Saturday, July 14

Is all the watering worth it?

On Gardeners' World, the other week, Monty Don sowed some carrot seeds. He scattered some seeds on a patch of earth, raked them in and gave them a quick water. They won't need watering again he told his audience. Martyn watched  a video on YouTube a week or so ago where the gardener stated that he never watered his plot as the plant roots grew stronger searching for water, and yes he did mean this year!

So have we been wasting hours of time and energy watering our crops. Have you?

I just can't believe Monty's carrot seeds will germinate and flourish in parched soil. We always make sure that any seeds and seedlings are well watered even in a 'normal' growing season. This year we have given them closer attention.

Parsnips and carrots were sown at the beginning of May since when we have had hardly any rainfall so we made sure, on every visit that the sowing areas were well watered with the rose on the can. We had the best germination rate for years with no need to resow. Parsnip germination was as near 100% as I could tell and I needed to do lots of thinning out. Since then the plants have been well watered. The tops are growing well but whether this growth is matched by good roots, only time will tell.
 Carrots too germinated well with no resowing needed this year.
Once the seeds had produced small plants they were watered at soil level using a can without a rose. This way the water should have penetrated deeper into the ground so that roots didn't just remain in the surface layer. Above the parsnips are shown to be planted in three square areas. Each area was given two cans of water so six cans to the whole parsnip bed.

Peas have been given lots of water. We have sown Onward peas in three batches. 

The ones on the top left are being harvested at the moment. The ones on the top right are starting to produce pods,
The ones on the bottom left behind the swedes should hopefully come next and the ones on the bottom right are Oregon Sugarsnap which are almost ready to harvest.

As peas hate hot, dry weather we have watered them really well - we can do nothing about the heat. Before germination each row of peas was given a can full of water with the rose attached every other day. Once the peas were about the size of those on the bottom left, watering was increased to two can fulls with the rose removed. Then, when they were the size of the ones on the top right this was increased to four cans per row. The theory is that the more leaf growth the greater the loss of moisture through transpiration and so more water is needed by the roots.

The beans have also been well watered, about a can to 10 plants.
The runner beans are now flowering although no beans have yet set. The climbing French Cobra beans on the other hand have tiny immature beans.

The second lot of broad beans - Masterpiece Long Greenpod are performing much better than the first sowing and now sporting beans.

The squash and courgettes are now flourishing. The courgettes are producing plenty of fruit and the Crown Prince are now setting fruits. Borage plants have been set amongst the Butterbush squash. Five curcurbit plants have shared a can of water at each watering.
Brassicas have been been given the same amount of water as the squash and are doing well. The main problem has been that the heat has induced flowering mainly in the broccoli plants so the cropping isn't lasting as long as usual.
The sweetcorn plants are sturdy specimens and are now starting to produce the male tassels.  Each row of ten plants has been given a can of water.

The alliums have suffered this year. This time the villain isn't the lack of rain but gales earlier in the season. Many of the onions were either blown flat or out of the ground. As onions don't mind being dry, they have hardly been watered at all - just an occasional shower with a rose attached to keep them going a bit longer. The bulbs will be smaller this year but usable.
When first planted at blades of grass size, the leeks were flattened and we didn't hold out much hope for them but they have rallied and are now growing well. Each of three rows have received a can of water at each watering.
On the top photo, although the tomatoes in the plot greenhouse are growing well the ones on the right that have less benefit of shade are suffering a little from the heat.

The outdoor planted tomatoes on the other hand are enjoying these conditions despite the plants being the tatty leftovers.

On the photo below left are the annuals that were planted last autumn and left in the garden greenhouse over winter where they languished for too long due to cold, wet conditions. Although they are producing some flowers, they never fully recovered.  The seeds sown directly in spring are now growing well although a few resowings have been required.
Like the peas the sweet peas hate the hot, sunny conditions and have been well watered to keep them growing. They are rewarding us with masses of flowers.
The lavender has been happily fending for itself and is now a mass of flower. The butterflies and bees are loving it. Unfortunately at the moment most of the butterflies are small whites, one of the brassica growers nemeses. At least so far the more destructive large whites haven't made an appearance.
The dried flower mix is growing well now but so far I'm not too impressed by the assortment from a potpourri point of view. Hopefully the two rows on the left statice and helichrysum will be more useful.
The potatoes have really been our sacrificial plants. Although they have had a very occasional treat of some water, we just couldn't give them what we knew they required and so didn't try and have left them to struggle on. The result is that the tops hardly grew so we don't expect much of a crop.

