Sunday, July 15, 2007

Hurrah a sunny Saturday!

When Thomas saw this picture he thought we had some sort of Kraken plant growing in the allotment. It is actually the head of a sunflower - In the sun!!!

Despite what the weatherman predicted yesterday was lovely, I think it was the hottest day since April! We had already harvested about half the Desiree potatoes over the course of a couple of rainy Sundays, so we were really happy to get another 5 carrier bags full from the 15 remaining plants. I will definitely have Desiree again next year as a main crop, they have been tasty and virtually pest free - obviously with all the rain there has been no sign of scab! When the ground had been cleared I put in the Butternut Squash. We have not had very good results growing these from seed - half the seeds didn't germinate and 2 grew upside down - very weird to see leaves growing into the soil and roots in the air. Not sure why this happened but I ended up with 3 plants - probably more than enough if they produce as well as the courgette have been doing. We have had a steady crop of courgette since the middle of April, harvesting 3 or 4 on a Sunday, by the following Sunday there have been another 3 or 4 ready. Last week there was one on the small side so decided to leave it, by yesterday it had grow into a marrow! OK, not quite a marrow, but a very large courgette. Mum said she was going to make soup, has anyone else got any ideas for storing courgette?
On a previous post I had said that there was no real difference in the Bright Lights chard and the organic one from the Real Seed company - I have a revised opinion now. 1. The Bright Lights looks much prettier, varying colours of leaves and stems, including this almost purple and yellow one(above). 2. The sparrows prefer to munch the Bright Lights so you would need to net it, unless you have too much like we have! 3. The organic one has bolted and gone to seed - this could be good if you want to save the seed but I would rather have nice tasty leaves now. 4. Stink bugs appear to favour the organic one (not sure if stink bugs damage the plants at all, but they really do stink if you happen to scare them - a bit like a skunk, they expel a really noxious smelling liquid) 5. The stems on the Bright Lights are much thicker - I like stems best. Conclusion - Bright Lights are better for me.The tomatoes are coming on well both inside and outside the greenhouse. The plants in the greenhouse are much bigger and have a lot more flowers and small fruit, the ones outside have had a pretty poor summer so I don't suppose it is really fair to compare, if the weather continues like this until the autumn I fear that we won't get many to ripen outside.
The runner beans are flowering well now they have established.
And some teeny tiny beans.
The apple tree that we brought from home has really benefited from being planted in the ground, rather than the container it was in. It is a James Greaves - a memory of childhood for me. My Nan used to have one in her garden and I used to help her pick the apples in the autumn. It is a really lovely old English apple but is best straight from the tree as they don't store too well.
The gourds have started to produce tiny fruit now, the only problem is since it was a mixed packet of seeds I won't know which variety they are - whoops, I didn't think of that at the time I bought them. I presume all gourds are edible, even the ornamental ones, might have to do a bit of research on that one. Lets hope the rain doesn't make them rot, I haven't decided if I should lift them off the ground - and if I do what to put them on. Any ideas?
The onions are starting to look ready for harvesting, I might leave them until next week, I am so impatient to harvest things but I know if I leave them they will get bigger. I have taken up the garlic from the garden at home. I knew we wouldn't have any space ready for them in the allotment last year so I put some in the garden, so glad I did, there is nothing quite like the taste of fresh garlic. I bought some sets from a garden centre about 4 years ago and grew it at home, I saved some of the smaller cloves in the pantry after harvesting . Then the following year I had my own sets. I have found they don't benefit either way from feeding or manure so any old bit of soil is fine, but they must get a heavy frost to give the best crop and are therefore best planted before the start of the winter. When they start to flower I pull them and leave them on the top of the soil to dry (unless it is 2007 and then I put them in the shed).
Mum decided she couldn't bear to see the thistles between the sunflowers and sweet peas any longer - check out the pile she fetched out of just that one small area, aaghhhhh!
But they do look pretty when they are in flower. We have left a small area of nettles and thistles for the wildlife. I think we may have to chop them all down before they seed though!

The bindweed is also looking pretty, what a shame it is so invasive!

I am just going to go and prepare dinner now. We are having fresh Salmon (half price from Tesco) with Fennel, Sage and Rosemary (from the garden) and Desiree potatoes, French Beans, Cauliflower, Chard and Courgette (from the allotment). Now that is what it is all about!

Monday, June 25, 2007

Rain Rain Go Away

I can't believe that 2 months ago we were having to water the allotment and praying for rain. We have now had 6 weeks of rain in one day. Not funny for our neighbours who's garden you can see in the photo above. We have come off quite lightly, there have been many more in Sheffield who's houses have been flooded for the second time in ten days.

On the plus side everything in the allotment is coming on in leaps and bounds. We harvested chard, potatoes and beetroot yesterday, the chard and potatoes were amazing with our Sunday lunch - yummy. It almost makes it all worth while. We still have a long way to go with the digging (and removing the weeds that have re-grown in the areas we have already dug) but now at least we can see the fruits (and vegetables) of our labours.

The bush tomatoes are flowering (Gardeners World hanging basket giveaway - Gartenpearl). We have planted some in grow bags in the greenhouse, some in pots in the greenhouse and some in the soil outside as a trial. At the moment the greenhouse pots seem to be winning but I will let you know when we get some tomatoes off them.

I have been given a cucumber plant, having never grown cucumbers before it was quite exciting to see this the other day.

One of the first peas (telephone) from the Real Seed company. Next year I must remember to plant on a higher frame, they have far exceeded the 5' net that I put up. I must also plant a bigger path between them, I am not sure how I am going to pick them as they have gone wild.

The potatoes are looking great and taste even better, these are Desiree and come up with a pretty red skin. So far the ones we have picked have been perfect, no damage at all from pest or scab. Possibly more luck than judgement, but all organic.

Potato flower (with a small bug - not sure what)

Chard - the first two rows nearest the camera are Bright Lights and the second two rows are organic seeds from the Real Seed Company. The Bright Lights looks pretty and the stalks are much wider but slightly tougher than the Real Seeds one but they have less leaf. The Real Seeds Company chard is all green and the stalks are thin but tender. Neither is a clear winner, I would grow either next year.

The arachnophobes amongst you shouldn't scroll down any further.

We found a female spider carrying her egg sack under her body - as Thomas said "cool"

And this was the sight that greeted me when I took the lid off the compost bin. I have never seen so many woodlice in one place!

For those of you who have been brave enough to scroll down here is my favourite picture this week, I can almost taste the bramble jelly!