July 2020

27th July - Welcome to the story of Little Miss Cottontail, who slipped quietly under the back gate on Plot 145 two weeks ago. She discreetly hops about both plots, occasionally seen on a path, kicking up her little white heels as the bobs into a flower bed, or amongst the Lavender. Her especially favourite spot is under the Lavender on Plot 145, where she can, no, could, just pop out for a sit in the sunshine and a snack of juicy beans.

She has now found however that all the little places she could find tasty meals seem to be barricaded off, and all the is left is grass and dandelions, which even so is a good thing for a rabbit. 

She might be feeling lonely, but can't get back home. Little Miss Cottontail seems to now have to live permanently on the plots, unless she uses her sense and pops out while a gate is open: she is too big now to squeeze out under any of the gate, she has missed her chance

Well, now you know: a rabbit is not for the weekeknd, it appears to be for life!!!

The main job this week has been anti-rabbit fortification, but I also managed to make new fronts for two of the compost bins. Bin 1 is now sealed over, Bin 2 is being filled with all sorts that will turn into glorious compost, whilst BIn 3, which will get a new front once I open it up to be emptied, is full of rather dry, but still excellent, compost

I am sure you all know already that I consider compost as an actual harvest, one that i essential too, so it is the first one for Harvest Monday this week. Here it is in the making (The bag of shredded paper is out of shot, as is the barrowload of chopped Nettles) 

One of the real joys of Summer is freshly picked Tomatoes. Those ripening now are mainly cherry varieties like Black Opal and Golden Sunrise, plus some even smaller red ones from Koralik growing at home. They are just so juicy and full of flavour that they are pretty much a side dish with every meal as well as snacks in passing

However, even with only a relatively small number of plants, I am getting to the point i have more there than I am going to realistically eat in a few days, so I shall be making a little batch of Mixed Tomato Chutney very soon I think. The smaller fruits lend themselves to this, and it always looks really pretty as well as tasting good Preserves Aug (2016)

Blackberries and Apple are always a good partnership. The Bramley tree, despite me thinning the crop heavily, still have a huge number of apples on it. There are lots that fall off though, usually because they have a caterpillar in the middle (Codling Moth perhaps) but these can still be used, with care

These made a very good compote, to have with thick plani yoghourt: jam may well be on this week's list. along with Apple Sauce

Small Mooli thinnings were a good crisp and spicy addition to green salad. Growing them under fine netting seems to have prevented the leaves being damaged by Flea Beetle

Most years I forget to sow Turnips, but am trying hard with them this year. These are from the polytunnel, and are very spicy indeed. I shall have to eat them small, as if they grow large they may be less good to eat

Pickling Onions don't look very promising, but I hope once they are cleaned up they will be much more appetising. They are White Lisbon, which I usually use small, as a Spring Onion, but grew an extra row to grow on and bulb up, specifically for pickling

I also have Shallots to pickle. I have sorted through last week's harvest, and have quite a lot of nice narrow pink ones, which will look beautiful in a jar, I hope

French Beans come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. The Red Swan ones that grew in the sunniest spot of the tunnel developed a much brighter colour, so perhaps next year I shall grow them outside. 

Plenty to eat and some to freeze

Courgettes are gradually increasing, and this spell of rain will suiit them too I think. Using them mainy grilled, as part of stirfry or grated iot past sauce so far

Other edible harvests this week have included Carrots, Lettuce, Beetroot, Cucumber, Flat Leaf Parsley, MInt and Basil

A non-edible harvest is seeds for next year. Parsnip seed is notoriously difficult to germinate, so this year I left two plant to flower, and have plenty of seed which is fresh as fresh can be! I am hoping that there will be sufficient to share with any of the growers on our site who would like some. This is only the ones where the seed was dry and brown: other seedheads are still green

And second is the Daubenton's Perennial Kale, which appaently rarely flowers. Well mine went mad and had so many seedheads I cut most of them off so that the plant could put energy into staying alive, not just growing seed and dying! It seems to have worked. I shall check for viability before getting too excited though, by sowing  a few this week and see if they grow. With the soil so warm and now damp, germination conditions should be perfect

  • Parsnip seed

  • Daubenton's Perennial Kale seed

Out on the Plots This Week:

I was feeling quite disappointed in the climbing Beans on #146, some of which seemed reluctant to even climb, let along produce beans... and then I looked at them with my glasses on and reaalised there was a nice little cosy spot, where a small rabbit could sit out of sight and nibble away at the succulent shoots and developing beans, and even reach up and bite off parts of beans higher up. Hmmmmmm

Three sides already had wire mesh around the bed, put up originally to keep pigeons from pecking the small plants, so now the fourth side is protected with bird netting. Within two days those bean plants were looking healthier and the rabbit seems unable to get in. 

When I checked the climbing French Beans further down, sure enough, one plant had no stop growth at all, so the wire panels were rearranged to create a barricade.

The grass at the top end on #145 looked suspiciously short when I came to cut it this week, so I think the rabbit has relocated.....

 

Over on #145 one of the developing Squashes was chewed up, through to the centre. There was a large pile of "chippings" of Squash flesh, and I suspect it was a rat, trying to eat the seeds, which of course were unripe anyway

And then another was chewed, this time with the flesh being eaten and big rabbitty teeth marks on it...HUH!

So it was out with a roll of wire mesh which now surrounds the bed, partailly supported with canes so that it is upright enough to stop a rabbit jumping over, but floppy enough to deter a climbing rat. The edge is bent outward at ground level and weighted down

If you must eat something Miss Cottontail, try the grass again!

