Thursday, 18 September 2014

A Seedy Post

These packets of vegetable seeds are what I've got left over from the last few years.

Some of the packets haven't been opened, some of the packets are only half full, some are in date, some are out of date, some are varieties which I grow every year and some are varieties which I've tried and won't bother growing again. They all need sorting out, but most of them will be passed on to people who can use them.

With all those seeds in hand, why do I find it necessary to visit Poppleton Garden Centre, part of The Garden Centre Group, each year when they reduce their seeds to 50p per packet? To be fair, there were some seeds I definitely needed as I'd run out of them, and I wanted to pick up some more of the living rabbit food which I grew this year for my bunnies as it was very popular with them, but I still managed to come away with twenty three packets of seeds, which cost me £11.50. If I'd paid full price for the seeds, they would have cost £67.15 so I made a saving of £55.65. They didn't have the tomatoes I wanted so I've still got them to buy, but I got most other things.

When you consider how much veg costs these days, £11.50 is a small price to pay for the seeds to grow my own, and it's always tastier than what you can buy in a supermarket.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Life's A Peach

Just about all of the peaches on my little peach tree split after the heavy rain we had a while ago, there were just two survivors.

I'd been looking forward to trying these all summer and the time finally came last week. They felt much softer than they had done and the fruit came away from the tree very easily.

This is what they looked like inside. Unfortunately, they were still rather hard and not at all juicy, but they did taste very peachy.

I'm hoping that I can do better next year. The tree is very small so I think I may keep it inside the greenhouse right through the year, this should avoid it having to cope with any sudden rainfall, therefore avoiding stone fruit pit split and should also reduce the threat of peach leaf curl.

I'm happy that I got a couple of peaches to try this year, I just need to make sure that they're up to scratch in future.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Sarah Raven's Cutting Garden Journal Winner

Thank you to everyone who entered the giveaway to win a copy of Sarah Raven's Cutting Garden Journal.

I'm pleased to announce that the name drawn out of the hat at random was Eleanor from Stitches and Seeds. Well done, Eleanor, I hope you enjoy the book. Can you please let me have your name and address details so that I can pass these on to the publishing company so they can send out your prize.

This was a very popular giveaway, there were lots of entrants, so if any of you fancy buying yourself a copy of this book, don't forget that the publishing company are offering it at the discounted price of £11.99 including p&p. Please look at Sarah Raven's Cutting Garden Journal post for details.

Monday, 8 September 2014

My Latest Harvest

Not a bad haul, spuds, tomatoes, three varieties of beans, squash  and courgettes. I missed off the yellow raspberries which also came home from the plot.

I've grown potatoes both in containers and at the allotment this year. The ones here are from the plot, they're much dirtier when dug up than container grown ones. I stopped growing potatoes in the ground when we had our last plot as they attracted so much slug damage, but the one's I've grown this year on the new plot have been brilliant, I've only found one damaged potato so far. It means that I can cut down on the number of containers I plant up with potatoes as I'll be able to grow them in the ground from now on, though I'll still continue to plant a few in pots.

This is Custard White patty pan squash. There's absolutely loads growing on a monster plant so I think there'll be lots more to harvest on our next visit. These will be served with our roast chicken dinner tonight.

The courgettes are still producing a good amount. Stuffed courgette is a regular on the menu at the moment.

I picked this colander of tomatoes yesterday. I've now cut all the leaves off the tomato plants to allow the remaining green tomatoes to ripen.

Purple Cascade and Cobra climbing French beans and St George runner beans. I made a late sowing of beans as well as the ones which I planted out earlier in the season. These are still from the first sowing so I'm hoping that the weather stays fine for a good few weeks yet as there's absolutely loads still to come. My freezer is being well stocked up. Some of these beans will make it on to our plate tonight too.

The season isn't even nearly over yet, we're still bringing plenty of things home with us from the plot.

Don't forget, if you haven't yet entered my giveaway, you've got until twelve noon on Thursday the 11th of September 2014 to do so. Just leave a comment on my Sarah Raven's Cutting Garden Journal post.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

A Success Of Sorts

I didn't expect much from my tomatoes after the bad start they had this year, but some of the plants have come good in the end.

My final tomato plant list for this year looked like this:-

Greenhouse Plants
Costoluto Fiorentino
Gardeners Delight
Alicante (bought from the local plant sale)

Outdoor Plants
Costoluto Fiorentino
Gardeners Delight
Ailsa Craig X 2

Outdoor Bush Plants
Maskotka X 2 (bought from the local plant sale)
Gartenperle (bought from the local plant sale)

There hasn't been much difference between the greenhouse grown plants and the outdoor plants this year, even though I've been trying the self watering containers I bought in the greenhouse, though this year probably isn't the best year to come to any conclusion over them because of the problems I encountered with the plants, so I shall watch closely again next year for any difference between the plants grown in them and the plants grown in ordinary grow bags.

There's been a huge difference in the plant varities this year though. The stars of the show were undoubtedly the two Maskotka plants which I bought from the local plant sale. I shall definitely grow these again next year but I'll have a go at growing them from seed this time. They got a thumbs up from my dad too, he's really been enjoying the ones I've taken for him.

