Thursday, 28 August 2014

detail on the potatoes

At a glance the Desiree looks good, and to be fair, about two thirds are looking pretty. 

I have discarded a few which were disgustingly rotten, but some are like this...

 A strange scaly surface, but when I cut into it the flesh is clean and white, so I will keep those and see how they get on in storage. I have no idea what causes this effect.

Some are like this, with obvious slug damage.  I haven't seen any other critter to blame for it, so Slug, you are It. These ones are discarded.

 Some are like this, green (which shows as brown on a pink potato) on the uppermost side.  Mea culpa!  Seed potato planted too near the surface. Some have been discarded but some tubers which aren't too badly affected, I have kept, because I read somewhere, that if they are kept in the dark and they aren't too green, they lose their green patches.  Worth a try to see if that works.

And some are like this, a bit warty.  Again, like the scaly ones, the potato underneath seems fine so I am keeping them. And again I have no idea what causes this. I have read that too much lime can cause scabbing, and although I cannot remember liming that bed, I might have done it when the previous crop (brassica) was planted last year.

I was trimming the spirea hedge between the plots, and accidentally liberated two winter spaghetti squash which were making a break for the next allotment.  I think they have done their growing, but they still need time to mature and develop flavour, which ideally is best done while still attached to the plant.  They will just have to make do with the greenhouse.

A bumper haul of produce today, just as well I have Pram to help me.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

maincrop potatoes out

 Desiree looking pink and beautiful, although if you could look closer, you would see quite a few slug holes and quite a few scabby ones.  Some of them were squishy rotten and they went into a separate bag to go home, to be disposed of in the ordinary refuse collection.  I'm not sure whether it is blight but just in case I'm not putting it on the compost heap. 

This is the result of two beds, not an awful lot, but enough for us.  I won't do maincrop potatoes next year, I don't know why I did this year, just got carried away in the allotment shop.

The spaghetti squash has started to die back as there is a lot of mildew on the leaves, apparently that is a sign of the plant being dry at the roots. This seems very perverse of the plant, why does it produce so many leaves that it means the rain water can't reach the soil?

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Weather! What's it like?

A rainy minute on the plot

the next minute.....

Friday, 22 August 2014


The broad beans I grew for seed have been taken down, but they still need some drying time.  They are drying in the shed at the moment, but I will take them home when I have a hand free.

At the moment I am taking home bagfuls of beans of the runner, climbing french and dwarf purple french varieties. I'm picking the french beans in preference to the runner beans and we will have the big runner beans later in the year. They are really nice, particularly the purple ones, I'm very impressed with them.

It is still quite cold, autumn seems to have started early. (I am happy with an early spring and an early summer, not so struck on an early autumn and winter.) I am thinking that the huge crop of green tomatoes I have outside in the back garden might not ripen.  Green Tomato Chutney anyone?

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

sowing green manures

Turned a bit colder today, for the first time this summer I wondered where my gloves were.  That was early though, by the time the sun came out it was cardigan warm, but not short sleeves warm.

Picking beans to day to take with me to see our oldest son in Hexham.  (Probably a bit like coals to Newcastle, taking fresh veg to the country.)
I am growing some french beans as part of Which? magazine's seed trial, but I must say although the beans are very nice, there isn't many. The runners and the dwarf purple french beans knock spots off them for quantity.
On the subject of beans the broad beans I have grown for next year's seeds are looking about ready to harvest.

Most have turned brown, which presumably indicates ripeness.

Sowed the two small beds with a green manure, buckwheat. 

Most of the beds are emptying now, the only winter crops I am planning are winter onions and garlic.
I will also need a clean bed for the strawberry runners I have pegged down into pots.  They mostly seem to have taken well, all except the latest one which I forgot to water in and is looking very droopy. It might recover, they seem to be pretty resilient.

The other beds I will sow with green manure plants as they become vacant; the already mentioned buckwheat, phacelia and red clover.  I will also use up the pea seeds and last years seed beans as a green manure.

The above is another Which? seed trial. A kind of double cosmos, very pretty.

The latest plotplan

Monday, 18 August 2014

Apple tree chopped

Where was I up to?   Oh yes, apple trees....

Or, more accurately, apple tree....

Couldn't sleep after 6:30 this morning, so I was up at 7 o'clock and down to the plot by 8 o'clock.

