Monday, 19 June 2017

Harvest Monday, a tomato problem and Eves Hill Veg Co

Oh my goodness, it is HOT! We've had a run of very hot sunny days (apparently it got up to 28C today - I was on a couple of small gardening jobs with not much shade...now I'm floomped on the settee, phew)
 
At the weekend (when it was also very hot) I fancied something a bit different to drink, so had a nice refreshing cup of nettle tea - just add hot water. There's a small nettle patch in the back garden so I snipped the top off some young re-growth from when I cut the patch back a bit recently. A lot of nettles will be past their best now. Oh I also had a couple of cups of fresh blackcurrant leaf tea (from the allotment) but didn't get any pics.
The stings aren't stingy anymore
With the hot weather, we've been eating a few salads....here with some more early potatoes from the plot, home-sprouted mixed beans, yummy salad from Eves Hill Veg Co and home made rocket pesto (from a big patch of rocket past it's best, which we cleared at Eves Hill on weds)
I've also been picking salad leaves from the back garden
Earlier in the week, the strawberry beds (I have two), we're looking very tempting at the allotment
Tuesday I picked about 2kg
And on Saturday I picked about another 1.5kg. I love the colour.
These ones I gently heated through on the hob - the berries release their juices into a delicious syrup, and the berries go a nice soft consistency.
I've frozen some and saved a bit in the fridge for our breakfasts over the next few days
At home I grow tomatoes in our lean-to greenhouse....it gets really really hot in here and I try and keep it cool by leaving all the shutters / door open etc and splashing water around. Normally this does the job and most of my tomatoes have been fine (a bit droopy but then recover after watering). But one of them went droopy and stayed droopy. Then I realised the pot was heavily saturated with water, so it can't have been droopy from underwatering. I tipped out the excess water from the tray the pot was standing in a couple of days ago but it's even more droopy and the pot is still heavy with water. I think it's a goner, the roots have died in the saturated compost....sorry tigerella, you were doing so well. Luckily I have another 20 tomato plants so all is not lost! I've not had this problem before but I did put less crocks in the bottom of the pots so that may have contributed.
Out at Eves Hill Veg Co on Wednesday (not-for-profit community market garden I volunteer at), we had various bits to get on with (actually there's loads to get on with, but these were the priorities), mainly getting plants planted (salad and squashes), which includes preparing the beds first.
 
The salad area is looking really good (several beds dedicated just to salad - lots more than in the pic)
In the big polytunnel the tomatoes are really coming on
And the cucumbers are doing nicely too.

Out in the field the peas are fattening up (taste yummy) and the beans are growing up their poles, there's artichokes being harvested along with fresh garlic and onions, and not forgetting the delicious mixed salads (must take more pics). I can't go this Wednesday but hopefully I'll head out on Saturday instead, for the monthly open day. More planting and some weeding I think!

 

Most of my own plants are now in the ground or seed directly sown, although I do want to sow more beetroot. I've potted-on a few brassicas to plant out as soon as other crops are harvested (such as the broad beans, which are on the whole surviving the blackfly). I'm trying to keep on top of hoeing the dirt paths, cutting the grass paths, weeding/hoeing the beds, checking slug/snail hidey places, and now, picking the fruit (red currants are ripe and they taste good, and the summer raspberries are ripening, they're my favourite I think). I'll try and get to the plot early tomorrow and give it a water, it's so dry - first the strong winds, now the sun. Hey ho.

 

Thanks for reading. I'll try and take some more plot pics soon. I'm linking in with Harvest Monday kindly hosted by Dave at Our Happy Acres

 

Monday, 12 June 2017

Harvest Monday - some season's firsts

One of my courgette plants had a teeny fruit on it, and I was willing it to get bigger (sometimes the first ones tend to just rot). Well, I could wait no longer and picked this little fella (or should that be 'little lady' as it's the female). I chopped it up and sautéed with some chard, yum. Hopefully the first of many (but not too many).
 
