November 2020

23rd November - Temperatures at night range from just below zero to 9C, but the rapidly shortening day length confirms it is indeed nearly the end of November. Mild weather in the daytime is much appreciated so I can really crack on with work on the plots and in the garden without having frozen fingers and toes

Seasonal harvests also show where we are in the calendar, as the lead photo shows, so let's move on to Harvest Monday, hosted by Dave as always (link at the end)

I was really pleased to find a huge snowy white Turnip in the Brassica Bed. I had sown some seed for Turnip Leaves, but left some plants to grow on. I was surprised at the size and smoothness of the roots...just lovely

Carrots this week are Sweet Candle, grown in a large box, aiming for roots for the local Show which obviously did not take place this year. They are still good to eat though!

These are the first of this year's Parsnips, not the largest, but still perfectly useable, and very good indeed roasted

Purple Sprouting Broccoli from the rogue plant that seems not to know what the season is, but still very welcome. The other plants alongside are still growing normally

These Leeks were excellent in soup, and there are plenty more to come

Salad vegetables this week included:

Winter Radish Red Dragon, Chinese Cabbage, Mizuna, American Land Cress (which tastes like Watercress) and Rocket

Some of the Leeks have been damaged by larvae of the Leek Moth, which make these orangey track in the layers of the stem. Fortunately the damage is not too bad and they are not collapsing from rot.

It is my own fault, I really should have protected them with fine net earlier in the season, but I didn't have a piece the right size and then promptly forgot 

I have always planted Leeks to follow on from First Early Potatoes, but having discovered a variety that grows really quickly,  (Oarsman) next year I am leaving space so they can be planted out as soon as they are ready to go, rather than having to wait for the Potatoes to be dug

Here are the last of this year's Chilli harvest: Strawberry Aji. These actually had two phenotypes: this flying saucer shped ones, and those that were dented cylinders. I was quite surprised, but apparently it is not uncommon for them to do this, on different plants

They are moderately hot and have a good fruity flavour. I shall freeze these, as they can easily be used in any cooked dish

The Sweet Peppers are all now gathered. The Padrons stood up best to the cold night time temperatures, and Long Red Marconi, depsite being quite fleshy, were also not too bad, but Gogorez fruits went soft and started to grow grey fuzzy mould.  

I shall have to remember that next year to make sure these last are picked as soon as cold weather threatens

Other harvest this week (apart from masses of compost of course!) include Rosemary and Sage

 

On The Plots This Week:

Every day I have to drive through several nides of Pheasants along the approach road and through the laanes on site. Less well tended plots attract group of them, that startle and fly up with great clatter of wings when they see you. There were seven hens in this nide... I managed to get pictures of two of them in flight as they clattered past me. The cocks have started fighting now, so I suspect these groups of hens will soon be being claimed and shepherded about by their proud coourful mates

Pheasants are beautiful birds and very entertaining, but they do enjoy a good feed of fresh Onion or Garlic shoots, which they snip off with their razor sharp beaks all on one level, as though someone has gone along the rows with a pair of scissors

We are fortunate to have other beauties such as Green Woodpeckers, Kestrels, Goldfinches and Herons to watch every day. Always good to take time out to watch them and listen to their calls. 

The Shallots and Onion sets are growing well. Interesting to see that the Winter Reds are growing much more quickly than the brown-skinned Shakespears. I seem to have trouble getting Red Onions to grow without bolting, so fingers crossed for these through the season ahead

Garlic is just beginning to stir as well. It is down quite deep, so if it is poking up about the ground now it has already put on at least 5cm of growth. The Onions and Shallots, in contrast, are planted only just below the surface

A spot of weeding is needed, as Onions do not appreciate any bedfellows, so it is best to remove them before they start to cause upset

In view of the number of Pheasants now roaming the site, I need to get this bed covered very soon!

 

My efforts with path renovation continued this week, and now the whole walkway through the Forast Garden, together with one of the adjoining paths , is neat and tidy. The compost dug out went into the bed alongside the path.. a good thick layer too.. where Potatoes and Leeks will be grown next year. That bed is now covered and ready for its Winter rest

 

That large woody Honeysuckle needs some attention too, as it is really in the way. I am thinking to cut it down to just under half that height, and let it grow up again. I have hoped for years that birds may nest there, but so far not. Cutting it down will mean more light going to surrounding plants, and make it easier to walk through the archway too

 

As I walk around, I imagine the Bluebells, Wild Garlic and Wood Anemones that will be alongside the Muscari and Forget-me-knots, as well as the spectacular array of Foxgloves in early Summer, followed by Japanese Anemones and Verbena bonariensis which will continue to feed numerous insects through unitl early November next year

I cut the blackened Dahlia growth down last week, and have now covered the bed with at least 10cm of Conifer mulch, to try to protect the tubers from freezing. The mulch smells gorgeous, like a cross between Eucalyptus and Bubble Gum, and hopefully will discourage rodents from eating the tubers as well.

