October 2019

28th October - Stopped raining at last!!! The ground is surprisingly workable, which I think shows how much organic matter has gone into it over the years. The natural soil here is heavy alluvial clay, underlain by a gravel pan, but, now it is less sticky, and much better draining... thank goodness. The clear skies meant the first real frost overnight, with everything white this morning

At the moment I am juggling between preparing the plot for cropping through the Winter and into the Spring, whilst also "resting" some beds under their Wnter blanket of compost or manure, topped by heavy black plastic (Yes, plastic... been using the same pieces for over ten years now, with plenty of years left in these too, so far from "single use". I am also deep into redecoratig mode at home, with its accompanying decluttering, which I am really enjoying. The rainy weather allowed me to get a head start indoors, without having to sacrifice useful plot time. All good

At this time in the year, with the weather getting colder and the daylight hours shorter, harvests are changing with the season

Harvest Monday begins with an unexpected selection of little crops:

Green Aubergines: I was given two plants by a Nepalese neighbour, and they were very slow indeed to get going, and in the end I stopped looking to see if any flowers had turned into ruits. Today when I was clearing up, I spotted two very small skinny ones. Theyare obviously not such robust customers as the Moneymakers for sure!

Then there were some French Beans, just three mind. I can't complain though as the plants have produced masses of crisp pods over the Summer, and one more Courgette too. I cannot see any further female flower buds developing, but I am leaving the plant in for now, as there are Oca plants growing around the through it and I don't want to disturb them... not time to investigate yet

And the ridiculous total crop of Sweet Potatoes. Yes, this really is all of them. I shall not trying again, as there are so many more productive uses for that precious growing space

 

 

The biggest surprise however came from finding these Carrots growing in the mulch underneath the wire shelving. In the Spring, the box of compost I had sown Carrot seeds in fell off the top of the staging in a storm. I picked up as much as I could, but some seeds obviously escaped, to grow away happily all Summer, to make some surprisingly good roots

 

Not as good as those growing in the bed outside though. I noticed that the tops of them were starting to get nibbled, so I dug up what was left of them. Two thirds of them were damaged, so would not store for long, but the remaining ones should last for a while in damp sawdust in the cool of the garage. The damaged ones were perfectly useable once they were trimmed, and I shared them with my daughter's family, who will get through them more quickly than me. I did grate some for Carrot Cake, and some were roasted 

They are all Nantes 5, which I grew alongside the F1 Primo variety. Although this crop of Nantes is certainly good, the Primo grew much more quickly, and made larger, deeper or,ange roots with no sign of green shoulders either. On balance, they were worth the extra cost. They are widely stocked so hopefully I won't have any trouble buying more seed for the coming Spring.

I had a look at the Parsnips this week. The surface of the roots is ridged and wrinkled, due, I think, to lack of water in the Summer. I did try to keep them evenly damp, but obviously didn't succeed. Despite their unattractive appearance, these tasted good roasted. I think they will be even better once we have had a few frosts, and once they are peeled, they don't look too bad

Maybe next year I might try growing some in a very deep container to see if I can get nice fat roots. The Summers do seem to be getting drier overall, and it would be interesting to compare how they grow in the open ground with those in a container.

Experienced growers who want decent parsnips for showing use very deep bins filled with sand, then bore out columns in the sand filled with good compost. Will I try that? Not sure. I'll have to see how much time I have when they are due to be sown

 

The first sowings of Beetroot also made dsiappointing roots, but the second set of seedlings seem to have done much better ... this is one of the Boltardy ones... depsite having a rather corky top.

There are plenty left in the ground, but I think I shall take them up soon as I don't want rodents to start gnawing on them: last year lots were almost completely hollowed out from underneath The cleaned off roots last well stored in the same way as carrots: better to be safe than sorry.

I was really surprised to have more ripe Figs this week, even if they are a bit on the small side. I have found that if I pick them as soon as they start to show a bit of a dark flush, they finish ripening very quickly indoors. 