Today I lifted two of the early potato plants (variety Colleen). The tubers have a really nice flavour and texture...we had them simply boiled and drizzled with a bit of olive oil. There wasn't a massive yield from these two plants but I found a root from the nearby cherry tree (neighbouring allotment) cutting through the bed, so it might have inhibited the growth a bit. I pulled as much of the cherry root out as I could but they have a habit of popping up everywhere.
I've been continuing to pick strawberries....here's one session's harvest. But this was small in comparison to another day when I picked 1kg.
Yum (although I'm not sure if the flavour is as good this year)
Some of them I've mixed with last year's fruit, from the freezer (blackberries, gooseberries etc) getting ready for the upcoming berry and currant onslaught (the first to come are the red currant sprigs, which are almost fully ripe and I've been munching on a few of the plumper ones, I like the sharpness ). I went to the allotment for a while today but didn't have chance to pick the strawberries - there were so many I'll need to dedicate a bit of time to it!
I cooked up the last bulk of Autumn-sown broad beans. I fancied having a go at broad bean hummus (uses cooked broad beans instead of the usual chickpeas). My beans had got a bit big, so I decided to pop them out of their skins after cooking, to avoid a gritty texture. It takes a while to pop them all out (added to the time of podding them first as well), but it was definitely worth it.....we've been enjoying the hummus for several days.

My spring-sown broad beans have got blackfly on them, darn. I spotted it on Friday but also noticed some ladybirds and waspy-type things which looked like they might keep the blackfly in check. But when I was there today, the blackfly had spread. There were more ladybirds, and I saw a ladybird larvae too, but there were also ants around (which farm the aphids for their honeydew sap). So, being careful not to squash any ladybirds, I reluctantly went along squashing as many of the blackfly as I could...a bit of a grim job and there's no way I'll have got them all. I might try a soapy spray in a couple of days. Ugh.

 

Overall, I'm not having too many pest problems at the moment (a bit of slug / snail / woodlice damage, but nothing major)...famous last words of course. The soil is very dry - although we had lots of rain for a while last week, the continuing strong winds are just drying everything out (and blowing all the pollen around, a bad time for us hayfever sufferers). But it means there aren't too many slugs at least.

 

I still have a few young plants to set out on the allotment but have done the bulk of them now. And I've finally potted-on most of my peppers (and the three aubergines) at home. Just some basil and a couple of hot peppers to pot-up now, phew. (And a bit later there will be the beetroot and lettuce that have just germinated). The tomato plants are looking healthy and there's some cute little fruits forming. The tumbler variety (which I have two plants) should be the first to ripen. Can't wait, eh.

 

Thanks for reading this week, I'm linking in with Harvest Monday, kindly hosted by Dave at Our Happy Acres

 

Monday, 5 June 2017

Harvest Monday, allotment peep, and Eves Hill Veg Co

We've eaten a lot of Broad beans this week - I've picked all of the Autumn-sown super aquadulce. This pic is about 2/3 of the crop, my bag was rather heavy on the way home.
I quite like podding beans, as long as it's not in a rush just before cooking, so I did a whole load at once.
Some of them went into a poached egg dish (added a bit of water, eggs, a few noodles and stuck the lid on)
I also made a couple of curries, this was the first, which I then repeated as an easy meal last night when we had a couple of friends over. It includes my own garlic (which I had to lift because of white rot), and a big bunch of chard from the plot too. I harvested the rest of the broad beans so that I could plant out a couple of winter squashes in their place. This means I have another big bag to use up somehow...I feel maybe a humus is on the cards.
I've been harvesting lettuce leaves from a tray I have growing in the lean-to at home. The baby chard leaves are from the allotment, where loads of self-sown seedlings are popping up all over the place. I've planted out some lettuces into the back garden too but I'm not sure how they'll get on, I have a idea they'll get slugged. I do have some anti-slug wool pellets but as the lettuce plants didn't look that great to begin with, I think I'll save the pellets for another time.
Strawberry season has arrived in earnest, I've been picking loads. I weighed them all last year (total 19kg) but have forgotten to this time round.
Nice with brekkie
Saturday night treat - caramalised strawbs with Stilton, honey and toasted walnuts on sourdough, yum.
The allotment is looking quite good at the moment (I'm surprised!). Jan has helped with cutting the paths recently, which really makes a difference. It also helps reduce hidey places for slugs. Though as I write this, it's raining, which will set the grass off and the slugs n snails will be on the move, darn.
 
