September 2020

28th September - This month has rushed by, and with the Autumnal Equinox on 22nd, we are now well and truly into Autumn. A week on the Isle of Wight, fishing with my brother meant no garden work for a while, but a change is as good as a rest, and it was quite meditational sitting in the sunshine watchng the tip of the fishing rod against a glorious blue sky, or indeed at night, where the star-lit rod tip was the only focus for long periods

However, back to work this week. Covid 19 continues to plague us, but with preparations for new crops to be planted, preparations for beds that will be resting until next Spring,and of course, continuing harvests, life carries on as much as it can

So here are the highlights, on Harvest Monday:

Tomatoes, whilst slowing down, are still much in evidence. The San Marzano have been especially good this year, probaly the best ever. They are especially good for sauce making as the fruits are so fleshy

Sweet Peppers are ripening now, with some huge Gogorez amongst them. These have an excellent flavour and are very good indeed stuffed with rice and spicy vegetables, then roasted,as they don't collapse into a heap in the oven

These small green Aubergines have been much more productive than I initially thought they might be, and as these are not readily available in shops, seemed even more special. Halved and added to curries , they are full of flavour and I like their soft texture when cooked

Celery continues to be excellent, and I use some almost every day

Carrots are also still very good, and there are plenty in the ground to keep me going for a while yet. Some are slightly odd shapes, but as they are cut up when cooked oreaten raw, it is not important

Malabar Spinach, which seems to be a popular crop to grow this year, is really only from self sown plants. I was going to have a rest from it this year, but not being one to ignore such gifts, kept enough plants here and there for me to use. My favourite is still in cheese sandwiches though

Basil has been magnificent once again, and now that the mysterious lack of pine nuts in shops seems resolved, there are several jars of pesto in the fridge, which will keep well under a thin layer of olive oil and be a lovely reminder of Summer time later in the year.

Courgettes have not been their usual bounteous selves, but there have been enough for me not to feel hard done by. This week's went into a cake, with diced Pears and Ginger

I am especially pleased that the Brown Turkey Fig tree  at the plots fruited this year. It is a tree Abi rescued from the greenwaste dump at the end of the lane, where it was roots up and rather forlorn. He nurtured it though its first two years, and here ar ethe last three of this year's crop, all luscious and lovely. Lots of others there were pecked by Magpies and Crows, as they were just at the right height to reach from the edge of the shed roof, but these were a little lower and escaped their big pecky beaks. Abi would have been over the moon, and to be honest, I am really too, and had a bit of a tear in my eye as I ate them

I have never grown Tomatillos before, and was quite unsure what to do with them, but after a bit of reading , mostly about salsa, I came across a recipe for cooking them with green chilli, onion and limejuice and scrambled eggs. Brilliant! Another "keeper" and I shall try to grow thee again next year, perhaps in a slightly sunnier spot, as they just got poked in behind the Pea plants this year, but deserve better than that!

I wasn't sure how to tell when they are ripe, but once the berry inside fills the papery case and it starts to split, they are ready to use... or if they fall off the plant

Cucumbers have at last grown more than two fruits at a time, and so I have been able to make two mor jars of Dilly Cucumbers for the Winter, as well as several of Cucumber Relish. Jane gave me this recipe and it is brilliant, so fresh and delicious that it will be a "keeper" for sure!

Some of the Beetroot has gotten a bit on the big side, and I though they might be slightly tough, so these ones are for a grated Beetroot Chutney. I shall wear gloves to grate them, or my hands might be indelibly stained purple! There are still some large ones left to harvest, so if this first batch is good, I might use them to make more for gifting later in the year. The Cylindra in the polytunnel, which I hoped to make nice neatly sliced pickled Beetroot with, is taking forever to grow, so having another Beetroot preserve could be useful

I picked the drying beans a while back, but here is the final harvest now they are podded:  Black Valentine, Spagna Blanco and Soy "Edamame" Until I have eaten any, it is hard to know which I might grow again, other than Spagna Blanco, which I do like. It is great in Winter soups and stews, picking up flavour from other ingredients.

