6th November, 2012

I've not had many free weekends of late and the garden has had little but much needed attention.  However, I took some time off work for half term and had a thorough tidy up.

I've continued to dig the beds and apply all the compost I had, but I soon ran out.  I never have enough.

But I still have some work to do on the bottom bed that got choked with weeds.  I do have some nice leeks though.

The soil is slowly improving but still is largely clay lumps that don't break up easily.  I'm still digging up large stones too.

At least the onion sets I planted have sprouted.

I chopped down the asparagus ferns, weeded and covered with a good layer of used compost.  I have covered the bed with net cloches to keep the neighbours cats off which like to use it as their toilet.  Yuk.

As soon as the compost bins are emptied, they are filled again with weeds, shreddings and leaves.  I have lots of leaves to collect to make leaf mould which is very good for breaking up clay soil.  So it's worth the effort.

It doesn't take too long to collect a large pile.

The blackberry harvest this year was very good.  The plant has thrown up plenty of new shoots for next year.  I cut back all of this year's growth and shredded it and then tied in the new growth.

7th October, 2012

I was so looking forward to the sweetcorn, we had picked about 4 cobs and then this happened.

I can only assume that this was the work of badgers.  It has to be a fairly large and heavy animal to have done that. 

I'm delighted that we have badgers in the area but not so happy with their antics.

25th September, 2012

Amongst the failures have been some surprising successes such as the blackberries and apples which of course go very well together. So I've been making deep pies with them.  I should also make some jam.

The beetroot are very big this year and I have been pickling them and making soups but I also like to make curry dishes with them.  The problem is that I am the only one in the family that eats them, oh well all the more for me.

The apples are good enough to eat raw as well as for cooking.

I've started the autumn digging which is possibly a first.  Usually the digging doesn't happen until I need to plant in spring, but I want to empty the large compost bin to make room for this season's garden waste.  I left the compost bin untouched for most of the summer so I wasn't sure what I'd find when I pulled back the covering.  I'm pleased to say it's turned into some lovely dark humus which I'm adding to the dug areas. This should turn into some lovely friable soil next spring.

I dug up some strawberries and planted new ones that had grown from runners.  The old plants have distorted leaves and fruit (is that a virus?) so I replaced them.  I contemplated replanting the whole bed elsewhere as perhaps I should not be growing them in the same place for so long.  I'll give it another year.

There's a good haul of peppers in the greenhouse which are starting to turn red.

10th September, 2012

Well I spoke too soon.  I have  been on holiday which is always a risky thing to do when the veg are all coming into harvest.  First disaster was the aubergines which have all suffered from a very hot day it seems and dried out.  I came back to find some very sorry looking plants.  The maximum temperature had been 42C at one point.  I thought I would be OK as I had set up the automatic watering system, but I should have done that earlier to test whether it would be sufficient, clearly not.  The tomato and cucumber plants had similarly suffered although the peppers seem to be OK.

However, I was able to harvest some medium sized aubergines and made a nice moussaka and a ratatouille with them.  The tomatoes have been made into passata and of course used  for the aubergine meals.  There are plenty of cucumbers in the garden so it's not a complete loss.  One bonus is that I have a nice melon of a good size forming; can't wait for that.

One of my first jobs after the holiday was to harvest the spuds which I had left in the ground after the blight hit.  I wasn't expecting much as the tubers that I had harvested were split and not too big.  However, the yield is rather good after all.  I laid them out on a table to dry on a nice sunny and hot Sunday.
It was hard work made all the harder because each dig with the fork consisted of a huge and heavy lump of soil. Of course, as I forked the lumps to break them up then I stabbed a spud. So frustrating.  I haven't broken the lumps up but will leave that to the weather and if I have enough compost I'll mulch.

Second disaster is that the runner beans have gone past their best, I tried some for a meal and they are stringy.  I'm going to grow less next year since they are not a family favourite and will grow climbing French beans instead which have been delicious. There are plenty of them but they should have been picked mid holiday (about 2 weeks ago).

Third disaster, the weeds have thrived. The bottom bed which ironically is not so good at providing good veg being partly under a tree, is choked with them.
And the outdoor tomatoes have been poor, some of them got blight and the fruit won't ripen.  Last year I got loads.

The sweetcorn are nearly ready, although the cobs don't look that big, probably because it hasn't rained much and I haven't watered them (I was on holiday), but we'll wait and see, it's the taste that's important.

8th August, 2012

The aubergines are fruiting well, this has been the best year with >6 per plant.  I pinched the tops out when they were around 15cm high to get them to bush up.  I haven't done that before, so perhaps that is the key.

The potato bed looks bare but there are plenty of spuds in there.  However, they aren't very good quality, a lot of them have split which is due to a dry spell followed by a lot of rain causing uneven growth I suspect.  Well that was our weather.  What contributed was my awful soil which still clearly needs a heck of a lot of organic matter to retain water when dry and improve drainage when wet.

The fennel is growing well but I think it should be a lot bigger.  I got the plants from the plant swap I organise at work and they weren't that good when I got them, so this is a bit of an experiment and a bonus if I get anything.

The biggest disaster this year is the onions, the dry spell stopped their growth and they never recovered.  Again, my poor soil didn't help as it developed large cracks clearly indicative a lack of organic matter.

