Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Broad Beans out, Brassicas in

The Broad Beans yielded their last harvest a few days ago, and the plants were looking tired, so it was time to remove them and replace them with something else.

So this...

Became this...

After my bad experiences with Cabbage Root Fly last year, I am determined to give my Winter brassicas the VIP treatment this time. After clearing the bed (you'll notice that the peas went too, along with their wire-and-post support system), I forked-in some pelleted chicken manure, and then applied a generous dose of the old Nemasys Grow Your Own nematodes, which will hopefully ensure that the larvae of any marauding root flies are swiftly gobbled up.

After preparing the bed I planted-out six seedlings of Purple Sprouting Broccoli (PSB), three each of "Rudolph" and "Red Arrow". I planted them very deep - up to the height of their first leaves - in order to give them lots of support and to ensure that their roots are down in the cooler soil, which will reduce the stress of getting established. I also hammered in a six-foot hardwood stake next to each plant. They don't need the support yet, but putting the stakes in now will mean less disturbance for the plants.

In amongst the PSB I have planted several Radicchio seedlings. These will mature in early Autumn, hopefully before the PSB gets big enough to block out their light completely. This sort of "catch-cropping" arrangement allows me to get the maximum yield from my beds.

The final part of the process was to thoroughly water-in the plants and scatter around a few slug pellets. I haven't yet decided whether to erect any netting over the PSB. To be honest I don't think it is really necessary this year. There don't seem to be many butterflies around and I am prepared to pick off their eggs / caterpillars by hand if I have to. Whilst netting is fine for keeping out butterflies, I think it also has some disadvantages: for instance it reduces light and airflow.

Beyond the PSB, in the place from where I recently harvested the Shallots, I have planted my other Autumn / Winter staple - six Cavolo Nero seedlings. They are of the old faithful variety "Black Tuscany".

They look a bit pale at present. I think that is because they have been living in small pots until now, and probably not getting enough nutrients from their compost. I expect they will perk up quickly now that they are in proper soil.

If you're wondering what the balls on poles are, those are elements of my "Build-a-Ball" set. The plastic balls act as junction points into which you push aluminium rods. You can construct all sorts of frames, which will support netting, fleece etc.

Monday, 30 July 2012

Harvest Monday - July 30th

This week saw me harvesting the last of my Broad Beans. It was a good batch  - 990 grams - so my total for Broad Beans this year has been nearly 4.5 kilos, and I'm really pleased with that result.

The beans were accompanied by some more finger Carrots and a nice batch of Blueberries.

The Blueberries were mostly from the "Earliblue" bush. There was a total of just over 300 grams.  I have five Blueberry plants now, all growing in pots, and they are all of different varieties so I get quite a long cropping period. [Note: most of my Blueberry plants are ones that I have acquired as Special Offers from various magazines. If you're interested in this type of thing, the BBC Good Food magazine has a reader offer running at present whereby you can get a "Top Hat" Blueberry plant 'free', paying only £5.60 for postage.]

I just love the bloom on the berries. They look as if they have been lightly dusted with talcum powder!

The carrots are hardly show-bench specimens, and there aren't that many of them, but they were still nice - and significantly unaffected by Carrot Fly. They were all the nicer for the fact that I have heard that most people in the UK have failed to grow ANY carrots at all this year.

Looking at the Carrots growing in their plastic boxes in the raised planter, you wouldn't think they were worth having, but appearances can be deceptive. Underneath the compost's surface, they are not that bad.

This method of growing carrots, keeping them "at altitude" seems to work. Two years in a row now I have had carrots that are worth eating. Hooray! Next year I think I may have a go at growing some bigger, maincrop, varieties.

This week I also harvested some more potatoes. This batch of "Pink Fir Apple" weighed 1.6 kilos.

I was just a little disappointed to see that some of them have a bit of scab. Nothing too serious, and relatively easy to remove with a bit of vigorous scrubbing, but it spoils the look of them a little.

I also tidied-up my Shallot crop, removing the dried-up foliage. The total weight from the 15 sets I planted was 1.3 kilos. Somehow I thought it would be more. It looks more than three times what I started with. Maybe my nominal 500g pack (18 sets) was actually less than 500g?

And then there was another little picking of French Beans - 140g this time, about 60:40 "Speedy" (green) and "Polka" (yellow).

Next week will hopefully see the first picking of Runner Beans...


To see what other people have been harvesting this week, visit Harvest Monday on Daphne's Dandelions.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Pretty and Productive 2 - Productive

So here is the "productive" side of my garden at present. In July the garden is full of good things to eat...

