June 2021

21st June - Today is the longest day of the year, and of course the shortest hours of darkness. I usually make sure I watch the sunrise on Solstice, but this morning, at just after 4:30 am, there were pretty red and orange streaky clouds, but no sign of the sun itself. A gloomy day, weather-wise, but still a day to think about the turning of the year, as we are now on the slow slide down into shorter days again.

This Soltice Greeting card made me chuckle. Have they been to my plot and seen that Chickweed??? It is the bane of my life right now, rapidly expanding into thick carpets of leaves as soon as my back is turned!! Yes, I know I could eat it, but somehow I have never really fancied it, so into the compost bin it goes, until the next crop springs up, seemingly overnight

So, Soltice Greetings to you all, with or without a glorius sunrise, with or without Chickweed. I hope your mid-Summer is happy, healthy and fruitful

Which brings us to Harvest Monday, where we celebrate harvests for round the world, hosted by Dave from Our Happy Acres (Linked in at the end)

First up are LIttle Gem Lettuce, which have been an excellent catch-crop planted along the centre of the row of bean poles, followed by Radishes, which have been alongside them. These French Breakfast Radishes are a little slower than the round varieties, but I enjoy their flavour and it is good to ring the changes from time to time.

And an almost year round staple for me are Spring Onions, which I have growing both in the polytunnel and outside between French Marigolds along the edge of the bean bed. They were started in modules, a small pinch of seed in each, and once planted out, soon grow into a small clump just right for pulling up in one go

Strawberries are always a challenge, as they are enjoyed by so many creatures that live in or around my plot. I grow them in troughs up on metal-legged tables, and cover the plants with wire mesh, which mostly keeps them safe. This year the plants were badly frosted though, and had far fewer viable flowers, so I am grateful for even the smallest of crops

I do have some new plants, which are ever-bearers, so I am hoping they manage at least a few flowers towards the end of the Summer. I guess I am never going to grow as many strawberries as I would like. At least I have the option of visiting  a Local Pick-Your-Own farm if I feel the need to make jam

Mangetout have been very successful so far this year. These are the last remaining pods from the polytunnel crop, which I podded for the Peas to add raw to salad. Very sweet indeed. Another under cover crop finishing production as the outdoor ones come into their own. I have eaten Mangetout with at least four or five meals a week for quite some time...definitely worth their space!

A "first" this week has been Beetroot, as the second (or is it the third?) thinnings are large enough to eat. I forgot to take a picture though before they went into the pan. A salad of sliced warm Beetroot, raw Peas, Lettuce and sliced Radishes with a little bit of mayonnaise as a dressing was just lovely

The last harvest this week is a foraged one: Elderflowers. With rain in the past few days I was beginning to think all those precous tiny flowers would be waterlogged, or at least have their pollen washed away, but yesterday I found some that looked in reasonable shape. They are in water, with some strips of Lime peel (in the absence of Lemons), as the beginning step of a new recipe from a book my daughter gave me for Mothers' Day: Eldeflower Jelly.

They have to steep for forty eight hours first. I'll let you kow how it goes

The biggest croppings this week, both from the polytunnel, have been Broad Beans and Peas.

The bean plants ended up at roof height, and have been providing me with both young tender pods, and more mature beans for several weeks. Their flowering was finished though, so I took out the plants and harvested the Bean pods all in one go, a whole bucketful! The beans are safely in the freezer, not to be eaten for a while, as the outdoor plants are now getting to the stage where their pods will be large enough to harvest, a few at a time

The Peas are mainly Early Onward, and pretty good they have been too. In addition to this small quantity, I had a large bowlful of Peas when I took out the plants. A bit like the Broad Beans, there were few flowers coming along, so their space can be used for something else, and outdoor crops will soon be ready

Out On The Plots This Week:

I was away last week in Salisbury, and everything grew to about twice the size while I was gone! Cardoons are towering over my head, Foxgloves have come into their glory, and even those reluctant climbing beans are making their way up the poles. Tomatoes had tangled, cauliflowers flowered, with teeny tiny heads (Why??) Shallots look ready to come up and weeds multiplied to the point of looking like a crop on their own...  argghhh!

