Thursday, 31 July 2014

The feasting begins!

So far we have cropped:
Beets (from the garden)
Runner Beans (from the lotty)
French Beans (from the garden and the lotty)
A Courgettes (from the garden and the lotty)
Raspberries (from the lotty)
Redcurrants (from the garden)
Blueberries (from the garden)

Not much as yet. But it will gather momentum as we move through the season. Last year we got to a stage where we rarely went to the shops for veg, we just ate what we had, not what we felt like. Which was lovely :-) We are still eating the tomato sauce bases I made last year and froze, so I expect I'll do the same type of thing this year. The raspberries and redcurrants and blueberries are all in the freezer ready to be made into jams and jellies - I must crack on with the redcurrants as they are taking up too much room! Also, we have a lot of runners and french beans in the freezer from last season, we must try them and see if they are any good - if not, we'll compost them and just eat the fresh beans.

The apples are ready to pick and eat, they are dropping off the tree. However the number of lovely apples will be relatively small this year as the starlings have been feasting on them in the tree, we have had lots drop to the ground with bloomin big holes in them, and the starlings sitting cackling in the tree. I expect we will do a similar thing to previous years and stew them and freeze them after we have eaten lots - the apples that is, not the starlings. Tempted though.

The tomato plants on the lotty and in the garden are producing lots of lovely fruits, all green as yet, but the plum tomatoes are dripping with fruits. The courgette plants have numerous small fruits on them, and the pumpkins have one fruit the size of a large football, and several smaller fruits too. The beets on the lotty are growing very well, the yardlong beans are thriving, took them a little while to get going compared to the runner beans but they are romping away now, and the cannellini beans have got plenty of pods and are still flowering well. Oh and the sweetcorn has lots of cobs :-)

The mange tout and petit pois are producing pods, so we will tuck into the mange tout tonight with pork chops and runner beans. Lovely purple mange tout, looks spectacular, we do like our purple/red veg, we have red cabbage in at the lotty and purple beans growing at home, and we have seeds for next year - purple pakchoi, purple and white carrots, purple brussels sprouts :-) And plenty of purple French bean seeds and purple mange tout as well of course.

The not so good news, the cabbages at home have been slugged - we have now blued the bed so fingers crossed they survive. We still have some cauli seedlings to go in so once I crop the remaining beets I'll put them in and we can cover the bed with debris netting. But all the other braaasicca seedlings have been eaten as they weren't covered, so they have gone into the compost bin.

Monday, 28 July 2014

Dark water & Mental Pumpkins

We were watering at the lotty at 21:30 on Friday evening, it was almost dark! We waited until the heat of the day had dissipated a bit, and we gave everything a good drench.

We found that we have blackfly on the runner beans, boo! I sprayed them with a soapy solution (washing up liquid in water) so we'll have to see how that goes. I may need to give them another few goes. Strange thing is the broad beans, which are right next to the runners, are currently blackfly free, which are normally prone to them. I pulled off some of the most infested leaves and sprayed them and flung them into the compost bin. But we ate our first runner beans at the weekend, and they were lovely.

The pumpkins and the squashes on the lotty are going mental - the one big pumpkin is almost football sized now, and the plants are still pushing out fruits. And we cropped our first courgette! It's only a small one, but it's a start. Some of the other courgette plants are being swamped by the pumpkins so we'll see what happens, we haven't grown courgettes on the lotty before. The courgette plant in the garden is very happy and is producing mini courgettes already. Wonderful.

Oh and I tidied up the tomato plants a bit, by removing the extra stalks and a lot of leaves from the base so I can see the plants properly again now.

Hubby works near a coffee place, and they have given us some of their used coffee grounds - we are going to try just composting them for now, as we have heard conflicting reports of how good/bad they are for the soil - some people say they suck all the nutrients out, others say they add nutrients in... we will find out. But the compost bin is pretty warm at the moment, which is good, it is now full of tomato leaves as well as coffee grounds.

Have reorganised the two greenhouses, the main one and the little plastic one at the side of the house - this one is now a pot, tray and compost store, and the main one will have the staging in it and the plants next year. Got rid of a load of rubbish from the little gh, we had allsorts in there, and because it is several years old the cover is disintegrating, and things get wet. So storing pots will be fine.