Each took up 1m2 to grow, the soy inside and the other two on the plots, although at least half the Spanga Blanco plants were destroyed by the rabbit, so it is not really a fair comparison of the volume of the harvests. We shall have to see, later in the Winter if I'd want the other two next year or not

On The Plots This Week:

One things for sure, dry conditions and cooler night time temperatures haven't yet slowed down weed growth! I have take bucketsful of weeds out, headed straight for the compost bins of course, as well as plenty of dried leaves of Bearded Irises plus a good helping of sredded paper to act as "browns", and plenty of water.

Leeks are growing well, and although the Oarsman are still much larger, Musselburgh is now putting on a bit of bulk. I never really feel like eating Leeks in warm weather, but it is beginning to feel very Autumnal now, so I shall be harvesting some soon I'm sure. 

I do usually cover them to deter Leek Moth, and as this has another generation in late Autumn, I should really get on with it!

One of the beds for Autumn Onion sets, Garlic and Shallots is now good to go, having had a dose of Blood Fish & Bone, as well as a good soak. I have kept back the best of last season's Garlic and Shallots to plant, in the hope that they do as well again

The second bed still has the Setanta maincrop Potatoes in part of it, which will need to come out by the end of this week, so that the soil wil have a chnace to settle down before being replanted. I have bought Shakespeare Onion sets again, as well as a new variety called Red Winter, that appear from the illustration on the packet to be a flattish Onion. In the past, most of my red Onions seem to have bolted prematurely, so I thought perhaps trying a different variety with a different bulb shape might help. Who knows?

As part of the new plan for the plots in the coming year, I cleared a bit of an odd-shaped corner of one bed on #145, where previously I unsuccessfully attempted to grow hardy Fuchsias, to make a space dedicated to growing Comfrey. I had left several plants to grow to a reasonable size during the year, mainly amongst the Potatoes and Beans, and these have now been chopped back and replanted in their new home.The leaves of course went into the compost (I have plenty of Comfrey feed at the moment) and I think cutting the leaves off like this will help the plants esstablish themselves more easily. The remaining couple of plants can go into the wildflower bed over on #146, filling the space where Japanese Anemones are being removed, to be re-sited in the second part-shaded flower bed in the Forest Garden, where they can spread to their hearts' content

The Dahlias always look their best as Autumn begins, and this year is no exception!

I pleased to see this one pop up again over on #146. I had forgotten where I had planted it last year, and it glorious colours are a real joy even on a gloomy morning. 

The renovation of the triangle flower bed on #145 is gradually moving on. The new Goldsturms planted two weeks ago seem to have survived... this is not one of them, this is the original plant... and I have cut off most of the stalks of P arundinaria, which has proved even more invasive than I thought it would be. In four years, one five inch potted plant has grown to cover an area about two metres square! It is very pretty, with delicate grass blade of greeny grey striped in cream and pink, but enough is enough. I am hoping for some help to remove it, as it is beyond me!! IT can have a new home up under hedgerow on the plot used for bonfires, where I ma sure the rabbits will enjoy it

In amongst it though are some farly decent looking Sweet William plants and some nice orange maroon-throated Crocosmia, so it would be good to be able to rescue them from the grassy stranglehold!

One other good thing about cutting all that grass down (It was 50cm tall) is there is one less rabbity hiding place. Goodness knows where she is, hopefully nowhere on the plots, but once the Lavender stronghold is chopped, there will only be one area left to sit unnoticed, and that is right by the picnic table

In The Polytunnels This Week:

With temperatures at night being down to 4.5C, it was definitely time to close the back doors of the tunnels and return them to two separate, cosier spaces, hopefully enabling a few more Cucumbers to develop and the remaining Cherry Tomatoes to ripen too

The Chinese Red Noodle Beans made a last minute run for the line, and rather than waste the whole crop (the pods have not really been to my liking) I cut them all to dry whatever beans might be ripe. As I think I said, I'll use the space for something more palatable next year. I have taken all the bean stems off the net, and it will last another season, so will most likely use it for Cucumbers

I have had a good clear up all round, taking off a lot of the Tomato plant growth to improve air circulation for the last few larger fruits, and pulling out as much of the chickweed as I can before it sets seed again. It has been rampant this year, so I hope this keeps it down a bit next Summer. Good addition to the compost bin though!