The apples (what few of them there are) are turning colour now, with the plain green being replaced with streaks of russety bronze. I'm keeping to my pledge of providing lots of water, so the tree is responding as well as it can. I don't think it is ever going to be a big cropper, but even a few fruits will be welcome. I think they will be ready for picking in late August or early September.

Apples "Scrumptious" - swelling and colouring-up

Now this is exciting (for me, at least)... the Aubergine flowers are wilting, revealing tiny embryonic fruits.

Aubergine "Pintung Long" - flower petals shrivelling

Aubergine "Pintung Long" - tiny fruit forming

The Coriander has formed a fair few seeds already. They are still green, so they won't be harvested for a few weeks yet.

Coriander - seeds now setting

This week I noticed the first ripening fruits on the Raspberry canes. Mine are a late-fruiting primocane variety called "Autumn Bliss", which normally produce fruit from July to November, with the heaviest yield in September. This year they are a couple of weeks behind the normal schedule, no doubt because of the lack of sunshine, but by way of compensation their foliage is more luxuriant, due to the additional rainfall.

The first fruits of Raspberry "Autumn Bliss"

The Blight vs Ripening race is still in progress in the Tomato Department. I keep picking off the worst-affected leaves (and now fruits), to keep the disease at bay, and we have actually eaten a few ripe fruits. I think that maybe the really hot weather has actually retarded the spread of the disease. If it had been damp and humid weather I think the disease would have spread much more rapidly.

Not a pretty sight!

Cherry Tomato "Losetto"

We ate the first couple of fruits from "Sungold" this week. They were super-tasty!

Tomato "Sungold" - sweetest of all

My next photo is of one of the two "Orkado" tomato plants. This is from a trial pack that was priced at only 99p. The variety is similar in many respects to the well-established "Ferline", and is bred for improved blight-resistance (hence very attractive to me!). It is a very strong type, and evidently a prolific fuiter. This plant has set seven trusses already, and it is only a touch over six feet tall. Meanwhile Ferline has only set three trusses and has produced a huge amount more foliage. There is very little blight damage on Orkado so far. Long may it stay that way.

Tomato "Orkado" - a new variety, but evidently a heavy bearer

The lettuces I planted in that plastic storage-box are doing very well. I think they are just about ready for harvesting. The trouble is, I now have loads of lettuce available and you can't really eat salad three times a day!

Lettuces in a plastic container

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Pretty and Productive 1 - Pretty

A well-balanced garden will contain a good mix of these two elements. I will be the first to admit that my garden normally tends towards the productive rather than the pretty, but even I can muster a few good-looking plants, so I have put together a little collection of photos to demonstrate this.

My first subject is a Ladybird Poppy, one of several such plants given to me by my good friend Rosemary. The black-on-red markings of these flowers give them the edge over the more common plain red ones, in my opinion.

Ladybird Poppy

Like many other plants, my "Autumn-flowering" Cherry tree is thoroughly confused by this year's stange weather, and has decided to start flowering now, a good 4 months before it is supposed to do so.

Prunus Autumnalis "Surbhitella" - flowering in July!

At least the Greek Oregano knows what to do.

Greek Oregano

The Hypericum flowers have mostly finished now, and have gone on to produce some beautiful pale pink berries. They look almost good enough to eat.

Hypericum berries

The Bronze Fennel flowers are fully open now. The plants are covered in a mass of bright lemon-yellow blooms. I would normally expect them to be buzzing with hoverflies, but I still haven't seen many of those insects around.

Bronze Fennel

The Buddleia has produced some long gracefully arching stems, each one tipped with a 12-inch array of vibrant purple flowers. The individual "flowerlets" open successively over a period of 2 or 3 days, starting at the end closest to the plant's main stem and working down towards the tip. This would make a great subject for time-lapse photography.

Flower-head of Buddleia Davidii "Royal Red", partially open

Whilst of course more on the Productive side than the Pretty one, the cocktail cucumber plants do contribute a bit on the ornamental side as well. Individually small, the flowers are nevertheless very striking in close-up (and of course they have the added bonus of leading towards edible delights later on).

Cucumer "Iznik"

I'm calling on the Fauna as well as the Flora too...  This Shield Bug knows a thing or two about camouflage.

Shield Bug

The Ladybird in this photo looks as if it has a voracious appetitie for plastic, but I know that the cane-topper was damaged before she ever appeared!

