July 2021

26th July - heat wave, flash floods, lightning storms, what a lot for just one week! I spent most of this week working in the garden at home, taking shelter indoors when it became too hot, or too wet, and at last it looks much improved, with none of the dreaded waving bramble stems, even behind the pond. Taking these ones out means you can see not only the brilliant red Crocosmia, even though they have tumbled forwards a bit, but also the Waterlilies again.

The tall roses that collapsed under the weight of water have been pruned back, as has the rather large Philadelphus now it has finished flowering. With help from Clive, the old wooden bench has gone at last, and the nice new furniture has been installed on the weed free patio. Lovely! Just have to keep it that way now...

I have spent a bit of time at the plots though, as you will see from further photos, and harvests are slow but steady. Usually by now Tomatoes are coming thick and fast, and I am starting to have more Courgettes and Runner Beans than I can immediately use: not this year though!

So let's see Harvest Monday, for how things are going this year at the end of July:

Courgettes are fruiting, all be it somewhat slowly, although this is what happens when one hides under the leaves for a few days.  A great candidate for a cake later this week though, when two of my grandchildren are come to stay. They can make superb cakes, so can use this blimpy one up in a worthy way

These are the first of the ripe Tomatoes: Golden Sunrise and Tiger Red from the polytunnel, and a few Lizanno from outside. I just ate them, really enjoying the luscious flavour that only freshly picked Tomatoes have

Aubergines are much more productive now though, and there are several more coming along. Dwarf French Beans are a good partner for them in a curry, so being able to pick both on the same day was a bonus

A really welcome harvest are the drying pods of the Curly Petit Pois Peas. These were left to mature on the plants in the polytunnel, to give seeds for next year. This variety has been incredibly productive and, even more important is its wonderful flavour. I look forward to being able to grow a much larger crop next year now, with plenty of seeds, probably enough to share too

Other harvests have included Cucumbers, Rocket, Tea Herbs, volunteer Potatoes, Spring Onions, Onions and Carrot thinnings from outdoor crops

Out On The Plots This Week:

As I said, most of my time has been spent at home working in the garden, but I did finish weeding the longest Onion bed, and planted the late season Cabbages, four each of Red Lodero, Large White Kilaton, Savoy Cordero and the beautiful, late, incredibly hardy January King.

Once the rest of the Autumn planted Onions are harvested, probably in this coming week, here will be space for the large plants of Tuscan Black Kale to go in, and once the Dwarf Scarlet Kale grows on a bit, enough space for that too

The Runner Beans are at last growing some pods, and other climbing beans are looking more promising, including the Borlotti Firetongue. I am not picking these yet, but leaving them to mature and dry, for beans to store for Winter use

Celeriac is looking promising. I am making sure it gets lots of water and is well weeded, and as you can see, the roots are beginning to swell. They have plenty of growing to do yet though, but I am feeling positive about them so far

One of the plot holders has grown some Peach tree seedlings, planting stones from fruit grown on her parents' tree in Germany. Their tree grew from a stone originally, so the hope is that these seedlings will also eventually give decent peaches. She shared them around lots of growers (only one of these is mine) : wouldn't it be wonderful if in years to come there are beautiful Peach trees across the whole site!

These Lychnis coronaria plants, aka Rose Campion, are growing in the pot holding those Hyacinths that were so beautiful last Spring, as well as some golden Freesias, and it sits on a table under the shelter. It does need a lot of water, but it is really pretty, giving quite a different view of these flowers, normally seen from above

In The Polytunnel This Week:

Celery plants are thriving, and will soon be large enough to carefully take a few stems. I grew them like this under cover last year, and one of these plants is still growing, flowering at about 2m in height. I am looking forward to harvesting the seeds soon, which will be useful in the kitchen

The Khol Rabi, transplanted from outside, where they were not growing well at all, are really thriving, and I am expecting the thickening of the stem bases to start soon. I am still hoeing off Chickweed seedlings... I did it after taking this photo ... and they are far, far fewer than a month ago

The Cucumber plants are growing rapidly too, especially the West Indian ones, although so far these have very few female flowers. The Divas are not climbing so rapidly now, but are providing regular Cucumbers. I hope the other start soon!

At Home This Week:

Hours of work weeding the patios and paths, as well as plenty of pruning, has meant that sitting out there, or just walking round, is much more enjoyable. I even bought some new cushions, although they weren't outside long before it started to rain so in they came again. I filled the car twice over with greenstuff, especially those awful brambles, just to give you some idea of the volume of cutting back I have done. 

