May 2017

Sweet William and Feverfew make a pretty bouquet

29th May - It's up and running at last!!!!

After months of planning, weeks of waiting, followed by Abi's hard work, we have..... drum roll..... a functioning polytunnel!!!!!! Most of the plants squashed into the greenhouse at home are now relaxing in their new quarters, as you can from the photo here, taken this afternoon. There is still a bit of work to do on the path, and the cucumber supports need to go in, but it is great to have plants growing inside. It is a bit like instant gardening really, having them all waiting in the wings like that.

The Bapatla Brinjals are flowering and have already set some tiny fruits, and the Black Beauty plants have some large and promising buds now too. I hope they settle in without interruptng growth.

I slightly overestimated the number of tomato plants that would realistically fit in, and decided it was more sensible to make sure they all had sufficient space to grow than squeeze them all in. Having five plants over is not too bad though, and I can probably find space outside for these.

Let's have a look at our harvests for this week, linking in with Harvest Monday, hosted by Dave at Our Happy Acres. Salads are still going well, with both red and white spring onions, juicy lettuce, radishes and nasturtium leaves. There were two or three nasturtium plants that grew under the long cloche, self seeded fom last year's flowers, and they have provided us with some good spicy leaves as well as flowers, whilst plants in the open ground are still at the seed leaf stage. I must remember to grow some under cover like this next Spring too. Well worth it!

A sinkful of spinach

Next up is spinach. This is the final harvest from the perpetual spinach plants planted in the giant cold frame last Autumn, and it was a whole sinkful! Some was added to a dhall dish, and the rest blanched, water pressed out, and then frozen in an ice cube tray, to use whenever we fancy. I shall have to sow some more seed soon, so that we can have a crop in our new polytunnel next Winter. The huge stems have been chopped up and added to the compost heap, so nothing went to waste

The first Golden Mangetout of the year

One of the new harvests this week is Indian Golden Mangetout. The plants were set out in the shelter of the remains of the old polytunnel five weeks ago, and so were neither battered by the wind or munched by pigeons. There are Kent Blue growing alongside them, which by next week I hope have some crisp green pods ready to pick. I hope they both carry on producing for some weeks, as they are so versatile: finely sliced in salads, added to stir fries, steamed as a vegetable side dish and so on

Drying rose petals

The other new harvest this week has been rose petals. I am attempting to dry these to use as decoration on dishes such as kheer (Indian rice pudding), and initially they were out on the sun every day, lying on some kitchen paper, but now that the weather is much wetter they are sitting on the desk indoors. So far there is no sign of mould and they are crisping up nicely. I know I could have used the dehydrator but it didn't seem very economical for such a small amount.

I chose dark red flowers so that the slight browning of the petals as they dry would be less obvious than on paler varieties, but they are not the strongest scented. I am going to experiment with a strongly scented pink variety ... Sharifa Asma ... to try make some rose sugar

Immature Broad Bodied Chaser Dragonfly nymph

This week I dug up the last of the leeks, which had flower stalks running down inside them. These are quite tough so were removed before cooking. I didn't think you needed yet another photo of a bunch of leeks though!

Lots of herbs of course, including a generous bunch of Oregano to add to the Italian-style meat balls, and Spearmint, which went into the marinade for our barbecued leg of lamb at the weekend. Both were snipped by Indigo aged 6, with great care

While she was staying with us, we investigated what has taken up residence in our little pond on #146. We dug this out a year ago, and we have seen pond skaters, and lots of baby waterboatmen, as well as birds, bees and wasps stopping by for a drink, but it was quite amazing to see what was caught with a small net: Backswimmers, Waterboatmen, Whirligig beetles, Mosquito larvae, nymphs of Stone flies and tiny Mayfly nymphs from eggs laid by last year's hatching of Mayflies, Freshwater shrimps, Water Slaters, Blood worms, Damselfly nymphs and a nymph of the Broad Bodied Chaser Dragonfly, as well as numerous frog tadpoles We watched Common Red and Common Blue Damselflies laying eggs too. An amazing range of species considering it was devoid of life last June, and really interesting to look at, before we carefully returned them thier watery home. 