There are also some Dahlias planted individually here and there across both plots, and I usually forget where they are and risk setting other plants on top of them in the Spring. This year, the piles of mulch over each one should help me see exactly where they are and avoid this next year

This mulch is going to be really useful, so I hope it doesn't get used up too quickly! There is now a nice thick carpet of it around the Rhubarb, although not over the crowns themselves, and if possible I would like to do the same for the Autumn Fruiting Raspberries and the Blueberries. The slightly acidic nature of the mulch will be appreciated by these two fruits in particular

In the Polytunnels This Week:

I took out all the Sweet Pepper and Chilli plants this morning, as night time temperatures have been sub-zero so they are not likely to grow that much more. Once that long bed was cleared of small weeds, I scratched in some Blood Fish & Bone, gave it a good water and put the Winter cover on, leaving the American Landcress exposed

The opposite bed was tidied up, and the ampty half similarly covered. At the far end are some Radicchio, Winter Lettuce, Winter Radish and Mizuna, all of which will benefit from protection for the worst of the weather and crop  through until the Spring. There is also some Chinese Cabbage: I am unsure how hardy this is. It is fine up until now but may not cope with very low temperatures

In the other tunnel the Purple Sprouting Broccoli look promising, and the other small Brassica plants are growing well: Tenderstem Broccili, Scarlet Kale and Spring Cabbage.. and surprisingly the Celery stems are still nice and crisp. The colder weather has stopped the Pak Choi from bolting, so there are still three useful heads there, along with some Golden Beetroot

At Home This Week: 

It gets dark so early now I am finding it difficult to fit in the things I hope to get done in the garden, and sometimes time is taken up by unexpected jobs like dealing with the blocked drain behind the stone sinks in the driveway too

 

I have been cleaning out the bird feeders prior to Winter, and scrubbing all the water containers and the stone bird bath too. At this time in the year the birds do still have plenty of wild food, but also need to learn where there are "easy" sources of things to eat. This way, when the hard weather comes, they do not have to expend extra energy searching out food, as they will know exactly where it can be found. 

I have heard the Goldcrests chirruping, but not seen any yet, and there are definitely Blackcaps stull around. Blackbird wars over the berries on the Yew trees are just beginning, and it won't be long before there are full on battles

I also attached the new trough to the wall under the kitchen windowsill... first time using a big electric drill so was quite proud of myself there... it is planted up with hanging Antirrhinums, Violas, Polyanthus and some Nemesia, as well as small white daffodils and some Ipheion bulbs. No actual flowers at the moment but plenty to look forward to

The Lettuce seed sown in pots in the cold greennhouse has germinated, and I am hopeful the bRoad Beans will show their heads very soon. Thye need just a drop of water as the compost is fairly, dry: not too much though or the big seeds may rot

Jobs for the week ahead include:

. finishing planting the Allium bulbs amongst the fruit trees in the garden, and finding somewhere for three large Fritillaria bulbs I bought in a fit of enthusiam with no real plan there ....hmmmm

- Weeding the Garlic & Onion beds and buying fine netting for one large bed

- Weeding & mulching the Autumn Fruitng Raspberries

-Weeding the Blueberries and getting their mulch ready: the potted plants need planting in that bed so I don't want to lay the mulch until that is done, possibly the week following

The photo is of Rose Hips on one of the climbing roses at the plot, which Squirrels adore, so I have left them waving in the sky just for them! They do look good as well

I shall be back next Monday, the final day of November, st Andrew's Day. Stay warm and well

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

16th November - This week we have had so much rain again!! There are puddles every where and it has been difficult to work outside for any length of time without either getting soaked or having to retreat to shelter.  A pleasant surprise has been that the soil on #145, which has only been under cultivation for four years, is not totally waterlogged and is reasonably workable. the regular addition of compost is starting to pay off in improved soil structure. On # 146, after twelve years of being worked, it is dark and crumbly and fantastic to work. The natural soil here is thick alluvial clay with big stones, over a solid pan of gravel: fertile, but extremly difficult to work after even a couple of days' rain. 

Looking after the soil is the way forward for sure, and I am really happy #145 is coming along now so well. I might even try carrots on that side one day!

