July 2018

30th July... Tomatoes are a-coming-in!! After a week of extremes of weather... hottest day of the year, rain storms and gales ... our tomatoes are ripening quickly, and the time has come to embark on regular "cook-up" sessions if I am to avoid that Tomato Mountain on the Kitchen Floor syndrome again this year.

So here, to start off the last Harvest Monday of July, is a round up of our Tomatoes so far, all pictured on the same size plate for comparison:

  • Ox Hearts are huge, and after last year's blight disaster, it is great to have some ripen. They have good flavour and are great for stuffing as they have thick walls

  • Marmandes are another large variety, one we have never had mature fruits from before tbh, even if these are slightly cracked. Fantastic in a sandwich or grilled on toast

  • Golden Sunrise and Orange Banana are juicy and sweet, good sliced in salads with their nice bright colours. They also both split easily if unevenly watered

  • Here are the outdoor-grown Crimson Crush, which are blight resistant. Nice big fruits, evenly sized and a good flavour. A multi-purpose variety slightly smaller than beefsteaks

  • Two more BR varieties: Ferline and Mountain Magic, both of which have been vigorous outside and been fruiting for the past two weeks in the exceptionally sunny weather

  • Delighted to have these plants fruit, as they are seeds from an un-named variety we call Lanzarote Stripe: a deep, rich flavour, excellent in a mixed tomato salad or in a sandwich

  • These are Ailsa Craig, which have unevenly sized fruits on each truss this year, and they have been slower to fruit too. Not sure why, but they taste good and will be added to sauces

  • Smaller varieties of tomato usually ripen earlier: Black Cherry are exceptionally sweet, Apero are more acid but still tasty. Costoluco Genovese are much smaller than last year.. not due to lack of water

Zeina Cucumbers picked this afternoon

The Roma tomatoes are massive, but showing no signs of ripening so far. This is a new variety for us, and I understand they are excellent for sauces and passata. I'll report back when we have some to use.

Cucumbers are thriving. The feed of chicken manure pellets has resulted in a growth spurt up the netting as well as lots of flowers. This here is half of the amount harvested this week, and there is a large bowl of Cucumber Fridge Pickles with Dill and Onion on the go, to be eaten with anything we fancy.. lunch sandwiches, grilled burgers, side salads, cheese & crackers, anything really. This latest batch will be made into something to store over the Winter, as yet undecided, that will provide a tasty "crunch" in those long dark days

Watermelon,Cucumber, Mint & Feta Salad

Some of the cucumbers picked at the weekend went into a Watermelon, Cucumber, Mint and Feta Salad, which was very refreshing. By cutting back areas at different times, and watering the Mint, we have managed to keep it producing fresh leaves throught the Summer so far. It is great for adding to iced drinks too. One of our current favourites is Lime & Mint, although the limes are not home grown: goes down very well after a hot morning at the plot, sitting in the shade in the back garden

We've also managed to keep a steady supply of Parsley, by keeping cutting out the flowering stems of the curly-leaved plant in the polytunnel and watering that well too, so this weekend we had plenty to add to the mix for sweet potato and red bean burgers, to add some summery freshness

Courgette & Mozaralla Stir fry with Caramelised Onions and Fennel

Courgettes are still a virtually daily harvest, with the occasional "blimp" that escapes notice for a couple of days or even longer. These big beasts are best used for soup or for something that takes grated courgette such as muffins or a savoury pasta dish. I tried a combination of courgette batons with mozarella and Basil this week, which our grandchildren delared very tasty, served with some french bread warm from the oven. Caramelised onion and fennel seed added to the flavour, although one granddaughter said there was too much onion for her, so she politely left this to the side of her otherwise clean plate. 

The large leafed green Basil is luxuriating in the shady warmth between the tomato plants in the polytunnel, and provides us with as much as we need, from a couple of leaves to garnish a tomato salad, to enough for the pesto I am planning on making this week

All of a sudden, there are bowlsful of Blackberries ripening, so fruity crumbles, compotes and cakes will be figuring any day now. They seem much sweeter than usual this year... is this as result of less water? They are certainly not smaller though

The harvest that is special to us right now are these Globo Onions, sown just after Christmas. They are the largest ones we have every grown, and we are hoping to have three matching ones for the local Show in five weeks' time. I stood them up for the photo, but they are going to be lying on their sides to ensure the bases dry thoroughly for a while yet. Eventually of course, they will all be eaten though!

