Monday, August 20

Time for a few other jobs!

The rain on Monday gave us a bit of time off watering and so we were able to tackle a few other jobs.

Martyn managed to tidy up the two beds from which he had dug some potatoes and then sowed them with green manure. He sowed buckwheat in one and grazing rye in the other.
I tidied up the purple, Glencoe raspberries and the Black Jewel raspberries. Both of these are clump forming and grow like blackberries. They had already grown very long, new canes that were whipping around in the wind and so needed attention before the new canes spoiled. Each year all the canes, that had fruited earlier that year, are cut out completely and the new canes are tied in to wires. Side shoots will grow from the new canes and, will hopefully,  carry next year's berries.
As most of our strawberries died this year, we decided to buy some new plants of a variety called Sweetheart. These were advertised as being specially prepared to fruit this August. So far the plants have only produced one or two flowers so it looks as though that promise is not going to be realised. The plants have, however, produced a mass of runners. Maybe if I had not been so preoccupied with watering and had removed these earlier the plants would have concentrated their efforts on fruiting. Anyway it's too late for that now but not too late to pot up a dozen rooted runners.

On each visit to the plot, one of our first jobs is to pick up all the fallen fruit. Fruit naturally falls from the trees but the winds this week have made matters worse. A path runs under the plum and greengage trees and fallen plums on a path can be messy and slippery. 

Every other day at least, we are picking up buckets full of spoiled plums. Martyn has also cut back some tree branches as some were so heavily laden with fruit that they bent down and made the pathway almost unusable.

There are also plenty of windfall apples which need picking up. All this spoiled fruit means that our compost heap resembles a giant fruit basket and some diners are quick to move in.

With all this spoiled fruit you would think there wasn't much left for us but in fact we have so many plums that we are now given lots away. 

So far the wasps are leaving the fruit on the plum and greengage trees. There are plenty of wasps around so are my waspinators working?
13 August
The greengage trees have produced a record breaking harvest, for a few years now the two trees have only produced enough fruit to remind us of what we are missing.
Being green it is quite difficult to tell when the fruits are ripe. It is also quite a surprise when you taste them as they are so sweet and delicious so having an abundance of them this year is a real treat.

The Vivaldi potatoes were lifted this week and as with the potatoes harvested earlier the crop was a mere shadow of what it should have been. There were very few of the large tubers that the variety should produce.
15 August
As well as bringing tomatoes home from the allotment we are also picking them from the garden greenhouse. All of these were cooked down to make a sauce which has been portioned and popped in the freezer.
As well as providing us with tomatoes we are now picking grapes from the greenhouse. The variety is Himrod which is sweet and seedless.
Our second planting of brassicas are now being harvested, the calabrese is Montclano and the cabbage is Kalibos. 
16 August
The purple climbing French beans have now picked up the baton from Cobra and are producing buckets full of beans, however, the runner beans are still disappointing.
18 August
Not featured in the photos are the apples that we pick and are eaten straight from the tree when we have a coffee break whilst at the plot. Is there a better way to enjoy apples?

The herbs and salad leaves picked straight from the garden don't feature either as they are usually picked and used immediately with no time to pose for their portraits.
We are still picking sweet peas but have long given up on trying to completely clear the flowers. Not only are there hundred of flowers but many now have hardly any stem at all. Maybe it's the plants way of thwarting me and trying to be left to produce seed pods.

No problem though as there are plenty other flowers to provide cutting material.

This week I am linking to harvest Monday hosted on 

Dave's blog Our Happy Acres

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.