Tunnel No 1 has  the Tomatoes, Cucumbers Sweet Peppers, Chillies, Malabar Spinach, Lettuce, Leeks and Kholrabi, whilst No 2 has PSB, Scarlet Curly Kale, Perpetual Spinach, Mustard Greens, Tenderstem Broccoli, Spring Cabbage, Beetroot, Turnips, Spring Onions, Parsley, Celery, a single Courgette plant and some French Tarragon. I shall soon be potting this last up to keep at home in the frost free greenhouse, as it is not hardy

 Some of these crops are allmost at the end of their season, whilst some will provide pickings through Autumn and Winter, and into Spring

I have organised now where overwintering Broad Beans and Peas will be going, and which area will be under black plastic until mid-Spring. Both these crops will be sown in mid October

The water butts are full. Not only does that mean I shall have water to hand once our supply is turned off, but they act as a slight heat sump too: every little helps

At Home This Week:

I am now no longer drowning in Tomatoes, and the brief Cucumber glut is now finished, as are the Blackberries and Green Beans, so I have spent far less time on preserving crops this week. It will be good to finally put away the last remaining empty jars, and add the final few filled ones to the shelves in the garage. I did manage to take off all the old and unwanted bits before I went away, and I am gradually emptying and washing these jars for future use. It is a bit hard on the wrists, but i shall press on this week as much as I can

The Sharifa Asma Rose alongside the garage is putting on a last show of flowers for this year, looking very pretty in the sunshine. It wo'nt be many more days before the sun cease to reach this part of the garden again until next year, so I am enjoying it while i can, especially the wonderful scent

I didn't manage to cut back the brambles behind the greenhouse before I went away, and one or two branches are starting to sway dangerously across the top, so it will have to be high on the list this week before it becomes a major job yet again. They really are a nuisance but I shall never get rid of them, just try my best to keep them under some semblance of control. I noticed one  waving out across the pond just now too!

 

This little area also catches the early morning sun, which shows the colours off a treat, one of the last looks of Summer in the garden now really, making it all the more special

 

Jobs List for this weeK:

- sow seeds of Autumn Onions in the area already prepped for them (Shenyu Yellow)

- use up the last of the large tomatoes with a final batch of bottled sauce

- cut back the Lavender both at home and on the plots

- dig up the last of the Potatoes and dry to store

- transplant the seedlings of Tenderstem Broccoli , Spring Cabbage, Perpetual Spinach and Mustard Greens, in the polytunnel

- continue cutting out old leaves and straggly growth on the Tomato plants in the polytunnel; remove plants outside that have finished fruiting (add to compost bin)

- weed the orchard area

-  (wth help!) take out the P arundinacea invading the triangular flower bed and prepare soil for Wallflowers

- take cuttings from the Daubenton's Perennial Kale and plant into the seed bed for rooting

- weed the two Brassica beds, and tie Brussels Sprout and Purple Sprouting Broccoli plants to their stakes

- clear out the Squash bed and bring remaining fruits home to fully dry off

- cover the Leek bed with fine netting

- make a start on pruning the bushes in the fruit cage

It always sounds a lot, but at this time in the year I do like to get as much done as possible while there is still a little bit of warmth in the sun and in the soil too. I'll let you know how much gets done!

Right, off to tackle the Lavender in the front garden... hope to be back with updates 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

7th September - Autumn is lurking in the wings, and end-of-season crops are coming into their own, so Harvest Monday, has a bit of variation on the theme of Tomatoes and Blackberries. First to the table this week is a selection of vegetables for stir -fry last Saturday evening.

Pak Choi has done well in the polytunnel. Flea beetles stayed away and they have developed some good crisp hearts. Planting out the thinnings has staggered the crops somewhat too

Celery is another of this year's success stories, both for me and for several other plot holders. Although the stems are thin, they are very juicy indeed and the plants themselves have now grown into largish clumps. Not sure if they will stand over Winter in the tunnel, so might have to use it up fairly quickly

Green and yellow Climbing Beans have been productive for weeks, and although the main glut is now past, there are still enough for a picking two or three times a week

Mooli has grown really quickly from a mid-Summer sowing, and has a fierce spiciness eaten raw, which does mellow out a bit when they are cooked. This one has been cut in half as it was so big

Carrots are still plentiful, and are so versatile they are on the menu several times each week. There are lots still in the ground, and unless there are ravages from rodents, will sit there happily for months to come

Courgettes have been a bit hit and miss here this year, but one arrives every so often and is always put to good use!

