Friday, 16 July 2010

Wow Cherries!

Not a long post, but I went out and picked 4lb of cherries from our tree tonight. It isn't all of them, they aren't all ripe, but the wasps are beginning to hover about, so this year I intended to make sure we got some! I also picked 500g of raspberries, so we had delicious fresh fruit for pudding, and I've got some to take to my mother for her 85th birthday on Sunday.

Monday, 12 July 2010

Can't believe it's been so long!

Time has flown by, I've been so busy at work and in the garden that the computer has taken at least 3rd place, but I thought I'd update on what I've been up to.
I had a disappointing harvest of onions and garlic from the allotment, despite the fact that I know they haven't been grown their in ages, I found when I harvested that white rot had affected over half the onions, and virtually all the garlic. I never got around to planting garlic at home, so I've lost all the stock I'd acclimatised to the area over 4 years. I will need to buy fresh in for the autumn, and haven't any to use in the kitchen either. I have been picking french beans and courgettes, as well as a good potato harvest from the sprouted supermarket stock. I think the kale is at the end of it's life, tough and very strong tasting now. The chillies at the allotment garden don't look too good, and I've the biggest infestation of blackfly ever. They made the spinach unusable, and are really affecting the runner beans.
On a more posative note, the cherries at home are looking good and I picked a fair few raspberries tonight. The cranberry is finally flowering too, although cranberry jelly is a long way off, I've only got 2 blooms so far! Due to the 'spontaneous generation' of greenfly in the light cupboard the chillies are now in the greenhouse. They are looking good, I think the hover flies are keeping the population down. We have been harvesting a number of different types, but I still like the hotter ones. The dorset naga is great, used judiciously in dips and jam, but the habaneros are still my favourite for heat and flavour combined. They don't look so good at the allotment garden, very yellow, i think some foliar feed would be a good idea. Only 2 weeks to go, then I will have more time to get stuff sorted properly.

Saturday, 8 May 2010

A Chilly May Weekend

8th of May today and all set to get the beans out. It's so cold though. After such a nice few weeks in April it feels as if winter is back. the forecast for next week has the temperatures going down to 4C, which is the danger point for the plants. I wish I knew what the allotment garden's micro climate was like. i think it would be warmer than here, but if I lose the beans and cucurbits it will put a serious dent in the GYO plan for this year. They all have been hardening off this week in the bottom of the covered patio grow, which still has the cover on, but not zipped up, and they look fine, but out in the open?? From the forums I know a lot of people more northerly from me are taking the risk.
I put in some more basil and salad leaves today. I love rocket, I don't think the others are so keen, although Daniel likes the mitzuna. I have some really healthy plants of that going, but I must remember to keep up the supply. Unfortunately we are short on lettuce, the red ones I planted did not germinate, so there is a gap in supply.
I've picked my first ripe chilli, a purple japaneno, last Sunday, 2nd May, and I noticed there are 2 more ripe friuts on the plant to pick today. The annums are setting fine, loads of pollen and easy to pollinate. The habaneros, scotch bonnets etc do not produce so much, and I've had a lot drop off due to lack of pollination. These are all inside still. It is disappointing, but I have managed to get one of each type at least so far, so I will be able to save true seed for next year. The small plants could do with going into bigger pots, or outside, but that's not possible yet, although some of the chillies are out in the greenhouse, mainly the annum types, as they were too cramped on the kitchen windowsill. They are still fine, the lowest temperature recorded this week has been 7, so although cooler than I would have liked it's still safe. The cherry blossom is already coming to an end, but there are tiny cherries forming, as well as the peaches on the peach tree and plums setting as well. I think it looks like the blueberries are setting on Patriot, and I have loads of blacurrant flowers on Ben Connan, although the other bush isn't doing so well. Time is such a factor at the moment though, too much too do, and i don't feel anything is getting done properly!

Sunday, 18 April 2010


Well last night, being a family birthday, I almost didn't go out and fleece the greenhouse, or put the flower pots in. I'm glad I did, as when Vicky and I went to the boot fair this morning there was ice on the windscreen. The cucumbers are in the greenhouse, along with all the squash and courgettes, but I covered with a double layer of fleece, and they are fine. The digital max/min thermometer gave a low of 2 degrees at the glass edge, the one hanging in the centre of the greenhouse shows 5 degrees.
At the bootfair I picked up a glass fish tank for £2, which is ideal for more of my painted lady caterpillars. I have so many, I 'potted up' 13 jars yesterday, it took me well over 2 hours. The jars that had been potted a week needed new food, so I transferred all I could find into new jars with new nettle tops pressed into the damp compost. They lasted quite well in that medium, and there are no puddles of water to drown the caterpillars. I put all the wilting leaves on the nettle bed in the woods. It is probably too cold for any missed caterpillars to survive outside, but they had more chance than in the compost bin, with no new food plants.
The picture shows a mallow leaf, covered with blue pearlescent eggs and some of the hatched caterpillars. As they get older they become black, with tiny hairs. I've been potting up nettles and mallow with small bit of root attached, hoping I've got plants before I need them for the next generation. They've probably got about a month.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