The plot inspection for Reading in Bloom is now over, and the combination of this, a couple of days of lower temperatures and rain has taken the pressure off a bit, so it has been good to be able to enjoy time at home in the garden and meet up with friends. It will also give me time to get out those preserving jars!!

This week's Wildlife Spot goes to a butterfly, this time one seen in the water meadow: the Common Blue. The male has beautiful blue wings whilst the female is a pretty brown with orange markings and both have downy blue bodies. In our area, the females seem to be predominantly brown, but in others, they can have mainly blue wings but they all have those tell-tale orange markings on the borders of their wings.

They bring back memories of childhood for me, when they were as common as their name would susggest, but sadly in some parts of the country they are rarely seen now

After the gales this week, I am so pleased I decided to grow shorter sunflowers this year. They didn't crash to the ground and bring down everything in their path, as those giant varieties would have done. Instead, we have shoulder-high clumps of flowers dotted here and there: pretty lemon with brown centres, even paler yellow ones with yellow middles and just opening, deep reddish maroon ones with almost black centres. They all make brilliant cut flowers that are much more manageable than the massive blooms of those larger vareities.

I hope everyone is well and enjoying their harvests: I shall be back next Monday!

 

 

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

23rd July -  Summer Harvests are Better Than Expected!! The heatwave continues, although we had a cople of hours of unexpected but very welcome rainfall last Friday. Temperatures  in the low to mid 30s mean it is almost too hot to work outside for any length of time in the middle of the day, so early morning and early evening are plot visiting hours at the moment...and no change on the horizon, either. An Amber Health Warning has been issued now. These last few days have proved particularly challenging as plot inspections linked to Reading in Bloom are approaching, so a bit of a clear up, putting away stray canes and labels and making sure there are no weeds, even wilted ones, growing in the paths etc has added to the time we already spend watering.

Let's have a look at Harvest Monday though, as there has been lots to enjoy, starting with the first Sweetcorn of the year, and it was totally delicious, just lightly cooked and immediately eaten, plain and unadulterated. Mmmmmmmmm. Growing it in the polytunnel, combined with an early variety, Swift has meant a cropping period starting late July, and it is well worth giving space ot it Lots more to come too!!

After the rain, the ground was soft enough to dig up some of the Second Early Potatoes, which gave us the space to plant out the rest of the leek plants before they suffered too much still sitting in their tray. It was a real surprise to have such a good crop, given the dry weather and the limited watering we have been able to given them. Our favourites are Kestrels, as they not only look great with the purple designs on them, but roast very well too.. From 14 tubers, we had 13kg of potatoes, and although most of them were a little smaller than usual, none were chewed by rats (unlike last year, when Rat Attack meant we dug our potatoes early so we actually had some for ourselves) a few were large enough for baking, and very few were really tiny. 

The next 14 tubers were Maris Peer, which are a great multi-purpose potato, with an excellent flavour and consistency that means they can be used as salad potatoes too. 15kg was a good yield, with lots of medium-to-small tubers that will be really easy to use.

Both varieties store well, and they have been washed and sorted, with any with holes in them put aside for using first... very little wireworm damage this year ... and left on absorbent cloth on the dining room floor until they are completely dry, before being stored in hessian sacks in the garage.

The last set of tubers, Charlottes, are still in the ground, as we haven't had time to dig them yet, but with the tops cut off they can sit there quite happily for a little while. 

The main crop plants have more or less collapsed through lack of water, but the tops have been left on for the small amount of nutrients they might provide to those precious tubers. As long as they are not being chewed, they can stay in for a couple more weeks.

