August 2020

25th August - nearly at the end of the month already, but this year's Bank Holiday weekend will be very different to previous years. Usually by now we have the dog security team camped out on our site, ready to support at Reading Festival, follwed by several days of live music, acres of tents and festival attendees thronging local streets and shops. None of that this year, due to social isolation of course. It will certainly be quieter and leave a big gap in our local calender .

This week I had quite a bit less time for working on the plots, or in fact at home, having been unwell for a while, but it is business as usual again now. Lots of help from friends and family made a big difference, so thank you everyone, I really appreciated what you did

Winds are lashing the rain against the windows as Storm Francis tracks across the country, and although I am very glad to see the rain, the winds are hard enough to cause a bit of damage, so fingers crossed everything stays upright and in place for everyone

Harvest Monday was yesterday of course, so I am late to the table with my offerings, but I hope you enjoy seeing them anyway. 

 

An unexpected harvest is first uo this week: Damsons. My plot friend Carol generously let me have lots of frruit from her tree. I have made various preserves with them, including Damson Gin for both myself and my brother, and a particularly luscious jam, using Chai spices such as Cardamom, Cloves, Cinnamon, Ginger, Star Anise and Black Pepper 

 

Blackberries continue to ripen, and Windfall Apples are plentiful, so this week I put up some Blackberry & Apple Gin, which will be ready in time for Christmas. This is a variation I have not had before, but feel it should work well, 

There are also Blackberries macreating in Brandy, which is an annual favourite. 

For both, I have added half the quantity of sugar I estimate it will need (1 cup per litre) and the sweetness will be adjusted using plain sugar syrup after the first straining, once I have decided it it will be a drink to have with a mixer, or as a liqueur

So here is my first ever Delicata Squash! I haven't actually cooked it yet, although Dave said they are good cut into rings and roasted, so I shall try that first. He did also say they don't store too well, so I shall have to rememeber that. I shall leave the others on the vine as long as possible ... this was a rabbit casualty, but wire shoud keep her away from the others, I hope ... as then they will "cure" as well as they can. 

(PS It is only 13.5 cm long)

Basil is another weekly crop in the harvest basket, and this week was used in the Tomato and Basil Jam. This large-leaved variety has been outstanding all Summer. There are more plants from a second sowing now large enough to harvest, so once I get some pine nuts, I shall be making pesto to store again

It loves the warmth of the tunnels but doesn't seem to mind a bit of shade, and this year is growing alongside the Aubergines and Chillies, with the second sowing alongside a Courgette plant. It's perfume is unmistakeable if you brush against it

Then there is Celery. I only have five plants of this green variety, growing right at the end of one of the polytunnel beds, almost under the netted ventilation section, and they are doing really well. I enjoyed these in salad, but other stems I have pulled have been diced up to add to cooked dishes. Theresa from across the road, who has the same vareity on their plot, made soup this week. It smelt very good, so I shall be thinking about that as a use in the coming week or two, especially if the weather stays on the chilly side!

Summer Radishes are ready to harvest again. These are Sparkler, sown as a catch crop between two rows of Spinach, which makes good use of space and also keeps weeds down a bit while the Spinach is bulking up

The skinny white things are thinnings of Mooli, which I just ate straight off after the photo. I am trying to make sure the ones left in the ground have enough space to fatten, so will probably pull more out next week

Tomatoes are a daily harvest, and I am doing my best to keep the mountain in the kitchen to a minimum. Several pounds go into each batch of preserves, and some of the smaller ones are being dehydrated to make Tomato Powder.