The one big job I didn't manage to complete though was emptying all the buckets of weeds I had alreday pulled up into the newly renovated Compost BIn No 1, so this was a big priority. I needed somewhere to put the new weeds, for a start!

So.. I set to, barrowed the heavy  trugs of weeds-plus-rainwater, which smelt delightful, as you can imagine, one at a time round to the compost bin run. Oh. The bins are a metre tall. I had to get the trugs from the barrow into the bin. Mostly that went OK until one capsized and soaked my trouser leg with its brown yucky liquid. Eeeurgh,. It was so bad I had to wash my trouser leg to get rid of most of the smell before I could carry on. Working with one wet trouser leg is not the best thinsg in the world, but is more than one up from having a trouser leg stinking like... well, to be honest, stinking like jolly good plant food. 

Now, all the trugs are empty, all the addition piles of compostables, such as the bean and pea haulms, and a whole lot of nettles that were barring the way to the side of the bin, are all chopped, mixed with shredded paper, nicely wetted, and topped with the bin cover to keep off the rain and keep in the heat. And my trousers went straight into the washing machine as soon as I got home!

There are of course lots of weeds needing removal. On Plot 146, the Carrots, Parsnips and Asparagus/Dwarf Beans are all in dire need of rescuing while on Plot 145, Onions, Garlic and Cabbages are in similar straits. Plenty more material for composting, but I shall be chopping it as I go along and not leaving it in trugs, that's for sure

I did untangle and tie up the Tomato plants, and they all have flowers on them now, although a long way off actual fruit of course

 The great swathes of Foxgloves are being really enjoyed by various types of Bumblebee, which dive in a fossick about for ages, before backong out and heading for the next bell

Summer-flowering Clematis are opening flowers really quickly this year. These three all quite different, and somehow manage to tone in well with surrounding flowers. The dark purple one is paired with pale lilac Aquilegia and Ox Eye Daisies, the maroon one with a pink climbing rose and the pink and white striped one has white foxgloves as its neighbours. Just worked out that way

 

I haven't grown quite as many Sweetpeas this year, as last year I could hardly keep up with picking them, but there are still plenty. They smell just glorious, a real scent of Summer, and alhtough they donlt last many days in a vase, there are always more coming along, especially if they get the odd splash of fertiliser to keep them growing strongly

 

The Winter Squash and Sweetcorn plants I put out in the ground just before I went away survived the baking sun ... I did make them a little debris netting sunshade... and are now growing new leaves, which is good to see. I am always a little nervous that they will turn up their toes and die, as often that is exactly what happens just days after I have plented them out, but fingers crossed these survive to provide a good harvest at the end of the season

The new herb troughs are really flourishing, and there is plenty already to harvest for tea making. Really pleased with them. I suspect that one or twoplants might need moving to large pots during the Summer if they carry on growing at this rate, notably the Pineapple Sage and the Lemon Verbena.

The Dwarf Beans are looking very healthy too. Not sure how tall they will get, but I can always add some twiggy bits of stick if they need support, as I have planty from when the Hazel copse was pruned at the end of the Winter

The Cardoon plant is incredibly prickly, and accessing the Cucumber plants and Sweetpeas on the weldmesh needs to be approached very carefully

The are outside the main polytunnel door is now clear of old compost trugs, pots that have been finished with etc. The pots of Mint have been weeded, and the little Yew tree given a haircut so there is space to get past it now
The space looks much more purposeful and even more important, easier to access without tripping over things! Both shed doors can be opened without having to move anything too, and there are no tree branches in the way either Much better!