Ildi has got to be the worst performer, not just because the plant didn't produce much fruit but also because I didn't like the taste of the tomatoes. They're the little orange ones in the photo above.

I didn't enjoy the Gartenperle tomatoes, they're the small, pinkish red tomatoes in the first photo. They had a very thick skin so I won't bother growing them again. I've already disposed of this plant.

Many of the Costoluto Fiorentino tomatoes split. I presume that was because we got so much rain after a dry spell, but they didn't go to waste, they can still be eaten.

Totem has been a star again. It's such a small plant and doesn't take up much space as it doesn't sprawl as some of the other bush varieties do, it gives a good yield and the tomatoes are larger than cherry tomatoes but slightly smaller than a salad tomato. It's got a good taste too. I grew this variety last year and was impressed with it then and it will be on my list of tomatoes to grow again next year.

The Gardener's Delight hasn't produced as large a crop as it usually does, but I'm putting that down to the problems I had with my plants at the start of the year. I'm not sure if it will be on my list again for next year now that I'll be growing Maskotka, which is another cherry variety.

Both the Alicante and Ailsa Craig have done ok in the end too.

I've had a large enough harvest to keep both our household and my mum and dad supplied throughout summer, as well as sending bags full back to York with Daniel when he's been home. He doesn't like tomatoes but his girlfriend does. There's still lots of fruit on the plants waiting to ripen too, so it hasn't turned out to be quite the disastrous tomato year that I thought it was going to be.

The tomatoes I've definitely decided on so far for next year are Maskotka and Totem. I think I need to do a bit of thinking about which others to add to the list.

I just want to mention my carrots. They don't warrant a post of their own as there wasn't many more than these few which I pulled a couple of weeks ago.

I never got round to sowing any in the ground, even though I did invest in some Enviromesh to keep the carrot root fly at bay, but some seed was sown in an old water tank which is on the plot, though germination wasn't very good. The carrots were very tasty though.

Don't forget, if you haven't yet entered my giveaway, you've got until twelve noon on Thursday the 11th of September 2014 to do so. Just leave a comment on my Sarah Raven's Cutting Garden Journal post.

Monday, 1 September 2014

Sarah Raven's Cutting Garden Journal

I was delighted when I was asked if I'd like to review Sarah Raven's Cutting Garden Journal which has been published by Frances Lincoln, ( , @Frances_Lincoln ), and is due to be released on the 4th of September. I'm even more delighted that I'm able to give one of you the chance to win a copy for yourself and for those of you who aren't lucky enough to win, there's also a reader offer so that you can buy the book at a discounted price.

This book is a journal format of Sarah Raven's first ever book, The Cutting Garden, which was published nearly twenty years ago. The help and advice it contains is as relevant now as it was then. It's split in to months and each month is divided up in to various sections.

There are flowers suggested for each month and I like that as well as giving information on how best to grow each particular plant, certain varieties which are good for cutting are recommended.

Jobs are split up month by month so that you know what you should be getting on with, and there's space to jot down any notes you want to make.

I'm rubbish when it comes to flower arranging so the project of the month section is great for me. It tells you the equipment and plants you'll need and also the method to get a stunning arrangement. These aren't just vase displays but also such things as a winter medallion or a corn sheaf, so something a little different too.

As you'd expect, the book contains lots of other useful and interesting information such as the planning of the garden, cultivating plants, growing shrubs, trees and year round foliage and growing in a mixed garden if you don't have room for a separate area to devote to cut flowers.

There's even advice on choosing the right vase. I can see how the look of an arrangement can change according to what it's placed in.

I think this is a great book if you're thinking of growing flowers for cutting. I shall be reading through it and making notes ready for the start of the next growing season.

The publishers are offering a copy of this book as a giveaway prize, so if you'd like to be in with a chance of winning a copy of Sarah Raven's Cutting Garden Journal, just leave a comment on this post by twelve noon on Thursday the 11th of September 2014. A name will be drawn at random soon after. Please note that this giveaway is open to UK/EU only and that I will be passing on the winner's name and address details to the publishing company in order for them to send out your prize.

If you're not lucky enough to win, you could always treat yourself to a copy as the publishers are offering Sarah Raven's Cutting Garden Journal at a discounted price.

To order Sarah Raven's Cutting Garden Journal at the discounted price of £11.99 including p&p* (RRP: £14.99), telephone 01903 828503 or email and quote the offer code APG200. 

*UK ONLY - Please add £2.50 if ordering from overseas.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Garden Visiting In August

The weather forecast for Bank Holiday Monday was better in North Yorkshire than West Yorkshire so we decided on a trip to Yorkshire Lavender. Fourteen miles north east of York, it's well signposted along the way. We've visited before, back in 2010, but it was earlier in the year, before the lavender was flowering, so I thought we'd make a return trip to see how it looked in bloom.

Yorkshire Lavender is set in the beautiful Yorkshire countryside, it's not hard to see why I love this county so much.

The first thing you encounter is the scent of lavender, not surprising really as there are so many plants here, a real lavender lover's delight. They're well labelled too so that you know which varieties they are.

