June 2017

Red Epicure Broad Beans

19th June - Ever so warm out there! We have been restricting our time at the plot to early morning, avoiding the hottest part of the day... it was 33°C as we set off back home at 10:30 am today. Now that's hot!!! I have to make sure anything we harvest is gathered just before we come home, or it wilts so quickly.

Plenty to share for Harvest Monday though:

First up to the table are broad beans. Last week I forgot to photograph the podded beans. They are a variety called Red Epicure, and they are not only pretty but delicously sweet too. Four or five beans to a pod may not be a heavy crop but I think they are worth the space and will grow them again next year. They have cropped well ahead of the Wizard beans too, which I hope means a bit of a succession there. Half of these we ate lightly buttered, and the rest will be made into a kind of hummus to have on toast with soft goats cheese and parsley.

Nominator carrots and the broad beans

The carrots are pretty good too, and have been a feature in our roast dinner as well as salads. The second sowing is coming along nicely, and a decent soak once a week should keep them growing. Usually I sow a third crop too around the end of June, but this year I think I'll sow them in the tunnel instead, in a deep polystyrene box. Not sure how that'll work exactly, but I'm going to give it a go

This will leave some space outside, and the plan is to sow mooli there, as the fine mesh will keep flea beetles away from them. A bit of blood, fish & bone and they'll be good to go in a week or two. I grew these for the first time last year as an experiment, and had a small crop from those few seeds, so looking forward to some good roots in the nice light, stone free soil of that carrot bed!!

Strawberries & Raspberries

The great strawberry experiments have been a success: the variou cloches pressed into service have deterred rodents or birds from eating the fruit, and the plants moved into troughs in the polytunnel also came up trumps. Usually I look enviously others' strawberry harvests, but this year we have had a bumper crop of our own!!

We have had strawberries and cream for pudding most evenings, as well as a couple of rather good strawberry cakes and a batch of strawberry vodka is infusing away on the dining room table (Recipes in Tab as usual)

All our plants seem to be mid season varieties, so I shall be on the look out in the Autumn for some rooted runners of early ones to add to the selection, especially now we have the polytunnel. I should mention that once the plants have finished fruiting, they will have  drastic haircut and go back outside until next Spring. They do need a period of cold to form flower buds and are perfecty happy outside in all weathers

We also have raspberries, which is amazing considering we thought we had dug up all the canes of this Summer variety. They had been planted far too close together, and gave such poor crops we decided to do away with them and just keep the Autumn Polkas, whih is usually superb.

They had their own ideas though, and runners came up in all sorts of places in the fruit cage. I let them be as I was pretty busy, then forgot about them until I spotted they were covered in flower buds... and now of course covered in fruit, thanks to all those bees working away. The fruit is not large, but raspberry ripple icecream won't mind that! Plus a few to just eat of course!!

I shall just cut out the canes when they have finished fruiting and let the fresh new green ones take their place ready for next year.

We have also had some other vegetables this week: cabbage, lettuce and beetroot ...

We dug up all the Garlic this week, and it is neatly tied in bunches to dry. The heads are a decent size, with the white ones larger than the red. Both lots were un-named varieties from Wilko, and certainly excellent value! We use garlic in lots of our cooking, so this will last us a while I think.

 

I alos dug up the Elephant Garlic. I bought some cloves from the Garlic Farm on the Isle of Wight last year, and they were certainly worth the 80p each. Really huge, just right for roasting!

 

Elephant Garlic roundels and pips

Some of the smaller cloves I planted developed into roundels, rather than splitting to make a head of new cloves. I shall replant these in the Autumn as I think they should then grow into full sized heads for this time next year.

If you look at the photo above, you can see there are small "pips" growing on the sides of some ofthe heads, especially the one oerlapping the edge of the tray where it is easily visible. These grow as offshoots from the rootplate and eventually separate, to grow on their own.

