June 2020

29th June - Nearly 100 days of Lock Down. Hard to believe as it seems so much longer somehow, and so much has chnaged, some things perhaps for ever. What doesn't change though, is the moving forward of the seasons, and spending time outside, particularly on the plots, bring this home. More "firsts" these week in the basket, so let's have a look at Harvest Monday, when growers from around the world share photos of what they have brought home during this week. If you are interested, the link to Dave's site, Our Happy Acres, is at the end of this blog entry. He lives in the US, and there are variations in what we harvest, but I have been surprised at how many similarities there are too

So, here is this week's Harvest Monday from Reading, UK.

I cut the first Summer Cabbage this week, an old traditional varieity called Greyhound, and it had a really dense heart that was sweet and delicious. I do hope that the others are as good!

Ans usually I leave the flower harvests unitl last, but this week there were enough Dahlias in bloom to fill a vase, so here they are, a real harbinger of Summer

 

Raspberries are still a regular harvest, with a couple of punnets every other day. Raspberry Vodka is "in", one batch of Raspberry Jelly, with another ready to boil

I tried a new variety of First Early Potato this year, called Juliette, described as having numerous small, oval tubers suitable for salads and boiled potatoes. I only bought five tubers, and here are the results, laid out in five rows so you can gauge the size of the harvest per tuber. They do taste good too, need very little prep and don't fall to pieces if left in to cook slightly too long, so I am hoping to grow these again next season

Carrots have suddenly grown in size, and although a couple of them are slightly crooked, they are certainly easy to prepare and very very good to eat!

I left these smaller Cauliflowers last week, hoping they would get a little larger, but they didn't get any bigger, they started to lose their brilliant whiteness and turn a bit pink round the edges instead. I cut them, and they will be fine to eat, but next time I shall know better than leaving them like that

 

Mangetout plants in the polytunnel are still flowering, and this week I have been freezing some in small quantities. I hadn't planned to do this, but hadn't expected such a large crop. The plants outside have gone over though, and will be coming out soon. The next plants are ready to be planted out already, although not in the same spot. Luckily there were lots of seed in the packet, as Golden Sweet are definitely on the list for next Spring

 

Peas are the same, with the indoor plants having a few pods still to mature, but the outdoor ones spent now. Extra Early Onward have proved their worth, as they are not too tall to be manageable, but tall enough to carry plenty of pods, two to a node too. Plenty in the freezer now, and I have eaten a lot too:  another variety for next Spring!

The outdoor French Beans have had some pods large enough to pick this week, and the plants under cover are now in full production. Red Swan's pretty pink pods are easy to spot, although they turn a deep bluey-green when they are cooked. So far, they seem to be quite prolific, although it is too soon to say if they will keep this up through for a few weeks or not

 

The Cucumber plants are very slow to produce fruit at the moment, so I hope things pick up soon. I have continued to pick off the male flowers in the hope it will encourge the production of some female ones, but so far it doesn't seem to be working. Still, it is only the end of June, so fingers crossed for some improvement as the Summer moves on 

I took up these Autumn-planted Shallots, as the foliage was well past its best. They are a mixture of Jermor, and an unknown French variety that I bought from a local Farmers' Market. The one or two I ate tasted glorious so I planted the others, overwintering them in pots in the polytunnel. Some refused to grow, but several did, making the same huge bulbs as the ones I had planted. Fantastic! I shall save some to replant again, and treat them the same way. Worth sacrificing some to eat now for a possible increased crop this time next year! I shall keep back from Jermor too, as they are always reliable

Other crops this week have included, Spring Onions, Radishes, Beetroot, Rosemary, Thyme, Strawberries and Gooseberries

 

On The Plots This Week:

I usually sow Leek seeds in a large tray, where the young plants stay until it is time for them to be planted out, following the First Early Potatoes. The plants are often difficult to separate, and despite feeding, stay quite small. This year I tried transplanting the plants into five inch pots, about a dozen plants per pot, with good quality compost. The pots sat outside, in partial shade, and were well watered

This made a huge difference to the speed of growth, and the plants were the largest I have ever had at this time in the year. I teased the plants apart carefully after soaking the rootball thoroughly and washing off as much compost as I could. You can see the size of the roots! These ones are Cairngorm, which is a relatively new variety said to stand well in the ground until the New Year

Having now take up both the Juliette and International Kidney Potatoes, there was space either side of the row of Charlottes. The Cairngorm Leeks needed to be planted out as soon as possible as they had outgrown their pots, so after raking in Blood, Fish & Bone and giving the soil a good soak, planted some at each end of the bed

I use the traditional method, making holes about 20cm deep with a broom handle, trimming the roots so they easily drop intot the hole and them trimming the leaves across so about 3-4cm of leaf is sticcking up above ground. The holes are about 20cm apart and with 30cm between each row

I also added some chicken manure pellets in each hole to provide some extra Nitrogen and boost leaf growth.