The small patio has been uncovered again from brambles on one side and encroaching grass on the other, to be a useable space once again. It makes the garden feel much more spacious when you can see right to the edges in some places, and now there is always somewhere shady to sit no matter what time in the day, or somewhere bright when the sun is shining, which was aways our original plan. It feel good to have it coming together at long last.

There were some welcome visitors this week, with friends coming the share a cold drink out in the garden, but the one I took a photo of was a female Stag Beetle. I carefully relocated her to the rotting tree stumps under the back hedge, so if she has already mated, she had somewhere to lay her eggs. Great to see they are stiil around in this area, as they are far from common

Plenty to do at the plots still though, but having seen the weather forecast, it may be slow progress in the next few days. However, here is

The List

- take the small potted Brassicas down to the polytunnel, under the netted section, as space has been made by planting the large plants out

- finish harvesting the Onions, and prep that bed to plant Romanescu once the plants are large enough to go out

- transplant the Florence Fennel and some of the Pak Choi sown in the polytunnel, and the Japanese Greens sown outside, to the area where the Garlic was. Cover these with fine netting to protect these last two from Flea Beetle

- clear away the spent Pea haulms in the polytunnel, now the pods have been picked for seed, and transplant Red Chinese Cabbage and Pak Choi to the space created

- thin the Turnip and Radish seedlings sown outside

- remove lower leaves from the outdoor Tomato plants to let light in to ripening fruits, continuing to tie in stems and feed the plants weekly

- start to take out the spent Broad Bean and Pea Haulms outside, and prep for planting the Cavalo Nero (plus Swede when the plants are large enough)

- start to tackle the bank of nettles growing along the boundary of the fruit cage, chopping these up for the compost bins

- dig up the remaining  Early Potatoes and plant out the rest of the Leeks

- net the Blueberries!!

I have juggled round to try to make sure there is space for the new crops once they are lareg enough to withstand the rigours of being planted outside, so hopefully they will not just fit in somewhere but have enough space to grow to maturity

I shall be back again next week, maybe with a few more Tomatoes to eat and fewer Nettles to dodge!

And I hope you enjoyed the quick tour round this week's progress

 

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

19th July - with the Met office issuing severe weather warnings for some parts of the country,  working at the plot has needed a re-think. I am going down there before 6am most mornings, work in the polytunnel first before the sunshine comes round onto them, then watering outside, a job from the list, or at least part of a job, harvesting, pick some flowers, usually Sweet Peas, and home again by 10:30 at the latest. Even then it is sweltering.

We also seem to have a plague of Mosquitoes, Horseflies and Ants, so any uncovered flesh is likely to be bitten. Not great! Most of us plot holders are sporting fairly unattractive red weals about our bodies, even inside clothing, thanks to the Ants, or the Horseflies that can bite through thin fabric. Repellents are not that effective either

Nonetheless, trudging through the work continues, as do lovely harvests to cheer oursleves up! It seem to have been pretty much a "green week" this week, at least with the edible harvests, so let's take a look at Harvest Monday's offerings

 

Aubergines are ready to pick, at least the green, stripy Emerald Isles are, and these will be joined by French Beans in a curry later this evening.

Courgettes are providing a steady supply of fruits, which are incredibly versatile: together with some finely sliced Onion and some spices, this one will be being made inot fritters tomorrow

Rocket has been a bit of star so far this year, and I am still holding flowering at bay by picking the whole shoot out, leaves, stalk and all, as soon as I see even a slight move towards developing a flower. I am hoping that the new plants grow quickly, as I am sure this won't continue indefinitely! They have added their lovely spiciness to pasta dishes and mixed salads

Cucumbers are regularly arriving now, all from La Diva, rather than the West Indian plants as yet. They are another versatile harvest: Cucumber Raita is on tonight's menu

English Black Peppermint is another real hit: it makes the best Peppermint tea, and grows so quickly I am never without fresh leaves. Time to start drying some very soon I think

The Broad Bean harvest is now complete this year. I forgot to put any in the photo though, even though they are also green! These have been very reliable yet again, and as they freeze so well, I can enjoy them for quite some time yet

And I have to mention Sweet Peas, that just smell so glorious in the early mornings. I haven't grown nearly as many plants as usual, but there are still plenty, and as long as they are cut, the keep growing!

 

Despite not covering the fruit cage, there are plenty of berries to pick, including some Gooseberries, which are tricky to reach from the path. I shall have to make a track through the nettles to get to the others!

