Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Mid June Update

A little while since the last post, we were away last weekend, the hottest weekend of the year so far. There wasn't much time to water before we went so the return was a nervous moment. Thankfully everything seems to not only have survived, but flourished!

Here's the mid June update, quite a difference in 4 weeks.

Bed 1

The ruined alliums have been replaced by a multitude of squashes including the purchased butternut's. We've divided the squashes between the beds in case there are any more disasters to come. The courgettes are already looking busy with a few fruits each, there's even signs of a marrow.

The roots end of the bed has finally come into it own. At last we have 2 full rows of parsnips and 4 full rows of carrots. The only issue now is that I have to thin the carrots as the first and second sowing have all decided that they would like put in an appearance. This isn't a task I really want to do but despite being station sown they really are too thickly planted now. I'll wait a little longer so the thinnings are big enough to be used rather than wasted. 

I'll be following Marks excellent guide HERE to try and avoid the carrot fly issue. I haven't grown them within a mesh cordon this year as it makes wedding difficult, but I have grown resistant varieties mostly. Certainly I'll pop some fleece over them immediately after thinning for a day or so to protect them.

A lot of people like to put carrots with onions and garlic, hoping the smell will confused the carrot fly, mine are next to the fennel so I may give the leaves a brush afterwards as the fairly strong smell might achieve the same, with no onions left I can but hope.    


Bed 2

Asparagus season is over. We didn't want to push it this year as we felt the yield was a little bit low. If we stop now the crowns will get a good charge for next year. I have a new frame to go round the bed then I'll compost it, feed it and leave it to grow.

The spuds are going great guns, there are lots of flowers on the earlies and some on the mains. I'm tempted to have a dig around the earlies as see what's happening but as they went in late I'll give them another week or so. 


Bed 3

The runner and french beans have stopped sulking are heading skywards, we've had to give them a bit of training and advice on which way to go but they appear to be getting the hang of it now. The runners have a few flowers so fingers crossed this hot weather doesn't stop them setting.

The upside down wigwams mean less ground footprint and the space is being used for lettuces. The Iceburg look pretty happy there.

The dwarf beans didn't have a good germination rate but with a second sowing we have a full row now. we need to mulch these but don't seem to produce the grass clippings quick enough as I have a small back lawn and Heather has concrete!

The peas urgently need weeding but seem to be slowly doing their thing. the second row is ready to have its pigeon protection turning into a growing support now.

Next is a row of mixed courgettes, all looking good. These are planted through weed control fabric as the compost we put in the soil appears to contain rather a lot of tomato seeds...

And finally the battered broads. Seriously it looks like they have been rolled around in. I think it may be time just to pick the lot, freeze or donate them and reuse the ground. I have leeks, more peas and more lettuce to go in there once they come out.


Bed 4

The B&Q cabbages and home grown sprouts and broccoli are doing great in the pigeon and butterfly proof cage and the Kale is shooting up under its net

More courgettes with fruit and then a row of cucumbers. I love cucumbers and seem to have got myself a full time job training them up the trellis. There are a few baby cu's appearing now. Hopefully this will be their year as last year wasn't fantastic.

The spaghetti squash were small when they went it and at one point the weed fabric nearly smothered them. I gave them a good feed and now they are really getting going. they seem to be making a bid to join up with the pumpkins.

Sweetcorn are about 24 inches high now, very thick heavy stems and looking healthy

Hiding at the end, hopefully in a little shade are the  spinach and chard. The first time in ages I've managed to get spinach. The longer cold spell seems to have helped so now we just need to use it before it bolts.


Bed 5

Lettuces are doing really well, the Sierras look impressive when you hand them over and a row of salad bowl is very pretty, we just can't eat it fast enough. I've got a lot more at home to follow on from these but its too hot to transplant them this week.

Beetroot are finally coming good and will need thinning, these have been very slow and a bit of a target for pigeons this year. Hopefully we'll be picking them soon.

Radishes have pretty much stopped. They come up, then they seem to stop. I put it down to the heat as they are well watered. When it was cooler they did far better.

The cape gooseberries and tomatoes all seem healthy. There are baby toms on most of the plants now so the feeding has started. I've be religiously nipping out side shoots and tieing them to the cane to keep them tidy and once we get to  4 trusses I'll nip out the tops. Just the blight to beat!

And finally the fruits. The strawberries are cropping, all be it very small fruits. We will chop off the runners as we want the energy to go into bigger berries rather than new plants. I think this is more their recovery year, if next year is no better we will replace them. The raspberries which were given a major haircut last year look like they will actually produce some fruit this year. There are small flowers appearing so we'll see.



Lots of pics this time, its looking busy down on the farm and I couldn't decide which ones to use, so I posted them all.

