September 21

22nd September: The Autumn Equinox in the Northen Hemisphere, which this year coincides with the full Harvest Moon, which looks amazing in the clear skies: a huge glowing, orange ball. I thought you might enjoy this photo, which I took last night, across the sea from Yarmouth Pier on the Isle of Wight.  When it rose further, the colour paled, but it lit up the water across the Solent with a gorgeous peachy colour

As always though, here is Harvest Monday where we share what we have been able to gather in during the past week with other growers around the world

The colours of the vegetables being harvested are themselves starting to become more Autumnal, as you can see!

 

Purple Aubergines suffered a bit from being too dry, growing too close to massive Tomato plants, but still managed to provide enough fruit to be worth their space. I shall provide better conditions next year if I can!

 

Khol Rabi has thrived in the shelter of the polytunnel, and this beautiful purple variety looks stunning. Caterpillar had a good chew on the leaves, thanks to a sneaky Small White Butterfly that found its way in, albeit briefly. I managed to pick them all though, but the holes just expanded as the leaves grew!

 

Sweet Peppers and Green Aubergines are currently stored in the fridge, but will be used to make a batch of Ratatouille-style sauce next week. I have had discussions with other plot holders about the economic sense of growign Sweet Peppers, as in truth the crop is ofen very small ... is it worth the space is takes up? Well, I think it depends on the variety chosen, and how well the plants are fed. Gogorez certainly gives long branches of delicious red fruit, and a yellow one this year (I shall have to check the name) seems to have been reasonable. Next year they will be in pots up on the staging, to see if that improves the crop further by being slightyl warmer

The Green Aubergines have been prolific, but in reality are not the most flavoursome, so next year I shall grow a along green variety instead, alongside the usual purple ones, to see how they compare

 

I noticed a few Pears had fallen off the tree, so I picked them all, so they can ripen at home. This tree actually escaped having the blossom frosted whilst the other one suffered badly.

Had the first proper "pick" of Black Tuscany Kale this week, just delicious finely sliced in Macaroni Cheese!  I usually let it grow uncovered, and try to hand pick caterpillars and scare off pigeons, bu the difference in the quality of the leaves protected by that a nice tall net cage is definitely worth the effort! The Scarlet Kale growing alongside it is looking equally superb!

The Dalias are there as two fell out of the huge bunch I took home, so I put them in the water with the Kale leaves. Those other flowers follow .....

The Dahlias are stunning, especially in large numbers! This whole lot went to friends, so they could enjoy them too: there will be more next week, so it seemed sensible to cut as many as possible to share before I went away.

 

Basil has at last put on enough growth for some serious pesto-making on my return. Taking out the Tomato plants gave it much more light. This picking went into the last of the Tomato Sauce for the freezer

Other crops this week have included outdoor Tomatoes (Mountain Magic), Flat Leaf Parsley.Rocket.. and of course Cucumbers!!

Out On The Plots This Week:

On the recommendation of a friend, I bought in two large bags of mulch, as several beds' soil  could do with an extra feed of organic matter, and although I do have plenty of home made compost, I felt this was the year to really boost my soil on both plots. It works hard for me, and hopefully there will be enough to also feed the flower beds too. These are always last in line, and usually miss out altogther! It is Soil Association approved, so I feel confident I am not importing extra weed seeds or any non-organic "stuff" into my system

Before dressing any area though, it needs a thorough weed and a jolly good soak. First up was the bed for Autumn Onions and Garlic, which is now covered and ready to go. The Kale bed, and the Swede bed are now also looking wonderful! Next up will be the Leeks' bed, which will probably need a quick hoe over first, and the bed for Shallots and further Autumn Onions. Plenty to keep me busy. No wonder i haven't started pruning the fruit trees yet!!

In The Polytunnels This Week:

Two days of rain prompted me to get to grips with the under cover growing space, with plenty of weeding needed for sure! Tomato plants are now out, roots and all, and Aubergines are coming to the time when flowers set now are unlikely to develop ripe fruit, so they will not be staying much longer. The next lot of Khol Rabi plants are now planted out, plus a few very small Spring Cabbages (Flower of Offenheim), and the last lot of Winter Gem Lettuces too, along the edge of one of the beds. The plan is to move the tables used for strawberry growing inside to form a frame for staging, so I am trying to ensure nothing gets planted in the soil which will be directly under these by the time these will be in use next Spring.  I also added a good 5-6cm of mulch to this bed, as it the soil is feeling a bit "thin". I shall add some to other beds in turn, as I have plenty available now, and these are certainly hard-working areas of soil that produce a lot of food.

