Saturday, 26 December 2009

Boxing Day - What are you doing?

Well Christmas has been and gone, now there's just all the wrapping to clear away, and all the spare food to eat. I had a brilliant day yesterday though, everyone had stuff to do, modelling, sorting, playing yugio cards, watching DVDs, while I'm not sure what I did.
My planning for Christmas Dinner was masterclass though. With the frequency of my Lyrica moments increasing ( I told them I just needed to add Yorkshire pudding mix on top of the trifle, instead of the anticipated angel delight and cream!), I wrote a detailed time plan, like I used to have to do at school. I said we would be sitting down to diner at 3pm, and it was on the table with 2 minutes to spare.
It was a shame the sprouts had not grown bigger, even with 5 minutes in the steamer they were a little overdone, and the parsnips came to nought. Still I could have served up frozen green beans, and done some roast pumpkin, if there would have been any space on the plate. Hopefully in a few weeks I'll be picking sprouts and the kale will have put a bit of a spurt on too. I did harvest 3 celeriac for me, no one else likes them.
Today the sun is shining and the sun is out, but I'm a bit stuck in as Matt is sleeping downstairs, and I can't get out of the back door. If I can step over him quietly and retrieve a pair of shoes, I could perhaps go out of the front door and round. Today I intend planting chillies and maybe some early tomaotoes, even though I said I wouldn't. I'm also intend to clear out the greenhouse now the snow put paid to to tomatoes, and investigate the damage in the garden.
Typical, now people are awake, it's pouring hard. I started cutting back the dead tomatoes in the greenhouse, and it looks like the amarylis bulb that I'd had on it's side to dry out, is fine. The lowest reading on the thermometer was 2C. Problem is, I need to keep putting the stuff in the compost heap, and it's not pleasant. Thinking of amarylis, I've got my freebie one to pot up too, courtesy of T&M, but disappointingly my cut price carnations from them have developed a bad case of mouldy water. The flowers look fine, so I need to see what I can salvage.
I had kept some new compost indoors so it wasn't icy cold, so I filled 12 washed 3 inch pots, watered them with warm water, and put them in the electric propagator. I have sown 2 seeds each of Chocolate Habenero, Red Scotch Bonnet, Hot Lemon, Naga Morich and Dorset Naga. The first 4 are from my own saved seeds, hand pollinated from plants grown inside. The latter two, which I have to admit I thought were the same until a bit of research revealed the Dorset Naga was bred from the Naga Morich, are from a member of the Grapevine forum. I have a number of other varieties, but I will see how these go.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Christmas Fete

I haven't posted anything for ages, which is really bad of me, but just wanted to say we had a really succesful day today at the Christmas Fete organised by Amanda. The Garden Club made over £50 from homemade chutney, gingerbread tree decorations, grow you own kits and other donated items. The hyacinths planted back in October went really well, all sold! I hope the buyers enjoy their flowers when they come.
It is getting colder now, but the weather has been very mild up until now, so I have still been picking tomatoes from plants that are almost a year old, planted 27th December! I am planning on planting my chillies soon. I have been given some Naga Morich, supposedly the hottest chillies found, so I'll be letting you all know next year, if I survive!
The allotment garden is doing well, although the weeds are growing too. I have broad beans, kale, spring cabbage, garlic, Japanese onions, celeriac and Brussel sprouts there at the moment. I have also got a compost bins set up, and I hope Chris and Florence are making use of it for their vegetable waste. The Christmmas break is coming up, so I hope to get the chance to 'prune' the mahonia, down to half size, which will give me more growing room.
We have had loads of rain which has meant getting the garden tidied at home has been a bit delayed, but I did have a look to see how the parsnips had grown. Very disappointing, we won't have any for Christmas this year. Sowing in the loo rolls doesn't seem to have worked too well compared to the direct sowing last year. I have eaten a couple of the celeriac, not as big as in the shops, but very tasty. The beetroot are doing well too, I freeze the leaves to go in curries if I'm not planning one soon after harvesting the beets.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

The end or the beginning?

Having had a little bit of time to myself, literaly no one wanted to be near me in case I had swine flu, I pondered a very deep question. Were we coming to the end of the growing season, or was it really the beginning? I came to the conclusion there is no end, everything just goes round in one circle. Amazing eh?
Anyway, the reason I was thinking about this was on 18th Oct I spent a whole morning at the allotment garden, where I planted my overwintering onions, garlic, some savoy cabbage plants and some cavalo nero kale plants. I also cleared away the last of the beans and pulled up the sticks. The plants are a bit small, but in the week they have been out they have really put on a spurt. It is so wet and mild the weed seeds are growing great guns.
I was feeling very wobbly, so I didn't do much when I went up there this week so far. I did plant 24 aqua dulce claudia broad beans to overwinter, and that was enough for me! I think the garden is much more sheltered than here in Iwade, so I reckon they have a good chance of doing well.
While it is still mild I am going to move my rhubarb, and have a go at relocating some of the rogue raspberry canes. The rhubarb hasn't done well where it is, so I'll split it, one bit for the allotment, and another bit for the driveway garden.
Last night I sorted out my seed box, I think I've enough to plant the whole of Iwade! I do seem to have lost some seeds though, so I'll have to have a search and replace them if they can't be found as they are some of my favourites. of course, maybe I passed them on to someone else. I am doing some swaps for some sugar pie pumpkins and some martock broad beans, a good way of obtaining seeds of thinks you wouldn't have thought of giving a go.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Rain at last

Why is rain like buses, you wait ages then get loads? I suppose it hasn't been quite like than, but life gets in the way of the gardening, so on Thursday I couldn't get to the allotment garden because I had to cover an after school session for a sick collegue, then yesterday, what was supposed to be a quick trip out turned into an all day jaunt. Today, all set to get started, and it's raining again!
I've got the small compost bin delivered to the allotment garden, now I want to clear the ground and get it ready for next year. I've decided, after a season's growing, that the original bit earmarked for the compost bin is too valuable, as it gets a lot of sun. There is a space between the massive mahonia and another shrub, that is in shade almost all the time. Not much good for growing, and not a place you would put a compost bin in a normal garden, but as I'm going for utility not aesthetically pleasing design, that won't matter.
The beans are almost finished, so I'll get these up, although the roots are left in the ground to rot and provide nitrogen for the plants next year. Bean and peas are both good at fixing nitrogen in the soil. I think the cabbage stalks can stay a bit, I've no immediate need for the ground, and the small cabbages and leaves they are still producing are useful. I want to get the onion sets in now, I'm going to put them where I had the pumpkins, it is a nice sunny spot, and they should be virtually over before I want to put chillies and peppers there next year. My own garden is too shady for these outdoors.
Hopefully over the winter months I'll be able to get more of the well rotted manure from my brother, though it doesn't help he's put a load of hay bales on top of it at the moment. (It is in a rather derilect shed, but still pretty waterproof)
In my own garden I want to dig up my flower bed in the back, add a lot of my homemade compost, and plant in the daffodil bulbs I saved from my pots, and the allotment garden. The wisteria I planted when we first moved in never did take properly, it was an expensive plant, so very dissapointing, but I'm going to remove the unsightly stump, to make way for something else. The beans will come up, and i think I'll move growing these to the allotment garden too. I didn't get as many off them as at the allotment, so it makes sense to give the space to something else. The rhubarb is going to get lifted and moved too. There isn't enough space where it is, and it is too shady. The stalks were very drawn, which I know happens artificially if you blanch it, but it isn't good for the plant under normal conditions.
The celeriac is going great guns at the allotment garden and in the recycling bin pot at home, but those in the veg patch are very small. I would put it down to watering, but as Chris turned the water off at the allotment garden just when I needed it, they didn't get as much as I would have given them. I keep removing a few leaves as they split in two around the root, as you are advised to do. I think it is too make sure the root can swell evenly and is not constricted by the leaf stalks.
Well it's 8am, I've finished my tea, so I'll go see what its doing outside. I'll report back later to say if I managed to get any of the stuff done that I wanted to.
The spinach, matzuma and pak choi seedlings are up, and I plan to leave them uncovered until next month if the weather holds a bit. then I'll put the plastic cover on. The home saved white beetroot seeds that I tested for germination have all come up, so I'll be putting in some of those for greens. I wonder if I put the plastic cold frame over them it will keep them warm enough to keep growing? I'll consider where to put these, probably at the allotment garden, although I will soon only be able to get there at weekends, it will be too dark after work.
Now 10.45. I've popped to the allotment garden, picked some beans and 4 small cabbage for dinner. I'm still picking caterpillars off the sprouts, but 2 plants seem to be growing small buttons, so hopefully we'll get some sprouts this year. I sited the compost bin, and decided the mahonia, which is about 12ft tall if not more, is a health and safety risk. One of the lower branches will need to be pruned, I almost caught my eye on it, thank goodness I wear glasses. I didn't stay long, because I had some help to move the finished compost bin in the garden. 3 barrow loads have been piled onto the driveway garden, and I've a lot to move into the flower patch, in order to put the bin back in place. I've a whole bag of blackberry prunings from last week and shredded paper to put in, as well as some fermented bokashi. It should get everything going in there. Just having a cuppa, than back to it.
7.30 in the evening. I managed to move all the compost from the bin, and set it up again, but the ground for my flower border was so hard the clods of clay were coming up in bits bigger than a grapefuit, and I couldn't break them up. I couldn't plant my bulbs, I think I need more rain! It has only penetrated the top couple of inches.
I had to tidy up then, and go to see my Mum, but Vicky came too, and we stopped off at a good place for chestnuts. In about 15 minutes we'd picked up half a carrier bag full, and they aren't all down yet, so hopefully we'll get back next week. For immediate eating we remove the tough outer skin, then put them on a skewer and roast over the gas burner for a few seconds. The thin, bitter inner skin chars and dries, so it is easy to remove.
I also tried steaming some with the potatoes for dinner. I left them to cool, then cut in half, scooped out the inside and pushed it through the sieve to remove any stray bits of skin. This seems to have worked, I have crumbly cooked chestnut, which can go in other dishes to make a vegetarian meal. I now have to find some tasty recipies, and steam a load more chestnuts!