I couldn't resist

Planting potatoes that is. I had 3 maris peer potatoes that had sprouted extremely well, and some Saxon potatoes that haven't done much yet . I've put them into the allotment garden, in the bottom of a trench, so I can earth them up. I've tried potatoes in pots other years, with disappointing results. this year if don't get anything, well it won't matter, because I don't expect much.
I popped into the allotment garden after work this morning, and besides the potatoes I put in more meteor peas and some oregon sugar pod mangetout, as well as the jubilee hysor bean plants and some radish. The soil was quite dry so I watered the seed beds, where parsnips, carrots, beetroot and turnips are all showing good growth, as well as the shallots and onions. The overwintered aquadulce claudia beans are in flower, which is good after the weather they endured. The Martock beans from HeyWaye are looking very healthy, but no signs of flowering yet.
I'm aiming to move the germinated brasiccas out of the greenhouse asap so they stay short and healthy, but the courgettes will soon take up the space, as I need to pot on into individual pots. The rest of the celeriac need pricking out, and I need to pot up the tomotoes into their final pots, they have not minded being in the greenhouse at all, though I will need to watch the temps for the cucumber plants which have been living out there for the last few days now.
I have been collecting nettles and mallow again today for my caterpillars - the next generation. Most of these will be destined for sale as a charity business fund raiser at school, with a few being kept on to go through the whole cycle again.
I hope my starawberry plants come soon, as I've been offered a strawberry planter this year. I've oft been tempted, but been put off by the price, of course if I like it, then I might get another for next year. Things are moving so fast the plum tree is covered in bloom, the peach tree is outside, and the blackcurrant ben connan is covered with bloom. I've just made the last of the blackcurrants into jelly, so that works quite well. Clearing out the freezer to get ready for new produce is almost as good as planting!

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Nettles for Caterpillars

Today I had to go in search of nettles. My painted lady butterflies have been so busy laying eggs that the plants I put in the enclosure looked more blue than green. Today I saw the first hatchlings, and they are VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLARS! They definitely need a lot more food than the poor plants could provide, so I have come up with a plan. I took large pasta jars, put an inch or so of wet compost in the bottom, and pushed in the nettle bits I had picked. I then cut off a leaf containing eggs and baby caterpillars, and put one in each jar. The tops have been covered with fleece secured by an elastic band. Butterfly farming could be my new occupation. At around £20 for 10 caterpillars (with food and home though), I could clean up. I only have 4 butterflies still alive, but they were still egg laying today, as a new batch appeared on the fresh nettle plant I put in this morning. I had wondered if the weather might be kind enough to release some of the caterpillars, but the wind is bitingly cold tonight, so I think it is still a bit early.
I finished off planting my climbing french beans and my runners today, checking back in my diary I was doing eaxctly the same thing a year ago. The courgettes, butternut squash and pumpkins are now through, and moved into the unheated propagator. I'm just waiting for the winter squash, Festival. None of those have come through yet, but hopefully they will appear.
I've been hardening off my containers of flowers the past couple of days, a white petunia is already out, and the plants all look good. I'm not risking them outside overnight for a while though. The kohl rabi is also hardening off, and I intend to get that planted in the allotment garden this week sometime., along with the broad beans, Jubilee Hysor, I think they were. They have been sown in the toilet roll middles, and now are strong plants ready to go out. I was going to put them in on Friday when I went, but forgot to take a trowel or small fork. The carrots, radish, beetroot and turnips are beginning to show, and the onions and shallots are sprouting; they all went in a couple of weeks ago. I've still got some onion sets to go in here, but I might use them more like spring onions, as I didn't really have space for 100.
I've been trying to sow salad leaves successionally, most take a week to show, but the lettuce have been more reluctant. The celeriac germinated well, and I transplanted 18 into modules for me today. I've got the other pot, but they seem a bit slower, so I'll give them a few more days befor moving them on. I caught up with Gardener's World on iplayer tonight, and fast forwarded through the bit I wasn't that interested in. However it's good to see that I'm on track with most things. I wasn't growing any potatoes this year, but some of the ones under the sink have started sprouting, so maybe I'll put those in and see if I get anything worthwhile, Maris Peer and Saxon are the varieties, an early and a second early I think.
Tomorrow we are intending a visit to Wisley. My camellia in the back garden is looking lovely, but the one I put out by the drive looks yellow and poorly, I don't think it likes it out there, so I'll have to see if I can find space to bring it back. I do love the camellias, and they have a lovely show of magnolias too, one on Andy's favourites.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Cucumbers in a hurry and other stuff

On Friday I planted the cucumbers in the heated propagator, and yesterday they were all popping through. I have had 100% success rate, so it's a good job I like chilli and cucumber soup. The squash and courgettes aren't up yet, but they are in the heated propagator in the greenhouse, so it isn't as warm as the kitchen windowsill, whihc is filled up with my smaller chilli plants now.
I did decide to set up the greenhouse ready for the tomatoes, and monitor the temperature for a couple of days. I've hung fleece up to make a tent of half of the greenhouse, and plan to snuggle all the tomatoes in there to start with. They can be spaced out a bit later, and in any case the greenhouse is bursting already. I need to move the peach tree out, but it hasn't quite finished blossoming, so I want to leave it for a few more days. I've resisted planting beans yet, but there is still time for those anyway.
I need to start hardening off some of my flower plants, but I'll still need to keep a watch on the weather as I don't want to risk losing them to a chance frost. The petunias, fuschias and lobelia have been potted up, and the petunias are in bud, so not bad for a fiver in Wilkingson's back in February. The cuttings I took from the fuschias are coming along well, and the next lot are beginning to root too.
I spent my vouchers with T&M over the weekend as they had their free P&P. with the rate they charge, I saved quite a lot, although I was disappointed I couldn't combine my vouchers for another propagator. Instead I came up with 3 separate orders, and only paid out £2.98 altogether. I ordered 5 fuschia plants, £5 voucher, so they came completely free. Then I ordered some orchid bulbs, whihc started the weekend at 3 for £9.99, but then came in BOGOF, so I ordered the 6 with my £10 voucher. Then finally I ordered 12 strawberry plants and a casseille bush, which is a cross between blackcurrant and gooseberry. These did come out a little more than the £20 voucher, but I did resist the special offer on clematis, much to Daniel's relief, as he gets a little exasperated when I try to fit 3 times as many plants in as I have space for.