Looking down the main path from just inside the entrance (shed to my right, and two dwarf apple trees to the left)
A few maincrop potatoes, and just-planted Nero kale on the left under the mesh (I have also sown some dwarf French beans inbetween the kale as an experiment)
I was weeding the red onion bed next to the sage hedge and kept getting the lovely scent as I accidentally brushed against the bushes. There have been so many bees on the flowers too, and I even saw a painted lady butterfly the other day.
The Spring-sown broad beans (Eleanora express), with radishes intercropped (and parsnips if they ever germinate)
Red onions in the foreground, with some self-sown chard seedlings. The various wigwams are for winter squash, cucumbers and beans. I still have more to put up / plant / sow (I've also been giving squashes and cucumbers away - I sowed loads). The other side of the plot has three beds I need to clear for these and more brassicas. Behind me are mainly all the fruit bushes (red currant, blackcurrant, raspberry, Saskatoon, gooseberries, hazel trees etc). Yesterday I also sowed more beetroot and lettuces in modules at home - an attempt to be organised and have things to plant out once other crops have been harvested, or squeeze into unoccupied spots. Oh I also need to pot up all my peppers and aubergines. Wow, it never ends eh.
Last Wednesday I headed out to Eves Hill Veg Co (not-for profit veg farm on two acres) to volunteer as usual. We had a nice day for it, skylarks and yellowhammers singing away, and a good gang of volunteers and trainees. These two lovelies were planting out the summer squashes. Just think how much food this will make! So much more productive than 'conventional' farming.
I was mainly helping to plant out celery and celeriac - with a good thick layer of mulch on this sandy soil. We went a bit wobbly but nevermind eh. The salad area is looking amazing, as is the big polytunnel, I'll have to take some more pics this week if I get the chance.

One of my gardening jobs has swapped days this week, so if there's a break in the weather I'll hopefully pop down to the plot tomorrow for a bit of slug patrol. I did find a toad the other day but I think he or she needs a bit of support.

 

Thanks for reading, I'm linking in with Harvest Monday, kindly hosted by Dave at Our Happy Acres.

 

Monday, 29 May 2017

Harvest Monday and Eves Hill Veg Co

I've been growing peas in some tubs in my lean to at home (using last year's tomato compost). We had a few harvests of pea shoots from them, before I left them to grow on to produce some pods....
I had planned on letting the pods fatten up a bit more before picking them, but a couple of days after these pics I picked the lot - it was so hot in the lean-to that the plants were suffering and also I needed the tubs to plant out the last of my tomatoes (incidentally, I spotted an actual baby tomato today, on one of the two tumbler plants, ooh). So anyway, we enjoyed the fresh young peas raw, eating the crunchy pods n all.
I've also harvested a load more radishes from the allotment. They're starting to get a bit nibbled by something, but on the whole are still pretty good. I haven't spied any parsnips germinated though. There's loads of chickweed and poppies that've germinated in the row which might have affected the parsnips. So we may be a parsnip-free zone this year...still time for them to germinate if they decided to though.
We had a nice salad the other day....with some new season potatoes from the organic veg stall on the market. My early potatoes are just starting to flower so I might have a rootle around for some tubers in the next couple of weeks. (Only the radishes are homegrown in this pic I think, plus the homemade apple cider vinegar in the dressing).
Out at Eves Hill Veg Co community veggie farm (where I volunteer), the new polytunnel we put up in early spring is getting nice and full.
Two nice rows of tomatoes intercropped with lettuce. Kohl rabi in the nearest bed has been harvested on Thursday I think....not sure what's going in their place - maybe cucumbers or more tomatoes?
Outside in the hardening-off area, there are masses of trays looking lovely and healthy. Last week on the volunteer day the gang planted out a whole load of sweetcorn but there's still plenty more. I've been getting a bit anxious about the amount of plants waiting to go out in my garden and the allotment, but this is on an altogether different scale! The monthly open day was at the weekend, so I'm sure they got lots more done (in between rain storms).

