Friday, July 21

Water gardening

Several years ago (according to my photo library it was in 2008!) we noticed this plant growing in our pond.
We were almost sure that it was watercress that had somehow arrived unannounced and been growing quietly unnoticed. The niggling little doubt though meant that we just were not confident enough to harvest it and we unceremoniously removed it.

Then in 2013 (aren't photo libraries wonderful for tracking dates?), we decided to have a go at growing some watercress in a pot. We easily rooted some sprigs bought from the grocer and planted them up.
The pot was placed in a tray of water and grew reasonably well.
However, it didn't really produce enough to provide a worthwhile harvest and the water became stagnant if we forgot to change it.

The idea of growing watercress disappeared from our consciousness until Mark mentioned that he was growing some and described his methods on his blog here.

Then we bought some planting baskets for the pond to try and protect the frogspawn from becoming fish food.
Later the cogs started turning - as they do. If watercress could grow wild in our pond why couldn't we plant some.
We bought a bunch from the local greengrocer and I placed one small sprig in  a glass of water.
Within a couple of days or so roots had grown.

The rooted piece of watercress was plopped - literally - into the basket that was already in the pond and just left. Really the basket was just to keep the watercress in place and stop it floating about. It grew fairly slowly at first but now it looks like this.
Soon it will need a good trim but it is providing us with a ready supply of fresh watercress with absolutely no effort needed on our part.
That's what I call a low maintenance crop. Does anyone know whether watercress is a hardy plant?

Copyright: Original post from Our Plot at Green Lane Allotments author S Garrett

Wednesday, July 19

One swallow

Monday, July 17

Guess who likes jostaberries?

Last week there was another first in our harvest box.
Our first cauliflower from the collection of early brassicas bought from D T Brown. It's the first time we have bought plants from this company and the first time that we have grown this variety of cauliflower - Helsinki. The only downside is that it looks as though the cauliflower heads will all come at once so some will have to end up in the freezer. Lack of moisture means that the large brassica plants are flagging.
12 July
We are still harvesting cabbage although they are starting to split. The splitting so far is only affecting the top layers of leaves so there's plenty of usable cabbage.
14 July
The first row of Casablanca potatoes have now been lifted. Incredibly we haven't come across even one spoiled potato, no form of damage whatsoever.
We have sown another row of peas into the space that the potatoes have vacated.  
We have a row that we are picking at the moment, a row that is just starting to flower, one row that isn't yet at flowering stage and now this one. The aim is for a long lasting succession but this may be wishful thinking. The pods of the peas that we are harvesting at the moment are rather tatty looking but the peas inside are fine which is all that really matters.

The mangetout didn't germinate well but last week we managed a small picking.
The sweet peas are now starting to produce more flowers. I'm hoping that the pollen beetles that seem to be everywhere this year don't home in on them as they will cluster inside the keel petals and spoil their use as cut flowers. When that happens the beetles have to be in some way evicted before the flowers can be brought indoors.
The sweet pea stems are incredibly long this year. Maybe my watering regime has suited them more than in previous year when I have watered less relying more on natural irrigation.
15 July
The first of the three dahlias that we bought for the perennial border at the allotment is flowering.
It's lovely but ... which of these do you think it is?
It will be interesting to see what colours the other two plants will turn out to be.

We are managing to harvest some bits and pieces of salad ingredients including some watercress which so far hasn't made it in front of the camera but I will be giving it a post of its own shortly.
16 July
Hidden in the plastic bag on the left of the photo above is a selection of radishes as shown below. after pulling these were quickly popped into the bag to keep them fresh and crisp.
We're still picking berries. Every couple of days there is at least one large punnet of Tulameen raspberries. I'm still picking blueberries from our earliest fruiting bush and the second bush now has berries ripening. The bushes are performing well this year and producing some strong new shoots.

The Malwina strawberries are providing more delicious berries.

The berries are still a good size.
We are being kept busy picking blackcurrants ...
... and continuing the black theme, the blackberries are starting to ripen. The canes are loaded with fruit. Fortunately, as the canes are thornless picking is painless. 

We now have more them enough jostaberries in the freezer and so now the wildlife is enjoying the leftovers. The blackbird hardly bothers to fly out of the bush when we pass by.
It isn't surprising that the birds are attracted to the berries but someone surprising seems to enjoy browsing on the jostaberries that have fallen from the bush.
Just to prove this, I filmed a short video of the little one above in the act.