Garlic and Elephant Garlic, whilst not huge, and certainly of a useable size. I need to clean off the bulbs for storage, and put aside ones that will provide the cloves to grow the next crop. If I don't do it straight away, it is all to easy to eat these in error!

I'll show you the Shallots when they are separated out.

 

  • Garlic

  • Elephant Garlic

Out On The Plots This Week:

Weeds are still growing, and if left to their own devices can smother the crops. This year I haven't really kept up with weeding the Onion beds, or really with watering them enough either, and so the bulbs are smaller than usual. Still Onions, still edible, but I do like to see nice bit juicy ones! Similar story for Garlic, and to a lesser extent, Elephant Garlic, but the Shallots are not too bad

The Spring planted sets are not starting to tip over, and they are fairly small too, as you can see 

These three beds are all going to be used for follow-on crops: Varieties of Winter Cabbage, Romanascu, Swede, over-Wintering Cauliflowers, Khol Rabi, Florence Fennel, Turnips, Lettuce, and so on, so the main job now after harvesting will be to prepare the soil for these, with the addition of Blood, Fish & Bone, Chicken Manure pellets and plenty of home made compost! Then of course it is about protecting these new plants from predation with appropriate coverings. I think I have everyhting needed, but it is only when I come to do the job will I find out if the netting it long enough and sufficient hooped supports 

Which reminds me: the Blueberries are starting the chnage colour and will need to be netted, or the Blackbirds will devour them all!

 

 

 

In The Polytunnels This Week:


 It is HOT!! Daytime temperatures are over 40C, but everyhting seem to be coping well enough. The West Indian Cucumbers are growing like crazy, and at last are developing some female flowers, and even the Okra plants are at least thinking about growing

Hand pollinating the Aubergines is definitely paying off, and all the plants have at least some tiny fruits showing.

The seedlings that germinated recently are now growing away quite well, especially the red Chinese Cabbage and Pak Choi, which in the tunnel are not affected by the scourge of the Flea Beetle. They really need thinning out.. the thinnings will be small enough to plant, and the slight set back this will give them will stagger the harvests, which is of course helpful

At Home This Week:

I had a bit of blitz in the garden this week, clearing more brambles...many more brambles... and pruning the Amber Plum tree that is supposedly dwarf. It has been here six or seven years, ans this is the first year it has fruited. I cut off all the growth towering about the level where there is fruit, which has brought a lot more light into the garden

I also gave the huge Acer its annual haircut, trimming it round so that I can walk along the path without getting wet on dewy mornings. It looks pretty good, the only issue is it has uncovered the paath, which has masses of weeds growing between the bricks. Another job for the list, although I have made good headway already

As it has been so incredibly hot, I decided it was sensible to pot on all the Brassica seedlings indoors, rather at the plot, as it gave them a much better chance of survival

They can spend the next few days in the kitchen, as this heatwave is forecast to continue, and then once their roots have started working again, they can sit in the net covered part of the tunnels, safe from the attention of butterflies and with the benefit of some shade from sunhshine too

"Spares" have been bundled up, four plants per parcel, so I can easily give them to other plot holders, idealy as soon as possible... there is a fine line between keeping them damp and drowning them!

The large red Salvia had little growth on it this Spring, just looking like a tangle of dead twigs, so I cut it rigth out, saving thos little shoots for cuttings. It is a little early in the year, ideallt they would be taken in August or September, but needs must. It is a particularly attractive variety, with brilliant red flowers and very dark, almost black, buds, which I haven't actually seen anywhere else, so I do hope the cuttings are successful. They have been in since about 10:00am, and haven't wilted, so I guess water uptake is happening at least! It is called Hummingbird Forest Fire, a Salvia coccinea. Apparently in its native country it attracts Hummingbirds to feed, but I am not holding my breath here, although I suppose Hummingbird Hawk Moths might be a possibility

I had a bit of space in the pot, so decided to add three pieces of another shrub from the garden, Spirea Bridal Wreath. This has sprays of little white flowers along its branches in Spring, and would be a good addition elsewhere in the garden as well as at the plot

All it needs now is for them all to grow roots!

Jobs this week are finishing what I have already started really, apart from .. hopefully... planting out the Winter Cabbage plants in one of the previous Onion beds, initially under some shade netting I should thnk!

I hope you are not melting in the extremes of the hot weather, and have plenty to enjoy

I shall be back next Monday, all being well, and you can see if I have managed to do anyhting except water and weed!

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 - Sorry, I forgot yesterday was Monday until it was too late to sort this week's Blog. I blame having a big football match on Sunday, which made me think it was Saturday. Oh well, here it is, better late than never!!

