October 2018

29th October - Autumnal crops are overlapping now with the late Summer ones. This week we have had a  lot to share for Harvest Monday.

Starting off then, we have Jalapeno Chillies. We have been eating them throughout the Summer, but now, in case the cold weather spoils them,  I have gathered as many as I could to make some pickles. These look very pretty and will add a good spicy crunch to meals. The slightly corky looking marks on the fruits are due to uneven watering I think, but do not spoil the flavour at all, thank goodness. 

The Padron Peppers are coming to an end now, but they have certainly given us a massive amount of fruit this season. They are a little too thin-walled to enjoy raw really, but are easy to add to cooked dishes for extra flavour, as well of course cooking them on a traditional grill pan. You never know when one will be explosively hot though!

The Aji Limon Chillies are now beginning to ripen: the plants our daughter grew have been giving gorgeous golden fruits for weeks, so I have no idea why ours are so late. I have a couple of ideas for using these, which, if successful, I shall share next week

Sweet Peppers have been brilliant this year. Long Red Marconi seeds came free with a magazine, and have been so  prolific that I shall be growing them again next year. They have good thick walls and are excellent raw, with enough flavour to use in curries and sauces too. The plants are still flowering but I doubt whether this next crop will make it to maturity, with shorter daylight hours and lower temperatures

Winter Gem Lettuce grown under cover like this look just perfect, as well as being crisp and tasty. I shall be planting more out soon, and hope that they will make enough growth for us to harvets them during the Winter months, although if not, they will bulk up in the Spring and be enjoyed then

Flat Leaf Parsley goes on and on, and this week has been welcome in salsa and to flavour mashed potato.

We are also now harvesting the small Golden Delicious Apples, which this year have taken on a beautiful yellow hue. They are lovely sliced thinly in an open apple tart, glazed with mixed citrus marmalade

 

This week we took up the rest of the Cylindra Beetroot, plus some of the Chioggia too. The long ones have been sliced and pickled, some of the Chioggia were given to our daughter, and a couple used to attempt roasted beetroot crisps, very unsuccessfully... I couldn't seem to get the timing right and they were either brown and overcooked, or too flabby. At least I know the new mandoline works well!

We have also pulled up some more of the big Chinese Dragon Radishes from the polytunnel, which are very good in stir fry, sliced into batons. You can see them in the header photograph, along with the non-edible harvest of some of our Chrysanthemums.

We also cut the last bunch of dahlias: the following night, any remaining flowers were spoiled by frost. It will soon be time to dig up the tubers and store them until next Spring. Although they might survive the Winter well-mulched, the ground gets very wet, so there is a danger they might rot, plus of course they are a great food source for rodents in the Winter. Far better to make the effort to dig them up and keep them safe

Whilst we were weeding over the bed where the beetroot had been, we found several sweetpea plants, grown from self sown seed. I moved these to the base of a wigwam of canes, and pinched off the top growth to encourage them to branch out. I doubt if they will put on much more growth now, but should be hardy enough to sit out the Winter and grow away next year. 

 

You might remember that the plants we believed to be Purple Sprouting Broccoli turned out to be Calabrese. These are now spent, and have been chopped up for the compost bin, leaving a large empty space in the brassica cage, whilst the small PSB plants I then had to buy in (It being too late to grow any from seed) have been growing under a low protective cloche.

We decided to transplant them to grow alongside the Brussels Sprouts in the brassica cage, rather than make a higher cover for them. They seem to have survived the move, and although will crop slightly later as result, will fare better there I think, as well as making next season's planting plan a bit easier to organise

Back at home in the garden, the colours are certainly much more Autumnal now. Our Heavenly Bamboo plant has a huge crop of berries, this year, and is still flowering too. It has had a new lease of life since we planted it directly in the ground rather than being in a large pot. 

The Red-tailed KItes have been very vocal this week. I think it is the youngsters still calling for food, and their parents encouraging them to forage for themselves. They are always keen to take food from our garage roof, but don't always have the precision to grab it on the wing as the adults do.