As we have plenty of space, I shall line these out in the Autumn and see how they do. Maybe roundels rather than heads, but I'd be happy with that. Cost is zero and some of them might grow!

Three other vegetables we have harvested this week are: cabbage, beetroot and lettuce:

  • This really is the last of the Greyhound Spring cabbages, as the remains of the plants came out today, to be replaced with some chilli plants there was no space for in the tunnel. They will be glad to get out of the pots!

  • Not grown orange beetroot before: these were sown under a cloche late March and were delicious roasted whole, with a sweet and earthy flavour: a Victorian variety called Burpee's Golden. More have already been sown

  • This frilled lettuce grew huge! It was a scrappy bit of a plant left over from a cut-and-come-again tray given to me by a friend, and I am glad I planted it.. look at it now! Those trays give you lots of plants so are very good value

We also harvested the first two courgettes, both from Sure Thing, but since then both the Lungo Bianco plant and the Coucouzella have one each days away from picking. I shall have to photograph them, as the green ones have already been eaten. 

Spring Onions are still around too, and I noticed this morning that the remains of the White Lisbons have developed nice little white bulbs, just right for adding to mixed pickles!!

And we are picking mangetout almost daily, to add raw in to salads, sliced in stir fry or steamed lightly as a side vegetable

And that is the end of our harvests for this week.. definitely moving into Summer veggies now!

It has been too hot to do all that much, although Abi did find the energy this morning to dig  a trench in the bed where the Autumn onions resided, and fill it with manure ready for the last three squash plants that are still sitting in five inch pots in the garden.

We have mainly been tidying up at home, potting various flowers on into final pots and cutting the hedges .. no birds nests, don't worry. My big job has been thinning the apples, as one of the trees at home was so laden with baby fruits the branches were bowing down already. I managed two trees before I had to come inside!

One of the glories at this time in the year is the Philadelphus plant, which used to be our friend Pier's pride and joy. When he sadly passed away, his wife Kate asked us to give it a good home, and it does seem to like its spot! Its perfume wafts across the garden, and this year a long branch has made its way up into one of the apple trees, which gives us a head-height view of the beautiful flowers. So Kate, thank you for this plant and the memories it always holds for us

This year is really great for roses, they seem bigger, brighter, more floriferous and more strongly perfumed, somehow! 

I began this week's post sharing a picture of our Sharifa Asma rose outside our backdoor at home. It is strongly scented with what I can only descibe as the smell of Turkish delight. We cut it back hard last Spring, and look how it has responded. 

Sweet peas are also blooming now, another flower with a beautiful summery scent, and vases of them sit around our house: these are the ones I cut earlier in the week, together with cornflowers and some pinks!

Thank you for reading: your comments are much appreciated ... always good to know there are actual people out there!!

Maybe next week we shall be able to pick some peapods ....

If you'd like to read more about Harvest Monday, have a look here at Dave's hosted pages:

http://www.ourhappyacres.com/

and if you would like to contact me, you're very welcome, on:

info@alitttlebitofsunshine.co.uk

and I'll get back to you as soon as I can

12th June -   Well, blow me down!   The weather has been far from seasonal, with gale force winds blowing down two of our apple trees on #146 and giving the peas and broad beans a 45 degree lean. We hauled the trees back up straight, although sadly had to saw off two branches from the largest as it was very lopsided. Guy ropes and stakes seem to have done the job, thank goodness and there is hopefully no lasting damage. The rest of the week has ben windy, but nowhere near as strong. I had no idea our new polytunnel would creak so much!!

As you can see from the header photo, we have had a good range to harvest this week, so Harvest Monday commences with:

Carrots: Plenty of Nominators left and they are very sweet to eat. These ones went into a stir fry and ones from ealrier in the week were grated for salad

Lilia Spring Onions: I like that these bulb up when left in the ground and they are a pretty additon to tuna salad, making small onion rings, as well as great sliced on the diagonal in stir fries

Mangetout: the Indian Golden Podded and green Kent Blue are still flowering away, producing harvestable pods almost daily, despite the plants getting a bit squashed when I fell onto them last week

 

Elderflower Champagne ingredients percolating

Elderflowers: This is the last of them for this year, as the remaining flowers are developing berries now. This batch went straight into the Elderflower Champagne bucket (Recipe to follow shortly). I shall be bottling it later today. Let's hope for no explosions!

