Saturday, November 6, 2010

Seeds and fruit

Today I did a big clear-up of the garden, making the most of the break in the weather - plenty of weeding, cutting back and general tidying up which made the compost pile grow to enormous proportions. I also harvested some green beans which I left on for seeds and reached over the fence to retrieve a winter squash which had rambled over (the neighbours don't really do anything with their garden so I felt entirely justified).

I already have saved some Turk's Turban winter squash seeds but unfortunately the seeds of the other pumpkin went moldy. I should have spread them out more but I completely forgot about them and I obviously didn't take enough of the flesh off. Never mind, I came face-to-face with the kind of pumpkin it was in the Turkish supermarket round the corner the other day - that's where I must have got the seeds from in the first place. I'll have another go with the seeds from the one above, even though it grew into a slightly strange shape. The beans should be fine, hopefully.

The raspberries are still producing fruit and I am getting slightly worried about them, much like you would with a workaholic friend. You admire them in a way but also you are hoping they'll take a break soon before they wear themselves out. At this rate I will have fresh raspberries for Thanksgiving but I hope they don't decide to give up the ghost next year!

Talking of seeds and fruit, I should really get stuck into the's that time of year.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Nearly packing up for the year

I started to ready the garden for winter time last weekend, by clearing the tomatoes, cucumbers, patty pan, etc which had stopped producing. Most ended up in the compost bin or on my compost heap but then it started raining before I had time to finish. In fact, every time I stepped out, the sun disappeared rapidly. Seasonal hazard, I guess. This time of year everything looks rather bleak.

Only the Welsh onion and some white beetroot remain. The raspberries continue to produce however and I may even get another crop before the weather turns really nasty. Very good variety (Joan J), has seen me through from July to October.

In additional news, I harvested the mystery pumpkin that self-seeded itself. No idea what kind it is, probably I grew it from from a supermarket-bought pumpkin the year before. There is another vine that scrambled over the fence and is bearing some fruit, so if it turns out well I'll just lean quickly into the neighbour's garden and retrieve it (that's allowed, right?).

The other pumpkin was tasty (was turned into lentil and pumpkin stew) but the skin was really really hard. So hard in fact, that I needed a hammer to chop it and I gave up on it halfway through. Lesson for next year - eat it more quickly.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The pumpkin

It is a very, very nice pumpkin. Pleasing colour. Interesting shape (underneath it looks like the one harvested a while ago). Taste uncertain as of yet. Yep, I'm very proud of this one.

Ok, technically it is a winter squash, not a pumpkin (see footnote). I am also eating summer squash (patty pan) at the moment, and waiting for another unidentified squash to ripen. This means it's officially autumn!

Footnote: Try and find out the difference between winter squashes and pumpkins. Come on, I dare you. And when you find it, send me the answer ;) At the moment I like this definition the best: "Pumpkins are something you carve, winter squashes are something you eat, and gourds are something you look at."

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Beetroot harvest

I never think of having beetroot during the summer. Something about it spells autumn for me - the earthy taste perhaps. My summer exception is a Turkish beetroot salad but I never make that for myself. Today I finally decided to pull up half of the white beetroots I have in my garden. Marvellous stuff - they don't bleed and you can eat the leaves too.

The beetroots are now roasting in the oven, sliced along with the carrots from last week and a rough-chopped patty pan squash in olive oil, balsamic vinegar and some herbs (sage, thyme and oregano). The leaves are throroughly cleaned, one by one (I don't fancy eating tiny snails), chopped, and now I have two bags of them in the freezer. Autumn is going to be full of delicious produce!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Summer is over

August was really not great shakes in terms of weather but now it's starting to get noticeably colder and darker. Still harvesting a lot of stuff but I can tell it's slowing down.

I have patty pan (summer) squash and Turk's Turban (winter) squash that I planted but something squash-like self-seeded itself, probably from last year. The problem is that I have no clue what it is. My best guess is an acorn squash which I tried out but never took off. I harvested a small one - a bigger one is still ripening - just to make sure it's not a round zucchini. It isn't.

I found some carrots I forgot about. They're not the prettiest of things but they look edible. I can't really expect too much on my kind of soil. Seems September is full of mystery and surprises...

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Full-on harvesting

Lots of veg still to be harvested - I haven't really touched the beetroot or carrots, and there is some strange squash that self-seeded itself. In the meantime beans, raspberries, cucumbers and tomatoes are providing lots of tasty treats. I am thinking of making proper, fresh tomato soup which is the best thing on earth. The "conjoined" patty pan I harvested last is now mercifully nearly used up - there is a limit to how much even I can eat of it.