On that happy note, we can look at the edibles brought home this week, for Harvest Monday

First to the table this week are:

Swede: I still grin every time I see that bed of Swede, mainly in disbelief that they have really grown on my plot, let alone that I have enough to share too

Carrots: One patch of soil has grown some strangely shaped roots. May I introduce Mr Carrotty? He popped up in all his orange glory, just looking like he needed some eyes, and he is currently on the kitchen window sill avoiding, for now, being eaten. More Voles have arrived and so several  carrots had their tops nibbled, but not Mr Carrotty, lucky for him

Beetroot: I sowed some seed in a space between the Swede and the Mooli, and the roots are all sorts of shapes and sizes. Very odd, but still perfectly edible, and very good indeed roasted

 

This is the very last of this year's fresh Tomatoes. Surprisingly, they do still have a good tomatoey taste. Often the last of the crop are quite tasteless, but not these. I shall keep them to eat fresh rather than cook them: they are great in salad or sliced in a sandwich

New to the table this week are crops sown in late Summer: Mustard Greens, Perpetual Spinach and Lettuce Merveille du Jour

There are plenty of Sweet Red Peppers still to harvest, which given the forecats of a sudden drop in temperature later this week I should probably gather in farly soon. They are exceptionally sweet this year I think, and are very versatile too. This one will be in a side salad this evening

Also picked today is some Rocket. I noticed one plant is growing a flower stalk, so I am tempted to leave that one to grow seed for the coming year, as this is a really good variety, with leaves that have some substance as well as a good bite to them

Another newbie is Winter Radish.There is Blue Moon, from the polytunnel, which is white and purple inside, and Chinese Red Dragon, grown outside under fine mesh to avoid flea beetle damage to the leaves, and this has white flesh with red dots

Both have a fresh, spicy flavour and are easy to eat!

Other harvests this week have included Tarragon, Sage, Parsley and Mooli

On The Plots This Week:

This is the view this morning from the site gate as I left to come home. Just beautiful. There were only two other plot holders around today, both along way from my plots, and it was incredibly peaceful working away, with the plot Robin hopping round my feet, on and off the logs and grabbing eveything to eat he could find.

There are so many birds around that there is a constant background sound of birds clling, punctuated by the ooccasional unmistakable sound of Swans flying, and the excited noise of skeins of geese flying up from the river, disturbed perhaps by a dog walker

Our site is sandwiched between farm fields and the water meadow, so is a perfect spot for wildlife really, and it feels a long way from human habitation, which is great

This week I have continued to work really hard with getting the plots ready for Winter, and on #145 two beds are now covered. It was a sheer slog to weed them, get the covers on and chop all the weeds to add to the compost bin...which is of course absolutely bulging again... but oh so satisfying

I had hoped to do one bed, possibly two, but this morning I decided that while the weather was dry and mild  I would take on the beast of the climbing bean bed on #146. With three wigwams of sticks to clean off and put away, the wire mesh used to rabbit-proof it that needes rolling up, and then transplanting all the Verbena bonariensis and Forget-me-Nots, plus a gigantic Ox-Eye Daisy that had all grown into sizeable plants this Summer under the bean stalks, it took longer than I had first thought.

However, it is now weed-free and ready to cover tomorrow. Yes!!!

Lots of the Forget-me-Nots are planted now in the stony bed outside the front of #146, and I added some of the Lychnis Coronaria I pulled up from the path, which should look good next year. The whole of my stretch of grass verge was thick with Hazel leaves from the hedge opposite, so I raked them up for the compost bin, and also swept up the Apple leaves from the slabbed area by the bins. Might give it a chance to dry out a bit and not be so slippery

This clean bed adjoins what will be a new path through the top section of the  Forest Garden. There is a fair bit of work needed to dig the compost out of that area, but it can go straight onto that bed before it is covered I think. I plan to grow First early Potatoes there next Spring, so a bit of extra compost could be beneficial

I also went round both plots, collecting up old broken labels, cut off section of cable ties etc and took them home to put in the grey waste bin

More bulbs have been planted too: Allium (Purple Rain) in amongst the Chrysanths,  and Ipheion in the same pot as the Hyacinths, and in amongst early Irises. It feels like it is all coming together at last

In the Polytunnels This Week:

Other than a quick tidy round to take off any yellowing leaves etc, I haven't need to do much really. 