I have tied the Squash plants up onto the frame over the bed, now that their stems are long enough, to give the developing fruit a little more room. As none of the varieties are very large, they shouldn't need any further support

 

 

So only the Dahlia bed, which you can see in the distance, and the Potatoes, now remain uncovered/unfenced on #145

In between my attempts are rabbit-proofing, I did actually get some work done:

On #146, I thinned the Mooli plants out so that there is at least 2cm between each, and weeded that whole bed. The Swede planst are looking amazing now. Never had such wide oes before. Thank goodness the net is on, otherwise I am sure the leaves would make excellent rabbit food!

The small Spring planted Onion set crop is now harvested, and the soil improved with a large amount of compost, plus some Blood, Fish & Bone It is quite a shady bed, which is one reason the Onions may not have thrived, so I have sown crops that may do well there: Scarlet Kale, Sparkler Radishes, Lettuces Little Gem and Catalogna and Chinese Cabbage. I have never grown this last one, so I am interesteed to see how well it does. 

(If any of these (apart from the Radishes) seem not to flourish, I can always transplant some of each to the polytunnel

On #145, the spaces left by last week's Onion harvest now have Florence Fennel and  Purple Khol Rabi planted out, with Red Kitten Spinach sown directly (This has germinated already) and Cavolo Nero and Scarlet Kale planted out in the second bed, with Snowball Turnips sown directly. There was a bit of an accident with the Scarlet Kale, as a plank of wood fell onto the tray of plants, snapping some of them. I am not sure if these will survive but i planted them in the hope new shoots will grow from the leaf axils. If not, I can transplant some from the fresh sowing made over on #145 (mainly for salad leaves) as replacements

I spotted this small (5mm) shiny beetle on a leaf, and wasn't sure what it was. Turns out it is a Green Dock Beetle, whose larvae feed on, unsurprisingly,  Dock leaves. I was intrigued to find out that the females become so swollen with eggs that their abdomen becomes almost spherical and sticks out through its wingcases. Wow! 

They also feed on Rhubarb leaves though, so I hope they don't suddenly become a new plague!

Yes, I know this doesn't look green, but they can be bronzey-coloured too

These Lilies get better and better evey year! They were an "end of bin" bargain, at £2.99 for the three, and what a bargain they have turned out to be! They are strongly scented as well as being ey-catching, and are as tall as I am this year

In The Polytunnel This Week:

I love opening the door in the morning and seeing everything growing so well. The Cucumber plants are starting to grow more than one female flower at a time, which is promising. I take off any male flowers to avoid pollination, as this can result in the fruits tasting bitter, whichm when you have waited so long, would be  areal disappointment

The Aubergine plants have fruits growing, both the purple Black Beauty and the green Emerald Isle, Basil is large enough for a good harvest of leaves for Pesto to store soon, and the Coriander seeds are almost ripe. I think I shall cut the whole bundle of plants and allow them to dry at home, as they are huge, and swamping the Sweet Pepper plants a bit now. They do all have have Peppers on them though!

I planted the small Chilli plants out, and they already look much happier than in their pots

The eight Tomato plants are all fruiting well, with plenty of flowers still developing. I have removed more of the lower leaves this week, and had to rest some of the lower trusses of fruit on tiles as they are so heavy they are touching the soil

Shown here are Black Opal and Golden Sunrise, which have already provided lots of ripe fruit, and the San Marzano Plum Tomatoes, which are the best of these  I have ever grown. As this is a really good "sauce" variety, I am very pleased indeed with the look of these

Out of shot are two Cyril's Choice, a dwarf red-fruited variety which are also prolific. and just beginning to ripen too

This is a variety new to me this year: Honeymoon, with large-sized pinkish red fruit, and as you can see, it is doing rather well. It is already setting its fifth truss, and depending on how quickly these fill out, I shall either stop it there or allow one more. There are quite large Tomatoes, so number five may be the last one

Just please keep the Late Blight away

The spent Pea haulms are now chopped up for the compost, and the space filled with young Kohl Rabi plants, a green variety called Olivia, which I have grown for the past two years. I hope these will stand through the Winter, as they are a very welcome harvest in the darker months

I did think it a bit odd that despite me keeping the soil well nourished, and seeing plenty of dlower buds and small pods, the last lot of Peas seemed to just disappear. Weird.

However, down in the depths at the base of the plants and around the side of the nearby cold frame, were lots and lots and LOTS of empty pods hidden from sight, clearly having fed a large family of mice or voles or both!!! I think I mentioned having found a few last week, but this week the true number came to light. Snappy traps have helped reduce the population a little, and as voles are also partial to nice juicy Brassica stems, I aim to try to keep on top of this issue, or the Khol Rabi plants may be stripped naked

The seed sown Ailsa Craig Onions are starting to tip their leaves over now, a good three weeks earlier than usual. Without any Shows to consider this year, I am letting them do their own thing and not worrying too much about removing layers of skin etc to give a perfect finish. I do want the neck to be fully dry eventually though as they will store right through until next Spring then. At least, I hope so! I shall put them on the drying rack for that, once the Shakespeares vacate it in about ten days time

Of course, taking these Onions out of the soil , will leave me a with a lovely big empty space where I might try a late crop of Peas, and will also sow crops for overwintering, like Perpetual Spinach and Chinese Radishes. It won't stay empty for long!

The next crop of Spring onions is now in.. Ishikura, as that was what next in date in the seed tin,sown in modules... and I also sowed some Sparker Radishes. 