Happy gardening folks!!

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Stop the Clock!

We have reached that glorious moment when you stand up, straighten your tired back and think 'done it', for today is the day that everything is finally out of the dining room and into the ground!

All the plants have been released into the big wide, (and currently very windy), world to fend for themselves. It took a couple of weekend sessions to get it done, but with the exception of the leeks that aren't big enough yet, or in the dining room, we are finished.

I shoved Heather up on the shed roof again to take a couple of aerial shots (she'll buy me that drone I want soon if I keep doing this). As you can see all the beds look pretty busy now.

Beds 2/3 

Beds 1/3/4/5

There is of course the small matter of weeding, feeding , watering, mulching, grass cutting, protecting, pruning, picking and successional sowing but it feels like a victory to us and we can worry about all that next weekend can't we. For now we just look forward to the fruits of our labour as it were.

This one of the Sierra lettuces that was planted from seed under the cloches in late Feb, it has taken a while to get to this size, but its worth the wait.

As a reward I invested in these. All the planting has pretty much done for my old metal ones so why not. On sale in Tesco £2.40 each.

The only nagging question is, did we cheat just a little bit, by buying a few plants?

I guess this depends on your point of view. The great allium disaster of 2017 meant that we have half a bed spare far earlier than planned and my cabbages and kale just didn't take off, I don't think they liked the compost. So I'm taking the view that given the late planting date for replacements, a couple of butternut squash and a tray of kale and cabbages from a garden centre is not cheating, but a wise investment. Ironically for the windy conditions this week one variety was called Hurricane.

Jono over at Real Men Sow recently wrote a couple of posts on the advantages of buying seedlings which are work a read. Click HERE to have a look.

I'm thinking that next year more plants may come from external sources. don't get me wrong, I like growing from seed, but space is an issue and this tends to lead to leggy plants that have been a deprived of light. It would be nice to plant out a tomato that didn't have 9 inches between leaves! I give this one some more thought next year.

Happy gardening folks!!

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Best Use of Rhubarb

I've got to be honest, I don't really eat rhubarb, and neither does Heather. Like almost every plot holder we inherited ours, my dad planted it and I keep it there for him. Don't get me wrong I like the odd crumble but we're unlikely to eat all the plants produce.

However this year I think I've found a use for a couple of pickings....... Rhubarb Gin!! As recipes go they don't get much simpler and its a tasty little number.

You'll need:

A 75cl bottle of gin, nothing special for this
400g of rhubarb, the pinker the better
250g of sugar.

1. Chop the rhubarb into 2cm chunks and put into a large kilner jar or similar with the sugar and gin.

2. Give it a shake and store somewhere dark and cool for 1 to 2 weeks until the gin turns pink and the rhubarb turns green. The pinker the rhubarb, the pinker your gin. You can give it a swirl every now and then.

3. When its ready strain it back into the original bottle.

It's lovely over ice on its own, or with a splash of tonic, but for more exciting ideas try these

Note: I used a 70CL bottle and its quite sweet but you still get the rhubarb sharpness, maybe cut the sugar down a little if you don't have my sweet tooth.

Now I just need a fancy label!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

The Highs and The Lows

Actually I'll start with the lows.....

I'd written that the onion bed wasn't looking too healthy and since our last visit more of the crop had taken a turn for the worst. A lot of the garlic in the main crop seemed to have swelled and split as hoped so we decided to pull it all up and see if anything could be salvaged...... the results, not good!

Most were actually very small, looked like they had white rot and we found a lot of the bulbs had small white worms in their base. Inside the larger bulbs were small red insects, in between the papery layers.

Heather did her research and has found out the little red critters are Allium Leaf Miner. It explains all the symptoms we've seen. More information on these little bu**ers can be found here.


The end result was that only 3 out of 30 bulbs were salvageable (modelled here by a camera shy Heather). It wasn't good to see a pile of wrecked bulbs on the ground, especially the bigger ones. We'll remove them not compost them.

We'll be looking at the shallots this coming weekend but I think we know the result already :o(
Possibly the only good things to come from this is that we can dig over that bed and use it for more squashes, and that crop rotation means we should be ok by the time we come to use this bed for alliums next time. This year though the leeks will go elsewhere.

The highs...

There's 'bean', (told you I couldn't stop), some good news on the bean front. We were expecting to be pulling up half our runner beans and replacing them with seeds as the growing tips had died off, but they have decided to grow new tips instead, the leaves look better and things are looking up, good news.

The broads are now black fly free, we've nipped out the tops and the beans are almost at picking size. Add the appearance of our first dwarf beans which were planted directly in the ground only a week ago and its all go in the bean bed. The French climbers are in now too.

A mini harvest this week but it shows summer is coming to the farm and hopefully it's the first of many! I love a fresh lettuce.