Thank you for reading our update. I shall be back next week, as usual. (The shallots are ready to plant and, outside temperatures permitting, will be in the soil soon... I haven't forgotten them)

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

22nd October - Back Home Again!! After a totally relaxing holiday in Tenerife, here we are once more, enjoying the Autumnal colours in the garden and settling the plot down for the Winter. During our absence there was some much needed rain, and so the soil is good and damp now, just right to cover up the empty beds for a well earned Winter rest

Thanks to the help of friends, the plants in the polytunnel also had enough water. There are lots of chillies soon to be picked, including, at last, some Piquantes. These are the ones that are often preserved stuffed with cream cheese, labelled as Peppadew. The plants is about 1.5m tall and smothered in single fruits that showed to sign of ripening when we went away... now look at them! I shall have to find out a little more about preserving them stuffed, if possible

Before we look more at the plots, here is this week's Harvest Monday (and for all of you who asked after the lizards, a Lizard -feeding update is coming at the end)

First to the table are:

Cauliflower - This is the last of the Claptons, and its small size was just right for two of us to have with roast dinner last night. This is a very reliable, club-root resistant variety, and it is certainly on the list for next year

Calabrese - The very last of the Monclano crop, a little "extra" that grew on the old stump after the big head had been harvested. We do have lots already in the freezer, and the plan to have Calabrese available as a succession through the year has certainly worked well

Kohl Rabi - This is a variety called Olivia, which can apparently grow quite large without getting woody, but we are eating them at about15cm diameter, when they are sweet and very juicy. Lightly steamed so they retain some crunch, they are very good indeed. This is the first time we have grown these (Thanks for the inspiration Dave) and they are another definite for the coming season. Having them crop in the Autumn is especially good, as during the Summer we already have a wide variety of crops to enjoy

Courgettes from the outdoor plants are well and truly finished, with all the plants consigned to the compost bin, but that single self-fertile Parthenon plant in the polytunnel is still producing fruits.. three this week. The first one was quite large, so was grated to make a batch of Courgette Muffins (Recipes 2018/July) and these two, picked today, will be in our pasta meal tonight. There are still a few flowers with baby courgettes behind them, but I doubt if there will be many more now, as thr fruits are growing more slowly than a few weeks agao and are sligthtly mis-shapen

This plant has been absolutely amazing, producing fruit since the end of April, and certainly earned its metre square space in the polytunnel. If I had realised how prolific it would be, I would have planted fewer plants outside...something to remember next year

Tomatoes have been brilliant this year, and with no sign of the dreaded Late Blight, were able to carry on fruiting for months.

Apero Tomatoes

Before we went on holiday, we took out all except one tomato plant from the polytunnel, as most of them were towards the end of their life, and it seemed unlikely that any of the flowers would grow to full sized fruit and ripen. However, the single Apero plant was covered in flowers and immature fruit, and as these are small tomatoes, they were left to see if they would ripen. The continuing warm weather has resulted in another large trayful of fruits. Apero is a very flavoursome tomato, easy to snack on and very good in a mixed salad... one to grow again for sure!

 

 

Chinese Dragon Winter Radish

A "first" for this year is a Chinese Dragon Radish. This is much paler pink than the ones we grew last year, but it is certainly fresh and spicy. The lighter colour may be due to them being grown in the polytunnel, and when the ones sown outside are large enough to eat, these may be brighter.. we shall see. 

Either way, these are really good sliced thinly lengthwise, in a sandwich with cheese, as well as cut into batons and added to stir fries.

These Winter Radishes are well worth growing, as they crop at a time in the year when the Summer varieties do not do so well. Last year, they stood well in the ground through some hard frosts too, so I am hopeful that these three short rows will last us a while. We also have some Moolis, but these are nowhere near ready to pull up, as they grow much more slowly

Flat leaf and curly Parsley

Parsley has been another stalwart throughout the year, and the curly-leaved plant has been cropping since the early Spring. Cutting out the flowering stems as they developed, and removing any yellowing leaves has kept it going. It is planted alongside the courgette plant so has also had plenty of water. I hope this carries on growing slowly during the Winter, as fresh green herbage when there is snow on the ground is so much appreciated 

The flat-leaved variety self sows everywhere. The seeds even survive the compost process, to come up in random places. I have transplanted some small plants into the polytunnel to give them some protection from heavy rain or snow, and provide us with cuttings in the Spring. Outside, there is a small bed of plants that will take their chances, and although  much of the foliage will die back, I hope they then produce fresh growth around late March.