My question as to whether the Radicchio leave would turn properly red when the weather gets colder is answered though... just look at them! Such a glorious rich colour. I am resisting taking leaves off to eat at the moment as I am not sure if they should heart up or not. They do look as though they might be going that way, so I am leaving them be for now

At Home This Week:

I have swept all the Lilac leaves off the back steps and patio, straight into the Rhododendron bed, where they can rot down. The patio at the end of the garden is now also clear of leaves, and the Strawberry plants in troughs are cut back all neat and tidy ready for the Winter

Last year I bought some Salvia plants from Sarah Raven, a variety called Black and Blue, and none of them flowered. This year though two have survived and rather late in the year are now in flower. As you can see, they are a beautiful colour and hopefully they will bulk out a bit next year.

The Hot Lips Salvia I bought at the same time is now a fairly decent sized shrub that has been flowering all Summer. It is right at the back of the fruit bed where the white of the flowers shows up well in gloomy weather

There is a large red one at the front that Abi "rescued" from the green waste dump at the allotment site, and is flourished for years, flowering reliably for months on end

The Lacecap Hydrangea planted between the Camellias and Rhododendrons, which has been a mass of beautiful white flowers  with blue touches, has now taken on a rather fetching shade of pink. The flowers will stay on all Winter, eventually becoming a pale biscuit colour and completely skeletonised

It was planted with the idea of providing flowers after the late Spring shrubs were over, and it certainly is a high value planting, made even better by it being a free gifts that came in a tiny pots five years ago!

Indoors, the Christmas Cacti are all in flower, with their strange, somewhat lobsterish flowers hanging downwards. I have several in the kitchen and one upstairs too, and the do really well in the well lit but not sunny conditions. This one is on a high shelf, so that I can look upwards into the flowers. Some plants have sugar pink flowers, others shades of red, but as yet I haven't a white one!

And here is the first flower open on the Calamondin Orange tree, and it smells luscious. I hope there will be plenty more too. I shall pollinate them with a smalal soft brush, as there are few insects about indoors, and then a cope of lovely little fruits should follow

I did at last get the Broad Bean seeds sown in modules, and some Spring Onions and Winter Lettuce. They are in the greenhouse for now, which is not heated at all at the moment, and I ma sure they will be fine.

The plan to refurbish the troughs on the wall outside the back door was slightly thwarted by one of them disintegrating! Only one is freshly planted, but a new one arrived today so I shal get to it as soon I can: Trailing Antirhinums , Viola, Nemesia and small white Daffodils are in the surviving trough and there are enough for the new one too

The Jobs List is a bit shorter, but some things take a long time!

1. Deal with the new trough

2. Prune the Fig Tree in the garden, now the sap isnlt running out if it is cut

3. Make start on creating the top Forest Garden path

4. Clear the spent crops/flowers from one half of a the bed on #145 and cover

5. Dig out some of the Apricot coloured Crocosmia by the sundial, share with anyone sho would like some and plant the remainder on the verge and on the Bonfire plot

6. Start sorting the Alpine pots and troughs, and plant Lewisias (4)

I shall be back next Monday, all being well, hopefully still progressing to having all these bits done by the end of the month... fingers crossed!!

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 November - On one hand, this week's weather has been typical of November, with thick chilly fog some mornings, frost on the grass and leaves fluttering down, but the temperatures have been incredibly mild overall. I am not sure if this Foxglove flower is late or early, but whichever, it is certainly confused! 

New restrictions mean less social contact, but really for me that means more time working head down on the plot, and this week I have managed to get a fair bit done out there.

Harvests are varied, but still little tastes of Summer here and there, although not for much longer I'm sure. So here is a selection of what I have brought home this week, to celebrate Harvest Monday as usual, hosted by Dave of Our Happy Acres for growers across the world (link at the end) Thanks Dave!

At last the Long Red Marconi Sweet Peppers are ripening. I do like these, as they very crisp and sweet when eaten aw, and add good flavour to cooked dishes too. There are a quire a few now changing colour, so I hope they mature before the cold stops them

Carrots continue to be fantastic. These were from the remains of a packet of Early Nantes sown in May, and they have done well, being allmost as lareg as the earlier sowing

I did notice some damage to the tops of a few of the roots, little rodenty tooth marks, so I put some snappy traps in under the secure mesh, and the culprits, both mice and voles, are no longer with us. However, the roots are very tempting so I shall be keeping a careful eye on them, to deter any other uninvited guests

There were more Turnips than I thought, so yes, I am still getting through them. Next to them are the Winter Radishes, which look pretty good, so I may try one or two in the coming week

And this may well be the very last Courgette of the year! It was diced up in some dhall, together with carrot, which worked well. 