In The Polytunnels This Week:

One Spring Cabbage left! I wish I had brought it home now, as I am having a roast dinner tonight as the weather is downright chilly, but there are plenty of other veggies in the freezer. I shall have to cut it soon though, or it will start to grow a flower stalk

Looks a bit odd having a cabbage alongside Chilli plants really, but that's just how it worked out

In the space created by pulling up the Broad Bean plants are now one row of Celery plants and the rest of the Sweet Peppers. Last year's Celery is now as tall as me and full of flowers. I shall cut out a lot of the stems, as I don't need a vast amount of seed, but it is a useful cooking ingredient, so I aim to save enough for a jar or two

In the bed opposite are Tomatoes, which are twice the size of the plants outside, with a row of Aubergines in front of them. I know my daughter has Aubergines large enough to eat, which is really good for mid-June,but these plants are not growing in a very draughty polytunnel, so I am pleased to see these little lovelies peeking out. Fingers crossed for plenty more

The Cucumbers are growing away nicely now. On the left are the West Indian plants, and on the right are Divas. They are not growing near each other, as I don't want any cross pollinations but so far they both look as though fruits are forming, which is good. Home grown Cucumber is so delicious! I have more plants growing outside too...Masterpiece... which will start to fruit  abit later

In front of the Weste Indian Cucumber plants are the Okra plants, still rather small, but with new green leaves. Not dead yet, so hope they start to grow a little quicker as soon as the weather warms up again

Right at the other end of the tunnels were the Pea plants, which have mosly been taken out now to clear space for another crop...possibly Khol Rabi... but this one plant has been kept to save seed for next year. It is the Petit Pois Pea , the seeds of which are a long standing Heritage variety from a friend's family, but it has no name. Here, it will be called Curly for obvious reasons. It was reday to ick about ten days earlier than Early Onward, has  pretty pink and purple flowers and, most importantly, is delicious, so it is a keeper

While I was clearing away that confounded Chickweed, I found this little Tomato plant. I only grew one Potato leaved variety least year: Cyril's Choice. I was unable to get any more seed of this, and forgot to save any, so I am really really pleased to see this little one. I shall be guarding it carefully, although I may need to move it to a more suitable spot!

All the Winter Brassica plants that I potted on, and the main season Leeks, are all thriving, and keeping them under the mesh section of the tunnels means they will be safe from insect predation until they ca go out in their permanent beds

At Home This Week:

There is only one edible occupant of the greenhouse now: West Indian Prickle Gherkins. I had thought these plants had died in the cold down in the polytunnels, but brought them home just in case, and in the warm shady conditions they rallied round and grew some new leaves. Hurray! There are three plants in this big pot, and this morning I noticed tiny fruits and flowers, as well as ome tangly stems, so gave them some sticks to climb up

I forgot the Grape Vine is edible! The next job there is to take out the bubble plastic insulation and prune back the excess growth on the vine. I think it should provide enough shade for the Gherkins still, so I shan't put up shade netting unless it is essential. There will be more chance of having proper neat bunches of grapes then perhaps

The heavy rain flattened the Zantedeschia in the pond, and brought down the tall yellow rose too, so there is a bit of extra work to do in the garden when the weather improves a little bit.

Before I went away I really steamd through the jobs list, but there were a few bits I didn't get to then, (like the compost trugs!) which I have now caught up with

Jobs on the List

- tackle the long grass on the bed edges at the plot

- weeding, weeding,weeding and starting to weed the fruit cage too

- direct sow in the polytunnel - Radishes, Basil & Coriander, and to transplant: Khol Rabi, Florence Fennel, Chinese Cabbage and Lettuce

- sow a second Salad Box

- cut out unwanted flowering stems from last year's Celery plants

- take out spent Mangetout plants from

- Take off excess growth from Tomato plants and tie in

- cut out flowering stalks from Bearded Irises and chop for compost

- make more Comfrey feed

- tie up roses in the garden

- pull plants in pond up straight and tie in

- take insulation out of greenhouse

- prune grapevine

- re-pot Hostas and Baytree

- look through seed box for biennial flowers that need sowing now

As before, this is an ongoing list, but I shall do what I can, depending on the weather. If only the weeds would let up growing, it would be much easier. At least they are like a crop that turns into compost!

I hope to be back next Monday, perhaps with much shorter list!!

My contact email is

info@alittlebitofsunshine.co.uk

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

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

www.ourhappyacres.com

7th June - Summer weather is helping things grow apace, beans are climbing their poles, flowers are filling the beds and.. weeds are growing double quick! There is no point in stressing over these weeds, it is about dealing with priorities, and this week's priorities have been to get crops in the ground. More about this in a minute, first let's take a look at this week's        Harvest Monday, hosted by Dave, as per the link at the end

First up is a nicely developing crop of Peas. These are the ones with the pretty two-tone pink flowers, an un-named variety that has been in a friend's family for several generations. he gave me the seeds some years back, and luckily when I re-discovered the little packet, they were still viable.

