgot to take pics but they looked quite like proper corncobs but pale cream rather than yellow.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

tomatoes ripening

Torrential rain yesterday, so the ground is well hydrated at last. The upside is that it was my turn to water the plants at the allotment today, so I got off lightly there.  It was more a matter of emptying the trays under the plants, than putting water on.  It is a lovely day today.

All the tomatoes at home, except for the black russians, are coming on nicely, I took off the first of the bambino toms today.  They are quite sweet and nicely formed cherry toms, but not very prolific. According to info acquired, they are F1 hybrids and shouldn't breed true from last year's seeds, but they look and taste very like tomatoes, so I'm happy.

I cut down two of the black russian plants.  Great big strapping plants they were, but not a single fruit between them, the flowers mostly just fell off without setting fruit and the few that had set were tiny and not getting any bigger. I haven't the space to keep plants that don't produce the goods. The third plant has one tomato on it so it has a stay of execution.

The tomatoes in the greenhouse at the plot are looking good considering they were the runts of the litter.  Some sweet million and black cherry are turning orange.

I took the vegetable transportation vehicle (the pram) to the plot and loaded it with all the potatoes and about 20 onions. Poor thing, it was staggering a bit, not built for 2 stone babies. I also picked a load of runner beans three courgettes and one of the vegetable spaghetti squashes.

I don't know if the squash was ripe or not but it wasn't getting any bigger, so I cut it off to give the other two a better chance.

I also picked, wonder of wonders, two La Diva cucumbers, those are they on top of the runners in the picture.
And there are more developing.  It must have been the dry weather which was holding them back.

I weeded for the required half hour and then cut off the tops of the strawberry plants, laid out a few more onions which had turned over, made a cup of tea with the ghillie kettle, did some more weeding.  All in all a pleasant couple of hours.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Potatoes all out

Found some beetroot hiding amongst the weeds, chioggia.

I tried to strip the sweet pea flowers as they are starting to make pods, but there was just too many, and I gave up in the end when my fingers got cramp in the scissors. I also went round and dead-headed the cosmos, they are starting to go down now, and the sweet william are starting to come up.

I dug out the rest of the potatoes out of the 4 x 4 raised bed and got a good lot with some whoppers in amongst.

There was a seriously heavy bucket full, too many to carry home so I will have to bring the pram next time. I've got a fair few onions to carry home too.  The red onions have been reasonably successful this year, a lot have gone to seed, but a lot haven't.

Yesterday I made a lovely fennel and courgette soup out of these 

and a fennel that had bolted in the warm weather.  I didn't want to throw it away after gazing at it admiringly for so long, so I took off the sideshoots (the central stalk was like iron), chopped them and cooked the soup.  It turned out to be too fibrous, even after blending, there was little bits which didn't soften down, so I had to put the soup through a sieve to get rid of the bits. But after all that it was very tasty indeed, I do like that aniseedy flavour, and I will definitely make it again.  Tomorrow in fact, as I picked this courgette monster
from the free shelf by the gate this afternoon, and I just happen to have another bolted fennel.
I can use some of the courgette in the soup, double quantities this time, and try dehydrating the rest for future use in curries and stews.

I picked a load of runner beans and am hawking them around the family for takers.  I could freeze them but I'm not really impressed by frozen runner beans, and I don't fancy dehydrated runners in stews etc., I'd much rather keep them as a seasonal treat.

I sieved the comfrey tea, phew, what a pong! and fed the squashes and cucumbers.  A miracle! there is a cucumber longer than an inch on the La Diva.

Friday, 2 August 2013


I picked some of the Jack-be-little pumpkins today, they were going a darker yellow and looking as if they weren't going to get any bigger.  These are the first ones on the vine and there are plenty of later, bigger ones coming on.

I've just got to think of something to do with them now.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Still warm

Very warm again today.  Overcast but sauna-like outside. 25C. Rain overnight so the weeds will be loving it.

The old strawberry bed.  I've covered it with cardboard, lasagne-style, and am dumping all the soft stuff which will rot down over winter.

Plenty of pumpkins on the hugelkultur bed

And the butternut gets bigger and bigger

This is what happens when you leave a garlic past its time

That white spot is a butterfly in my supposedly insect proof brassica tunnel!  Oh well!

I took the pak choi out as it had bolted and wasn't producing big leaves.

I dug up some more potatoes and they are not as clean as the earlier ones, some holes here and there, but still not bad. It is only to be expected, they have been in the ground longer.  I think I might dig all that bed up and store them rather than leave them for the slugs.

I dug up a fennel (Sussexmouse, this is NOT what a fennel is supposed to look like) even though it has bolted and I'm going to try making some soup with it anyway.