It look as though the Red Swan French Beans are coming to an end, but as they have been a good cropper I can hardly complain. I do wish those enormous Chinese Red Noodle Bean plants would start to flower, though. I check every day, but nothing even resembling a flower bud yet

Sweetcorn however, has opened its flowers, so hoping for a nice crop again this year. Fingers crossed

At Home This Week:

It is good to at long last have no seed trays or trays of young plants either in the greenhouse or somewhere in the garden! That just leaves me with some reasonable large Chrysanthemum plants to  find permanent homes for. Two lots are hardy, so will be going into one of the flower beds at the plot, once the ground is ready. The third set are not fully hardy so will need planting in pots at home, that I can move under cover in the Winter. I must look out some of those black florists'' buckets, or something similar in size. I do have compost now, so should really add that to the jobs list!

I think I shall give up growing Tomatoes in the greenhouse though, as really they don't get enough light to thrive and the space could be better used by something preferring some shade, like maybe Cucumbers. 

As the season of larger harvests begins, my kitchen is beginning to fill with vegetables awaiting attention, or part way through being preserved, like the Pickled onions in a bowl, those small Onions wating to be trimmed up and put in the basket in the cupboard, a bowl of windfall Apples for sauce, beans for the freezer,and trays of seeds drying before being stored for next season... you get the idea! The fridge of course, is full of other more tender produce, for various chutneys, pickles and just eating 

 

There are also lots more flowers to pick and enjoy at home, especially Sweet Peas and Dahlias, both of which benefit from regular cutting. 

Having had to spend time on rabbit-related matters, a couple of jobs have had to wait for the week ahead, notably weeding the Asparagus bed, cutting those cabbages (which I hope haven't split after the recent rain) and sowing more Sugar Snaps (Ooop, another module for the garden!)

Other jobs planned include:

- Potting on the Chrysanth plants, which are forming buds now

- Digging up the last of the Charlotte Potatoes and planting the Musselbugh Leeks out

- Making a test-sow of some Daubenton's Kale seed alongside the Chinese Cabbage

- Clearing the old Pea bed on #145, harvesting the rest of the Parsnip seed, prepping the soil,     making a fine mesh cover, then planting the last of the Khol Rabi and Kale, and sowing       Black Spanish Radishes

- Feeding the soil where the Courgettes are growing, both under cover and outside

- Making up another bucket of Comfrey feed 

- Tidying over the Onion bed in the polytunnel so the bulbs are not smothered by the leaves

- A third spray of the Brassica Whitefly in the polytunnel and outside

And then there wil be kitchen jobs too, that could mean making the first batch of Mixed Tomato Chutney and some Blackberry & Apple Jam

Although it is really busy, I do enjoy this time of the year as all that hard work really starts to pay off and I can see that the outcomes will give plenty to eat during the colder months of the yera as well as lots to share

Hope you  enjoy your week of growing too. I shall be back next Monday, probably still with a resident rabbit....

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

20th July - Goodness, things are moving fast on the Plots this year! Hard to believe crops like Autumn -planted Onions are out of the ground and the follow -on crops ready to take their place already. I guess without the sort of milestones in the year that family get togethers for special events, holidays etc, provide, time becomes amalgamated into a featurelss stream, whose passing is almost unnoticed, until you suddenly look up

Harvests do give us some recognitionof the passage of time, with their seasonal nature, so let's take a look at this week's Harvest Monday, the first offering for which is Onions!!

This year these Autumn planted sets have done themselves proud. I know I have tried really hard not to let them become swamped by weeds, attacked by Onion Fly or othe Allium pests or have soil as hard as rock to grow in, but even so, Mother Nature somehow has provided a really big helping hand to have a wonderful harvest of Onions, two or three times their usual size! Once they are propelry dry, they will be moved ino the garage at home to draw on all Winter. 

The ones with flower stalks, or any damage to the bulbs, are alreday home and being used in the kitchen, as they will not keep well, and they are incredibly juicy and sweet-tasting... so whatever you did Mother Nature..Thank You!! (I have already ordered Shakespeare sets for planting in three months' time in the hope that they can grow so well again)

May I now present my first ever harvest of green Aubergines!!!, well they do look yellow really, but there were green while they were growing: a variety called Emerald Isle. The fruits grow in small clusters, and the plants are only about 60-70cm tall

These are from a plant in the greenhouse at home, but plants in both the driveway veg pots and the polytunnel have set fruit too, so perhaps there will be more to come. I know others have bowlsful of Aubergines by now, but they are something I don't find easy to grow, so I am sure you can see why I am over the Moon at these ones

 

 

 

I picked the whole Blackcurrant harvest in one go this week, as it was so ripe the berries were ebginning to fall off onto the ground. I even managed to cook it all too, and not have any in the freezer for using another day... but somehow I never do actualyly get around to it

So this year, along with a couple of pounds of Blackcurrant Jelly, was a verylarge batch of Blackcurrant Muffins, using the same recipe as for the Jostaberry muffins a week or so ago, which is in Recipes 2020, July 

As always, I have written the recipe to suit beginners to baking, to encourage people to have a go. experienced bakers probably don't need a recipe at all! I like to store mine though, as by this time next year I shan't remember the details, so it is there for me as well as for you!

(and I shall add a photo alongsde the Jelly recipe of what "Rolling boil" looks like when it happens for Emma, which I hope helps)

This week, with some help from my youngest granddaughter, two of the Potato buckets were emptied out, as the plants were clearly not going ot grow any further.

