September 2019

16th September - Still dry as a bone round here, but now I know where all the rain is: up in Yorkshire! After spending a few days staying with friends in Wetherby, I realised their ground is not dust dry like it is here, and it even rains real rain, not just a sprinkle that evaporates before it even has a chance to soak in. The effort it took to dig up the rest of the maincrop potatoes this afternoon  beggaars belief. Somehow it seems even drier than last Summer

Having been away, had a family wedding and a birthday celebration, I really haven't had time to do as much as I should have this week, but it is head down for the next couple of weeks to try to get things in better shape as we move into Autumn. 

Before we start the usual look at the week's harvests, I need to explain the header picture. Right back in the Spring I gave my daughter's family a Tromboncino plant (needless to say mine then chose not to grow at all) and it obviously was well cared for because just look... a squash almost as tall as an 11 year old dressed in a velvet shark suit on her birthday! What a sight the two of them make together!!!

OK. My harvests are not really as interesting as that squash, but for what they are worth, here is my contribution to Harvest Monday. In case  any of you don't realise, there is a small group of growers from around the globe who come together each week to share photos of our harvests, be they good, poor or indifferent, hosted by Dave's site Our Happy Acres. The link is always there at the end of  my blog, should you want to take a look.

 

A first for this year are Pears: Williams Bon Chretien, which ripens well on the tree. This is the whole extent of the crop this year, as the blossom at the top of the tree was frosted in the Spring but one little low down branch escaped. Very good they are too. The top of the Concorde tree in the garden snapped last year under the weight of fruit, so currently there are are no pears to pick, but the trees at the plot do have a few fruits to look forward to

 

 

These are the maincrop Potatoes that were such difficult digging. They are a bit of a mishmash, with some Pink Gypsies that got ledt behind form the first digging, some rather nice Setantas, and lots os small and knobbly dark skinned tubers, which are from the blue and red unnamed varieties the gardn children were given at the Potato Day back in January. In a better year, these may have been a good crop, but less than ideal water levels, they didn't do too well. BUT just look at the Setanta tubers, big baking potato sized ones, growing with the same amount of water as the others. They are on the list again for next year for sure!

Other crops have certainly slowed down. The outdoor Tomatoes are ripening slowly, with enough this week for some pasta sauce and additons to salad, Aubergines are almost at a full stop, Cucumbers on a go-slow, and Courgettes just about keeping up with a couple a week. Definitely moving in Autumn

'Dahlias are doing all alright though! I was especially pleased to see this yellow and red one in flower at last. I was beginning to think that it may have been a casualty last Winter, as due to not lablleing them securely I didn't know which was which when I planted them. One or two had dried out and so weren't planted, but I was glad this one had survived.

On the Plots:

Lots of the beds are looking a bit sad now, a bit weedy and very dry. Voles have stripped the leaves from most of the savoy cabbages and calabrese on '#145, which is disappointing, but so far the brassicas on #146 have escaped their attention. Plot neighbours are also finding these litttle rodents a real pest this year, as their numbers seem to have built up again. Climbing beans are finished, and the only crops that seem to be alright are carrots, hopefully parsnips (I haven't dug any yet to see, but there are plenty of leaves) and lettuces

The strawberry plants in the growbags and troughs on the table are struggling now in the wind and sunshine. Their older leaves do naturally die off at this time in the year, so I cut off all the ones which had turned red, to reduce the amount of water the plants are losing through transpiration. They do look much better and at least If I can't get to water them every day are now more likely to survive

  • Lots of the leaves had already turned red

  • So I cut these and any stray runners right off

The cherry tree we planted ten years ago is far from  as dwarf as it was described on the label,  and is now far too large for the space, heavily shading three of the vegetable beds and of course sucking up gallons of water too. With some much appreciated help from a plot neighbour, the job of crown lifiing is underway, and you can already see the different some work with the loppers has made. Removing that lpwer ring of bri=anches will improve things further, and then I can top prune it in the same way I do each September. Hopefully the work will be finished by the end of the week

In the Polytunnels:

A mole has taken up residence in the bed where the new brassica plants are, so I shall be moving one of the mole scarers in, hoping that it will get enough light to stay charged, and make its noisy underground vibrations. I tread the ground down every day but it is not ideal for developing roots. 