Beetroot is growing well this year, and this is our first large ones of the orange Boldor, which are very sweet and are excellent roasted, then cooled for adding to salad.  The purple varieties are also looking good: this  is another crop we shall have to think how we can preserve/store them, as it looks like being a bumper harvest this year.  Rather than having 50 jars of pickled beetroot, it is good to be able to ring the changes through the year and they are more likely to be eaten then too. Beetroot do store well in a box of damp compost, so some will be over-wintered like this in the garage, alongside the potato sacks.

Next are the Tomatoes, and I was so pleased to be able to harvest our very first ever ripe Marmande. Every year I have tried to grow these, only to lose the plants to blight, or have blossom-end rot, or have issues with fruit set, but this year... just look at that huge juicy beast! There are several almost ripe on the plant (which is in the polytunnel, although I do have another  plant at home in the garden too, which has smaller fruit). It was sweet and gorgeously juicy sliced in a sandwich with some cheese

This week we harvested more tomatoes than we could eat on a daily basis, lots of different varieties in the photo, Ailsa Craig, Black Cherry, Golden Sunrise, Orange Banana, Apero and the dark one we have called Lanzarote Stripe. Easy to munch on the smaller ones but it will soon be time to start thinking of how tomatoes will be preserved this year so we can enjoy their flavour once harvesting is ended.

Courgettes abound, in all sorts of shapes and colours, and they are being stealthed into almost every dinner now, as well as being used in muffins (Courgette and Sultana this week, 30 minutes start to being on the cooling rack. Used the recipe for Courgette and Peacn Nut Muffins, substituting sultanas for the nuts - Recipes 2018) Lots of courgettes have been given to friends and neighbours too, but I confess to a few still in the fridge

Cucumbers are another "regular" and there is now an ongoing container of Cucumber Fridge Pickle in our house, to dip into in passing, to have with a sandwich for lunch or as a side dish with dinner. These are the little Zeinas, which grow so fast! I noticed that the new leaves were slightly pale, so it was out with the chicken manure pellets for extra Nitrogen. Often people use a tomato fertilser for cucumbers, but they do really respond better to something with more Nitrogen, rather than the high Potassium of a commercial tomato feed or Comfrey feed. Already they are looking better.

Carrots are a "regular" now, with Nandor and Sweet Candle from the outdoor beds giving good sized root. These get watered once a week, with a good soak, and so far this has kept the roots growing without splitting, thank goodness, although as I said before, some of them are a funny shape. When the roots are quite large though, they are easy to prepare with little wastage. 

A very unexpected harvest this week was Cherries. A protective sleeve was still on a branch at the back of the tree in the garden at home, and inside were perfectly ripe black cherries, just enough for a feast for the two of us.

This week I pruned the cherry trees, and the large plum tree too, as it is better to prune Stone Fruit trees while they are in active growth, as it helps prevent bacterial diseases such Silverleaf take hold. It also the time to prune back excess new growth on apple and  pear trees to spport the development of new fruiting spurs for next season, as well as pruning the currants and gooseberries. I thinned down the black currant bushes by removing several of the oldest branches.. you can spot these as they have very dark coloured bark.. to make space for the new younger branches to grow and develop a more open shape to the bushes. 

We have also had lots more French Beans, and the first small picking of Runner Beans which I forgot to photograph... hopefully there will be more next week.

That is the end of our harvests for this week. A couple of people have asked if I could show you what the plots look like right nwo, so here are two series of photos, the first of Plot 146 and the second of Plot 145.

This week's Wildlife Spot has to go to the baby Robin, that hopped about so close while I was working that I worried I might tread on him. When I sat down quietly, he confidently came close to eat the two fat green juicy caterpillars I had taken off the cabbage plants earlier

Will this little fellow be the one to win our plot as his Winter territory?

And that is the end of this week's Plot News. I am ending with this photo specially for Kitty, who asked if any of our pink Stagazer lilies were out yet. This is one that opened yesterday in the bed next to our seating area on Plot 146. It smells amazing, and I am sure yours do too Kitty.

