Monday, 20 August 2007

Day 76 ... it's still raining

So much for the sunshine last week, it's back to grey skies and more rain.

I made the mistake of not picking the runner beans last time I was at the lottie and now see the error of my ways ! I picked a huge trug full at the weekend and there were loads more beans still on the plants that looked as if they should also be harvested. We had a tomato, bean and sausage stew for tea on Saturday - it was pretty good, but we used less than 10 beans as they are so long ... gulp. Tonight I spent an hour preparing and blanching beans to go in the freezer ... although I don't have one, so they are currently in next door's freezer waiting to go to OH's house ! I'm definitely growing them again next season (see further down)

emperor beans copy

A close inspection of the potting shed revealed that all of the aubergines appear to have very small fruit forming. I've had a better germination rate this year than last season, but must confess that I've been 'shaking' the plants quite vigourously. I'm convinced that as the door is only slightly ajar not enough insects can get in and pollinate them. I need to check the variety of this one, but think it might be red egg. Last season they didn't really get past this stage, so I've got my fingers crossed that they do a little better.

aubergine copy

Sadly my temptation melon plant appears to have died - I suspect lack of water is the issue. I seem to do very well at growing seedlings, but struggle to keep things healthy and alive. The two melons are still very hard and I'm not sure whether they'll ripen now that the vine has died. The cantelope plant, however, is looking really healthy and in the last week has really put some effort into fruiting - there is one decent sized melon and three babies on the vine. Fingers crossed.

Cantelope copy

My green manures seem to be doing quite well, despite the weather. At the weekend I dug in my phaecelia as it is now in flower, although I must confess I left a little in situ, as it is so pretty - also hopefully I'll get some seed by leaving a few plants to flower and so can replenish my seed. The buckwheat is also flowering - it is probably too late in the season to benefit from hoverflies, but I have transferred some into the potting shed, as I noticed at the weekend that one of the aubergines is absolutely infested with greenfly. I'll also try and remember to take some washing up liquid with me next time I go.

phaecelia copy

Buckwheat copy

I'm so pleased that my tomato plants are recovering, they are looking so much better than they did when I got back from holiday. I've decided to leave the new side shoots and see if they develop any new flowers.

sweet olive plum copy

Tigerella copy

The golden sunrise tomatoes look gorgeous, but I'm disappointed with their taste and don't think I'll bother with them next year. The others have much more flavour.

harvest copy

The blackberries are so abundant that I couldn't resist picking more - I'm intending to make blackberry jelly and have finally found a strainer and stand. We had enough for a blackerry and apple crumble - I'm seriously thinking about putting in a bramley apple tree next year, as I'd defnitely find a use for the apples.

I dug a few more pink fur apples, although I've not tried them yet. We had some of the Charlottes with mint at the weekend - they tasted really good. They are definitely on the list next year. I managed to lift some Cara and was relieved to see nothing more than a little slug damage on them. Looks like the blight was restricted to just the Rocket. The Cara have lovely delicate pink markings on them.
pfa cara and blackberries copy

Here is one of my tasty grill peppers (I think !) which is growing in the glass greenhouse. You can see the markings on the stem - I think it is slug damage, but I'm not sure.

tasty grill pepper copy

My squash harvest this year is going to be dismal. Perhaps the mouse eating the first butternut squash seedlings was a message that I should have heeded. I think this is a winter festival - most of my labels have turned blank, so its all a bit of a mystery now !

winter festival copy

With this season almost written off, I've been waiting for the Wyevale garden centres seed sell off. This year they are .50p a packet - I think I was very restrained and managed to just buy 36 packets:

Beans Yin Yang
Beetroot Detroit 6
Beetroot Boltardy
Beetrott Detroit 2
Broadbean Aquadulce Claudia x 2 packets
Bush Bean Impero Bianco (Cannellino Bean)
Cabbage Ruby Ball F1
Cantaloupe Melon Sweetheart
Carrot Autumn King
Carrot Autumn King 2
Carrot Early Nantes 2
Carrot Jeanette F1
Carrot Purple Dragon x 2 packets
Cauliflower All the year round
Climbing Bean Botlotto (firetongue)
Climbing Bean Goldfield
Courgette Tondo Di Toscana
Courgette Tricolour
Cucumber Bella x 2 packets (well the mouse enjoyed them so much I thought I'd buy him some more)
Dwarf Bean Purple Teepee
Herb Rocket
Leaf Salad
Parsnip Tender & True
Pumpkin Ghost F1
Runner Bean Scarlet Emperor
Salad Leaves x 2 packets
Squash Avalon F1
Sweetcorn Early Xtra Sweet F1
Sweetcorn F1 Applause
Tomato Roma
Tomato Rosanda F1
Tomato Sweet Olive F1

Where on earth am I going to put all of those beans ... and more importantly, who on earth is going to eat them all ...