I have found it a real advantage in terms of prep time having so many really large Tomatoes this year: far less skin and core and much more fruit. I shall certainly be growing more next year of both Crimson Blush (outdoor BR ) and Honeymoon polytunnel) 

 

 

Some Tomatoes don't give many to the pound! This one weighs in at 499g

One new idea I spotted was something called Ro-Tel style sauce, which apparently is available in cans in the US, so thought I'd give it a go: ingredients are traditionally Tomatoes and Poblano Chillies, and "home canners" add lemon juice. My version took 3kg of Tomatoes, two very large Gogorez Green Sweet Peppers and four green Chillies, two hot ones and two Hungarian Hot Wax

The Peppers were ones from a branch that partially snapped off due to the weight of fruit, but as I like the flavour of green Peppers, I thought I might as well pick them to use and cut of the broken stem

(Recipe to follow later)

Every year there is a one-off large harvest of Poppy Seeds, which I use in bread and cakes, as well as ground in some Indian dishes. There are always enough that fall onto the ground to provide plants for the coming season, so I don't actually sow any as such. You never know what they are going to look like: this year I had lots of bright crimson single flowers, with a scattering of frilly pink ones, while Jane's plot, right next door, had frilly salmon pink ones and a whole patch of pale lavender. 

Whatever colour they are, the bees adore them and scrabble to get inside the flowers as the buds open each morning, hungry for the nectar they provide, and carry away the pollen to the next flower

Other harvests this week have been Carrots, Sweetcorn, Beetroot, Lettuce, Spinach, Cucumber and  Courgettes

 

The Dahlias are still flowering very well, including now the larger flowering varieties such as Cafe au Lait.

This unusual Crocosmia has just opened too. I like it so much I am going to move the corms somewhere they can better thrive and multiply, as at the moment they have popped up in the path!

On The Plots This Week:

I have thinned out the Chinese Cabbage plants, which have suddenely grown quite large leaves. Their root system is very tiny, and I have tried to transplant the thinnings into a bed in the polytunnel, in the hope that this extends the cropping. The remaining plants look fine, but may need another thin-out to give the remaining ones enough space to expand...I think they can grow quite wide eventually

The other seeds sown in the bed with them have mostly germinated ...only a few Lettuce due to the high temperatures at the time... with lots of Spanish Black Radish scattered around, where the wind blew as I tipped seed onto my hand, enough Scarlet Kale for my use, plenty of Daubenton's Perennial Kale and lots and lots of Wallflowers. The friend who gave me the Kale seeds has offered me more for a Perennial Cauliflower, so, with a half-row space available, I have said yes please! This could add to the perennial bed rather nicely, if I am successful in raising some plants

Whilst I was weeding this bed, I found a lot of seedling Flat Leaf Parsley, so moved some to form a neat row, and also took some to the polytunnel

I am really pleased to see how well the Swede plants are getting along. They are developing proper "swedey-looking" swollen stems now

THe nuts on the coach bolts holding the archways up had all worked their way loose, so Clive kindly brought the tools for the job and tightened everything, so I hope they all stay up now a bit longer. Thank you!

Thes Rudbeckia Goldsturm flowers do herald the approach of Autumn. I grew this plant from a root cutting and it is flourishing in its spot at the end ge of the big flower bed. I would like to have more throughout the bed really.

The Winter Squashes are slowing their flower production, as the shortnening day length tells them any fruit set later than this is unlikely to ripen, so they put their energy into making sure the fruit they do have fills out properly and ripens its seeds

The Delicata Honeyboat is certainly prolific, and i have now noticed some small Butternuts under the leaves at ground level. The bright orange Sunshine Squashes are about 12-15cm in diameter. It is a Japanese Kabocha type, with a good thick skin, so should keep well, and there are three or four of them, which shoud be plenty

In the Polytunnels This week:

There was the bonus of new wood chippings delivered to the site yesterday, and so I grafted away to renew the covering on the path through both tunnels. Really pleased with how it now looks, so much nicer than dust underfoot, as I hope you can see in the header photo

Had a good old clear up too, taking out old spent plants for the compost and planting out the next occupants, one of which was Chinese Cabbage. I quite understand if you think these look pathetic, but I have cut off the larger outside leaves as they would just droop and die: the roots are really tiny, and I am expecting this drastic action to give the baby leaves a chance to grow. This is a new crop for me, so it is trial and error really

I also planted out some Mervaille de Quatres Saison Lettuce and some green leaved Chicory too, that Jane gave me., with Blue Moon and Pink Moon Radish seed sown in two rows between them. Space never stays empty for long!

