Wednesday, August 30

North Yorkshire Moors

Monday, August 28

Why we don't put all our potatoes in one bed.

We dug more potatoes last week with very mixed results. The bed that we cleared was alongside the roadway.

The first couple of rows dug on Monday were Orla and Nadine. As I have described in previous posts, up until now most of the potatoes have had no damage at all other than a few wireworm drillings in an earlier lifted row of Orla.

With respect to the potatoes dug from this bed things were to change dramatically.
21 August
There were four rows of potatoes growing alongside one another. Of the two varieties dug on Monday, the crop of Orla had about 50% of the tubers with slug and wireworm damage and Nadine had similar problems but not as many of the tubers were affected.

On Friday the remaining two rows in this bed were lifted. This time the varieties were Vivaldi and Winston. Vivaldi showed a similar amount of damage to Nadine but the row of Winston were a complete disaster. Every tuber was riddled with slug and wireworm damage on top of which the tubers were probably the scabbiest that I have ever seem. In the past Winston has proved to be a slug favourite but never to this extent. More Winston are planted in another part of the allotment so it will be interesting to see how these compare. From this performance it looks as though Winston is off next year's list.
I think this demonstrates our reason for growing a range of varieties and not planting all the potatoes in the same part of the plot. 

Our trial potatoes varieties were lifted. We planted four tubers of six different varieties. The yield was variable. More detail will be posted at a later date. Some varieties may make our main list next year and some definitely will not. Each variety still has to pass the taste test.
Trial potatoes 25 August
Another disappointment this week was our first Rolet squash. It was rock hard and had very little flesh so it seemed hardly worth struggling to prepare it for cooking, consequently it went the way of Winston. 
 Between plot visits we have been harvesting from the garden greenhouse.
Our first sweet pepper, first aubergine and the bunch of basil shown above went into a pasta sauce and the Gardeners' Delight tomatoes and watercress below went into our lunchtime sandwich.
The Shirley tomatoes below were also destined for lunchtime sandwiches.
We picked some Mini Munch cucumbers which are just the right size for the two of us to eat in one sitting. No shop bought cucumber can compete with the crispness and juiciness of one picked fresh from the garden.
The highlight of the week, however, has to be the harvesting of the nectarines.
From outside in the garden we picked some cooking apples - Peasgood Nonsuch and Bramley - and a handful of Brown Turkey figs. The apples were combined with the blackberries picked from the plot.
On Friday I was disappointed to find that mildew has struck and had claimed the pea plants that we were harvesting. I did manage to pick some pods but many were covered in the stuff. I washed the pods to remove the white powdery mildew before shelling the peas which were fine. It's a shame as there are lots of pods still swelling. I'm not sure how many more pods I will be able to rescue or whether the last lot of peas planted, and have yet to crop, will avoid being affected.
.25 August
The Loch Ness blackberry is now at its best producing lots of large juicy berries. The first lot of berries were rather hard so maybe the recent rain has improved matters.
I wasn't expecting much from the All Gold autumn raspberries as these were tidied, split and replanted earlier in the year. 
Surprisingly they seem to have responded well to this rough treatment and are full of flowers which are being attended to by busy bees. The Joan J raspberries that I gave the same treatment the previous year still haven't recovered and are only producing a tiny amount of fruit.
A few alpine strawberries added colour to our fruit salads.
We are still harvesting Victoria plums and we are now beginning to harvest plums from the Marjorie's Seedling. This tree is the last of our plums to have ripe fruit. The two varieties look very similar. So far still no wasp activity.
The Sungold tomatoes, outdoors and in both the plot and garden greenhouses are now ripening quickly. The ones below were picked from our outdoor plants which have had some fairly rough conditions to put up with. These are plants that were left over once the greenhouses had been planted up and are more or less left to their own devices.
We have now also moved into apple picking time.
I think some of the trees will breathe a sigh of relief when they have been relieved of their heavy burden. Our Egremont Russet tree has keeled over completely. Hopefully once the apples are removed we will be able to coax it back into a more upright position. Martyn posted yesterday about the plight of our over-burdened fruit trees. It's not only this apple that has suffered.
I'm a little concerned that there are the first signs of mildew on our sweet pea plants but so far this isn't impeding their will to produce masses of flowers.
At one point I had eight vases of sweet peas in the house and that was after I had taken one of the bucketfuls above to my sister.
27 August
The pears and Egremont Russet apples above had either fallen from the tree or were casualties from broken branches.

In case you are wondering why there is a carton of eggs in the last photo - we haven't started keeping hens - the eggs are from our plot neighbours hens. It's not often that you have a multi coloured box of eggs and it is an allotment harvest of sorts.

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

Saturday, August 26

Update on annual flower bed.

Each year I create an annual flower bed in at least one part of the plot.

In the past I have sown the seeds in pots in the greenhouse and then transplanted in clumps. I posted about this technique here. It was the method that I used last year which resulted in the display shown below. The photos were taken on 30 July 2016.

I was quite pleased with the result. I then decided to use up the seeds that I had left over and sowed them directly later in July. They germinated well and I also noticed that the resulting plants grew stronger, so with this in mind, I decided this year to direct sow the main annual bed. An added advantage was that I would free up space in the greenhouse at a time when space is at a premium.

I had the following list of seeds.
The original plan was to direct sow the hardy annuals and sow the half hardy ones in modules as usual. The half hardies would later be planted in gaps between the hardy varieties.