Happy Gardening Folks!!

Friday, May 26, 2017

Rad'nips and Tur'ishes

Turnips were my favourite discovery last year, I like them raw in a salad or roasted. Mashed with honey is nice too. I have seeds for 3 varieties this year and the first sowing, the Snowball, are ready now.

They've come out pretty clean and untouched by bugs, probably because I thinned them out properly this year. Delicious!!

These are radishes were a freebie with the Mr F's order, Candela di fuoco. A long, slightly pinkish little number that pack quite a peppery punch when small, it seems to get milder as they get bigger. Gives a salad quite a kick.

Happy gardening folks!!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

The (Late) May Update

The middle of May is never a good time to take a holiday, there's just too much to do and Jack Frost would love to pop in and check on your plot when you can't be there to stop him.

The farm, and all the plants at home had to be left in my dads care as we headed off to Euro Disney for a few days. Withdraw symptoms after 5 days of no allotmenting are common so I tacked an extra days holiday onto the break and spent 6 very peaceful, sunny hours pottering on Monday.

So here's the late May update

Bed 1
The garlic looks good, the bulbs look big and to have split nicely. The onions and shallots, not so good. Most seem small, the tops seem to be dying off a bit early and some have fallen over and come out of the ground, it looks like the dreaded white rot. Hopefully we will still get some for immediate use and the garlic will escape. Not sure putting the leeks in this bed is a good idea now, although now the temperatures are up it should help. Keep you posted. 

Parsnips and carrots are proving to be a pain this year, 2 plantings so far and we've still not got a full row of anything! I've put in another row of Royal Chantenay 3, directly into the soil not into compost this time, we'll see what happens. The cloche is off the parsnips now as well.

A row of Fennel (DiFirenze) went in directly, we've never tried this before. The final crop for this bed is the celery, which is at home at the moment, like the fennel it needs to kept moist so I must do the irrigation system soon.


Bed 2
The spuds are going well, no flowers yet but it's early days. All that was needed was a quick weeding and to earth up some more to stop any spuds getting a taste for daylight.

The asparagus is cropping nicely, although occasionally at odd angles, a few weeks to go yet. On its own this pretty much pays the £29.00 a year the farm costs.


Bed 3
We are having a bean issue at the moment, some of the runners I planted out have lost their growing tips and aren't looking good. At the weekend I'll work out which ones have had it and take them out, I'll replace them with a seed to fill the gaps, they'll be a bit behind but a staggered crop may help prevent the usual bean glut. A row of dwarf beans went in direct into the ground so will also help to keep cropping levels up.

The peas are starting to explore the top of their protective netting so the supports will go in soon with some CD bird scarers. A second row has been planted to extend the pea season.

The broad beans have a good number of pods now, the beans are small but they are already tasty. The black fly have moved in today, we haven't had a chance to nip out the tips yet, they are pretty early this year. I haven't got any bug spray at the moment so I gave them a good squirt with the castille soap, it works on white fly so hopefully it will work on these little buggers before they do too much damage. 


Bed 4
Spinach and chard are coming on nicely, hopefully we get some spinach before it bolts, I had no luck with it last year. The rest of the bed is pretty quiet, the last leeks to come out. I've built my brassica frame and ordered the netting. The sweetcorn and some squashes and brassicas will go in at the weekend. The danger of frost should now be over.

Bed 5
The salad bowl lettuce, radish and turnips are all cropping nicely. The replacement beetroot are coming up and the Sierra and Little Gem lettuces are finally putting in a growth spurt now its warmed up.

I put in the strawberry plants Heather wrote about earlier the other day. They had spent winter in small pots with poor soil which wasn't ideal but a good blast with a balanced fertiliser and seaweed extract has really perked them up. There are flowers so if we beat the slugs to them there will hopefully be fruit!  It was the first time planting through the weed control fabric, it was a pain but hopefully worth it with less weeding.


At home I have the most leggy tomato plants ever. My house isn't ideal light wise and I don't have a greenhouse apart from one of those mini things. Those of you that have are very lucky. Worst case scenario I'll plant them deeper and get a longer cane :O)

Happy gardening folks!

Sunday, May 14, 2017

We've Bean Taking A Risk

Apologies for another bean pun, I'm sure it won't be the last.

The runner beans went in a couple of weeks early and had got rather out of hand, it was turning into a right old cats cradle and they really needed to go outside. So we've taken a risk and they've been released into the wild this weekend.

I've read a couple of times about building the bean wigwams upside down, poles leaning outwards at the top. The reasons for this make sense, (see the pros and cons later), so I decided to give it a go.

Here is my bean support. I got a couple of bike wheels for free and mounted them on poles hammered into the ground then added the poles and secured them to the rim of the wheel using plant ties.