 

Our final harvest for this week is Chard. It has been a bit neglected in the past month or so, as we have had lots of brassica harvests as well as Malabar Spinach, but with the low sun shining through its leaves giving them a beautiful radiance, they looked irresistable this afternoon, so some are going in tonight's stir fry.

I have found that the red varieties don't stand the Winter cold as well as the white stemmed ones, so we shall have to start eating these regularyl again to make the most of them while they are in such good condition

Down on the plots, the crops that will continue to grow during the Winter and Spring are now in the ground: Kale, Purple Sprouting Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbages, Leeks, Garlic and Autumn planted Onion sets. These last two won't be ready until the beginning of Summer next year, bu the others will all give us lots of fresh food in the coming months.

Beds which are not being used for growing are being covered up to keep the soil from being leached of nutrients by Winter rainfall and protect its structure. Weeding of the "active" beds and paths is ongoing of course,  and provides plenty of material to compost, along with grass clippings, shredded paper and vegetable peelings from home

In the polytunnels, the recently planted crops are clearly much further ahead than those outside, which hopefully will mean earlier crops of kale and Purple Sprouting Broccoli. There are lots of Winter Gem lettuce ready to pick, and the Mustard Greens and Perpetual Spinach are ready to transplant into their final places.

The Hi-Keeper onions sown a few weeks back are now growing more leaves, and the six broad bean plants have successfully  moved from the path where they germinated to the veg bed under cover.

 

One plant, usually ultra-reliable, really struggled in the hot, dry Summer: Nasturtiums. Plants were stunted, with sll flowers that quickly turned to seed pods, too hard and dry to harvest for pickling

But now, after some decent rainfall, they have sprung into life to give a onderful display of orange and yellow flowers and lush foliage, unspoilt by the ravages of caterpillars or blackfly. Nature has a way of coming good, and this just proves it!

Plenty of leaves for pesto, flowers to adorn late salads and juicy seed pods to pickle!

There are lots of flowers still going strong, including dahlias on the plots. In the garden however, now that the year has moved on, they do not get enough direct sunlight where they are planted, and so have few flowers. At the far end of the garden however, the fuchsias and salvias are more than making up for it, and the acer leaves are just beginning to change colour too

So now to... Lizards!! If anyone missed it, when we were in Tenerife, we came across a colony of Southern Wall Lizards that saw people as a source of food. Even the slightest rustle of a carrier bag was enough to bring them running out of their rock crevices, looking for food. Some were so keen in fact that they were right inside my handbag... tricky to photograph... but I managed to get some shots of Abi feeding them

 

I had no idea lizards could make so much noise, hissing and growling at each other, squabbling over the pieces of banana. It was alright feeding the smaller ones, but some of those large males looked like they meant business, and could probably give you quite a bite in their enthusiasm to grab the food. I was quite glad Abi put the banana on rock for the male that was eyeing it up, before he leapt onto his hand!

I'll be back next week, hopefully with news of our special shallots and with a few more of the beds down on the plots ready for their Winter rest.

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

8th October - The Valley of the Lizards. Remember that scene from David Attenborough's  LIfe on Earth,with snakes chasing baby iguanas at high speed across rocks? Well today we went for a walk along a local barranco, keping an eye out for lizards basking in the sunshine, when to our amazement what seemed like dozens of them appeared from between the rocks and rushed towards us. Usually lizards go the other way, swiftly moving out of sight if disturbed, so this really was something unusual, and quite a sight

 

They were completely fearless, even coming right down onto the edge of the path, looking at us expectantly

They are Southern Wall Lizards, which are fairly common here in Tenerife. The males grow to about 30cm, and each has unique blue markings along their sides, whilst the females are smaller and prettily striped. There were lots of immature lizards too, and they all exhibited the same confident behaviour of moving rapidly towards us, rather than out of sight.... very unexpected

In fact, about 50m further along the barranca, lizards showed their usual shy behaviour, pretty difficult to photograph as they were so quick to hide

After reading up about these lizards, it turns out that in some areas they have become very tame because people feed them. They eat insects, but also fruit, and they are especially fond of ripe banana. I can only assume that as this area of the barranca was close to a public park, that a small colony of lizards has become accustomed to seeing people as a source of food.