Orange Tip caterpillar

It has been an interesting week for wildlife all round. There have been lots of Orange Tip butterflies around this Spring, far more than usual, and so we left some of the food plant of their caterpillars in one of the flower beds: Hedge Garlic. The butterflies laid their single orange eggs on the developing seedpods, and these hatched into caterpillars which have raapidly grown and are now almost ready to pupate. 

I hadn't known that Honesty was also a suitable food plant: there are quite a few caterpillars eating away on the seed pods of these too, so overall we have twelve fat, blueish green larvae living happily camouflaged right by our seating area. Fascinating!

Ladybirds eat blackfly!

There are lots of ladybirds around on our plots suddenly. I am always pleased to see them, as they eat up lots of aphids and blackfly, and their larvae feed on these too. I am keeping a close eye on the beans, as they are a popular feeding spot for these pests, and hope the ladybirds keep them under control. This one is has her work cut out on the foxglove stem though

I have been pinching off heavily infested shoots on Feverfew, and have seen lots on dock shoots along the verges too. Is this going to be one of those "Blackfly Bloom " years? If so, it'll be out with the soapy spray as even ladybirds cannot control such a population explosion!

Spiderlings of the Cross Orbspinner spider

Spiders also help reduce the population of flying insect pests, and this little nest of spiderlings is very welcome in the garden. If they are disturbed, they scatter along their silk lines to hide, but soon reassemble. I guess there must be safety in numbers at this age.

Across the plots, most of the veggies are growing well: the climbing beans are showing interest in their poles, waving their longer stems hopefully, the broad beans are covered in flowers and are beginning to set pods now too and the potato plants have recovered from their frost damage and are developing good strong foliage.

 

There is one crop that is faring very badly though... onions. The Autumn planted sets have bolted, and we are using these fresh from the ground as needed, beacuse they will not store like this. They are quite small onions though, in comparison to our usual harvests.

And the leaves of the Spring planted sets have gone very twisted and pecualiar-looking. This happened last ear too (In a different bed) and some of those on #145 have also now succumbed. I don't know if this is an environmental stress or pathological. I haven't weeded them yet: when I do I shall burn the weeds in case this is something transferrable.

The precious plants grown from seed were planted in the polytunnel today, in the hope that they stay unaffected.

Any help or advice will be greatly appreciated, thank you.

And that rather unattractive picture end sthis week's blog. Thank you for all the kind comments and questions: I hope you found this entry interesting too.

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

Lots of salad veg to choose from now!

22nd May - cover up quick!! We arrived at the plot this morning to see fat woodpigeons perched on the gooseberry bushes eying up the fruit, and to add insult to injury a blackbird careened out of the bushes, having been investigating the red currants..... and guess what? The new net was in the car and two hours later it was in place, nicely supported by the re-purposed mini-tunnel frames (one of our own, one from a friend, and ones from our daughter-in-law's parents: thank you so much) and weighted down by long pieces of wood. Job done!!

Mildewy gooseberries are no use at all!

I say two hours as there was the  small matter of the Gooseberry bush that had American Gooseberry Mildew, with fruit already fuzzy and white. This particular bush has been affected in the past and so it was on borrowed time, as it were... now it is cut back to the bare framework and will be dug out in the Autumn. No point in giving space to a fruit bush that gives no useable fruit quite frankly

Whilst I was there I pruned back a lot of the new growth on the other bushes to two of three leaves, which gave the developing (non-mildwewy) fruit a bit of light and air. There are plenty of berries on all of them so I am feeling optimistic gosseberry-wise right now

But as you know, nothing is ever straightforward and in addition to gooseberry issues, there was the added matter of the Currant Blister. This is caused by aphids that feed underneath the leaf, and although it does not seem to affect fruiting it is quite unsightly, so off came all the new growth with the blistered markings. At least the are not prickly to deal with, unlike those gooseberry bushes!

