19th December, 2009

The weather has turned very cold and frosty at night with sub-zero temperatures. So not much happening in the garden. Nonetheless, the frosts should improve the flavour of the sprouts and parsnips. I've tried a few and they do taste very good. They will be excellent for Xmas dinner. The parsnips are rather small and have bent roots. It seems the tap root goes down so far then goes sideways. Again I have to blame the heavy clay soil which the root can't penetrate. Once again, I hope that continued addition of compost will improve the soil condition.

The purple sprouting broccoli had resisted the attention of the wood pigeons, until now. I counted a flock of 22 of them which get frightened off by a buzzard every so often, but they must be getting hungry as you can see below.

With Xmas arriving I have asked for a veg cage which should be a little more substantial than my pathetic home made effort which now looks like this.

I need to get the cage over the PSB as soon as possible (Boxing day?) before my PSB is eaten away.

The broad beans in the greenhouse are thriving but this cold spell will check them back.

Finally, if you remember I made some apple and raisin wine last December after my failed attempt at crushing apples for cider. I had to resort to using wine finings to get it to clear which worked a treat and I'm glad to say that the final result is very nice! It's a medium wine that is very smooth and easily drinkable, perfect for xmas (if it lasts that long). Cheers!

24th November, 2009

The asparagus beds got a good mulching of multi-purpose compost. I didn't have any home made compost ready so had to resort to buying some but I was determined to give the beds some first class treatment as next year should see the first real crops.

As well as the onions showing fresh green shoots, so are the shallots.

No sign of the garlic, but last year they didn't start sprouting until the spring either.

In the greenhouse the spinach has started to germinate which might seem surprising but on sunny days the temperature has reached around 20C. Impressive. The broad beans have benefited from this and I've moved them to a sunnier position.

I've been doing some potting up of a succulent plant called Echeveria (not a cactus)that has thrown out a large number of sideshoots. I can't bring myself to dispose of them because they produce wonderful flowers all through the summer and maybe they would make nice gifts. They will have to rough it out in the greenhouse over winter and we'll see what happens next year.

I have some small Aloe cactus there too.

Finally, I've been splitting bulbules from the orchids too.This one is last year's which I have just left in the greenhouse to get on with it (with watering of course) and now that the shoots are appearing, I have taken pity on them and brought them indoors.

And these are the flowers of a Phalaeonopsis orchid which has been flowering constantly for several years now. Marvellous.

10th November, 2009

I spent the weekend mostly collecting leaves on yet another fine sunny day. Here they are in the plastic bags.

I cut down the asparagus to ground level and will mulch with some cheapmulti-purpose compost. I would like to use my own compost but it's not ready yet.

I pruned the gooseberries and redcurrants following RHS advice. I cut off the leader back to about 6" of growth and then cut the side shoots back by a half.

One of the redcurrant bushes was composed of 4 shoots rather than the desired single shoot. So I dug it up and indeed it was really 4 separate plants, so I have replanted these in a temporary position until I have prepared a new bed near the apple tree. I'll do this through the winter for planting in spring. This is all possible because now there is sufficient sunlight to grow plants on the south side of the garden following the hedge removal.

The continuing warm weather has helped the onions develop some strong shoots.

The spring onions are doing well in modules in the greenhouse. I'll probably plant these out in spring.

The broad beans have germinated already and I sowed some spinach in modules. There have been some frosts so the Brussels sprouts and parsnips should have improved taste I hope. I need to try some although I don't think the parsnips are very big.

26th October, 2009

I planted out the overwintering onions (First Early variety from Thompson & Morgan) along with a row each of garlic and shallots (using this year's bulbs). Within 2 weeks of planting the onions are already showing green shoots which I put down to the lovely warm weather in combination with a good bit of rain.

I sowed the Aquadulce broad beans in small pots and they now sit on a shelf in the greenhouse. I also have started to collect leaves of which I can not get enough. I am lucky to have deciduous trees at the bottom of the garden and lately they have been shedding their leaves. I filled the small leaf mould cage very quickly and there are still lots more to come. The large adjacent cage is already full of shredded Leylandii which I reckon may take several years before I use it by slowly adding it to the regular compost. So, I will have to use the black bag method again for the leaves. Other than that not much is happening.

This is the side bed with the leeks and purple sprouting broccoli behind it.

And some nice hedge clippings in front.

My compost bins are full and so with all the clipping and pruning at this time of year, I have big piles of green stuff scattered around the garden; I am trying to make as much compost as possible. Next year the beds should really benefit from a huge onslaught of added compost (I hope).