After a bit of shoving soil about, a lot of digging, forking and millering, an L-shaped bed has evolved. The sherry bottles have proved their usefulness yet again.

The two remaining gooseberry bushes were too close together, so I shifted one a couple of feet, gave it some compost and FB&B.  I have now got plenty of room for the jostaberry bushes, although they might have to be in partial shade.  The long thin bed might do for something that likes cool and damp such as celeriac, or a shrub.

I went back this afternoon and planted the jostaberries.

Lifted a row of desiree potatoes.  Not an amazing crop, but as that bed had been under water for a while in the spring I wasn't expecting too much.  They seem quite clean on first inspection and surprisingly I only speared two with the fork while unearthing them. Result!

Saturday, 16 August 2014

the renovation begins

I decided not to go with the idea of raised beds.

Before I could start anything, I had to tidy away bags of rubbish left over from the demolition of the old shed. I have reluctantly tucked it all beside and behind the shed, until the skip and bonfire season arrives. I was trying to avoid this, as for me, out of sight really is out of mind.

 I am keeping the two gooseberry bushes that weren't so badly affected by the mysterious dying back.  I am sure that they, with the currants and the three new jostaberry bushes, will be enough for our future berry requirements.

After hoiking out the four surplus gooseberry bushes, I toiled up the hill with five barrow loads of very fine soil improver.

The trouble with buying it from the trading hut is that, because it is only open Saturday and Sunday for two hours, you have to buy it all at once.  Which means you have to find a place to put it while you dig the bed over.  Ideally I would like to dig an area, go get a barrow of improver, scatter it in then move on to the next square metre and repeat, but I haven't got the time to do that before the shop shuts until next week.

So I have to move piles of soil about the place trying not to forget about the bit of ground underneath the pile of soil improver.

I have moved the border planks to create a new border parallel to the fence, allowing access to the back of the bed.  Nothing much grows very well there, I'm not sure why ... waterlogging? Poor soil? Too shady? The easiest solution is just don't plant there.

 I need to dig it all over incorporating the soil improver as I go.  Ideally it should be double dug, but I haven't got the energy for that.
It is quite a large bed, I might have to break it up into two smaller, more manageable beds

These are the two old apple trees whose future is in doubt.  The one on the left is the better of the two.  The tree on the right has no lower leaves, and those leaves it has, are darker and more marked with lesions of some kind.  There is no fruit on for a second year as again, I took them all off (there weren't many) because the apples were so damaged and distorted.

I feel I need to justify my decision to remove the tree, because I feel quite guilty about it.  Could I have done more to improve it? I feel like a bad I taking this too much to heart? After all, it is only a tree and an unproductive one at that.

On a more cheerful note, the blackberries are starting to ripen and they didn't have caterpillars in...well, only one or two...

Friday, 15 August 2014

Apple tree potted up

If you remember I planted two new apple trees in the plot in November 2012.  One died in 2013 (Howgate Wonder) and the other (Kidd's Orange) has limped along looking sick.  It grew new leaves in the spring but they never looked healthy.  So as part of the plan to revitalise that corner of the plot, it has been dug up and transplanted into a pot. I probably should have waited until the dormant period, but I want to get on with it before the winter. It hadn't grown much since I planted it 19 months ago, so the root ball wasn't too big to dig out.

I can't decide whether to buy some planks and make raised beds in that corner, because I have a feeling that the problem with that corner might be soggy soil.  But I am really just guessing, as it doesn't seem wet at all at the moment.  Maybe I should just dig it over and add a load of soil improver to improve the drainage and then see how it goes.

The next thing is to take out the surplus gooseberry bushes.  I have 3 pot grown Jostaberries (Suttons, 3 for £12.99 +£4.99 postage) to take their place when the ground has been sorted out.

I also think I will remove the old apple trees, well, at least one of them is really sick and the other is not quite so sick, so one is definitely going. The other? We'll see, it depends on how hard it is to get the bad one out. It seems loose at the base but I have a feeling that it won't be as easy as it looks, it never is.

