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!!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Veggie Armageddon!!

Its that time again, here comes the glut. Things are picking up nicely now and more crops are starting to come to maturity, all I need are the tomatoes and I can have a self sufficient salad, there are plenty but no sign of red/yellow yet. The Burpless Tasty Green cucumbers are lovely and don't need peeling.

The Rocket early spuds are proving popular and I'm wishing I'd planted second earlies rather than mains in the rest of the bed.  Runner bean (Firefly) have had the first picking and the French beans (Bluelake) aren't far behind. It's a pity the peas are proving a failure.

The star of the show is of course the courgette, as you can see from the leader board the Zuchinni have jumped into the lead and show no sign of letting up. Once again we were away at the weekend and returned to 18 oversized fruits (plus a marrow and 4 cues). It's rained since so we are expecting that to jump again. Good job our work and gym buddies are taking them off our hands, for now at least.

 


Happy gardening folks!!

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

The Courgette Leader Board

Those readers who joined us last year or have read the older posts may remember the post on the courgette glut we had last year. It's HERE

Well silly season is on us again, and just for fun I thought we'd have a courgette leader board to see which variety produces the most.

We have ten plants this year, 3 Easy Pick Gold, 3 Floridor and 4 Zuchinni. So in theory the Zuchinni has a head start... but lets see.

The leader board is over on the right....on your marks, get set, GO!!!!!

Happy gardening folks!!


Sunday, July 02, 2017

Less is more

When is comes to work  and veg anyway.

One of the aims for this year was to cut down the amount of time required to tend the farm, to cut down the digging, weeding and watering. While last year did produce a healthy harvest we certainly put in the hours. We were determined that this year would be a little more pleasure than pain!

So far so good, when we go away everything seems to survive, the weeds seem manageable and apart from when feeding is due the watering hasn't been too much of a challenge. In general the hours required to get our crop to this stage are a lot lower this year.

So how have we got to here?

Well the plan started at the end of last year. We started last season on the back foot with a plot that hadn't been properly closed down, dug, covered, manured or cleared the previous year. We put in a lot effort at the end of  last season to clear the ground, manure and tiller it before covering it for the winter.

The covering of weed control fabric or thick plastic damp proof membrane certainly made for an easier start this year, the earth was still pretty weed free, a good texture requiring no digging, just a quick going over with hoe to break up any lumps where the bricks held the covers down, and lovely and moist. It has been a case of rolling back the plastic a few days before you need the ground, apply some growmore and/or pelleted chicken manure, rake it in then plant or sow a few days later. A lot easier and quicker than the previous year.   

A good purchase for any gardener is a moisture meter. A quick run round the plot probing the ground can save a lot of time watering plants that don't really need it and can help to identify the heavy drinkers. You'd be surprised how often you can skip some areas, and every can saved is time and effort. They can be bought on Amazon quite cheaply but always look in supermarkets at the end of the season. I'd recommend the single probe models such as this one HERE. We'll see if it helps with the blossom end rot my tomatoes always seem to suffer from.

And finally....mulching. This year we have been trying to get to grips with mulching, and experimenting with growing some crops through weed control fabric. The results have been good.

A generous covering of grass cuttings has made a huge difference to the amount of weeding required around the plants and helps retain moisture.

Weed control fabric looks good and does make a difference but it a bit of a pain to plant through. In our sweetcorn we have also found that we have some kind of creeping weed that still grows and puts in an appearance though the holes we made for the plants.

I find grass cuttings easier and cheaper, its just a case of generating the volume from a small garden. A word with friends and neighbours in exchange for the odd courgette certainly helps. It's useful to sink a old bottle with the bottom cut off into the ground to aim your water into when mulching. Maybe the no dig method next year.

This week has been busy and we've only had a little bit of time to pop down, feed and harvest. We did clear the broads, dig over the area and add some compost so we could finally plants out the leeks. I didn't want to risk putting them in the same best we lost all the garlic and shallots in.

I've included some pics of the harvest/progress just so its not all words. As you can see from the Currently Picking list we are finally coming out of the quiet patch. The first spuds and cucumber were delicious and courgette silly season is upon us!! More later.




I hope the advice above it useful to anyone struggling to maintain their plot, as we refine the process in the future we'll keep you posted on the progress

Happy gardening folks!!!