As I was checking over the Turk's Turban squash it came off the vine so I take that as a sign that it is ready :) Looks very pretty and I bet it will be delicious roasted. There is another, bigger one still growing in the garden which I will leave alone for a while longer.

Just realised that I haven't bought any veg other than peppers and potatoes for the last few weeks so that means I am pretty much self-sustaining at the moment. How cool is that?!?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Conjoined harvests

In my recent haste of harvesting I actually forgot to post a picture of the first fully ripened tomato. Well, here it is - the subtle stripes are barely noticeable but in real life it looked very pretty. It also shows off the patty pan squash and beans which I have been munching my way through.

But look what I took from the garden today!!! A whole bowl of lemon cucumbers, more tomatoes, a bucketload of green beans and the most weirdly-shaped squash I've ever seen! It seems I have a conjoined patty pan - anyone know how that happens?

Lunch today was much nicer than usual, making use of lots of the things I grew myself (mainly it was nicer because I was working from home, the staring at data didn't help though). Green beans cooked with tomatoes, cucumbers in creme fraiche, and tomatoes and goat cheese in puff pastry - ok, I bought the puff pastry, creme fraiche and the goat cheese but give me time ;)

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Red-y? Steady? Go!

A ripening tomato. In early August. In my garden! Usually I have to wait till beginning of September. The Tigerella appear to have the head start on this, the others ones are coming along but nothing happening yet that even borders on red.

Have started in earnest on harvesting the beans, although I am competing with some voracious snails that have climbed up the poles. Also on the menu are more lemon cucumbers and a nice patty pan squash.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Harvest for dinner

Dinner was a stir-fry and alongside store-bought supplies I also did a quick harvest of veg to go in it - carrots, a patty pan squash, some beans and the tops of the white beetroot (taste like spinach - they were declared "very nice" by a beetroot-hater). Still leaves me with two lemon cucumbers and the beetroot for another day.

Today is drizzly, too wet to stand there and water the garden but yet not enough to quench the thirst of the plants. Hope it'll give it a good drenching overnight.

On another thought, I need to check whether there are any greengages this year (I think the tree is suffering from some kind of insect infestation that makes them drop off before ripening) and figure out what to do with my three (!) gooseberries. I also now have some blackberries coming up. Maybe just a square of puff pastry with an assortment of fruit on it?

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Salvage effort

The tomato plant, alas, was beyond help so I cut it down this evening and made some chutney from the green tomatoes (about half of a jam jar). I think I used a bit too much vinegar so the chutney is quite sharp but with a good piece of cheddar it'll be fine.

The leaves of the potatoes fell victim to slugs and snails so I guessed it was time to harvest them. A good handful of 'Anya' which, considering didn't spend a penny on seed potatoes, is not too bad. Haven't tried them yet but I bet they will be delicious.

Saturday, July 24, 2010


One of the Red Pear tomato plants got a bit too heavy for its cane. I noticed it leaning a little bit last night and couldn't resist trying to fix it. Instead it flopped over and it seems to have almost snapped off at the base. Curses! I propped it up again but today it's looking all wilted already. Green tomato chutney may come earlier than I thought...

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


The garden is now progressing nicely and plenty of veg are setting fruit.

The squashes are bursting at the seams - the Turks Turban in particular has started to "escape" and is climbing everywhere. I also spotted the first patty pan developing (there had been plenty of male flowers previously). Both are such weird-looking specimens, much more interesting than the uniform things you can buy in the shops.

And finally - a bean! I doubt that this year I end up with a glut, although I may regret saying that.

The tomatoes are doing great - the Red Pear especially has lots of vines. Now hoping for the warm weather to continue so they'll ripen before September.

And soon I should be ready to harvest the first of the Lemon cucumbers. The skin seems a bit hard, so we'll see how they turn out.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

A lot of firsts...

So much to tell. The warm weather has really spurred the plants into action. I may have to edit myself down a bit...

The first raspberry - lots more to come but the first one is always the best. It's amazing that I only looked at it yesterday and it wasn't quite ready yet. Today it didn't last that long - it went straight from the cane into my mouth. So sweet and delicious!