There were plenty of useable Potatoes, but the Kestrels  were much smaller than ones I have grown in the ground in previous years. The Charlottes had plenty of small tubers, good for using whole in salad dishes, which was what I had grown them for!

There is still a row of four Charlotte tubers in the ground, with plants that are still lush and green, so it will be interesting to compare the two yields

These Carrots are from the second sowing, although in the same bed, and more of them are a bit twisty, not that it made any difference once they were grated for coleslaw, which used some of the recently harvested Onion too

And this is the Cabbage that went with them, well, at least some of it! The rest will be shared between Potato & Cabbage Curry, a side dish with a roast dinner, and an attempt by me to freeze some as wedges. Right now there is a mini-glut (I still have three more to cut, and they won't wait much longer). Looking round the plot, the next time Cabbages will be ready to eat will be early-to -mid-Autumn, so this seems worth trying. I can also keep some wrapped in newspaper in the outside fridge for a few weeks I think

There were more harvests, which were eaten before I thought to photograph them: Cucumber, Tomatoes, Letucces, Beetroot, Pea shoots, Mangetout, Peas, Mint and Coriander leaves

On the Plots This Week:

Despite the rain, watering is still important, as is weeding. It was only when I took up some Carrots that I realised how dry the soil is becoming now, even six inches down

Now that the main Onion crops is out of the ground, there are sections of two beds ready for soil feeding and planting up. Late Kales and KHol Rabi are ready, as is Florence Fennel, so these will be in during the week. They will be covered with the same netting used for the Onions, which will keep flying pests of all sizes away, as well as Miss Cottontail. She is still hanging around, chewing at any bean plants she can squeeze in next to, and biting pieces off the new Mangetout and Sugar Snap plants (which I may need so sow more of as a result), but rarely seen. The Florence Fennel will be uncovered once it gets taller.

I am waiting for a slightly cooler spell to sow the Spinach

One job which makes a bit of a mess is sorting over and cleaning off the Garlic and Shallots, which have been on the rack under shelter for two weeks now, and deciding what to keep for planting this Autumn. The Garlic for eating is now tied up and hung for final drying at home

The Shallot harvest has been good this year. Now they are all clean, I can see which wil be suitable for re-planting, and which will store for use through until next year. The smallest ones will be used to make pickles, hilst the othes find their way into general use in the kitchen. I am looking forward to treats such as Shallot Tarte Tatin too

And these are what I am keeping, safely away from the kitchen where it is all to easy to accidentally use next season's bulbs for a meal! I have tried to ensure tyey all have their basal plate (the bit where the roots grow out from) intact, as they will not grow otherwise. Sometimes I think basla plate damage  is why there are bulbs which just refuse to grow, so I am trying to give the best chnace of a good crop again next year:

Elephant Garlic, Carcassonne Wight (pink cloves, hardneck) Garlic, "Rosebourne" Shallots and Jermor Shallots. This will leave me with space to try another Garlic alongside Carcassonne, possibly Early Purple Wight, which is a softneck with extra large cloves

And once that drying rack was empty, it was quickly filled with the main Onion harvest, which can sit there now until the leaves are fully dried. It is only some debris netting stapled over pallet wood, then sat up on blocks to help air circulation, but it really is excellent

The Swede plants, which have been in for about ten days now, are growing large new leaves, and the teeny Beetroot seedlings alongside them are looking as though they will survive, so I am hopeful of a late season harvest from them 

The Mooli have been up now for a week, and are large enough for me to carefully thin them out, as this will give more space for fewer roots, better in the long run

I have started to tie the shoots of the Squash plants up onto a frame sat over the bed, and having found one largish one with half of it gnawed to shreds, presun=mably by a rat, the planto raise the fruits up off the ground in this way sounds even better. I am not growing any large varieties, and yes, I know rats can climb, but then they would be visible not hidden under the leaves to gnaw in secret!

I removed lots and lots of the overgrown pond weeds, discovering in the process that there are actually some tadpoles left that haven't yet changed into frogs, although some had back legs. There are alos lots of very small Damselfly nymphs in the pond too, less than 100mm in size, which may be next year's hatch, or perhaps a later brood this Summer. Soon find out!

In the Polytunnel This Week:

The giant Cabbage-Beast is now gone, taken to my daughter's chicken enclosure, where the girls fell on it with glee. At a metre across, this last of the Spring Cabbages took up space not only on the bed bt on the path too, so pleased it is gone at last

It also had liteally millions of Brassica Whitefly, another reason I am glad it is gone. Now I shall be able to deal with those remaining on the two Purple Sprouting Broccoli plants, thank goodness. I am sometimes ased why I bother to grow these under cover, when the are perfectyl hardy, but by doing this I have PSB to eat much earlier than if I was relying on the outdoor crops alone, and as I like PSB a lot, this suits me well. For the same reason, I grown half a dozen Spring Cabbages in the polytunnel too. It is still a bit early to sow these yet, so watch this space

It is about using this precious under cover space efficiently: if you are not  a fan of early PSB or Spring Cabbage, then don't copy me! 

Once The Beast had gone, I found a lot of empty Pea pods along the edge of the coldframe, compilimets of either mice or voles. It explain why when I came to pick pods in the last few days, they seemed not to be there. Taking out the old Pea haulms will mean less cover fro them,but I don't want them to start chewing on the Soya Beans, so snappy traps will be at the ready again

I have take off lots of leaves from the Tomato plants to let air and light ino the developing fruit, and this week coming should see lots of fruit to pick too I hope.