Here's a variation on the theme:


Tomorrow I will tell a similar story with the edible plants.

Friday, 27 July 2012

The Chilli situation

After languishing sulkily in the cool, wet, grey conditions for week after week, the Chillis have "sat up with a jolt" as it were, and have made the most of the hot dry weather these last few days. All of a sudden several of them are showing signs of red colour!

This one is "Hot Portugal" whose fruits are fewer but a lot bigger than they were last year.

And this is "Fuego F1"

The chilli plants are all very "compact" this year - considerably shorter than I would have expected. The bamboo support canes I provided them with have proved to be far too tall!

The leaves are all a bit sickly-looking too, I think. More yellow than green. This is probably because of my deliberate policy of not feeding them, which I have adopted in order to try to get them to concentrate on producing fruits rather than leaves.

With the advent of some sunshine, lots of the flowers (which had hitherto been falling off before setting) are now setting with a vengeance. See if you can tell how many chillies there are in this picture...

The most disappointing of my four types of chilli is "Amando F1", which is only just producing its first fruit. Maybe it will do better now that things have warmed up.

The plants I grew from seeds brought back from Turkey are perhaps the ones which could most readily be forgiven for doing badly. They would normally expect temperatures of 45C or so, I reckon. My two have developed into very bushy plants:

But so far I have only spotted one single fruit. (This one is currently about an inch long).

Maybe more will come soon, after our recent spell of hot weather. It's surely not too late yet?

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Salad season

High Summer is the time we associate most with the harvesting of salads. Having a supply of cut-and-come-again salads, like this tub of Baby Leaf lettuces is a very convenient way of doing things. It involves hardly any effort, hardly any space, a tiny amount of soil or compost and a packet of seeds will last you a year. What's not to like??

If you want something a bit more upmarket, there are literally hundreds of different Lettuce varieties to choose from, like this "Marvel of Four Seasons", a very attractively coloured Butterhead (soft) type.

But you also need to think ahead, to ensure a steady supply. I am already anticipating the return of cooler weather (cooler? In 2012? we have had cool most of the year!), so I have sown some Endives and Chicories which will hopefully give me a supply of salads throughout the Autumn. These plants are generally hardier than Lettuces, and will do well when Lettuce won't. I know that is an over-simplification, but I'm sure you know what I mean.

I chose to sow a mixture of different Endives and Chicories, working on the basis that at least one type must do well!

It's important to choose appropriate varieties though. Some Endives will survive hot dry conditions well enough, but others will bolt at the slightest excuse, so if you sow in July a variety which is bred for Spring sowing it is not going to do well. Last weekend when I was over in France I paid a visit to my daughter's local garden centre "Jardiland" and bought a few packets of seeds, including an Endive or Chicoree Frisee called "Wallone, race Lorca" which is recommended for sowing in June, July and August, and for harvesting from September to December. It ought to be just right.

I always like to get something different, and it disappoints me that British seed catalogues usually only list one or two Endive varieties when French ones have twenty!

The Chicories don't look particularly impressive when they are this small, but as they get bigger the colouring becomes more intense. These ones of mine are a mixture of "Firestorm" and "Palla Rossa".

Firestorm is the one with red veins. When it is mature it will be a deep claret red, with white ribs.

But it won't be ready for two or three months.... Patience and forward planning is required! If you haven't yet sown any seeds for Autumn salads, now is the time to do it.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Cucurbits - is a late rally possible?

I wouldn't want to suggest that my cucumbers and squashes are doing well, but they do seem to be less bad than before! Might they have time for a late rally?

This is my "Autumn Crown" winter squash plant - finally putting out some vigorous shoots:

Will it have enough time to bring some fruits to maturity though? It's late July already, and it has not even  produced a single flower yet.

Next door, in the same huge container, is the Patty Pan summer Squash plant, looking reasonably healthy now.

It has a few flowers on it, and at least one female one bearing a tiny yellow fruit. The flowers with the long stalks are male ones, so there is a good chance that the little fruit will get fertilised and grow to maturity. I hope so. I could do with a few more successes.

The cucumber plants are doing a bit better now, with plenty of big leaves and several flowers and young fruits.

A few days ago I harvested these two little beauties, which were crisp and tasty:

We ate them as part of a Middle Eastern-style meal, which included lots of different salads and a Broad Bean dip.

P.S. Just when I thought things were looking up on the cucurbit front...  

Grrrrrr! How did that happen? Heavy rain? Foxes? Birds?