Other seeds sown are: Wheeler's Imperial Spring Cabbage, Perpetual Spinach, Tenderstem Broccoli Inspiration and Giant Red Mustard. 

I put the wire mesh support for the Sugar Snaps in, and planted the seedling Flat Leaf Parsley in the centre, which I hope will then crop throughout the Winter

The Chinese Red Noodle Beans have grown really quickly, so these will be picked tomorrow and I can let you know next week what their flavour is like. They are interesting enough, and take up very little ground space, but they still will have to earn their place if I am to grow them again next year

At Home This WeeK;

 

In the kitchen, there are still bowls of Tomatoes and Blackberries, despite almost constant cooking.  The Tomato & Basil Jam is really good, not too sweet and very fragrant, delicious on cheese on toast. Spiced Tomato Chutney, which is a flavoursome addition this year. It has the bonus of using up quite a lot of apples too, which is always appreciated as windfalls are a daily event right now

It hasn't left too much time for anything else, although I did manage to cut the grass while it was dry, although not the whole lawn as the mower gave up the ghost. New one coming soon, so I hope to finsih the job soon

 

 

 

 

 

The large Onions from the drying rack are at home, as they were getting rained on almost every day, so they will have to finish their drying sitting on the dining room floor. They are nice and solid though, so if they dry thoroughly should keep well in the garage

I also cleaned off and packaged seed collected so far for next season: Parsnip, Daubenton's Perennial Kale, NIgella and Honesty, and gave Clive the large bag of mixed seed for the verge across the road, some of which he has already sown

The jobs list from last week has one main outstanding item: seed sowing in modules: Sugar Snaps, Dwarf French Beans, Winter Spring Onions and Winter Lettuce, but with another very wet day forecast later this week I hope to be able to get these done then

The Jobs List:

- Harvesting and cooking up of Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Red Noodle Beans, Blackberries and Windfall Bramleys

- Put up a jar of Apple Brandy 

- Weed the Leek and Parsnip beds

- Move some of the Strawberry plants from the path into the troughs, and re-organise the Strawberry tables to accommodate the extra troughs (Instead of growing plants from runners as these are 1 year old plants) Cut runners off plants that cropped this year

- Collect Sweet Pea seeds and bring home to dry thoroughly

- Gather Cornflower seeds

- Start to clear left hand flower bed so that the remaining Chrysanthemums, plus new small Lavender plants can be planted

- Cut the grass at the plot if dry enough

- Prune the bushes and the Cherry tree in the fruit cage and cut out the old Raspberry stems, in preparation for taking the big net off again

- Prepare the soil where the Yellow Senshyu Onions will be sown

- Thin out the Scarlet Kale seedlings, and use these thinnings to replace any that were damaged beyond recovery by voles

- Thin out the Wallflower seedlings; give thinnings to friends: plan where the main plants will be planted, both on the plots and at home. 

- Plant out the two new Bowles Mauve Wallflowers and dwarf Geranium 

As always, it seems such a long list! Mostly things do get done though, despite the extra unforseen jobs that arise as well, and as we move into Autumn, thinking ahead to plan for fresh crops in the cold months, and what will be growing where next year makes managing on a day to day basis much more straightforward, at least in theory!

Bank Holiday next Monday, but this year it will certainly be much quieter here than in previous years. Hope you all stay 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

17th August: What a Heatwave that was!! With temperatures up to 36C three days in a row, it felt like all I did was water, or stay indoors with the curtains drawn, but then I spent four days in South Devon with my daughter and her family, where the weather was several degrees cooler, swimming in the sea, lying on the beach and walking along the cliffs, then sitting watching colourful sunsets. Just what was needed! (And yes, that is why I didn't post my Blog last Monday)

Conditions here now are damp and grey, but are giving the plants, including the lawn, a chance to recover from the baking they have had, so it is not all bed. Plus there is less watering needed.