The remaining Leek plants, which are Musselburgh, are smaller than the Cairngorms, and will be fine in their pots for another couple of weeks, when the last of the Potatoes will be ready to dig

The leaves on the Garlic plants over on #146 are now starting to turn yellow... so sign of rust this year for the first time ever ... so I shall be digging them up in the next day or two, and prepping that area for the next Mangetout and Sugar Snap plants to go in. I have never grown a second crop of these, so I hope they thrive through the Summer months

I have pruned all the Apple and Pear trees now, and they look neat and well cared for once more. The Rosemary hedge remains uncut however, and the Bluberry bed not yet weeded, as it has rained quite a lot... jobs that will stay on the list for the coming week!

 

In the Polytunnels This Week:

Weeding has been the main job this week, as the Chickweed was trying to take over, plus watering on alternate days. 

 The Soya bean plants are now about 40cm tall, and I can see the start of flower buds. I have put in some canes and string to support the plants, as I donlt want them to collapse onto the ground. Not having gorwn these before I am not too sure how long it might be before there are pods ot pick. The information on the packet said to harvest the whole crop all at once, so I guesss they will all be ready at about the same time, and just one flush of flowers.

I have noticed some rodent damage to some of the Mangetout pods low down on the plants, and these are right next to the Soya plants, so I hope the snappy traps deal with these: I certainly don't want to donate any of the Edamame crop to the mouse or vole population!

The Tomato plants are full of green fruit, with one or two Sungolds starting to change to orange, so I hope next week to have some ripe fruit. There are developing fruits on the Padron Peppers too.

 

At Home This Week:

The first small batch of Raspberry Jelly took less than ten minutes to reach the setting point, so I think small batches will be easier to deal with this year that huge boilings. (One jar is part full as some has alreday been eaten ...it is very, very good indeed)

I have found the box of small jars too, ready for the Gooseberry and Chamomile jam I shall try out. A friend has recommended Goosberry & Mint Jelly too

The seedlings of all the veg snw two weeks ago are now potted on into individual modules: Scarlet Kale, Cavolo Nero, Kohl Rabi, Swede and Florence Fennel. The overcast weather was helpful for them settling in, and they needed no extra shading. The Swede was abit leggy, so I hope it doesn't start to flop over again. Once they are in the ground they will be fine as I shall plant them quite deeply, but i have to get them to that point. I rarely have much success with Swede, but perhaps this year they will produce decent roots.

Look what was on the roof outside the beedroom window this morning..two little Goldfinch babies, snuggling up together, and pecking up what may have been tiny insects from in the moss, or moss seeds. I tried really hard not to move so they didn't see me, but eventually they did notice me watching them, as you can see. Their parents whistled to them from a nearby tree,and off they flew, fliritng the golden feathers on their little wings

The weather for this coming week still looks very variable, but I shall try to get these first two jobs off the list:

[Rosemary hedge and Blueberry bed]

and then there is :

Taking out the spent Pea and Mangetout plants cutting these up for the compost bin and taking down the weldmesh support

Garlic to dig up, and prep the soil for the next lot of Mangetout plants and the Sugarsnaps, and plant these out once the weldmesh support has been moved

Spring planted Shallots to dig up

Gooseberries to harvest

I shall be back next week, having done what I can to keep things growing and movong ahead to harvesting. See you next Monday, the first Monday in July!

 

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

22nd  June - Happy Summer Solstice for yesterday. Here, the sunrise was obscured by cloud, but later in the day we had clear Summer skies. Hard to believe, but we have been in Lock Down now through more than 90 days, although the expectations are now being slowly lessened for many of us. 

We are now in the hottest spell of weather since last Summer, so watering will become essential again if we are to ensure crops can grow healthily and produce plenty for us to eat. The recent period of rain has certainly boosted growth, so I hope this can continue through the heatwave

Harvest Monday is particularly lush and Summery this week, as you can see from the photo

Raspberries are ripening daily, and although they are still quite small, once they are cooked it hardly matters. These two punnets went to the first batch of Rasberry Jelly of the season, with plenty more to follow I think

Strawberries are almost finished. I really must stop eating them as soon as I pick them, so that I can amass enough for some Strawberry Vodka

Cherries are a particularly special crop each year, as I don't have many of them. These few are from the tree at the plot, and I also had a small bowlful from the garden tree...  all now eaten of course, and so very delicious they were too. I noticed some were split, due to the suddent deluges of rain. but the were still able to be eaten

Peas and Mangetout are still producing lovely pods, both indoors and outside. The feed of tomato food they had recently has led to further flowers, so they are not done yet!

Broad Beans have been wonderful this year. I picked the majority of pods this week, 2kg of them, and the beans are now safely in the freezer. I have left the plant in, hoping the last few pods will swell, because I donlt need their space for a follow-on crop yet

Potatoes are being dug as plants appear finished: these are some of the International Kidney crop

Turnips are from the few seeds I sowed at the edge of the Potato bed, and although they are small they were very welcome

Courgettes (and I also had two green ones) have started producing fruit large enough to eat, and I hope that there are many more to come

And the first Cucumber (La Diva) was also large enough to pick a couple of days ago. There are more little fruits growign so I am hoping for enough to pickle again this year. Male flowers keep appearing, so I pull these off in case it causes fruits to be fertilised and taste bitter

Here are the first three Cauliflowers (All the Year Round) grown from seed sown in early March. Nice solid heads, and I am very pleased with them!!

