20th June - Can hardly believe that tomorrow is the Summer Solstice!!! The days and weeks just seem to be rushing by. Maybe it is because i never seem to quite catch up at the moment, who knows. 

In this area we have had no proper rain or weeks now, the odd shower, a few drips here and there and that's all. Unwatered ground has set like concrete, so keeping crops alive is the most important task at the moment

My friend Ann came to stay for a few days, and we visited Englefield Gardens, where the Roses were spectacular, sat by the Thames watching the Swans and Geese... saw an Egyptian Goose family too.. and of course went to Garden Centres, all in between watering and watering and watering of course!! 

Harvest Monday is a mixture of fruit and vgetables now, starting with Spring Cabbage, which you can seeon the wheelbarrow minutes after I cut it. 

 (If you are not familiar with our Harvest Monday, so click on the link at the end to check it out, hosted by Dave from the US, always interesting to se what people elswewhere in the world are growing0

June 2022

The most peculiar crop this week has in fact also been Cabbage... This one is the last of the Spring ones planted last Autumn, and looked terrific. So good in fact, I cut it in half to share with friends further along our road.

Once I started  chopping it up to cook however, I realised that most of that fat, juicy looking head was actually made up of very tough white stalks, not crisp leaf veins!! I went and asked for my half cabbage back...luckily Mary hadn't started to use it, and gave her another one the next day, the one in the photo above, which was the first harvested from under the polytunnel staging

I managed to salvage enough of the surrounding green leaves to slice finely, and make a Cabbage and Coconut curry (Thoran)

So Cabbage has been both a "last" and a "first" this week!!! Growing them under the staging has worked very well indeed and I shall certainly do this again next Spring. More Cabbages will be following in the next few weeks

Here is the first proper harvest of first early Potatoes, straight from the ground, unwashed. This year they were mulched with grass cuttings and only watered perhaps three or four times, despite the seriously hot weather and lack of rain

Really pleased with them. This is a third of the crop, which includes a few Kestrels as well which are really second earlies. I started taking them out at the wrong end of the bed really, as then these would have had  a chance to grow slightly larger, but they are a perfectly good size for eating really . The other end is all Casablanca

Two French Beans (There were three really but I ate one)

Growing these in the polytunnel works well, and this year I have a row of about ten plants long in front of the Tomatoes, so when these are fed, the beans can be too, which hopefully will extend the cropping time. These are a slightly flat podded variety (Prince I think) which are from seed I saved last year after the one grown in pots were so prolific. 

Cherries from the dwarf tree in that fruit bed were unexpected, and although I had to pick them when not quite ripe, or the pigeons would have had them all, they ripened slightly more in the kitchen and were nice to eat

The fruit inside the protective sleeves on the big tree are almost ready to pcik, so watch this space next week!

Raspberries and Tayberries are ripening , which gives plenty of fruit for puddings as well as eating as I pick them. The Raspberries are quite small, just the variety, nothing else, but are plentiful as they have sprung up all through the long fruif bed now, which I don't really mind.  Not quite enough at one time for jelly yet, but early days

Other harvests have included Lettuce, Rocket, Coriander, Radishes and this wonderful big bunch of Antirrhinums. The plants are growing in the polytunnel, in part shadem, which seems to suite them well, so I shall be planting some more. They not only look pretty  but smell gorgeous too

Out On The Plots This Week:

The huge climbing Rose looks as beautiful as ever, despite its supporting arch collapsing in those dreadful storms earlier this year. Once the flowers are finished, I plan to cut it right back so that I can get to the fallen posts to remove them, and also check on the little Rose buried on the other side. The Clematis there is flowering, but is pretty mangled too. For now, just enjoying the display and not fretting over what can't be reached at the moment

The little flower bed alongside the polytunnel is beginning to fill out a bit. You can clearly see the big hole in the polytunnel wall made last year by rats. I have some repair tape, so will be fixing this!!

The big job this week though has been clearing the bed for Tomato plants. Winter Cabbages grew here previously, and I foolishly left the bed to grow weeds,weeds and more weeds, some of which were Docks waist high! I never want to have to deal with such a job again, but somehow every year it ends up like this.  It takes a huge amount of nutrients out of the soil with these weeds, which also feels bad, so....