Now that the night-time temperatures are so low though, I doubt if there will be any more. They are really good just eaten raw, as soon as they soften. Very, very  goood, in fact

The last harvest this week is the final crop of Malabar Spinach. The thick, juicy leaves are great in salad of a sandwich, as well as cooked in the way of true spinach, but it is an annual plant, so having flowered it is now ripening seed and will soon die off

 

 

On the Plots:

 This week I cleared away the old Tomato plants, the spent Sweetcorn and Squash plants, and lots of weeds., which has made #145 look much better. The Shakespear onion sets are staring to show little green shoots too, and I am keeping up with hand weeding between the Senshyu plants too. I must put some fine mesh over these plant to protec them from allium pests, which are still around through November, as well as prevent pheasants grazing on them.

The last of the Onion sets and large Shallots are in the ground, (More to net) with 12 of each planted in pots of compost to get them some extra growing time before the Winter. These will sit in the tunnels now until mid Spring, when I shall plant them out under cloches. 

Some of the wooden blocks that support the sides of the big Brassica cage have split, so I shall have to find another way of keeping it all together over the Winter. I have taken off the fine mesh now that butterfly season is over, but the remaining netting is still needed to repel pigeon-attack

On #146, I am starting to dig out the mulch from the paths again, where the woodchip has rotted down, as it is such good rich compost, perfect for adding more organic matter before the Winter covers go on some of the beds.

 

 In the Polytunnels

Even when it is raining I can work in the tunnels, and it is good to take a break from decorating for a while. As well as potting up the onions etc, I have cleared away lots of soft green weeds, taken all the yelowing lower leaves off the Brassicas and pulled up spent plants of Dwarf French Beans and Basil.

I re-positioned the water butts today so that they will be inside when the netting joining section is removed and the tunnels revert to two separate spaces again. They were almost empty, so thisi was quite easy to do. I gave them a rinse-out and refilled them, while the water is still available from the borehole... the pump is turned off and drained in the Winter, so that is not damaged in freezing conditions. Although there is plenty of stored rainwater, it is mainly on #146, and carrying water from one plot to another in a watering can in cold weather is a real chore. Having some on hand in the tunnels helps, plus it does act as a solar heat store to some extent too

The young Brassica plants are looking healthy. I think some of the Spring Green leaves could be picked soon: they do look lush

 

Kohl Rabi are starting to swell... I am looking forward to these being large enough to harvest. Last year was the first time I grew them and they were very tasty indeed

and the Dwarf Curly Kale is large enough to harvest a few leaves from time to time

On Tuesday I posted a phot of a Fallow Stag with an impressive rack of antlers. Today I am ending this week's blog with a dfferent Stag's Horn... a fungal sort. This is growing in huge patches on an adjoining plot, presumably from the woodchip that has been used to cover the area. It is also known as Candle snuff, and I have only ever seen a white kind with black tops to the spikes, or a bright yellow variety, so this cream one was worth a second look

I shall be back next week, and hope to continue to add compost to empty beds and start to cover them, especially as they are nicely wet right now

 

My contact email is

info@alittlebitofsunshine.co.uk

 Comments and suggestions are most welcome, and I shall reply as soon as I can

And if you'd like to know more about Harvest Monday, look at

www.ourhappyacres.com/

21st October -  The slow clear-up from Summer crops is underway, out on the plots and under cover, and lots of harvests are "the last" for this year. Harvest Monday starts with the Cucurbits... Summer and Winter Squashes, Cucumbers, Gherkins and Melons, seen in all there mostly small-sized glory in the above photo.

Summer Squashes ie Courgettes in this case, are finished outdoors now, but under cover there should be one or two more to come. Those harvested today will be grilled to go with tonight's dinner, and  the parts left added to mufins later in the week

Winter Squashes have been pretty dismal really. They all set very few fruits, and these were all much smaller than usual, making a meagre harvest overall. I suppose it is due to lack of water, rather than lack of nutrients. Planting Sweetcorn, which did well, amongst the squash plants, may have been a further contributing factor

Cucumbers under cover were average, which was good enough really as I certainnly had enough for my own needs. These two were the last two harvested this season

Gherkins were the best ever, and there are several jars of them nw pickled, although they are larger ones sliced, rather than the little ones I would have preferred. Next year I am thinking of trying for more plants and cut fruits when immature

Melons were a bit of a surprise as I thought the plants had died. Instead, they had scrambled behind a shelving stand, and produced two fruits, one of which was miniscule. Better than no melons at all I guess!