Chinese Cabbage is still standing up to the chilly night time temperatures, and is definitely earning its space, which is only 75cm wide. Bearing in mind it is a follow-on crop too, using part of the space where Soya Beans were grown earlier in the year, it is an even higher earner in my book! This variety is clearly the tall cylindrical one, not the shorter, stouter Napa Cabbage , and the leaves are not as good for making cabbage rolls, which is what I originally imagined using them for... trying a packet of seed that came free. What's not to like?

Really, I only use them in stir fry or as part of a side salad, but their mild flavour is easily enhanced with a sauce such as Hoisin or Sweet Chilli, and they keep their crunchy texture if added at the end of cooking.  Still on the list for next year

 

Flat-Leafed Parsley is a year-round cropper here, and the tiny plants I moved to the shleter of the polytunnel a few weeks ago are already luscious and ready for picking. If I pick the older stems before the leaves are tough, they grow ne wleaves much more quickly. These few were just for a finely chopped garnish for some dhall, but there will be plenty more to come, both from these plants and whilst temperatures are above freezing, from outdoor ones too. Although it somes up all over the place like a weed, it is easy enough to pull out unwanted plants either for the compost or to share with other growers

On The Plots This Week:

So, here is the "before" picture of a small part of the section I have been resuscitating:

I have tackled a metre wide part every day this week, choping up the weeds to compost, redistributing the amazing compost I have dug out... here it is part way through, final part almost cleared but not yet dug out.

The compost has been added to the flower beds, especially where the ground was very uneven after the Rabbit-excavations. I have some Tulips to plant in the coming week, with wore over the top of the soil to prevent snacking Squirrels tucking it to a free lunch

While I was digging, I found two big fat Rose Chafer grubs, which I carefully re-homed in a section I am not digging this year. They are such beautiful beetles, that do little harm, so I am more than happy to give them a home

And then Dah Dah!! A lovely clean tidy area instead of a sea of scrab!!

The row of large and healthy-looking Strawberry plants along the edge has now been dug out and given to a new plot holder, and I am now ready to start on the 2m long adjoining section of path 

I have planted a loarge pot of Hyacinth bulbs, as well as some small early Irises (reticulata) around the base of the grapevine, which is out of sight in the bottom left hand corner. It is now just over a year old and about 40cm tall, and is really being grown for the birds, as the grapes are very small and pippy

Under all those weeds were two troughs of Saffron Crocuses, which of course have started to grow now. I think they are probably too small to flower, as they will be off-sets from the original corms. Now that they are free of weeds though, they can grow on and may even be large enough to flower this time next year. I had forgotten all about them, so finding those little shoots was a nice surprise

We have had several sharp frosts, killing off the tops of the Dahlias, which then looked very sad and bedraggled

Up until last year, we always dug up the tubers and kept them in crates under the staging at home in the frost free greenhouse. Last year it seemed an impossible task on my own, so I gave them a blanket of compost and hoped for the best. Some got gnawed by rats, but most survived, so this year they are staying in the ground. If I have enough woodchip, they can have a good deep covering of that, but if not I do have compost. They have given a wonderful display for weeks, so I do hope they come through the Winter relatively unscathed, to enjoy again next year

All the tops are cut back - chopped up and put in the compost bin of course - and I shall be able to tidy the boundary a bit now I can get to it. I have a seedling of Perennial Sweet Pea for planting there, which can scramble along the fence between mine and Jane's plots all it likes, and add to to the wealth of flowers next year. I shall have to mark where it is, as they die right down, and I don't want to accidentally tread on it when it starts to grow again next Spring

Another job this week has been to transplant the Strawberry plants from the large grow-bag under the canopy, where they have never fruited well as it is quite dark, into troughs. These are now on the strawberry table, and will hopefully perform much better in a bright open spot.

There were lots and lots of half-grown Vine Weevil larvae in the compost, and I was very careful not to transfer any into the new troughs. These are certainly not welcome visitors, as they can do tremendous damage to the roots, eventually killing the plant completely.

However, a Robin, who must the the cleanest bird around after his 20 minute bath in the water in the lid of a barrel, followed by a lengthy fluff-up un the sunshine, thoroughly enjoyed a large meal of grubs. He was almost too fat to fly. One very happy Robin!

In the Polytunnels This Week:


 Watering has been the main job really, and as the Council have now turned our water off, it being November and all that, it took quite a time. I used water from the rainwater butts outside, rather than those inside, because these internal ones do hold some heat, and secondly, when it is really miserable weather outside I shall at least still have water available in the tunnels if I need any

Mice continue to enjoy a final meal of peanut butter in the snappy traps, which is at least keeping numbers down for the Winter, and greatly reduces the damage to my overwintering crops. They have not been quite so numerous this year, so fingers crossed it stays that way

Given the amount of work needed out on the plots right now, it is good that the crops in the tunnels are just ticking along  without much attanetion, although this week I shall probably have to harvest the rest of the Sweet Peppers before they are past their best

At Home This Week:

I have done very little related to growing this week at home. Most days it was too wet to even venture outside for more than few minutes! 