6th October, 2009

At long last it has rained which is very welcome because I want the soil to soften up so that I can plant out the overwintering onion sets, garlic and shallots. The picture below shows just how bad the soil had got in the bed next to the hedge and has developed large cracks. So still some way to go to get the soil condition right, despite my previous post where I was more upbeat about the soil in the bed where the spuds had been. It just goes to show that you can never dig in enough compost.

The chillis in the greenhouse are putting out new shoots and look in good shape for overwintering.

I have removed the environmesh covering the purple sprouting broccoli as it was restricting growth. The plants look really good and I hope it produces some good florets next spring. This will be a first for growing and eating.

The Brussels sprouts have been rather neglected because I have not made a veg cage to protect them properly. They did have netting draped over them but this has not been sufficient to keep the pests off and the top leaves have been attacked. However, there are some good sprouts coming along and there will be some for xmas. There are plenty anyway but I won't be trying any until there is a frost which should improve flavour.

I would like to be digging in more compost (soil condition permiting) but I have none so that will have to wait, hopefully there will be some in the spring. In the meantime I shall be collecting leaves for leaf mould
It was a beautiful weekend. We even had lunch out on the patio with not a cloud in the sky and a buzzard soaring overhead.

It was almost too hot for digging, but I have started to dig in the compost in the bed where the spuds were. Of course I have uncovered quite a few tubers that I missed.

I wanted to empty the compost bins out to make room for all the finished veg plants such as the runner beans and sweetcorn that I am pulling up.

I am quite pleased with the soil condition. I can put the spade right in without resistance and it crumbles relatively well. But some more compost won't go amiss.

I am getting a bucket of coffee grounds every week from my work canteen; I add it to the compost bins. It has a lot of benefits including a high nitrogen content, helping to heat up the compost pile, improving soil condition and attracting worms.

In the greenhouse, the plants are coming to an end. I retired three tomato plants and picked off all the fruit (both red and green). There's not much fruit left on the remaining plants so I expect next weekend I shall remove the rest.

I've spread the spent compost from the tomato containers on the front borders, where the soil has become like iron and reminds me of what the soil in the veg beds used to be like.

These are tomatoes before the clear out.

I picked all of the chillis and pruned back the plants with the idea of overwintering them. I didn't succeed last year so I don't mind if they don't survive to next year as a fresh sowing was very successful this year anyway. I think I have over 100 chillis and they have a nice heat to them.

There have been some nice green peppers but not as many as last year. I put this down to the chilli plants which I think shaded out the peppers and the aubergines.

I have had no aubergines at all this year despite good leaf growth and flowers but again I think the plants were too well shaded.

The melons have produced six small but tasty fruits. Not a great haul.

The leaves of the strawberry plants were removed and the soil around them weeded. Looking at that soil, an addition of compost wouldn't hurt either.

The runners were potted up for next season's new plants to replace the old ones on a three year cycle. I got plenty of new plants with enough to give away or swap.

There are still late blueberries on one bush but they have a sour tinge and therefore are not great, perhaps they need mixing with other berries and a bit of sugar.

I picked the apples and most of them are of a good size. The unblemished ones were wrapped in paper for long term storage. The rest I have been cooking with the blackberries.

The pear tree has a serious case of rust and I'm not sure what I can do about it. Next year I will be more vigilant and remove affected leaves. I will also check the stem for signs of disease where the spores might reside.

Around the rest of garden the leeks are fattening nicely.

The parsnips have rapidly leafed up but they were late in the ground so I am impressed that they have done so well, but I am not sure what is happening underground.

The purple sprouting broccoli is pushing out of the protective environmesh, I need to make a veg cage for them.

The asparagus has lots of green feathers.

Finally I have ordered seeds for next year but only those that I need to replenish. Mostly I can still use last year's seeds but I will use fresh carrots and parsnips seeds (old seed has a poor germination rate). I also ordered a greengage tree which won't arrive until March. Now that the Leylandii hedge has been removed on the south side I reckon it will allow me to grow another small tree.

3rd September, 2009

There is a cool, autumn feel in the evening air now. Has the season finished already? Certainly the courgettes are slowing down and the runner beans have finished flowering. So all I am doing at the moment is harvesting.

Although there weren't many plums or pears, they did taste nice and bodes well for future years. In the beds there are are a few beetroot left still, some spring onions, runner beans, borlotti beans, courgettes, sweetcorn, dwarf beans and pumpkins. For later harvesting there are turnips, leeks, parsnips and purple sprouting broccoli.