The first pumpkin flowers - not sure if they'll do anything since I'm not sure they'll get pollinated. The tendrils are reaching out and are starting to grow up the chainlink fence, underneath the beans which have suddenly decided to climb up the poles.

The patty pan squash plants have filled out and I can see the first flower buds forming. The herb corner is awash with oregano, thyme, fennel, sage and parsley. There is even some mint - where's the Pimm's?!?

The tomatoes are getting stocky, rather than high. Even the ones that didn't start off underneath cloches have kept pace. Not sure that is good or bad but at least they all have lots of flowers.

The cucumbers are refusing to wind themselves around the poles or string but I'll keep at them. They are round cucumbers anyway so it doesn't really matter, except that they will take up less space if they are growing up rather than out.

And I have ended up with a bucketful of mixed leaf salad! Wish me luck, I will be munching my way through this and another row over the next few weeks - every day...

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

June rains

The warmth and the recent rains have really moved the garden on from its pitiful initial state. Still not great but getting better. The cucumbers especially appear to enjoy this kind of weather and have had a growth spurt.

The rows of carrots, salad leaves and beetroot are also doing well, surviving the onslaught of slugs. I noticed that a cat has started digging around a bit (or is that foxes?), and on the other bed some stray potatoes are coming through. Still, suddenly I can recognise what the seedlings are supposed to be - and tell them apart from the weeds. Note to self: more weeding needed.

The patty pan squashes are filling out and are complemented by two self-sown ones. The "volunteers" may actually turn out to be be courgettes, or they may be patty pan. Time will tell which is kind of exciting. I have been finding lots of self-sown tomatoes, too - surprising, given how cold it was over the winter. There are some beans now, mixed results on those since as soon as they break through the soil they have their buds chewed off by slugs. Not the most promising year for beans, I have to say.

I am the proudest of my tomatoes and my raspberries. Tomatoes are nicely showing flower buds and are growing at an amazing speed. The raspberries have set fruit and I am hoping for at least one cake out of them (and plenty for the freezer).

Other fruits are doing well, too - I have three (!) gooseberries - ok for the first year and considering the plants came from Lidl - and a few greengages - not as much as last year but it goes in swings and roundabouts anyway. I hope the weather stays like this (sorry folks!) for another couple of weeks and then I am ok with it turning drier.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Preliminary experiment results

I removed the cloches from the tomatoes today, mainly because they were rapidly outgrown. It seems that with Tigerella (two on left) it made no vast difference, except that the one that was covered looks a bit slimmer and curled up. With the Marmande (two in the middle), the protected one definitely is a bit taller and stronger.

But what a difference the wall-o-water made to the Red Pear (on right)! Twice as big compared to the other one (see comparison below, left uncovered, right covered). Very pleased with this approach, also required less watering and seemed to keep the snails away. Have to get more wall-o-waters...

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Oh well, ventilation problem solved

I noticed recently that there is a big hole on the top of the mini-greenhouse. I was muttering about plastic fatigue and cursing shoddy goods when a squirrel poked its head over the fence, coming face-to-face with me studying the mini-greenhouse. Sure enough, there are more holes in the greenhouse top which look suspiciously like rips caused by a squirrel launching itself into the air. The only consolation is that it is fixable with a bit of strong tape. I also moved my set-up around, so it is not near the fence now. The weather is warm enough that I need to roll up the flap every morning so it doesn't overheat, at least the hole improves the ventilation unintentionally.

The chili plants and the tagetes love the greenhouse. I'll keep the chilis in the pot but the marigolds will eventually settle into the garden. The beans I planted in pots haven't surfaced yet and I just direct-sowed some. Apparently, "Pantheon" doesn't germinate well in poor, dry spoils but I am doing everything I can to make them comfortable.

I planted out the cucumbers "Crystal Lemon" the other day, still protecting them with home-made cloches. Anything to make them big enough quickly to withstand the snail menace. I am trying to grow them up on a wigwam, still need to put the string on the supports but had good results with that approach last year (mind you, different kind of cucumber).

Sowed more rocket, beetroot, carrots and also a fast-growing salad mix. I think my first sowing of rocket is getting eaten by snails. Between squirrels, snails and cats it's quite hard to make things grow in a London vegetable patch (my neighbour Paul regularly finds snails in his window box and has a squirrel visiting his bird feeder - on the third floor). I turned some of my beds into Vlad-the-Impaler-land with little bamboo sticks to keep the cat from digging out my seeds. Seems to be working so far.