Globe Artichokes: These were a gift from our plot neighbour, who generously said to help myself. I didnlt need tellign twice and so came home with half a dozen small heads. After I had prepared and cooked them, there really was very little to eat. It answered that question as to whether we should grow our own next year with a resounding "No!". For the few times in the year we want to eat artichoke hearts, they are inexpensive to buy in olive oil. The flowers are pretty though!

Salad greens: This week we have had lettuce (Black seeded Simpsons and frilly red ones) beetroot leaves, nasturtium leaves and flowers and calendula flowers as well as onion green.

and best of all, enough Strawberries to do something with, not just eat them at the plot! There is a large punnetful awaiting attention, so strawberry cake will be on the menu tomorrow! The plants I dug up and moved to the polytunnel in window boxes survived, so now there are five window boxes and three pots of strawberries on the staging, giving us succulent fruit almost every day. I have put cloches over some of the random plants that have take root in the  paths, and this deters rodents very well... more fruit for us!

There have been twwo new vegetables this week: Broad beans and courgettes. Technically a courgette, although there are more almost ready. 

After last year's fiasco, when the rats had a party in the middle of the bean patch, leaving us with very little, I am determined that we shall eat this year's crop, not the uninvited guests! When I checked, several pods clearly had large enough beans in them to eat, so I picked them off straight away. I should have taken a photo of the beans themselves, as they were a pretty pinky colour (Red Epicure) but i hope there will be more soon, so I shall try to remember. Very, very tasty!

A mix of sliced red spring onions, courgette and braod beans with parsley was a great accompaniment to last night's dinner.

And that is the end of this week's edible harvests

Although we do have lots of flowers to cut and enjoy at home. One of our aims for this growing season was to  increasing the diversity and quantity of flowers to cut. Seems to be going well so far, although the new large cutting bed on #145 is very much a work in progress. In fact it is the weediest bed out of all of them on either plot! However, cornflowers, white love-in-the-mist, pinks, phaecelia, sweet peas, sweet williams, fever few, red hot pokers and the frothy yellowy-green flowers of Alchemilla mollis, is a decent selection.

And then there are the roses... what more can I say? Just look at these! Their perfume is gorgeous and there is such a wide range of pinks and reds to choose from ... makes me smile every time I come indoors and see them

This week we have made real progress with weeding (Except that dreadful Cutting bed of course!) and the plants are far more visible as a result. The courgette bed, with its accompanying lettuce, sunflowers, dahlias and verbena, is looking much more purposeful, and the self sown candytuft is almost in flower, which is an added bonus. There are three different varieties of courgette: Longo Bianco, Sure Thing and Coucourzella, and their leaves all look quite different. Lots of baby female flowers developing in their centres now, which is promising.

Pak Choi in their tray

Abi dug lots of manure into the squash bed, as they are such greedy plants, and they were duly planted out this morning. Given how windy it is, with much hotter weather forecast for later in the week, I erected a tunnel of debris netting over them to give some protection until their roots have settled in and are functioning properly again. From experience, they can wilt quite badly when first planted out if conditions are challenging, so a little TLC seemed a good idea. Eight plants in a bed 5m x 1.2m is a bit of a squeeze but I have set the rootballs at slight angles in the soil to encourage them to grow in the direction I'd prefer... who know if it'll work!

I also planted some Pak Choi. I have had little success with this outside in the Summer, as it doesn't really like the heat so grows flower stalks in protest, ith the added issues of pigeons pecking at the leaves and flea beetles biting little holes in them, to say nothing of the attention slugs give them. So iI have planted them in a deep tray so they can stay in the shade, with a plastic mesh mushroom tray upended over them to protect them from pigeons (removed in this phot so you can see the plants) I can but try!

