Monday, July 31

Wouldn't you just know it?

Our first lot of brassicas have now been cleared. From this we managed to harvest a few vegetables including a cauliflower that was turning pink. Other than the colour it was fine. The pinkish tinge develops when the head is exposed to light and being the last head to be harvested, it had been subjected to more light than the ones picked earlier. The pink colour was just cosmetic and disappeared after cooking so didn't affect our enjoyment when eating it.
25 July
The week before last, we picked a couple of curved cucumbers, last week we harvested one that would almost pass the supermarket test. It may have been rejected on length grounds but it could out compete any supermarket fruit in a crispness challenge.

The Oullins Gage plums are ripening quickly now. Each year at some stage the wasps move in, so this year I decided to make a couple of waspinators using large brown paper bags. Wouldn't you just know it? These were hung up just before the first 'proper' rain we have had in a while so probably will be papier mâché when we next see them. I'll take a couple more bags just in case.
The plums were delicious so all I can say is that the wasps have good taste.
We picked our first three runner beans to add to the Cobra, French climbing beans. We have three varieties of each but the runner bean, Celebration and Cobra are the first to produce beans. Celebration is unusual for a runner bean in that it has pink flowers.
28 July
On the subject of flowers we have had plenty to choose from for cutting material. The dahlia below was one that had overwintered but we weren't sure of the colour. The resulting flower was a nice surprise.

The second of our new dahlias is Franz Kafka. This time unlike the first one to flower looks as it is supposed to.
The fluffy multi-headed flowers are ageratum. Short growing varieties are used as bedding plants. I had never come across the tall growing variety before so thought that I would give it a try. Now the pollen beetles have vacated the flowers, I decided to cut some. I'll definitely be growing them again next year.
The carnations pictured above were actually cuttings grown from material provided by some cut flowers that we bought. I posted about taking the cuttings here way back in 2014.
The sweet peas are now providing armfuls of flowers.

The Kestrel potatoes however, have been far less prolific. The potatoes below are the complete harvest from one root. We are hoping that it is just that Kestrel don't like the prevailing dry conditions and that the other varieties that we are growing fare better. Certainly the early Casablancas produced a better harvest. Another factor is that the ground where the Kestrel were planted is one of the roughest parts of our allotment so it will be interesting to see how the varieties growing alongside Kestrel have performed. One of the reasons that we grow a range of varieties is to try and cater for differing conditions. 
For those of you who enjoy watching videos, Martyn put together a short film (about 6 minutes long), of the state of play of our potato crop to date.

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

Saturday, July 29

We like our peas!

We really like garden peas and so we try and grow as many as possible. We buy a large 1kg (about 2.2lb) bag of Onward pea seeds. We have tried other varieties but Onward has proved to be the most reliable for us.
Our first two rows of peas were sown on 9 April and have just about finished. The second lot were sown on 23 May and are just about ready for picking. The third lot sown on 3 June are in flower and some pods are setting. The fourth lot sown 14 July were Kelvedon Wonder and they are through and growing. Then we sowed a very short row of Onward on 17 July.
We sow direct as we have never found transplanting to be successful as the plants seem to suffer a setback and fail to produce strong plants.

Once the bed is prepared a trench is scooped out.
If the ground is really dry, as it has been for a good part of this year, the trench is watered really well.
A very generous amount of seeds are sprinkled in the trench, hence the large bag of seed. We sow far more than is advised to compensate for any poor germination or foraging  wildlife.

The soil removed from the trench is mixed with some compost from last years grow bags.
The peas are then covered with this mixture.
This is watered again to settle everything in.
Pea sicks are spread over the trench to deter animals from walking over the soil or birds dust bathing etc. This will double as supports once the peas are growing away.
Then it is important to keep the peas well watered, especially in seasons as dry as this one has been. We regularly give each row at least a can of water and often two cans especially once the pods are setting.

The first sowing of peas are usually slower growing and so are often checked by pea weevils that leave the telltale notched bite marks in the leaves.
If the peas grow particularly slowly this can be rather devastating but if the peas are growing strongly they will battle through. This is one reason that we grow Onward as we have found some of the more celebrated varieties don't grow strongly enough.

Another pest is the pea moth which lays its eggs on peas that are in flower. The tiny caterpillars then feed off the pea seeds. When fully developed they emerge from the pods and pupate in the soil. To help control them it is important to rotate your pea crop. You can also cover peas with mesh but to be honest it could get to the stage where the whole plot is covered with mesh to protect from one pest or another. We are just careful when podding the peas.
If you would like to watch our action packed pea sowing video I have posted it below. It's about 12 minutes long.

Wednesday, July 26

Just popping in for a meal

Monday, July 24

C is for cucumber

The predominant memory of last week's harvest is of travelling home with the car filled with a scent that was a mixture of ripe strawberries and sweet peas.
17 July
The Malwina strawberry plants are shrugging off the lack of rain and producing lots of their delicious fruits. They have definitely prevented our strawberry harvest from being a disappointment this year.
18 July
Each visit to the plot also sees us coming away with a large tub of very tasty Tulameen raspberries. We have also picked a sprinkling of All Gold autumn raspberries.

Our fruit collection was tending to be dominated by darker coloured berries. There were lots of blackcurrants to be picked which is quite a tedious job and took far longer than the blackbird liked. It frequently had to take sudden evasive action, always accompanied by squawking disapproval, as it was late in spotting one of us crouched amongst the bushes.

The blueberries are still ripening steadily and the fruit of the thornless, Loch Ness, blackberry is starting to ripen.
We also picked some very sweet ripe wine coloured gooseberries. The variety is unknown as they came from cuttings from a plot neighbour's plants. The berries are small and a dusky, dark pink when ripe.

We picked the first few chard leaves. It's a while since we have grown chard as we found the taste rather earthy but we've decided to give it another go. It maybe that the stems are the earthy tasting part. It just seems that many people harvest chard when not much else is growing so we thought we may be missing something. 
We picked our first couple of handfuls of Cobra, climbing French beans. As we have picked the last of the first lot of cauliflowers we are moving from brassicas and into beans.

We are still harvesting peas from our first sowing. These are nearly finished now but the second sowing now has pods swelling.
22 July
The courgettes haven't yet assumed unmanageable glut proportions and we have picked our first two Burpless Tasty Green cucumbers. One had been nibbled at the end and both were an appropriate C shape. Supermarket rejects for sure but certainly not rejected by us.
Last week, I posted about how we are growing watercress in our garden pond. We've been picking it as required for a while but it has never been photographed so this week I put that right.

The sweet peas are now providing armfuls of flowers. Most of the flowers are still being supported on extremely long stems. Has anyone else found this to be the case with their sweet peas this year?

For those of you who have said you enjoy watching the videos of our plot, last week I put together a film showing the fruit trees that are planted on the plot. It's about 14½ minutes long.  

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

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