With the nice spell of weather everything seems to be shooting up by the minute. Tomatoes are doing fine - in fact I had to leave all of them uncovered (except the wall-o-water one) because they outgrew the cloches, thus probably invalidating my experiment (see previous post). I have been drinking water from a 5L bottle like crazy so now one of them in protected again. The other one will be soon, too. Squash and patty pan are also settling in, and I think I spotted a self-seeded courgette. Is that even possible? Maybe it's just a weed in disguise...

My herbs are doing really well (well, all except the mint for some reason) . Thyme, oregano, sage, parsley, chives and some fennel. (Raspberries in foreground are just starting to flower.) However, I am at a loss what to do with all that lemon balm. I don't really drink herbal tea that may have to come out. Would love to replace it with tarragon and lovage. And possibly more mint for a nice Pimm's.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Kalte Sophie

My great-aunt always told me to wait out "Kalte Sophie" for anything tender. So today I planted my tomato starts, patty pan squash and the Turk's Turban squash. Perfect day for planting - not too warm, not too cold and now it is raining a bit after a bout of sunshine which gave me enough time to work out there.

The cucumbers have to wait a bit as they are still a bit too small. I wonder why they are growing so slow compared to the squashes.

I am trying out an "experiment" on the tomatoes. I have two of each kind: Red Pear, Marmande and Tigerella. One of each I am protecting a bit more over the next few weeks and see how they do in comparison. One of the Red Pear plants is getting extra-special treatment, a Wall-o-Water. The others will have to make do with some soda bottles or improvised bigger cloches I can find.

On other news, neighbours who chopped down the tree at the back (yay!) poked their head over the shrubs/rubble. A small discussion ensued about what to do about the crumbling wall that separates their garden from mine, whether to build on top or rebuild it completely. I think the upshot was to ignore it and just stick some fencing up instead. Nice to meet them though and know that they are starting to use the garden. I just wished I hadn't been wearing my pink unicorn baseball cap at the time.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Time is marching on, garden isn't much

Things have moved on quite a bit and most of the seedlings are doing well, even though they were forgotten for a while after transplanting.

The greenhouse has proved its worth, only one loss - a cucumber seedling bit the dust. I have just sown three more so should end up with enough in the end.

The winter squash is coming along nicely, and so it should because the slugs will be at it as soon as it goes into the ground.

I have finally outlined some beds and then realised that I don't really have enough space to grow everything comfortably. I readjusted the original plan and now beans will share a bed with the winter squash. Everything will be "cozy" - not ideal but best I can do. Even as I was doing the beds two cats hung around, staking out their favourite pooing place. Need to get some more bamboo kebab sticks to secure the ground against furry marauders. Made some teepees for the beans and cucumbers to climb on and now it feels ready for planting. By now I should have planted the beetroot and rocket but just not enough time recently to do that. Hoping to do that this long weekend.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Two innovations

Curiosity got the better of me and I assembled the mini-greenhouse. Very pleased with sturdiness and ease of putting it together. Good value for the money.

Also, I put out the parasol in anticipation and a spurt of optimism. Mainly, I wanted to try out the budget base to see how heavy it is. I may move the parasol bit back inside or it could hold off the rain for the next few months.

Come on spring!!!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Transplanting the turban

As suspected, the Turk's Turban squash (and the patty pan squash) seeds are a bit big for the little compost pods and are quickly outgrowing them. The roots are already stretching far beyond and I fear if I don't do something about it they'll just die.

Today I cleaned up some old plastic pots (I have collected lots over the years) and got some potting soil to transplant the bigger squashes. There, more room.

I'll wait a few days for the patty pan. One is doing pretty well, the other is just starting to peek through. Overall, I am pretty pleased with the pods. Compact, very easy to handle and transplant, everything germinated eventually, and there's no danger of the soil getting water-logged. I still have another tray but wondering if I actually need it - if everything survives then I already have plenty to fill up my little garden.

Reviewing my plant list for this year I just noticed that I should get the Welsh onions and the rocket (aka arugula) sown. It's not a desperate rush, it's been so cold until recently that a few days won't hurt, but may as well do a first sowing. I have a habit of not spacing sowing out over time so I will try and improve on that.

What I should really do is make a plan of what goes where - I haven't done that this year. Last year, the tomatoes were in the wrong place (not sunny enough) and I think they'll go where the beans were. Keep forgetting what I have, so yes, definitely more planning needed...