The area for the Chilli plants is now prepped, so I can now plant them out there in the next day or two

BUT I did spend two hours replacing the repair patches on the tunnels, where the edges were starting to curl, and fic=xed a couple of other small holes too, while both the inside and outside of the cover was dry

At Home This Week:

The gtreat mid-Summer clear up/cut back took place this week; plants were so overgrown, or indeeed rooted in the path, that I couldn't walk down the garden without pushing through herbage, so now the large horizontally growing Acer has had a haircut, lifting its crown to about 50cm off the ground once more, those rambunctious Japanese Anemones have been confined to their bed and the huge number of Lychnis coronaria and Dandelion seedlings have been removed from the path too. 

The little fences that Abi built to retain the Sedum spectabilis have been repaired , so that these luscious plants are held upright rather than lying on the path, the dead Bluebell and Arum foligae has been pulled out and the Woodruff heavily cut back. All looks good

Added to that, my son cut the Privet hedge at the end of the garden... such a good job in comparison to my chopping it with secateurs, and my Daughter-ln -Law boldy tackled the Duckweed threatening to engulf the pond. This is a bit like painting the Forth Bridge and you have to work hard to get to the point of seeing clear water again. Very grateful to both of them! (I have promised to take out Duckweed regularly to try to keep it under control... I've said it here now too!) Lovely to be able to see the Waterlilies again

The Kale plants are ready to set out, and now that space in the veg beds at the plots is available, that will be on my list this week. Although they look a bit lanky, by the time they are in the ground, planted right up to their first leaves, they will look much better. These are Cavolo Nero: I also have Scarlet Curly Kale just out of shot, plus Kohl Rabi, Floence Fennel and Spring Onions, all good to go

The veg pots in the drive are just about coping with the very dry conditions, depsite me watering them regularly. It has been quite satisfying though when people are walking past with their children to hear their little comments, especially about the Tomatoes and the Runner Beans.  

 

The  Stargazer Lilies in pots at the end of the garden are now starting to open their buds, and they smell amazing, adding to this being a great part of the garden to sit and relax. Hmm, like I do that a lot, but perhaps  should really

The Fuchsia hedge is looking very pretty this year, and I am hoping that its more rampant growth attracts Elephant Hawk moths to lay eggs there. I did find one in the gardeen, lyiing on the grass one morning, that had been injured, and looked from its antennae to be a female, so I live in hope!

 

This week there has been a surge in the number of butterflies around, both in the garden and at the plot: I counted elevn different species one day, and two day flying moths as well. Peacockswhere the numerous Buddleia flowers attract them. Peacock Butterflies seem to be everywhere, letting you get almost close enough to touch them before they swirl away onto another flower. The next brood of Brimstones has hatched too, so I shall try to take a photo for next week

 Oh, forgot to say I sowed the Wallflower seeds in a tray at home

There are some Carry Overs on the Jobs list though:

-rmoving Pea haulms in polytunnel

- planting kale & Florence fennel plants

- planting Chilli plant from pots into polytunnel

 But some extras were done, so OK with that

Added to the list for this week are:

- weeding the Asparagus bed

- harvesting the final three cabbages before they split

- clearing the remains of the cauiiflowers and cabbages away, weeding that bed

- sowing some more Sugar Snaps/Mangetout as replacements

- planting out the Spring Onions from modules into the polytunnel

- harvesting the very small Spring planted Onions, prepping the bed and planting Lettuces 

This jobs list seem to be somewhat of a moveable feast at the moment. Hope you are doing alright with yours! I shall be back next Monday, maybe with some of these bits completed ... or perhaps other things will crop up. That is how it goes really I'm afraid!

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

 

13th July - Lock Down has eased a lot, and there are far more people out and about, including some plot holders returning to their plots after their long months of total shielding. Really good to see them and know they are well. 

Now that Summer is well and truly here, we are spoilt for choice when ti comes to harvests, and careful planning is needed to make sure everything is used.

Here then, is this week's sharing of Harvest Monday:

Some crops have been steady throughout the past few weeks: Beetroot, which this year I seem to be a little better at managing a succession, helped by my friend Jane who has given me some seedlings ot help this along a bit, Red Swan French Beans, Spring Onions and Mangetout. This last will now be taking break from the harvest basket, as the generous quantity this year form the first sowing is at an end, whilst the next plants are only inches tall as yet

 

This week was the first proper Tomato harvest of the year, with fruit from the polytunnel, on the plot and from the plants in the driveway at home. As always, lots were eaten before the photo was taken, but there will be plenty more!

A good variety of Salad Leaves: Butterhead, Red Oakleaf and acatalogna Lettuces, plus Mizuna.Nasturtium leaves and baby Beetroot leaves  were also good this week

This time in the year is soft fruit picking, and this week I completed the Redcurrant harvest, and picked all the Jostaberries too

The Jostaberries made some particularly good muffins, a few jars of conserve and a batch of gin-based liqueur

While the Redcurrants were used for more jelly, and a batch of mixed fruit jam

Two Onion harvests this week:  firstly the few Shakespeare sets that had bolted, as although they never store very well, they are certainly edible and incredibly juicy too, being so fresh

 

And then the Vulcans, which were Spring sets but already decided they have had enough. These ones were from the polytunnel, the handful I had left over with noweher outside for them to go. Pretty good form something that may otherwise have been discarded, as no-one needed any sets right then, to give them away

Even the sets planted outside in the Spring have keeled over already... I'll show them to you next week when I have taken them up

I had left the old Calabrese plants in, hoping for a few little extra spears to grow, not really taking too much notice of them to be honest. I had to take them out this week as the space was needed, and had a lovely surprise: masses of mini-Calabrese. There were in fact far too many for me to use, so I gave some to a friend who lives a few houses away, and she gave me in return some Cherry Almond cake and some of her husband's Raspbery Chipotle sauce...winners all round!