French Beans have some lovely pods... Tendergreen, from the pots in the driveway, Red Swan and The Prince from the polytunnels. Thes last two are growing up to 40cm tall, so need some support, so are not the neat plants I was expecting, but hey, beans are beans! Th eRed Swan are very pretty but to cook up green. Easy to spot on the plants though  

The White Lisbon Spring Onions are now bulbing, but they are still good to eat, which is just as well as there are still plenty of them

There are also other harvests..  cut flowers ... and at this time in the year there are frothy bunches to fill vases and enjoy at home: Sweet Peas, Pinks, Calendula, Lavender, Candytuft, Love-in-the-MIst, Sweet Williams, Sage, Feverfew and Alchemilla mollis.

On The Plots This Week:

One big job has been replacing the woodchip on the paths. Some came from my duaghter's house, where she had a tree removed, and some from the Council tee surgeons. Hard, heavy work, but it always smells so nice and makes it looks so much tidier, as well as being softer underfoot

Remember those sorry looking Winter Squash plants from three weeks ago? Well, here they are now, after a week of rain, with fruit set on all except the Honeyboats and lots more in the pipeline. I have attempted to train them in the direction I'd like themr to grow, so they will have some space each, not just a great big tangle, but usually they have their own way, I can but try

Everything except the Spring-sown Onion sets  on #145 is thriving. These are in a bed on the "wrong" side of the Forest Garden area, and get very little actual sunshine. I am leaving them to grow on, despite most of them having slumped over already, as whatver size they get to, they wil be Onions to eat. However, I have learned this bed will be best for crops that like a fair bit of shade in future

 

The new Asparagus plants have reasonable growth. These were bought as "mainly" male plants, which of course means a greatly reduced chnace of having random seedlings come up from the female plants' berries.

Only one plant out of the ten has berries, which is pretty good going, and I shall pick all these off before they start to ripen, so they will not be able to grow. 

 

There are masses of flowers on other plants though, the most surprising of which are these beautiful white, highly scented blossoms :Ismene/Hymenocallis. I planted the bulbs in a trough of old compost, had to protect them from being dug up by squirrels with an old piece of wire mesh. Thye grew some very lush looking brigth green strap shaped leaves and I eally hadn't noticed any flower stalks tw days ago... and then this morning, just look!! 

I think they will need Winter protection, so I can take the trough home and keep it in the greenhouse. I shall keep them at home then too, as they do smell wonderful

The perennial Sweetpeas are putting on a great show in amongst the straggly Goji berry. Such a shame they are unscented

There are some Red Admiral butterflies around again, but I don't know of they are migrants or newly hatched ones from the inescts that hibernated here last Winter, Thye are in excelent condition, so on blalnace I think they may be new ones, not ones that have flown thousands of miles to get here

In the Polytunnel This Week:

The first sowing of Corainder is now in full bloom, and I am looking forward to the start of those green seeds, and a really good harvest of dried seeds to use during the Winter.

The next sowing is now about 5cm tall, so it won't be long before there should be plenty of leaves to harvest again. In the meanwhiel, I can always pinch a few off these plants, more faethery than the young foliage, but still with the same flavour

 

Last week I said that the Chinese Red Noodle Bean plants were starting to climb the support netting. I notoced today how they are each growing at a different rate and have formed a nice neat diagonal line along their top level

 

 

At Home This Week:

No pictures of this, but this weekend I cleared the excess plant growth out of the pond and attempted to remove as much duckweed as possible, as the poor fsh had hardly any space to swim about. Shrubs behind the pond have been pruned back too, so it looks much neater altogether.

I also pruned back the roses that have finished flowering and gave them a feed of Blood, Fish & Bone, as this should help them form new growth and flower again in a few weeks' time. They are repea-flowering  varieties: ones which bloom in one flush wouldn't flower again, and if you are wanting the hips later in the year, a haircut is the last thing they need

All the seeds sown 10 days ago are now up, even the Florence Fennel and the Spring Onions, so the trays will be off to the cold frame in the mesh section of the polytunnel so they can grow in nice cool conditions and not get too "lanky"

The "dripping" season has begun here!!! Cooked Raspberries giving up their juice, ready for turning into Raspberry Jelly. The jelly bag stand with be living on the kitchen floor for the next few weeks, as more and more of the soft fruit ripens

Next week's jobs are those I haven't got to this week, due to being sidetracked by carting  masses of woodchip!

- Cutting back Rosemary & Sage hedge

- Weeding around the Blueberries and adding some more Sulphur chips to the soil, to maintian the acid conditions they prefer

- Thinning the fruit on the James Greaves Apple Tree, and completing the Summer pruning

 And I shall be back next week. Hope you have enjoyed this week's Blog!

 

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

15th June - As Lock Down eases, so has the weather. We have had a decent amount of rain this week, which has made life a little better, and lots of plants have perked up again. Rain water always seems to encourage plants to grow faster than when we have to water them ourselves somehow!