The strawberry plants need weeding and they have sent out lots of new runners with plantlets which I will pot up for next year's plants and replace the older plants as needed which is after 3 years of fruiting apparently.

In the greenhouse the melons look good and should be ready soon along with the peppers. As usual I'm getting lots of tomatoes and the chillis have been exceptional this year.

25th August, 2009

The International Kidney spuds definitely had blight; I have had to discard most of the tubers. However, the rest of the spuds (Dunluce and Kestrel) seem to be fine and I got some very large tubers which will be ideal for baking.

The fig tree produce three fruits in the end and they tasted delicious; a great success.

Also a success are the onions. The dry spell was ideal for drying them out after pulling them up. It is important to keep them dry as I ruined the overwintered onions by leaving them out in the rain and they started to rot very quickly. A lesson learned.

The garlic have produced some big bulbs, probably the best I've grown.

Is all this success due to improved soil conditions? It certainly seems easier to dig and hoe, but it still dries out quickly when there is no rain. The compost and leaf mould is looking good so I shall be digging that in soon, probably after some rain when the soil will be easier to break up, but not overly wet when it becomes very heavy to work.

I tried the sweetcorn and it's not quite ready yet. So I looked at the mini sweetcorn and that is ready, perhaps it is too big. It was very tasty in a stir fry.

This picture shows the difference in size between the mini sweetcorn (bottom)and its normal counterpart. Above them are the runner beans which have been prolific along with the chillis (above the runners).

The raspberries and blackberries are starting to ripen both look to have produced a lot of fruit too. The plums are a bit of a disappointment, not much fruit (about six) but they make up for that with taste.

I picked two pears, yes that is all, before they get eaten by wasps. They are too hard to eat yet so they will ripen on the kitchen windowsill.

I am going to try and organise the greenhouse properly next year. It is too crowded, I will grow one less tomato plant and grow about three chillis (I'll try and overwinter the ones I have) instead of six. Then I may not grow cucumbers anymore as they don't really thrive in the crowded conditions. That should give me more room for the aubergines, melons and peppers which I do want to keep growing. But I may revise that decision depending on what I get off the plants this year. The aubergines don't look very promising at the moment.

I have a lot of bare earth on the beds now that the spuds and onions are out, so I may consider sowing some green manure. But I do need to reserve space for garlic and overwintered onions. That means I need to start thinking of ordering next year's seeds. Is it that time already?

5th August, 2009

I seem to have been busy for the last few weekends and have not got around to taking pictures of the garden. There's been a lot of wet weather which has promoted the veg growth and I'm getting huge yields.

The downside to the wet weather is that there is more likely to be blight and I think my spuds have got some.

I should have been digging these spuds up earlier but I've left them until I need to eat them. I decided to dig the first two rows up which I think are International Kidney, as they are the worst affected. I think I have caught them early enough as the spuds themselves seem unaffected. I'm not sure of the variety since my records were lost when my laptop crashed. So, two lessons learned; one it's very easy to forget what and where you planted things and second make copies.

The second sowing of kohlrabi are ready.

For once I seem to be getting a decent pumpkin this year. All my previous efforts have failed.

The runner beans are very productive too. I didn't even prepare a trench; must be down to the wet weather again. I froze a lot for later use.

The asparagus has thrown up a lot of new shoots which bodes well for next year when I can harvest some for the first time.

I planted out some purple sprouting broccoli and covered them with environmesh. I left this a bit late perhaps but then I didn't have any space. These filled in the gap left by the peas, turnips and overwintered onions.

For the same reasons I have planted the parsnips very late. They did very poorly in the toilet rolls, not sure why. Let's hope they pick up now they are in the ground.

The courgettes are just crazy. What to do with them? I have given most away, there are just too many. But today I read from Skippy's blog that you can freeze grated courgette for subsequent baking. So that should work for the courgette cake I make.

The sweetcorn is now 7 foot tall and finally showing the male flowers...., well on the normal sweetcorn plants. The mini(!?) sweetcorn is the tallest but yet to flower.

The spring sown onions are ripening and they will be pulled soon. I planted them closely and they have still swelled to a good size.

The sprouts are under the builder's netting that I acquired and I just haven't had time to make a permanent cage. It seems to be keeping the butterflies off.

Finally some greenhouse pictures. The tomatoes have hit the roof and I have pinched the tops out. I think there is too much in there and as usual the cucumbers are not making fruit which I put down to the competition for light with the tomatoes.

Opposite the tomatoes though, the chillis are making lots of green fruits.