Sunday, October 23, 2011

Seed list for 2012

Time to review this year's efforts. I have to say, it's pretty difficult to make a decision as it was such a strange growing season. Some veg may have done much better given different circumstances. So...patty pan squash are possibly in (I think I still have some seeds), tomatoes suffered from blight so different kinds needed, carrots were ok, climbing beans were a pain to get started, Turk's Turban was a wash-out and the kale was so-so. Beetroot was ok, as always.

I also took the opportunity of a discount offer from Thompson & Morgan to get new seeds. Here's what I ordered for next year:
  • Tomato 'Orkado' F1 Hybrid
  • Carrot 'Caracas'
  • Runner Bean 'Scarlet Emperor'
  • Courgette 'Zephyr' F1 Hybrid
  • Cucumber 'Crystal Apple'
  • Tomato 'Red Alert'
  • Salad Leaves 'Baby Leaf'
I'm sure I pick some more seeds up on the way. Already have some saved seeds from a squash I bought at the shop, which I remember did pretty well the year before (green skin, orange flesh). Not much to do now for the rest of the year, other than sorting out the compost bins.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Autumn yet?

Didn't manage to post something last weekend when I was actually doing the work in the garden. It really felt autumnal then but of course the English weather threw a googlie this weekend with pleanty of sunshine and high temperatures.

Anyway last week I ripped up the tomatoes (damn that blight) and consigned the beans to non-harvesting mode (only waiting for beans for sowing next year now). Found a patty pan squash which had sprung up unnoticed. The only things that are left now are raspberries, kale, carrots, some beetroot (mainly for the leaves) and patty pan squash (I live in hope). I have some potatoes tucked away and a the world's tiniest Turk's Turban squash is growing up the fence.

Had a good browse through the seed catalogues and I think I got some ideas for next year...October is usually ordering month.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Winding down already?

Quick potter round the garden - mostly to get the tomatoes sorted out (the pink bowl is full of them). I pulled three of them up because they were rotting, the rest I am giving a bit more time in the ground. I'm very disappointed because they really looked good. I hope some of them at least ripen on the window sill.

It's been raining so much - crappy August for the veg, great for snails though. I am competing with them for everything. I had lots of raspberries during the week, so now there is jam too (the raspberry vodka was a great success). The beans are slowing down. Didn't get that many squash, just too wet. And just look at that surplus thyme and sage! What is noticeable though is that the weather is subtly changing - the garden year is definitely winding down.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Welcome back harvest

In my two-week absence it rained a lot which meant that all plants survived but unfortunately it also meant that a lot of the fruit either got mouldy, overripe or fell prey to the snails. Some beans will be left on the plant now to save for seeds. Nice trio of patty pan squash and a handful of colourful tomatoes.

Stained hands from raspberry picking - looks like I've been in a blood bath. Had some help picking them from the Girl but apparently "bugs squik her out". More fruit to save for later, although my freezer is getting full. I may have to look into alternative ways of preserving soon.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

A tomato and a squash


I've been wondering for a few days whether this tomato was ripe yet. I have decided today that it is :) Maybe I should have labelled the tomatoes instead of mixing them up, otherwise I would have realised a bit earlier that it was the variety "Orangeberry". Only a couple of the tomatoes have a really distinctive shape so I need to guess a little bit. Also, one of the patty pan plants finally decided to fruit (the Mixed ones; the "Pattison Orange" is not doing much at all other than flower).

In addition, I got more beans (now some being turned into salad and the rest frozen) and raspberries (I think they may actually deserve ice-cream to go with them). I could almost survive on my garden (especially if I kept a couple of chickens and, er, a cow...).

Saturday, July 30, 2011

End of July overview

Just a quick note on proceedings. I built some "cages" for the raspberries so they don't flop over so much (just some bamboo canes tied together). Harvested another bowl of blackberries and more beans. Other than that, everything is growing well and taking shape. The sunny weather also helps!

Saturday, July 23, 2011


About a third of the greengages got turned into jam, another third was given away and the rest is waiting to be chopped and frozen (for pies and perhaps more jam). I think I cooked it for a bit too long so it may be a bit more set than I prefer but it should taste ok. Yay jam!

Today I picked the rest of them from the tree (lost about half to roving snails eating them on the branches!). Very good harvest. Also picked blackberries which grow along the fence. And a handful of beans.

The blackberries along with some gooseberries I still had lingering in the fridge are now bubbling away on the stove for more jam. Raspberries should be next in line for harvesting and maybe I'll make more jam, but I think I may try my hand at raspberry vodka (basically just a lot of raspberries covered in vodka - easy!). Considering it takes me quite a while to get through a jar of jam, I may not need to buy any for at least six months (never mind vodka which has been in my freezer for at least a year).

