Wednesday, August 15

At last - we had rain

Monday, August 13

Rain forecast! So far not a lot!

We are still picking some fruit. The blueberries are still ripening and I am scrambling under the net and picking some berries on most plot visits. We are also picking blackberries, blackcurrants and a few autumn fruiting raspberries.
7 August
The small cherry tomatoes are ripening quickly. Sungold still isn't splitting which is unusual for that variety. Neither of the cherry varieties are showing signs of blossom end rot which seems to be affecting the larger varieties very badly this year. I'm not convinced that this is as a result of inconsistent watering as is the widely accepted explanation. I wonder whether latterly the compost mixtures are lacking in the necessary nutrients. It will be interesting to see whether the plants grown outside have the same problems. Other than Sungold no fruits growing outside have ripened yet.
Our second lot of brassicas are now at the cropping stage and we are harvesting Kalibro cabbages and Montclano calabrese. Both are clubroot resistant and have done well for us in the past. This year they have been on our watering priority list. A fourth lot of overwintering brassicas have been planted out. So far this bed is planted with Sabrosa cabbage and Aalsmeer cauliflower both of which are not clubroot resistant so it's fingers crossed. In the past we haven't had much luck with overwintering greens.
As rain was forecast I decided to bring in the onions. As I have written previously, although some bulbs are of a decent size most are smaller that usual. The red onions are just about a write off. They have produced very few bulbs of a reasonable size and more have produced flower spikes than any other variety. Although this year they have been exceptionally poor, red onions never seem to produce a good crop and I think that we have finally decided to give up on them.
10 August
We picked our first ripe figs last week, only just beating the blackbird to them. They have never bothered with figs before but this year one particular bird refused to budge from the bush, (ours hardly counts as a tree), until the last possible moment. We are going to have to keep a close watch for ripening fruits.
One crop that hasn't done very well this year, is broad beans. We usually have plenty to freeze but not this year.
10 August
As far as beans go, the climbing French beans have saved the day - or should  say season? We are still picking from the Cobras and the purple Cosse Violette are not in full production mode. It's a pity that they revert to green when cooked. 

 I thought the sweet peas would be over now. Some have very short stems but they are still flowering and providing picking material.
11 August
The Oullins Gage plums are ripening quickly with many needing to be cleared from the ground around the tree each time we visit the plot. The first plums to ripen seems to do so prematurely and most of this first ripening seem to contain a plum moth larva. Later ripened fruits tend to be relatively clear of infestation but just in case we always cut the fruits in half before eating. To be honest we do this for most fruits other than of course berries! Oullins Gage are always the first of our plums to ripen and they are delicious. So far no wasps have found them. I'm not sure whether this means that the wasps are finding other food at the moment or that the waspinators are working.
On Saturday, Martyn decided to lift the potatoes growing in our trial variety bed. As some crops had finished we were managing to water the potato beds. We didn't expect this to help increase the yield but rather to soften the ground so that the potatoes could be dug up easier. In that it seemed to work but as expected the actual yield was poor.

We had decided that this year's trial was hardly a fair test and so we would try out the same varieties next year. There are a least enough potatoes for us to have a taste test and we have  doubts about some varieties so this may change. The colouration of Apaches is interesting.
 Finally I cut some flowers from the annual and perennial beds. I was in a hurry and didn't have time to arrange the flowers in the vase so don't look too closely.

This week I am linking to harvest Monday hosted on 

Dave's blog Our Happy Acres

Sunday, August 12

Annual flower patch

Before you start to get involved in this post, I will warn you it is very photo heavy and if that isn't enough, and you stay the course, there is a video at the end too!

Regular readers will know that I like to grow annual flowers on our allotment. We always devote a bed or two to an annual mix.
After trying various methods of raising the seeds, I now sow as many varieties as is possible direct, only starting the more tender types in seed trays. The seeds are not sown into the soil as, our soil is very heavy clay, so we sow in trenches of compost. Our method is shown here.
Most years I go through the same ritual. I sow the seeds, some seem to fail to germinate, I sow more seeds.  Then some of the early 'failures 'start to pop up amongst the later sowing. I make sure the seeds are well watered, as the surface of the compost dries, quickly, and hope that the slugs keep away. The seedlings always seem to take for ever to grow and I always decide that they are going to fail and then things suddenly take off.

I buy a mixture of hardy annual and some half hardy annuals which I tweak from year to year. Some always feature such as annual cornflowers.
The only trouble with cornflowers is the tedious job of dead-heading which needs to be done if you don't want the patch to look messy.

I also always grow clarkia.

The clarkia brings a more spire like shape to the mix as does godetia.
Nigella has also earned a permanent place on the list. A year or so ago they appeared in a packet of mixed seeds. Until that point I thought that I didn't like them but having grown them I changed my mind.
Even though the individual flowers don't last long I also always sow poppies Again this is another plant that needs dead heading if it is to continue flowering.
I also always grow calendula - I really like the creamy coloured varieties.
For a few years I have tried to grow didiscus but the slugs have ruined my attempts. This year I have succeeded. The flowers are really pretty but get a bit lost in the annual mix.