In yesterday afternoon's heat hubby and I tackled a bit more of the ivy on the back fence - hubby managed to cut out a lot of the thick ivy stems that were wrapped around the bamboo, and he also cut a stump of hornbeam right down to the ground, so that's good. I cut a few bits of hornbeam and ivy out of the side fence, we'll need that clearer in order to tackle to back fence. Still loads of ivy and russian vine to get rid of, that will need bagging up and taking to the tip again, but it was too hot yesterday, we gave up and went back indoors.

Friday, 25 July 2014

Sick n Ivy

Had a few days of illness so not much has been done either in the garden or on the lotty. One thing we did manage to do was to swap over a couple of the brassica frames, as the red cabbages were pushing against the net of the lower cover - swapped the swede and red cabbage covers over, as the swedes are a lot shorter than the cabbages at the moment. We do have some impressive looking pumpkins growing, one in particular is about the size and colour of a yellow melon! There are other fruits growing on the plants, we just hope they all come to fruition. The other squash plants are growing very well as well, we've been really impressed as we've not grown squashes before. 

Before my cold kicked in we managed to get a whole heap of ivy down from the back fence, and our son cleared all the invading ivy from the greenhouse. Our brown bin is full, and collection is over a week away! There is still a lots left to clear, but it is all on the outside of the fence now, in the car park behind and not our garden. We haven't seen the inside of the fence so clear for years. We will remove the rest of the ivy and take it directly to the tip, this was made easier with a builders bag we received from a fellow "Freecycler". The sooner we get this sorted the happier we will be! As will the people who use the car park no doubt!

We intend to do some major rearranging in the back garden over the autumn/winter. The ornamental pear will be reduced in height, to give us some more light in the garden. Cuttings will be taken from the redcurrant this autumn, which will then be relocated somewhere else, maybe even to the front garden. We will cut back the fruit trees, letting us see where the beds and structures can go.

Other than that, it's just been a case of weed and water and maintain.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

The Mad Pumpkin & Bad Ivy

We picked up a bargain - a Wilko's greenhouse staging shelf kit for £3 instead of a tenner! Great! I need to organise the greenhouse now the plants are no longer in there, it's being used as a dumping ground for tools and bags of compost and the like, and the new staging will give me the kick I need to get started. We also picked me up some plant food, some blood fish & bone, pots, and potting compost.  Groovy. We went back to Wilko's at the weekend and picked up some more pots, and some propagators and some other bits and bobs.

Down the lotty at the weekend we discovered that the pumpkin plants have gone a bit mad, we had to chop the ends off two or three of the tendrils as they were invading.  And we found out afterwards that that is exactly what you are supposed to do, nip the ends off. We counted about 6 female flowers, so we should have a decent crop, especially if we remove the weaker fruits to give the stronger ones a better chance.  Or we crop them small rather than let them all grow to full size. Will need pumpkin recipes, if I find any good ones I'll add them to the blog.

In the garden we’ve planted out the cabbages - they are probably a little overcrowded, but we don't have a lot of room left. We made a debris-netting cover for the bed and held it down with the milk bottle weights same as on the lotty, should do the trick. I also harvested some beets and planted  swedes in the gaps. We aren't going to have room to plant the caulis I sowed... I also cropped all the remaining redcurrants and got another 600g. All in the freezer now, will make redcurrant jelly with it soon.

While I was doing that Hubby made a start on tackling the ivy, and he's got a huge amount down, the sunshine is now getting into the greenhouse again! We took a builder's bag full of the cuttings to the tip, and were going to carry on but we both felt shattered, so we'll get to it when we can. There is still plenty to get rid of, and it is tempting to just clear our bit of fence, but if we don't get rid of it all it'll grow back and we'll be back to square one. The SBK did a good job of killing off the Russian vine, but hasn't touched the ivy, so we are back to the idea of just ripping it out manually. We have a double layer of fence at the back, the original one that is a bit gappy, so a bamboo screen was put up.  The ivy has intertwined between the two so we are planning  to take down the bamboo fence, and just put up with the gappy fence again and the lack of privacy. That is, if the ivy hasn't destroyed the original fence of course! With our son home from uni for the summer, he can help too. All hands on deck!