 

The Sweet Pepper plants however have been very successful in the polytunnel, Chillies less so as they were slow to get going.  Clockwise from the top are Gogorez, KIng's Mixed Sweet (black & orange) Golden Greek Chillies, a single Jalapeno, Cherry Bomb Chillies, green Poblanos and Long Red Marconi. Lots have already been eaten of course, hence the single Jalapeno. As well as stuffed peppers, and sliced in salads, some peppers will be roasted and then frozen for use during the cold months. Chillies freeze very well whole, and can then be sliced straight before use. I like doing this with green ones like these Poblanos, as they add such a good flavour to dishes

Kale is doing well, and the Black Tuscany is produsing enough leaves to harvest a portion two or three times a week, and the stems are still tender enough to be eaten too .They have recovered well from the caterpillar onslaught, caused when the nettting developed some unseen holes: unseen by me, not unseen by butterflies of course

 

There have been a few surprise harvests uncovered during the clear up. Spring Onions, swamped by those huge red cabbages, remained growing un-noticed all Summer, and the low light levels have resulted in nice long, tender leaves, just right for chopping up to add to mashed potato. Lovely!

 

And out in the Squash bed was this rather good looking Lettuce, presumably one from the mixed seedlings I planted out some weeks back. It is beautifully crisp and has alreday provided leaves to include in a cheese sandwich at lunchtime today and will certainly enliven a salad . It may be Crisp MInt Romaine, from its unusual shade of green,and the slightly frilled leaf edges

 

When I went to pull up the outdoor Tomatoes, there were some green trusses there, bent over almost to ground level. Most of the ripe fruit were affected by blight, but these few green ones are mainly alright so far. Later in the week I shall add some of the ripe tomatoes from the fridge to them, for a small batch of Mixed Tomato Chutney, which is an annual favourite that allows me to use up a whole range of shapes and sizes to make something really delicious. The recipe is in Preserves 2016, August if you fancy making some. I can't recommend it highly enough

Sometimes these surprise crops combine to provide the basis for a meal too. Look at these Bubble and Squeak ingredients that just turned up. Parsley was a nice addition, as was a fried egg on the top ....

  • Little cabbages that grew on the stump left behind after the main head was cut

  • Potatoes that turned up when I was weeding... left behind first time round

  • Onions chopped up once the the thick flowering stalk was removed

 The biggest surprise of all though came when I went outside in the half light this evening, just for a little walk around to see what's what with the bird feeders etc, and I spotted a ripe Fig amongst the hundreds of smallish green hard unripe ones. When I explored a bit further, there were five. Five!!! Enought to make some Baked Figs with Honey later this week for sure. These are Brunswick, which can actually carry two crops in very mild areas. Obviously the weather as not been on-side this year for the huge crop I was anticipating, let alone a second!

On the Plots:

Although there are still lots of weedy beds, they are well disguised on #146 by the exuberance of Cosmos that have suddenly decided to bloom. There have been a few plants in flower for a while, but now..... they just look fabulous and there are so many buds that they should continue for a while yet I hope!

And Dahlias as still going strong. I deadhead them whenever I can, and that keep them tidy looking as well as promoting more blooms. At last the yellow-flowered large bloomed one has produced some flowers too!

Both make great long-lasting cut flowers too, so I can enjoy them at home as well as at the plot

 

There have been some drier days this week, and the Lautrec Wight Garlic is in the ground, as are the Jermor Shallots. I haven't had time to pot up the onion sets and the other shallots... grandparent duties ... but the pots and compost are at the ready for later this week.  

In the Polytunnel:

During wet days I work in the tunnels and today took two great barrowloads to the compost bin: pepper plants, cucumber and gherkins plants and huge amounts of chickweed. Together with some shredded paper and lots of chopped nettles, it'll all make decent compost for next year.

