Sunday, 30 August 2009

If You Go Down To The Woods Today.....

I'm not actually sure if this is a bear or not, perhaps a rabbit looking at the long ears, but this is what we came across during our day out to RHS Harlow Carr in Harrogate today. What a great way to collect leaves to make leaf mould. I'm quite embarrassed to say that I've never been to RHS Harlow Carr before, as I live so close. I really enjoyed it though and will definitely return, I can highly recommend it.

There is a lovely woodland trail where we came upon a bird hide. We only saw sparrows, blue tits and a robin, but there is a book in the hide for visitors to record what they have seen and a few people had seen woodpeckers today.

If you have young children, there is plenty to keep them amused. Today there was a treasure trail for them to follow, and there is an adventure playground along the woodland trail. There's also a small area filled with sand and diggers.

With it being a little late in the year, I wondered if we would see the gardens at their best, but I wasn't disappointed. There was lots of colour still to be seen, and the borders weren't looking at all tired.

I certainly came away with greenhouse envy after seeing their fabulous glass house which is filled with alpines. I found myself working out how many different varieties of tomato I could grow in there.

My favourite part was the kitchen garden. They grow all manner of fruit and vegetables, and the plants look in tip top condition. There's no evidence of slug damage, I wonder what their secret is. Everything is labelled too, so if there is something which you don't recognise you only have to check the label.

Another favourite was the bookshop. I just love books, and the shop was so well stocked. I spent quite a while in there browsing, but I could easily have spent longer.

Back home, I am picking tomatoes in earnest. They have started to ripen quicker than I can pick them. I am growing more cherry tomatoes than salad type as they get eaten quicker. I'm always popping one or two in my mouth whenever I go in to the kitchen.

I'm also pulling spring onions from the garden. They've grown really well this year and I have lots of them. I love them added to cheese in a sandwich.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Fast Runners

The pace at which my runner beans are growing are competing with the weeds. I picked the first lot last week and I've been harvesting most days since. They seem to grow overnight. Either that, or my eyesight isn't what it was and I'm missing lots as I pick over them. I've grown them up a wigwam structure, two plants to each cane, and this has worked well.

I'm still picking dwarf French beans, but these are slowing down now, and the climbing beans are ready to take over. Again, these have been grown up a wigwam structure. Another few days and I should get my first harvest.

Our allotment association is hosting it's flower and vegetable show next weekend. I'm not entering anything, but I will go and have a look at everyone else's lovely produce. Maybe next year I will have the confidence to show some of my own.

I've been in work for the last three days, so had planned to go and put some hard work in on the allotment today. Unfortunately, the weather had other ideas and I was confined to home. Fingers crossed that we get some decent weather in the next couple of days otherwise I won't be able to see the ground for weeds, they're that bad.

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Bargains Galore

Don't you just love a bargain? Last Sunday, I got a text from hubby's auntie telling me that Wyvale had their famous seed sale on. Around this time of year they reduce all their seeds to 50p per packet. This includes packets where more than one variety is included, such as a herb collection of five different herbs, and a sweet pea collection which includes five different varieties, so there are some real bargains. Of course, I couldn't miss out, so we jumped in the car, and an hour later my purse was down by £8.50. I had purchased 17 packets of seeds ready for next year. You would think that they would be selling off packets of seeds with a short 'use by' date, but this isn't so. Some of the seeds don't have to be used until 2012, so it really isn't false economy. One of the packets, a cucumber which is all female flowering, should have cost £4.45, so there are some real savings to be had. Then on Friday, I had to take the kids to the dentist. There is a Wilkinson's store near the dentist's, so I thought I would pop in. They too were having a sale, and I managed to pick up some Felco secateurs which should have been £39.99, for a tenner. They had been reduced by 50% and then 75%. I had a look around to see if there were any more, as they would have made a nice Christmas present for hubby's uncle, but they were the only pair. I think I have done rather well this week.

It was a lovely sunny day yesterday so it was spent in the garden. I have had a good tidying session, trimming back lots of plants which were threatening to take over, sorting out the greenhouse again, and generally cleaning up. Hubby cut the grass, which is no easy task since my daughter got a 10 foot trampoline for her birthday last month. The garden is now looking spick and span again.

Last year, I planted Nasturtiums in the garden. Never again! I should have really tidied them up sooner than I did, but it was left rather late and they set seed. This year I've got literally hundreds of them, not only in the flower bed, but self seeded all over the garden. They're even popping up in the raspberry containers, and in the cracks in between the paving. At first I thought I would leave some in the flower bed to add a bit of colour, but they've grown huge so they've had their chance, I pulled the lot up. A word of warning if you've got Nasturtiums in your garden, don't let them set seed.

The tomatoes are ripening slowly. I came home from my holidays last weekend to about a dozen ripe tomatoes on the plants, and I've had another handful this week, but although there's plenty of green tomatoes, they don't seem to be in a hurry to ripen. I've pinched out the growing tips this week, as apparently, if you do this, instead of the plant putting it's energy into growing, it will put it's energy into ripening the fruit. Let's see what happens.

It's the same story with the peppers. There's quite alot of fruit on the plant, but they're well and truly green without a hint of them changing colour. I'll give them some more time to change to orange or red, but if there's no sign in a couple of weeks I'll have to pull them green.