The beans, still in their cardboard tubes are planted 2 to a pole, 1 inner ring, 1 outer ring and trained to the pole with string. To help with watering a couple of small coke bottles with the bottoms cut off have been sunk in round the sides. I may add a couple more. You can see how scrappy they had got.

Finally I added a bit of protection from the wind with the micro netting that we normally use for the carrots. The plants had already suffered a little windburn during the hardening off process

We checked the next day and they seem ok, I expect they will suffer a bit of transplant shock though.

Next year we may just plant direct in mid May, I've always done the indoor planting in tubes before, but we will be doing this with dwarf beans shortly and if it seems to suit our site it may a good idea to save space indoors.  

(The official ones)
Less crowding at the top of the poles
Better airflow around the tops of the plants
Easy to pick the crop 
Less ground space used - The base of the canes are closer together, with the wheel size I could fit 3 of these in the space I had 2 traditional wigwams last year.
Easier to mulch - Last year clearing weeds inside the wigwam was a pain, this year I have filled the base with grass cuttings. Also as the foot print is smaller less are needed.

The plants are close together - They will complete with each other for water etc.  
Stability - Its fine at the moment but once the plants reach the wheel and produce beans there will be a large area for the wind to hit. I may need to add some guy ropes.

Now to pray for no frost.... !!

Happy gardening folks

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Beet'en to the Beetroot

The great cloche experiment was looking like it would yield an early crop of beetroot, and as they were nicely established I removed the cloche when the sun started to show its face a bit.

Two days later when I arrived on the farm I was greeted by nothing but purple and yellow stalks, something had eaten all the leaves. Not surprisingly the rest of the plant promptly turned up its toes and exited stage left! This sad picture shows the aftermath.

I've never had this issue before, I haven't seen any slugs and nothing nearby has been damaged. I'm guessing its pigeons or other birds that couldn't get to them when the cloche was on.

Anyone else had this before?

I hate seeing this at any time of the year but especially during the quite period between the end last years crops and the start of this years / overwintered crops producing something edible. At the moment all we have it salad bowl lettuce asparagus and a few leeks.

Hopefully we are going to see some more produce soon, turnips are starting to bulk up and have been thinned properly and the overwintered broads are now getting a few decent pods.

I've been doing a few little jobs on the way to work this week and there are a few hours set aside this weekend to get us back on schedule. May update due next week!  

Happy gardening folks :O)

Thursday, May 04, 2017

Broadly Speaking There's Bean a Disaster

There wasn't a lot of time for plot visits this week but what I did find on my visit wasn't too pleasing. We have had some high winds and the broads that were overwintered and are now quite tall didn't take too kindly to them. Several of the plants had limbs snapped and were lying on the ground. I've put in some canes and used string to patch them up and provide support, most don't seem to mind it but one was too far gone to be saved. My fault, my notes for next year already say to provide support, I just hadn't done it last year. If I decide to overwinter this year I'll make sure it gets done.

To make up for it the first row of Kelvedon Wonder are starting to come up and we seem to have a few Resistafly F1 carrots coming though but no Early Nantes or Chanteny yet. Some of the rainbow chard is just starting to poke though and this year I might actually see a spring onion, something that defeated me last year!

All the potatoes have survived the frosts but the asparagus has taken a knock in a hard frost that turned any above ground spears rather mushy. I composted them and await their replacements. I've taken some of the cloches off now as its going to be warmer for a few days, it does makes the watering/weeding somewhat easier but I'll be on standby for a late frost for a couple of weeks.

At home, I didn't transplant the sweetcorn in the end, but popped a another seed in each of the vacant pots and put them in a warm cupboard. This worked and I now have the full complement of 24 that I planned for. We got a germination rate for 32 out of 56 planted in the end, not brilliant but I'll plan better for it next year allowing for the this.

 I must have got my bean planting dates confused this year and put the runner beans in too early. They have reached over a foot high now and are still in their tubes on the kitchen windowsill. Its too early to plant out here (one neighbour has lost all his to frost already), so by the time I can in a couple of weeks I expect it will be a bit like untangling the pesky xmas tree lights.

Some of my cabbages have also decided to stall/die, I suspect I may have overwatered them, or it could just be the soil based compost which won't be using again. I'm only growing them as an experiment so I'm not over worried, it just annoying.

Apart from that the only issue seems to be a Zuchinni which is coming up roots first in some kind of botanic breach birth fashion.

Time is short this week but hopefully a good few hours of plot time will present itself soon and I can crack on with all the projects I need to do before the planting out season is upon us. I trimmed up all the border timber last week to remove any rot. It would have taken hours by hand but got it done in 45 mins with the chop saw.....

Happy days and the joy of power tools!!