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Pumpkins and Stuff

I can't believe it's so long since I posted, but things have been very hectic in life, and it's impossible to keep up sometimes. Going back to school after the summer always seems harsh, so little time left over for gardening, and marking is always lurking in the background.

Anyway, back to gardening. On Thursday, Oct 1st, I decided to harvest George, Fred and Sam. Wow, best pumpkins I've ever grown (but this is only my second time :)). George weighed in at 10.5kg, with the twins at 5.5kg and 6.5kg. I lost track of who was who out of them. They are currently decorating my kitchen windowsill, along with a marrow and eight butternut squash ranging between 400g and 1.5kg. I still have one at the allotment garden, as it was a late grower, and I'm giving it a bit more time to mature. The problem is, they look so good there, and I get a thrill everytime I see them, so it will be a wrench to eat them. I'm not going to carve one for Halloween I think, it seems such a waste.

We still haven't had any rain, although the days are often cloudy and gloomy. It is forecast for today, which is typical as it's Saturday. Last week I started sorting out my Patio Gro tubs. A lot had old ompost in, which had dried out completely. I wet it down, enriched it with dried poultry manure, and sowed some spinach, pak choi and mitzuma. I can put the cover on if the weather turns colder. I also got my hyacinth bulbs planted, and hopefully some of the others in the garden club will collect today. I did intend to deliver, but time ran away with me. I've just got them on the patio, covered with an old large plant pot to keep the light out. Hopefully this will be cold enough, I haven't anywhere else to put them.

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Uni Time Again!

Today I'm feeling a bit low, and getting up enthusiasm seems to be hard. Matt went back up to Hull today, and I know I'll miss him like crazy, even though I did everything I could to help him get back up there. I've just read about the problems with the student loans coming through as well. With 2 of them off, it will be hard to keep them financed for too long, so hopefully they will not be affected. Dan will probably be OK as he is a returning student, but typically he's still got money, so it wouldn't affect him so much anyway. Matt, who is flat broke except for what we can manage, has been out of the system for a year, so I'm not sure whether he comes under the LEA or Student Finance England. He will hopefully be OK if its the former, not too optimistic if it's the latter.
After a couple of warmish days at the beginning of the week, there is a definite cooler breeze about this morning again. I could really do with some rain though. It seems to have been dry for so long, and the runner beans never did get off their starting blocks. The leaves are now turning a bit crispy, and what beans there are look stunted. The climbing french beans, cobra and fasold, have both done well, and there still seems to be flowers coming, so as long as the frosts hold off for a few more weeks I should get some more of those. Having just checked the first frost dates, it's estimated to be mid-November for Chatham, which is the closest to me I could find. It will be interesting to see just when it does come.
The tomatoes in the allotment garden succumbed to blight, so I've now got several kgs of green ones in the freezer awaiting the chutney process. Such a shame, these would have been Vicky's favourite yellow ones. I don't seem to have done too well with those this year in the greenhouse. The plants don't produce as many as the Tigerella ones.
I must get the Nemasys watered into my pots to kill any vine weevil larvae. I found they worked well last year, I had very little damage to the camellias this summer and I didn't lose any fuschias. Using the biological control is better for me than the chemical one, as I don't need to worry so much about where I plant my edible stuff. The chemical is not safe for use around food crops. The only problem is, the soil needs to be moist beforehand and up to 2 weeks afterwards. I haven't got much water in the butts at the moment, and this has been reserved for the most essential plants. Having just checked, the nematodes remain viable until the 29th, so I could do it next weekend!

Friday, 28 August 2009

Nights are drawing in

It was only the other day I was reading a post from a gardener in Scotland about the nights drawing in, and the weather turning chilly in the mornings. This morning the spider's webs were across the path, and a cold wind was blowing along Gillingham High Street, not to mention the fact that it's virtually dark at 8pm now. I noticed how quickly the courgettes have come to an end too. 2 weeks ago they all looked healthy and I was inundated with fruit, yesterday when I went to the allotment garden all the Cavili plants have succumbed to powdery mildew, although the green courgette (either Parthenon or Black Beauty, the label was lost) still looks quite healthy. Whether I will get more fruit I don't know, there are no more flowers. The marketmore cucumbers looked a bit the worse for wear too.
Vicky has named the pumpkins, George is the largest, with twins Fred and Sam almost half his size. The plants still look quite healthy, although of course, they will set no more fruit. The butternut squash plants have set several now, the largest is on the self sown one from the bokashi bin, closely followed by the unnamed seed from Wilkingsons. Both the Hunter plants look pretty sick, with no squash set so far, so I think it is a bit late for these now.
The cabbage white and hawkmoth caterpillars managed to see off the cauliflowers, we didn't get anything from these, but there are still a couple of cabbages in the fridge, which I cut before the caterpillars totally ruined them. I still keep picking them off the sprouts in the hopes I will actually manage to keep them at bay until the weather turns cold enough to stop them. Typically, now the summer holidays are virtually at an end, there is so much to do in the garden. I need to clear out the finished plants and get a compost bin set up in the allotment garden. I bought some Japanese overwintering onions today, £2 for 50 from Wilkingsons, although it is a bit early to plant them yet. I also got some Cobra climbing french beans as these have done phenominally well this year, as well as some kohl rabi and some courgettes which are supposed to show some resistance to powdery mildew, all at 75% off. I saved over £5 on seeds I would have been buying next year anyway, and no postage or packing. I was in town anyway.
I have enough jam made now to keep us going for a couple of years I think, (golden plum, scotch bonnet and plum, chocolate habanero and plum, blackberry, blackcurrant, marrow and apricot, raspberry and a blackberry and blackcurrant mixture) as well as 2 plum based chutneys and a cucumber relish. I think I spoiled the second chutney though by adding some blackberries to it, an idea I'd seen in another recipe. Unfortunately the seeds have cooked very hard, which has made it a bit unpleasant to eat, although the flavour's rather nice. I do still need to make an apple and tomato based chilli jam though, as Daniel is not so keen on the hot plum.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Plum tired out!