It really doesn't feel like half way through July somehow, although the harvests are saying it is. Not used to these heavy downpousr at regular intervals in July for goodness sake!! At least it has saved me having to water the whole plot and the garden,which has to be a good thing, but the weeds all that rain have encouraged are beyond belief. My compost bins are bulging with all that extra green plant growth I am shovelling in at regular intervals... another good thing will be the ned result of extra compost of course

Harvests give plenty to enjoy, even when it is cloudy yet again. This week's Harvest Monday start with Raspberries, Loganberries and Red Currants, picked this morning and destined for a Summer Fruits Gin. I haven't netted the huge fruit cage this year, so am harvesting as soon as I see berries that are ripe, rather than a huge "pick" all at once. Different, as the birds like berries too, but so far not too bad

At last! French Beans!! Usually I have some plants in the polytunnel,and so have Beans much sooner than this, but this year their space went to Okra (which hasn't died, but is growing incrediby slowly so far)

I have a short row of Violette in the ground, and three pots of a green variety that bought-in as plants called "dwarf French Bean"

And don't these just look gorgeous? I can't wait until tonight when I shall have them lightly steamed. The purple colour will no doubt turn dark green, but that will be just fine

 

I got very excited about this one: Chamomile Flowers. This year I am attempting to grow herbs that are specifically for making tea, and at last there were nough flowers on the plant to pick. I shall use some fresh...never had tea from fresh Chamomile flowers, and dry the others to keep. If this works out, I shall increase the number of plants for next year, as one plant won't give a large enough harvest  

Now this is an odd one... the Greyhound Cabbage was in the sink, when a large spider appeared from somewhere, not from inside the Cabbage, I think it may have fallen from the ceiling. And just look what it is... a Noble False Widow Spider Steatoda nobilis!! I have never seen one before, I have only see the ones with the fat round abdomen which I think is S grossa, but however fascinating it was, I didn't want it in my house so I took it quite a long way to release it, right across the road and up the hill a bit where there is a wild flower strip

Before you panic about the size of it on the Cabbage, this is a very small Cabbage onoy about 20cm long

Rocket, aka Arugula, is a really high value crop. A small bag of leaves is fairly expensive in the supermarket, but i have been picking bunches of leaves several times a week for months!! Added to that, the packet of seed was a free gift... what's not to like? (Well unless you donlt like the spicy flavour of course)

This bunch was actually for my daughter, but I picked more on Sunday, to go on pizza, and more today to add to a green salad

The Spring Onions are fantastic this year! I usually grow White Lisbon, but these can start to bulb up and grow small Onions if left to get large, but this year I had Ishikura, which I thought looked good as they stayed narrow at the base.

Turns out they are actually perennial bunching Onions, that just grow larger and larger clumps of lovely Onions that are just like Spring Onions. I do like these!! I shall keep a couple of clumps in the polytunnel to see how they get on over Winter, as having Onion green to cut in the coldest months would be brilliant

These are the final thinning of the Carrots growing in the polytunnel. The rest have enough space to expand now, so won't be harvested for a few more weeks

Other harvests this week have included lots of Herbs, especially Peppermint; Cucumber, Courgettes, Garlic Scapes and Garlic and the last of the Peas

Out On The Plots This Week:

The main job has been clearing the bed for Purple Sprouting Broccoli and Brussels Sprouts to be planted out. The netting support were already in place, and the new net tried for size, but even so, it took ages as there were lots of Raspberry runners that had come up, and the occasional volunteer Potato plant too, but after the addition of some Blood, Fish & Bone, and a few chicken manure pellets in each hole, they are all in, as of this morning! There was a bit of space at the end so three of the Romanescu plants Clive gave me are now there. All stakes are in, net is on,..... and then I spotted a Small White Butterfly eyeing them up. Sorry, you can't get in: no gaps in this net!

Jane gave me some tiny Lettuce seedlings, so these are in as well, to make use of the large empty spaces between the Brassicas at the moment. 