We were hoping for a let up in our watering, as thunderstorms and heavy rain were forecast for Friday. In the event we had a paltry effort producing less than 2mm of rain, ( 0.08") so I guess the watering cans will be out again today.

So back to my original question posed by the title - I think it's safe to say that so far it has been worth it. What do you think?

Anyone out there want to save money on gym membership, we will offer free exercise routines, all you need are a couple of watering cans!

NB: Our watering cans hold 10 litres (just over 2 gallons) and we have been watering every other day.

Wednesday, July 11

First dahlia flowers

Monday, July 9

Just about keeping up

Well we are just about keeping up with watering - still not a drop of rain - and harvesting and our harvest boxes are definitely showing more variety as different crops come on stream.

There are one or two maintenance jobs need fitting in somewhere but these will have to be squeezed in as and when.

This year the blackbirds seem more generous in sharing the tayberries. We're not sure whether this is due to them having easy access to a couple of redcurrants bushes or that the gazebo that we erected a couple of weeks or so ago is making them nervous. It's years since we bothered to erect the gazebo and it is old and a bit ramshackled but it is serving the purpose of providing a shady area to retreat to.
A variety of berries are vying for time. Picking is fitted in between our regular watering regime. The potatoes are still being neglected as a lost cause but many other plants seem to be responding well to our system of  drenching the soil when we water.
2 July
We are picking a few broad beans from our first planting of Witkiem Manita. These plants never really grew well so any crop is a bonus. Our second batch of broad bean plants look more promising. The second variety is Masterpiece Green Longpod.
3 July

Calabrese is producing side shoots which are harvested quickly to avoid them starting to flower.

The cabbage is hearting up faster than we can eat it so some is  being shared and we are also eating lots of coleslaw with our lunchtime sandwiches.

The later Malwina strawberry plants have always look the healthiest and are now beginning to provide us with a few fruits. Above the first two are nestling in a bed of raspberries. Later in the week there were a few more. They didn't disappoint. Of the plants that we have grown Malwina is way above the rest on flavour.

The first lot of peas are starting to swell their pods. 
5 July
I'm picking them as soon as they are of a reasonable size, even if the peas inside the pods are small. Peas hate hot dry conditions so I am just hoping that they don't suddenly succumb to mildew. Watering the peas is one major priority. Each watering we give each row four cans of water. The second sowing are already producing pods and the Sugarsnap are flowering so my fingers are as crossed as carrying watering cans allows.

Last week we added a few spinach and leaf beet leaves to our haul. 
 It looks as though it may be time to dig out the courgette recipes.
7 July
The yellow variety - Atena Polka - is preparing for a glut and sporting lots of tiny fruits. 
We picked another cauliflower last week. There are a few small heads forming and so we are hoping more will be ready next week. We may be making piccalilli soon.
The apricot and cherry trees have been stripped so the cherry can lose its ghostly shroud. The cherries are a variety called - Stella . Martyn thinks they should be renamed Stellar as the flavour certainly has star quality.

As if we didn't have enough picking and pulling to do, the sweet peas are also flowering thick and fast. We are coming away from the allotment with bunches on every visit.
Hopefully if we pick the flowers quickly enough those horrible little pollen beetles that are browsing some of our other flowers won't infest them.
I'm sure one of the little beasts bit me the other day. Has anyone else noticed that they bite?

This week I am linking to harvest Monday hosted on 

Dave's blog Our Happy Acres

Rant alert - I am now receiving email notifications of comments so I shouldn't miss any or any comments awaiting moderation. I had to do some tweaking to settings that, unless you browse the Blogger forum, no-one bothers to tells you about!

This new GDPR business seems to be going too far to my mind. Browsing the internet is made irritating by constantly having pop-ups to agree to. Does anyone read all the privacy policies that you have to agree to in order to lose the pop-up? I'm all for protecting data but this hasn't stopped all those nuisance telephone scams which to my mind are a worse problem.

Friday, July 6

Garden greenhouse at the end of June

For those of you who like to watch videos, I have filmed a visit to our garden greenhouse. It lasts about 12 minutes.

If you would like to watch a video of our allotment plot, Martyn has posted a plot tour here

For those of you who don't like or can't watch the video - I've also taken a few photos.

One side of our greenhouse is dominated by tomato plants growing in three grow bags with some planting rings added to give an extra depth of compost and also facilitate easier watering.
The pot on the front left of the photo above is shown below in more detail.
 In this pot are four miniature patio tomato plants. The variety is Red Robin.