Very excited that the green Aubergine plant has set fruit. It is a variety called Emerald Isle, which I have not grown before. You know how in the depths of Winter photos in the seed cayalogues tempt you to buy things you may later regret? Well Emerald Isle  seeds were my unplanned Winter purchase. So far however, things are going well for this one in the greenhouse at home

 

The Summer soft fruit season is well and truly upon us now, so Harvest Monday begins with some "firsts" on the table this week.

Cherries from the tree in the fruit cae at the plot were luscious, and didn't last long at all. There are more to come, but these ones were ripe and just crying out to be picked. The ones on the tree in the garden are nearly ripe too. As the harvest is never massive, I do just eat them rather than attempt anything fancy

Next up are Raspberries. Some years back Abi attempted to dig out the canes of the Summer fruiting raspberries as the fruits were so small, but there were one or two bits left, and over th years they have just pleased themselves wherever they come up. Canes in the fruit cage I leave, ones in the veg beds I pull out. The fruits are small, but very fragrant and  make an excellent compote, as well as making  a very successful Raspberry Vodka ... quite glad to still have them around really

 Strawberries are a bit hit and miss this year as the plants are all young ones. However, there are enough for me to have a small handful most days, mainly from the plants in the polytunnel, and, a bit like the cherries, they just are eaten. This morning i noticed two huge fruits son the plants in the garden, whih was a nice surprise. You can see how much larger they are. I do remember buying some plants that were supposed to give extra large fruits but I cannot remember the  variety. They taste pretty good, so I shall try to grow some further plants from runners for next year

Down on the plots, other growers are finding that their fruit is being eaten, (despite being netted), probably by voles, who burrow in enjoy eating the seeds, so my plan of growing plants in troughs raised up off the ground on tables seems a good one, although of course they need to be netted against birds still. Next year I aim to extend this table top growing further to increase the crop, especially as the planst will be a year older then too. Sounds a good plan!

Early Calabrese has been extremely successful, although all of the heads were ready to harvest at the same time, so some will be going into the freezer later today. It is a vareity called Green Sprouting, which I haven't had before, but as the seeds were free I thought I might as will give them a go. The heads certainly don't stand for more than fe wdasy once they are at full size. I have left the actual plants in, as the packet said smaller spears might be produced as a secondary crop.

My second crop, which will be planted out very soon, is Monclano, so the flavour comparison wil be interesting, as will the ability to stay in good condition for more than a few days when reday to harvest

These Potatoes are from the International Kidney tubers squeezed in on the edge of the bed with the First early varieties. The soil was pretty dry out on that side, partially under the shade of the Loganberry, so they have not done all that well. However, they are a crop of edible Potatoes, that still taste very good

The remaining Potato plants are now just flowering and so will carry on growing for a few weeks yet I think (Juliette and Charlotte)

As I shall be planting Leeks in the space vacated by these, I have cut back and tied up the Loganberry plant to give the area more iight. Seaweed meal will help feed the soil a bit, and some added compost from BIn No 2 couldfind it's way over too

Radishes, Beetroot and Spring Onions are all regulars now on the table, and Spring Cabbage is still going strong too. This couple of leaves will be finely sliced for a coleslaw-like dish, together with some Onion and a few Dill seeds, and a dressing of plain yoghourt mixed with mayonniase

Peas are producing well this year, and with plants both in the polytunnel and outside, cropping is spread a little wider, which is good. 

These are Early Onward, and are certainly on my list for next year. They grow about 1.2m tall, and are easily supported at that height on some weldmesh secured by fence pins. As the plants out on the plot reached the top however, pigeons began to crash land onto the bushy bulk of the plants and feast on the tender top shoots. I put some netting over them, held up by canes pushed into the ground, and empty plastic bottles over their tops to keep the netting up high. It has done the trick, and I hope there may be afew more flowers to come

Another plot holder asked my how you know when peas are ready to be picked, as she had picked  fat pods, only to find miniscule peas inside them. If you gently tap/agitate a pod, it ratttles very slightly if the peas are not filling the pod yet. No rattling sound means it is ready to pick

I don't aim to be self-sufficient in peas (and after all commercailly produced frozen peas are excellent) The flavour of home grown, just picked peas however is something else, so I try to use them as a main focus to a dish, rather than an accompaniment. Pea Risotto was a resounding success last week, and this simple dish is another one of my favourites: Okra and Pea Curry. (I didn't grow the Okra... a crop I have never tried) I made another version using Calabrese in place of the Okra and it tasted every bit as good with a garnish of chopped Coriander leaves, plain chapatis and some good thick Greek yoghourt

 {Recipe in Recipes 2020/ June}

Mangetout Sweet Sensation certainly lives up to its name. I add these to stir fries a few minutes before the end of cooking, slice the raw into salads and just eat them as a snack. They really are delicious

They are growing alongside the Peas on the same support, which has worked very well, as they are a similar height.Some inside and some outdoors staggers the crop, so  avoiding a glut. I am not sure these would freeze well, so see them as seasonal treat really

This week sees the final Rhubarb harvest. The plants have taken a bit of a battering in the hot dry weather, even though I tried to keep them well watered, so it is time for their annual rest-time now, so they can grow new leaves and help build up the crowns for next Spring

This is chopped reday to roast and will be used for Rhubarb and GInger Gin, and a compote with some Strawberries.