I did a bit of bulb sorting, so I could give other people their bags (we ordered together... one delivery that way) and work out what was going to be planted where. I have got the Broad Bean seeds at the ready, and if it doesn't rain again later today I hope to be able to get the compost so I can actually sow them

When the sun did start to shine, I then needed to recover from those long hard sessions at the plot, not work in the garden,so mostly sat and read, or did other bits like sorting the freezer contents and cleaning the fridge. Not very exciting but very necessaary

 

That of course leaves a long (ish) list of jobs for home this week:

-  dealing with the wall troughs so that my nice little baby cascading Antirhinums (which I think I have forgotten to mention unitl now) can be planted in their Winter quarters, together with some small white Daffodils and perhaps some very early Irises

- cutting up the 3m long branch from the grapevine still decorating the lawn, and taking it to the plot's bonfire pile

- cutting the grass if it ever dries out enough

- the little tomato house could do with being put away now, which will mean I can then cut back the ever-growing brambles behind it - more for the bonfire

- emptying out all the containers of veg peelings etc around the place and taking them to the compost bins on the plot...

.. which reminds me: one of the snails which my youngest granddaughter daubed its shell with nail varnish about 18 months ago (so she could identify it) turned up in the little compost waste bin by the back door. How it got in there is a mystery as the lid stays firmly closed! It seems it may now be taking a journey to the plot this week, unless I can find it and leave it at home

Plot jobs are really more of the same of course:

- weeding another section of path, distrubuting the resulting compost and adding a layer of woodchip. Say in quick and it doesn't sound too painful {{{sigh}}} 

- clearing the remains of spent crops from at least one more bed, so it can be covered for Winter, two if possible

- planting the remaining Spring bulbs and transplanting the Sage cutting to the new herb bed

 None of this is gripping stuff, but, a bit like cleaning out the fridge and sorting the freezer, it is all important. I aim to have all the clearing, putting away and covering up jobs done by the end of this month, so I shall have to get a move on

I'll be back again next Monday, hopefully with this list at least partially dealt with! Hope your week goes well

PS Here is the Robin before he'd had his lunch!

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 November - and back to New Lock Down on the 5th. I just hope everyone is able to follow the expectations so that the levels of Covid infection across the country reduce to the point of being able to be  managed. At least the importance of Allotments in peoples' lives was clearly acknowledged in the ltest Government announcement, which has to be a good thing

This week has been incredibly wet, with heavy rainfall almost every day, which has hampered work out on the plots or in the garden a lot. The days are much shorter too, so even less chance to work outside. The pressure of jobs needing immediate attention has eased a bit though, and the main focus is now on preparation for the Winter months and the coming Spring. Garage sheleves are full of stored Summer produce, and Autumn crops are picking up nicely

This week's Harvest Monday starts with the end of the season Tomatoes: I have never picked outdoor Tomatoes in November before!! These are Mountain Magic, just grown out on the beds with a cane for support, nothing fancy, and they are still fruiting away

 

 

These ones are from the polytunnel, mostly Honeymoon, San Marzano and Cyril's Delight, with a few Black Opal. The green ones have started to develop some colour,, so I expect them to ripen indoors. Some are sitting in the fruit bowl so they can benefit from the company of the Bananas

 Lots of the Chillies were harvested this week, and they look so bright and summery sitting on their tray. Some will be pickled, some chopped and frozen and some dried, to give plenty of choice in the coming months

There were still some small Aubergines to pick, green ones Emerald Isle. These have been very successful in the polytunnel, and as the plants are only about 75cm tall, I can see they could also do well in pots. 

The fruits are not as impressive to look at as the big purple ones, but cut into quarters, they make a fine ingredient in curry, especially when paired with similar-sized pieces of potato: they are on my list for next year, for sure!

Here are some of the Summer-long favourites:

Carrots, which are so versatile I am glad I grow so many! Those sown in the ground under fine mesh have been producing useable roots for months, and , assuming they are not munched by voles, will stand in their bed quite happily through the Winter

Turnips are coming to an end now, and are getting slightyl woody in the middle. I like Turnips, but I don't use as amny as I do Carrots, so two 1m rows, sown a few weeks apart, have been enough. This purple one is from the polytunnel, where they have grown completely unmarked by any pests

Pak Choi has been a great success this year too, with very few of them bolting and developing flower heads, and growing them under cover protects them from Flea Beetle, which makes lots and lots of holes in the leaves, which look very unappetising

Two other crops which have benefitted from the shelter of the polytunnel are Celery and Chinese Cabbage.