Harvests are bountiful, and I am now in the groove of come home, unload the baskets and boxes, sort the crops out, then start stacking the fridge, prepping veg for the freezer and making preserves, then suddenly it is dinner time, so best cook something to eat. This is not  a complaint you understand, but merely a description of time well spent: it ensures enjoyment of this Summertime produce continues into the colder months

So let's have a look at some of this week's harvests, sharing through Harvest Monday (link at the end to Dave's Our Happy Acres, where he acts as wordwide host... thanks Dave)

First mention goes to Blackberries, which as well as starting to ripen super early, are cropping massively. I have  whole hedgerow of a thornless variety, which gives me two or sometimes three, large bowlfuls every other day, which means w=there are plenty to share, especially with neighbours who may no longer go blackberrying, or indeed may never have done so. Together with windfall Apples, all kinds of goodies are possible. The Blackberry Cordial seems to be quite good!

For the first time this year, the big Opal plum tree on the plots has fruited properly. Previously having half a dozen Plums was as good as it got, but this year I have picked 16kg!! Lots have been given away to friends and neighbours and I still have plenty to eat, cook, preserve and enjoy.

I read that they should be picked slightly under-ripe to avoid fighting with wasps up in the tree, drawn to the sticky juice, so I followed the advice and apart from the one wasp that sat feasting on a split fruit, was left well alone and came down unscathed

So far, I have stewed some to have with plain yoghourt, and the juice was a beautiful pink colour, and made a cake which has was eaten before I remembered I needed  photo, but I did write the method down as I went along so will bake another one and share the recipe, as it was so delicious.  I shall also be making some Plum Brandy, some Sugar Plum Conserve and some will be bottled too. 

Tomatoes are a given every day at the moment, and so far the harvest stands at upwards of about 10kg. They go in almost everything (except last night's roast dinner) and are totally luscious. The reason I grow so many is to make various preserves for the Winter, so that I can enjoy the beautiful taste of real Tomatoes then too, and give these as presents too.

The plants in the driveway provide snacks on the way past and plenty of comments from passers by too

Sweetcorn in the polytunnel is now ripening. You can see one had incomplete pollination from the empty space at the top of the cob. Obviously not enough pollen fell onto this one, but not to worry, there is stil enough of it to be worthwhile, and eaten raw it is just amazing. I shall be adding some to tonight's Bubble and Squeak as well

Runner Beans are all curly, but sliced, no-one would ever know, and they taste pretty good. I have frozen some, but as I haven't grow many plants this year I am not overwhelmed with them

Courgettes are a bit hit and miss again, but enough for me. I could perhaps have done with one more plant...something to remember next season. 

Beetroot and Carrots are plentiful. These Carrots are from the second sowing of Nantes 2, and I pulled up a few just to see what they were like really. Some were slightly odd shapes, but once they were cut up, they are like any other Carrot to be honest, and when steamed, were beautiful. The Beetroot are pretty big, but not at all woody thank goodness. This one was scrubbed, quartered and roasted alongside the Potatoes last night. I must pull the other large ones, as I would hate for them to get tough and be wasted. These are from some left over seedlings squashed into a space between Beans and Tomatoes, where they had plenty of water

 

When I came home from Devon, all the leaves had fallen off the Soya Bean plants in the polytunnel, so I guessed it was time to gather the pods to dry. There are more then I thought there might be, although was most pods have only two beans, it may not be the largest of crops in the end. I shall wait and see how generous a crop it might be, before deciding whether to grow them again next year. I had really wanted them as green beans, but they seemed very small so I left them... and now they are drying!

Other crops this week include more Figs from the Brunswick tree in the garden, huse luscious greenish red fruit, which swell as though by magic, overnight to give to a couple every day. My neighbour Clive is keen to know how to dry them, but I think I shall make some Fig jam,a slightly runny, sticky jam to spread on scones, and if enough, then some chutney to have with cheese

And I picked the last purple Aubergine for a while, as I can see any other set yet: It is joining the others in an Indian Chutney. There are some tiny green ones coming along that might be large enough to harvest by the end of the week though

Out on the Plots This Week:

I watered everything really well before going away, and it certainly encouraged the weeds! It did also mean that all the plants survived in the intense heat, even seedlings, although it was far too hot for Lettuce to germinate. I wonder if they might now?

