Monday, October 02, 2017

A Most Uplifting Experience

Especially if you are a King Edward!

After a weekend away, overtime at work and rain it was great to finally get down the farm, and it's nice to write another post.

I'd been a bit worried about the spuds, I had a nasty feeling the slugs and worms were going to get to them long before I did if I didn't lift them soon. They had been left in a bit longer than originally planned as they weren't very big, but the above excuses meant they were coming out a bit later than we'd like

When I got there some nice critter had started the job for me, the middle of the row wasn't the ideal starting point, but every little helps. Pity he didn't do the weeding while he was there. It didn't take long to lift them, a lot were dug out by hand so not so many 'forked' casualties this time around. 


Not a bad crop in the end. I bought some small sacks on Amazon (see below) so I could distribute some to the family etc, and still have half a sack in the garage for lots of lovely Sunday roasts!..


Elsewhere the shutdown is in full swing. All the beans are down, the sweetcorn are gone, the  squashes are down to the last 6 courgette plants, (which just won't stop), it seems everything peaked pretty early this year. This looks to be the final haul pic of the year, another pumpkin for Halloween.


I've sieved out one of the compost bins which has been rotting down for a year now, it produced 2 full builders buckets of lovely fine compost, which I was tempted to keep for sowing next year, but instead I dug it into the bed for over wintering garlic/shallots and next years root crop, where the spuds came from. One bucket of sieved compost left about half a bucket of stuff to go back in the bin. That bed is tucked up for the winter now.


This is were the sweetcorn and squashes lived. Its been given a light digging over and a topping of horse manure from the local stables, my car valleter will not thank me for that, and covered over for the winter. Once those final courgettes come out I'll cover it completely. At the back the sprouts are doing nicely in the brassica cage. 


When the plants are removed from the beds it can leave leaves and all sorts on the ground , along with any hidden weeds etc, it can look a bit of a mess. A quick tip is to run the rake over it, it clears the fallen rubbish and pulls out some of the weeds for you too.

Three more beds to sort out now, as the pics show the grass is a bit out of hand too, the battery on the strimmer died and with all the rain its grown pretty quick. A new one is on order, I got a bigger one for 1/3 of the price of an original on eBay so it'll be sorted soon enough.

The picking and growing list have shrunk somewhat now. The courgette count will be over soon too, but I think we have a clear winner..

Happy gardening folks. 

Monday, September 11, 2017

Winding Down

Facebook is quite a good gardening tool if you regularly post your plot shots, it likes to remind you of what you were doing a year ago. The other day Facebook showed us a pic from last year and at that time we were still harvesting quite a range of crops, this year it seems things are nearly done.

The courgette harvest is finally coming to an end, friends will soon answer the door to us again and cucumbers are now producing just the sickly looking late season specimens. The runner and French beans are done but the dwarf purple still have a few to give. The remaining sweetcorn are bit tough now but its been the best year for these so far.


One thing I am pleased with is are my pumpkins which I cut at the weekend. The seeds for these came from the pumpkins I bought in Asda last year and these are similar size. I look forward to carving them for Halloween. There is one left which might grow a bit more.


I cut the first cabbage last week, Spring Duchy, so as the name suggests I am harvesting them late. Some have been attacked by caterpillars or slugs but cutting out the damage left plenty for me and they are lovely sweated off in a bit of olive oil and butter for 5 minutes max.  

At home some of the cape gooseberries seem to have ripened, here's the first one. Its not quite as ripe as I hoped, definitely more of a green house crop. I'll pop it on the windowsill and see if it makes it.


So now comes the clearing down. The bean canes will be coming down very and the main spuds will be dug up. There's a compost bin to empty and the beds still need edging. I've finished the new asparagus bed frame and filled it up with soil. As its wider than the older frame I have room for another 6 crowns which I'll try and grow from seed.



There are still some new bits and bobs going in, lettuces, radish, garlic and maybe some more turnips. I can always cloche them if it gets too cold. We will probably try overwintered broads again, but remember to support them properly this time.

Now comes the challenge of finishing everything before the weather turns!!

Happy gardening folks!!!


Friday, August 25, 2017

August Update

There is a certain sad feel to the farm at the moment, if feels like the growing season will end a little earlier this year, probably the result of the freaky weather early on. It will give us the chance to clear it nice and early and to close down properly for the winter, but it seems a bit of a let down.

So here is Augusts update.

Bed 1

Most of the squashes are pretty much finished. The courgettes continue to fruit but are nowhere near as prolific as they were. The winter squashes (pumpkin and butternut) are but picked now, a few remain on the plants to ripen. Heather has been removing the mildew affect leaves so  they all look like they have  had a extreme haircut, not many new leaves are replacing them now.