We are still pondering the thought of a polytunnel, I am struggling to picture how it will fit in our wee garden, I'm sure it will, but we'd have to do some serious tree pruning (1 apple, 2 pears) or even removing (an ornamental pear that we planted over 20 years ago.) It feels strange to be thinking about removing a tree, but it is only ornamental, and dries the ground to the extent that not much grows down the bottom of the garden.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

We want to be together

We are having a weekend together, without work getting in the way for a change. So Saturday we got up early and headed to the lotty, and planted out our swedes, along with the final 3 courgette plants - we just can't bear the thought of composting perfectly healthy seedlings!

As we were taking a few pics - we realised that we are chock-a-block full, we couldn't fit anything else in even if we wanted to!

So we thought it would be a good idea to make a note of the plants and varieties we have in down the lotty, for ourselves for future reference if nothing else.

We have:
5 Types of Beans:
 - Runner (3 varieties - Polestar, Butler and Enorma)
 - French - Borlotti Firetongue (Dwarf) and a climbing variety from last year's saved seeds
 - Broad - Bunyards Exhibition
 - Cannellino - bush bean Impero Bianco - (no wonder these aren't climbing, d'oh!)
 - Italian Yardlong

4 Types of Tomato:
- Moneymaker
- Gardener's Delight
- F1 Inca Plum
- Beef - Costoluto Genovese

4 Brassicas:
- Red Cabbage
- Cauliflower
- Swede - Tweed
- Savoy Cabbage - January King

5 Types of Cucurbitaceae:
- Pumpkin (plants came from a friend but it's a big orange variety
- Winter Squash High Sugar Mixed
- Butternut Squash
- Courgette Cocozelle v. Tripolis (a stripey one)
- Courgette Zucchini (a plain green one)

3 Beetroot varieties:
- Boltardy
- Chioggia (a pink and white stripey one)
- Burpee Golden (a yellow one)

Sweetcorn - Mainstay

Leek - Musselburgh

A Rhubarb plant

Several Autumn Raspberres

A Blackcurrant

Oh and some Marigolds and Nasturtiums, as pollinator attractors, alledgedly, although the runner beans are in flower and the nasturtiums aren't!

So the plot is full, the pumpkin plants are going away great guns, the sweetcorn is developing well and growing into thick sturdy specimens, and the broad beans are flowering, as are the runners. All the recently planted brassicas look a bit feeble just yet, especially as they are planted so far apart... But that will change as they develop.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Guilty Weekend

Had a headache-filled weekend last weekend, so just did some gentle jobs in the garden, and not at the lotty, and felt guilty about it.

I cleared the strawberry bed, it was chock full of plants and had numerous mouldy strawbs in there - we aren't eating them so we decided we could make better use of the space and uproot them, refresh the ground and plant something else. So I pulled all the plants out and fed the dry and dusty ground with chicken poo and some of Mr Nunn's Quality Moo Poo, the last bag of it. Gave it all a good mix and a lot of water (some of those dry moo pats are rock hard!) and covered it with weed suppressant to keep the cats off while it settles. We may have to add some topsoil or something to the mix as the old compost in there is very dry and dusty.

I also planted out a courgette in to its bed, and added plenty of blue slug killer, so far so good.

The braaasicas are ready to plant at the lotty, unfortunately I wasn't up to it health-wise this weekend. We are going to struggle to find the space we need at the lotty for all the plants we have, which was the reason for clearing the strawb bed at home. We should gain some space at home as we harvest from the beetroot bed, they are just about ready for cropping, nice and small and sweet hopefully. We think there will still be some seedlings that have to be composted, even with all the extra bed space. Ah well, we'll just plant the strongest ones.

Oh I also pruned a couple of small branches off the apple tree so now the laundry whirligig can whirl again! The joys of a small garden, we can fill the available space with plants and trees but we still need somewhere to dry the washing.

After work on Monday evening hubby and I popped to the lotty, and planted out 8 savoy cabbage seedlings (fingers crossed, they look very gangly), we also planted a couple of courgette plants, giving them a handful of Mr Nunn's Quality Quarter Horse Apples at the bottom of the hole, and a good watering in. We still have some more courgette plants left over so we may plant another one or two at the lotty. Yes, we know we will probably end up with loads of courgettes but we can give them to friends, and the joy is in the growing, as well as the eating, and we don't like composting perfectly healthy seedlings!