Cucumber production is definitely slowing now. The fruit I've left for seeds in the coming year had a tiny nibble on it, so I brought it home to finish ripening in the safetly of my kitchen: I didn't wan't to come back next week to find that a rodent had hollowed out the fruit and eatne all the seeds!

At long last there are ripening Chillies, which I can start to harvest on my return. It feels like they have been green for months!!

At Home This Week:

The Roses have found their second wind, looking very pretty in the garden, and the colour of the climbing rose Handel is offset beautifully againt the clear blue of the sky

 

This Summery look is deceptive though, as the garden is now moving into it's Autumn glory. The new Gaura plants I put in the sundial bed earlier in the year are now in flower, looking good next to the newly planted alpine pots, as you can see. Hopefully they will develop into large clumps over the next coupel of years, to be really spectacular. The Day Lilies seem to have faded away, but the Gaura more than make up for their absence. It is time to start planting Spring flowering bulbs, so I shall add something else for a spot of early colour. Not sure what yet, but plenty to choose from in my large box full!

I shan't be doing anything from the Jobs List this week, as I am enjoying a week away on the Isle of Wight, but it will still be there when I get home, probably extending itself too! Tree pruning is high on the priorities list, especially the stone fruit, as these need to be done while the sap is still moving ie before leaf fall, as this reduces any chance of Silver Leaf Disease finding its way in through the cut ends of branches. The large Plum tree at the plot certainly needs a drastic  haircut now, as it is too tall for me to be able to harvest all the fruit. I daresay this will result in a rash of "water shoots" and little fruit next year, but in the long run it will improve the tree's structure, and of course eventually allow fruit to be harvested more safely.

I shall be back next week, hard at work. In the meanwhile, enjoy the sights in your gardens and on your plot in some long awaited sunshine

The Fuchsia hedge is beautiful again this year, joined by a random branch of Pyracantha berries and the stalwart variegated Holly. Just thought you might like to see it!

info@alittlebitofsunshine.co.uk

 Comments and suggestions are most welcome, and I shall reply as soon as I can

And if you'd like to know more about Harvest Monday, look at

www.ourhappyacres.com

13th September - a few days of hot sunshine, a couple of heavy showers of rain, accompanied by lightning, and we are back to the overcast, mild weather, with soil that is still dry and crops slow to ripen. More of the same really.

It has been very odd Summer weather, with crops that really struggled, but some that flourished which usually do not. Every year is different, but most importantly, despite the big differences, enough is being harvested to provide plenty of variety to eat and to store

Let's look then at this week's harvest boxes: Harvest Monday

Damsons are prolific again, with plenty for Hedgerow Jam and Damson Gin, whilst Plums ahve been a rather meagre crop, with lots of them affected by Brown Rot, showing the typical orangy- brown pustules on the skin. I shall collect all of these and put them in the Council green waste hot composting to destroy the fungal spores. Those I have been able to harvest will be frozen for crumble filling

Blackberries are still being harvested, and the first of the Autumn Raspberries are now ripe. 

Cucumbers are slowing production slightly, picking three or four a day now: plenty to share with other plot holder for sure! More pickles are on the way, and now that the Dill is flowering, this can be added too.

French Beans, from the plants in pots, now have pods large enough to harvest, as they have a welcome second flush. This has made me determined to grow more of these next year, not just the three pots

This is the first time I have grown Japanese Greens, and they have proved to be tough enough to grow outside, alongside the Pak Choi, and i shall be gwoing more of this next year too

Another success has been Summer Cabbages. Growing alongside the Pak Choi, they have had enough water, and the netting has kept White Butterflies at bay. Those little black slugs made their way inside some of the leaves near the base though, as you can see in one photo here. A soak in cold salty water dealt with them though, and cutting out the area still left plenty of Cabbage to use

Pak Choi has been very successful, enjoying the cooler Summer, not growing flowering stalks but biulding up to a good size with plenty of leaves. 

Growing the under fine netting outside, and these were from a direct sowing, not transplanted from modules, protected them from Flea Beetle. Plenty of water though did attract small black slugs which damaged some of the outer leaves, but not enough to make the unfit to eat.