A very hectic week, on Monday I was given loads of cherry plums, tiny black ones which were very ripe, golden ones that were ripe, and red ones that were a bit less. I've spent the week turning these into a variety of preserves, so they did not go to waste.
The over ripe black ones were used in Amanda's chutney recipe, instead of tomatoes. I think it's worked really well and I have 6 jars in the cupboard to mature, as well as half a jar for immediate eating.
The golden ones were lovely just to eat, but no way were we going to manage them all. I have 2 kg stoned and frozen on trays before bagging, so I can use whatever quantity I want during the winter. They also made a lovely golden plum jam, then, in case we got bored, I put some bruised ginger root, garlic and a chocolate habenero chilli into a bag, and stewed it in with the plums. I lifted it out before adding the sugar, and the jam has a fruity taste, with a hot garlic kick afterwards. I think besides being a good condiment to cold meat and cheese, it will be useful added to stir fries, instead of buying plum sauce.
Emboldened by this success, I used the small red plums to make chilli jam, with one scotch bonnet added to 1kg plums, and a chocolate habanero added to a second kg. Each batch made x 1lb jars of jam, so I now have a cupboard full, though it will soon empty when the boys leave at the end of the summer! A really nice fruity jam with the heat coming in later. A favourite with Matt, so I might see if I can beg a few more plums for another batch.
Last, but not least, I just picked the summer raspberries. They are definitely not such good quality as the earlier ones, but taking them together with the ones I have already frozen, I have enough to use the last of the pectin containing sugar, but this time I'll do 750g fruit, and add 250g of ordinary sugar, as the set was a bit too stiff last time.
I should go to the allotment garden this afternoon to pick stuff, but to be honest, I would just like to feel I have caught up for a while. I must go tomorrow though, as the last visit was Tuesday. Then I picked so many cucumbers that I used a kilo in cucumber relish. The problem was, the recipe called for green tomatoes, so I did sacrifice a few, but I don't want to lose too many. I like the relish, but it isn't sweet enough for the men of the family. I think after the 3 months maturing that is called for, it will have mellowed down, and maybe they will find it more to their taste.
All I had in bowls in the kitchen were tomatoes, but having just gone outside, I found a load of beans so these are now added, ready to go in the fridge. I need to pick the blackberries and blueberries, as well as giving everything a good water, because only the essentials got done yesterday becaues of jam and hospital visiting. I'm afraid to venture outside, as I will see yet another job to do, as well as all the housework that has piled up. Still the dust is very patient, it never gets fed up with sitting around waiting for me!

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Marrow and Apricot Conserve

Continuing from yesterday, the sugar leached out all the juices from the marrow, so there were tiny pieces of what looked like dried apple in masses of syrup. The apricot had swelled a bit though. Anyway, in the spirit of experimentation, I put the whole lot on to boil, remembering halfway through that I was going to add the lemon zest and juice, so ended up just glugging in some lemon juice from the bottle in the fridge. Once the sugar had dissolved I put it on to a rolling boil, and let it get on with it, stirring occasionally. Things seemed to be a bit thicker after a while, so I used the thermometer, and found it read 110C, so as I didn't want to make toffee, I turned it off. The marrow and apricot were still floating, so I allowed it to cool a little, until it started to get pretty thick, and the fruit stayed dispersed. Then I potted it up, probably around 1.5 lbs I would think. It's a bit sweet and thick, but Dans tried it and loved it, said he's bagging a jar for uni, and it will be great on ice cream as well as toast. The conserve is a pretty golden colour, with the orange apricots lending deeper tones. I did intend to stir some flaked almonds in, and I think some alcohol of some description would go nicely. I might try a 'posh' version when next my courgettes end up as marrows.
I've now picked a good few blackberries, so decision time on what to do with those. I'm running out of jars though, so will need to go begging soon.

Friday, 7 August 2009

Plums and making marrow jam

After careful consideration, I decided to pick the plums, even though they aren't quite ripe. They will finish off indoors, so at least we will get them, not the wasps. The summer raspberries from Glen Ample are still ripening, but they do seem a bit mushy compared to earlier in the season. I've put some in the freezer for jam when I get around to it. This is a cunning link to my next plan, for those overgrown courgettes I mentioned. They will be turned into marrow and apricot conserve, rather than marrow and ginger. This is partly because I misread the recipe for the ginger one and I've started it off wrongly, and also instead of buying preserved stem ginger, Andy got me some ginger preserve, basically ginger jam. It seems a bit silly to put jam into jam, so as we've both made mistakes, I'm adapting a recipe from the Internet so as not to waste anything. The marrow is sitting in the bowl with the sugar until tomorrow, and is already marrow in syrup. I've chopped the dried apricots finely and put those in too. I also found some flaked almonds, which I think I'll add to the mix tomorrow. I'll let you all know how it turns out!

Monday, 3 August 2009

So frustrating

Well, two weeks into the holiday, and I've managed 3 acidents. the first 2 were annoying, severely bruised ankle and 3 burned fingers, painful, but didn't slow me down that much. However this lastest one is a bit more limiting. I was cutting up some watermelon on Saturday night, and sliced through my thumb nail and into the flesh below. 4 hours later I came out of casualty with instructions not to get the dressing wet for 5 days, after which, if I am careful, a full recovery will follow. Vicky was a star, she came running with the first aid box, but it was soon obvious that a plaster would not be sufficient, so she offered to come with me and her dad. She even came into the treatment room while they did the dressing, so 5 stars all the way.
As far as the garden, well I can water things if I am cautious, but I can't get a glove on and any pressure is still very painful, so other jobs are out. I had spent Saturday afternoon packaging up spare seeds for the Grapevine seed parcel swap, which should be on its way to me soon, so that will be a welcome diversion.
The spring cabbage seed I planted on Saturday is already showing through, and the plums have colour. I keep checking them so I get them before the wasps. I thought it was just around us that they were bad, but at the farmer's market on Sunday they were everywhere. The cake stall left one of each cake on display, and had to keep the others under wraps, and the punch stall had similar problems. It must be a good (bad) year for them.
At the moment the chillies are having a holiday in the garden. The greenfly infestation got so bad I brought in 12 ladybirds to help out, but I didn't realise the stupid things fall off the plants so easily. I was constantly rescuing them when they got stranded on their backs. I think because they were on the smooth window sill they couldn't right themselves like they would on soil. Anyway I felt really cruel, so I gathered them up and put them back outside. Then I realised we had, among the wasps, a number of hover flies. As both eat aphids, and I didn't really want them to come inside, I took the plants to them. This was on Saturday, and now, after a good squirt with dilute Fairy liquid, and a few downpours, the plants are looking much better. I hope to move them back in today or tomorrow as strong winds are forecast. (Well I will get the others to do it for me.)
I did get my cabbage, it was so fresh and crisp, lovely, and the caterpillar damage was confined to the outside leaves. We have been doing really well, the french beans have really taken off. I think Cobra will definitely be the ones of choice next year. I'm not so sure about my white flowered runners. In the garden many of the flowers have fallen without making beans, we have only had a few so far, so disappointing. The mini cucumbers planted at the allotment garden have done so though. They were a bit expensive, from T&M, but I picked 8 from 2 plants on Saturday. Mum likes these ones taken into the home for her. She can't manage a large one at a time as she has no fridge. The other ones at the allotment, I was a bit mistaken in. the seeds were given to me, and I was told they were like Telegraph, which I thought was a longish cucumber. These are short and spiky, like gerkins, although they taste nice if peeled. I won't be growing them next year.

