21st November, 2011

I haven't posted in some time as I have not got around to taking photos of the garden. My excuse is that I leave it too late in the day when it's too dark to take photos. Anyway, I have harvested the apples and carefully identified those that were unmarked and these were then wrapped individually in newspaper. The marked ones will be eaten first hopefully before they go rotten. Here are the apples nicely wrapped and stored in the shed.
The tomatoes were still being picked in November. It's been very warm and I still haven't recorded a frost.
I cleared out the greenhouse and cleaned the glass properly this year to remove the algae that had built up. I have chillis, broad bean seedlings, peach and cyclamens in there and they will need a much light as possible so clean glass will help. These are the chilli plants which may or may not survive. I always try but they haven't survived a winter in the greenhouse in my hands.
Peach and broad beans.
Cyclamens which I dug up from the front garden; they may make nice gifts for my friends or to spread around the garden.
I've managed to dig over the parts of the garden plots that are clear of veg. This is a first. I've spread over the compost that was rotted enough to do so. But it doesn't go far.
The warm weather has encouraged the onion sets to shoot. I also planted some garlic but that hasn't shown yet.
The leeks are small; I may have to wait until spring before they put on some growth.
But we have been eating some nice pak choi.
The asparagus is finally turning brown (another sign of the warm spell) and it's time to cut it down.
The leaves have started to fall and I must collect them to make valuable leaf mould.

27th September, 2011

The apples did break the branch!
I've stripped all the leaves off the tomatoes so that all the energy now goes into ripening the fruit.
The cucumber in the greenhouse has done well despite it being an outdoor one. I've got some nice sized fruit.
The outdoor tomatoes and cucumbers are still producing too.
And the chillis are going to be fine. I finally disposed of the dried chillis which are two years old and this year's plants will replace them. The best of the dried chillis were ground up to make chilli powder.
The pear harvest has been superb. The fruit are still hard but are very edible due to their sweet flavour; just delicious. The apples are huge and need picking soon.
The leeks are still quite small but I think they will be fine by next year.
The button carrots have been good. I grew these in the stony soil of the middle bed knowing that normal carrots would have just forked. So that plan worked out OK. I should repeat that for next year. The sweetcorn are beginning to die back so I harvested most of the cobs which I then put in the freezer with their husks on. I've not tried this method before as I have never had an excess so I'll wait and see what they are like when they come out of the freezer.
Lastly, the weather is still quite warm and this week the temperature will get into the mid 20s, so I planted out the purple sprouting broccoli (which I sowed very late), some pak choi and Swiss chard in the hope that the warmth will allow them to put on some good growth.

7th September, 2011

I'm still bringing in the harvest; what a great year this has been. The tomatoes aren't very tasty but they do make good passata. Next year I may grow one or two plants of gardener's delight which produce a lot of sweet tasty toms for salads which only my wife and I eat. Two plants should be enough. I'll then have space to grow more larger toms for passata and soups which the kids do eat with pasta.
The aubergines are finally getting to a decent size but I don't think all of the plants will produce fruit. Next year I may grow more sweet peppers again because the kids will eat peppers rather than aubergines.
The apple harvest is going to be good too. The tree branches are bending alarmingly under the weight. I may have to prune this one as it is shading out the leeks.
There are too many to store so ideally I'd like to make juice, wine and cider but I need a crusher and press. They are so expensive though.

22nd August, 2011

It's been an intensive weekend of harvesting and cooking. First, I harvested the spuds as the haulms were dying back. In Gardener's World, Monty Don had target spot (early) blight and he advised to dig up the tubers before the spores infected them. I'm not sure I had early blight but decided that it wasn't worth the risk, besides the haulms were not going to make the tubers any bigger. As it turns out the potatoes were quite large and will make excellent bakers, moreover I have a big yield. There are about three apple boxes worth. They are mostly kestrel variety with a red mixed in which I forgot the variety of. I must write these things down.

As for the cooking, I made a passata with the tomatoes from the greenhouse; two lots of courgette cakes for freezing; chocolate beetroot muffins (yes beetroot!) which were delicious and even the kids ate them despite their concern over the red tinge. If I had told them they had beetroot in them I doubt they would have eaten them (all the more for me and the better half!). I pickled more beetroot and some spring onions that had bulbed up. I made some very tasty curries with the French and runner beans to accompany a courgette and prawn curry and finally triple quantities of a kohlrabi casserole which we ate on the day and the leftovers were frozen for later. I used some of this year's green chillies and dried red chillies for the curries too. We also had a salad using home grown tomatoes, cucumber, grated carrots and pickled beetroots. And to use up the plum glut, I made some plum jam and then some plum sauce to brush on meat and fish dishes.

To burn off all those calories I worked in the garden doing mostly weeding and trimming. The strawberries got tidied up with all the straw cleared, beds weeded and runners removed.