Green Peppers are from a branch that broke, but are large enough to be crisp, juicy and full of flavour

Cucumbers are coming into their own at last, and so there amy be enough jars of Dill PIckles to last the Winter after all! The plants' stems are quite long now, so I have tied them across the roof bars of the polytunnel so the fruit will not drag on the path at all. Lots of small fruits developing, which is good to see.

Some of the Main Crop Potatoes were ready to dig up, so ably assisted by Kitty and Indigo, two of my Not-Do-Midget Gems, here are some of last week's diggings. Bonnie grew in a large tub, and Kifli in the ground. Kifli is a new variety for me, grown as I liked a the flavour of one a friend gave me: a waxy, salad-style potato that keeps well. I only planted four tubers, and the crop is very good indeed. Large tubers, with reasonable skins, and plenty of them too. All that watering during the hot dry weather seems to have paid off!

They all had a good wash before taking them home, and after time to dry, sitting on the floor in the dining room, will be stored in the garage in hessian sacks

  • Bonnie

  • KIfli

The Damsons on my plot tree were perfectly ripe, and just right for making some Hedgerow Jam, together with some Blackberries and small green Apples The Damsons were certainly very high in pectin, as the jam set almost as soon as it came to a rolling boil. Just as well I was watching it or I would have had a pan full of toffee!

The Pear crop this year overall is not that good, but the small Comice tree had some nice fruits. This tree has mysteriously lost its fruit around this time in the year for the past two years (it is near to my plot fence) so this year I picked them early. Some will be used for Pickled Pears to eat at Christmastime, and some will be bottled in syrup

The first two or three were cooked with Blackberries in our temporary Plot kitchen, to eat after lunch that day, and very good they were!

Another "First" for this year are some Spagna Blanco Beans, which I have grown for drying. Some pods had already dried on the plants, so I thought I had better pick them before they were eaten by squirrels. I did only grow a few plants, and there are still both green pods and flowers on them,s so the harvest shoud  be increasing as time goes on. 

I also have Black Valentine Beans drying on a tray at home, so once they are podded I shall show you what they are like

Other crops this week have included Beetroot, Tomatoes, the last of the Sweetcorn, and Bramley Apples, Basil and Mint

On The Plots This Week:

The temporary Plot Kitchen was, on the whole, a successful addition to day out with the girls, although having the ring pull break off the can of baked beans reduced the menu somewhat. Sausages and eggs cooked outside still tasted good, and of course the pudding of stewed Blackberries and Pears, whilst a little on the sharp side, soon disappeared, washed down with Mint tea. One we were less keen to repeat was the Nettle & Basil tea, which was declared a bit like drinking pasta!

The developing Forest Garden took a turn for the better, as I can now visualise what it is moving towards, The two large areas of weedy composted bark are now becoming two large flower beds, by removing adjoining bed edges and creating a winding path leading through both spaces. One half is now done, planted with self sown Forget-me-nots, alongside the existing Muscari, some pink Primroses that were languishing at home and lots of Wallflowers transplanted from the seedbed. There is space for a deep bed of Wild Garlic too, the every present Fennel and Flat leafed Parsley, as well as some Aquilegia and lots of Foxgloves. I have lots od surplus ssmall Crocosmia at home that can be added in later in the year too, pretty tangerine coloured ones. Seeds to sow too, such as Honesty and Viola

I'll take a photo in the week so you can see it so far... certainly looks much better than this time last year for sure! 

Adjoining this area is a Strawberry bed mulched with wood chip, which some years is very prolific. The main Strawberry crop though, comes from the plants up on the Strawberry Table, out of reach of rodents and netted against bird predation. I have gradually been renewing these plants, and this week transplanted soen year-old ones from the ground around our seating area into troughs, up on the Table. They are good healthy plants so should flower well next year. Free plants too, as they grew from runners last year

The large Brassica cage sustained some wind damage last week: this is now repaired seem sturdy enough to last the Winter. It was a good opportunity to weed that bed and remove any yellowing leaves too

These Rosemary Beetles were sitting sunning themselves on one of the wooden slats on the Table, and looked beautiful gleaming in the sunshine. Although they are a pest, so far they have not caused significant damage, so I let them be

Update on the enormous fat rabbit... unable to trap it as I think it is too fat to get in the trap. There have been three big earthworks/excavations nearly 60cm deep in one case. Once all the herbage has been cut back/cleared, perhaps , together with some friends, she can be chased out of one of the gates! NOT impressed...