Friday, 31 July 2009

Jam in July

Almost 2 weeks of the holidays gone, and I've still so much I want to do! Just everyday things seem to be occupying me at the moment. I intended to spend most of today in the garden, but didn't make it outside much until the afternoon. However, I did pick some blackberries from the hedgerow, so coupled with the few from the garden, I made 2 pots of blackberry jam. One will definitely be travelling to Portsmouth in September when Daniel returns to uni, although by then I will probably have a few more. Yesterday I made a similar amount of raspberry jam from the berries that had gone a bit soft in the recent rains. For both I used the sugar with added pectin. It makes life so easy!
Tomorrow I intend to go to the allotment garden to get a cabbage for dinner, as I've promised my sons beef stew with dumplings! They are asking for all sorts of favourites which they cannot be bothered to make for themselves when they are away. The caterpillars have made some inroads, but rubbing off any eggs I find, picking off any caterpillars, and the old net curtains protecting the plants have, I hope, left us with some edible hearts.
Sadly we are now convinced we only have 5 cats instead of 6. Polly hasn't been seen by anyone for a couple of months. She had taken to visiting elsewhere, but always turned up for breakfast. On happier note, Smokey has produced another lovely litter of 4 kittens. All are doing fine, and she is looking well, despite it being so soon since her last lot.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Cherry Disaster

This is a very despondant post, as it deals with a total crop failure. Our fan trained cherry tree flowered really well this year, and there was a large number of green cherries. These began to turn red mid June, but as they are black cherries, Sunburst, they were not due to ripen completely until mid to late July. We waited impatiently, watching the luscious bunches of cheeries deepen in colour, and a couple of weeks ago, I decided some looked ripe enough to try. Imagine my horror when I realised those delicious deep red clusters concealed a horrific secret. They were welded together and inside a horrible caterpillar had been busy munching away.
A truly disgusting discovery, and I set too, separating the bunches, squashing caterpillars, and picking off the damaged fruit. There wasn't many left, and they were still a bit tart, so we decided to leave them for another week.
Well, the wasps then moved in, during the last weeek of school, they had an end of term feast, and ate most of the remaining cherries down to the stones! I took 3 perfect ones to my Mum for her birthday, and we had 5 each. Even then, my 5 were not perfect, I had to cut bits out of them!
I am not sure on the policy for next year, I found an article that said Kent growers did not produce organic cherries because of the need to spray in spring against caterpillars, but the article did not give any details. I do try to be organic, but to be honest, as Vicky said, she would prefer to have the cherries with a little bit of poison, than no cherries at all. If I could find out what is used, and if it is available to home growers, I could do some research and make an informed decision.
As far as the wasps are concerned, I am determined they will not get the plums. There is not many, and I don't want to lose them too!

Thursday, 2 July 2009

What I picked this week

Things have been very hectic in my life recently, so I'm afraid this blog has been a bit neglected, but I thought it more important to keep the plants alive!
This week I've been picking the Meteor peas that Amanda gave me. The ones at the allotment garden aren't doing too well, but those in the garden are lovely. I've also been picking dwarf beans from the plants Peter gave me, as well as the first ones from the climbers. The ones in the greenhouse have been cropping for a while now, so the bean season is underway.
I'm not sure about the benefit of the early tomato sowing. Although I picked the first one on the 1st June, I've not had many since, and they have been small as well. However, the kohl rabi in the patio gro trays has been doing well, and we've been self sufficient in lettuce and salad leaves for a couple of months now. The garlic is safely pulled, and drying off in the garage.
I pulled the first white beetrooot today. It does look strange, but I've been impressed with the leaves. I don't like the red ones, but these are much more like spinach, so a dual crop.
The fruit has been doing well too. I've picked several bowls of raspberries, and the blackcurrants have been picked and frozen, ready to make into jam when I get time. The cherries are lovely tasting, but still red, so I'm risking leaving them fro a few more days. If we do get rain it might cause them to split though. Apparently it's the rain on the skins, that causes the problems.

Saturday, 13 June 2009


Believe it or not, I do manage to fit in a few flowers, and this year I've already enjoyed some beauties. It started with the bulbs, then my alpine clematis, the camellias and the rhododendron in its pot. My Gertrude Jekyll rose was flowering its heart out, then down came the rain, and spoilt a lot of the flowers. However the recent dry spell has spare the later ones, and the scent is amazing. Vicky's Ice Cream rose, a white hybrid tea, is now in full flower and despite a few aphids, looks lovely.
The hardy carnations are a bit tardy, covered with buds, but we are still waiting for the blooms to open. Not so with the sweet peas. Air warden looks great, although it's companion was supposed to be blue, not pink. The packet definitely show blue flowers, but every one is pink. Luckily the red does not clash, as I planted them to climb together. Although the beans are technically veg, I am looking forward to their contribution to the colour in the garden having chosen varieties with white and mauve flowers. I've also put snapdragons between the celeriac, so brighten up the view.

Home Veg Garden Update

Where to start? The fruit is looking promising this year, I've raspberrries, blackcurrants, blueberries, cherries and plums, although I might lose some to the June drop yet. The blackcurrants are beginning to colour though, and I swear they were darker tonight than this morning after the sunshine we had. The cobnut trees have a good number of nut clusters, considering they are still only about 4 ft tall, and the apple tree that was broken in the post managed to set 4 apples so far, although again, they might not all make it.I never did get a replacement, but perhaps they meant next season! I won't get so many grapes this year though, as one of the main rods died back, and the fruiting shoots are less. I have got 10 cuttings taken from last year's prunings, so I'm taking them to the Strawberry Fayre next week, where the Garden Club is having a table.
On June 1st I picked my first tomato, Tigerella, from the Dec 27th sowing. I've had 2 more since then, and another colouring up, but I haven't tasted one yet as the girls have had them. The other varieties are nowhere near ready yet. I have been picking chillies for a couple of weeks. The purple jalapenos are much hotter ripe, but the hot lemon are pretty tastless so far, so I'm hoping they develop. As far as the peppers go, I've a ripe Canape, and the 2 orange bell are showing streaks of colour. All are still living in 6 inch pots on the kitchen window sill!
Lettuce and salad leaves abound at the moment, but I've had to resort to washing them with my reading glasses on. I remember Mum serving up greenfly with the salad, and I'm in danger of doing the same.
The cucumbers in the greenhouse are looking good, and I've some fruit set on the cape gooseberries, Little Lanterns. Takae said they are lovely when ripe, so I'm looking forward to later in the year. Vicky is really pleased we didn't lose a single kohl rabi to the slugs, and she's now enjoying them raw, munching on them when chatting away on MSN. The carrots have been really slow considering I planted them in January. We've had a few, and they are lovely, but I don't know they are worth the effort of such an early sowing.
However the broad beans are another story. I've finished picking the first crop planted in November, with some frozen for later, as Takae and I are the only ones who liked them. I've some more coming on, and the earlier sowings escape the blackfly. The globe artichokes have been attacked though, that is one thing Takae didn't take to.
I sowed some of the white beetroot seed I got from a Grape when we visited Wisley, and the roots look around an inch across, so they are on their way, but the radish have been poor, probably because I didn't keep them watered enough in the dry spell. My garlic leaves are looking a bit tired now, but I think it will still be a few weeks before its time to get them up, and the shallots will of course be later, although it looks as if most sets have split into 4 or 5 at least.
It looks as if I will get a few successes this year, but I think a lot will depend on how the weather behaves over the summer!