There are varieties now that can be cropped all year round, but I feel Rhubarb is a Spring and early Summer crop that gracefully gives way to soft fruit by the end of June, to take a well-earned rest. I'll stick with the old fashioned varieties I think

 

On the Plots This Week:

Both plots are full of flowers, with #146 having Roses galore, Foxgloves and Clematis, and Poppies and #145 being wrapped in Verbena bonariensis, Lupins, early Lavender, Rose Campion and Sweet William.

It turned out that there are some frilly poppies to go with all those beautiful dark crimson singles after all, and the bees love them just as much. This morning  I  counted between 50 and 60 White Tailed Bumblebees on a patch of Crimson Poppies at the top end of #146... that must be almost their whole nest population at this time in the year! Lots of Honeybees too, probably from the on-site hives

From one social insect to another... when I moved the kerb stone that supports the wooden edge of one of the veg beds,  there was a good view into the nest of these Black Garden Ants. As they were not in my way, or disturbing the roots of foodcrops, I just let them be, carefully replacing the stone so they could carry on with their lives. Fascinating the watch them though. Ants are widely considered to be the smartest insects in the world due to the relative size of their brains. Hope they use those brains to not make nests under the roots of plants in my veg beds!!

This week's plot time has focussed on getting those weeds out of the paths so I can walk about safely and push abrrow without getting caught on something... and I can now report weed-free paths, albeit a bit bare due to lack of woodchip, but at least I shall be able to hoe off the inevitable weed seedlings now. The last three barrowloads of Grass plants, Dandelions, Parsley, Buttercups and so on went off on the Council lorry this morning to the Green Waste Recycling... Hurrayyyyyyy! I really had no composting space left for this final load!!!!

The netting over the Peas and Mangetout has detered the pigeons from pecking th eops off the plants, although one or two have tried the "crash landing approach" against the netting, but clothes pegs holding it againt the bottom of the canes meant they couldn't force tbeir way  onto the Pea plants

They have turned their atttention to the Redcurrants and Gooseberries in the fruit cage, trying to use their body weight to push the netting onto the bushes, so they can peck through it to the fruit. Well, no! That didn't work either and so I hope they leave things alone now

All the climbing bean are now making good progress up their sticks, and some are showing flower buds too. Good news!

In the Polytunnels This Week:

It has mainly been a case of watering, weeding and harvesting, every other day. The seeds sown last week have germinated (Beetroot Cylindra, Pak Choin, Turnips and Radishes) and the CHinese Red Noodle Bean plants have at last decided to grow,  not just sit there, and one is actually beginning to climb the support netting. Let's hope the others follow suit!

There is only one new addition, and that is little clumps of Basil Neopolitan planted out from modules sown at home

The Dwarf Red Swan French Bean plants are now about 40 cm tall. I bought the seeds from Mr Fothergill and there was no mention of height, but having check with other sellers, yes, this is correct, so I am no longer thinking I had perhaps been sent the wrong seeds They are flowering well, and have attached themselves to the canes I put in for them, so I am hoping for pretty pink-podded beans soon. 

The leaves of one of the the Aubergine plants have suddenly gone very yellow, so tomorrow I shall be giving it some Epsom Salts, both as a foliar spray and watered in around the rootball. Sometimes yellowing like this is due to inability to take up Magnesium, so hopefully this is will help it recover

At Home This Week:

 There may not have been all that much needed doing in the polytunnel but there has been plenty at home alright! I had a mass sowing day, and now have all the next  follow-on crops underway:

- Spring Onion - Ishikua

- Florence Fennel di Firenze

- Basil Neopolitan (Yes, more!)

- Swede - Best of All & Brora

- Khol Rabi - Olivia & Purple Delicacy

Mangetout - Kent Blue & Sweet Sensation

Sugar Snap - Nairobi

Kale - Scarlet Curled & Cavolo Nero

Lettuce - Catalogna, Little Gem & Lobjoits Cos

I checked through the seed box and made sure I used the oldest seed that was still in date, so have some varieties I haven't sown before. I shall be interested in how these compare with the ones I usually grow

 After a lot of perusing  of the veg bed plans, I have managed to work out where each of these crops will be planted out when they are ready, rather than my usual approach of standing there looking around  wondering where there is space to plant something. I hope it leads to better crops from ones I have not had much success with in the past, such as Swede and Florence Fennel

 

The garden of course also demands attention, sometime quite immediate attention too. After the heaviest of downpours mid-week, the Zantedeschia plant growing in the pond was left lying horizontal and waterlogged, pulling the pipe from the pump out of the unit

Last year my Daughter-in-Law secured the plant upright, but of course it dies down in the Winter, and the new growth wasn''t inside the ties she had put in place. I managed to haul it back up out of the water and stretch some linked bungee cords around its waist and attach these the large Viburnum Shrub behind the pond. I was quite relieved not to have fallen into the pond! 