 

 

And that really is all I can offer this week. I couldn't resist taking this picture of a Peacock butterfly on this gorgeous yellow buddleia. I have tried several times to grow one of these plants from cuttings, but without success. There were several of them in full flower in a garden near Wetherby.which reminded me how much I like them: maybe I shall try to find one to buy, as it would be lovely in the garden at home.

And if you'd like to check out Harvest Monday posts from other bloggers, the link is below.

 shall be back next week, a little further forward in preparations for the end of the year I hope

My contact email is

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/

9th September  - a glut? No, not quite!! Plenty to bring home, and so far there is a use for everything! The Gherkins and Cucumbers have suddenly produced fruit, and I have made four jars of Pickled Gherkins and two of Dilly Cucumber Pickle (Recipe in Pickled 2017 October)

Harvest Monday does have plenty of interest:

Let's start with Tomatoes  The plants in the polytunnel have totally succumbed to Late Blight, so they have all now been removed. The San Marzanos hung on the longest, and there were 8 really nice ones to pick.

The others have all been harvested from the plants outside, and will make a decent amount of sauce for bottling.  I was beginning to think I wouldn't have enough tomatoes to make even one bach this year, so I am quite relieved that both fridge drawers are full of bright red tomatoes!

Then there are Diva Cucumbers, which seem to be incredibly slow this year. I have picked 8 this week, giving enough for Dilly Piackles as well as eating fresh

I had planned to pick the Gherkins when they were really small, but there seemed to be hardly any ready at the sae time. Picking them larger and slicing them gives much more volume to work with,and two plnts seems about right after all

Courgettes are still very slow to produce fruit, and I am glad to have that single Parthenon in the polytunnel, as if it were left to the plants outside there would be a distinct lack! I made a Courgette and Banana cake this week, with much less sugar that usual, and it turned our to be quite good.

Sweet Peppers are now beginning to ripen, and I picked one nice red one this week: Marconi Long. I shall have to take away some of the Coriander around them to make sure they get sufficient light and air now

Aubergines have been going along well until a cold spell, when they stopped flowering. It is not lack of food. There are still lots of immature fruits though, so all is not lost. I shall use the ones I picked this week for making Indian-style pickle

Lettuce is still available, and these crispy curly ones lend themselves to harvesting leaves as they are needed, although this one was quite small so I cut the whole plant

Other harvests include Coriander leaves and green seeds, Dill, both leaves and flowers, Rosemary and Carrots

And I have also cut several bunches of Dahlias and small flowers Sunflowers too. The sunflower plants blew down in the recent high winds, but are continuing to flower at ground level, which also makes them easy to pick

Early Apples are ripening now, so I am picking over the Discovery tree quite often, to try to ensure ripe fruit doesn't just fall off onto the ground. Thinning the young fruit down earlier in the Summer does seem to have paid off as there are lots of good-sized apples now

On the plots I am still gathering windfall Lord Derby apples. Most of these that fall have some internaal maggot damage, but they can still be chopped and used for all sorts. Blackberry & Apple compote has been one this week.

On the Plots

Apart from watering and harvesting,, I have done very little outside this week. The ground is still too dry for seed sowing, and although i am itching to get going with the cuttung flower bed, I don't think anyhting much would surviev right now.

I have been trying to work out where each crop will be planted next season, so that soil preparation can get underway. There is plenty of compost and manure, but I need to make sure I add it where it is will be most beneficial

 

In the Polytunnels:

I may not have done all that much out on the plots this week, but I have really cracked on under cover. All the old Tomato haulms are out now, and the soil in the borders where these grew, and where the Onons were, has had the compost from the potato barrel incorporated, together with some Blood, Fish and Bone

Now, one complete bed has been replanted: Spring Cabbage, Khol Rabi, Tenderstem Broccoli and Dwarf Green Curly Kale are all neatly in the ground. A few chicken manure pellets in each planting hole should help them on their way to growing new leaves

 

 