The Jostaberry bush, which also has many. many fruits, had grown a few branches that stuck out over the edges of the beds, so a little bit of pruning was also needed there, but eventually, on went the net. Birds seem to be able to squeeze in through the smallest spaces... and then of course flap frantically, unable to get out the same way in their panic ... so Abi stitched the edges of the net to the wiremesh fence to prevent them getting in. We hope!

These are the ones I picked today: Red Lilia Spring Onions and Black Seeded Simpson lettuce

Let's move on to Harvest Monday, hosted by Dave from Our Happy Acres. The header photo this week shows the variety of veggies we have for salad now: Lettuce, baby spinach, baby beetroot leaves, radishes, spring onions, both White Lisbon and the red Lilia, nasturtium flowers and chive flowers, all of which are delicious..

Thye looked really lovely on the plate and make you want to have salad with dinner almost every day. Rowan, our four year old grand daughter, was delighted that lots of flowers are edible and is looking forward to trying lots more, with the rule that you can only eat flowers when I am with her ... I had visions of her grazing her way around the garden centres!!

Elderflowers just after they were gathered

One other flower harvested this week has a fleeting season but is so worth the effort of foraging to harvest ... elderflowers. Last year we made a lot of cordial, and there are still a few bottles left, and so the plan was to leave the flowers on the trees this year, but then last night we opened the first bottle of Elderflower Gin, forgotten on the top shelf in the garage. Mmmmmmm. Today I picked enough flowers to make another litre of this delicousness, and they are already steeping to capture all that unique flavour: recipe to follow tomorrow. We are also looking forward to Elderflower and Orange Vodka, which  I've not made before. Still deciding whether to use white sugar or brown. I'll need to wait for a couple of days to collect more flowers for this. as collecting them as they open with all their golden scented pollen, makes for the best results

New harvest this week was peas! Hatif D'Annonay have been well worth growing early under a  cloche, although sadly the mice have now discovered them too

There has been a bit of a focus on fruit this week, as our fig tree, the Brunswick that gave us not only succulent figs but the amazing second crop which were preserved in rose syrup, made it clear it had not enjoyed that late hard frost three weeks back and dropped off most of its neonatal crop for this Summer. No choice but the compost bin for these ones, leaving us with about a dozen still on the tree.

The poor tree down on #145 that lost all its leaves thanks to that frost, is growing a fresh set, although there is no sign of fruit at all for this year

Last week I mentioned I was trying to save the cherries in the garden at home by being eaten by birds, and here are my secret weapons: long bags made from enviromesh. I haven't covered every branch, as I want to see how the sleeves affect the speed with which the fruit ripens, if at all. They may not be the prettiest addition to the garden but I am pinning my hopes on their effectiveness.

The short trees at the plot are inside the fruit cage, so I think they should be safe from guzzling birds.

Our biggest project this season though is the new polytunnel. Two heavy boxes arrived this week, and after hours and hours of hard work ... mostly Abi's.... the frame is up, the cover on, the doors fixed and the prep of the beds inside has begun. Here it is, stage by stage:

  • The frame looked huge!

  • The last trench was dug

  • The cover went over easily

  • Soil buried the cover flaps

And now the beds are being prepared. We have compost to dig into the soil to cut through the clay, and wooden edging to install. I am itching to plant in there of course... I hope that next week I can show you lots growing inside!

Whilst Abi has been constructing the tunnel, I have not been sitting admiringly by: runner and climbing French beans are planted out, carrots are weeded, anti-pigeon wire frames installed to protect the pea plants from being pecked to pieces. 

I have also sown seeds in that nice large flower bed on #145: anise, larkspur, calendula and poppies. It's a bit late in the season for sowing annuals, but early Autumn could see a good display.