Without the pressure of the plant lying on the pipe, I re-attached this relatively easily ,and having cleaned the debris out of the filter panels, it works perfectly well again. Phew!

The next job is to prune the shrubs around the pond.... loppers at the ready, now I have managed to clear those paths on the plots

 

There are always surprises in the garden, and this week's little surprise is the self sown bright blue Lobelia plant, growing in a tny space between the house and the patio. Just beautiful, especially in the early morning sunshine

Jobs for this coming week include:

- Summer pruning of the fruit trees at the plots

- Cutting back the Rosemary & Sage hedge alon g the pathway between the plots

- Weeding the Blueberry bed

- Re-filling the water butts insde the polytunnel

- Pruning the shrubs around the pond

- Dead-heading the roses that have finished flowering, and feeding the plants

I shall be back next Monday,  having tried to make progress with my jobs list and with some seedlings from all those seeds sown on the 11th up and looking healthy. Thank you for reading this week's Blog, and I hope you are enjoying your gardens

 

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

8th June -  a quick dash of rain this week, with lower temperatures. Lock Down slightly eased, and hope that there might be further loosening of the restrictions soon, one small step at a time. Fewer people who have died, fewer becoming ill, is certainly good to know

Summer is here alright, just look at the harvests in the baskets, shared on Harvest Monday

Firstly, there are some Onions. Some of these had bolted (grown flower spikes) so would not have stored well, but even so, I would usually not have pulled them up just yet, but their space was needed, and to be honest they are plenty big enough to eat and enjoy! They have grown from Shakespear sets planted last Autumn, and the are certainly doing well, as are other varieties grown by other plot holders this year  "Onions are doing well aren't they?" is almost a daily greeting on the site at the moment!

The Autumn planted Shallots had finished growing, so out they have come to dry off. Not the largest in the world, but they will be very welcome in stews and casseroles, as well as finely chopped as a quick pickle

 

There is something about the first Peas of the year, isn't there? The plants outside have their very first full pods, but those under cover are weighed down with them. So delicious raw, but quickly cooked are beautifully sweet. Pea Risotto was a real highlight this week, fragrant and luscious.

The Mangetout are also still being picked almost daily, although I think production is slowing down now

This sowing of Radishes is also coming to an end, but the next batch has germinated and it won't be many weeks before they are a regular on the table again.

Beetroot however, are just getting going, and their earthy sweetness is very welcome. This year I hve staggered sowings, rather than having several rows ready all at the same time, so there should be nice little ones for some weeks to come

I dug up the remaining Potato plants in the polytunnel this week, and the tubers are really quite large, obviously benefitting from the manure in the ground and plenty of water. These will keep me going unitl the early ones out on the plot are ready to start digging up

The Cos Lettuce are coming to an end now,: they have ben very successful and I shall sow more. Out on the plot  however there are still self-seeded Black Seeded Simpson Lettuce here and there, so I shan't be going without

Sweetpeas are in full flower now, and they smell so good, especially in the sunshine. I haven't grown many this year, so I am enjoying them while they last

Other harvests this week have included Coriander, Chives, Spring Onions, Red Orache, Parsley, Strawberries and one single Raspberry

On the Plots This Week:

The moment came this week when every single bed out on both plots was full! It happenes every year, I enjoy it for a day or two and then it is time to harvest something, create a space, and plant it with something new

The last bed to be filled now has been planted with 6 Mixed Purple and White Sprouting Broccoli (Lancer) 6 Brussels Sprouts (Darkamor) 3 Red Cabbages (Lodero) 3 Round Head White Cabbages (Kilaton) and 3 Savoy Cabbages (Cordera). 

The soil was well watered, and each plant had some chicken manure pellets in its planting hole to provie extra Nitrogen for leaf growth. I  trod down the soil , as Brassicas need their roots to be secure in the ground to develop well: they don't like a soft fluffy bed. The Broccoli and Sprouts will grow quite large, and so have already hammered in their support stakes for future use

They are also very likely to be dinner for pigeons, so I put up a tall netted cage for them. The wooden block joiners that Abi made some years back are now starting to fall to pieces, but I managed to use small plastic bottles with holes in the sides to support the struts. It stood up well to some strong winds the very next day, so hopefully it will stay in place for a good while.The net has seen better days though: there are so many rips and tears in it now that I cannot stitch them all up. It has lasted at least five, if not six years, so it is time to buy a new one I think, before the onslaught of white butterflies begins

 

The Daubenton's Perennial Kale is thriving. I have cut off the majority of the seed pod branches, as I don't want the plant to sue more energy than necessary in seed production (although I do want some if possible, as they seem hard to come by)

There are plenty of small side shoots that I can use as cuttings in late Summer, so I can set these out in their permanent bed in the Forest Garden area then, and hope some take. Several other growers would like a plant, so I don't think i shall have any trouble finding homes for any surplus