Everything got a good soak today, including areas where nothing is currently growing. I have compost to incorporate into these empty beds too, before some will be covered for the WInter. The pots of onions and shallots can then stand somewhere securely out of the way rather than on the paths

Those potted Aubergine plants have burst out in a huge flush of flowers, although it seems pretty unlikely they will come to anything now with nighttime temperatures well down in single figures. They did get a stay of execution today however, just in case.

The nets that supported the cucumbers and gherkins are down now, and folded up ready for next year. I gathered each end together and tied them around with string, as it is always so difficult to find the ends when I come to use it again. Each piece is tied up neatly too, so they are not tangled together. Hopefully when it is time to put them back up next year they will unfurl easily and save hours of fiddling about

At thw weekend, I went to Snelsmore Common with my daughter's girls, and I have never seen such an array of fungi before. The extra rain seems to have encouraged them, and they were everywhere, along side the paths, in the brambles, on dead logs, attached to trees, literally eveywhere except under the water in the flooded areas

If i include all the photos this blog would be far too long, so here are two at oppostite end of the edibiliity scale: Penny Bun Boletus and the highly poisonous Fly Agaric

  • Penny Bun Boletus (Boletes edulis)

  • Fly Agaric (Amanita muscaria)

 

This morning I thought I was imagining things... I saw a black pheasant trotting along the road in our allotment site. I took a few photos of him, and by chance in one was a bird of normal colouring as well. They are both this year's youngsters, with only part grown tails. I have never seen one like this before, but if he should breed, perhaps there will be more in the future, who knows

The pheasants are a nuisance really, munching off the tops of onions and garlic, but that doesn't stop me appreciating their beauty

 If we get another dry day this week, I should be able to pot up the onions and shallots, and cut the grass again. It has grown so fast with all the rain, it will soon be too long for the mower to cope with! Good addition to the comost though! I'll let you know next Monday

 

 

My contact email is

info@alittlebitofsunshine.co.uk

 Comments and suggestions are most welcome, and I shall reply as soon as I can

And if you'd like to know more about Harvest Monday, look at

www.ourhappyacres.com/

 

14th October - Waiting in the Wings are all sorts of crops, ready to be planted out as soon as it stops raining for long enough! Funny really after it being too dry to sow seeds, it is now far too wet to plant!

I shall be taking a leaf out of Rob's book and planting some of these sets in pots to get their roots growing away as soon as possible, in the hope that they then grow nice big juicy onion bulbs for early next Summer. I had vowed not to ever, ever grow red onions again, as they almost all bolt, every single time, but this is my really really last ever try, potting them up and keeping them under cover in the unheated tunnel until say late January, early February before planting them out under a cloche. They are a variety called Red Electic, and I am assured this is the way to go. Well... we shall see!

There are also some Radar, which often do quite well, and I might pot a few of those up too, just to see the difference in eventual onions, if indeed there is a difference

In a short spell between downpours I managed to plant the Shakespeare sets, which as you can see, have their nice smart passport on display. The ground is still warmish so they can start to grow roots, unless they drown of course

Shallots are waiting to be planted too, and again some will be potted up as I did last year, which seemed to get them off to a good start before they were drought-struck. I won't have enough under cover space for too many, so the rest will be planted out direct as soon as I can get their bed ready. It still needs weeding, plus a spot of bonemeal to help build roots, and right now it is just far too claggy to work, even when it does stop raining. I am growing Jermor again this year, as they do taste good and give a decent size bulb for cooking

Garlic is usually in well before now, but what with being away for a week, then this wet weather, they are still in the allotment basket. These are newly bought-in ...Lautrec Wight... and there are also some anonymous home -grown cloves to join them from last year's crop

 

Harvest Monday is rather thin on the ground this week.