1st August, 2012

I still haven't picked a tomato and it's August.  However, the plants have reached the roof and there's plenty of fruit on the way.
There are some nice chillies that I could pick.
 The beans are flowering; both the runner beans.....
 and the dwarf beans
So I'm waiting for the first of those but in the meantime I am harvesting the kohlrabi and turnips.  The beetroot are ready too so I need to start the pickling; I'm still eating last year's and they are delicious, so definitely worth making again.  Also the blueberries are great this year.  I reckon this is because of the wet weather helping the fruit to swell  and then finally the sun and heat to ripen them.

But......that same wet weather with the heat is perfect for blight and that's what the spuds have.
The telltale black spots on the leaves are quite obvious, so I cut the leaves off and will leave the tubers in the ground for at least 2 weeks. This limits any spores being washed off the leaves into the soil to infect the tubers.  I dug up one plant and there was a nice haul of spuds of a range of sizes, so I should have a good harvest if the tubers remain free of blight.

16th July, 2012

I spent the weekend harvesting and processing the soft fruit.

I made gooseberry and redcurrant jam.  I then  made an apple and blackcurrant crumble using stewed apples from the freezer and that was very nice.  I must remember to freeze apples again for next year's blackcurrants, they go together so well.

More strawberry ice cream and smoothies were made and also there was enough strawberries left to make a couple of jars of jam with some gooseberry to help it set.  I also picked a few tayberries and froze them for next weekend when I can combine them with the strawberries for more jam.

The aubergines have several lovely flowers on each plant which I hope will translate into fruit, I've only managed one per plant in previous years.

I bought some supports for the climbing French beans and made a wigwam. They didn't take long to start wrapping themselves around the poles.

The dwarf beans have grown fast and so have the weeds that are a consequence of using home made compost as a mulch.  It's surprising how many are tomato plants.  They were easily dealt with by running  the hoe between the rows; they then dry out rapidly and I usually leave them there as a mulch.
The sweetcorn is shooting up and soon the gaps between the plants won't be so obvious.

The courgettes have flowers.  They look lovely in the morning sun.

Down by the blueberries I have cleared the area of wood I had stored to make another hedgehog house, and in its place are the fig tree (which has finally greened up - no figs though), two squash and two cucumbers plants in pots. A much better use of the area.The cracks between the slabs are a haven for dandelions though.  There's also the bay tree in the green bucket which is recovering after I had to prune it back hard following the harsh winter of 2010/11.
Not everything is rosy though, I do have failures.  The pear tree has got a bad rust infection again. Nearly every leaf looks like this.
In my problem area under the apple tree, very little will grow well due to the low light levels.  The kohlrabi are not swelling up and have aphids, yet the turnips seem OK, so maybe I'll just grow turnips there.
My onions are very bad too.   I doubt I'll have enough for a year's supply.

10th July, 2012

The harvest begins in earnest at last.

The first of the kohlrabi was pulled; they are still young and so they are lovely and tender.  I have successionally sown them so I won't have any old and woody ones which don't make good eating.

I also picked:

Peas which are really good this year, I guess it must be the wet weather keeping them nice and plump.
Beetroot which was also good and tender.
Onions: the overwintered ones had started to keel over and were not going to swell any more, it's not been a good year.
Broad beans: there are plenty of these with big, fat beans.  I've got so many that I have cooked them all, popped them ot of their leathery skins and froze them for later (stir fries are nice).
Strawberries: a lot have rotted on the wet ground despite the straw and they aren't overly sweet due to the lack of sun but they make delicious ice cream and smoothies.

The greenhouse is all set up for the summer now.  The aubergines and sweet peppers have been moved from the top to the middle shelf so that they won't touch the glass.  The tomatoes, cucumber and melon are all growing fast.

I managed to find two places to grow the leeks, they look neat an tidy in their holes.

25th June, 2012

I had a productive weekend planting out the plants that had been hardening off outside.

The sweetcorn went in easy enough since the soil was still wet and easy to dig with a trowel. Behind them are the runner beans which I grow up the fence.

I was going to try the climbing French beans for a change but I decided to stick with what works.  Now I have the dilemma of finding somewhere to put them, especially since I don't have a support frame.

I love runner beans so I also grow them up a wigwam and add plenty of compost in the planting hole and as a mulch.

I planted 2 courgettes and gave them plenty of space as they will get very big.  Let the glut begin, even from just 2 plants.
Also planted were four rows of Dwarf French beans again with plenty of compost.
Keeping with the bean theme, I started to harvest the broad beans.  Despite my misgivings, there are plenty!
The spuds look lush, the wet weather must be helping although blight might be just round the corner.
The flowers are lovely to look at, the purple ones confirm they are Kestrel.
Although the plum tree is bearing less fruit, it's in good health and the scar where the branch broke off is healing well.  The edges are healing over well.  I'm going to leave the branch that has grown from the base as this should feed the area and encourage recovery.
Plenty of peas coming.
In the greenhouse, I pinched out the tops of the aubergines.  I forget to do this normally, but they are bushing up nicely and making flowers.
 The tops of the sweet peppers were also pinched out.  The leaves are not looking good and on closer inspection were covered with aphids on the undersides.  I resorted to some localised bug spray.

I feel I'm on top of the jobs now and will be able to do more housekeeping jobs such as weeding and tidying up.