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Greengage glut

Now what??!??? I have 5kg of greengages, still some more hanging on the tree! And of course I should have harvested them at least a week ago - because of their green bloom they are quite deceptive and don't look ripe.

Currently making jam, a friend is taking some off my hands tomorrow. I think I may surprise work colleagues with a few. Then tarts, pies, any more ideas???

Monday, July 18, 2011

Full of beans

Took the opportunity to run out into the garden between downpours to check on the pole beans ('Pantheon'). I've managed to pick a good handful of fairly large ones and in between picking and eating barely 30 minutes passed. So delicious! Lots more to come. Now I only need to stop them climbing along my washing line (or maybe I shouldn't?).

Somehow very soon I also need to slot in picking the greengages. I probably will only keep a few of them for eating right now and make jam with the rest. Hopefully it'll stop raining soon - no fun standing in the rain picking fruit!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Between harvests

I'm between harvests. It won't be far off but need to just wait it out. The raspberries have finished their first crop and are preparing for the second big push. If the weather is warm enough they'll grow surprisingly quickly. One or two beans should be big enough to pull off in a few days or so.

Still waiting for the tomatoes, cucumbers and patty pans. The tomatoes have at least set fruit (all six kinds of them, I'm just showing pictures of two of them) but no such luck yet for the rest. At least there's some flowering (even though I lost one of my cucumber plants on the way).

The big-if is the greengage tree, probably ready in about one or two weeks in my estimate. It's really hanging full, so much so that I propped up the main branch because it's bending over so much I feared it would snap. However, I think I may have a stealthy enemy. Some of the fruit are rotting on the tree. I'm not sure if it's the wet weather or it could be greengage sawfly. I will need to keep an eye on it.

In other news I "found" lots of salad potatoes to sow. And when I say I found I meant I forgot about them in my veg rack and then they sprouted. They should make a nice crop later in the autumn. I'm usually quite bad about planting veg for autumn and winter but this year I should have some winter squash, kale and these potatoes. Not quite self-sufficient but nice addition to buying food later in the year.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

raspberry harvest

Returned from my week's jaunt and everything is doing ok. Well, except the gooseberries - tiny caterpillars have managed to strip them more or less of all their leaves. However, it seemed to have rained enough that everything else looked lush.

It's amazing what difference a week can make. Before I went there were one or two raspberries that looked like they may be ripe soon but today I did my first substantial harvest. A good handful of nice big fruit. Which reminded me to get the last of the frozen raspberries out to use up before a new batch takes their place...

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Definitely a month ahead...

A longish post before I go away for a week and everything shrivels up - it's going remarkably well and the garden is a full month ahead.

The evidence: the first raspberries. I checked back over the blog and the last two years the first few ripened end of June/beginning of July instead of beginning of June.

Strawberries also ripening in the pot and I picked a couple - so sweet! I fear however that the snails are getting to them before I will, even the copper tape doesn't seem to stop them.

The squashes, cucumbers and tomatoes are growing well, too, although they could do with more watering. I ended up with three different kinds of cucumbers (lemon, ridge and "Delta Star F1" mini cucumber) alongside my six varieties of tomatoes (the first ones are now flowering). Patty pan squashes are only two varieties, to keep it simple ;)

In the other bit of veg garden there are the curly kale (starting to curl), the beetroot, carrots and leafy lettuce mix (need to remember to pick before it bolts) and the pole beans (getting there but no Jack and the Beanstalk material).

Overall the garden is looking very nice. Very "orderly" - veg on the left, flowers on the right. The level beyond the curved path hides more veg and flowers. Now I do hope that it rains a bit over the next week so it doesn't all die...

Saturday, May 21, 2011

May...or June?

This weather is crazy. It's been so warm and, especially, dry that everything is at least a month in advance. The kniphofia - Red Hot Poker - is already coming out and I have this feeling that all the flowers are going to be over and done with in a month. This is also bad news for the veg. I'm struggling to keep up with watering. One of the cucumber is really not looking happy. However, the germination of the lemon cucumbers was a bit hit-and-miss so there may be an underlying problem anyway. I also bought a ridge cucumber in the local shop today to see how that will do.

However, the gamble with the tomatoes and patty pan squash last month paid off. They are not that big yet but then again it's still early days. I spotted the first flower buds on one of the tomatoes today. I managed to mix them all up and didn't label them so it'll be a surprise when they ripen.

The herbs love this weather! The fennel, thyme, oregano and purple sage are nearly taking over!

The rest are also making progress. Kale (lost one to the snails), pole beans, and my rows of beetroot, carrots and salad mix are doing quite well. And just in case you are wondering - the bamboo BBQ sticks are cat defences.