I'll be back next week, still watering everything in sight and hopefully still harvesting

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

16th July - Let's Hope St Swithin is Wrong This Year, as 40 further days without rain will be hard to take. It feels like we should be nicknamed WateringRUs, given the hours and hours that are spent keeping our crops and garden plants alive. It is hard to watch on TV that just a few miles away there have been flashfloods after a deluge of rain, while here there has been nary a drop.

Nonetheless, most crops seem to be coping enough for us to harvest decent quantities, so we shall have a look, on Harvest Monday. First up are, at long last... Tomatoes!  This time last year we were knee deep in tomatoes, but we are grateful for a small harvest this week. There are Golden Sunrise, Black Cherry, Apero, Ailsa Craig and a variety we have called Lanzarote Stripe, which was grown from seeds acquired on holiday earlier this year. Enough for a mixed tomato salad, but given the weight of fruit on the plants in the polytunnel, I am hoping we stay blight free so there can be kilos to come

This is the view long the tomato/chilli/pepper/cucumber end of the tunnel, so you can see what I mean. We have picked several Cucumbers this week, including a couple of Telegraphs from the greenhouse at home

We also harvested lots of Dill, which self sowed all over the place to give a good crop, and this joined the Cucumbers in several jars of Dill Pickles (Preserves October for recipe) which are already stored in the garage. 

Green & Yellow Dilly Pickled Cucumbers

There are lots of young fruit developing, which hopefully means more to harvest and enjoy in the coming week. With sufficient water, they do grow quickly

Our next harvest is Lettuce. This is one of the Cos Lettuces which were given to me by our plot neighbour Jane as small seedlings, and planted in the polytunnel. They are softer than those I have grown outside in the past, but this year lettuces grow outdoors have run to seed very quickly. The frilly leaved ones in the Calabrese bed are already showing signs of developing a flower stalk, which is such a shame. I must try to find something that uses a lot of lettuce at once to utilise them up before they are too bitter. 

The seedlings I was growing on at home were all munched by something.. possibly a snail... at home, so I have none available to plant out as a follow-on crop. I shall look out for a tray of cut-and-come-again salad in the supermarket,as there small plants usually give a good harvest

Our next harvest this week has been Carrots. Unlike the perfect ones harvested from the box last week, the ones grown in the outside bed are a real mixture of shapes and sizes. Usually I take out as many stones as possible in the previous Autumn and add some of our compost, but I didn't do it as thoroughly as usual, and the roots responded by growing around the stones. At least the fine netting kept off the carrot flies so there are no horrible tunnels in them. Home grown carrots have a much more "carrotty" flavour, than those bought from the supermarket, so even when they are an odd shape they still taste good.

This harvest of carrots went into Carrot & Cardamom Muffins, Beef Curry, as well as a large bowl of coleslaw, together with some Duncan Cabbage. I pulled two up, whilst they were still solid, in case the prolonged heat affected them, leaving one more, which will hopefully survive for a while longer. 

 

 

 

Climbing French Beans are cropping heavily, and these here are now all blanched and frozen, together with the yellow Dwarf French Beans from the polytunnel. The plants are already covered with beans again, so there will be plenty more harvests

This is the last big picking of Peas for the season. There might be a few odd pods here and there still to come, but not many. Apparently it has not been a very good season for peas, but to be honest we seem to have done quite well. Only two peas had a maggot in them, and we have been pleased with the amount to pick. We shall never be self sufficient in peas, but there is nothing like the taste of freshly podded peas, lots of which get eaten before they even get home, so giving space to grow some is an easy decision

The yellow pods are mature ones which will be kept to give us seeds for the coming season, drying thoroughly on the desk at home before being stored in a labelled envelope in the seed tin

Beetroot are growing really well, and this week we have had some of the deep maroon Subeto roots roasted, and these bright pink Chioggia, which have concentric pink and white rings when sliced. Really, cooking turns them a kind of muddy beige, and their fresh flavour seems to be lost, so these are best served raw and finely sliced, with a salad dressing. Very good indeed! I took two to our daughter's house as she has not grown any Chioggia this year so I hope her family enjoyed them. 