The last of the Cucumbers has been cut now, and the plants chopped for the compost bin. They have done fairly well again, and I have enough jars of Dilly Pickled Cucumbers to last until next year's crops begin

A crop I always look forward to is Coriander Seed, and this year I have far more than usual, as the plants grew well alongside the "watering ditch" in the polytunnel.  I pulled up the whole row this week, so that there was better air circulation for the Sweet Peppers, and took off all the green seeds . They had already formed their hard shells (I could tell when I ate some) so will ripen off just fine,  on osme kitchen paper indoors, and then store well in an airtight jar. They are very aromatic indeed, and there are enough to keep me going for a while

My camera was damaged on holiday, and so there are not photos of the rest of the harvests: Perpetual Spinach, Tomatoes, Chillies, Sweet Peppers, Carrots and Black Tuscan Kale. My new one has now arrived and service as usual will now be resumed!

Out on the Plots:

As said previously, the ground is wet and claggy, with lots of weeds, and conditions are hardly up to getting much done. I had previously thought up some ways of re-organising the outdoor growing areas, which on #145 meant diving the long beds (4.8m in length) into either two or three equal sections with membrane paths. This has three benefits.

One: providing smaller areas for crops, so reducing the "gluts"

Two: making it easier to grow successioally and to grow a wider variety of crops 

Three: making it much easier to get across from one area to another without compacting the soil other than under those path areas

One bed is now duly divided, although all three sections will be filled with alliums. This is beacuse it shall be growing them under fine mesh netting to protect them from insect pests (and pheasants) and it makes sense to cover the whole bed in one piece. So far there are Shakespeare sets, Senshyu Yellow seedlings and space for shallots.

There is so much work to do though, because the rain has given the weeds an opportunity to grow rapidly. I have to look on the positive side....plenty of soft green material for composting!

The Dahlias have taken a bit of a beating from the rain, although there were enough for a vaseful, and many of the Cosmos are leaning over at an angle now. I must try to spot some ripe seedheads to keep for next year, especially the ones with the extra row of petals. I spotted a dark pink one of these, as well as the pale one I photographed a week or two back 

In the Polytunnels:

 The soil under cover still needs watering of course, and there is something slightly surreal in using a hosepipe while the rain is hammering down on the tunnel cover! 

The seeds sown before I went away have germinated, and I have cleared a space for the Perpetual Spinach to be transplanted as soon as it is large enough. It is a bit behind where things were last year, but the plants will grow and until then I have the large one grown over the Summer to provide harvests from time to time.

The Winter Radishes are all up too, and I hope they have enough light to grow some decent roots. Winter Lettuce and Rocket are now transferred to the tunnels in their trays, and the Winter Spring Onions are at last starting to germinate.

The young Brassicas are growing really quickly now, with Khol Rabi showing signs of thickening up, and the Spring Cabbage, Curly Kale and Tenderstem Broccoli looking good as well. The vole issue seems to have been resolved using the new bait boxes. These prevent any birds that come in through damaged windows from either eating rodent bait of getting caught in traps 

The Purple Sprouting Broccoli plants are massive, and I am looking forward to some shoots before Christmas, all being well. 

Cucumber plants are out now, and the Gherkin and Malabar Spinach plants on support nets are also ready to be cut down. 

I wish I had a picture of the Sweet Peppers though... they look just amazing.I shall make sure to take one for next week, now i\ have a working camera again, especially the Gogorez, which are vast!

 

I am ending with some pictures I took on holiday, in a spell of warm sunshine. We spotted more than 20 Red Admiral butterflies feeding from ivy flowers, along with literally hundreds of bees of various kinds. They looked so beautiful I couldn't resist taking a few photos to share!

These ones will probably hibernate in the nooks and crannies of the old wall under the ivy, as it is a little late for them to migrate really. In the warmer parts of the country, they do overwinter successfully and I often see Red Admirals out looking for food again on sunny days in early Spring

I shall be back next Monday, hopefully slightly less water-logged. In the meanwhile, I hope no one is affected by flooding, and are able to at least get some harvests in.

 

Thanks for reading!

My contact email is

info@alittlebitofsunshine.co.uk

 Comments and suggestions are most welcome, and I shall reply as soon as I can

And if you'd like to know more about Harvest Monday, look at

www.ourhappyacres.com/