In the Polytunnels This Week:

The Perpetual Spinach, Spring Cabbage, Tenderstem Broccoli,Giant Red Mustard and Winter Radish are all up, and hopefully will grow quite quickly in the sheltered warmth, although the temperature one night last week was down to 6C, which was a bit of a shock at this time in the year! The net covering between the two tunnels was torn in the recent storm, so one end of each tunnel is really now completely open: it won't be long before these back doors have to be closed and the tunnels revert to being separate again. One of the four long beds will be covered over for a Winter rest: I know which this will be so am avoiding now planting or sowing any new crops in that spot

Tomato production is slowing, as are the Aubergines, Chillies are starting to ripen, and the Cucumber plants at last stepping up production. Those Chinese Red Noodle Beans, whilst interesting, have really not provided enough beans to be worthwhile growing for anything except novelty value, and they are now beginning to drop their leaves too. I shall use the space for something more productive next year

I am certainly not winning the war against the Brassica whitefly, so I am going to spray them with very dilute Neem oil suspended in soapy water, three times at three day intervals. Please let that do the job. It is not just the flies that are a nuisance, but the black mould growing on leaves, growing on their exudations, which not only looks awful but reduce the effectiveness of the leaves. We shall see!

At Home This Week:

Most of my time has been spent in the kitchen, making a range of bottled Tomato Sauces, Fruit Jam and Bottled Apple Sauce, Damson Gin, cakes and vegetable pakoras.

 PS The jar not quite full is in the fridge to be used first, fear not!

  • Sweet & Sour Cook-in Sauce

  • Apple Sauce

I have one more batch of Mixed Tomato Chutney in mind, maybe more dehydrated Tomaotes, and some Chilli Jelly for this coming week

 The Jobs List has varied a bit, with bits being added, such as the Forest Garden work, having the two Perennial Wallflower plant up and die on me (The seller is sending two more) and spending a considerable amount of time discussing Self management proposals from the Local Council with other plot holders in preparation for a meeting yesterday, when a large number of plot holders voted for dealing with the waiting list and the on-site waste ourselves. Big changes afoot there then!

I have however cleaned and bagged up (labelled) all the saved seeds so far: Honesty, Cornflower, Nigella, Mallow, Hollyhocks, Aquilegia, Parsnip and Perennial Kale)

The biggest job oustanding is pruning the fruit bushes and removing the fruit cage net, but that can wait for a week or two with no harm done, which is just as well

I also decided against planting more French beans, as I have plenty still growing, and will sow overwintering Peas (rather than Sugar Snaps) for the polytunnel. I am away next week on a Fishing holiday with my brother, so have jobs essential to do before then:

Jobs LIst:

- Cut the grass at home and at the plot

- Remove spent Tomato plants etc from the pots in the drive and plant up with flowers (plants are ready) Take waste to the allotment to compost. amd empty home compost buckets

- pick all ripe and part ripe Tomatoes, including any at home, and ripe Beans. Share these if unable to use them. Pick any Bramley Apples still on the tree and store in fridge

-  Hoe over the bed where Shallots etc will be planted and cover temporarily to suppress further weed growth

- GIve the beds in the polytunnel a really good soak

- two lots of Neem oil spray on Brassicas in the tunnel, plus those outside if can possibly squeeze the time

-put the Potatoes away in their sacks

- Tomato Chutney, Chilli Jelly and Pickled Pears

And that will have to do!!

If i have wifi I shall post next week, and you'll see how much of this I actually manage to complete!!

 

 

And here to finish is a Red Admiral Butterfly feeding on a rotting plum... thought you might enjoy the face-on view. They do get a bit dopey when full of fermented pum juice...this one sat on my arm for ages after his feast!

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