That is the last of the harvest photographs for this week, so we shall move on to see what else we have been doing .... although there have been plenty of Courgettes

At long last I have managed to plant out half of the Leek plants. I sowed three varieties: Bulgarian Giant, Bleu de Solaise and Porvite, and it was certainly easy to see which was which from the thickness of the stems.  I had to trim the roots to get them in the holes, and pinching back the leaves gives them a chance to settle in without losing too much water through transpiration and they will soon start to produce new leaves

We have serious issues with Leek Moth in our area, so I now grow leeks under fine netting to protect them from moths laying eggs on them. Usually I use a version of enviromesh, but all I have is already in use, so I have used a length of voile we had left over from a project at home some years back. It has the added advantage of providing some shade from the intense heat of the sun, and it easy to lift the edge to give the soil a good soak every few days. The remaining plants will be planted out when the second early potatoes are dug up, which should be fairly soon I hope

It does look a little odd having voile tents with a design of cow parsley over some of the beds, but it does the job. I used it last year on one of the brassica beds and it held up well through the Winter, so hopefully it will last as well this time too. Currently, as well as the Leeks, there is a bed of Red Cabbage seedlings and one of Kale similarly dressed, as well as Calabrese and late season Cabbages & Cauliflowers with enviromesh topped by debris netting against the heat of the sun, plus of course the netted carrots too. Carry on like this, almost everything will be grown under some sort of covering to protect it from pests of various kinds

This is the other side of the polytunnel, where the Globo onions, early leeks, sweetcorn and various roots & beans are growing. The onions are starting to bow down now, and I have stopped watering them so that they can start to dry out. I have now trimmed the leaves back a bit, which makes them look tidier and hopefully will hasten the drying a bit. I shall take them up soon and keep them somewhere cool to dry fully. 

The sweetcorn has two cobs on most plants, and it won't be long before they are ripe, maybe within a couple of days. Really looking forward to eating them, as home grown corn is nothing like the cobs you buy, as it is so fresh.

 

The Winter Squash plants are thriving so far, lthough keeping up with their water needs is demanding. On #146, I have put up some strong tripods to support the growth of some of the smaller kinds, and you can see it seems to be working so far.  This one is a Spaghetti Squash, which seems very prolific: there are several more fruits on runners growing at ground level. If the one on the tripod gets too heavy, I shall rig up some netting to support it so that it doesn't tear loose from the plant before it ripe. I am not sure what size these grow to

This is an Ute Indian Squash, which is especially tasty with dense, dryish deep orange flesh. I am aiming  to save seed from this variety to share via a Seed Circle, so it is important the seeds will come true next season. Squashes are notoriously promiscuous, so I used a male flower from another Ute Indian plant to manually fertilise a female flower slightly before it opened, before any bees had visited, and then tied it closed with soft string so no passing bees could introduce any other kind of pollen. Now that the fruit is fully set, I have tied some string loosley around the stem to mark it as the "special" one, although as it is right at the top of the post it is unlikely I shall forget which one it is. It should only grow to about 15-18cm across so might not need extra support, but I shall keep a close eye on it as this is one I definitely don't want to fall off

North Georgia Candy Roaster

We have several other varieties, and one which we grew last year that was exceptionally sweet, is North Georgia Candy Roaster. I swapped some spare plants with my Son-in-Law, and it turned out he had also bought some seeds and we exchanged plants of the same variety: between us we should have quite a few of these at the end of the season. Luckily they store well, and their flavour improves further with keeping.  As they ripen, they will develop a fetchng shade of pink, and the nose-end will turn blue

In this week's Wildlife Spot are Goldfinches. These little fellows sit up on our aerials and sing their hearts out for hours on end. They feed on sunflower hearts in the garden and now that the new broods have fledged, there are several together at a time. Towards the Autumn they will form up into larger flocks, when they are very visible feeding on seeds of plants such as teazels and thistles at the field edges

Down at the plots, they visit our small pond to drink and to bathe every day, and as it is very quiet, we can get quite closee to watch them,  but I've not yet been able  to take any photos for far. Such pretty birds, that have increased in numbers steadily over the past few years

And finally this week, here are our new lilies, which are about 75cm tall and very sweetly scented as well as being a striking colour. 