The outdoor Tomatoes are excellent. Crimson Blush, a new BR beefsteak variety, is proving very good, and plants have set at least three trusses, with fruits of around 240-250g which I am very pleased with. They slice well, and are very good grilled too.  I shall be taking the tops off the plants now though, so they they put their energy into growing and ripening fruit already set, not making new flowers. I have already taken off a lot of the leaves around the trusses, so that air can circulate.. they will soon be just naked stems with trusses of Tomatoes!

Lots of the pods of Beans grown for drying (Spagna Bianco and Black Valentine) are beginning to lose their green colour and turn beige. I shall have to keep an eye on them so that I pick them before they are so dry the beans fall out

The Scarlet Kale decimated by the voles is just starting to grow some new leaves, so fingers crossed they survive to make decent plants eventually. This little lovely was knocked out temporarily when a snappy trap went off, so I took pity on it and released it a long way from anyone's crops. The kale in other beds is flourishing so far, so let's hope the voles stay away altogether

There is still of course the resident rabbit, who puts in an occasional appearance, leaping out from under the Lavender hedge or dashing into the woodstore. As almost every thing is fenced off or netted , there is not that much she can get to now... and thr trap is totally ignored. I might move it to the Lavender hedge....

In the Polytunnels This Week:

With both the Onions and Soya Beans out, and the Red Swan Dwarf Beans about to leave, there is plenty of space for new crops. The rest of the Sweetcorn will probably be harvested this coming week too, giving a further vacancy. 

It is time to sow the crops that will overwinter in the tunnels: Perpetual Spinach, Winter Lettuce, possibly Mustard Greens, Tenderstem Broccoli, Spring Cabbage, Winter Radishes, and perhaps this year I might try some Peas for an extra early crop too. There is still time for some Dwarf French Beans, just a few plants as I don't need an excess, but a green variety would be appreciated now, anfter all the red, yellow amd purple ones

At long last, the Chinese Red Noodle Beans are acually flowering!!! Very pretty lilac flowers, produced two to a node, and there are some small beans now as well. Ants do seem to like the plants and climb right up to the top of them, clustering around the flower buds. I can't see any aphids, so perhaps there is a sweet excretion they have discovered? Is this something to do with pollination?

 

The San Marzano Tomatoes, whilst absolutely monstrous, seem to fall off at the slightest nudge, before they are fully ripe. Never had this before, and I don't know why it should happen. As I grew them for making sauce, I prefer them fully ripe, so I line them up on the kitchen windowsill for a few days before using them. All the other varieties have fruit that is very firmly attached!

The other slightly odd thing is the number of fruits on Cyril's Choice that are boggled in shape, not completely round. I don't know if this is anything to do with pollination, although I don't see why it should be an issue really. It is certainly a prolific variety though, and the fruits have a nice tang to them

 

The chillies are fruiting, although none are ripening yet. I didn't grow any myself from seed, as my daughter does a sterling job, and she sent me some plants.  My plot neighbour Jane gave me some tiny ones too, unlabelled, and my guess is this one could be Hungarian Hotwax. It certainly doesn't seem to mind growing almost submerged in Basil and Malalbar Spinach!

Below are two from my daughter, both labelled Strawberry Aji. Now she is rigorous with labelling...writes on the pot as well.. and something is very odd. She also said she had some which didn't appear to come true from the seed she bought this year. The one on the right is a typical shape, whilst the one on the left looks much more like a Bishops Crown! 

They will be both be used of course, and I don't really mind that much that they are different, although the Strawberry ones were the ones I am looking forward to the most!

The Kohl Rabi are almost large enough to start harvesting them. These pale green Olivia have grown incredibly quickly, whilst the Purple ones are far, far slower. At least it will mean a succession of sorts. 