Looking after the Tomato plants is a weekly job, removing all those extra "elbows" they insist on growing, and giving them a feed of Comfrey liquid to encourage flowers and help with fruit development

Once they have set three decent trusses on each plant I shall take the tops off, especially for thoe with larger fruits, s further ones are unlikely to mature and ripen by the end of the Summer. The smaller fruited varieties may get in a fourth truss, I'll have to see what the long range weather forecast is. A warm Autumn could change my mind there

Dug up the Garlic, which is a little smaller than I had hoped, but still very useable. Taken it home to dry off a bit before I can clean it off for storage. I'll take a picture then, it is still very muddy

The Runner beans have started to flower, so I hope that means they will set beans too, The white flowered Spagna Blanco that I am growing for the large white drying beans, has had lots of flowers but not that many pods set so far. I have been told that spraying the flowers with water helps, so I might try that

PS I cut the stems that were waving off the top of the sticks on half the plants, as I said,which is supposed to make them grow more flowers on branches lower down. We shall see

The Dwarf French Beans don't seem to have a problem setting pods though, which is good. I must remember to feed them to keep them growing strongly for as long as possible

The sowings made last week are starting to germinate, Japanese Greens "Green Boy" Pak Choi, 18 Day radish and Snowball Turnip all up. The fine netting they are under should hopefully  prevent flea beetle damage. 

There is a whole variety of wildlife on and around our site, most of which are welcome visitors and to be encouraged.

Rabbits are not, however, on the guest list!! The first litters of babies are getting quite large now, and are less likely to be able to squeeze through wire fencing. This one certainly couldn't when he ran up to Jane's fence as I arrived this morning. Most of us work really hard to keep them out of our plots, but they are very cute hopping around in the communal areas then suddenly scurrying away when they see you

 

Herons are always welcome, as they eat Voles, Mice and baby Rats, and this fellow spent hours stalking up and down the verges looking for a meal. We did see him catch a Vole too. He can keep up that good work as much as possible

The Red Kite chicks fledged a while ago, and the youngsters are still learning what life's about. Most of them are fairly confident flyers now, but this guy hangs around in the trees for ages calling for his Mum, who whistles encouragement from the skies. He is still somewhat reluctant to glide around, and always looks incredibly grumpy. This morning he nearly fell off a branch trying to preen his tail feathers, which was quite amusing. He'll get the hang of it eventually

In The Polytunnels This week:

That dratted Chickweed is greatly reduced thanks to regular hoeing, and the Khol Rabi plants moved from outside are thriving now thank goodness. The more steady conditions seem to suit it better than the recent wild weather fluctuations outside.

I planted out some more Rocket seedlings that Jane gave me this morning. My original patch is still going strong and so far picking off the stems attempting to flower seems to be keeping it producing new leaves, but it won't last for ever, so another lot coming along is a good idea

The seedlings of Florence Fennel Red Chinese Cabbage and Pak Choi are large enought o transplant to their final places. The Fennel will go outside where the Garlic was, but the others need me to do a bit of juggling round with spaces, as I also have two largish Romanscu plants to fit in. I decided not to grown Purple Sprouting Broccoli inside this year, using that space instead for the Romanescu. I have no idea how this will perform, or when it will produce a head, or indeed if it will even produce any at all!

The potted Cabbages and Kale are getting to the point where they need to go into the ground. Having them under the mesh section of the tunnel is working really well, but I don't want to have to move them to even larger pots unless I really have to. The plan is for the Cabbages to occupy the bed where the Shallots and Autumn planted Onions are and the Kales to go where tje Peas & Broad Beans have been, so a of of bed preparation will be needed in the next week or two

The regular paint-brush work on the Aubergine flowers is producing good results and there are lots of very small fruit now set. Hopefuly they will grow and give some decent Aubergines. Some of the green Emerald Isle are almost ready to pick

 

At Home This Week:

The week has gone by incredibly fast, and with time taken up with watching football and collecting furniture for upcycling,  and so cutting the grass was as far as any jobs at home went! Oh, apart from making Raspberry Jelly. It is such a beautiful colour and captures that essence of Summer perfectly, so I always store away a couple of jars for the Winter, however temting it is to eat it all right away

Overall I have done fairly well with jobs at the plot though, so the list is much shorter:

Jobs Needing Doing:

- pot on Brassicas sown recently, as they now have their first set of proper leaves: Khol Rabi, Swede, Scarlet Kale, Romanescu and Cauliflower

- transplant Florence Fennel, Pak Choi and Red Chinese Cabbage to final places.. (Florence Fennel will go outside)

- weed the Squash bed, the bed with the Spring planted Onions and the Cucumber enclosure, 

- harvest Shallots, Elephant Garlic, the last picking of Broad Beans and soft fruit as it ripens

- start to thin Apples and begin Summer pruning

- start to sort out beds for Cabbages and Kale

- at home, continue to chop out brambles from the hedge

As always, a huge list that I won't get done all in one week, but it does remind me what to focus on and not get sidetracked into starting less important things,or just looking at the flowers

Hope you are well and enjoyed this week's run round the plots and so on. I'll try to remember whih day is which next week, to be back on Monday. And who knows what Monday 19th might hold?