I usually sow two patches of annuals. The above photos show the first bed.

The second bed is sown a little later.
It usually starts to flower a week or so after the first sowing.
Despite using the same seeds, the second bed always seems to grow taller and fills out more.
I also direct sow cosmos in this bed as the slightly later sowing date is more suitable for half hardy annuals.
This year I added rudbeckia to the mix but so far I have noticed no sign of them, other than a glimpse of what may be a rudbeckia hiding amongst the other plants.

This year, because I was given a packet of seeds I grew some zinnias but, although they are pretty, I don't think they fit in with the informality of the bed. To be honest they were really added to fill gaps.
I was dead heading the cornflowers the other day and was in very good company. The flowers were alive with small bees.
So besides adding a splash of colour to they allotment, annual flowers are worth growing as a much needed nectar bar for our buzzing friends.

Now, if you haven't had enough maybe you would like to spend about 14 minutes taking a walk around the flowers on our plot.  This includes areas other than the annual flower beds. If you don't want to listen to me waffling on, you can always turn off your speakers.

Wednesday, August 8

Hoverfly - no idea which one!

Monday, August 6

Rain but in the wrong place!

The last harvest of July was full of beans. The Cobra Climbing French beans are producing beans by the bucketful every other day, and although much more restrained the runner beans are also producing a few beans. The latter seems to be far less happy in the hot, dry conditions and many of the beans they produce are far smaller than usual, the seeds also seem to swell inside the pods quickly. Fortunately Cobra is making up for this shortfall and the Cosse Violette, purple climbing bean, should have some beans to harvest soon.

We are also harvesting broad beans as required. There won't be enough for freezing this year.
31 July
We are now pulling peas from the third and final sowing. One observation is that the first sowing of peas had more pods spoiled by pea moth caterpillars. The second sowing had no caterpillars at all and this third lot so far has just one or two spoiled pods. I guess that this means that there were two generations of pea moths and the second sowing flowered between the two generations.

After watering the bed a few times, Martyn managed to not only lift the remaining Casablanca potatoes but also to dig the bed over and cover it with weed control fabric.
Now that we have completely harvested some crops and a few beds no longer need watering, we have begun to water the potato beds. At this stage it is not likely to increase the yield but it may mean that harvesting will be a bit easier.
The cherry tomatoes are ripening well. We have grown Sungold and a windowsill variety, Red Robin. The Red Robins are the ones on the middle line of the above group of photographs. As we are not growing them on a windowsill there are three plants to each of two large tubs. Surprisingly, Sungold are not splitting this year. No doubt now that I have said that they will start.  So far we have had no larger tomatoes and, like others have reported, we are losing quite a few to blossom end rot. Of late this seems to be a problem most years. At one time we had never come across it.
2 August
We are still cutting lots of courgettes and I have to admit that not all of them are eaten. Last year for some reason we hardly had any fruits which is why we really don't want to cut down the number of plants we grow.
We are still picking berries. I've been picking blueberries for weeks. The plant that was first to fruit is now devoid of berries. The second has very small berries but the other two plants are producing good sized fruit and still have quite a lot of berries to ripen.

The blackcurrants have been smaller than usual too and, although you wouldn't guess from looking at the berries being produced by our thornless blackberry, there are not as many very large fruits as usual.
Last week we picked the first usable, Oullins Gage plums. As is usually the case the first plums to ripen house a grub. This is one good reason to always cut a plum in half before eating. We are hopefully past that stage and are now picking unoccupied plums and they are delicious. It's not a time for complacency though, some grubs may still be in residence so all fruit will still be cut in half before going anywhere near our mouths.
After being without homegrown carrots, what a treat it is to be able to harvest them again. Ours are true wonky carrots and not those that masquerade as wonky in the supermarkets.

We are pulling onions as required although I have begun lifting them and leaving them to dry in the sun. If anything will encourage some rain then that is it! I've already dried off and lifted the shallots, some of which are larger than the onions
We grew two varieties of shallots, Red Sun, (top left), and Golden Gourmet (top right). Of the two Red Sun has certainly yielded the best crop. The bulbs are on the whole larger and there are far less tiny bulbs than there are from the Golden Gourmet.
4 August
Apples are beginning to fall from the tree and we are harvesting those that are otherwise in good condition.
At the end of each plot visit we need to allow time to pick all the sweet peas. At one point last week we had six vases of flowers in the house and my sister had at least two. The stems are becoming much shorter now so maybe this is a sign that the flowering period won't last too much longer.
Sweet peas are not the only cut flowers that we are bringing home. We have managed to find room for a collection of perennial and annual cut flowers. In the vase below we have, dahlias, gaillardia, cosmos, ageratum, clarkia and cornflowers.
By the way, on Friday, we were caught in a downpour complete with thunderstorm.  Unfortunately we found the rain rather than it finding us. We were in the North Yorkshire Moors at the time and on arriving home not a drop of rain had fallen. I think someone is holding a giant umbrella over our part of the country.

This week I am linking to harvest Monday hosted on 

Dave's blog Our Happy Acres