I did some volunteer work on the plant scheme plot this morning.  It is the day I used to volunteer at Moorbank, so I will set aside Friday mornings to do some weeding on plot 86 instead. After the rain the soil is nice and loose so the weeds came out a treat.  Lots of bindweed, lots and lots. I used my soil miller on it after weeding and it looks beautiful.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Wilja finished

Cleared the beds of Wilja (2nd early potato) Not a great harvest, but I didn't really expect much after the early growing conditions. Most pretty clean, a few with slug holes and a few with green patches.

I finished cutting the nasturtiums down, the strimmer worked a treat. I hope it doesn't matter that I cut down the asparagus ferns at the same time.

 The broad beans I sowed for next year's seed are starting to blacken and altogether look a right mess.

We got a boiling of french beans at last and very lovely they were too.  There were these Purple Queen dwarf and some Monte Cristo climbing beans, steamed for a few minutes and served with a bit of butter... Mmmm, delicious!

The cucumbers have decided to procreate at last, but I am not sure at what size to pick them.  The packet says pick them small but doesn't give any clue what size "small" is. I picked two early in the season at about 3 inches long and they were bitter. Was that because of their size or their gender?

Saturday, 9 August 2014

monster squash

I have started to mow the nasturtiums as green manure. I should've started sooner as they have already produced lots of seeds, but the bees were enjoying them so much I didn't want to spoil their fun.
I haven't done it all because my shears are rubbish and only gave it a nasty chew.  (How is it that you never seem to be able to sharpen shears, or scissors for that matter, successfully? It seems such a waste.)  I will have to get the strimmer at it.

 This squash must be about a foot long and very heavy....

There it is lurking in the depths.  They've gone mad this year, they have sent leaders through to the next plot, into the potato bed and are dipping toes in the pond now!

Sadly, the sweet peas don't look so happy, not sure why, but I think they will be coming out pretty soon.

 The nigella is looking good...another flower being enjoyed by the insects, there were lots of hoverflies around them

 And the eschscholzia I sowed this year has turned out a different colour to the other ones...very pretty.

Pulled out some more onions. Some of the ones I pulled out last week, have dried in the sunshine and don't look as badly damaged as I first thought. I will still need to use them as soon as possible, but at least they aren't a total loss.
I see onion soup and pasta sauce ahead.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

first french beans

Picked more runner beans.
The climbing french beans are just starting to produce, also the purple queen dwarf french beans, but only 3 or 4 so far.
Took out the psb, it has only produced a few sprouts and a lot of leaves, so its out.
More mouldy onions.
Potted up some more strawberry runners, I think there might be enough now for a new bed next year, I will have to have a count up.
Note to self for next year: when planting different kinds of runner beans for different purposes, don't plant them on opposite sides of the X-frame.  They grow up to the middle and then cross-over and get all mixed up with each other.  I can tell them apart when the flower is on, as the Czar's is white and the Enorma's is red, but both the beans look exactly the same. I had intended to use the Czar for drying and the Enorma fresh, but now I can't tell which is which.

The courgettes have lots of fruits on but none bigger than about four inches long

Saturday, 2 August 2014

killing time in the shed

With the mother and father of all thunder storms looming in the distance, I emptied one bed of potatoes, only two more left.  I really don't know what got into me at planting time, some sort of potato fever.  Why I planted so many is a mystery.

This half bucket is the product from four plants.  It doesn't seem much, but that bed was saturated for quite a long time, so I wasn't really expecting any more.  They have been very nice so far, tasty, if a little floury and very clean.

Then the rain arrived with a bang and my new shed provided me with shelter and a place to sit. I even was able to while away the time it took to pass over, potting on some basil, cutting down the black cherry tomato which has only one fruit on it, taking selfies and reading my current e-book on my mobile phone.  Ain't technology wunnerful!
(By the way, the selfies are not for publication over the internet)

Then the sun peeped out and I took the opportunity to depart, toot sweet.

We had a lovely meal of fresh lemon sole with an allotment mix-up of onions, yellow courgettes, tomatoes (fandango) and green peppers (mohawk)

Friday, 1 August 2014

planting leeks

Timed it well, I just managed to get the leeks in before it started to rain...

 They have been in the tray for far too long and were all matted together...

 I trimmed the tops as well as the roots because some of the leaves had rust spots already. I don't know if cutting off the affected leaves will make any difference.

All done.

The three rows furthest away are Autumn Mammoth and the rest are Autumn Giant.

Just time to fill the little holes with water before the rain came.