Jan and I had an allotment session on Sunday morning (Saturday was very very windy so I hid indoors all day). Jan cut the paths, which was really helpful, and I planted out some of the squashes. I meant to go back down again over the long weekend but it didn't happen....though I did a bit of gardening at home. Ah, I just remembered that I lifted the rest of the garlic and left it there, planning on bringing it back later, oh well. I also noticed that the Autumn-sown broad beans are ready to be picked, so I must get them too. Plus all the other stuff that needs doing (put up bean wigwams, clear more ground for squashes and beans, sow beans, clearing around the overgrown edges of the plot...you get the idea). And there were a few strawberries nearly ripe that I forgot about too. Nevermind, there'll be more to come.

 

Thanks for reading this week, I'm linking in with Harvest Monday, kindly hosted by Dave at Our Happy Acres

 

Monday, 22 May 2017

Harvest Monday...and a bit of Sweden

I've been away for a few days (actually nine days...in Sweden!). So my previous post involved harvests just before we left and this week are harvests since we've been back. My radish gamble paid off (giving them a water to bring the growth on, and harvesting those ready just before the hol. On our return, there are loads at just the right size, and I haven't seen any yet which are too big or woody (there was a bit of a chickweed explosion in that bed though, so it needs a good weed).
 
They've been going nicely in sandwiches, here with some red onion top snippings, from a few spare onion sets I'm growing in a pot in the back garden. I never have any luck with salad onions, so this is a good equivalent.

That's it for the harvest photos, though I have also picked two big bagfuls of chard... I'm starting to clear the beds for squashes and brassicas etc that I have growing on at home. I also picked a nice handful of brassica flowers (similar to purple sprouting broccoli but from a cabbage plant I harvested the cabbage from ages ago. It's actually been really prolific, and was from a self seeded plant..bonus). That'll be the last though I reckon.

 

And as a sign of the upcoming summer...today I harvested our first strawberry! We were both at the allotment yesterday trying to get things back on track and Jan spied a strawberry partly ripe. So she turned it over for the other side to get the sun today (it's been very warm) and when I was dropping off some grass clippings there after a gardening job this afternoon...yes it was ready. Being a kindly person, although tempted to eat it there and then, I brought it home and we had half each!

 
So yes, we have just been to Sweden...brilliant. Stockholm, Gotland and Uppsala. We packed loads in and even managed to visit a couple of botanic gardens. Spring is later there, so although there were plenty of lovely spring flowers, and trees bursting leaves, there were empty beds waiting to be filled. Here's part of (one of the) botanic gardens in Uppsala (east Sweden)...
Garlic area
Quite a few raised beds with no edging, I'm doing this on a smaller scale on my allotment.
Nice compost bin
Hot bed using straw bales and old windows
Crops doing well under the glass.

Beehives....We saw quite a few in various places we visited.

A few shots from further afield...medieval town wall in Visby on the island of Gotland

'Chimpanzee rock' near Visby (though looks more like a gorilla)

Fishing village near Visby (we hired bikes for the day)
Lovely sunsets in Visby, facing west across the Baltic Sea. There were some unusual coastal birds (unusual to us anyway) including gooseanders, mergansers, eider ducks and we even spotted a lovely little blue throat feeding amongst the rocks (bit a like a robin but with a blue throat with a red patch in the middle).
Very clear water.
Faces in the walls and buildings
Stockholm at night
Oh and we met abba...ah sadly just kidding but these were very lifelike waxworks.

I noticed that in domestic gardens, having a raspberry patch was quite popular, and there were often fruit trees too. On Gotland there's a tradition of berry picking in the countryside and I meant to ask if the tasty frozen ones served with breakfast were picked by the staff at the hotel...they had several homemade berry preserves that were yummy anyway.
 
That's me for the week, thanks for reading. I'm linking in with Harvest Monday kindly hosted by Dave at Our Happy Acres.