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

5th July - early Summer always feels really important on the plots somehow. New bright Summer harvests are just beginning, but at the same time a close eye has to be kept on bringing on crops for late Summer and through into Autumn and Winter, sowing these at a time when every bed is already full, so that as soon as one harvest ends, the soil can be readied straight away for what is going in next, and getting that planted as soon as possible. Conversations ar based around questions such as "Are your Early Potatoes out yet?"; "Are you sowing any Caulis for Easter-time?" and "Have your Onions tipped over now?" All key really to continuous supplies of fresh vegetables throughout the year

The unusual weather patterns mean some crops have gotten a bit confused and are not yet as ready as they could be ie my First Early Potatoes,whilst others are up and at it at some speed and are already ending, Broad Beans for me here. Means a careful eye needs to be kept, and plans adjusted accordingly

Harvest Monday this week as some "firsts", and lots that are carrying on producing just nicely. 

First up is one I have really missed: Courgettes. These are the second ones I have cut, all quite small, but this should encourage the plant into producing more fruits quite quickly. I have one plant of Sure Thing in the polytunnel, a self fertile variety which does well under cover. I also noticed this morning that there are fruits developing on the green ones outside, but nothing yet on the yellow. Plenty of time!

These were eaten lightly grilled, with a drizzle of olive oil and some lemon juice. The days of grating them up for cakes or frittata are a little way off yet!

Then we have the first Cucumber of the year, also grown in the polytunnel, a variety called La Diva. I have grown this for several years, and have found it able to produce fruits right though to mid, or even late, Autumn. This one is slightly pointed at one end, but I cut it anyway, as there are lots of immature fruits just waiting to grow. Looking forward to eating some of it in tonight's salad

The there are Peas, which this year have really put a spurt on, and the outside crops are almost finished. I grew some under cover, with outdoor crops to follow on, so I have been eating both Mangetout and fresh Peas since April, with plenty of Peas in the freezer too. 

The un-named variety of extra-early Peas has turned out to be a prolific Petit Pois, more will be sown next year as they are very good indeed. The pods go a slightly odd curly shape, so here, they will be known as Curly Petit Pois. I am saving seed from the plants in the polytunnel for sowing next year, and I hope there are enough to be able to give friends a few to try, and then build up their own stocks if they like them

Outside I also grew those Nairobi Sugarsnaps, and they have been a great success. You can see some of them in the header photo. Even when they are quite large, they are still stringless and incredibly sweet, so not only are they on my list for next year but I shall try to both grow some under cover fo an earlier crop, and sow more than this year outside, as they really are terrific

Broad Beans are prolific too, and outdoor crop is doing well. After an infestation of blackfly was washed off with the hose, helped by my fingers, the plants have stayed clean and healthy. I am picking the pods whilst the beans are still smallish, as at this size their skins are still tender, so don't really need removing

Herbs are important in my harvests, and this year I am trying to widen their uses and also grow some new to me.

This week, Sage, Thyme and Rosemary have ben added to a Mushroom & Lemon oven-baked stuffing, and English Peppermint used most days for tea.

I left some standing in a jar of water on the kitchen worktop, so it was readily to hand, only to discover a few days later that each stem had grown roots, great bunches of roots at that! These ones went ot my brother, but I shall be rooting more to share. It is not the best Mint for using in cooking, with new Potatoes for example, or Mint Sauce, I'd rather have Spearmint for that, but it is unbeatable for Mint tea

 

Rasberries are coming into their own now, with enough for a decent dessert several times a week, supplemented by Loganberries. I have to be quick to pick these, as Blackbirds adore them, and will sit and eat them until they can barely fly. 

I have already made one bottle of Raspberry Vodka, and am hoping that the plants continue cropping for a second one to follow. 

The fruits are quite small. Some years ago, we deided to dig out thes eplants because of this, an focus more on the Autumn Raspberries with their large and succulent berries, but they refused to go. In fact, they come up all over the place now in the fruit cage area, so I just cut out the fruited canes and let them be. Small fruits may not look as pretty on the plate, but they have that gorgeous Raspberry aroma, and taste luscious, so I make the most of what I think of as free gifts, after their determination to stay!

 Strawberries are an erratic crop this year, so they are more or less just eaten as they are picked, but today I was given a French recipe for Strawberry Wine, which I shall be investigating further.....