Courgette production is gradually speeding up. I only have four plants this year, so won't be having a massive crop anyway, but if there are enough for me, with a few to share, that will be perfect

As you can see, the Summer Cabbages have hearted up nicely now. I made some coleslaw with one, adding in Carrots and Onions, plus some Fennel Seed, and it was beautifully fresh tasting. It always ends up turning into quite a lot, so I was glad it lasted in the fridge for a couple of days!

This Cabbage had another tiny one growing at its base: tasted just as good, just not seen one do that before

Carrots are going to be a regular harvest through the Summer , as they are reaching a good useable size. These are from the usual covered bed out on the plot, but I also have some growing in a deepish trough of compost, ones of course that I hoped to have for the Showthat isn't happening. I had a little look at them this week, and the tops are looking a reasonable width, which is very promising. Show or no Show, they will make good eating later in the year I expect!

On The Plots This Week:

The main task this week has been to renovate the Blueberry bed, which was so thick with weeds and so squashed by the other side of the adjoining Sage plants, you would never have known there were Blueberries planted there!

As you can see, it looks much more purposeful, and the net is birdproof too, even at ground level where cheky Blackbirds are pretty skilled at finding any small gap to squeeze through. I have given the bushes their annual dressing of sulphur, to maintain a low level of acidity for them, and pruned out any dead wood. I also extended the bed forwards by about 50cm, as in the Autumn I plan to plant those bushes in pots directly in the ground, and there wasn't quite enough space for them... now it will be fine!

 

Pretty little Miss Cottontail chewed the leaves off my Dwarf French Beans, which I was a bit fed up about, so I built a barricade out of some old chicken wire. Seems to have done the trick. I haven't seen her again, but there are a myriad of places a tiny rabbit can hide on my plot, so I am not spending time searching. And even if I did see her, I couldn't catch her. I just have to try the damage limitation approach. To be honest, most crops are protected already, so hopefully there won't be much apart from grass available to a rabbit

The outdoor Tomatoes are doing well. One of these blight resistant ones is a new beefsteak variety, Crimson Blush. I always used to grow Super Marmande, but would inevitably lose most to Late Blight, so this is a very welcome addition.  

Mountain Magic plants are especially heavily laden, and some fruts are beginning to lighten in colour as they start to ripen

  • Crimson Blush

  • Mountain Magic

The Oarsman Leeks planted out two weeks ago are now growing new leaves.It is always a bit of a relief when new growth appears, as cutting off part of their roots and trimming the leaves when you plant them out always seems a bit brutal somehow. Glad they have recovered!

The remaining Musselburghs are still in their pots as that row of Charlotte Potatoes is still doggedly growing, thick and green

I have never been very successful growing Swede, so this year I am giving it some real effort. It is a vegetable I really do like, so would be so pleased to ctaully be able to harvest some this Winter. This is a variety called Brora, and the seedlings look quite healthy. I added home made compost, plus Blood Fish & Bone to the soil once the weeds had been cleared, and gave thema  few chicken manure pettes in their planting hole too. They were well puddled in, and as you can see, have plenty of space. All I can do is water them when needed and hope!

Further along in that bed are some Beetroot seedlings from Jane, Boltardy I think, and I have also sown a row of Mino Early Mooli. These seem to do well sown at this time of the year, so I am looking forward to some juicy roots, all being well

As the Shallots and Onions come out, new crops are ready to follow straight on: the Calabrese planted three weeks ago is looking really lush now, safe from the attention of butterflies under the netting used for the Onions

The Red Cabbages and Ballhead Cabbages at the other end of the bed, planted just over a week ago, are now growing new leaves too 

The Dahlias are starting to put on a good show again. It is great to be able to cut bunches regularly, and have enough to share with others too.

In the Polytunnels This WeeK:

The Pea and Mangetout plants have eventually run out of steam and are now due for relgation to the compost bins. They have been really excellent and I shall try to replicate the way they were grown (around a half cylindrical section of weldmesh 1.5m tall) next year. There are plants waiting in the wings for their space, especially the Kohl Rabi, sitting in trays

Having taken up the Vulcan Onions grow from Spring planted sets, there is another space, which I shall give to some of the Chilli plants in the greenhouse at home, as I feel they may do better in the ground. There is still plenty of time for them to develop fruit too. The small plants my plot neighbour Jane gave me are thriving and are full of flower, so hopefully these will follow suit. Sweet Pepper plants also have plenty of flowers are some are developing fruit too

The Tomato plants are absolutely dripping with fruit, which is starting to ripen now. I shall have to take off even more leaves to allow light and air in to the trusses. I have only grown eight plants under cover this year, and every one of them looks great... fingers crossed we avoid Late Blight

The seed-grown onions are putting on bulk quite fast now that the days are beginning to shorten, and they should give a good crop. With no Shows to prepare for, I am not taking as much care to remove every discoloured leaf as i would normally do, but am instead looking forward to some large sweet Onions to eat in the Autumn

I thinned out the Pak Choi, and planted out the thinnings. These seem to have taken alright and will give a slightly later harvest, which is a good thing

The Turnips have some beautiful bright pink little roots sticking out from the soil, not quite big enough to pull up yet: looking forward to those!