Runner Bean harvests have been good this Summer, especially considering I grew so few plants, ad I have plenty frozen for use during the colder months too. They are now finished, and with the Borlotti Beans that shared the frame also collected, it is time to take the frame down and prepare the bed for Early Potatoes next Spring

Carrots, whilst very welcome and tasty,are nowhere near as large as usual for this time in the year. It has been difficult to keep up with watering for so many months, and this is the outcome. However, I do have Carrots to enjoy, so it is not a disaster

Out On The Plots This Week:

With the arrival of a tonne of compost to enrich the soil, I have spent a long time barrowing it about and adding it to beds. The Potatoes are all out now, and that bed has well soaked, given a 5-6cm layer of compost, and some Blood, Fish & Bone, before being covered up for a couple of weeks, when it will be time to plant the Autumn Onion Sets and the Garlic

The beds where Kale and Swede are planted has also been mulched with the new compost. The soil is very firm, so the addition of a lighter layer will do no harm. The plants are all putting on plenty of leaves and now that the last of the caterpillar resulting from that Small White Butterfly getting into the polytunnel when they were growing on, they should do even better

Having had some help last week to move the bath, it spurred me on to get the area organised, and the bath filled with compost, ready for planting up. In my imagination, once the bulb display is over, Dwarf French Beans will sit there neatly for the Summer, dripping with tender pods, through into the Autumn

I have added a few Pansies to the Wallflowers in the troughs along the fence, which I hope will flower through the Winter and Spring, hopefully smelling gorgeous too. 

That leaves the wooden trough built on top of the side of the seating area. It needs a complete makeover, and I am looking forward to it looking beautiful again. Haven't decided what to plant yet, but something scented, and plants that flower through the Summer are what I am looking for, including someething that cascades, and will be able to stand up to the windy conditions at that height. Plenty to choose from!

In The Polytunnel This Week:

Cucumber production is now slowing down, and I can see that in a couple of weeks the plants will be coming out, or at least drastically thinned. 

The Everlasting Onion plants and the Pak Choi are noticeably larger, and those few Leeks that culdn't fit in the outside bed ar nearly large enough to harvest. I don't want them to stay in the bed too long, as the space is needed for the Khol Rabi still sitting in pots. Not quite sure where the Spring Cabbages will go, possibly where the Beetroot are currently. I am trying to keep the Brassicas together if I can. I also need to plan space for the Broad Beans and earliest Peas, both of which have proven very successful before

The Tomatoes are of course finished, the Aubergines are slowing down now, with shorter days, and at last some of the Chillies are starting to actually ripen. They are certainly much later than usual!

At Home This Week:

I seem to have spent a lot of time thinking of ways to use Cucumbers again! After last week's cake disaster, I avoided any baked goods, and instead focussed on preserves: Satsuma, Lemon and Cucumber Jam turned out better than you might think, and although sweet, could easily be added to Oriental-style stir fry sauces to add a cistrussy note. Tastes OK with cheese too!

The quantity of Tomatoes is reducing, as they are being used in all sorts of savoury dishes, which are then frozen such as a Chicken & Potato Curry (and other veggies can be added when thawed, prior to re-heating) and Courgette & Tomato Pasta Sauce... used up a couple of Courgettes too, which was helpful

I have not picked enough Blackberries in one go for making Christmassy, Bramble Jellt, so have been freezing them almost daily in batches to keep them fresh, and I shall make the jelly when time is less pressurised in the kitchen

The Apple and Blackberry Cake was delicious, despite me jugging with the red hot cake tin as I took it out of the oven, so half the cake slid out onto the floor!! Definitely an excellent recipe, which I shall be keeping here so I can find it again next year

A good sort out of the big kitchen freezer, has meant I have been able to organise all my "ready meals" in one place, which will make sure i see what is there to use them all.. Mince & Onions was the latest addition, helpfully using up a fair quantity of Onions that would not have stored for long

Next on the kitchen jobs list is sorting and storing the Potatoes as currently here are 14 kg sitting in buckets on the floor, rather in the way! Also, I don't wan them to start going green in the light. Smalle ones will be washed and dried, before going into trays in the vegetable cupboard, and larger ones put in thick brown paper bags in the garage. Damsons need some consideration too...

The never-ending Jobs are moving on, and are beginning to have a focus on preparation for the Autumn. I ordered bulbs for planting in the bath (that sounds weird!) as well as the pots in the front garden, where I shall also plant some bought-in small Chryanthemum plants for a bit of colour in the coming weeks

Tree pruning at the plot is becoming more urgent, and it is time to start taking down the bean poles, and preparing those beds for the next crops: Potatoes in the Spring. Manure will be needed to feed the soil, and then those beds can be covered

Leeks need mulching and covering with fine netting before the last generation of Leek Moths hatches

Preparation for the Onion & Shallot bed is needed, but I am having to wait a couple of weeks because there are still Pak Choi and Japanese Greens growing there, which I shall have to eat up

Planting out of Khol Rabi Spring Cabbage and Lettuce in the polytunnels, after the addition of some mulch for the soil, is the next job there, plus sowing Perpetual Spinach and Claytonia, which was very successful last year, and Winter Radishes, and perhaps a last sowing of Beetroot too

I won't be on the plots next week, but on the beach in Sandown or on Yarmouth Pier fishing, but wifi permitting , I shall add an update as to how things go in this week coming. 