 

Hoping for cucumbers that look like this!

As I said, most of the week has been spent weeding at the plots. The onions and swede are now free of their embrace, at least for a while, and the carrot bed is immaculate. I weeded this last very quickly, but I think carrot fly would find it difficult to fly anywhere in this wind, never mind head towards the enticing smell of carrot leaves! I noticed a parsnip in amongst them which is quite funny given how difficult it has been this season to get parsnip seed to germinate, The last lot sown is coming up quite well now, thank goodness, and is another bed where weeds are not allowed to survive overnight!

The two potato beds on #145 are now thistle-free. I've found if you pull them slowly and gently the whol of their long root comes out, which means they are not going to re-grow. I fhte root breaks off, then back they come, making a nice prickly clump to deal with

I did manage to find a sheltered space to put up a small piece of trellis and plant my new Lemon Cucumber plant, which was a present from our daughter. There are tiny cucumber flowers growing in the leaf axils, so I hope it likes it's new home and nice rich compost

The greenhouse at home has been transformed from a plant nursery to a growing space again, with some Aubergine plants in pots, and three tomato plants and a Telegraph cucumber growing in the bed. The Aubergines will soon need larger pots. There are some smaller varieties of chilli in pots son the stagin on the other side, out of view

And to end this week, I am sharing a photo of one of the world's most intrepid international travellers: a Painted Lady butterfly. This small insect has flown here from North Africa, so can be forgiven for looking  alittle ragged round the edges. Some years we see none, here, but winds from the south have helped them along a bit this year, and they have even arrived ahead of time. Hopefully they will breed successfully, and the next generation will fly back to North Africa safely. Their caterpillars feed on thistles, and there are plenty around our site (even if not amongst our potato plants now) .. so wish them well!

Thanks you for reading my blog again this week, and for all the kind comments. If you'd like to read more about Harvest Monday, or contact me, details are here: 

If you'd like to read more about Harvest Monday, have a look here at Dave's hosted pages:

http://www.ourhappyacres.com/

and if you would like to contact me, you're very welcome, on:

info@alitttlebitofsunshine.co.uk

and I'll get back to you as soon as I can

The first carrots of the year!

5th June -  Dramatic change in the weather since last week! 

We have been at the plot every day this week, watering crops, finishing the planting of the polytunnel, getting the bed ready for the squash plants, and gathering in lots to eat. A spell of cooler, wetter weather is so much appreciated: no matter how well we water, there is nothing like some decent rainfall to help plants grow, is there? The plants are already looking healthier after yesterday's showers. I even had had to put up some shade netting to protect the newly planted dwarf beans from the sun mid week:no sunshine for a couple of days has done them a lot of good, and they look nicely settled in today.

Let's start with Harvest Monday, hosted by Dave on Our Happy Acres, where we can see what others have been gathering and eating this week.

First to the table (and quickly the kitchen) are carrots. These are a variety new to us, Nominator from Kings Seeds, and were sown under a cloche on 17th March. They are sweet and tasty and at this size of course require no peeling. These were destined for a salad, and there looks as though there are plenty more to come. I should point out that the cloche came off as soon as the cold snap was over and on went the enviromesh to stop carrot flies from laying their eggs by the tops of the developing carrots.

Flat leaf parsley and garlic scapes

The next goodies were the garlic scapes, which are the flowering stems and buds of garlic sown last Autumn. These are taken off to ensure the plant puts all its energy into growing nice fat heads of garlic under the ground, but are a delicious harvest in their own right. half of these, together with some flat leaf parsley, went to make some unctuous pesto...recipe is included in the tab above, already. Quick off the mark for a change!