When Abi stretched out his hand towards one of the males, it then ran forward very quickly, head outstretched, as though expecting food. I wish I'd waiting a few seconds before taking this photo, as it came even closer than this.

 

No prizes as to guessing what we shall be doing later in the week, as the chance to feed wild lizards like this doesn't come along very often.

It is quite amazing watching them swarm over the rocks towards you like this, so we are really looking forward to another encounter.

This is just a quick blog entry this week, to share the lizards photos: hope you like them! I shall be back next Monday, maybe with more lizard portraits, or perhaps some bird pictures. We'll have to see how things go

A VERY big "Thank you" to both Gary & Jane, and Clive & Theresa, for taking care of out plots while we are away... really appreciated

 

1st October - Such a lovely surprise!!! We were invited to the presentation evening to celebrate the awards for the RHS Reading in Bloom again this year, and once again I was unable to go as I was away with my brother, so our son accompanied Abi to the posh meal at a local hotel in my place. When the Allotments section came around, our joint entry was awarded the Gold in the Most Attractive Allotment category. We had laboured long and hard during the drought months to keep as much as possible alive and productive, and with over 520 sq m to work with, it took real graft every single day, and we were so glad to have our one borehole water and not be taking water from domestic sources.

 

Our son sent me a photo of the certificate and the cup, but then a second photo arrived, entitled "Oh, and this...." and it was the Banksian Medal, awarded for the most points awarded in any of the Reading in Bloom classes, not only in the Allotment categories. WOW! I never ever, ever, ever thought we would earn anything like that.  What an accolade!

I think we should move on to look at the real business of the plots: Harvest Monday. There are a surprising variety of crops still productive, although some of them were last harvests for the year. I had gone without any containers, so had to use a sieve lined with some old voile to carry our crops home

We had the final crops of: 

Calabrese: now blanched and frozen. We have had really good crops this year, and the planning for succession seems to have been a success

Cucumbers: This year we grew Zeina, which are slightly smaller than last year's Divas, and less prolific too. We have still had quite a lot, but had four plants rather than three as last year. I'll be sowing Diva in the Spring I think. One small Telegraph was lurking in the greenhouse at home, to join the Zeinas in the jar

Dill: Self sown plants have provided not only plenty of fragrant flower heads and foliage, but two jarsful of dried seeds too. Excellent crop

Courgettes: The outdoor plants have now been taken out, as they were on their last legs. However, this is not really a total "last crop" as that Parthenon in the polytunnel is still flowering its socks off. I had to cut off quite a lot of leaves which had developed mildew resulting from drier conditionsin my absence, but there are still several small fruits growing: looking good

Tomatoes: I thought we would have seen the end of the tomatoes, but the single Apero plant left in the polytunnel was covered in tiny ripe fruit, and there were some Crimson Crush remaining outside, which were ready to pick. As well as these, there were three trays of tomatoes picked a week ago whilst still green that had rapidly ripened while I was away. More roasted tomatoes are now in the freezer. This really will be the final lot this year! We have had an amazing crop this year, that will contiue to be appreciated through the cold months

Pears: Just a few still hanging on the trees, ripe enough to eat. How did we miss these before? They do taste luscious though.

Butternut Squash; Now that the night times are cold, verging on frosty, it is time to bring the whole squash crop home. There were some smaller ones still lurking amongst the fading leaves, including this perfect-looking one. 

 

 

Here are the other squashes, ready to load into the car this morning They are now sitting on a cloth on the kitchen floor, so they can dry thoroughly and let their skins cure, before they are stored away to allow their flavours to fully develop: then we shall start eating them. Really pleased with our crop this year. Our neighbour cooked some pumpkin & courgette parathas yesterday, and they were really tasty: must remember this idea when we come to start using ours

 I picked 2.5kg of Sloes last week, from the bushes alongside our chalet, to use for Sloe GIn. Usually at the time in the year they are very firm, but unusually this year they are very ripe, ripe enough in fact to be falling from the bushes. Most of the leaves have turned yellow and are falling too... a sign of stress after such a dry Summer I think. I have put the bagful of sloes in the freezer, as then the skins will rupture, enabling the flavour of the flesh to be better absorbed by the gin when they are soaking.  