I shall be back next Monday. We are planning a week of clearing up, as there are all sorts of bits and pieces that need to be put away, from canes to bricks and pieces of wood and pots, as well as a large pile of dry stems and tree prunings that need to be burned. Things will look all the better for it

I hope the week goes well for you all!

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

Blackbirds' nest in the rhubarb

9th July - More New Harvests This Week! (I am not going to go on about the heatwave again....it is what it is and we have to get on with watering every day and will have to for some time yet) Let's get straight in to Harvest Monday

We took the net off the big fruit cage this week, rolling it up carefully and putting it away for next year, then set to, picking fruit. It took hours, and there was still a lot left for the birds. We also discovered where the pair of Blackbirds who seem to live on one of our plots made their nest this year: in amongst the rhubarb. They were lucky that rats are scarce right now, or they wouldn't have even hatched a single egg, let alone reared four young this close to the ground. There are the remains of a couple of eggs, which might be from an unsuccessful second brood. The birds are making the most of the bounty left from our fruit picking, rummaging about amongst the bushes, rustling around, sounding much larger than they actually are

We have: Redcurrants (= savoury jelly, Redcurrant Vodka) Blackcurrants & Jostaberries (=sweet jelly) Gooseberries (= Redcurrant & Gooseberry jam, Gooseberry Fool) and Cherries (=eating!!!)

 

 

The Currant bushes were absolutely dripping with fruit, and we had the best crop of Gooseberries ever, with the two young bushes (Hinnomaki Red & Hinnomaki Yellow) giving lots of berries too. These were quite small though, as I inadvertently only watered the other large Leveller bush. The other two are set back a bit and more difficult to reach with the net on... lesson learned!

I now have the long job of transforming the bowls of berries into preserves to last us through the year: Blackcurrants are cooked, and dripping in the jelly bag, and the first batch of jam fruit is ready to rub through a sieve before adding the sugar. Have to get it done before those pesky fruit flies move in.

Really pleased to harvest so many cherries too. This little tree is inside our fruit cage and so protected from the attentions of the birds, unlike the tree at home in the garden which I netted too late this year. They are a  variety called Sunburst, which ripens to a beautiful dark maroon, and makes excellent eating

Padron Peppers

Another new harvest for us this week was Padron Peppers. These are delicious grilled with olive oil and salt, and a favourite from holidays. I grew some last year, but they somehow lacked that essential quality that makes them different from other grilled peppers. These ones were grown from "authentic" seeds from the Flower Market in Barcelona's Las Ramblas. They look the part... hope they taste it too!

Other chillies and peppers are growing well in the polytunnel, as are the tomaotoes. Next week I hope to be able to pick the first ripe ones.. very late this year, but they will be very welcome indeed

We have been harvesting Carrots for some time, but this week I thinned those growing in a deep polystyrene crate in the polytunnel, to leave about 3-4 cm between the remaining roots. They are lovely clean, well shaped roots, and they tasted pretty good raw. These are watered every day, and I'm pleased how well they are doing so far, and am looking forward to seeing their progress over the next month.  

More Maybach Cauliflowers & Marathon Calabrese

 

The roots of these showed definite signs of Clubroot, but still managed to grow to maturity. I planted them out when they were quite large, large enough to fill a 9 cm pot, with a few chicken manure pellets in the planting hole, plus I had limed the ground a couple of weeks before planting. This must have helped as previously plants had just succumbed very quickly, so I shall try the same method with new plantings on #146 that are not of resistant varieties

The curds of one head were beginning to lose their tightness: this was eaten raw with a hummous dip. Half of the remainder was made into this Mustardy Grilled Cauliflower (Recipes 2018) and the rest was blanched and frozen

I pulled out the Broad Bean plants this week, only to find that the beans were far too tough to harvest... a casualty of the dry weather ... but the Peas are still producing lots of pods unusually late into the season. I don't know if it is the growing condiitons or that these varieties crop for longer. I shall grow the same ones again next year so might find out this time next year