Sunday, 12 August 2007

Not so bad after all

I'm exhausted, have spent all weekend at the lottie clearing the weeds and discovering that things are not as bad as I first feared. I've cleared nearly three barrow loads of weeds from my beds and the sun can now reach the soil.

As I was clearing the thistles around the sweetcorn, I came across it's label - Miracle. Yes, I thought to myself, it truely is, what with all the rain and then the choking weeds. Every plant is looking very strong, but some are tiny - in fact, none are the same size as last year, but perhaps the sun will help them along. The cobs feel as if they might be ready soon:
Sweetcorn copy

sweetcorn and courgettes copy

I was delighted to find that the yin yang beans have survived. They were so overgrown with weeds that I didn't even know the plants were still there, never mind that they have loads of beans on them. Must read up and work out when they will be ready to harvest. The plants are not very tall, but they look fantastic.

Yin Yang Beans copy

My onions fared much better than I thought they would after the downy-mildew episode. A couple have gone mushy, so they went straight to the burning pile, but the rest look pretty good. I've got a wooden frame with a metal mesh over the top which I'm using as a drying rack inside the brick greenhouse.

onions 2 copy

I mentioned to Nick next door that my early potatoes are rotting. He said that the whole site has had blight and encouraged me to look at my main crop. I dug up some pink fur apple and Charlottes. There were two squishy PFA and one squishy C - not black or brown, just squishy. Hopefully its just my earlies that have blight. I don't think I'm going to bother with earlies again next year, I've got far too many to eat. Not yet looked at the Cara - will have a peek next week.

Pink Fur Apple and Charlottes copy

This is how the greenhouse looks at the moment. I've pulled one of my tomato plants up as the tomatoes are starting to go mis-shapen and are going black - I assume this is blight. There are very few leaves left on any of the plants, as they have not been watered very much whilst I've been away, so I'm a little uncertain. We're getting plenty of ripe tomatoes and the peppers are looking pretty good too - athough they appear to be being munched by something.

inside the greenhouse copy

This is one of my Sungold tomatoes. It's laden with fruit - the tomatoes are the most gorgeous gold colour.
Sungold copy

This is one of my Tasty Red Grill peppers ... wonder when it'll go red ? The plant has about 7 peppers on so far ... fingers crossed.
Tasty Red Grill copy

I was amazed to discover 5 crystal apple cucumbers, with loads of babies also forming. I've spend all day wondering what it will taste like and whether it was big enough to pick. I finally succumbed at the end of the day - it was very refreshing and had a lovely cucumber flavour (funny that). I will definitely be growing them again next year. The nasty looking spikes are very easily rubbed away:

Crystal Lemon Cucumber copy

I've got four turks turbans growing up small wigwams and they all look to be enjoying the sunshine and have lots of flowers appearing.
Turks Turban copy

Turks Turbans copy

Here are two of my ball courgettes, they are much more manageable than the traditional long variety. I think I'll grow them again next year - I even watered them today.

yellow courgette copy

Green Courgettes copy

My Emperor beans look really healthy and are dripping with beans - but I'm not sure when I should be harvesting them. Some of the pods are pretty long, but the beans inside are still really small

Emperor Beans copy

Scarlet Emperor Beans copy

This is the last of the broad beans. The plants were looking really ratty, so I've cut them all down to the ground. Beans have been shelled, but not blanched yet. Another job !

broad beans copy

Here are the outdoor sweet potatoes ... I have my fingers crossed that they are as good as last year. Certainly the foliage is looking good:

Sweetpotatoes copy

I'm really pleased with the planting around the pond, it is starting to look very established. The wild flower mix is romping away and various flowers are appearing. My baby lupins had thrown up some small spikes earlier in the week and I was eagerly looking for them yesterday, when I realised they've been munched ... probably by a flippin' slug. I'm going to try and keep the planting quite natural and self maintaining around the pond - it should provide a nice habitat for the frogs (which will then start to eat the slugs ... I said they'll then START TO EAT THE SLUGS ... got it froggies ?) Here are my Ox Eye Daisies

Ox Eye Daisies copy

Wow the sweetpeas are putting on a really spectacular show at the moment. They really need cutting, to encourage them to keep flowering, but I'm soooooo dog-tired that for the timebeing I'll just have to admire them in situ.

sweetpeas copy

My herbs are in full flower and the bees are all over them. They look so pretty:

herbs in flower copy

This is one of my self seeded sunflowers, it is not very high (under 7ft) but it has a huge head. As always it's facing Ken's lottie - hope he appreciates it.

yellow sunflower copy

The red ones are really tall now, but they seem to be plagued by some strange pest:

strange pest in the sunflowers copy

This is one of my green manures - I'm hoping to sow some more next weekend into any available space I can find. All four have germinated, but this is the best. I've forgotten what it is called - its the one that begins with a P. green manure copy

Last of the blueberries:
Blueberries copy

I am so pleased with my melons. These are temptation and are now the size of grapefruits. I've got four in total, but two are still babies. I think I'll probably try them again next year and may even give them some greenhouse space - I'd heard that the vines take over, but my plants are very compact:

Temptation melons copy

In a spare moment, I even found time to pot on some strawberry runners. There are loads more that will have to wait a bit longer:

strawberry runners copy

The hedgerows are abundant with glistening fruit, shimmering like jewels. With last years jam just about gone, even OH has been blackberry picking. We ended up with 4-5lb of fruit, so tonight I made some blackberry and apple jam and a blackberry crumble too. Can't wait to try the jam, it looks delicious.

Blackberries copy

Friday, 10 August 2007

Well I'm back from my hols. Sadly the lottie has suffered whilst I've been away - it seems that the rain stopped the day I went away ! how typical is that.

It hasn't stopped the weeds though, they are frighteningly high (my dwarf beans have actually disappeared under them) and I'll have to do some serious maintenance at the weekend.

It was quite a depressing visit really, my cauliflowers, which looked fantastic a couple of weeks ago, are now brown and horrible. The tomatoes are decidedly crispy - I'm not sure whether they'll pull through or not - and some have collapsed under the weight of the fruit. The potatoes I dug up on Tuesday evening are brown, rotten and awful - the tops have totally gone, so I'm not sure if I have blight - the soil was really hot and humid when I dug them up, so they could just have rotted with all of the wet weather. My cucumbers look terrible and I don't think I'll get anything from them this season. The purple dragon carrots look to have all been eaten by slugs and the tops look to have died on the others, so I don't expect them to grow much bigger. My butternut squash vines still don't appear to have any fruits forming.

There were some glimmers of hope though, the two melons are now grapefruit sized and look very happy. Another small one is forming. My leeks look as if they are holding their own. The Jerusalem Artichokes are looking very healthy. The blueberries have nearly all ripened and appear to be undiscovered by the birds. The raspberries have ripened. The sweet potatoes are looking good, especially the ones in the greenhouse. My Emperor beans are flowering nicely and have very small beans forming. The rhubarb has thrown up some more stalks and the blackberries are plentiful. All of my sweetcorns have produced tassels and cobs - even though some them are not even a foot high. The courgettes have produced several balls, ranging from goose egg size to cannon ball size ... oh, wait, that probably goes in the bad news bit right ?

I had some deep fried courgettes in tempura batter for tea on Wednesday and tonight had courgette, cheese and roasted tomato quiche - very nice. I've made some muffins with the blueberries and raspberries (although they are like little rocks, not sure what I did wrong, but I'm sure they'll get eaten). The blackberries and rhubarb are waiting for recipes - the latest Sainsbury's magazine has Blackberry Palmiers which look very tempting ....

Am hoping that it won't seem quite so bad at the weekend ... wonder if I can persuade OH that we should start taking our holidays in December each year ??? hmmm