The Brassica Whitefly are sill hanging around, despite my efforts with the soapy water spray, but at least in small numbers there is no black mildew growing on leaves. Must keep at it though and try to get rid of them completely  before the Winter

At Home This Week:

These past few days I have spent hours in the kitchen preserving various harvests. I am not sure if I could possibly stuff anything else into the freezer now, and i certainly have enough French Beabs frozen to see me through the Winter! 

There is less space to freeze down harvests than I have had in the past, as, since I live on my own now, I often freeze down portions of dishes I have cooked, and although this works well...plenty of choice... and  certainly makes economic sense, I am having t think through how to else to preserve crops for long term storage. I am therefore making greater use of bottling, and plan to make Bottled Plums, Apple Sauce and Blackberry & Apple pie filling. I have also trialled Blackberry Cordial very successfully, and shall be making more. Wondering how it might go in a cocktail too...

For some years I have made Tomato based "cook-in" sauces and bottled these for long term storage. So far this year I have six jars of Balti-style sauce, and seven of one with Mediterranean herbs. These have all been water-bathed for 30 minutes, and as I use pop-down lids, I know they are properly sealed. These will keep for at least a year in a cool dark place such as the shelves in the garage

My original recipe for these Preserves Sept (2017)  included instructions on skinning Tomatoes, but having made these with Tomatoes blitzed in the food processor, having with only the hard stem/core rmoved and skins still on, I can say it is just fine, and saves a lot of work!!

Next on my list today (Wet weather, so making the most of time indoors!) is Indian Style Aubergine Chutney, Preserves Aug (2016) but I need the pan the last lot of Tomato Sauce jars are still in, so have to wait a while.. I can get everything chopped though

 The garden still needs attention, but with a second flush of Roses, and the  Fuchsia hedge in full bloom, it doesn't look too bad. I have at least take out all those waving bramble brnaches that threatened to engulf the unwary

I never got around to dividing up this Crocosmia earlier in the year, and now I am quite glad, as it adds a good splash of colour to the far end of the garden. That whoel bed by the sundial is overdue for some serious renovation though, so I hope in the less busy growing months to be able to get to it

I held on for sowing new crops in the heatwave, but now that conditions are much cooler, this is on 

The Jobs List

- sow Sugar Snap Peas, dwarf French Beans, Winter Lettuce, Spring Cabbage and Tenderstem Broccoli in modules at home

- sow Perpetual Spinach, Pak Choi and Winter Radishes direct in the soil, in the polytunnel

- weed Spinach & Florence Fennel, and earth up the Fennel

- take out the old Red Swan FRench Bean plants and prep the soil for the next crop

- clean off all the seeds saved, and store in labelled envelopes

- put new net over Winter Brassica bed, weed, and remove any caterpillars: there are rips in the exisiting net

- tie up new growth on Winter Squash plants, remove spent leaves and weed

- thin out the Chinese Cabbage and plant some thinnings in polytunnel

- peg down some strawberry runners on the soil in troughs...label them!!

- check over Onions on the drying rack and bring these home for storage if completely dry

- keep up with harvesting and avoid the accumulation of "mountains" 

- Clean down the remaining shelves in the garage so new jars of produce can be put away

And that should certainly keep me busy. I hope you have plentiful harvests, are enjoying getting outside whatever the weather and staying well

I plan to be back next Monday and aim to get that Jobs List up to date by then!

 

 

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

4th August - And it really feels like Summertime on the plots now: whenever I come home, I bring at least one box of produce with me, and often several. Mostly these need attention before i can shower and sit down for a while too! These colourful harvests don't just provide great food for now, but much will be preserved in one way or another so it can be enjoyed during the colder months of the year as well. 

Such a wide range of colours too, all of which adds even more goodness to meals. 

So, let's have a look at Harvest Monday, where we share what we have brought home with other growers from around the world, thanks to Dave from Our Happy Acres (link at the foot of the page)

You can see from the header photo it has been a bountiful week, one surprise of which has been Sweetcorn. I had two plants over after planting up the block in the polytunnel, so planted them outisde in the middle of the Squash bed, where I had to stake them it was so windy. Thye only grew a metre tall, but each had a single cob form, not the tidiest of cobs, but sweet and delicious anyway. 