Email access was eventually restored, and I am now up to date with correspondence, so thank you for your patience there. I do try and respond to any queries or comments asap, so hopefully service as usual will now resume!

info@alittlebitofsunshine.co.uk

 Comments and suggestions are most welcome, and I shall reply as soon as I can

And if you'd like to know more about Harvest Monday, look at

www.ourhappyacres.com

6th September - As we bask in glorious sunshine, all I can think is that I shall have to water things even more for the next few days. Temperatures are unseasonably hot, apparently the hottest Autumn for 100 years forecast, and Winter crops planted out now are not really able to cope without additional irrigation. At least the weed growth has slowed down a bit, so I might be able to catch up there. Just another oddity to add to an already very unusual year out on the plots. 

Harvesting is gradually slowing, with Tomatoes of course now finished after the blight attack, and even the Cucucmbers are slightly fewer each day. Runner Beans have finished too ... I did only grow six plants and I have enough in the freezer to last a while now anyway. Plenty of other harvests to keep me busy, so let's take  alook at what I have brought home this week:

Harvest Monday, where we share with others around the world what we have grown to eat this week..link to Our Happy Acres at the end, where Dave kindly hosts this weekly run down. First up this weekly run down

First up are some crops shared by my neighbour, who grew up in Nepal: Mustard Greens (which I grow as an over-Wintering crop in the polytunnel, and Dill. Not however, Dill as I grow it, for the seeds, which I use to add to pickled Cucumbers, but the soft young growth, harvested as a whole plant in bunches. This she then adds to stir fry towards the end of cooking, especially when it includes Mustard Greens, to offset the heat of the Mustard during digestion. And jolly good it is too! I alos rathe liked it added last minute to Tomato and Onion pasta sauce. I shall give over a square metre to this little herb next year for sure . Once a row has been pulled up, Battu re-sows, so the Dill patch lasts all Summer like this. Another idea I shall be borrowing!

Also in the photo are Blackberries, which were converted to several pounds of Blackberry and Apple Jam earlier today. My brother had been reminiscing about our Mum's jam, and how it had chuncks of Apple in it, whereas most seems not to be like this, so I made it with eating apples rather than Bramley's which of course cook down to fluff, not able to be detected in the jam. 

And of course the ever-present Cucumbers. I have given away at least 20 this week, but still have enough to have a laarge bowlful salted, ready for pickling tomorrow. I have left one to ripen completely to a cream colour so that I can save seeds for next year. This West Indian one is not  a hybrid like the smooth F1 Divas I am also growing, so should come true from seed. There should be plenty!

Plums are ripe now, so I shall be harvesting as many as I can reach in the coming week. MY lot-neighbour Joe has been using one of those apple-harvesters on a long pole, so I shall have to find the one we had. Goodness knows where it is, but there are a limited number of spots to search ie the garage at home or the big metal shed on #145. Abi must have put it in one or the other

And I am still digging up Potatoes. The ground is like concrete so it is really hard going, and i ma attempting a short row every day. Today saw some small Jazzy, small Kestrels (most larger ones have alreday been dug up) and a few of the remaining International Kidney. I couldn't resist checking out the maincrop Setantas, and the couple I dug up, whilst not huge, were large enough to use for roast Potatoes during the Winter thank goodness

All those smal ones will be washed clean, dried, and then stored in the dark of the kitchen cupboard, so that I can easily add them to anything I am cooking without any further preparation. If I leave them in the bag out in the garage, they all fall to the bottom and eventually start to sprout again, so are wasted. This way, they get used and are a quick and easy welcome addition to all sorts

Other crops this week have included Rocket, Lettuce leaves, Courgettes,Radishes, and French Beans

Out On The Plots This Week:

The main focus has been on ensuring the ground is ready for new crops to be planted out. The manure delivered last week has mostly been added to the bed where Cauliflowers are now growing. I hope that , as it was so well rotted, the roots will come to no harm. So far the plants look very perky: long may this last.