The Chinese Red Noodle Beans have reached the roof, but resolutely refuse to flower. I shall have to give them some more high-potash feed to encourage them. Cucumbers are also not quite as productive as usual. I suppose I do only have two plants (and one baby one not yet climbing the net), but even so, I would like a few more fruits please

 

At Home This Week:

I really haven't kept up with jobs such as grass cutting,and although heavy rain on a couple of days has helped reduce watering time, other things, such as the ever-flushing toilet and scrubbing out kitchne cupboards, plus of course jeely making, have kept me busy. Things seem to be ticking  over though

I am hoping that the seedlings, which really are plants large enough to put out now will be in the ground in this comin week (Jobs list!) and Aubergine harvesting might just begin ....

I spent yesterday afternoon out in  my son's house, where this female Broad Bodied Chaser Dragonfly chose a cane right next to where I was sitting as her perch from which to watch out for likely flies. I couldn't resist a photo!

Every evening I go outside to put the Hedgehog food plate down for them, and this Hydragea just glows, looking almost luminous in the half light. I acn't help but stop and admire it every time

I may not have done much at home, but I did finish all except one of the things on my jobs list for last week, and that was sowing the wallflower seed, so this is a carry-over, to this week

Other jobs are:

- Taking out the Onions and putting them on the drying rack to ripen off

- Adding compost etc to the soil and planting out Scarlet and Cavolo Nero Kale in one bed, Florence Fennel in another, plus sowing Spinach

- Planting out Lettuces in the third bed which is very shady, and sow some Rocket

- In the polytunnel, taking out the spent Pea and Mangetout haulms for the compost, and plant kohl Rabi in the space

- Planting the Chilli plants from the greenhouse into the polytunnel

_ take some of the leaves off the Tomato plants

- Picking the Blackcurrants

- Collect some of the Foxglove seed, to broadcast in the verge garden opposite

And that should keep me pretty busy I reckon! I am sure you all have one of those everlasting, ever extending jobs lissts too, so I hope you manage to make some headway this week 

See you next Monday, all being well!

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

6th July- I love the way all the fruit is not ripe at the same time, it gives me a chance of keeping up with it all in the kitchen, which I really appreciate! Let's move straight into Harvest Monday this week and you will see what I mean

First to the table this week are Redcurrants, which have a beautiful jewel like quality as the sun shines on them through the bushes.Just beautiful! There is a bumper crop again this year, and i have already given away as much as I brought home yesterday, with plenty more still left to pick. The ones in the top photo are cooked down and in the dripping jelly bag already, so that I can make the tradtional Christmas Dinner accompaniment of Redcurrant Jelly, which, to be fair, I love to have all year round.  By next week there will be other ideas to use the rest of the crop, I'm sure, and all suggections are of course welcome!

Strawberries here, as you know, are ended, and Raspberries have now given their final fragrant, luscious picking. They have been extra good this year. There is plenty of beautiful jelly stored away, and I have eaten Rasperries in various ways almost daily for the last three weeks. Harvests are of course moving on: Redcurrants now, Gooseberries and Blackcurrants still to come!

Tomatoes are beginning to ripen now, both in the polytunnel and on the plants out in the drive at home. These Sungold, with one tiny Black Opal .. I ate the larger one before I thought about a photo. Never mind, there will hopefully be many more to come

Courgette plants are still lacking that lush look, although they are producing fruit, for which I ma grateful. Not enough to think of goodies such as Courgette cake yet though!

I do seem to have ended up with rather a lot of Shallots! I started off with Jermor, planted in the Autumn as usual, but then added some bulbs of an unknown French variety I bought in the greengrocery section of a local Garden Centre, named then Rosebourne by me. Huge, juicy shallots that I kept in pots in the polytunnel all Winter... were they Autumn or Spring planting? Who knows? These were then planted out in the Spring, but by then I had some Red Sun ones bought for £1 at the Potato Day. These last did less well that the Autumn ones though, but all the others excelled themselves!, as you can see

Once they are fully dried off, I shall keep the best to re-plant this coming Autumn, use the smallest ones to pickle and keep the rest in a basket in the kitchen to use as and when

THis week I dug up the Garlic, as the leaves were yellowing fast: they are Carcasonne Wight. I grew far fewer than usual, as there is only one of me eating them, and they are a reasonable size. My neighbour Clive had some enormous ones.. Solent Wight possibly.. so perhaps i shall try some of these next year too. I'll keep some of the best of these to replant cloves from though, and hope they do well again next year

French beans are prolific still: some of these will be shared with friends, some will go into the freezer. I hope by feeding the plants well, they carry on like this for a while yet

Cherry Belle Radishes have grow in just under three weeks: nice and crisp and enough ready at a time to go with salad!

 

Other crops this week have included Beetroot, Summer Cabbage,Spring Onions, Lettuce leaves, Peas, Mangetout,MInt and Coriander... lots of green seeds almost ready to harvest too

Here is a crop I rarely harvest, as I usually just enjoy it as a potted plant: Scented Pelargonium Leaves. This one is Attar of Roses, and the plant has now overwintered twice, although dying right back, so it is a tough one!

I have picked some leaves to lay flat in the bottom of the cake pan to scent/flavour a sponge cake. Haven't done this for years, so looking forward to the results tomorrow!