They are certainly earlier than Early Onward, which are growing alongside them both in the polytunnel and outside, and are extremely sweet. Slightly awkward to pod, with the covering moulding around the peas themselves, but being very early, and tasting good, this is not too much of an issue. So far they are scoring well!

Then there are Mangetout, with their curly tendrils, which have helped me identify them growing outside next to Peas, when labels are lost beneath huge Poppy plants in the same bed. These are from the polytunnel, and plants are producing a smallish handful every other day at the moment. They are excellent sliced in salads or added to stir fries; a real taste of early Summer.

Lettuce also cooks well with Peas. This is one of the Little Gems planted in the middle of one of the rows of Climbing Beans, making good use of that space whilst the Beans start to grow up the poles. There are also some French Breakfast Radishes alongside them, almost ready to harvest. A second lovely catch crop

Rhubarb is as good as ever, with some lovely red stems, which cook up to a beautiful compote to eat with good thick plain yoghourt

And a selection of Salad Leaves makes it really easy to have a side salad with any meal. This plate included two varieties of Lettuce from the box in the polytunnel, Rocket, Ground Elder, Red Frills Mustard, Broad Beans and Calendula petals

Out On The Plots This Week:

Hard work this week, out there in the heat, so I have been setting off around 7:00 am to make the most of the cooler early mornings. 

The excellent news is that that compost bins are back under control. Bin No 1 has its fron attached securely top and bottom (Thank you, Gary) and so all the buckets of weeds sitting around the plots are now in that bin. I just need to add a bag of shredded paper, and give it all a good soak, before transferring about half of the part-rotted contents on Bin No 2 over, so that the front on that one can be fixed too.

The compost dug out from Bin No 1 last week and stored in big builders' bags has now been added to the Squash & Sweetcorn bed, and the plants put in too. Their leaves are still nice and small so that they should stand up to the hot conditions better than larger plants might have done, and with all that compost, the soil will retain moisture for their roots to get growing

Yellow and green fruited Courgettes have also now been planted out, and a Tromboncini plant put alongside each of the bean frames. This should give the plants the height they need for their very long fruits to develop, without dragging on the ground.

The adjoining bed to the Squashes is almost ready for the Winter Brassicas to be planted, just a last weeding. The support frame for the net has been re-built using old plastic bottles to join the canes together, and once the fence pins are in place it will be reasonably robust

Bearded Irises are making a brilliant display this year, with the tubers transplanted two years ago coming into their own this Summer. They may not last long, but they are so glorious and trouble free, they are earn their space for sure

Foxgloves are another iconic plant on my plots, with a whole range of pinks, creams and whites to enjoy, alongside orange Kniphofias, which also add height to the display. Both are relatively long lasting too

To maintain the floral look of the understory in the Forest Garden once the Forget-me-nots are finished, I planted several Cosmos plants amongst them in the sunniest spots. In my imagination it looks lovely, so I hope it works!

And now the Russell Lupins are joining the party. Interesting to see that the two plants that have grown from self sown seed have the old original blue and white alternate flowers. I need to keep careful eye on all these though, as they are very prone to attack by those massive greyish aphids that seem to arise out of nowhere!

The Sweet Candle Carrots, sown in a large box, have nice lush foliage now. I sowed them fairly thinly so they won't need thinning for a while, and with a stone -free compost mix, hopefully the roots will be a good shape

I have sorted out the woodstore, got out some large pots for the last few Tomato plants and general tidied around the whole seating area, getting rid of all the left over labels and bits osf string, spare pots etc. It also helped that the wheelbarrowful of weeds could now go off to be composted

The herb troughs are looking good, and have sufficient compost volume to not require daily watering, which is positive. The area behind them has now been weeded, and the Masterpiece Cucumber plants set out along the weldmesh support. Withe even warmer weather on the way, I hope the flourish in this sheltered spot

The dense swarms of Solitary Bees around the Bee boxes have now gone, and as you can see, there are hardly any empty holes in either box now. A second brood should hatch later in the Summer, to lay more eggs that will overwinter. It is really good to see them flourishing like this

 In The Polytunnels This Week:

The temperatures in the day time are really ramping up now, and I need to make a new netting strip to cover the gap between the two tunnels so I can open the back doors, to increase the ventilation.