A few stems were finely sliced and included in the cabbage and potato curry last night, and the remainder will go towards a tasty stir fry. And there will be no more until this time next year, so there is no chance to get fed up with their deep, spicy garlicky flavour.

The usual suspects were also duly gathered in, radishes and cabbage:

  • These are the last of the Cherry Belle radishes sown to mark where the lines of parsnips were sown, and they really were very spicy, being quite old now! I sowed some Pink Beauty seeds this morning, so we shall be having a break from radishes for a few weeks, until they are ready

  • The last few Spring Cabbages are still occupying space in the giant cold frame. Part of this one went into a curry with potatoes and garlic scapes. the leaves are a touch on the bitter side now and I have been donating heads to friends whilst they are still edible!

There were two more new crops to enjoy as well: turnips and mixed frilly lettuce:

  • Purple Top Milan were sown under the new long cloche at the beginning of March, and we have eaten most of them already: these are the last few... one really nice one, and then there are the others. I hope they are not too tough to eat. They are supposed to be accompanying our roast chicken tomorrow

  • And last of all are the lettuces, grown from the left over small plants a friend gave me, from a "Cut and Come Again" tray she had bought. This is the smallest bunch, which I pulled to give the others more room. A glorious colour on the plate and quite different in flavour from our usual Black Seeded Simpsons

We have also had Spring Onions, both red Lilia and White Lisbon. They are getting quite large now and so we need to eat them faster, maybe starting to add them to dishes as onion green as well as using them in salads

Our salads have been enlivened by beetroot leaves, nasturtium leaves, calendula and chive flowers and soft herbs like parsley, mint and oregano. Pleased to have such a variety to choose from!

And finally, early mangetout still going strong, both Indian Golden and the green Kent Blue, as you can see in the header photo. There was a semi-disaster to the plants though, when I was trying to stake them up further to stop the marauding pigeons from pecking the new leaves. As I leaned on a cane, pushing it into the ground, it snapped and I pitched forward right against the plants and knocked them flat. Luckily, most of them were not badly damaged and could be stood back up again. I was relieved the broken end of the cane hadn't poked into me as I fell, and I came away with a few bruises. The plants are still flowering, so hopefully they will continue for another week or so.

That is the end of our edible harvests, but there have been lots of beautiful flowers for vases too: cornflowers with white love-in-the-mist, red hot pokers with lime green parsley flowers, and masses of roses. 

It hasn't all been harvesting and picking flowers though. The polytunnel is now planted up, and the sweet peppers plants in there are already setting fruit, which is quite exciting.

I managed to put up a netted frame for the cucumber plants to climb on. The original plan had been to have four plants planted there, but one plant - Chinese Slangan - is one which needs both male and female flowers to develop fruit, whilst the other three - Diva - have only female flowers and can produce fruit without pollination: a parthenogenic variety. Any male pollen transferred leads to bitter fruit, so out went the Chinese Slangan into the giant cold frame, with its own trellis to climb up, leaving what are now grandly entitled The Three Divas in the tunnel. Given there was a bit of a space, the three remaining purple podded french bean plants have now joined them. Hopefully all of them will shoot up the netting and flower away happily.

Here is the tunnel this morning:

You can see that there is now some make-shift staging either side of the main door, and on the right are some strawberry plants in a trough and a couple of pots. I had let these grow from runners last year, rooting into the mulch under the bark chip of the paths on #146, so that they could easily be uprooted and grown on in the tunnel, hopefully avoiding the attentions of mice, voles, rats and birds, and allowing us to eat the fruit ourselves.

The arrival of the tunnel was delayed, and so these plants are full of green fruit, and are rather large to dig up. I do hope they survive their move, and the cooler weather forecast for the next few days might help them adjust to their new home. If they are OK in the morning, I shall plant up another three troughs.

I should have mentioned the handful of strawberries I picked this morning, in Harvest Monday, although they were not perfectly ripe so I shall cook them gently before we eat them. There were a lot of chewed part-ripe fruit in between the plants: thank you, which ever rodents were responsible!