The parsnips have at least a foot of top growth, I had a dig around the top of one with my finger, it was about 35mm across, I've no idea how long. They have a way to go yet but its still too early. I'm just pleased with 2 full rows.

The carrots are doing well, not huge but very tasty. There is the mouse/slug damage I wrote about before but no sign of any carrot fly. Resistafly F1 are on the list for next year.

The fennel has been harvested, but not used yet and the celery is still growing, but not brilliantly. I think it needed a more regular water supply, the irrigation system I never finished! Its on the list for next year.

Bed 2

All the early spuds have been used. I dug up one plant of the main King Edwards, just to see how they were doing and because I was worried about blight after the tomato disaster.

They aren't very big yet, but there are no signs of blight and it yielded around 15 spuds, so if all goes well they could provide a very nice sized crop. I bought some small potato sacks so I could store and distribute them to family etc.

The spare squashes from Heathers are growing slowly but its too late in the year to expect anything from them.


The asparagus bed has a new frame, I just need to remove the old inner frame and top it up with manure and soil. As this frame is wider I think I'll add a few more crowns, maybe even grow them from seeds from the current plants.

Bed 3

I think we are now picking the last of the runner and French beans, there are no more flowers on the plants. I tried feeding them to stimulate a second round but it hasn't worked. They have produced a fair amount of crop as given the knock they took from wind and sunburn I'm not unhappy with them.

The Amethyst purple beans are still cropping nicely, no flowers any more but they just keep coming, the set rate on these has been amazing, they are definitely on the list for next year.


Our sole surviving tomato plant, a self seeder is doing ok and looking better after a feed, he has to carry the show now, so no pressure.


The courgette plants are still producing slowly.

The best thing in this bed currently are the leeks. All seem to have survived the transplanting and are doing well. I've seen some pics online of people already holding massive leeks, I think we are a way off that yet!

Bed 4

The brassica cage is stuffed. The summer PSB has finally decided its summer and sprouted. I however realised that I've put it at the back of the cage which will make picking it fun. The cage has done well keeping the pests out.



The cucumbers are coming to the end, another 3 or 4 max I think. I''ve been really pleased with these as they produced good sized fruits that kept well and didn't need peeling. On the list for next year.

The sweetcorn have done very well this year, way above the usual 1 per plant average, the cobs were a good size and very tasty. After the problems I had getting a full 2 dozen to actually grow they have come good.


My pumpkins are pretty much ready but as its still early I don't want to harvest them yet, I grew them for Halloween and they'll keep better on the plant than in my garage for 3 months. Just got to hope the mice and slugs don't find them.

The rainbow chard is producing plenty and I'm going to try and protect it better this winter to extend the season.

Bed 5

We have lettuce, turnips, beetroot and spring onions still happening in here, as well as some dormant radishes that have popped up now its cooled off a little.


The lost tomato plants have given more room and light to the cape gooseberries but while they have plenty of the paper cases there doesn't seem to be much of a berry in them. It was worth a try and I'll do them again next year as I suspect the cold snap early on has meant their growing season is too short this year.


The chillies are not tall but have a good few fruits, I leave the heat test to Heather but they aren't too bad.

The strawberries look pretty healthy, they didn't do well this year but with all  runner being cut off regularly they will hopefully get a good start as strong plants next year. 

General

My pallet store shed is finally nailed together. It will be used to store all the heavy stuff like bricks, slabs  and chicken wire that make the plot look untidy but which don't really belong in the shed. It also provides height for the water butts to get a good head for the irrigation system next year.


I've still got the bed frames to do as part of the winter shut down, if I can get those done I'll be happy and we will be in a good place for next year

Happy Gardening Folks!



Sunday, August 20, 2017

Death, Destruction and Blight..

Or at least that's what it felt like this weekend.

Yes the dreaded tomato blight has hit, just when things were really getting going nicely. We had been really pleased with the choc cherry and the Alicante were a fantastic size, but alas we had one really long day of rain followed by some humid days and bang....we've lost the lot.

We've picked everything we think we can salvage and the rest have headed for the wheelie bin, its best to deal with it early rather than help ruin everyone else's crop as its wind spread. We have one plant that popped up in a different bed left unaffected, (so far anyway), and we each have some backup plants at home that hopefully will keep us supplied. With a bit of luck of last bowl of plot Toms will keep long enough for us to use them all.

A lot of people on the gardening forums and blogs we follow have succumbed so we are not alone this year, it's just a bit heartbreaking when things are going so well. A lot of seasoned plot holder don't bother to try growing them in the open space of allotment sites anymore.



 

I had planted a couple of rows of Tom Thumb lettuces, which while fast growing, weren't very tasty, rather watery and bland. We were working our way through them but suddenly they all decided to bolt at once. Another addition to the compost bin!