I have sown more parsnips seeds too: after six weeks 7 out of 70 seeds had germinated and so in have gone some more: Javelin this time. Let's hope they do better than their forerunners..... you never know with parsnips!

Roses arecoming into their own now, so I thought I'd share some of the ones hat have opened this week. Strangely, the bush with flowers that looks apricot coloured (in the bowl) had pink flowers last year! 

We try to support wildlife on our plots, unless they are eating our crop of course, when we try to move them out! Earlier in the year I let some Hedge Garlic plants grow in our flower bed on #146, rather than pull them up, hoping that Orange Tip butterflies would lay their eggs on the young seed pods. We also had lots of Honesty growing alongside them. It turns out that these butterflies also use Honesty as a food plant for their caterpillars, and in total there are about a dozen busy eating away, which is quite exciting. Some are nearly large enough to pupate.

The butterflies themselves have now faded away, but there are plenty of others, including Brimstones, Red Admirals, Painted Ladies and the ubiquitous Large and Small Whites all spotted today. 

There are also more Rose Chafers around than we usually see, and from the look of these two inside a rose, more to follow! They are a beautiful, metallic greeny bronze beetle, that gorge themselves on pollen, from umbelliferas and logan berry flowers, as well of course as roses. You know Summer is well and truly on the way when they arrive!

  • Mature Orange Tip caterpillar

  • A pair of Rose chafers in a rose

As this is such a gorgeous beetle, I thought I'd end with a close up view. This week's blog entry is quite long, but it is such a busy time in the year I suppose it is no surprise really! Thank you for reading it through.

Next week, as I said, I hope there will be plants growing in the new tunnel, and more flowers will be planted in their containers too, ready for a colourful display through the Summer and Autumn.

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

Cherries in our garden

Radishes sown as row markers for parsnips

15th May - Rain, refreshing rain, beloved by gardeners. We have actually had a couple of rainy hours, which hopefully  will boost growth at the allotments. Despite twice weekly soaks from the water butt, there are precisely three parsnip seedlings poking their heads up after five weeks, so this is their chance to jump up and show themselves. If not, I shall be sowing more seed, as late, small parsnips will be better than no parsnips!! Never had this issue before, but from listening to other it is apparently fairly common. Huh! They can forget being common for a start... we aim for posh round here!!

I'll share our gatherings with Harvest Monday, and it will be very quick: radishes. These are from the ones sown to mark where the parsnip seeds were sown so they don't get forgotten. Really quite modest foliage so I was surprised at the size of the roots.

Perpetual spinach

There was also another good picking of spinach from those plants in the giant cold frame. I had though they would be well and truly over as they have thick flower stems now, but it is still edible. It melts down nicely in curries if the main leaf rib is removed. Anything fresh is a bonus right now!

Plenty of cabbage of course ... forgot the photos though but you know how they look from last week! Nice finely sliced and cooked with potato flavoured with mustard seeds and fennel, with a touch of turmeric

The Purple Sprouting Broccoli has given us its last harvest now for sure: the plants were uprooted and given to our daughter's chickens, which, once they got over the fright of the big green dragon in their pen, pecked them with evident relish, right down to the bare stems.

Lettuce of course, with another of the Black Seeded Simpsons adding to our salads (Must remember to pick some of the small spinach leaves for salad next week too), and lots of herbs: chives with omelette and with potato salad, mint with elderflower cordial, rosemary with garlic in roast potatoes, sage and thyme with tray-baked chicken thighs. Herbs are always expensive to buy and I love just being able to cut so much fresh as needed. Talking of herbs, the Dill seeds sown a couple of weeks back under the long cloche next to the peas have germinated and are starting to grow their first leaves. Something else to look forward too.