Picking sloes always reminds me that it time to strain last year's batch, so once we return from holiday I shall be on it. I am looking forward to  the first taste of the new "brew"

Some of the crops are still ongoing, especially the Sweet Peppers: Long Red Marconi have cropped heavily and are thick walled and juicy. Another one to grow again next year. The ones I picked yesterday have been salted, and joined the cucumbers in a mixed pickle, similar to the style they use in Bulgaria, a recipe given to me by Sarah, a departed friend.

There are still plenty of fruits just short of ripening, so I hope that the polytunnel gives enough protection to keep them from being frosted while we are away

 A new crop, a one-off, are some Quinces. We don't have a tree ourselves, but a plot-friend always has a far larger crop than she can use herself, and generously shares it with us. Thank you Margaret! They are not quite ripe yet, but I have laid them out in a tray in the garage, alongside our apples, to keep them cool until we are back home. They add a wonderful perfume to apple pie, as well as making an awesome jelly, so they are worth the effort of storing them until properly ripe

There is where our harvest this week ends.

 

In the couple of days between coming home and going off on holiday with Abi, we have both put in long hours at the plot: Garlic is now planted .... saved cloves from our last crop, as it was so successful. Planting them deeply seemed to help, so these are down with about 5cm above the top of the clove. Thye are in the bed cleared of courgette plants, with  5cm of home made compost  tickled into the surface, along with some Blood, Fish & Bone, so they are well set up.

The Autumn Onion sets are also planted: Shakespeare, a round, brown-skinned variety which we have grown before, and Red Dawn. Red onions seem more prone to bolt in the Spring, so I am hoping that is variety bucks that trend. The soil had Blood, Fish & Bone added, to support root growth so they can get going before the soil gets cold.

The onion seeds I sowed in the polytunnel...Hi-Keeper... have now germinated and have a single leaf each, standing up straight. Onion seedlings usually take some time to begin to grow further leaves, I shall be interested to see how these get on. I weeded around them today, as onions don't like sharing their bed with other plants, which I hope encourages them along

We've also done a lot of weeding, especially in the brassica beds. Remember those feeble-looking little red cabbage seedlings? I was doubtful they would survive the mole tunnellings, let alone the drought, but here they are, looking really healthy. Not sure if they will heart up in time for using during the Winter, but at the very least we can use loose leaves which will be better than nothing

 

The cold nights bring a touch of frost now, and so I have moved the Yacon plants inside the polytunnel, to keep them going a little longer. The pots are quite heavy, so I hope they are full of big, fat tubers when we come to tip them out in another few weeks.

The potted chilli plants that were outside are now in the greenhouse too, along with the tender succulents we had in pots along our back wall. They look really healthy after their Summer outdoors, and the leaf that broke off one of them is already developing a new plant

I have also taken the pots of cutting of half-hardy plants home to the frost-free greenhouse for the Winter: pelargoniums & agyranthemums mainly. The hardy cuttings: variegated eleagnus, salvias, white buddleia, choisya and lilac, are in a sheltered spot at the plot. Hopefull they will sit out the Winter without freezing solid. If the weather turns really cold, they can go into the polytunnel

Some of the flowers on the plot are beginning to look very tired now,  so on our return I can see there will be lots of material for the compost bins needing to be chopped up, and a good tidy round will be needed, before we start covered empty beds for the Winter. The dahlias are still flowering, but in another couple of weeks they may well be too cold

Last year, we bought some Autumn flowering bulbs called Nerines,, which I have always known as Guernsey lilies. Their sugar-mouse pink flowers always look so lovely, but I'd had no success with getting them to flower before, mainly because I planted them too deep and fed them too well I thi

These new ones were planted in our alpine sinks in gritty compost, and not fed at all.Then, lo and behold, one has flowered!! Such a beautiful colour, with petals that almost look crystalline. I know there is just the one, but maybe next year the others may feel inspired too.

That is where I shall end for this week. I shall be back with an update as soon as we get back home. Our neigbour who has a plot on the same site as us is going to water the plants in the polytunnel and greenhouse while we are away, and anything else that migth need it is the weather is very dry. Thank you, Clive .... please help yourself to courgettes. No really, please!!!!

 

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