Carrot thinnings are just so delicious, with a rich flavour I have missed, and this week there were enough to use with a roast dinner, which went down rather well

The Cauliflowers did something strange, disguising themselves as some sort of white Brocoli-like vegetable, but they were eaten regardless, and tasted delicious

And Calabrese only wanted to make little heads, so I cut these carefully, in the hope that the plants grow some more in the coming weeks. You have to cut them up to eat them, after all, so it didn't matter really

The Spring Onions, grown in modules and planted out alongside the Climbing Beans, are just great, with plenty of nice, crisp flavoursome leaves, as well as they succulent white Onion base. I think they have benefitted from the extra water, as the Beans get watered fairly often, espcially now they are in flower.

These green sections can be used in the same way Chives leaves would be used , but they have a slightly stronger taste

Garlic Scapes are the flowering stems of a hardneck Garlic type, and cutting these off enables the plants to put more energy into each producing a bulb of Garlic under the ground. The bonus is that these are edible and absolutely delicious. I use them in stir fry, sauted with spices and mustard seeds as a side vegetable dish, and added into a risotto in the way you might use fine French beans.

I do have more than one, but I thought the photo of what they look like is clearer just with ona on its own. They are supposed to be curly like this

Looking forward to digging up the Garlic bulbs very soon. My plot neighbour Jane dug hers up this morning, having grown Garlic for the first time, and hers looked terrific!

Out On The Plots This Week:

My brother has been staying with me this week, and he did a great job of reducing the height of the Hawthorn hedge behind #146 by two metres. This was put in about sevel years ago, having bought apotful of Hawthorn whips for a fiver, from a "Manager's Special" table at a Garden Centre, looking very much the worse for wear. I was with my friend Chris, who said they would be fine, but I had to ring Abi to make sure it was what he had envisaged for our new hedge. Well, Chris, you were right, and all except one has flourished!

It does look better for a side trim and a haircut though, so I was glad of my brother's help

Weeding is of course never ending, and this morning I weeded the Asparagus bed, which also contains two Garlic plants and a few Red Swan French Beans, that I had no space for anywhere else. The Garlic is ready to come up now I think, and the French Beans, now they are free of weeds, have some twiggy sticks to support them as they start to flower

I need to check whether Asparagus need a Summer feed to help build up the crowns,rather than just the one in March, now that they are three years old. I seem to remember that from somewhere......

I have two lots of Climbing Beans, one with Runner Beans and Climbing French Beand and the other with various Beans for drying, which include these Spagna Bianco, which are waving off the tops of their poles already. I have always just let Bean plants get on with life, but I was told recently that cuting back these waving shoots encourages side shoots to form, which produce more flowers. As more flowers clearly equals more Beans, I shall give this a go, cutting back half of them to see what difference it makes ot both growth and cropping

(In the front of the picture you can see the Spring Onions I mentioned)

You can smell the flowers as soon as you get to the gate of #145. This evergreen Honeysuckle has a really  strong sweet perfume, and now alonside, in #146 there is a native "woodbine" Honeysuckle flowering

They provide plenty of nesting opportunities for small birds, and have housed both a Robin family and a Wren family this year, and, I suspect, a Dunnock family too

And also on #146 are Freesias, which, although quite small flowers, scent the air all around. I had a bag of 50 bulbs that came free with something or other, and I forgot to plant them. Eventually I just poked them in here and there, and forgot all about them again. Well, they are just beautiful, and of course smell amazing. So far almost all of them are yellow, but this pale mauvy blue one has now appeared to add to the show. Freesias were one of my Mum's favourite flowers, and as her birthday was on 9th July, it seems fitting they are all in bloom right now

Up at the top end of #146, one bed has been given over to wildflowers, and, as you can see, it is looking very full at the moment. The Ox-eye daisies have taken a bit of a battering from heavy rain a few days ago, but are still able to provide plenty of food for insects. I am especially pleased that the Bird's Foor Trefoil, the yellow flower spilling out to the right, have really come on this year. It provides food to the caterpillars of Common Blue Butterflies, which locally are actually faily un-common, so I ma hoping this might help boost the population a bit

The Teazels won't open for a couple of weeks yet, but when they do, bees will certainly appreciate them, and the Goldfinches will enjoy the seeds in the Autumn

Bee Box News: All the little tubes in the Solitary Bee nest boxes are now empty, so the next brood must have hatched. There is plenty for them to eat, so I am looking forward to their return, to nest in the boxes in a few weeks. I have bought some new clean tubes to use, as these one are now covered in a dusting of pollen, and they do prefer nice clean spaces

It wasn't only the Ox-eye Daisies knocked about by the weather. One branch of the big climbing Rose came adrift, making it difficult to walk past without getting spiked. Having my brother there as another pair of hands meant it could be tied up without any serious damage .. damage to skin I mean, not to the Rose!