The last of the first early Potatoes were dug two days ago, leaving, at last, space for those very patient leek plants in the tray. They have been safely stored away for use in salads over the next cople of weeks,as they have such good flavour

  • Charlotte Potatoes

  • Hurst Green Shaft & Terrain Peas

Courgette & Pecan Muffins

And of course there have been Courgettes! I managed to use a large one up in these muffins   (Recipes 2108). These four are the ones left at the end of the feast, so have off-centre pecan nuts and slight blobs of cake mix on the cases... the result of enthusiasm from one of our grandchildren during their making, which no-one minded

A couple more courgettes were grilled with a bit of fennel for added flavour, to accompany sausages, and I daresay there will be more waiting for me in the morning, so I shall need to get a wiggle-on if I am to avoid that well-know growers' syndrome: Courgette Mountain in the Fridge. Ooh, yes, I have just remembered, a neighbour wanted some to spiralise. Who am I to deny her that opportunity???

That is the end of this week's Harvest Monday here.

Globo Onions

Mostly the week has been taken up with watering. The Runner Bean flowers are not setting beans very well, so more water needed there I think, but most things are actually growing. The Spring planted onion sets are beginning to look more like onions than shallots, and the Globos in the polytunnel are still expanding. They get a good soak on alternate days, which seem to suit them, and it is time for their last feed of the season now.

The Autumn planted onions were poor, and shallots are disappointing too, yet the garlic is amazing. It did get more water than the shallots...another lesson there perhaps?

Leaf mould has been dug into the main Brassica bed on #145, which I hope helps with water retention, and tomorrow, when the soil has been firmed well, late cabbages and cauliflowers will be planted. The weather for the next two days in marginally coller, so it seems wise to seize the chance to get things in the ground. Two more beds need prep work, so it'll be another early start in the morning, and then of course there are the leeks....

This week's Wildlife Spot has to go to... Butterflies. Honestly, they are more numerous than I have seen for years, fighting over space on the flower heads. The Buddleia is coming out, and both the purple Verbena and lavender are in full bloom. There are two huge Spear Thistles that seem to be butterfly-magnets, lots of small yellow hawksbit flowers along the edges of the grass, as well as dahlias and marigolds

Here is this week's Butterfly roll call:

  • Small White

  • Small Tortoiseshell

  • Speckled Wood

  • Comma

  • Large White (female)

  • Meadow Brown

  • Brimstone (Male)

  • Peacock

  • Red Admiral

To end this week is one of our many Nasturtium flowers. You might think it quite ordinary, but it is a really high-value plant. The leaves, flowers and seed pods are all edible;  lots of insects feed on the nectar from the flowers, and the leaves are a foodplant for their caterpillars. They self-sow, so come with no cost or effort, and they also create their own colours.  We have orange flowered ones, we have ones in various shades of yellow, but this striped nasturtium  arrived all by itself. It looks quite special

I hope you are all enjoying the sunshine, dealing with the heat and coping with the drought. 

The next blog entry will be on Monday as usual, when I hope to be able to show you lots of jars of scrummy preserves. At least, that's the plan!

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

2nd July - A Whole Month with no rain is really making its mark now. I have never seen cauliflower leaves wilted down completely flat, until yesterday. Let's start on a positive note: Harvest Monday

Maybach early Cauliflowers and Marathon Calabrese are ready to harvest, and two of each came home with us last night. Cauliflower is a great addition to curries as it absorbs flavour so well, so the little one will be used tomorrow, with the larger one going into a Cauliflower Cheese Bake later in the week. There are more to come, and with the extreme heat, they will be harvested sooner rather than later to be safely stored in the cool of the fridge rather than risking them being spoilt.

The leaves of the Calabrese are a blue-green: I have not grown this variety before to know whether it is usual or the outcome of stress, but either way they will be blanched and frozen, So glad space has been cleared in the freezer, as there are lots of crops needing harvesting right now

Also in this week's vegetable box are Peas. We have been soaking the soil around these plants every two or three days, to help the peas to swell, and it has paid off, with large pods of succulent peas. These are mainly Hurst Green Shaft, which develop two pods per stem, and Terrain, with a single but larger pod.

