Monday, July 23

Proof that watering has been worth it

If ever there was proof that we have done the right thing by keeping up our watering regime, Martyn's first attempt at lifting our early potatoes is it.

I have previously described how potatoes have been our sacrificial crop and have been neglected as far as watering is concerned and we feared that our potato harvest would be a failure. Unfortunately so far this fear has been realised.

I used the word attempted earlier as digging up the Casablanca potatoes proved just about impossible. Martyn posted about this here so I am not going to repeat his post here. Suffice it to say that digging potatoes from rock hard soil  is challenging and yields very little for the effort expended. 
The Casablanca potatoes were just as tasty as usual but there were very few tubers and they were on the small side.
16 July
The peas on the other hand have been nurtured and we are now harvested the second sowing of Onward and also Oregon Sugarpod. With plenty to harvest this week many of the peas and mangetout have been frozen. We will enjoy those once the harvests start to diminish.

The courgettes are now coming thick and fast keeping me on my toes finding ways of using them. Martyn used some in a second batch of piccalilli and we also used some in a courgette, potato and mint frittata

I think we have reached the point though where we will be on the look out for homes for a few as there is a limit to how many courgettes can be used in a week. Some, however, will be frozen. (I've added a link on the sidebar to ways we have used courgettes or had recommended).
17 July
Our first brassica bed has almost been cleared with just a few remaining calabrese plants left that may produce some more sideshoots. Once the remaining plants are removed it will be interesting to see whether, after all the watering, that bed and the ones containing the now cropped remnants of the first sown peas, will be in a better condition than that housing the Casablanca potatoes.
Our second sowing of broad beans - Masterpiece Green Longpod, have performed better that the earlier sown Witkiem Manita. Usually Witkien Manita crops well but this year they have had all manner of weather conditions thrown at them and the Masterpiece plants have only had the heat to contend with whilst we have attempted to compensate for the drought by keeping them well watered. I must admit I do prefer the small green beans of the Masterpice beans to the greyer green, larger Witkiem Manita beans.

19 July
The carrot and parsnip tops are growing really well but we thought we would sneak a peek at what was going on underground in the carrot bed. The carrots are still rather small but we harvested a few roots as a treat. Last year our carrot growing was a complete failure so we had to rely on shop bought roots. The few that we picked last week confirmed why we go to so much trouble to grow carrots. No shop bought carrots can come anywhere close to the sweet flavour of homegrown.
Although we are waiting for our first picking of runner beans, we have started to harvest the Cobra, climbing French beans. We haven't grown dwarf French beans for a while as we find the climbing varieties produce a better, cleaner, slug damage, (with the possible exception of the beans growing at the base of the vines), free crop. They are also much easier to harvest.

21 July
We didn't think we would have any gooseberries this year. I pruned most of our bushes in the recommended way to allow air flow and cut down the chances of mildew. All to no avail as they fell foul of mildew and the berries spoiled. We have a couple of plants that I forgot about. They grow up the fence along, and smothered by,  with the kiwi vine. Guess where I found some beautiful large ripe berries? They say gardening isn't an exact science. In theory it should have been these plants that were affected by mildew! Maybe the mildew spores just couldn't find these plants.
As well as coming away with armfuls of sweet peas at the end of every plot visit, we are starting to gather other flowers to bring home.

This week I am linking to harvest Monday hosted on 

Dave's blog Our Happy Acres

Wednesday, July 18

Just a few shots of gannets and puffins taken at Bempton Cliffs

Monday, July 16

Rich Pickings.

Still hot and sunny.  Still no rain and lots more watering. 
Our first brassica bed is starting to look depleted and will shortly need clearing. Will the watering of the plants mean that the ground will be more diggable. Who knows?

At the moment it is still providing a harvest. This week we have had cauliflowers, cabbage and some sprigs of calabrese. More coleslaw was made and some cauliflower is destined for piccalilli.
9 July
The courgettes are starting to come thick and fast. We managed to give some away but it's time to dig out the courgette recipes. Some of these went into a vegetable tagine which had courgettes as a main ingredient.
The thornless Loch Ness blackberry is now producing ripe fruits to add to our berry collection.
12 July
The first lot of peas are now coming to an end. Most have gone into the freezer to give us homegrown garden peas into winter. Pods on the second planting are now starting to swell so shortly we will be picking those.
We had our first picking of Oregon Sugarpod mangetouts. This is the best harvest of mangetout that we have ever had. The Nairobi mangetout that we also planted are a complete flop.
14 July
Another addition to our berry harvest were a punnet of blackcurrants. These and the blueberries seem to be responding to the dry weather by producing smaller berries. Maybe these should have been included in our watering regime but there is only so much you can do.
The sweet peas are keeping us busy with fresh flowers to pick on every plot visit. Last week I picked a few other flowers too.

This week I am linking to harvest Monday hosted on 

Dave's blog Our Happy Acres

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.