Ading to the colour on the plot for the Summer, I have now planted thr four Pelargoniums in larger pots, and just keeping them on the table for now until they settle in. They should all have shocking pink flowers, according to the label

In The Polytunnels This Week:

Weeding of course, has been a daily job,as I am trying to keep that Chickweed under control by hoeing as soon as it is up. Keeping an eye on the Tomato plants, to ensure they don't have too much excess growth, and tying in new growth on the Cucumber plants, are also frequent tasks

The Cucumbers are growing rapidly, the West Indian one has caught up with the La Diva plants, and is beginning to overtake it in their race for the roof bars

They both have plenty of female flowers, and I am hoping for bumper crops

 The Aubergines however, are still not setting fruit properly, so I am resorting to hand pollinationw with a small soft paintbrush. There is still plenty of time for fruit to develop and grow, so all is not yet lost

I potted on all the January King Cabbages, and they are now in the polytunnel under the protection over the netting between the two tunnels. They are very healthy plants, which nearly had a plague of snails, after one had laid about sixty beautiful pearly eggs around on eof the plants! The egs have gone now, and the plants can anjoy their lucky escape

The seeds sown directly in the ground last week have all germinated: 18 Day Radish, Florence Fennel, Red Chinese Cabbage and Pak Choi

And the seeds sown in pots at home are also up, and now transferred to the staging in the polytunnel: Cauliflower, Scarlet Kale, Khol Rabi, Swede and Romanescu

At Home This Week:

I have just noticed that the Basil sown last week has one little green shoot showing too, which is good, so that is all of them on their way now

My brother also put himself to work cutting back the brambles that threaten to swamp the greenhouse and one side of the garden several times a year, cutting back right to the boundary fence along the greenhouse side. It was a massive effort indeed!

I have pruned the grapevine, and together this made a big difference to the amount of light the greenhouse gets. I need to now cut back some of the Fig tree branches on the other side I think. Shade netting is up, to avoid the West Indian Prickle Gherkin getting scorched. All in all, another good job well done

There are of course still the rest of the brambles coming through along the hedge to deal with, but I can get in there with my secateurs and cut that all off.

The annual display of pretty white scented flowers from the Philadelphus is in full swing. It is a very precious plant, as it was given to me by my friend Kate, before she moved back to New Zealand after the death of her husband Pier. The plant had been his, living in a pot outside their front door, and hacked back to within an inch of its life every year, but it always still flowered magnificently. I think he would have enjoyed seeing it at full size, eying it up all the while with his secateurs at the ready, although I shall also be cutting it back fairly hard after it has finished flowering, or it may turn into a small tree!

 

At the other end of the garden, the little potted Mandarin tree is in flower. I don't think it culd sqqueeze manay more flowers on its stems... I do hope some fruit form as they are really  pretty, and I can enjoy them indoors through the Winter

Forthcoming Jobs:

- prep the bed for tall Winter Brassicas, planting these out and securing the netting against butterfly entry

- harvest Garlic and Shallots, plus any Autumn planted Onions that are ready; leave these all on the rack to dry off

- clean this bed of weeds and prep for short Brassicas; wash netting to re-use. Mark out sections for each and plant out any which are ready

- weed Spring planted Onions

- as soon as newly sown Brassicas etc have developed first true leaves, pot on into modules or 9cm pots. Keep under protection of polytunnel

-take off seed heads from Lupins

- cut back the growth taller than the beanpoles on half of the Spagna Bianco plants

- start to thin out Apple crop, once June drop is over

- start Summer pruning of fruit trees at the plots and at home

- pick Lavender flowers for drying, tie into bundles and hang up at home

- keep hoeing in the polytunnel, to keep that Chickweed uner control, and not let any flower

- at home, cut out the large dead section of the red Salvia

- weed corner by greenhouse and plant Michaelmas Daisy there

- cut brambles out from hedge, and chop ready for green waste

- re-plants front sink, replenishing compost

And of course there will be harvests to gather and deal with at home, but that goes without saying really

 

I hope you have enjoyed this week's somewhat extended blog, and that you are managing to keep up with jobs in your garden a little better than me!

Hope to be back next Monday, maybe still with some brambles to attack, but with at least some of the list completed. If you'd like to know more about Harvest Monday across severl countries, do check out the link below

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