... the plan is to add a thick mulch of material without weeds seeds in it, such as the grass cuttings I spread around the Potatoes this year (which have been almost weed free as a result)  I can also use the composted maize stalks from a large bag I bought earlier in the year. Prepare the Cabbage bed as normal, complete with firm soil (and plenty of home made compost etc) and then the mulch, so it won't matter if the mulch is a bit "fluffy"

So on that note, I shall mulch around the Tomato plants as well, as weeding them always takes more time than I think it ought to. I shall leave a space around each plant though for feeding down through... perhaps a part buried bottle with the bottom removed, by each plant, might do, actually. Worth a try, as the feed will otherwise be mainly in the mulch I think

Anyway, the Tomato plants are now duly planted, with French Marigolds and Blue Lace around them, which will look pretty as well as helping pollinating insects. The Tomatoes will of course need supports to be tied to as they grow, but I was too tired to do those yesterday, and most of the plants are still quite short. Must get more bottles....

The fruit is thinned out on the Apple trees, and those on #146 are Summer pruned too. I always enjoy this job, as somehow it makes you feel close to the trees, and they respond with a good crop

We have several new plotolders this year who have inherited Apple trees on their plots, and never grown these before. It is satisfying to be able to give some guidance, as this fruit thinning can seem drastic. As you can see, there are relatively few Apples still on this tree, but these now have the best chance of being an excellent size to eat, and not put unnecessary strain on the tree, which could well mean a poor crop next year while it recovers. Look after the trees and they reward you well

In The Polytunnels This Week:

The Summer joing strip is now in place (Thank you for your help, Ann) which provides constant ventilation . I shall be re-organising the staging to have a section out in this area, which is perfect for growing on Brassicas: plenty of light and air but protected from the attentions of White butterflies

The rather scraggy looking climbing French Beans are now heading up their poles, so they may actually eventually flower after all: I was beginning to wonder! The Cucumber plants set out last week are OK and the single Courgette plant is giving regular fruit now, whilst the Wild Strawberries have been amazingly productive. Not sure how long these will continue to fruit All good, there

The Peas and Broad Bean plants are now spent, and taking these out will give a large space in which to plant new crops: Melons, more Sweetcorn (The plants outside are not looking great) and some Radicchio, Winter Radish and MIzuna

Chilli plants are starting to flower, and the Okra is now growing a second leaf. Fingers crossed for these to continue to thrive after last year's total failure

At Home This Week:

A visit to a Garden Centre with Ann resulted in me buying some rather lush looking Pinks plants at a ridiculously cheap price... these can go in my new troughs  at the allotment, where their scent will be much enjoyed, pls they make great cut flowers.. and two beautiful standard Fuschias, again, marked down in price for some reason. All they took was a tidy-over and already, as you can see, they look pretty good. These will be in pots either side of the steps of the patio by the back door, and should flower for the whole Summer now

Ann helped saw the large Lilac branch that was preventing the back door from opening fully, and then I could reach the fence to pull off a lot off the Ivy and tidy up the potted Bamboos (Actually Ann did most of the sawing really)

Hopefully later today I can finish the tidy-up out there so the new Fuschias can take up their new home

 

I made fairly good headway with the Jobs List last week (completed ones are in blue) although some have been added in now of course (such is life!)

Jobs to do in the garden 

1. Take out the branch from the Lilac tree  preventing me from fully opening the back door

2 Cut the Privet hedge along the back boundary (Check for bird nests)

3. Clear the encroaching brambles (yet again) alongside the greenhouse

4. Prune back the grape vine to its proper shape 

5. Clear up outside the back door and pot on new Fuschia plants to go by steps

On the Plot the jobs are:

1. Prepare the Tomato bed, set out and stake plants. Plant French Marigolds and Blue Lace flowers (Didiscus ceruleus) around edges of bed

2.Plant out early Calabrese and PB in tall Brassica cage3. Check if Elephant Garlic is ready to harvest as some leaves are starting to yellow