Peas and Mangetout are flowering profusely, and the Sweetcorn is sharing space now with the Mangetout.

The Onion bed has been weeded, but already it needs doing again. Perhaps next year I shall try to grow these larger Onions outside!

And the new West Indian Cucumber plants have a secure net on which to climb, whilst the Diva Cucumbers in the other tunnel already have some tiny fruits growing

The Okra though, resolutely refuse to grow, despite moderate night time temperatures, warm days and steady watering. Still hoping they will spring into action. 

It does look as though there are flower buds developing on the Potato plants: fingers crossed tubers are now beginning to grow under the ground

I thinned out all the Beetroot and Turnips, feeling slightly disappointed there were no small Turnip roots yet, and spare Chilli plants are re-homed.

One real success story is the Salad box, sown on 27th March. For the last 12 weeks, I have been able to harvest a good handful of leaves, and it is still doing well.  The original plan had been to sow a second box in late April, but so far that has not been needed. Excellent value for a cople of pinches of seed!

At Home This Week:

The Arum plants have developed some massive flower spikes this year, so I am hoping they lead to large columns of scarlet berries in the Autumn.

The renovation of the Sundial bed is well underway, with half of it now replanted with Hemerocallis and Gaura. The old, broken terracotta planters have been taken away, and a whole range of troughs and small pots planted with Alpines. They are not yet topped off with gravel, as it took a few days to get some, but that will be done fairly soon, when I shall then share a photo.

Cutting the grass was a bit of a task, but not it is done, the whole garden looks better, helped along by taking the weeds out of the path at the end. It's a good start!

 

Rolling jobs List:

- weed two + one Onion beds, the early Brassicas,the Asparagus bed, the permanant Kale bed 

- find a suitable spot to plant out the Sea Kale plant

- add compost to bed for Winter Brassicas, plus some BF&B, firm soil well, plant PSB plants,

-pot on Winter Cabbages etc not being planted out yet. (If planted out too small, voles chew off the leaves to eat the stalks)

- Set up the cold frame for Brassicas

-  Sow Swede and Basil at home

- weed Onions in polytunnel again

- plant out Early Leeks- pot on maincrop Leeks into 18cm pots, ten per pot

- plant out Hollyhocks  on plots, and remaining Tomato plants in pots

- sow more Radishes in a spare space somewhere

- take side shoots off Tomatoes and tie up onto canes as needed

 - start weekly feeding of Tomatoes, Aubergines and Chillies/Peppers in flower, usng existng Comfrey feed

- make another batch of Comfrey feed for later use

- give Hostas new pots, add copper tape around the rim and fine mesh over drainage hole to try to keep of slugs and snails; topdress with grit

- repot Bay tree on top patio

-  make new mesh strip to put between the two tunnels

- weed the Dahlia bed

- start weeding of long fruit bed, chopping up nettles for composting

- topdress Alpine troughs at home, with grit

- plant up hanging baskets at home

It is that time in the year where everything seems to be a priority at once, and there is a lot of it too!! All worth it though as the year unfolds, and we can start to enjoy the fruits of our labours. I do try to make sure I take time out every day to sit and just watch the wildlife on the plots and enjoy the flowers.

I shall be back next Monday, with at least some of thee tasks completed I hope! Until then  stay well everyone and take time to enjoy your growing

PS This Wasps' nest appeared almost ovenight in my metal shed, and as I didn't want a faceful of wasps everytime I opened the door, it had to go. Beautiful little things though, and I was sorry to have to do this, but commonsense had to prevail

PPS Thank you for all the comments last week about the baby Bluetit. Having heard that so many early nests failed this year due to lack of caterpillars to feed the babies, rescuing one tiny one felt even more important

 

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