They are planted a good way apart, as this variety, Aalsmeer, can grow quite large, bt to make use of this space in the meanwhile, I planted out some of the larger Pak Choi alongside them. They should grow quickly and will soon be eaten. Growing these under fine netting reduces the chance of damage from Flea Beetle, as well as protecting the Cauliflowers from butterly and pigeon predation

I daresay a whole crop of new weeds will come up, imported via the manure, but the hoe will be at the ready. The last thing I need are need is weed species spreading seeds of their own!

The single Tromboncini Squash is still lengthening, although it won't be long before it starts to ripen and change colour. The other Squashes have been really poor this year. I made the mistake of growing mostly Butternuts, which haven't had any female flowers. It is possible that the bed they are in is slightly too shady for them, although several other growers are also finding their harvests are not very good either. Can't win them all!

Further along the same bed are the Celeriac, which as you can see from the header photo, are beginning to bulk up. I am giving them a lot of water and now that I have some (ran out!) I shall give the soil a little sprinkle of Blood, Fish and Bone tomorrow, which I hope will provide them with a boost

The bed given over to wild flowers has been cut back, except for the Teasels, and the seed heads added to our Meadow behind my plots, to try to increase the species growing there: Red Campion, Ox-Eye Daisies, St John's Wort, Birds' Foot Trefoil, White Campion and Toadflax.Foxglove seeds have already been broadcast in the area under the edge of the trees, so I am hoping at least some of them survive

One success though has been these Pelargoniums, which I grew from seed this year. They are on a table near the table and chairs and add a cheerful splash of colour. Really pleased with them, as I have never had any success with seed-sown plants before.

I shall be over-Wintering them in the greenhouse at home, perhaps with a couple on the kitchen windowsill to enjoy too

Another surprise success has been the Dwarf French Beans growing in florists' buckets. Thes cropped well early in the season, and have continued to be regularly watered as they are alongside the herb troughs, and i noticed this week that they all have lots more flowers growing. Flowers equal more beans of course, so I am really pleased to see them. I shall grow some of these in buckets again next year, maybe a few more too, as they are proving their worth

In The Polytunnel This Week:

The area I cleared last week by removing Onions, is now filled with more small Pak Choi, which should provide continuity when the all ones outdoors have been harvested, and the new Evergreen Bunching Onions to over-Winter

You can see the recently planted-out Lettuces behind them, which are now large eough to harvest individual leaves

The rampant West Indian Cucumber plants are still producing fruit, and have now covered the adjoining row of Carrots with their leaves. The Carrots will be fine in the soil though, so that is not too much of a worry. I am trying to make sure none of the fruits are actually lying on the ground, by either tying the stems up onto the tunnel frame, or setting tiles underneath them. I am going to wrap some wire mesh around the one being kept for next year's seed, to try to dissuade rats from trying to eat the seeds. I don't want to pick it yet, as the seeds may not yet be fully developed

We do have a huge outbreak of rats on site right now, mainy due to all the surrounding fields having been used for camping during the Reading Festival last weekend. The big fences came down today, the rubbish is now cleared away, so we are all hoping lots of ratty families will now go back home. Lots mights stay, as there is always plenty for them to eat, so we shall have to be vigilant in trying to protect our crops

At Home This Week:

I have to say that the Cucumber Cake wasn't the best thing I have ever made, and won't be repeated, although it looked pretty, so the next experiment will be a jam containing Oranges and Lemons as well as Cucumbers . Hope it is better than the cake!

Blackberry & Apple Jam I've already mentioned, and the new freezer is earning its space the garage with more Tomato sauces there now.

The Tomatoes in the stacked trays on the kitchen floor are ripening nicely, including the San Marzanos, which I shall use for passata

Jobs are pretty much the same as last week really, all about getting those beds ready for new crops as it will soon be time to plant Onion Sets, Garlic and Shallots, and their beds-to-be still have Potatoes and Summer Cabbages in them. Other beds, as they are cleared, will be soaked and covered for the Winter months, and some, alreay planted up, need to be kept reasonably weed free

Oh, and Apple trees need pruning

Say it quickly, it doesn't sound too bad really, does it?

Thank you for reading this again, and I aim to be back next Monday to share what has gone onduring the coming week...often quite different to what is planned!

PS So sorry I have been unable to respond to any emails at all since last Wednesday as I cannot access my mailbox. Teccies are working on it, so as soon as I can, I shall sit down and catch up with them all

info@alittlebitofsunshine.co.uk

 Comments and suggestions are most welcome, and I shall reply as soon as I can

And if you'd like to know more about Harvest Monday, look at

www.ourhappyacres.com