4. Have a massive compost-material collection from around the plots, from grass cutting, weeding etc, to put in Bin No 1 with shredded paper

5. Drill drainage holes in black troughs and plant up with PINKS to put outside lower polytunnel door: 

6. Weed Onion beds

7. Check if Early Potatoes are ready to harvest

8.Cut the Hawthorn hedge back (check for bird nests)

9. Thin out apples at end of June

10. Feed late Calabrese and other Brassicas still in pots (high Nitrogen)

11. Make another batch of Comfrey feed

12. Sow late Carrots in box for coldframe

 

In The Polytunnels the Jobs Are:

1. Harvest the remaining Broad Beans and remove spent plants

2. Pot on Chilli and Sweet Pepper plants still in 9cm pots and ensure space around each plant on the staging

3. Put up with summer ventilation netting between the  two tunnels

4. Sow second crop of Spinach under staging, with Summer Radishes in front

5. Fix the holes with repair tape

 The list is not quite as dauting as it looked last week, so I shall press on. Really glad not to have any more of those beds left to clear though, althogh both Onion beds do need attention.....

Happy Soltice to you all, and I hope to be ebck next week with a much shortened list!

 

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

 

8th June  -- Well Summer has well and truly arrived, with lots of sunny days and hardly any useful rain: great if you are on hliday, less so for gardeners! Our local Jubliee Street Party escaped the showers, and the huge national party events all went ahead too, which has to be a good thing

Crops are definitely matching the season, and Harvest Monday has plenty to share this week:

First up are Peas. These are the Early Curly Petit Pois i tried out last year. The seed came from a friend some years ago, wh said his Great Grandad had grown them, and they had been in his family probably even further back.  No offical name, just Grandad's Peas. They are excellent, with pretty pink and mauve flowers, and earlier to crop than Onward Early, so this year they filled the Pea suport in the polytunnel and are providing masses of delicious Peas, lots of which I just eat raw, but now some are even making it to the freezer, with plenty more to  go. I shall leave a plant for seeds for next year, as they will be a fixture on my calendar for quite some time

You can see why I call them Curly Peas!

And then there are Broad Beans from the polytunnel too, lots of huge fat well filled pods without a mark on them, just perfect.

There is probably one more good picking on the plants, and then they will be coming out, t[ make space for somehting else in that precious polytunnel space..possibly Emir Melons, and some more  Khol Rabi

These Potatoes are also from the polytunnel, where I planted two tubers in a section partly underneath the new staging. I took up on lot a couple of weeks back, and they were very small, but these ones ar just right!

The Beetroot was growing in front of them... this is almost the last of that early sowing. The ones sown in the planter box under the new coldframe were much earlier: some of these are available to eat as well, so I shan't be without Beetroot

Along behind the Peas,  half way to the end, are Wild Strawberry plants in the rear gutter behind the main bed. Thse have spread to make a decent number of plants, which are all fruiting really well . I just eat them  as I go, and thoroughly enjoy them                                                       

They are growing runners all over the place, which I shall be removing (apart from a few for Clive, who would like to add them to his plot). The origianl couple of plnats were given to me by someone who grew them from seed, and i am pleasantly rby how well they have done in two years. At least under cover I don't need to deal with the robber Blackbirds!

Next up are Khol Rabi., which I had to harvest all at the same time. Rodents had discovered them and had started to munch on the juicy swollen stems ...probably Voles... so I took them all out bar one modest one, which so far is untouched

These are just delicious, and make an excellent salad with mayonnaise, whilst the leaves were tender enough to be added to stir fry. I had enough to share with friends too!

I shall be sowing more, as a further crop later in the year will be very welcome. 