We are growing just three varieties of cordon tomatoes this year. The varieties are Shirley, Sungold and Tigerella.
Trailing along the bench at the far end of the greenhouse are our cucumbers These are Mini Munch which produces meal sized fruits. They usually keep us supplied with a constant harvest of fresh cucumbers as we need them.
On the floor just inside the greenhouse are some kale and Purple Sprouting broccoli plants. These are being cossetted, especially the PSB as for a few years we have had no luck growing these plants. Our plot suffers from club root and as we can't source a club root resistant variety of PSB we are trying to see if growing them on to a decent size in pots will give us more success. The plants below will be potted into larger pots shortly.
On the left are some pots of miniature aubergines, the variety is Jackpot.

Resting at the base of the peach, apricot and nectarine trees are pots containing herbs. We are growing basil, parsley and coriander.
Dripping from the roof are immature bunches of grapes. The fruits haven't been thinned out. This year they seem to have obliged us by growing already thinned.

It's at this stage in the year that the myriad of trays of seedlings give way to the larger plants as we begin harvesting from the garden greenhouse.

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

Wednesday, July 4

June in PIcrures


Monday, July 2

Things are becoming tricky

It's now becoming difficult to decide where our priorities lie. Still we have had no rain and watering is taking a great deal of our time. This is creating a dilemma, do we spend most of our time watering so that the plants that will provide a later harvest don't wither or do we concentrate on picking the things that are ready now? 

At the moment we can cope with both tasks but we are at the start of the berry picking season and usually we end up spending most of our time harvesting. We are trying to keep up with the picking but from now on it will hopefully become a major task. In one way maybe we should be grateful that the strawberries haven't produced a glut.

Raspberries, redcurrants, blueberries, jostaberries and tayberries are ripening fast and the fruit lacking nets has to be picked quickly before the blackbirds move in. At the moment we are being chastised noisily every time we pick some fruit. 
It's the first harvest that we have had from the black raspberry that we planted last year.

We are still enjoying apricots from the garden greenhouse. The sun has really done a good job of sweetening the flesh. The flavour is the best that it has been. We are hoping that the sun works the same magic on the developing peaches and nectarines.

Cherries from the potted cherry - Stella - are being added to our fruit salads.
The cherry tree was hastily draped with fleece when we noticed that a wood pigeon was stripping its leaves. The fleece has also protected some of the fruits from the birds. Basically we wrapped as many bunches of cherries as we could in fleece pouches. The tree hadn't produced much fruit in the past and so we were caught napping and had to cobble some protection quickly. Next year we will be more organised but I guess this means that the tree won't crop.
The ad hoc protection has worked as can be shown from the fact that the side of the tree that wasn't protected has been denuded of fruit.
Before I move on to the allotment harvests I should mention that we are also harvesting salad ingredients and herbs from the garden, most of which we don't photograph but we had to take a photo of our first Mini Munch cucumber.

So what did the allotment yield last week?
25 June
The first lot of broad beans that we planted didn't grow very well but at least they are providing us with a few beans. Not enough to freeze but enough to add to a few meals.
26 June
We have been disappointed with the calabrese. It headed up well, but whereas we can usually pick the heads over a week or so, this year they have been quick to flower. We had to strip the plants and freeze the heads as even when we tried keeping one in the fridge we couldn't prevent the flowers from opening. We are now hoping for some sideshoots.
I hope that the cabbages hang on. There is only so much cabbage we can eat in a week. A complete rejig of menus was required and batches of coleslaw made.
28 June
 We picked our first cauliflower this week which was a delight and a worry.  Will the cauliflower heads suffer from the same problem as the calabrese?
30 June
This head was well hidden under leaves so we will have to inspect the brassica bed closely each time we visit the plot

Flowers also featured in last week's harvest. The sweet peas are beginning to bloom in earnest. Cutting the flowers is another time consuming job. The lavender is also is loaded with buds.

The lavender bed has thrived in the dry heat and is one bed that we haven't had to water at all.  The bed is already attracting the attentions of butterflies and bees.
The first of our dahlias is providing us with cutting material. The flowers are all supposed to be the deeper purple. I wonder whether the sun is bleaching some. One problem that we haven't had for a while is that the flowers are being browsed by small, black, pollen beetles. I just hope that they don't find their way to the sweet peas as the flowers lose their appeal when the keel petals are full of beetles

As for the weather surely we will be due some rain soon, after all this is England where people imagine that it rains all the time. At this time of year the grass should be green and the lawn mower should be kept busy. Our grass should not look like this at the and of June!

This week I am linking to harvest Monday hosted on 

Dave's blog Our Happy Acres