As it was sunny I dug up the onions so they could dry in the sun. A good yield.

Another good producer has been the blueberries. I have three plants with fruit that ripens one after the other so we get about a long harvesting period. There's sill plenty to come on the last bush.

Some animal has been attacking the lower leaves and branches of the plum tree. Several branches had been broken and the fruit removed with leaves strewn around the base. I assume it must be a badger as the damage had to be caused by a creature of some size (ie not a squirrel) and not too tall since the branches above ~2-3 feet tall were not affected (ie not a deer) and something that eats plums (ie not a fox). And I have seen a badger in the area. Anyway. I needed to remove a few branches including the one that had snapped and there are still plenty of plums left higher up and I think I have enough to share, perhaps I might even get to see the badger one evening. That would be a treat unless he gets a taste for my veg!

I did some late sowing of purple sprouting broccoli, pak choi and Swiss chard. I'm hoping I'm not too late.

15th August, 2011

It was with some trepidation that I went on holiday 2 weeks ago. Many of the veg were ready to harvest and a warm dry spell could have been disastrous. I was fairly confident that everything would be OK as I had organised the in-laws to check on the plants in containers and water if necessary; also I had set up the automatic watering system in the greenhouse for the tomatoes, aubergines, chillies and peppers. The main reason for my complacency was that I was going on holiday and usually that means it's going to rain. Well true to my form it did rain but I was not unhappy about it because for once the family and I went abroad to Tenerife where we had a wonderful vacation and it did not rain at all.

On our return I was concerned that we may have missed the peak of the plums ripening, but that was unfounded and we are enjoying a glut, so much so that I made some jam.

There is so much fruit on the tree that one of the branches has snapped. Perhaps I should have thinned the fruit?

Another glut is the French beans which are a very tasty yellow variety. The yellow colour also makes them very easy to spot when picking.

In the greenhouse the tomatoes were also so heavy that the supports broke but it hasn't done any damage.

The aubergines are looking great but the fruit is still small so I'll have to be patient.

There are plenty of runner beans.

Hopefully the parsnips are going to be as good as the carrots, there's good top leaf growth.

The onions have all collapsed and are ready to pull. I haven't made the mistake of bending them over this year as this can cause neck rot, so I hope that their natural bending won't do the same.

The kohlrabi should have been harvested whilst I was on holiday as they are quite big now and probably woody.

The sweetcorn is ready and I'm looking forward to the first cobs this weekend.

These are the leeks in their planting holes and seem to be doing ok.

Finally for now, the pears are looking really good. I can't wait to have the first bite.

11th July, 2011

Apart from keeping the weeds down, this time of year is very rewarding as the veg are harvested. This may be my best year yet. There are not too many losses from pests or diseases and the quality is very high.

These potatoes are delicious; if only I could remember what variety they are. There's no sign of scab or slug damage.

I pulled a few carrots and was delighted to find them to be without forks and of a good size and most importantly they are bursting with flavour. Supermarket carrots are a pale comparison. Why is that?

I finally planted some of the leeks; the rest will be planted when I make room by harvesting a couple of cabbage that were overwintered. I picked one of them this weekend and it's a monster size. I cooked it with some spices from a Madhur Jaffrey recipe rather than simply boil it. It tasted superb, very sweet and tender. Perhaps with the next one I could try some home made coleslaw.

28th June, 2011

I'm really pleased with the strawberries. A great way to use them up is to make smoothies which the whole family love. They are a nice size too.

Every year I think the broad bean yield will be pitiful but there are always plenty to eat.

I can't get coriander to grow leafy, it just bolts. So I pulled it up and replaced it with spare dwarf beans. I pulled off what leaf there was from the coriander and froze it in ice cube containers.

The leeks are ready to plant out so I started to weed and dig over some ground. Since it had rained the ground wasn't too difficult to dig but the heat was in the high 2Os, so sweaty work. The leeks go in next weekend but that's all the space used up and I still have seven pumpkins to plant out. Maybe they'll have to stay in pots.

20th June, 2011

I spent a nice weekend tidying up and weeding the veg plots. The plants are looking really green and fresh now. I harvested some cabbage that had been planted last autumn and it had a lovely green and tender heart. I shredded it and cooked it with some mustard seeds and chills as a curry side dish. Delicious.

I also picked the first of the broad beans which were small, tender and sweet.

Now it's Wimbledon fortnight the strawberries are coming thick and fast. I made 5 jars of strawberries with plenty left to have fresh with cream.

I also stripped the blackcurrants and managed to make half a jar of jam with them.

The potato plants have put on a lot of leaf which I hope is a good sign. The runner beans have reached the top of the poles and are flowering. The courgettes should be ready this weekend.

Weed free beds with parsnips, carrots and onions.

Tomatoes and sweetcorn.