It has been a week for planting out Brassicas. Harvesting Shallots created a space, which, after feeding the soil with some Blood, Fish & Bone, was filed by 6 Calabrese plants (Monclano). They also had a boost from some chicken manure pellets, and , like the others of the Cabbage family, have nice firm soil around their roots

As the Onion bed is covered with fine mesh netting to ward off Onion fly etc, I just replaced the net over that section, and the little plants are now safe from marauding pigeons. They look very small but I am not expecting them to grow heads for a while. The first plants set out over on #146 are almost ready to harvest, so there is no hurry for these little ones to produce anything yet

Every year I leave some of the Opium Poppies to flower and produce seed, which I then harvest for use in cooking. This year almost all of the flowers are deer red single blooms, which the bees are really enjoying. Thier high pitched whine as they vibrate the pollen off the stamens is really loud and is a real sound of the season on the plots. If their busy-ness is anything to go by, there will plenty of seeds to come

Other plants are now settling in and starting to flower: Beans, outdoor Tomatoes, Courgettes and Winter Squashes, and although they do need a lot of water to counteract the very dry weather, it is worth the effort when you see them flourishing. 

In the Polytunnel This Week:

Having taken out the last of the Potato plants, it made space for the two Lancer Sprouting Broccoli plants for earlier cropping, and new sowings of Beetroot (Cylindra... found the packet!) Radishes (Mixed Round) Pak Choi (Purple and Green) and Turnips (Sweet Bell) have now been made as well. The last of the Diva Cucumber plants is planted now, on the second Cucumber net, together with a few of the Malabar Spinach plants. Those "dwarf" Red Swan Beans are now busy climbng stick sand netting. They have pretty pink flowers, and I am hoping for a good crop from them

Last week's Radishes, Beetroot and Coriander  sowings have germinated, which is good, and the Aubergine plants are now flowering. There are plenty of bees in and out, so hopefully the flowers will be pollinated

The Tomato plants are all in flower and some have green fruits, which is a good sign of things to come, and the Edamame Bean plants are growing well. 

After last year's tangle of Coriander plants, I have tied string along both sides of the row of plants to keep them upright as far as possible. They are flowering well now, again, plenty of insect action, and I am looking forward to those first fragrant green seeds very soon

The big temporary coldframe is now almost empty as the Brassicas are mainly now in the ground not pots, but I shall leave it in place as it will be helpful to have somewhere to keep new sowings as they grow on: several planned for the next couple of days of crops for later in the year

The tunnel is currently well under control, seeming much easier to manage somehow than the outside beds. 

At Home This Week:

For some weeks now, there has been a putrid smell in the greenhouse, which I have been unable to find the source of, despite searching everywhere. This week, whilst I was cutting back the brambles, privet and ivy behind the greenhouse, I found where it was coming from. I was worried that there was a dead animal somewhere in the undergrowth, so was relieved to find this unusual fungus: Common Stinkhorn. It grows a long spire out of the base egg shape, which, once ripe, exudes green slime to attract flies, as part of it spore-making process... and boy doe sit earn its name. Urgh!

I was glad it was nothing worse though, and so easily resolved. The greenhouse already smells more normal, of plants again thank goodness

Cutting back the bushes around the back and side certainly made it feel much brighter inside the greenhouse too!

There is plenty of bench space now for modules, so tomorrow I shall be sowing: Spring Onions, Lettuce, Khol Rabi, Swede, Kale and Mangetout, and they can sit in the greenhouse until they germinate, which hoefully wonlt take too long

 

 

Yesterday I saw af emale Stag Beetle trundling along the path, and she happily settled into a hole in a rotting log at the end of the garden

And if anyone ever wondered what a caterpillar face looks like, here is an Elephant Hawk Moth larva. When you see the mouth parts, you realise how they can much through leaves at such speed!

 

And to finish, here are the Sweet Williams and Carnations I cut this wek.. very fragrant and beautiful colours

I hope you enjoyed this week's blog, and thank you for taking the time to read it.

 I hope to be back 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

1st June- First day of Summer after the sunniest Springtime on record, and ten weeks into Lock Down. We are now able to see our family and friends in the outside air, maintaining Social Distance, and are delighted that the dry weather is continuing, at least for the next few days. Coller air is on the way, but rainfall here looks pretty unlikely

Growers would really like some rain of course (perhaps during the night?) as watering feels a continuous activity at the moment, so that our vegetables and fruit can continue to grow and feed us. Hard work

The first Harvest Monday of the Summer does have a different feel about it. First to the table this week are Radishes. I usually grow Cherry Belle, but this year, drawn by their name, I have been sowing 18 Day Radish at regular intervals. There are edible roots after 18 days alright, but a few more days give really decent crisp Radishes, not as regular in appearance as the round varieties, but still pretty good

 

 

Next are White Lisbon Spring Onions, module sown and then planted out in clumps in the polytunnel. It is time to sow some more really, because they do take a while to grow large enough to harvest. It's on the list!