So... all in all not bad but I wish it would rain now and again - overnight and then stop in the morning ;)

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Glorious spring and early planting

I'm chancing it this year by planting out my tender plants early - a bit risky before "Cold Sophie" (May 15th) - but the weather has been really clement and they may actually do better in the ground than in pots. I still have some cloches on standby should it really get cold (and also to keep the snails at bay).

So I have six different kinds of tomatoes:

Two different kinds of patty pan squash:

And cucumbers:

I also have some kale starting up, another cucumber and some chilli plants:

I have also direct-sowed white beetroot, carrots and mixed salad leaves. The pole beans "Panthenon" have also been planted. Not bad going for Easter weekend!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

First seedlings

All tomatoes and the patty pan squashes germinated nicely, although the seeds were a couple of years old at least. They are growing way too fast in the propagator so today I potted them on and they will be living in my mini-greenhouse from now on. It's going to be warm enough in there and much better light than on my windowsill. One of the cucumber seeds which is still in the propagator is already peeking through but potting them up will have to wait until next weekend.

I'm almost tempted to start sowing the carrots, rocket, beetroot, etc directly outside but previous years have taught me that I am a bit too overenthusiastic and they like it a touch warmer than I think it is. Even though we've had smashing spring weather recently, it still drops quite low overnight. (Just spotted a soil/compost thermometer on sale at Amazon for £2.85... may have to invest in that). The pelargoniums which overwintered inside have now moved outside for the summer (still have to watch for frost but they should be ok).

In preparation for the tomatoes this summer, I also investigated better canes. The tall bamboo canes are ok as a tripod for beans and cucumbers but they don't really work that well for holding up tomatoes. I saw some spirally metal ones in Germany some years ago but never spotted them here, until two weeks ago through Amazon. I ordered different sizes, two 1.8m ones, and four 1.2m. The beauty is that you can wind the tomatoes around as they grow and you shouldn't need any twine (in theory). Also, they are galvanised steel so should be able to prop up even a plant fully-laden with fruit (a major drawback of the bamboo which regularly bent over and snapped). And I think they look pretty, in a modern-industrial way :)

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Keeping the bay tree at bay

Years and years ago I planted a cute little bay, barely knee-high. Since then it has grown into a colossus. Two years ago I lopped off the top so it was about my height. Recently I looked at it again and I estimated it to be about 2.5 metres! I don't want to get rid of it, just tall enough to supply me with its leaves and not take over valuable growing space. Making the most of the weather today I trimmed it down to probably about 1 metre and cut back some of the side branches. Instantly, there seemed more room, more light...and more clippings than I knew what to do with. The bigger branches now form a sort of barrier against the back wall, rest went onto a heap by the side of the compost. Keeping with the clear-up I also trimmed some ornamental bushes, swept the deck and hunted down rogue seedlings from surrounding sycamores and ivy that is trying to invade my garden from next door. And then I had a nap, followed by coffee and cake :)

Saturday, March 19, 2011

More sowing

After last week's mega-sowing of tomatoes (Tomatoes 'Red Pear',‘Tigerella’, 'San Marzano', 'Costoluto','Orangeberry' and 'Ildi'), this week is was the turn of cucumbers ('Lemon'). For the tomatoes I used up some Suttons peat pellets whereas for the cucumbers I ordered some coir pellets. Let's see which does better but the peat pellets gave me some pretty good results last year. The handy windowsill propagator that the pellets go into keeps them warm enough and it's also pretty damn impossible to overwater them which usually encourages damping off. So hopefully really soon I should see the first signs of seedlings!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Seed list 2011

Just had a quick look through my box of seeds, gearing up for the new season. I still have loads of seeds left from last year which should still be good enough (germination rate won't be as good but then again it's worth a try).

So here is this year's list of contenders:

(Note to self: I will not over-sow. I will NOT over-sow).

  • Patty Pan Squash 'Pattison Orange'
  • Patty Pan Squash Mixed
  • Cucumber Crystal lemon
  • Tomato 'Red Pear'
  • Tomato ‘Tigerella’
  • Tomato 'San Marzano'
  • Tomato 'Costoluto'
  • Tomato 'Orangeberry'
  • Tomato 'Ildi'
  • Rocket Oakley (mixed with Mixed Leaves from the BBC Dig In project)
  • Carrot Chantenay Red (also from the BBC)
  • Climbing Bean Panthenon
  • Squash Turks Turban
  • Beetroot 'White'

I also have Kale Dwarf Green Curled on order, along with peat pellets which gave me very good results last year. I may also try and steal some seeds from the green-skinned pumpkin from the Turkish supermarket down the road ;) Now I just have to find a slightly bigger garden...