Update on the Allotment Garden

Well it's been a while again, but as I'm now back at work full time it's hard to find time to do everything I need to do, let alone the things I want to do!
Anyway, where are we with the new garden? Having resorted to weedkiller, my sister dug a lot of it for me, and cleared the thistles and the nettles. Vicky and Takae planted the vegetables I've grown at home, and Daniel mulched the whole lot with well rotted manure. Thanks to all those people, the garden now looks like a veg plot.
The tomatoes do not look well, I'm not sure why, they have been watered well and mulched, but the leaves are small and purple. I've got flowers and a couple of tomatoes set, but I'll be surprised if we get anything much from them.
I bought in some cabbage and cauliflowers, and they are looking well, even though something, maybe the pigeons that live in the conifer, have had a bit of a nibble. The butterflies have not found them yet!
I've climbing French and runner beans. planted in a couple of weeks ago by Takae, but they look a bit yellow, despite the bokashi put under them, and the mulch around them. However, today when I went to check, some are beginning to find the canes, and the soil is still nice and damp underneath the mulch. The weeds are making it through though, so it isn't quite thick enough!
The Cavili courgettes are romping away, and I've planted in another 3 today, as it would be good to freeze enough to see us through the winter. The Black Beauty and Parthenon are not so good. Takae did not put the labels to them, so I can't say which is which, but I've lost one, and another looks decidedly iffy. The peas are not as green as when I planted them out, but there are the first flowers appearing, so that is the main thing. However the 2 pumpkins look very well. I don't know what they are, the label didn't give a name when I bought them, but they are green, and showing the promise of flower buds.
Today, besides the courgettes, I put in 2 Wilkos butternut squash, and 3 Hunter ones from the Digg It campaign, all grown from seed. It will be interesting to see what I get, if anything. I also planted 2 Green fingers cucumber plants, to grow up the 2 bean canes who have lost their tenants, and 4 marketmore cucumbers, up a wigwam of canes. The marketmore cucumbers were from ancient seeds, which I did not expect to grow, but they germinated well in the heated propagator a few weeks ago. The cucumbers did not get much soil prep, as the well rotted compost from home was too heavy for me to lift, and I just dug the bit I needed. They are looking good at the moment, so fingers crossed for a good harvest.
I was still hoping to get beetroot, sprouts and more cabbage plants in, besides sowing some seeds, but with all the cucurbits, space is again running out! Pictures will be added soon!
Oh, and I forgot the celeriac, it's looking good, smaller of course than the ones I planted out at home, but I'm hopeful we will get a crop, especially if I leave it to last for harvesting.

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Sorry It's been so long

What with one thing and another, keeping my blog up to date seems to have fallen by the way, and yet I have been as busy as ever in the garden. Today I picked my first broad beans from and autumn sowing of aquadulce claudia in the greenhouse and planted out in Feb I believe. The pods are long, containing up to six beans each or so, and tasting delicious. I also cut my globe artichoke, determined not to leave it too long this time. Takae wasn't certain, despite me telling her it was a delicacy, but it means I get the next one to myself!
Having spent 3 days in Portsmouth courtesy of Daniel, it was surprising what a little bit of rain will achieve. The Romaine lettuce are hearting up, so I picked one to see how it was. The outer leaves were enormous, and still edible. Slugs had managed to broach the copper defences, through bridges made by other leaves, but generally well grown. The water cress is trying desperately to flower, but I just keep cutting it, and the rate the church salad boxes are growing, we might need to eat them before 20th!
With a bit of help, I've cleared enough of our allotmet to plant tomatoes, celeriac, cabbages and cauli. I have pumpkins, squash, courgettes, peas and beans waiting the wings, so tomorow Vicky, Takae and I will try to get most of the stuff in. It's odd we've not even had it a month yet, and there have been a few surprises,.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

New Garden

I am totally amazed. A while ago I registered on the Channel 4 landshare scheme, and last weekend I had a contact passed to me. To cut a long story short, I now have a new garden to plant more fruit and veg in.
As you can see, there are a far few weeds, dandelions, thistles, bindweed and cleavers are the main ones. We got a whole bucket of bindweed roots out of a very small space. Although I will be putting in a compost bin, the present weeds will need to got to the tip, as I do not want the the seeds and perenial roots.
The trees need to stay, otherwise I have a free hand. At the bottom the owner is putting in a new shed for himself, and once that is donw he is going to let me have space in the old one.

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Drought Conditions!

It has been glorious weather, sunny and warm during the days, although the wind can be a bit chilly still. Rain was forecast for this weekend, but we haven't had any, so the water butts are completely dry. No significant rain is due for some days, so I think I will need to use the hosepipe to fill them up.
The nights haven't been bad either, with no frosts, a good job as my runners and potted up celeriac, which had been enjoying the sunshine, were left outside overnight. The greenhouse has been reaching temperatures into the 30s, but got down to 6C when I left the door open. A lucky escape for all involved, although the forecast for frost next week has now changed, so perhaps the beans will go out soon anyway. Their roots are already penetrating the cardboard tubes, and I don't want them growing into each other.
I've started passing out my celeriac seedlings, as they need potting on now. I've put 16 into 5 inch pots to grow on a bit, with the idea that I won't plant them out for another few weeks, although they will be residing outside during the day as long as the weather holds.
I desperately need to sort the greenhouse out, as the tomato plants need better staking, and I will need to reposition some. I have started feeding those that have set fruit, and they are looking pretty healthy now. I am a bit later than I intended with the courgettes and cucumbers, they are still in their packets I'm ashamed to say, although it isn't too late to get them in. Things have been a bit disorganised here what with illness in the family and all that, but I will endeavour to have them planted soon. They will not take long to germinate, although I think I will try for a more even temperature than would be available in the greenhouse at the moment.
I have lots of numex and jalapeno chillies, and a couple of peppers forming on the canape variety, but the others are proving slower to flower still. The habeneros have much larger leaves than the others, and the plants are much shorter too, something to bear in mind for overwintering. The kitchen window sill suits them fine, and I have started feeding them with tomato food too, especially as they are in relatively small pots. I transplanted the Speedy dwarf beans into a large pot in the greenhouse, they were too big for the windowsill.
In the flower garden I noticed my tree peony has 3 buds on, so I hope I will get some flowers this year. The original plant was purchased 15 years ago, and I bought bits with me when I moved, but never have had flowers since. The alpine clematis is a true picture, covered with nodding blue flowers, and the early summer flowering one, which was not pruned this year, has sent much more growth up, with buds showing already.
Unfortunately the Queen of the Night tulips have proved to be later flowering and taller than I hoped, so although they look spectacular in the pots, the white ones have virtually finished, and were much shorter too. Just goes to show you can't always go by the descriptions.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Potting shed

After years of wanting a place specially to sow seeds, pot on, and keep all my gardening stuff in order, it's finally happening. A few weeks ago my husband set up an old table for me at the far end of the garage, but it was too dark, even with the light on. Over the weekend I was saying that I was sure I had loads of pots, but they had been 'buried' under all the stuff put in front of them, so we began the big clear out. I have to say, with my neck playing up again big time at the moment, my physical input was minimal, but 3 trips to the tip later, we now have a corner by the garden door end set up with my table, and shelf units for me to arrange all my stuff on and I've even got a set of 4 electric sockets. It's great, I found the water retaining crystals I was sure I hadn't finished last year, a pair of secateurs which I knew I haven't thrown out with the prunings, as well as many other valued treasures. Unfortunately I replaced the secateurs last autumn, and bought more granules this spring, but spares are always useful.
About 10 days ago I received a surprise package from the postman, I had won a Coronet Family Apple Tree in an online competition. Unhappily it hadn't travelled well, the trunk was completely broken through, an ugly splintered break, leaving only the 2 lowest branches intact. These were Elstar, the James Grieve part, and a good proportion of Elstar were lost. Anyway I contacted the producer, and they have very kindly said they will send me out a new one of their next batch. In the meantime I have pruned the trunk to as neat a cut as possible, with the branches opposite each other it might make a reasonable looking plant. I went looking for pots today, and ended up with 3 for 2 from Wilkinsons. They are only 50cm square, but should be OK for this year. I'm going to use them for my peach tree, my broken tree, and my new one when it comes. I was told I should pot trees into John Innes No3, so I looked at B&Q, but they only had 25l bags. We ended up at Homebase looking for something else, and theirs was 50p cheaper per bag, but although there was no sign up, they went through at 3 for £10, so a good deal today.
A quick update on the chillies, I now have about 3 numex twilight set, and at least one purple jalapeno. They have got a few greenfly, which I am trying to control with washing and hand picking. Interestingly the hot lemon are worst affected, with few on the others. I wonder if they are not to the greenfly's taste?
I have been having problems with someone running through the bit of garden by the drive, and despite advice from Daniel, I haven't resorted to prickly bushes. However I did see the culprits, a couple of young boys playing with their water pistols. I politely asked them not to run over my garden as they were trampling on the plants. They did apologise, so hopefully they will remember next time they are playing there, although I don't think they are from the houses nearby.