I direct sowed the seeds in mid May. These were sown in trenches cut in weed control fabric and filled with compost.
Shortly after sowing the seeds we had a rare day of heavy rain which was followed by a short hot spell and then cool drizzly conditions.  From then on we had conditions hardly conducive to seed germination. It wasn't only the annual flowers that suffered. Many seeds that did manage to germinate fell victim to hungry slugs.

So how have things developed and what have I learned. The first thing is that in dry conditions compost dries out very quickly and, despite watering the seed bed on every visit to the plot, I'm sure some emerging seedlings suffered from being too dry. Their shallow, immature root system maybe struggled to find sufficient moisture. Our clay soil is very rough and not ideal for direct sowing of small seeds and so we have since adapted our sowing medium. We now mix the soil excavated from the trench with compost.
Growth was slow and seedlings appeared in patches. I resowed some new seed in bare areas to try and compensate but the overall patchiness wasn't helped by my decision to use the half hardy annuals in the refurbished perennial bed.

No matter how hard I tried I couldn't keep the didiscus from being demolished by slugs. I'm trying to grow some in pots on the garden at the moment but the slugs are moving in one them.

The amberboa that I was looking forward to didn't germinate at all.

In the end I have ended up with the display shown in the photos below.

I think I have ended up with less variety in the bed than previously but we still have a reasonable display. Maybe I need something frothy like the ammi which was included last year.
The calendula seeds were gathered from a flower colour that I really liked last year but unfortunately the colours haven't come true.

One thing that I have noticed however, is that the plants are much sturdier than in previous years. This is particularly apparent in the case of the poppies.
 Their stems are very strong.
Would growing in pots have been more successful? I don't think so. Transplanted seedlings always seemed to stall and flag on planting out and individual plants never ended up as strong as this year's. On top of that I reckon they would have really struggled to take off in this year's conditions. They are also just as vulnerable to slug devastation.

So moving forward to next year:
  • I will sow direct again but in a soil/compost mix and maybe slightly later than this year. Maybe the end of May.
  • I'll choose only hardy annuals for this bed.
Which variety of hardy annual would be on the top of your to grow list?

Wednesday, August 23

Summerhouse hibiscus

Monday, August 21

The wrong sort of weather

Last week the weather was just what you don't want when there is almost ripe fruit hanging on the trees and onions are being 'dried' outdoors. It was wet and windy. Plot visits have more or less been confined to a quick harvest and watering in the greenhouse. During the week, Martyn did manage to strim the grass paths and I started a bit of tidying but any activity was interspersed with coffee breaks in the shed avoiding the showers.

Sunday we managed a full afternoon, I tidied the strawberry beds and Martyn lifted potatoes and did some tidying and of course we both harvested.
This year our overwintered onions have provided us with a crop up until the summer ones being lifted. The ones above are Radar.
15 August
The cabbage in the collection above weighed in at 2.7 kg (just a smidgeon under 6lb). It was another of the so called small cabbages. I prepared it and filled a large freezer bag to be kept in the fridge to use throughout the week. It keeps quite well this way.
We now have a steady supply of tomatoes from the garden greenhouse and from outside on the plot. Incredibly, those planted outdoors are ripening sooner than those in the plot greenhouse. So far we have harvested Sungold and Gardeners' Delight. The pace of ripening is steady, just enough to provide us with fresh fruits for lunch. 

We are still cropping watercress from our garden pond but it looks as though this will soon be ready to be cut back.
We are picking peaches and nectarines from the trees in the garden greenhouse and they are chin drippingly juicy.

We also have figs ripening in the garden. Just enough to add to our fruit salads.

I'm still picking peas, blackberries and blueberries on each visit to the plot. 
17 August
Martyn dug more potatoes - this time the variety is Vivaldi and Nadine. Again there was no pest although one potato did have the possible sign of blight. This may have been something else as it is strange that we haven't noticed a problem with the foliage, other than there being wilting due to a lack of rain. Also only one potato was affected. We have now sampled Casablanca, Orla, Amour and Vivaldi and all have produced very tasty tubers. Despite the lack of rain or any artificial watering, Vivaldi has produced some good sized potatoes.
We haven't grown summer squash before so the Yellow Scallop below is our first ever summer squash harvest,
We are being kept busy picking and preparing climbing French and runner beans. All our varieties are now cropping. So far this is the only crop that is giving us anything that could be called a glut. The courgettes seem surprisingly shy to produce this year.
I guess you could say that we have a glut of sweet peas but it's a glut that I can happily cope with.
19 August
The greengages are ripe and deliciously sweet in spite of the fact that they are not the prettiest looking fruit. All the fruit within reach from our two trees has been picked now.
We are also still picking Victoria plums and still the wasps have kept away. Coincidence or are the waspinators working. At the moment they have been weather battered and so have been given a makeover. This time to strengthen them I have used a double layer of paper bags.

We are picking apples to eat fresh from the plot and the garden. The ones  below are the variety that we think is Discovery.
The ones below is Peasgood Nonsuch picked from the garden. They were cooked and mixed with some blackberries.
We had been waiting to pick a fruit from one of our small apple trees. This has been the first year that Baya Marisa, or to give it, it's more easily remembered name Tickled Pink, has produced fruit. The flesh of the fruit is red almost to the core as can be seen in the photo below.
 I expected a sweet tasting apple but we found it to have a sharp, tart flavour.
The potatoes below are Nadine.
20 August
I thought that I would give you a break from photographs of sweet peas but I have to include a photos representing our flower harvest. The flowers below were picked from our perennial and annual beds.
Martyn has produced a video about our Vivaldi harvest. The video is just over 8 minutes long.