Which nicely leads into this week's flower harvest of Dahlias, Sweet Peas and Cornflowers

On the Plots This Week:

It has been incredibly windy for the past few days, which measn things dry out and need watering of course, but not as much as in that intense heat, so there was some time to deal with some of thos maintenance jobs thta have been building up, such as cutting back that Rosemary and Sage hedge on the walkway between the two plots. Loppers wre needed for some of the thicker stems, and a quick tidy up across the top with shears at the end. I can now push a wheelbarrow full of plants etc along the path without losing any on the hedge

The other side of this hedge borders the Blueberry bed, and I shall attack this later in the wek, weather permitting

While I was taking up the Sage branches, there were quite a few that had rooted into the underlying compost, most of which I just pulled out. One was particularly well rooted and formed a separate plant, which I have saved. The bed at the top end of #146, where I had planned to grow flowers for cutting, has proved a dismal failure, so I now think it would be more sensible to use it for growing Mediterranean herbs, and this little Sage bush will be the first occupant later in the year

 

I also tackled the long stretch of shoulder-high nettles filling the space between the polytunnels and my neighbours' plot I had to wait for a cool morning, so I could comfortably wear long substantial trousers, and two long sleeved tops with the cuffs tucked into my thick gloves, all to protect me from being stung,,, and it did: I escaped unscathed!

At this time in the year, the Autumn-planted onions decide to lie down and get ready for being taken up and dried for storage. I have taken the protective netting off the bed so they can make the most of any sunshine.

This year they are a really good size, and there are even a few red ones that haven't bolted, which is amazing.  They can take the time they need, as the next crop into that space will be Florence Fennel plants, and Spinach seed, both of which can wait another week without any worries

The second Onion bed, although a bit on the weedy side (job for this week) has just as nice looking Onions, which is just as well as the Spring sown Vulcan sets haven't performed nearly so well and have only quite small onions. Although I would expect these to carry on bulking up, (which they start to do as the days shorted ie after the Summer Solstice) most of them over on #146, and all of them in the Polytunnel are tipping over as though their time is coming to be lifted

Crops for the second Onion bed include Kale, Kohl Rabi and Swede, to go with the Calabrese and Cabbge already planted in place of the Shallots

Up in the Top Onion bed, Mangetout and Sugar Snap Pea plants are now in the ground, with the weldmesh support repositioned from #146 for them

Quite good to have these next crops ready when needed, rtaher than leave the ground empty

 

One of the tall Lilies is now open, strangely really, as the others are still in tight bud. Very pretty though and full of nectar and pollen, as this wasp discovered. He ate so much he had to rest before he could fly away

Most days I hear Green Woodpeckers, with their distinctive laughing call, and often see them feeding on ants in areas of short grass. They are quite nervous birds, always quickly flying away if anyone comes by, showing their bright yellow rump

Today though, I spotted on in a tree and by dint of skulking round behind someone's shed, managed to get a photo of him. It doesn't really show his green colouring from this angle, but you can see his black face mask and red moustache (females lack this red stripe) as well as his red cap. Haven't seen any youngsters yet this year, but it is a little soon

Good day for bird spotting, as I saw two adult and one juvenile Greenfinches too, although couldn't manage a photo. Really pleased to see them, as last year we did have a breeding pair, so maybe their numbers are on the increase again

In the Polytunnels This Week:

 The Tomatoes are looking particularly good right now. I've tried hard to keep them properly pruned and supported, and every plant has several trusses. I am letting those with smaller fruits, such as Golden Sunrise grow up onto the roof struts as there will be plenty of time for those later set Tomatoes to ripen.

Aubergine plants are looking much better now after their Epsom Salts watering a couple of weeks ago, and the Emerald Isles plants are now starting to set fruit, which si brilliant

Cucumbers however are still very slow. I think they miss the sunshine!

The Peas and Mangetout haven't much longer to run, but they have certainly been worth their square metre of space. The Khol Rabi plants that will follow on from them will be ready to plant out just in time

Onions however, the Ailsa Craig and Globo grown from seed, are putting on weight now that we are past the Solstice, and are looking very promising, which, as they occupy nearly 3m of space, is good!

 

At Home This Week:

I made two jars of Gooseberry And Chamomile Jam this week. It smells really good, and the little sample I kept back to taste was delicious... I can see it being used with cream in scones! There is one more batch of Raspberry Jelly to cook...it is already "dripped"...a followed by Redcurrant Jelly. Lots of discussuin with my plot neigbour Jane about other ways to use Redcurrants.. quite like the ida of using them in focaccia.

Forgot to tell you about the baby rabbits that sem to live in the hedgerow alongside the watermeadow, behind the last row of plots. They are very small and very cute, voracious munchers, and...small enough to dive straight through  a wire fence with gaps about 6cm wide!! If I hadn't seen it myself I wouldn't have thought it possible. Makes me look more carefull at the space under my gate for a start

I made good headway with the jobs list this week,a nd only have one thing left: weeding the Blueberry bed

Jobs added are:

- Weed the second Onion bed

- Take out the old Calabrese plants on #146 and barrow compost from bins for that bed

- Sowi Mooli and Turnips, leave space for Swede modules later, perhaps the following week

- Weed the bed with PSB and other Brassicas in it

- Thin out the Pak Choi in the polytunnel and plant the thinnings in an adjoining space

- Sow  Wallflowers in a tray of compost

- Move all the Brassica seedlings to the big coldframe in the polytunnels

- Weed the path area near the Wineberry

- Harvest the rest of the Redcurrants and Gooseberries

So another busy week then!

Hope things are going well for you and there are plenty of harvests to enjoy. See you 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