Monday, 7 July 2014

From then to now

We have achieved so much in such a short space of time, it is astonishing when I think about it. The lotty was empty except for weeds when I sprayed with glyphosate on Good Friday this year, and we now have an almost full plot and an almost full garden at home. All we are waiting on now are the courgette plants to mature a bit, and the braaasicas that are still in the greenhouse.

The growth on the plot has been tremendous, the two pumpkins are spreading and we've spotted two female flowers with little yellow blobs behind them, fabulous. There may be more, but two is great! The runners and french beans are growing away nicely, but the cannellini and italian yardlongs aren't looking too great, hopefully they will pick up. The two other squashes (Winter and Butternut) we planted last week are looking settled and are beginning to produce flowers, and the tomato plants have fledgeling tomatoes on them and lots of flowers, yay!

We are already planning ahead for next year's plot, and have started a free trial of some garden design software, it seems ok, it is probably quite useful once we become accustomed to it and all its little foibles. Using the software it seems that we could fit a lot more on the plot than we currently do. And I thought we squashed stuff in already. Ww will have to see what we think come next year. We have already decided to put some permanent paths in, and begin an asparagus bed, we will tidy up the raspberries and the blackcurrant and put some supports in for them, and that will give the plot some more definite structure.

Oh and we ordered some more seeds from the website :-) They sent me the missing Ailsa Craig onions from my first order, and a free packet of Tosca onion as a gift, nice :-) Good customer service.

We need to find a way of organising our seeds, we have lots, and it is becoming difficult to find the ones we want. A simple card index system should do it. They are all in used Jacobs cracker tubs, so all I need is a few A4 dividers and cut them to size.

At the moment we are thinking about getting a polytunnel for the back garden. The garden isn't very big but it would mean that the productive space would be concentrated in one area, and we would hopefully get more produce and earlier. Still working out the logistics of it really, it would mean some cutting back (or even cutting out) of some of the established trees and shrubs, and moving the beds about, but we'd planned on moving the beds around at the end of the season anyway. 

So that's it for now, I'll keep you all updated when more things happen.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Blessed Rain!

After a couple of weeks of fabulous sunshine we have had a change in the weather and it started raining Friday night, rained on and off for most of the day, then on Saturday we had a downpour! It's Glastonbury's fault of course. The rain is welcome, as it means we don't have to go to the lotty and water, just let nature do her thing. We'll have to pop over and check for weeds, as the rain encourages them out of the ground of course! The rain has also refilled the water butts at home, as they had become rather depleted recently, I have been using this water for the garden, rather than tap water.

We've ordered some seeds from a new-to-us website,, they have a sale on at the moment so ordered some seed varieties that we haven't had before, gotta be worth a try - a different broad bean to our usual Bunyards Exhibition (Aquadulce), some onion seeds (Ailsa Craig although the wrong onions were delivered, I got White Lisbon's instead - emailed the company and they are sending the correct ones immediately, which is great customer service I think), some more beetroot Chioggia (the pink and white stripey one) and a couple of climbing french bean varieties that we haven't tried before, Hunter and Cobra (sound like Gladiators to me!)

We also got some veg seeds free with a gardening magazine, so we'll give them a try too, spinach beet, and sorrel, and some more cauli and turnips and a few others. Got nowhere to put them at the moment of course, both the lotty and the garden are planted, or spaces spoken for. We'll have another look round the website to see if there is anything else we want, asparagus seeds perhaps, or other brassicas. We quite fancy having a go at kohl rabi, but to be honest what puts me off is not knowing how to cook it, I haven't a clue.

I did a bit of tidying in the garden at the weekend, and cropped as many of the ripe redcurrants as I could, they are all washed now and in the freezer, I managed to get almost 1.75 kilos.

 I also tidied up the strawb bed a bit, and discovered lots of rotten strawbs, so as we aren't eating them we think we will just scrap the whole lot of them and refresh the bed for something we will eat. I swapped some of the bed netting covers around, and thngs look a bit better now. I also sowed a load more petit pois in the pea bed, as not many of them had come through. And I potted on the courgette plants, hopefully they will be able to go in at the weekend.

I also filled several 2 litre size milk cartons with sharp sand, as we use these as weights to hold down the netting on the lotty - I suspect we will have to do something similar at home, its not an elegant solution but it works.

Hubby sprayed all the invasive and overgrown ivy in the back garden yesterday morning, with the Vitax's SBK Bushwood killer, it's not a quick solution but hopefully it will be effective.