Another first for the year has been Figs from the Brunswick tree in the garden. So far there have been around a dozen big fat ripe fruits, with lots of smaler greenish one looking as though they may soon perhaps join the party. I am keeping  a careful eye on the tree, as I don't want to miss any that suddenly swell and ripen in a matter of days

Not a first for the year but a first this Summer is Calabrese. The four plants all produced a head at the same time, so most of the spears from them will soon be frozen away, to enjoy in later weeks

I cut the heads carefully, leaving as many leaves intact as possible, so that perhaps there will be another cops of indiviual spears later down the line. I do hope so!

Tomato plants inside and out are now in full production, and I have already made some Mixed Tomato Chutney Preserves Aug (2016) This is an especially useful recipe for early in the season when it is mainly cherry tomatoes that are ripe, and it also makes good use of those really tiny ones too. I make a couple of batches of this each Summer, and I wuld nver want to be without it. Not only tasty in sandwiches but added to sauces or stews too for extra flavour

Runner Beans and French Beans both freeze very successfully after a brief blanch in boiling water. This year I am freezing them in individual portions, Runner beans cut into diamonds and French beans whole, which akes it easier to take what you need, rather than fighting with a massive icy block of beans everytime you'd like to cook some

The Cucumber plants are eventually getting the idea that female flowers are needed, and, with a gift from plot neighbour Jane, I had enough to make a batch of Cucumber and Dill PIckles Preserves Oct (2017) as well as some Fridge Pickle Recipes 2017 (July)

 

 

Here is this year's whole Blueberry harvest, not huge, but much better than I thought it might be, given that they were somewhat neglected last year. The plants in the ground are looking very healthy, and those in pots are improving. The plan is to plant those potted bushes in the ground after leaf fall: there is space for them, so perhaps next year's harvest will be more generous

And here is the whole Greengage harvest!!! This is the largest harvest ever, and they are just luscious. I shall make some jam, but am also looking to perhaps make some sort of tart. I'll let you know!

Bearing mind I have only had this tree four years, I am really pleased it has produced such a good harvest already

Celery is good too, despite being green (not earthed up or grown in a block, just a short row in the polytunnel) The stems are very juicy and full of flavour. I am using them in salads and also as part of a mirepoix.

And Aubergines are developing well. This is the first of the Black Beauty ones from the tunnel, a nice solid one, which will be joining some Potato in a curry later in the week

Blackberries are excellent this year and most days I come home with a bowl of them, sometimes to share, sometimes to cook. A compote with some windfall apples makes a quick and easy pudding, but is also useful frozen in small portions to take out and add flavout to Winter puddings from time to time. 

Other harvests include Radishes, Pak Choi and Potatoes a mix of Charlottes and International KIdney, which I have found makes a nice light, crispy roast potatoes, most unexpected, that. Salad Leaves are a regular harvest.. picking leaves rather than whole heads of Lettuce some of the time is definitely meaning plants last longer

Out on The Plots This Week:

I have really cracked on with that jobs list this week, and #146 is looking much more open and tidy, which feels good. The old Pea bed has been cleared, compost and Blood Fish & Bone added, and the space divided inot two, one part of which has the last few of the Cavolo Nero Kale, Purple Kohl Rabi and Musselburgh Leeks are planted there, safely under fine mesh. The other half has two Tomatillo plants, which are now well branched, some of the Chrysanthemums and Forget-me-nots for next Spring

The Asparagus bed is weeded and the old Parsley plants pulled up for the compost, clearing the space around one of the Apple trees. The Asparagus plants are looking healthy and are still growing new shoots, which is a good sign.

I need to decide what to do with the two little triangular beds. One has a nice rose in it, which I shall leave, but not much else, while the opposite one has a few Crocosmias,a Kniphofia and two Dahlias. Whatever I decide, they need the soil improved as it is very thin... or should I do away with them?