And the Lettuce are starting to heart up. These lovely crisp-head ones are growing alongside the Spinach, and have benefitted from the extra watering they have had, as well as being slightly cooler under the staging

Spinach is now starting to send up flower stalks, so I shall be taking it out very soon. This week I added some to Pakoras, but their added moisture meant they then  neeeded cooking for slightly longer to ensure they were nice and crisp on the outside. Not done this before, but definitely one to repeat

There is still a steady supply of Radishes. These pretty prupel and white ones are a variety called Diana, which grow slightly more slowly than Cherry Belle, but do look good on the plate. This is the first time I have grown them, but I shall sow more, alongside  with the next crop of Spinach, which will mean they also get pelnty of water

And last but certainly not least is another Spring Cabbage from the Autumn sowing. The last two will certainly need to come out as they are in way of the Tomato plants, plus the February sowing of Summer Cabbage  has definite signs of starting  heart up and so will soon be ready to start harvesting as well

Other harvests have included Spring Onions, Coriander and Chives

Out On The Plots This Week:

I feel as though I am still playing catch up outside, although at least now the Squash plants are in thr ground.  I managed to grow them to a size where their rots were just beginning to show through the bttom of the pot, and their leaves were not too big.

They seem to have survived the transition better than last year. I put up some shed netting over them for a week, to give their roots a chance to start taking up water again before the leaves shrivllled in the hot sunshine

There are two Courgettes..one green and one yellow fruiting, a Harlequin Sqush, six Butterfly Butternuts, and two unknown Squashes/Pumpkins, one from my daughter and one from a plot neighbour

And all the Climbing Beans are in too. There are Blacksmith and West Indian Borlotti for drying, and black & white Orca beans, which are new to me (Thanks Snowy!) so  shall eat some young  to see what they are like, then let the rest grow on to dry

The white flowered Runner BEans are also in this bed, and are now making great progress climbing up their sticks

I have added some African Marigolds and Honeywort around them, to help attract pollinating insects.  

Also at the front end of this bed are three Tomatillo plants and some Celeriac, all of which look fine

The red flowered Runner Beans (Enorma) are on #146, and are also growing well, and even had a flower starting to open

The Early Potatoes are now flowering, so it will soon be time to furtle around and see what size the tubers are.  I haven't earthed these up at all, jus mulched then with a thck layer of grass cuttings. I looked at it this morning and not only is it still about 10cm deep, the soil underneath is beautifully moist. I have only watered them once so far

The Seconds and Maincrops over on #145 are also just starting to flower (I thnk it is the Kestrels) and they haven't been earthed up at all either, or had much water

The plants certainly look healthy enough, so I hope this mulching method leads to decent Potatoes. It certainly has saved a lot of hard work so far, but is there a good crop under there? Well we shall see,

The other success so far are flowers for cutting. The pink Scabious is brilliant mixed with the purple Lupins and the Six HIlls Giant Catnip, with Achillea to the side forming flowering heads

The narrow border alongside the polytunnel is at last clear of weeds... I didn't use it at all for two years ... and planted up with blue Lobelia and Ageratum, plus some Cosmos, as well as three further Lupin plants. It does look quite pretty, but best of all it broke down the Vole tunnels that went from here into the polytunnel. I knw they can re-dig them, but i shall tryto spot trouble early!

A surprise success has been the Cleamtis that were on the wooden arches that were broken in those storms earlier in the year. These have been left scrambling mre or less at ground level, but are putting on a magnificent show

The Cherry tree overhanging he maincrop Peas and Broad Beans now has four sleeves, to stop birds eating the fruit before it is fully ripe, and hopefully saving it for me

Despite it's size, i have never had any sort of harvest from this tree, so I have no idea what sort of Cherries thay actually are. Tasty ones, I hope

Alongside this tree is a huge, and not very prodcutive, Plum tree, another one sold by a supermarket as "dwarf", which overshadows a lot of the surrounding growing space. I have decided that this needs to be cut right back in the Autumn to open up the space again. Its impact is even greater than the Cherry tree really, and I need to address this issue as soon as is practical, as it is preventing surrounding plants from flourishing. I know this is a "Food Forest" but with little food from the tree itself it is not that productive in that part

The most immediate job however it to prepare the bed for the outdoor Tomato plants, as these are nearly large enough to be planted out in the open ground. The soil is very compacted after the Winter Cabbage crop, so some hard work is on the cards there to turn it into an area where Tomatoes will grow well!