This leaves us rather short of lettuce, down to salad bowl only in fact  as I have been a bit remiss in my planting duties of late. In desperation I have returned to buying in. A tray of Lolo Roso from the local market will hopefully plug the gap until my hurriedly planted Little Gems are big enough. 

Finally, another bolter! This is the first time I've ever grown bulb fennel. I wasn't quite sure when to pick it, but as some of the bulbs looked a good size I consulted the Alan Titchmarsh gardening book. "Pick when big enough to use" he said so I made a mental note to start picking on my next trip down.

You can imagine my displeasure therefore when I got to the picking moment, and the lot had bolted, which according to Alan "makes it useless for kitchen use"............oh bugger!

I've picked a few bulbs with the least top growth to try and use them for the braised fennel and fennel with parmesan I had in mind, but as Alan knows his stuff I'm not sure how it will go. Once they bolt they get a very woody core which I'm going to try and cut around.  You can see them in the first produce pic below, the rest sadly are compost.

Learn by my mistakes and better luck, and fore warned next year!

So while it was a frustrating farm visit this weekend it hasn't been all bad news, we are still producing far more than we can use, (see the courgette count), and taking away a wonderful range of veggies. We even managed to trade some produce for a couple of drinks in the local pub, so that cheered me up a bit. 

It is pics like these that make the low spots worth it.



Its also a good job Heather got a bike with a basket!


The full August Update to follow soon.

Happy Gardening Folks!!


Tuesday, August 08, 2017

The Plot Thickens..

Or at least the grass on it had any way.

My last few posts have all stated that we haven't been able to get much plot time lately, all we have really done for the last 6 or 7 weeks is pop down, pick and water and feed when we could, leaving everything to fend for itself.

Finally on a sunny Sunday afternoon last weekend we had time to play catch up.

First order of the day for Heather was to pick her winter squashes, the Spaghetti and the Uchik Kuri pumpkins for storage. The spaghettis are from the same seeds as last year, but much bigger than last years crop. Either we must have done something right, or we got lucky. All the squash plants are slowing down and dying back a bit now, I know you wouldn't think it from the courgette count!! As the plants have a few more flowers and undersized pumpkins we left them to continue growing, maybe without these fruits and after a feed they will have a second flush of youth. For now we're happy the first wave is safely away from mice etc.

Next was the beans, the runners, dwarf and French varieties all needed a  thorough picking, rooting out those illusive stragglers that hide behind the canes. The inverted teepee has made this easier this year with less congestion at the top of the poles, definitely one to continue. The extra ground space around the base also helps. 

As you can see, add in courgettes, cucumber, the first outdoor pepper and a turnip pulled up during the weeding and we got a decent haul for the day. The beans Heather is supposed to be freezing, but most never get that far. Then again not many tomatoes make it back to mine!!


My Halloween pumpkins are starting to colour now and as well as my 2 bigger specimens I found another little one growing down the side of the bed about 10 feet away from the others.

The shop bought butternut squash plants have done very little, just the one small fruit so far. They went in a bit late and may have got a bit over crowded. Like our centre of the row cucumber plants that weren't as fruitful as the outer ones.

Better spacing next year me thinks. Hopefully the mice and slugs don't get to them before they are ready for me.


Talking of pests, something has been at my carrots!! Quite a few now have been nibbled, almost hollowed out at the top. Sometimes this can actually chop off the top, which whatever it is doesn't appear too keen on. Seen here next to a healthy examples of Resistafly F1 you can see the damage they do.

Given that this year has been pretty much pest free, we've hardly seen a slug or lost anything to them, I don't think I'll put too much effort into irradiating the critter as I have enough to go round.

Resistafly by the way do seem to work. No signs of carrot fly attack and they are a good tasting carrot to boot. Maybe having them next to fennel has helped too


While Heather was busy harvesting I was busy tidying up. Which mostly consisted of rediscovering the edges of the beds and disturbing multiple red ants nests....que several painful bits. Seriously why do we need red ants!

Once the edges were done a run over with the hand mower and a final strim round the edges and shed, or at least it would have been if the strimmer was charged, something I was sure I had done.

Never mindI thought, I'll use the time to finish the new asparagus bed frame, nope, the battery drill was dead too. Not really my day in the battery department so with the farm looking a lot more presentable we called it a day after 5 hours. 




A satisfying daywith one last discovery, I think someone at B&Q had been messing with the plant labels, my Kale is looking a lot like cabbages!!


Happy gardening folks.. 


Monday, July 31, 2017

The Full Salad

Its the big day finally, the full home grown salad is ours. The tomatoes are starting to ripen!!

This weekend saw the first bowl of toms heading for salad, the Lidl, Choc Cherry and Gardeners Delight are delicious. A few have split thanks to all the heavy rains but they still taste good.