I am linking to harvest Monday hosted on Dave's blog Our Happy Acres

Saturday, July 15

Change of plan

About seven years ago, I planted some lavender plants that had been raised from cuttings to create a hedge around two of our fruit beds.
Over the years they grew to make large plants which were trimmed back each year after flowering. As the plants grew so unfortunately did the grass between the plants. I removed as much as I could but now the edging is looking untidy and in need of a makeover.

With this in mind, last May when I saw that Thompson and Morgan had an offer of 72 lavender plug plants for £2.00, I decided to order some.
There were two varieties - Hidcote and Munstead. As the plants were tiny, I first planted them in module cells and then into what was meant to be a nursery bed.
The plants grew quickly and by September were flowering, providing the bees with a late supply of nectar. After flowering the plants were trimmed to keep them neat and bushy.

Not all of the plants survived winter but those that did have grown into strong plants and the nursery bed has become a sea of deep purple flowers. It seems impossible to do the bed justice in a photograph. 

This posed a dilemma as the intention had been to replace the lavender edging with these new plants, but we really like the mass planting effect in the nursery bed and so the plan has changed and the lavenders will stay put.
To fill the gaps where plants didn't survive over winter, I have taken cuttings of Hidcote that seems to be the stronger of the two varieties and the one to suffer no winter losses. 
So that leaves me with the tatty edging to replace. I've decided that once the flowers fade, I will dig up the plants, remove the entangled grass etc and then replant them deep into the ground and hope that they regenerate.

Best laid plans eh?

In answer to Belinda's query on her blog - so far I have never used any flowers in cooking. I do cut some for a vase but mostly the bees and I enjoy them just where they are.

Wednesday, July 12

Petals and wings

Monday, July 10

We pick, pull and water

Again this week we are being kept busy picking berries. Despite the lack of rain it has been a very good berry season with the exception of most varieties of strawberries.  Most have been disappointing. The exception is the late fruiting Malwina which is the only variety this year to produce the large berries that we expect. I wonder whether the conditions favour a late variety more? Most of the other varieties of strawberiies have stopped producing fruit and so I have given them a good water and feed to try and build up the plants for next season.
4 July
Towards the end of the week, Malwina was providing us with delicious fruit.  We grew this variety for the first time last year and were bowled over by the flavour. The fruits are a dark red which apparently causes it to be unpopular in some circles. Not in this house.
The blackcurrants are now ripening quickly. Picking them is a very time consuming job which I guess explains their high cost in the shops.
The earliest blueberry bush also has fruit ripening quickly. It may be my imagination but it seems that picking the ripe berries encourages the green berries to swell. Fruit on the second bush are now starting to ripen too.
As well as picking berries there are peas to be harvested. So far we have managed to mitigate the lack of rainfall by a copious amount of watering. On our return home from the plot I've been sitting in the garden podding peas. Fortunately only one or two pods have had unwelcome squatters. I did wonder as I was sitting popping the pods open, how many people - especially children - don't realise that peas form in pods. When I was a child podding peas was one task that I was given and it was impossible to carry out the task without more than just a few never making it to the pan.

There have also been broad beans to pod. Witkiem Manita have now just about been picked over but the diminutive Robin Hood plants are loaded with flowers.
Whilst the summer onions are still growing, we are harvesting the over wintered onions. Although many of the onions sent up a flower stalk, there is still plenty of useable onion. It's a case of nipping any in the bud so that the onions don't produce a flower. The aim is for as many leaves to form as possible as each one forms a layer of onion in the bulb.
6 July
The calabrese has more or less finished producing side shoots and now it is the turn of the cabbages to provide our brassica hit. The variety - Regency - scores well on flavour and has a very solid, pointed head. The bed that the early brassicas are growing in has so far shown no signs of club root and again despite the lack of rainfall the plants have done extremely well. Other than when they were first planted the plants haven't been treated to much watering.
8 July
As yet the courgettes are not yet in glut mode so we are keeping up picking a couple of fruits in each visit to the plot.
9 July
As I mentioned earlier the cabbages are doing very well. The one below harvested last week weighed in at over 2kg. (just over 4½lb)

To avoid the risk of us turning green, this individual is now in the freezer.

I am linking to harvest Monday hosted on Dave's blog Our Happy Acres