Now that the garden has once again been sorted out, I should have some time on my hands to concentrate on the allotment. I hope the weather holds out.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Ups And Downs At The Allotment

I'll start the post on a positive note, namely my cauliflowers. I had heard that cauliflowers can be tricky to grow. I experienced this when I lost every one of my seedlings, in fact I lost all my brassica seedlings. After doing a little research, I think I may have killed them with kindness, keeping them too warm after they had germinated. I therefore bought some plug plants and planted these at the allotment, and just look at what I came home from my holidays to find. There were actually three, but the third one had been got at by the slugs. You can see the slug damage to the outer leaves, but the heads are perfectly fine and untouched. The cabbages have so much damage to their outer leaves that they look like a very fine lace, but they are hearting up so I'll have to wait and see what the inner leaves are like. The Brussels sprouts look to be doing ok. They don't seem to have much slug damage at all, but there's no sign of any sprouts forming on the plants yet, so it remains to be seen if I actually get anything off them.

I'm having a total rethink about my allotment plans. When I took the allotment on in March of this year, I decided that I wanted to create seperate beds with a view to installing raised beds at a later date. We set about digging out each bed and left the gaps in between the beds as paths. In hindsight I think we should have dug over the whole allotment and then marked out the beds, as the grass and weeds which have been left behind in the paths are creeping back into the beds. Therefore, when I start digging over the plot in autumn I've decided to dig over the whole area and start again. I'm also rethinking the size of my beds. At the moment they are dug out into areas of about 10 foot x 4 foot, with a 2 foot path in between. There are two of these sized beds allocated to each crop i.e. potatoes, brassicas, legumes and roots. After working with these sized beds this year I find the space can be quite restricting in some areas. I'm now wondering if it would make life easier to have one bed allocated to each crop with a growing space of 10 foot x 10 foot for each. Decisions decisions. I'll let you know later in the year what I decide to do.

I mentioned in my last post that the courgette plant at home had succumbed to powdery mildew. Well, the courgette plant at the allotment is still looking healthy and greeted me with a huge courgette which had turned into marrow proportions. I've taken it from the plant but haven't used it yet as I don't know if I should treat it as a courgette as it's come from a courgette plant, or a marrow as it's grown to such a size. I'm hoping that the plant hasn't put all it's energy into growing this giant specimen at the expense of producing more courgettes. There were some more flowers on the plant, but only male ones. Another waiting game to see what happens.

I'm not very happy with my sweetcorn. I grew it in containers last year and the year before, and they were wonderful, but this year I have tried a different variety, Swift, and they're so small. I had great germination, and the plants now have their male flowers and some have got cobs developing, but they haven't put on much growth in height at all. If I get one cob from each plant I'll be very lucky.

One of my favourite vegetables is parsnip. I have read other blogs where people are pulling their parsnips up already, so I thought I would give it a go myself. I wasn't holding out much hope for my root crops this year as the ground hasn't been worked, and it seems very stoney. The one parsnip which I pulled up was still quite small, but it was perfectly formed. I shall leave the rest of them to grow bigger and just hope that as they do, they don't fork.

Good news on the potato front. In a previous post I mentioned that alot of the larger potatoes which I had dug up had lots of holes in them caused by keel slugs. I had left some plants in the ground and was hoping to dig them up before we went away. I never got round to doing this, so they were lifted this weekend. These plants had no damage at all, but were a different variety from the ones lifted earlier. The slugs seemed to like Kestrel, but left the Charlotte alone. Definitely something to remember for next year.

Broad beans are a plant which many people sow very early in the year, or they even start them off at the back end of the year hoping to get an even earlier crop the following spring. My broad beans were sown into toilet roll inners at the back end of May, and once germinated were planted at the allotment. I only planted four plants, just really to see if I would get a crop later in the year. The beans were ready at the weekend. I didn't get a huge amount off four plants, enough for one meal, but the plants didn't suffer from any blackfly which alot of broad bean plants do. I don't know if this was because they were planted later in the year, because I companion planted with French Marigolds, or just down to good luck.

My runner bean plants have started to produce very small beans, and there's lots of them. They just need to put on a little growth now and then I'll be looking for runner bean recipes.

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Aubergine Harvest

I returned from my two week holiday yesterday to find my aubergine plant overflowing with fruit. My dad, who was looking after my greenhouse whilst I was away, had already picked up one aubergine which had dropped off the plant, but these three were waiting for me on my return. There are lots more flowers on the plant too, so I should get some more. I have tried to grow aubergines for the past two years and have failed miserably, not even getting the plants to flower, so I'm really pleased that I've been more successful this year.

We spent the first week of our holidays in Cornwall, and it was lovely. We had a couple of days where it rained, but we found things to do, and overall we had good weather. The second week was spent in Devon, but unfortunately my daughter got a stomach upset and just as she was getting better, my son caught it, so we were only out and about for the last two days of the week. We enjoyed our time away though, it's nice to have a break.

The tomatoes are now starting to ripen and I have picked about a dozen off the plants so far, but there are lots more which are no longer green but need a little more time to ripen fully.

The courgette plant which was showing signs of powdery mildew before we went away is now well and truly past it. I still have another plant at the allotment so I hope I get some more courgettes from that.

After moving the pepper plant outdoors from the greenhouse it has produced lots more peppers and there are some fully grown ones now on the plant. I'm going to leave them on there longer in the hope that they'll turn from green to orange or red. We just need the sun to shine a bit more for that to happen.
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