More anticipation: the cherries on our small tree in the garden and developing well, as you can see from the header photo. The birds love these as much as we do, so this year, to protect them from the peckers and nibblers, I am going to make some sleeves to go over the branches out of lightweight material. I'll show you next week. 

There are buds forming on some of our aubergines and pepper plants already, which is a clue that I need to keep feeding them. And yes, that is still the bubble insulation up in my greenhouse. Given the very cold nights we have had recently, I decided to leave it in place a bit longer, and to be honest, it does shade the plants from the burning sun during the day time too. I'll try to swap it for the shade netting soon, but I need to take all the plants out first to avoid damaging them, so it is not a quick job.

  • These plants are simply called "Mixed Sweet Peppers" and they look as though they could give us a nice crop. They will be planted in the ground in the new polytunnel once this is up... not too long now I hope!

  • This Alberto's Locato Rococco is now in it's third season. It was cut back hard last November, and now, on its new growth, it is sporting beautiful purple flower buds. Mealy bugs do seem to like this plant, but regular inspections deal with them

  • Amazed that the Bapatla Brinjal plants are developing flower buds already. They are not even close to opening, but it is very promising. I've not grown these before. It is an Indian variety with green and white fruit, so fingers crossed they continue to thrive

Crimson Crush tomato plants

The tomato plants are all out in the garden now... next stop the giant cold frame on #146. Every year I end up growing far more than I have space for really, so this is the week where anyone we visit gets tomato plants! Some friends have already asked for particular varieties, a visit to our daughter re-homed a dozen at the weekend, and the local Gardeners' Society is having a Plant Swap Evening on Thursday so any surplus will be going with me. I shall resist coming home with different varieties if humanly possible!!

The plants are much smaller than usual for the time in the year, sown later to fit in with absences from home etc, but will soon take off once they are settled into their new accommodation.

These Crimson Crush will be planted out on #145 once I have made their supporting structure. The fruits are large and heavy and I'd hate for the plants to collapse later in the season. Some of these plants are "second gneration" from seeds Mike gave me. Crimson Crush are a blight resistant F1 variety and we were both keen to see if this resistant quality persists in the next generation...maybe not, but interesting nonetheless!

This year every plant has its own label Usually by now the wheels have fallen off whatever "foolproof system" I have tried, so this year I have made labels by cutting plastic milk bottles into appropriately sized pieces and writing on them using a permanent marker... so far, so good!

Last year I was left trying to match up plants by their leaves, as different varieties have different shapes, albeit sometimes very subtle. You can what I mean here. Clockwise from the top, these are: Summer Cider, Reisetomate,Costoluco Genovese,, Crimson Crush, Yellow Pear, Marmande and in the centre, Oxheart. Once you get your eye in, it's not too hard.

 

 

Runner Beans (left) and climbing French Beans (right)

Also in the greenhouse are the runner bean and french bean plants, which germinated this week. I'll harden them off in the garden and plan to plant them out by the end of the month. Several people have asked if it too late to sow these now... no, in fact, now that the weather is warmer you can sow them directly into the ground, as long as you are not plagued by mice and voles, that love to eat the seeds

Two Basils and Little Gem Lettuce (top left) after nine days

The Winter Squash seeds sown last week are beginning to germinate, and I have taken them out of the propagator and into the greenhouse. They are less likely to grow long and skinny in cooler temperatures (cooler, not cold!) and with better light levels. The smaller seeded varieties -  Butternut Hawk and Thelma Sanders Acorn - were up in four days, and the larger ones are beginning now to stir. As they are not in the propagator, they will slow down a bit anyway, but this will be fine.