Potatoes are surprisingly large, from those undercover plants, and just in time really as I have now finished the small bag from the shop... home grown are very welcome. These are Rocket, which cook quite quickly, so I have to keep an eye on them or they tend to start to fall apart.... they then end up as pan-fried crushed potatoes, still very tasty but not quite so good with salad!

Mangetout are very productive, both in the polytunnel and out on the plots, so there is plenty to share. These are a new variety called Sweet Sensation, which reach a modest height of 1.5m so are easy to manage, and, true to their name, are very flavourful

The Peas growing alongside them have plenty of pods and some look as though they will be ready to harvest for next week

And this very special seasonla harvest won't be around for long this year, as the hot dry weather measn the flowers are really not lasting all that long. So, this morning I set off early to gather some while they were still in good condition, with plenty of pollen on them... Elderflowers!!

These willl be used to flavour gin, and be put inot steep later this evening. If I can get some more in  a day or two as more open, I shall be gathering them for sure

And last this week is a seasonal "first", which you can see in that top photo.. Beetroot. Last year the harvest was not too good and so this year I am trying harder to make sure they get enough water, and get sown at regualr intervals too.

These first ones (Boltardy) were module-sown and then planted in a row in the polytunnel once the roots had filled their modules, but the successional ones are direct-sown out on the plot, or in the tunnel if there is space. I don't have an Cylindra seeds after all, so I have already sown more Boltardy, and some more Burpees Golden too. No point in buying more seeds, if I have others I can use

Cos Lettuce are a regular harvest at the moment, and Red Orache leaves are too. Plus of course, Strawberries!

On the Plots This Week:

Watering, of course, is a daily event. I don't water every bed every day, but more or less every third day on a rota, each has a good soak, including the Potatoes

As you can see, the Winter Squash plants have picked up after their challenging time when they were first planted out. Some have even already flowered, but although these were female flowers, male flowers are in short supply so may not have been fertilised. At this time in the season that is fine... early days yet

The Onions from Autumn-planted sets seem to be expanding daily. All the Onion beds have had a dressing of seawed meal now, and are relatively weed free, at least for now..Onions hate sharing their beds with any other plants really, least of all weeds... so I hope they all continue to thrive

The Calabrese plants are developing nice little heads now. There are only ten plants so this will hardly constitute a glut!  A  couple to share, some to freeze, and plenty to eat. There are follow-on plants in the temporary coldframe, (not going in the same bed) for an Autumn crop too

The new Asparagus plants were struggling in their sandy soil, as it is difficult to keep moist, so I mulched it with 5cm of compost, which seems to have helped. A couple of them had blown sideways in the recent strong winds, and an additional depth of soil will help anchor the plants I hope

They look perfect in their weed free, dark brown environment, at least for now!

Clematis suddenly seem to have blossomed across the plot, even the one I thought had died, and look very pretty

During the C19 outbreak, some plot holders have not been seen, and there is always the worry they have been affected by the virus. One nearby plot, previously kept immaculately, has been neglected for most of this year, leading to this lovely display of Field Poppies

This morning I noticed some repairs to his shed, and some clearing of weeds, so I hope this means all is well. 

In the Polytunnels This Week:

The space created by taking out the Broad Beans and Perpetual Spinach is now filled with three Aubergine plants and some small Chilli plants given to me by my plot neighbour Jane

The Coriander is now in flower, so I have sown some more, and more Radishes too, this time some round pink and white ones called Polska, as well as the orange Beetroot already mentioned

 

At Home This Week:

In the greenhouse, I took the shade neting dne, pruned the grapevine and put the netting back up.. say that quickly it doesn't sound too bad, but it took ages! All the trays and used modules are now stacked away tidily, and outside in the garden, the huge fuchsia blocking the light has had  a good haircut.

The final three grafted Tomatoes and two Aubergines are planted in their felt pots, the Chilli plants from my daughter are on the staging.. all feels much more light and airy

 

 

The grafted Tomatoes do look a bit pale and wan, but they should soon recover with their roots in nice rich compost

 

I have put away the walk-in plastic greenhouse and one of the temporary staging units, and reclaimed the patio at the far end of the garden. The Philadelphus is in flower, filling the air with sweetness, and this year the William Lobb moss rose is exuberant too. The Philadelphus used to live outside Kate and Pier's front door, and he use to hack it to within an inch of its life every year, and still it bloomed. I have let it get much larger, but it will have a haircut once the flowers are over this year, maybe not quite as severe as Pier might have done though!

I had a real treat last night. I went out with the plate of hedgehog food just before 10pm, and sitting there waiting for his supper was a hedgehog. he tucked in with much crunching, bu along came a second one, trundling along the path in the half light, to join the feast. They snuffled and snorted around for ages, right next to me, and I felt really privileged. I wonder if they will be waiting tonight? 

I hope you also have these moments of joy in these challenging times, where social distancing expectations prevent us from hugging each other, although I am delighted to be able to visit family this week at long, long, last!

I'll be abck next Monday, hopefully with lots of seeds sown so that cropping will continue right through the year...Lettuce will soon run out, so must add that to the list!

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

Kind regards

Kathryn Cockar