A sign you don't see in many gardens. It's nice to know you're free to have a little touch as lavender plants are so tactile.

There's lots of lavender tips too, I didn't know this one but I shall be giving it a try as I'm not a very good sleeper.

As you would expect, many of the gardens focus on lavender.

There are some mixed borders too. I didn't think they were so well kept, they didn't wow me, but perhaps they're just a little bit tired now that it's coming to the end of the season.

There's a maze made out of lavender which the visiting children were enjoying very much.

You can see the paths of the maze better in this photo.

There's a warning that the bees enjoy using the maze too, but I doubt they'd bother you, they're too busy enjoying the lavender.

It isn't just bees that can't get enough of it either, this ladybird was enjoying it too.

I loved this idea of using broken pots to display sempervivums, I think I may do this myself. I'm always inspired when looking round gardens.

There's a well stocked nursery, though I found it quite expensive, but they do have a very good range of herbs.

There's also a shop which sells all manner of things lavender related, but again, rather expensive.

We knew before we set off that dogs aren't allowed in Yorkshire Lavender so our visit was quite a short one as Archie had to stay in the car, but to be honest, I had enough time to see what I wanted to see. I think if the lavender had been in bloom on our first visit we wouldn't have returned, it was only a case of wanting to see it in flower, but now that we have, it's a place I won't bother with again. I can recommend it if you're a real lavender lover but I have to say that I've preferred the other gardens we've visited this year.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Onion Harvest

I think my onions have done better this year than ever before. We don't use that many onions so I don't grow very many, about eighty in total, but it's great that the ones I have grown have done very well. The varieties I grew were Turbo and Red Baron, both from sets.

I've never had any success with red onions previously, but even they've done ok this year. Some are rather small, but still usable.

Once they've been lifted, I stack them in these trays to dry off.

The trays are ideal as they're stackable and they allow air to circulate the whole way around the onions. I got them from our local greengrocer.

The onions look much nicer once they've been cleaned up.

I had quite a few onions sending up flower spikes this year. They don't store well when this has happened so I shall have to watch for signs of them rotting as I don't know which ones have tried to flower and which ones haven't now.

Of course, there's also the shallot harvest, they've also done well. They've been dried out but are now waiting to be cleaned up.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Damn The Weather

If pests don't get our crops, something else will. In the case of my peaches, the weather.

Can you see the split in the fruit? Apparently, this is caused by heavy downpours after a hot, dry period. It's known as stone fruit pit split.

I'd kept the little tree in the greenhouse earlier on in the season to avoid peach leaf curl but moved it outside to allow the fruit to ripen in the sunshine. If only I'd kept it in there, this probably wouldn't have happened.

I haven't had a really good look at the fruit yet, there may be some peaches without the splits, though they're all fairly small and still rock hard. I'm not really sure when they should be ripe, I think I need to do a little research.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Tomato Disappointment

I'm disappointed with my tomatoes this year. I was hoping for great things from them after doing so well last year, especially as I'd invested in three self watering containers for them too.

Unfortunately, they got off to a bad start as the compost I'd used to prick the seedlings out in to wasn't up to much. The tiny plants stopped growing altogether and turned a sickly yellow colour but I managed to save them by repotting them in to some fresh compost. This rescue worked and they responded well turning back to a lovely shade of green and growing away. Then, the unthinkable happened, they got left in a hot greenhouse with no ventilation and I thought they were beyond hope, but they rallied and picked up yet again.

I think the problems they suffered as young plants has affected them though as they're really not doing very well at all this year. If it wasn't for the Maskotka plants which I bought at a nearby plant sale, I'd have had very little in the way of tomatoes yet this year. These plants have done really well and they're a variety I'll definitely consider next year.

As you can see, a couple of salad type tomatoes have ripened recently too. These are Alicante, another plant I bought at the plant sale.

All is not lost though, the Ailsa Craig which I grew from seed is now just starting to ripen.

The problem with the plants I grew from seed and that suffered as seedlings is that they're not carrying very much fruit. Many of the plants look old before they're time too, they're just not very healthy looking at all. In hindsight, I should have disposed of them and started again, or bought all the plants in.

This is Costoluto Fiorentino, just starting to ripen. It looks very ugly from this angle.

Taken from another angle, you can see that it's a ribbed variety. It's a beef tomato and very tasty.

It takes quite a bit of time and care to grow tomatoes from seed so I'm wondering if I should cut my losses and buy in plants next year. It's alright saying that now but I know that when it comes to sowing time I'll never resist sowing some tomato seed.

On a more positive note, my blueberries have done exceptionally well this year. They're just starting to slow down now but have kept us supplied with a small picking each day. There's been enough to share with my mum and dad, they've enjoyed having fresh blueberries sprinkled on their breakfast cereal. This was yesterday's smaller harvest.

As one crop does well, another doesn't do quite so well and that's the way it goes with gardening. I wonder what's in store for us next year.

Friday, 8 August 2014

No Trip To The Allotment...

...the weather's too bad. Thunder storms here tonight with short power cuts. It doesn't stop the dog walks though...

...much to Archie's disgust.

He doesn't like this weather at all, and who can blame him?