Both varieties of Basil germinated quickly too, and these are now also in the greenhouse. I plan to plant these in front of the tomato plants in the polytunnel, as they should enjoy a little shade and will benefit when the tomato plants are fed and watered too. I've not grown Lime Basil before so am really looking forward too tasting this

 

Our Cutting Bed on #145

Abi has been busy digging the next flower bed on #145 - hard work on such dry ground - that eventually we want to use for flowers to cut.. haven't quite decided how to organise this, but the whole plot looks better for having the grass and weeds cleared away from this area. One idea is to plant the top edge with lavender, as this path is the one that runs through to #146 and is visible from both sides... and we like lavender, and so do the bees.  All suggestions are welcome please. I ma sure some of you grow flowers to cut and it is always good to share experiences.

He has planned it so that the paths alongside will join into the other paths without awkward corners, although it looks a bit od at the moment. The remaining edging was going to be put in today, but rain stopped play. These edges make it easier to strim the grass will also stop plants from flopping over too.

On #146 flowers are gradually adding more and more colour, and in the garden at home the purple theme of May is continuing, supplemented beautifully by other colours as the month moves on:

  • Dutch irises are a vivid blue. We plan to buy more of these for our new Cutting Bed, as bulbs are inexpensive

  • This red salvia was a rescue plant, but it has certainly recovered and absolutely glows with colour for months

  • Scented blue bearded irises came from my Dad's garden, and thrive in this sunny spot. They are well complemented by the Alliums

  • The first foxgloves are blooming in the front garden. There are lots on the plots too, in all sorts of shades of pink and white

I was always taught that plants thrive when they are growing somewhere that suits them, and here at home we have a north-facing garden which, near the house agrees with rhododendrons, camellias and ...ferns

So I thought to finish this week I'd share this view of our steps, where pots of ferns happily sit. These are all hardy, increasing in size year by year. We do have several other varieties around the garden, but the fresh lime green growth of these Buckler and Male Ferns always brings a smile. The Japanese Painted Fern  (bottom right) is a new addition. This sems ot grow quite slowly but eventually it should compete with the other for attention.

I hope you have enjoyed the review of this week. Thank you for your kind comments and queries which are much appreciated.  I try to answer these as soon as I can. It's always good to know something about the folk who are reading this.

Next week I hope we have news of the polytunnel!

The early cabbages grown for Spring Greens are giving us huge crops now!

We have been harvesting leeks for six months!

8th May - Is this a drought? We seem to be watering something every day at the moment, trying to ensure that each bed gets a good soak, not a little sprinkle.Really glad we have bore hole water, not metered water! Mulched the soft fruit bushes and raspberries today, with wood chippings to try to keep them happy.

Harvest Monday is slightly more bountiful this week (only slightly, but anything is welcome to be honest. First to the table is something new: the Spring cabbage shown in the header photo!! These plants were planted in the giant cold frame last Autumn, mainly because there was no space ready in any of the beds and they were rapidly outgrowing their little pots. What a success story they are ... the slight amount of shelter has resulted in huge, lush dark green leaves with an excellent flavour. Spinach is also in there and is equally perfect! They are both on the "polytunnel list" for next Autumn for sure!

A couple of crops are coming to an end now: Purple Sprouting Broccoli is extending its spears into flowering shoots faster than I can keep up, so the last of it was used for a baked dish that includes Wild Garlic Leaves, which are also getting a bit past their best.

Planting a succession of leek varieties has meant we are still pulling useable plants, although one today had the beginnings of a flowering shoot coming along inside.  I leave a couple to flower each year as the bees love them and they look statuesque with their large white balls of flowers too

Mustard greens have cropped for months too

Another "last" today was Red Mustard, another crop grown with some slight shelter, this time in the ripped remains of the old mini-tunnel.  The plants are determined to flower and so today I took out the tough old stems and spruced up the ground ready to plant out Zinnias. The area where the mini-tunnel has been is now another flower bed, and already there are Sweet Peas, Sunflowers and French Marigolds in place. It was a devil of a job to extract the remaining sections of the plastic cover from under the ground, but it means the plants can extend their roots down deeper.