The Oarsman Leek plants are growing really quickly. This is an early variety, one new to me, and it does look as though theere could be a first harvest early in the Autumn

The tiny little ones in the front are Musselburgh, planted out now that the last of the Potatoes in that bed are dug. I am hoping they pick up with plenty of water.  I do remember the early ones looking pretty sad at the same stage though, so I am quite optimistic

Over on #145, the Sweetcorn is thriving and tassels at the end of the cobs are starting to darken. You never actually know what there will be inside those green sheaths, but it shouldn't be too long before I shall be able to find out

I have tried to keep up with watering everything, which is very demanding, but without that, crops would be now really struggling.  Therer are more established coprs, like Winter Brassicas, whih are large enough to manage without water for a week, but lots are newly planted or newly sown, and still only have little roots.

One really good thing is that the seed saved from Daubenton's Perennial Kale is germinating!!! I hope the seedlings are nice and strong

In fact , everthing sown is now coming up, even the Lettuce after a few slightly cooler days this week.. Lettuce seeds will not germinate if the soil temperature is above 26C... but thye might not enjoy the weekend's forecast of over 30C again. It was a bit of a gamble sowing it, but I may get a few plants eventually

Rabbit update: Little MIss Cottontail is of course still living happily on the plots, munching the odd Tomato to go with her grass....but now there is a little trail of carrot pieces for her, leading into a live trap. I have tried to disguise the shiny metal mesh of the trap with grass and compost bin bits, but it might take some time to tempt her in.

In the Polytunnels This Week:

The Cucumber plants are speeding up production at last, and I hope it lasts!

 

Lots of changes at this tme in the year. The seed-sown Onions are now on the drying rack, leaving a lovely huge empty space to plan for. As the Sugar Snap Peas were "rabbit-ed", I am considering growing some inside in relative safety, and of course the time for sowing overwintering crops like Perpetual Spinach and Winter Radishes will soon be here.

The Red Swan Bean plants are nearly ready to come out, and the Soy Bean plants are turning a very bright yellow, which is unexpected. The actual beans in the pods seem very small though, so this may not have been a successful first go

The Olivia Khol Rabi plants are getting on with their job however, and you can see tiny swellings around the stem bases.

Far fewer whitefly around this week, too. I shall have to keep a check on it so numbers don't build up again, as then black mould on the leaves of plants will be avoided during the Winter months

And the Gogorez Sweet Peppers are really large, and are needing to be supported. On one plant a whole branch has partly pulled away with the weight of fruit. I am not sure if they will be OK of not, but at least they can be eaten green at this size and be flavoursome

At Home This Week:

I have spent a long time in the kitchen, but that is what it is like here at this time in the year: daily harvests to deal with, so they they don't stack up around me or disappear into the fridge and then when re-discovered, are past their best. Definitely one to avoid!

The first jar of Pickled Cucumbers is done, and the fist batch of Fridge pickles is in a box in the fridge, althought this certainly won't be being forgotten, as it one of my favourite snacks!!

As well as the Mixed Tomato Pickle, I have made some Tomato and Basil pasta sauce for the freezer (not bottled, that comes with larger batches I shall be making once the Tomato glut arrives). There are plenty of beans in the freezer, and now Calabrese again, plus some portions of Blackberry & Apple

And the big bowl of Greengages now awaits

 

 

I do like having lots of cut flowers, and right now it is mainly Dahlias, with a few Gladioli and the remnants of Sweetpeas. These are the ones I cut this morning.

Apart from the sowing of Sugar Snaps,  I have been able to keep up with my planned jobs a bit better this week thank goodness

Next on the list will be:

Pruning the Greengage tree now that the fruit is harvested

Removing still more leaves from the Tomato plants, both indoors and outside

Taking some time to plan the most efficient use of the space in the polytunnel, and what to do with the odd shaped bed on #145, which as never been very productive

Thinking time is important!

Thank you for reading about this week's progress. Hope you found it interesting

 

 

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