The Celery has enjoyed the slight shade from the heat of the sun, plus lots of water, as every time the Tomatoes were watered, they also had a good soak A row of five plants took up about 30cm of space, and has given more than enough for my use: certainly a good return

The Chinese Cabbage was sown in the seedbed outside towards the end of the Summer, and transplanted into the tunnel, where it has grown very quickly indeed. I have never grown this before, and have been pleasantly surprised at how easy it has been. The plants under cover are twice the size of the ones outside, so definitely one to consider for next year 

I tend to just use it in stir fry, as the thick juicy stalks add good texture as well as a mild flavour, whilst the finely chopped leafy bits get added at the end, so as to barely cook

I also grew a later crop of Beetroot in the polytunnel, choose Cylindra because I like the nice neat slices for pickling....hmmmmm... I forgot it doesn't grow anywhere near as quickly as early varieties like Boltardy, so I only have small ones

Oh, well, at least they are edible, and next year I must make sure to sow it at the start of the season, not at the start of June: I have alreday out the packet away in the right place, so I can find it when neeed.

These three will be roasted later today to join various other veggies in a roast dinner, and I am very much looking forward to their sweet earthy flavour

 

And then, at the other end of the scale, is a Swede, a nice big fat juicy, Swede too. I am sure you all alreday know how delighted I am to at last have a good crop of these, after years and years of dismal failure .... next year will show whether this is sheer good fortune, or some level of understanding how to grow them!!

A Swede this size goes a long way for one person, but mashed with butter and black pepper, some will be on my plate tonight, and I expect to thoroughly enjoy it

I picked some more Apples this week, and although they had spots amd marks on the skin, were excellent chopped to make muffins. The batch didn't last long, as they featured in Sunday's plot breakfast, and I also went to see some of my grandchildren while I was still able to... plus I ate some as well. Nice easy recipe, so I shall try to add it in so you can have a go if you fancy

I hope that there are still some Apples left tomorrow, and that they have not either been blown off the tree, or had the tops eaten out of them by Jays, which seem to have taken a liking to them suddenly. It started raining this morning so I had to leave them and come home, so fingers crossed

And this is most likely the last big cutting of Dahlias this year. Frosts are forecast laster in the week, and they are beginning to slow down the bud production too. It is a case of enjoy them while I can

On the Plots This Week:

There are lots of Onion seedlings up now and there are also some weed seedlings amongst them so I shall be hand weeding them as soon as the weather is dry enough. The last of the Garlic is now planted: I kept two Caulk White bulbs (a hardneck type with a good spicy flavour) from this season's crop, and Alston, who grows the most amazingly huge bulbs, kindly gave me two of his You can see the size difference, both is the bulbs and the cloves themselves. I don't need to tell you which is which!

One of mine didn't have actual cloves in it, just two solid halves.. I planted them anyway, so I shall be interested to see if they are any different to normal ones. 

A lot of the Onion Sets planted last week have green shoots showing. I am glad mine are under mesh, as we have so many Pheasants around at the moment, lots of growers are finding the tops of Onion shoots  snipped off  by them. I do like to see them , and we have had a lot of youngsters around this year... eight by the gate a couple of day ago, but I don't want them in my actual plots thank you. I didn't know the name for a group of Pheasants, so my daughter looked it up and it is a Nye of Pheasants. All I have to do now is to try to remember that!

One of the jobs I  enjoy at the time in the year is taking all the old leaves off the Strawberry plants. As my plants are up at waist level, not in the ground, it is a very relaxing task, and they do look good when all the weeds are take out as well. Surprised to see flowers on a couple of plants, and this morning I noticed on on the other plot with fair-sized green frui too!!

I shall be moving the plants growing under the canopy onto this table set up, potting them inot troughs so they will just fit nicely. They don't get enough sun where they are, and it is a good time to move them while they will have a minimum of top growth

The troughs that were in the polytunnles are outside now, so that the crowns of the plants can benefit from frosts, as this is what triggers flower bud formation

The other task I have started this week is taking all the weeds/self sown plants out of the woodchip section by the canopy, so that I can dig out the beautiful dark brown compost there. After ten years of regular "top-ups" it has turned into lovely compost. The quantity in the barrow was from an area 70 cm by 40 cm, so there will be plenty!