And the second most pressing is to plant out the early Calabrese and Purple Sprouting Broccoli in the big Brassica cage

In The Polytunnels This Week:

It has been hot, very hot! I really need to find the joining strip and get this in place, as this will improve ventilation a lot

The Sweetcorn don't seem to mind though, and are groing very quickly

Not having enough space outside for climbing French Beans, I put up a wigwam for them undercover, and planted purple and yellow podded varieties. IDwarf varieties usually do well in the polytunnel, so I hope their taller cousins do likewise

THis morning i potted on the Okra seedlings, even though they only have their seed leaves, and the last of the seed-sown flower crop: Bells of Ireland (Moluccella leavis) which is a newcomer for me. I do hope they flourish as those egreen bell-like flowers look so good

In the top tunnel, the Tomato plants are ll in their "halos", with a shrt row of Dwarf French Beans in front of them. The leaves of the bean plants are a bit yellow looking so I shall be giving them a watering of Epsom Salts , in the hope it boosts their chlorophyll. There are some some lilac flowers on them too, so there are beasn to look forward to very soon

The West Indian Cucumber plants are plante out now by their support net: just two this yearafter the melee of three plants last year, plus  what seemed like hundreds of Cucumbers! There is one other Cucumber planted at the far end of the lower tunnel,. I cannot remember what variety it is, but it is one I have grown before

The Broad Bean plants will be out soon, and space made for three Emir Melon plants, but there will also be space to direct sow crops such as Perpetual Spinach, Winter Radishes an a large-leaved variety of Pak Choi that my Nepali neighbours gave me seeds of

The Peas will not go on much longer either...perhaps I should use their wire supports for the Melon plants.. worth a secnd though  as it would save me putting up any more netting. 

At Home This Week:

I had a mid-year seeds sort, to put away packets of seed finished with for now, and get out those for sowing in the second half of the year, for late summer crops and Inter cropping too.This job always takes far longer than you think it will, but is also a good time for a stock take, beacuse with seed sales coming up it is easy to be tempted into buying packets you don't really need. I also found a few spare packte for the local shcool, where they are renovating their old vegetable garden

That job of course led on to putting away pots that are finished with for now and  a general clear up... always a good idea!

 

There are some jobs to do in the garden in the next couple of weeks, all of them big jobs at that:

1. Take out the branch from the Lilac tree  preventing me from fully opening the beck door

2 Cut the Privel Hedge along the back boundary (Check for bird nests)

3. Clear the encroaching brambles (yet again) alongsde the greenhouse

4. Prune back the grape vine to its proper shape 

On the Plot the jobs are:

1. Prepare the Tomato bed, set out and stake plants. Plant French Marigolds and Blue Lace flowers (Didiscus ceruleus) around edges of bed

2.Plant out early Calabrese and PB in tall Brassica cage

3. Check if Elephant Garlic is ready to harvest as some leaves are starting to yellow

4. Have a massive compost-material collection from around the plots, from grass cutting, weeding etcto put in Bin No 1 with shredded paper

5. Drill drainage holes in black trough an dplant up with remaining bedding, to put outside lower polytunnel door

6. Weed Onion beds

7. Check if Early Potatoes are ready to harvest

8.Cut the Hawthorn hedge back (check for bird nests)

9. Thin out apples at end of June

10. Feed late Calabrese and other Brassicas still in pots (high Nitrogen)

11. Make another batch of Comfrey feed

12. Sow late Carrots in box for coldframe

 

In The Polytunnels the Jobs Are:

1. Harvest the remaining Broad Beans and remove spent plants

2. Pot on Chilli and Sweet Pepper plants still in 9cm pots and ensure space around each plant on the staging

3. Put up with summer ventilation netting bewteen the  two tunnels

4. Sow second crop of Spinach under staging, with Summer Radishes in front

 

Not all in one week of course, but it is good to have a plan,as there really is a lot to do at this time in the year. If jobs get done at the right time, it makes life easier later down the line, when the priorities become sowing new crops and dealing with large harvests, plus time to site and enjoy the views occasionally too

I shall be back within the next two weeks with an update, and hopefully more harvests to share as well. Hope you are all enjoying your gardens!

 

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