In fact not a bad harvest all round and to top off  today I had the first of the sweetcorn, Ambrosia F1. A two tone number with good sized kernels and good sized cobs, also a good cropper with 2 or 3 cobs per plant. Sweetcorn and home grown salad...result. This is when all the work pays off.





I love this time off year, tomorrow sweetcorn and new potatoes!

We have a quiet weekend coming up so if the rain holds off we'll get a few hours in tidying the farm which looks a little neglected, however productive.

Anyone need a courgette!!!

Happy gardening folks :O)

Sunday, July 23, 2017

July Update

Today was like Wimbledon on the farm, a few strawberries, started with sun and finished with us being rained off.  To be honest social engagements and rain have meant it has been pretty much picking visits only off late, just trying to keep on top the crops. Luckily the weed prevention measures are keeping those largely at bay. The harvest is in full swing so here is July's update.

Bed 1

Also known as the Amazon squash forest. 

The courgettes as you can see are showing no signs of slowing down, anyone who gives the slightest hint that they like courgette gets one! Along with courgette brownies, fritters and stir fries we are just about keeping on top of them.

The marrows are slow but steady, only 1 has reached full size so far but with the recent rain I don't think it will be long before we see some more.

The Uchik Kuri pumpkins have runners about 18 feet long and half a dozen fruits per plant, they are making a break for the plot next door so the growing tips will have to bee nipped soon which will also allow the plant to concentrate on making the fruits bigger. Heather stores these for winter consumption.

The Butternut squash we bought don't seem to have produced anything yet, a few flowers, nice long runners on one, but no sign of fruit which is a little disappointing, maybe a big shot of feed will help.

The carrots are about 4/5 inches long so just getting to be a useful size. No sign of carrot fly damage so far which is great. I roasted some whole Sat night with a little white wine, butter, sugar, salt, a splash of water and a shake if cumin. Cover and roast for about 45 mins at 200 degrees. We seem to have some daisies growing in there too.

The fennel is doing its thing and I've no idea if the celery is going to be ready anytime soon as its the first year.  




Bed 2

The Rocket early spuds have been ready for a few weeks now and I was worried if we left them in the ground much longer they might start to fall apart when boiled, but no signs of this yet. We have about a row and a half left so I'll keep on an eye on them. You don't get many to a plant but they can be huge, jacket spud sized.

I haven't investigated the King Edwards yet but curiosity will get the better of me soon.

I've started the new frame around the asparagus, rain stopped play on that one. Once finished I'll top it up with top soil. We might grown some more from the seeds the ferns are producing to fill the gaps left by this frame being bigger.     



Bed 3

I give up on peas...... we weeded, replanted, watered and feed, so far we have about 10... I give up..

The runner and french beans are getting going now. They don't seem to be as prolific as last year but they are different varieties. The Bluelake French variety are stringless and not bad, but not as good as the Cobra from previous years. The Amethyst purple dwarf are nearly ready, looking forward to those! 

The leeks have taken nicely, all looking healthy.  There are courgettes and lettuces in here too that are happily doing their thing.



Bed 4

This one is rammed, not a bit of soil to be seen. 

The brassica cage is doing its job, the fine netting is keeping the butterflies out and there is no sign of whitefly. All the plants look healthy and the weed control fabric means no weeding so far. Which is good because its crowded in there and a clumsy person like me could do some damage with the size 12's! 

We are loving the Burpless Tasty Green cucumbers, even when they get to a foot long they don't get bitter and don't need peeling. They are pretty heavy croppers too. I used to grow Marketmore but I think I'll stick to these. 

It looks like we are getting a good crop of spaghetti squash this year they are winding in and out of the sweetcorn and there is another one every time we look.

Talking of sweetcorn, they are 8 foot high and have 3-4 cobs each. The tassles are just starting to brown so another couple of weeks and we might be lucky.

We have 2 large pumpkins hiding in the corn too, I'm quite pleased with these as they came from seeds in my Asda bought pumpkin last year.



Bed 5

The beetroot are all coming good now, they seem to have taken an age this year but at last there is more than one at a time. The turnips are getting large, I haven't used many for some reason. the big news here is that finally the spring onions are big enough to harvest.... finally, these things have defeated me for years!! Wahoo.

With the recent sunny weather the tomatoes are just starting ripen, all 4 varieties are on the turn. The choc cherry are nice and sweet so I'm looking forward a nice tomato salad soon. 

We also have a few chillis and quite a few cape gooseberries, how these will ripen as the days shorten we shall have to see but for a first attempt at the CG's I'm pretty happy. They somewhat more bushy than I expected so could have done with a little more room.

 




And finally... the reason I grow so much more than we need is because I enjoy giving it away. I actually think its important. We are so much a supermarket culture and used to the small number of varieties and types of veg available that people know so little about their food. Handing over something different and seeing peoples faces is something I like a lot.

This was Fridays picking being divided up for distribution.


Happy Gardening Folks!!