 

 

And then here come the Cucumbers! This little clutch are Zeina, grown under cover

With the first of the Telegraphs from the greenhouse at home, rather curled where it grew low down on the plant and rested on the floor as it grew, but it will be just fine sliced!

There are plenty more female flowers on all the plants, and they have all started to grow up their supports, so the next fruit should be clean and unmarked.

The Strawberry crop is coming to an and, but now there are Loganberries and Tayberries to pick, if I can get to them before the blackbirds. The don't usually take many, but this year I guess they are extra thirsty so nice juicy red berries are irresistable! Lightly stewed, with a little sugar, they are delicious over icecream.

The Summer Raspberries are mainly spoilt by the heat, and I shall cut the stems right out to make space for harvesting the redcurrants

 

 

  • Strawberries from the troughs under cover

  • Loganberries & Tayberries

  • A medley of Courgettes

  • and a medley of Beetroot

We have also had Lettuce, Broad Beans, Courgettes, Beetroot, Spring Onions and Dwarf French Beans, which is the last of this week's harvests.

The early cropping green podded Speedy plants in the polytunnel are running out of energy now (so I shall take them out) just as the yellow podded Orinoco (On the right) have started to crop. The Climbing French Beans outside are also now growing pods so I am hoping there will be plenty for the next week or so, and there are the green and purple ones to come too.

The crops in the polytunnel are coping much better with the extreme heat and drought conditions than those outside in the open ground. The cover protects them from the strength of the sun's rays, and the extra ventilation provided via the netted section between the tunnels is certainly helping to keep the temperature down a bit. They are all regularly watered of course, as are those outside, but possibly there is less evaporation with the protection of the cover

I have taken off the bottom leaves on the tomato plants now to expose the developing fruits, and to make it easier to keep the plants themselves dry when watering them, keeping the water on the soil itself. This time last year we had plenty of ripe tomatoes, but this year's unusual weather pattern has had an adverse effect, and they are nowhere near ready to pick yet

It is difficult to plant out new plants to give us a succession of crops later in the year in these hot, dry conditions. Waiting in the wings are Leeks (still) Purple Sprouting Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbages, Red Cabbages, Kale and Spring Onions. Without shade netting and plenty of water they will have no chance of survival, and almost all the netting is already being used. I shall have to get creative with that roll of voile fabric: maybe doubling it over would give enough protection. When I went to the plots earlier this evening to water, some of the chard and fennel plants were lying almost flat. They picked up after a few cans of water, and I hope that overnight they manage to get themselves together for another hot day tomorrow. It just shows how vulnerable to failure plants are right now, and 

This week's Wildlife Spot goes to... Damselflies. There are several kinds that have been around this week, possibly breeding in our pond and our neighbour's one. Unlike Dragonflies, they fold their wings back in the same way as  butterflies do when they land, bu they also catch insects to eat. They probably couldn't quite manage a Horsefly, more's the pity, as there are lots around right now, and they bite hard, but they surely must get through a lot of mosquitoes and small flies.

It is fascinating watching them around the pond, when the males hold the females by the neck so they can lay eggs in the water plants wihtout drowning. The females of all kinds are much less colourful than the males, and can be tricky to identify on their own.

Here are some I've seen this week, either at the plot or in the garden. They often sit on leaves or twigs in the sunshine, so are relatively easy to photograph. The Beautiful Demoiselle was in the polytunnel and sat still for ages... this one one we see less often so I was glad to have the opportunity for a close up

  • Common Blue Damselfly

  • Beautiful Demoiselle

  • Red Damselfly

Last week's blog began with a photo of sweetpeas, and they are still flowering their socks off, although their stems are not as long and elegant as the first blooms...  a feed of tomato fertiliser will help them get back to how they were. They still smell amazing though and look really pretty, and it would be good to keep them flowering to enjoy for as long as possible

It looks like this sunny, dry weather is going to contiue for a while yet, so I hope we can all keep plants alive and growing without too many casualites... or too many aching muscles, either!!

See you next week

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