I have made a plan to tackle a square metre at a time, both to clear it and then utilise it, as it is really heavy going. This morning's haul went to mulch the Asparagus plants with a blanket 5cm thick, which should do them good. I expect a whole forest of weed seedlings will pop up there now, but I can hoe them off easily enough

Tomorrow's bounty will be used to flll the troughs for those Strawberry plants I am moving, as well as top dress the ones on the table. The crowns need to stay exposed though, so I can't put too much on.

There are some other containers than need their soik refreshing too, before I plant Spring bulbs, so it is good to have so much available. Of course, once the whole job is done, I shall have to barrow fresh woodchip round to re-cover the area.I am looking forward to spreading that last barrow load so I can sit and admire the tidy area again, Maybe by the end of the week?

It is quite surprising what plants are growing there though - I transplanted a small Rudbeckia Goldsturm this morning,and there is a fairly large Perennial Sweet Pea to try to move without damaging it tomorrow, as well as some lovely Cosmos, from which I hope I can collect some seed

I have also been clearing up on #145, and I discovered what I can only think must have been a mouse-stash of Mangetout or Pea seeds, which had started growing down between some old roof tiles stacked outside the shed. They are now happily growing in the polytunnel, planted alongside the support mesh already put up for early Peas.

The compost bins are full to bursting, with lots more greensstuff (and shredded paper) to come, as well as fruit tree leaves. It is incredibly satisfying to lay down all that goodness for use next year, and all really for free. Bin No 3 has been ready for use for some time, so I hope the weather stays dry enough for me to get to that by the end of the month... there are three beds to layer it onto before they are covered until Springtime...lots more of shovelling and barrowing to come!

 

In The Polytunnels This Week:

Beacuse of the rain, I have spent most of my plot-time in the tunnels, taking out the spent Tomato plants, giving everything an overall weed and chopping things up for the compost bi

The Sweet Pepper plants have lots of fruit on them, but I decided to leave them for another week so that I can plan what to do with the crop. They don't keep that well really, so I think I shall be getting out the large preserving pan again

On the right you can see the Radicchio plants, something else new to me this year. Jane gave me some seedlings so I popped them in a space, and they have grown reasonably well though don't look as though they are hearting up. I believe the leaves  can be just picked individually and will turn red when the weather is cold. I shall find out soo

Down at the far end is the Chinese Cabbage, with a "frill" of Mizuna behind it. As I said in Harvest Monday, this has been a success overall, although it had an infestation of Small White caterpillars. I has thought initially it was slugs eating the leaves, but this week the true culprits were found: they are now outside across the road by the bonfIre pile! GIven that I mainly like the midrib stems, it hasn't made too much difference really. Not sure how the plants will react to the cold: they don't look especially hardy, so I shall have to do some homework there

In front are purple leaves of Kholrabi, which hasn't grown nearly as quickly as the pale green variety, which is a bit disappointing, but I guess you can't win them all

The other tunnel has also been weeded, and the single courgette plant is stiil battling on, with one or two small Courgettes a week. Once the cold weather arrives, it will have had enough i think.

The Winter Brassicas are looking healthy... I'll talk more baout those next week, and the Flat Leaf Parsley is as fantastic as always. 

I was given (Yes, by Jane) some tiny seedlings of something she called Miners' Lettuce, which has now started growing sort of heart-shaped leaves that look a bit fleshy. Not quite enough to pick any yet, but I am looking forward to trying it soon. Hope it will be nice enough to add to Winter green salads, alongside the Land Cress, Rocket, Mustard Greens, Perpetual Spinach, proper Lettuce, Radicchio and Mizuna. All good!

 

At Home This Week:

I have sorted through my seeds and filed away in the box the loose packets lying around in the hallway and in my allotment bag. At a quick glance, I would say I have enough for the coming season. I did a big cull last year, so there won't be many that are completely out of date. I have put aside the ones needing to be sown very soon, like Broad Beans, and I am optimistically hoping for dry weather later in the week so I can move the bags of compost without getting soaked.  I did think about using the stuff from the woodchip path, but then remembered the potential weed seedlings and changed my mind!

So with the greenhouse good to go, the polytunnels fairly decent, Jobs for the Week look like this:

- finish the work on the woodchip section by the canopied area

- deal with the other Strawberry Plants

_ sow Broad Beans etc in modules and keep in greenhouse

- bring in the Citrus plants at home before the weather turns really cold

- plant Daffodils alongside the bonfire plot behind #145, with help from other plotholders perhaps...

- weed around Japanese Onion Seedlings

That should keep me going

Hope you like the Chrysanths... I shall be back next week. 

 

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