Both the second early and maincrop potatoes on #145 are starting to flower, whilst the first earlies on #146 are not even budding up yet. I think this might be the effect of them being badly damaged by that late frost, as they were quite well grown then. the others, being later varieties, were still very small and so were less affected. At least, that's what I am putting it down to

Onions are struggling. Thank you for the suggestions as to why the foliage was all twisty. It did seem from outward appearances that it might be caused by Onion Eelworm (Thank you Linda for this suggestion) but on closer examination, there were tiny cream coloured maggots inside the leaves themselves, and it is more likely that the damage has been caused by Allium Leaf Miner Flies. Other plots have the same issue for the first time too, and it does seem fairly unlikely we all have suddenly acquired a soil-borne pest, with plots being over fifty metres apart. So I am removing damaged leaves and weeding the poor plants to give them a chance to grow a few new leaves before bulbing-up time comes around. Thank you for your advice, DD.

I shall be growing maincrop onions under enviromesh next season, to avoid this happening again, as well as the leeks to avoid Leek Moth, and brassicas if possible to stop whitefly... soon have the whole plot covered at this rate! Still, better than using lots of chemicals on our food though

Both plots are looking pretty good, but are quite different. #146 is now six years old, while #145 is only a baby still, aged one.

We spotted some huge flints discarded on our site's tip, and so carried them off to our plots, where Abi has so far used them to edge a small flower bed alongside the polytunnel, where we think they look rather smart. We have also carted woodchip from the communal pile to cover the adjoining paths, which are now safe to walk on, even in wet weather. It has made a big difference inside the tunnel too, as the earth path was getting very slippery. It also means I can damp the path itself down during really hot spells too, which helps lower the temperature a little. 

You can see in the photo of #145 the dwarf beans under some shade net, over the the left, the tall peas in flower, the maincrop potatoes and in the far left, the outdoor tomato plants. The cutting bed centre front is full of weed seedlings, while I look in vain for any sign of possible flowers emerging. Hoeing will be happening!!

The freshly dug bed where the squash plants will take up residence is clearly visible: Abi dug this over this morning, taking out three barrowfuls of large weeds. The sprouts and PSB were growing there until a month ago, and neither of us have had tiem to clear it before now

This is #146, full of flowers and much more enclosed in feel and layout. The giant coldframe is bottom left, with the potato and runner bean beds behind. You can see the little green net-covered cold frame middle right, and of course the long fruit cage. The two arches visible have rose and clematis on them, both bursting out in bloom since this photograph was taken in the middle of last week. The flowers in the foreground are much taller and even more lush. You can't see right up the plot to the far end, where there are broad beans, climbing french beans, carrots, hopefully parsnips*, garlic, onions, swede and kale. Next time I'll take some photos from a different place so you can see the other half.

* From that first sowing of parsnips, there are six plants, so I resowed on 19th May. This morning there were 21 seedlings and I hope the rain tonight encourages a few more to show themselves. Fingers crossed 

Here, to end this week,are some of the other flowers we have in the garden at home and on the plot -

- Pristine white Zantedechia in the pond show up so well again the green foliage behind, and always give such a good show

- We had a Night Sky petunia last year and liked it so much we bought some more this year. Thye are just stunning, and are now planted in baskets around the garden, so we can enjoy their sweet scent in the evenings.

- And this last is an Opium Poppy which popped up by the water butt outside the gate to #145. I hope that the ones growing from self sown seed that arrived on #146 are as pretty.

It has been a busy week: I hope you have enjoyed sharing the photos and reading how it is all going and what we have harvested: hopefully next week there will be courgettes!

If you'd like to read more about Harvest Monday, have a look here at Dave's hosted pages:

http://www.ourhappyacres.com/

and if you would like to contact me, you're very welcome, on:

info@alitttlebitofsunshine.co.uk

and I'll try to get back to you as soon as I can