Saturday, 11 April 2009

Happy Easter

Happy Easter to everyone who reads this. Hopefully although it's raining today, the weather will come good for Easter Sunday and Monday. I really hope so, as I have a wet and bedraggled tent haning over my rotary washing line, excluding the light for all the plants below it! Typically in the way of teenagers, they left it until an hour before the rain started yesterday to sort it out. If it had been done first thing in the morning, the tent could have been put away by now. Never mind, rant over, now to gardening.
Well another rant this time really. On Monday my broad beans were looking good, with flower buds showing on the earlier ones. Yesterday I noticed the edges of all the leaves are notched. Looking closely, there are small weevils munching away on them. A bit of reseach revealed they are bean weevils, which eat the leaves as adults, and lay their eggs around the roots. The larvae feed on the roots, in a similar way to vine weevils. Apparently they do not attack the beans directly, phew, but can reduce the crop, depending on the amount of root damage. I was trying to shake the plants to get them to drop into a pot, and got a few, but got way more ants. Although I could not see aphids, I washed the plants down with very dilute washing up liquid solution in the hopes it might stop trouble before it starts. I must get some sticky papers and put them below the plant. Perhaps they will stick when I shake them off.
My dwarf french beans, Speedy, are doing well in the kitchen, the second set of true leaves are beginning to form, and I realised the last frost date is supposed to be the end of April here, so although there is always risk in gardening, I put 8 runner bean seeds to soak last night. I drained them this morning, and I've put them in my seed sprouter. As soon as the radical shows, I will put them in loo roll middles in the greenhouse. I am going to start some french beans too, I still have Fasold from last year, and some Cobra I bought this year, both climbers, so I will compare which does best, for taste as well as yield.
I have my first tomato set on a Tigerella plant. It is about the size of a pea, but definitely 'there'. I still haven't decided exactly how I am going to manage the tomato plants, the problem is they are too big for adoption really. There's one which has developed strangely, so I have planted that one out into a sheltered part of the garden to 'test the waters'.

The Numex Twilight in the kitchen has now had 3 flowers open, which I pollinated with a paintbrush, so hopefully these will develop into chillies.

One purple jalepeno has flowered as well, a very pretty flower in its own right, although i hope it makes a chilli. I am making sure I do not cross pollinate the plants, as I hope to save my own seeds from the chillies in the kitchen.
The flowers in the garden are looking spectacular now. The pots of daffs are beginning to finish, but the pansies around them are still going strong, and the white tulips are in full flower, although the Queen of Night are a bit slower than I would have liked.

Thursday, 2 April 2009

My kitchen windowsill!

Just a short post this morning, to say that yesterday I took pity on my chilli plants I had in 3" pots on the kitchen widowsill, and upgraded them to 5" or 6" ones.
The Numex Twilight, both the inside and the one slumming it in the greenhouse, have flower buds coming. These were the 2 that grew out of the 5 planted on 27th Dec. I also have buds in the purple jalapeno (20th Jan), and my orange bell and canape peppers (22nd Jan). The ones outside are further behind.
Thanks to Irie Jan from the Grapevine, I also have hot lemon, chocolate habenero, and a scotch bonnet, also on the kitchen windowsill. Hopefully they will be able to stay there for a bit, as I've carefully rearranged everything to fit the pots in.
This morning I've noticed the 'Speedy' dwarf french beans are just beginning to show in their pots. I don't know how quickly they will outgrow their space, but I feel a potential move to the bedroom coming on.
This afternoon, while standing admiring the garden I realised the plum tree, Jubilee, had 2 flowers actually opened. I nipped inside and got a paint brush, in case the bees hadn't realised. I then went round the tomato flowers in the greenhouse. It looks as if there might be a tiny tomato set, and loads of the others have flower buds coming, so fingers crossed for the success of the early trial.

Monday, 30 March 2009

Busy Weekend

Well Saturday was a disappointment in the weather stakes. The icy wind cut through despite the sun, and when the showers came some were hail. I'd planted out 8 kohl rabi seedlings on Friday, so I hope they were sufficiently hardened off to cope, They look OK, and so far have not been attacked by slugs. We had a frost last night, the car needed scraping this morning.
Takae and I spent some time in the warmth cutting up 2l plastic drinks bottles, and circling them with copper tape. Vicky came up with the idea, so we had a trip to the garden centre to buy some, and I was also persuaded into some organic slug pellets. Based on iron, they stop the slugs feeding, and then they go underground to die. Sounds great, and Vicky is desperate to protect the kohl rabi. Anyway each plant is enclosed in a circle of copper, I just hope we haven't trapped any slugs inside!
The tops and bottoms were left a reasonable size, and we have used those as mini-cloches over 8 lettuce plants. I am going to put some of them in pots too, but I have quite a few seedlings so I decided to give some a go in the garden.
The Hurst Green Shaft peas are not showing yet, but some of the Meteors were just poking their heads through, so they have gone into the garden, against the fence. They are planted quite thickly, so I hope that will help them support each other, though I will put in some sticks to help them. I've put the rose cuttings over to try to disuade the cats, as the soil is lovely and soft, just as they like it. I also sprinkle some over the Stay Off granules around. They do help, but you need to keep applying them.
I noticed tiny red seedlings coming through between the raspberry canes, so the beetroot seeds I planted a while ago have germinated. Hopefully they will grow before the raspberries take over. Also I wish I could persuade the raspberries to grow their canes in the right place. I have little ones coming up in the rhubarb (which was delicious stewed and mixed with yogurt), and between the wooden deck squares I've used as stepping stones.
The count of parsnip seedlings is growing, I plant out each one as it pokes its head through. Hopefully the tap root will then grow straight, and I won't get forked parsnips, which are such a pain to prepare for dinner.
I am really trying to make a difference to the food bill this year, so I planted 10 french beans in pots on the kitchen windowsill. They are 'Speedy', so should produce quickly. My plan is to keep them indoors as long as I can manage, then put them out into the greenhouse (which is already bulging at the seems). French beans do not need bees to pollinate them, so they should do well as long as they do not get too cold.
My onions I planted in January do not look too promising, later on today I hope to transplant the best ones, so I might get a few. The plan was to use some as spring onions, and let the rest grow on, but at the rate they are dying off I won't have any left. I don't know if it's damping off disease, but they are the only seedlings with a problem, everything else is looking really healthy.

Inside I have been sprouting a lot of seeds for use in salads. My favourite are sunflowers. I buy the hulled ones now, I might have mentioned it before. It saves removing them from the husks once they have sprouted, a fiddly and horrible job. I am trying out a new idea I saw on the internet though, sunflower greens. After the seeds have spouted, you plant them in trays and harvest the seedlings at the first real leave stage, so they are not too tough. Apparently it takes about 7 days, but it might be longer for me, because they are outside in the PatioGro, so are colder. I'm not sure where people get these growing times from, it would be useful if they would publish the growing conditions to achieve salad leaves in 2 weeks, radish in 4 etc.

One of the camellias is coming out, and with the miniture daffodils in pots and the various primroses the garden is looking so colourful at the moment. As a follow on I have tulips, the alpine clematis and the fruit trees, they are all waiting in the wings , and I don't think it will be long until the show starts. The only thing is, I think I will then have a colour gap, because the hardy carnations in the back garden are not in bud, the ones in the garage garden look better.