And the final overwintered lettuce is now eaten! I am hoping that the Black Seeded Simpsons will be large enough to begin harvesting next week. I have three lots of six, each planted out in succession, which should see us through the next few weeks alright

Green garlic

Chives, parsley and spearmint have added extra flavour to our meals this week, but the real boost has come from green garlic. Usually I leave the garlic in until the leaves are strawy, but I had read that some people dig up their Autumn sown garlic from mid-May onwards. As there were two plants in the way of the planned flower border to their bed, I decided to dig them up and wow! They are really strong and sweet, and just the thing to use in tomorrow's chicken biryani. I might be tempted into using  a few more green like this! We do seem to have more garlic growing than usual this year, so we will still end up with a fair number of heads later in the year

Deep red Lilia Spring Onions

I had a bit of a sowing frenzy yesterday. The week has been so busy at the plots, and adding to that the extra time every day moving the tomatoes and courgettes out of the greenhouse and back in again, I kept putting off making up some sowing mix and getting out the seed box. But yesterday I thought if I didn't get on with it, it would be too late for this year, so..... this is what I sowed in modules yesterday:

Squashes: Butternut "Hawk", Queensland Blue, Thelma Sanders, Ute Indian, North Georgia Candy Roaster, Lady Godiva (The one with naked seeds) and Flat White Boer. They are all in the propagator on the kitchen windowsill, and by the time they are up and needing greenhouse space, the courgette plants will be vacating their spot for the ground in #146.

Spring Onions: Feast and Lilia. I love the deep colour of Lilia so try to grow some every year

Sweetcorn: Swift (Let's hope it is!)

and in pots:

Lime Basil from Thailand, ordinary Basil, and Little Gem lettuce. The Basils are in the propagator, but as lettuce does not germainte if it is too warm, it is sitting on the floor of the greenhouse.

I spotted the beginnings of movement in the trays of beans I sowed last week: their ground awaits so I hope they hurry up!

Next week I hope to share more flower photos, as our Tamarisk tree, little though it is, will be in full flower by then.

 

The Spring Onions under the long cloche are growing rapidly and will soon be ready to eat

 

1st May - Happy May Day! and welcome to the elastic-sided greenhouse!! I hope you were all up to roll in the dew this morning to ensure a further year of lovely skin and youthfulness? At least it wasn't sub zero today, unlike several early mornings last week. Despite my best efforts to protect them with fleece, the shoots of the first early potatoes were damaged, as was the new foliage of our little fig tree, and the kiwi fruit. The potatoes will recover for sure, and fingers crossed for the others, but it is quite upsetting to see lovely freshly grown plants burnt by the cold like this.

It was good to see that the various cloches we have did protect plants. The long cloche, where there are beetroot, spring onions, turnips and peas is looking excellent, as you can see from the header photo and this one of the peas. Lots and lots of flowers, and&nbsp;a good crop is looking likely. The variety is Hatif d'Annonay, the seeds of which arrived fom the Seed Circle in 2015. Last year the sowing was completely swamped by weeds on #145, but this year I have cosseted them a bit, and look at the result! I hope to be able to make&nbsp;a late sowing under cover at the end of the season too. The single plant at home in our greenhouse is heavy with developing pods, much to the delight of our youngest granddaughter, who has already sampled two pods from "her" pea plant.</p>

 

  • Just look at these poor things! Luckily the second earlies and mains were safely under their blanket of compost and are unscathed

  • The kiwi leaves entwined with honeysuckle. I hope there re new leaf buds further down to spring into growth

  • And the fig tree looks dreadful! Our huge tree in the garden though came through without any damage, though

Moving on to Harvest Monday (hosted by Dave from Our Happy Acres as usual). I have to say our harvest have been somewhat predictable this week:

  • Yes, our old favourite, Purple Sprouting Broccoli! It does seem odd that at the same time as we are harvesting from these plants, the new seedlings for next year are siting in the giant cold frame awaiting potting on