At home in the garden, I have revisited the bramble situation and cut out half a bin full of wayward growth. I am determined not to let it get so bad again,

My son and his wife kindly pulled out masses of waterplants from the garden pond, meaning the fish have plenty of open water to swim about in now. It is really nice to be able to see them again. There is enough weed left to provide Winter cover for the fish, amphibians and invertebrates that live there.  I shall have to deal with the little pond at the plot

And there I shall stop. I hope your harvests are going well.. thank you for reading and for so many kind comments. I really appreciate you taking the time

My contact email is

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/

2nd September _ Our local Horticutural Show came around all too soon this year, and as always it was abit of a rush to get things ready. Unlike other years though, I only entered a few Classes. It did sem a little bit weird doing it without Abi, but all my granddaughters entered all the Children's Classes, as well as one or two of the Open Classes, and my Daughter-in-Law entered some of the Craft Classes, so I had plenty of company. 

I was delighted that those Blue Belle potatoes grown on behalf of Abi came good. It was a terrfifc crop from five tubers, but as always, finding five that matched, not only in shape and size but markings too was a huge challenge. There is always a really good group of four, or a set of three, but five.... a different story!

They were grown in a tree tub, in a mix of multipurpose comost and local recycled green waste, with an open-ended bottle upside down in the centre to aid even watering. Thye had a coupe of feeds of blood, Fish & Bone through the season, and the haulms were still green, albeit straggly, when I came to harvest them. They certainly fared better than the tubers in the ground, mainly I suspect because they were better looked after!

These were some of the best sized carrots I have ever harvested, and they were grown in the ground too, not in boxes or barrels. As lots of you will remember, I sowed both F1 Primo and open-pollinated Nantes 5 alongside each other, to see which gave the better value, as the hybrid seed was twice the price for half the seed. These are Primo, and they have done well, even getting proper "stumped" roots

This was what was dug from 2m of row, together with a box of twisty "soup carrots", which have already mostly been eaten. Once I have dug the Nantes, a proper comparison can be made, but right now it looks like they will hve to go some to beat these. The flavour was very good indeed too: a friend who I shared some with commented they smelt as good as a bouquet of flowers, and they certainly are richly carrotty!

The Onions are Showmaster, and although they have not done as well as the Globos last year, lots of growers are saying onions have not been as large, so perhaps it is not a fair comparison. One was big enough to win the Heaviest Onion at 786g: last year's entry was more than twice that weight though 

Growing them in the protection of the polytunnel not only prevented damage from insect pests but gave some shelter from the baking heat of the sun too, and more even soil moisture

The biggest surprise of all were the green peppers. Last year, almost every entry in the "Any Other Vegetable Class" was a chilli of some kind or another, the committee agreed to  add another Class this season for Capsicums. As a family, we felt we should support this, and my daughter and her children entered five different varieties, but when I came to harvest the previously very reliable Cherry Bombs, they were not fit to put on the bench, I quickly cut a few of the Long Marconi peppers, sorted out three that were similar in size and shape and in they went... Best Vegetable in Show!!

 

Here are some of the Children's entries: Floating Flowers

 and the Muffins

The two youngest cousins shared the Junior Cup, and the closely contested Senior Cup was won by our ten year old, who was also awarded a First for her Pickled Chillies in the Open Preserves Classes. Her older sister excelled in the Open Art Classes, with a first and a second for her terrific drawings. So good to see them enjoying the day, and then on the way home planning what they might do next year. I can see my long standing success with the Fothergill Cup for the Best Pot Plant Grown From Seed is going to have some serious competition from here on! 

 

 

 

 

Usually I enter almost all of the Flower Categories, but this year In only put in some dahlias:  three matched blooms

and five mixed blooms (one seems to have slipped down in the vase as the afternoon wore on!)

which, coupled with the single bloom over 17cm being awarded a First, was enough for the Dahlia Cup. Really pleased as I have never won this before, and Dahlias were one of Abi's favourites. he would have been delighted!

I grow vegetables to eat and flowers to enjoy, rather than specially for showing, bu it is certainly a good feeling seeing the best of harvests for the time in the year displayed on the benches... a great way to celebrate some of the successes of the season alongside other growers.