In the garage garden I have put in some poppies and cornflowers. I am trying to disguise the veg a bit, so people do not give into temptation. The sweet peas I have planted around the nut bushes seem to have taken, but I need to decide where the others are going. I have pots in the greenhouse that really need to go out soon. So much to do still, I think I will close now, and go and get on with it.
Edit - I've put in some pics, but they won't stay where I want them too, so sorry for the mess!

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Icy winds today

After a lovely few days of bright sun and warm (ish) days, today was a real reminder not to get too ahead of ourselves. The sun was shining, but the north wind was cold enough to cut you (and any tender seedlings) in half. I remember seeing runner beans last year in a diy store, but on SUnday there were some in a well known garden centre close to us. Madness!
However, talking of madness, the Dec 27th tomatoes have been out in the greenhouse for over a week now, and are doing fine. Even with a frost the other night, the fleece (and I have to admit, the fan heater on the frost free setting) seems to have done the job. There are flowers on 3 of them, so hopefully they will set. Acccording to info I found, it depends if the night time temperature is high enough for the pollen to remain viable, so fingers crossed. I counted up, I've 32 tomatoes, with room for about 8 inside permently.
The chillies are doing well too, I've 11 of those I think, and 6 peppers. (Yes I know I said last year I wasn't bothering, but well..) I did have 10 peppers, but when Amanda came round last week I gave her a couple of the orange bell, and a couple of canape (red). Hopefully she'll be able to get some fruit from them. She bought me a jar of her tomato chutney, absolutely delicious, and thats just from a spoon. I'm sure it's even better with cheese. Mine wasn't half as nice, so I need to get the recipie, ready for this autumn. She also gave me some Hurst Green Shaft peas and some Meteor. I soaked some of each overnight, then left them in my seed sprouter until the roots were just emerging. Some of the Meteor were sown in loo rolls, but the rest have had to make do with pots. The Hursts have gone into a deep trough (actually a recycling bin given back to us in mistake by the bin men, we left it out for a week, but the owner did not come and collect it so its been 'recycled'.
Contrary to what I'd been told, celeriac seed does last several years. I sowed the rest of the pack I had left over, and I reckon most grew! Takae pricked a load out for me, we now have 132 seedlings. The greenhouse is beginning to burst at the seams, what with the tomatoes, celeriac, sowings of lettuce, flowers, and parsnips in loo roll tubes (we just don't use enough). I haven't even got started with the more tender stuff like beans, courgettes and cucumbers yet.
In the garden things are moving on apace as well. In Takae I have a willing worker, she has dug over the beds for me, and we now have the bean sticks in position ready for sowing next month. It also lets me see what space we have available for other stuff.
In the garage garden the broad beans from last autumn have taken well, and even the new sowings, started off in the greenhouse, are looking good. The first 5 parsnips planted out seem to have grown bigger already, but there are no green shoots on the shallots yet. However the radish I sprinkled between them are coming through nicely. Those in the Patio Gro covered with the plastic cover are beginning to swell, so hopefully I'll be pulling some in the next couple of weeks.

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Wisley and what I've been up to in the week.

Last Saturday the meeting of the Grapes from the GYO Grapevine forum went really well. Most of us met around 11am, my daughter had made a lovely sign to tell people who we were. The weather was pretty good, in the sun it was really warm, but it blew up a bit cold in the afternoon. It was really busy, so others were a little later as they got stuck in the traffic jams, and had to park miles away. After a bit of a chat we went to see one of the first talks, but it was so busy we struck off in small groups to have a look around and meet up for lunch later. We needed 3 picnic tables moved together to fit us all in. Loads of people brought seeds to swap, giving us all a chance to try varieties we hadn't thought to buy, and swapping those we had too many of. It was lovely to meet people we had been talking to for months on the Internet, and we hope to go again later in the year, when the veg beds have something in, and the fruit trees have some leaves, and hopefully, fruit.
Despite being a bit out of it this week, with the medication making me very tired and confused, (several burned dinners didn't persuade anyone to take over for me), I have managed to get some stuff done in the garden. My 'test' tomato was alive and thriving after a week in the greenhouse, so yesterday I potted up all the others planted on 27th December. One even has a flower open, but it depends if the temperature is high enough for pollination to be successful.
I've planted the flower seeds I got from the seed swap. I noticed the aqualegia were supposed to be planted by 2000, so it will be interesting to see if I get any grow! I've also put in some french marigolds as they are good comapion plants to repel whitefly and aphids on tomatoes. There's also something called 'Flower of Peru', which lookes lovely on the seed packet, so fingers crossed.
The original parsnips were showing the tip of their roots out of the bottom of their loo rolls, so I've planted them outside. There's only 5 so far, but they're a month earlier than I put them in last year! I've planted more in the greenhouse, but they're not up yet. I also planted out the broad beans that finally showed themselves. The Claudia were more successful that the Express at germinating, so it will be interesting to see how they go on.
Amanda came to call yesterday, and generously gave me some pea seeds, as well as a jar of her homemade tomato chutney, yum! I've got hold of an interesting booklet with loads of recipies, if any ever make it to the kitchen; they usually get eaten straight from the plant.
She was going to give me a packet of celeriac, but as I planted the seeds from last year to see if they would grow, and I've now ended up with at least 120, we decided to save those for next year! I should have enough for any garden club members who are interested. As I had decided not to grow peppers this year, but ended up with 5 each of Orange bell and Canape (red), I passed 2 of each on to her, as well as a jar of chilli jam, as we still have loads left.
Takae pricked out a lot of the celeriac for me, as well as digging my side border, and putting compost in place for the beans yet to come. She said she really wants to learn about gardening, as she lives in an apartment in Tokyo with nowhere to grow things.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Into March Already

We've been enjoying a mild spell, but it's come to an end now. The night temperatures are supposed be down to freezing again, and some parts of the country, not us fortunately, are suffering snow again. One of my blueberries is already showing flower buds, althought the other one is not so far advanced, and one of my plum trees is beginning to burst its buds.
In the greenhouse the peach tree hasn't flowered, but it's not surprising as it was only a pip this time last year. The leaves are beginning to show, but it's still dodgy for peach leaf curl, so it will stay in until the end of March I would think. Apparently the danger time is when the leaves begin to expand. The lemon tree has come through the winter with all its leaves intact, last year I forgot to bring it in, and it lost the lot. Hopefully the small lemon will grow on, and the flower buds set fruit eventually. Home made lemon curd from this bush tastes nothing like that you buy from the shops.
I've got some celeriac seedlings (40!) pricked out and in an unheated propagator, as well as some more in the heated one. The auriculas which overwintered in the greenhouse are showing buds, so I think they will look good to replace the ornamental cabbages, which have finished now, in the outside pots. My second sowing of broad beans are not showing yet, which I'm a bit surprised about, but the parsnips that I germinated to test the seed are growing away in their loo roll tubes. I've found that the trays I grew my watercress in are a mass of new seedlings, despite being outside in all the weather over the winter. I've pricked out some into a seed tray and put them in the greenhouse to hopefully grow on a bit quicker.
The Patio Gro set has been built, and the troughs put into it. I think it's quite a bit warmer behind the greenhouse than in it, the seedlings have certainly moved faster since they were put into position. I think I will need to buy some more troughs though, it will take more than are supplied with it, so it seems a waste not to have it filled up. Sadly, even though Notcutts have some of the stuff for it on sale, it did not include spare troughs, so I will have to pay postage from the Internet.
In the 'Garage Garden', I've planted the shallots, although I wasn't best pleased to find one of the 10 rotten. In the process I found 2 more decent size parsnips. I've also been still eating my mooli, definitely worth growing, although some have got cabbage root fly. I make sure these bits are put in the bin, not the compost, as I don't want to give them the chance to mature in my garden. I also got rid of the old sage plant, taking some bits as cuttings in the meantime, and I've also got one in a pot in the back garden. However, the more the merrier, as it makes a delicious homemade sage and onion stuffing.
Finally indoors is being taken over with chilli, pepper and tomato seedlings. Well, the early sowings aren't really seedlings any more, as they have flower buds showing. I really need them to go into larger pots, which if I didn't have the cats wouldn't be such a problem. However I can see anything of any size would be thought of as a loo, and they are likely to just knock the smaller pots off any window sills. They don't stop going on them just because I put stuff there!
Busy week socially, Garden Club tonight, and then the Grapes Meet (online forum) at Wisley on Saturday. I'm aiming to take along some seeds in case anyone is interested. I still have quite a lot going spare. If the allotment initiative would move, I wouldn't need to get rid of so much!