  • Perpetual spinach is as abundant as ever. This picking was combined with some of the PSB and baked in cheese sauce. Very tasty indeed: recipe to follow tomorrow in case you need a new idea for using PSB

Talking about the onion family has reminded me that someone asked how the onions we are growing from seed are getting on (Bedfordshire Champion & Ailsa Craig), so here they are, looking healthy in their deep tray. They are fed weekly with whatever comes to hand: comfrey fertliser, tomato feed or nettle fertlliser. I noticed some moss growing on the surface of the compost this morning, so hoiked it out using a plant label. The onions seem none the worse for it, and their leaves are all standing up nice and straight. I am keeping them in a sheltered spot out of the prevailing wind, and they have been outside for several weeks now.

Onion leaves naturally die back from the outside, growing new leaves from the inside, so any that are pale and dry can be removed if they bother you. The onions don't mind either way really, and it is nothing to worry about at all. This pattern of growth is how the layers in the onion bulbs are formed: one layer per leaf

The plan is for these to be planted out towards the end of this month, but in the meanwhile as long as I feed them well they will be fine

For comparison, here are the leek seedlings. Abi said they look like blades of grass and he is right! However, by the time their space is available, to follow first and second early potatoes, they will be much thicker and much more robust

They have the same "diet" as the onion plants, and as they site next to each other a drench from a fine rosed  watering can does them just fine.

The plan to have a continuous supply of lettuces is still working. Here is the next batch of Black Seeded Simpsons ready to be planted out this week, with the one  to follow along afterwards in their modules now too. Time to sow some more. It'll be Little Gem this time, a few in a 9cm pot, potted on successively again.

At home I have potted on lots of flowers this week: zinnias, asters, sweet williams and African marigolds as well as some coleus, masses of tomatoes, the cucumbers, gherkins and courgettes. The number of pots in the greenhouse has now reached critical mass, with literally no space for anything more until something moved out to the giant cold frame at the plot. So out went the agyranthemums, and the mangetout seedlings, which are actually just hardening off before I plant them out, to makeenough space to squeeze in some modules of beans, sown into a mix of multipurpose compost, coir and perlite:

Runners - Moonlight, Benchmaster, Firestorm plus a few seeds of an un-named peach flowered variety from last year's Seed Circle

Climbing French - Carminat, Blue Lake & a Yellow Podded un-named variety

Dward French - Orinoco and Dorado, both of which have yellow pods (oops!)

They are sitting under the staging until they germinate. Where they go then depends on the weather, but hopefully they can be hardened off and planted out pretty quickly

Then a dozen free fuchsia plants arrived, which I had forgotten were coming (!)  These are currently precariously balanced between the edge of a trough and a pot holding a standard fuchsia, and so far I have managed to water things without knocking them off.

We did attempt to erect the small plastic grenhouse stored in the shed at the plot, thinking it might provide a home for some of the less tender plants, but we couldn't find the connectors to join the sections together... end of plan arrghhh!!!

Orinoco beans from King Seeds

The march of the weeks continues to be marked by the opening of flowers: This week's beauty is one of our rhododendrons, with magenta buds that open to palest pink. It always seems to open its first flowers in early May, and this year is no exception. One of our favourites!

I was not the only one sowing seeds this week: our youngest granddaughter was given a "flower box" from her birthday and the instructions said to plant the whole box in the ground. As there is not an empty space that size in her garden, the box has duly been planted in a marked off section of the allotment, and she is looking forward to sunflowers, cornflowers, nasturtiums and californian poppies. All sounds good! It did, of course, need a good soak once it had been buried

I was lucky enough to have my camera in my hand when a female kestrel alighted on a nearby tree, in between hovering over the plots searching for lunch. We see her most days, but getting a photo to show her lovely colours has so far aways escaped me... until today!

I thought I'd share it with you to finish this week's blog. Thank you again for your support: I am always glad to hear from you and try to reply as soon as I can.

Next week I hope to report the sowing of squashes!

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