Friday, 20 February 2009

Spring is sprung!

Looking around the garden today the signs that the temperatures have been rising this week are obvious. I finally have a daffodil out, and the crocus are looking lovely, along with the snowdrops. The native primroses have been in flower for a while, but the coloured ones are coming into their own as well now, if only whatever is eating them would stop. The nut bushes are in flower. Being small I can see the tiny red flowers and the pollen on the catkins. Now we just need the wind to spread it about! (Not usually a problem around here.)
Having decided I could only fit 8 tomato plants in the greenhouse, I have 24 growing already, but the early Internet trial ones, planted on 27th Dec are decidedly leggy. I think the temperature in the bedroom has been too hot for the light levels. I have 2 Green tiger, 2 French black, 3 Sunburst and 5 unnamed; because I forgot to label them, but they might be Tigerella; from that early sowing. Then I planted some beefsteak ones, and some more Tigerella later.
My kitchen windowsill is home to my peppers, chillies and the later tomatoes, and they seem to be doing fine, although they will be a bit crowded once they are all potted on.
In the greenhouse the carrots and onions are looking fine, together with the spinach, turnips, and now lettuce and radish too. Today I put in some kohl rabi, purple and white ones so we can decide which we prefer.
I started hardening off my broad beans from the greenhouse, but forgot them some nights, so they were left out in hail and snow. As they survived that I thought they might as well go in the proper garden. I found 2 parsnips I'd missed so they were a welcome bonus. It is very wet still, but hopefully I will be able to get the shallots in this weekend as it's supposed to be pretty mild for the next few days.
I thought I'd try out some of last years parsnip seeds in the propagator to see if they would germinate, as they are notoriously short lived. It looks as if some are coming through, so I rooted through the recycling for loo roll middles. I'm going to fill these with potting compost and put the seeds in them, planting the whole thing directly into the garden when the plants have got a bit bigger. Mind you I think it was April I planted last year, and they grew well, so I'll still sow some later on too.
I also put some celeriac seeds in to see if they would grow, and I've got some up, so I'll need to ask the garden club who needs seedlings for later on, and how many. The ones I planted out earlier last year ran to seed, but the later ones grew fine, so I think it's worth keeping them snug in the greenhouse for longer this year. I will probably need more than I've got up so far.
The compost bin where I've been emptying the bokashi is ready to put on the garden, but I'm going to need help doing that at the moment. However hopefully I can persuade someone into it this weekend. It would be good to get it on now, before I want to plant out anything more.
I also noticed Vicky's white rose is beginning to sprout, so pruning that will be a priority this weekend during the mild weather.

Sunday, 1 February 2009

From Russia with Love (Snow)

We have had warnings all week that we would get snow today and tomorrow. It started around 11am, as we were going to the new Farmer's Market in Iwade. A very good turnout by the way, I bought some preserves as well as some fruit and veg. By the time we got back, and I'd made a cuppa the garden was already looking a little white.
The girls are hoping we get enough this time to make a snowman. It would be lovely for them to have a photo of them together in the snow.
The mushroom kit I got for Christmas is finally showing pinhead mushrooms. I don't know how long it will take for them to get big enough to pick!

Saturday, 31 January 2009


I bought 5 blue hyacinth bulbs back in the autumn. They were treated for early flowering and I was hoping they would be out by Christmas. Unfortunately they weren't, but we have had a colder winter. I now have them in full bloom on the kitchen window sill. The perfume is heavenly, although can be a bit strong. Not bad for £2.50.
I am also pleased that one of my amaryllis is growing away nicely and there is a bud appearing. It is a bulb I bought last year whicc I grew on in the greenhouse in the summer before drying it off. I potted it up just before Christmas.
When I was out in the garden on Wednesday I notice the pesky cats had used my fan-trained cherry tree as a scratching post! They have shredded the bark at the front, about a 6 inch stretch, and some sap has oozed out. I have put a guard up now, and I'm looking into the need to treat it to stop infection.

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Growing so far!

My carrots and onions started poking through after about a week, so I put the trays out into the greenhouse. The seedlings are looking good, but whether there will be enough light - I don't know. Since then I've put in some turnips and some spinach, again germinated under the kitchen table and put out once they began to show.
I'm trying hard to get some strawberries this year, so I also dug up 6 plants from the garden and planted them 3 to a trough. I cut off all the old leaves, and killed the slugs congregated in the hearts. Strawberries need a period of cold as a trigger before they will flower, so hopefully the very cold snap at the beginning of the month will have done the trick. I'm now considering what to try next, radishes and lettuce maybe, although at the Garden Club I got some pak choi from Nicola, which is supposed to grow all year round so maybe I'll sow that as well.
It is surprising how things are moving in the garden already. My snowdrops, some a present from a very dear friend who sadly decided she couldn't cope anymore a year ago yesterday, are flowering again. I brought them with me when I moved from Buckinghamshire over 10 years ago, and they have stayed with me though 3 more moves. All the other bulbs are poking their heads through too, and buds on the cherry, clematis, and blackcurrants, to name but a few are showing signs of swelling.
My tomatoes, the ones which were planted on 27th Dec, are growing well, even if it is hard to give them enough light. I think making a lightbox from the blue LED Christmas lights did help, but it is not big enough now I have transplanted them to 3 inch pots. The chilles are looking good too, and I have planted a lot of other varieties given to me by an Internet friend, Irie Jan.

Sunday, 4 January 2009

Chilli and Tomato update

There's still no sign of the tigerella seeds germinating, so I think I'll have to sow these again. I have a fresh packet of seed, so I'll try those. The Numex Twilight have finally put in an appearance, but there are no more of the older seeds showing.
I transplanted the older chilli seedlings and some of the tomato seedlings as they had got a bit drawn. I think the bottom heat was not helping. I've planted them a bit deeper and will see how they go. It is still very early days for these seedlings.

Saturday, 3 January 2009

Chllies and Tomatoes

Afer sowing these on the 27th Dec, the first seedlings were poking through by New Years Day. It will be a challenge to keep them going, especially as we are in the grip of a really cold spell. I have the propagator on the bedroom window sill, with tin foil to reflect the light back to the seedlings. It is supposed to stop them growing towards the light source, but I'm still having to turn them a couple of times a day.
Amazingly, the chillies that have germinated are the old seed that should have been sown by Sept 2007. The fresh seed is not through yet. I have 5 chilli plants, but I seemed to have mixed the labels again, so although I know they are all the old seeds, I won't know until they fruit (if they make it!), which is which.
The only tomato seeds still to show are Tigerella, which surprises me as they have always been very prompt in the past. Still I have plenty of time to make more sowings as most people don't get started until March.
For Christmas I was given a Patio Gro set, basically a frame which holds 12 troughs, 20x50x12 cm. Yesterday, when boredom set in because everyone was still asleep, I planted some Paris Market carrots in one, and some onion seeds in another. They are in the kitchen at the moment, until they germinate, then I plan to put them in the unheated greenhouse, covered with fleece. It is very early, so I might not be successful, but if I don't try I won't know.
In the greenhouse I have set up a tent like structure, with bubble polythene on the glass side, and fleece on the inside. I am hoping it will be enough to protect the plants that are overwintering.
The Yacon tubers I was saving to grow on had started to rot in the garage, so I trimmed them up, and plan to send them on to another who wants to give them a go. Hopefully they will have more luck than me.