Friday, 30 August 2013

Liriope For August

This year, I'm taking the late Geoff Hamilton's advice and visiting a nursery each month with a view to buying a plant which is in flower for my garden. Doing this should ensure that I have something blooming in my garden every month of the year.

At this time of year, some plants are starting to wind down, so I was on the lookout for something which is only just beginning to flower and which will continue to bloom well in to autumn. I think I've found that in this Liriope - Royal Purple. It starts flowering around this time of year and should go on now until November. Another thing in it's favour is that it's suitable for most garden aspects providing it's given reasonable shelter from cold winds.

The plants form compact clumps, so I'm hoping it will settle in to its new position and increase both foliage and flowers. It will be interesting to see how much growth it's put on by this time next year.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Not Shallot To Show For It

My shallots haven't done so well this year. They're the variety Sante and although the sets have divided, each individual shallot is exceptionally small. They got off to a great start in their pots in the cold greenhouse, but they languished so long because of the cold start to the year that it wasn't until the 19th of May that they were eventually planted out. I could see that they were already starting to divide by this time, so I think this may be the cause. They're still edible though, but they won't last very long. I haven't harvested the onions yet but I already know that the red onions are a complete failure. They failed to grow at all and have already been disposed of. I always find red onions much harder to grow than others.

My blueberries have done so much better this year than the last couple of years. The bushes didn't seem to have many flowers at the start of the season so I wasn't expecting much from them, but the first bush has produced a worthwhile harvest and I've just harvested a first batch from the second bush. The third one doesn't seem to have many, if any, fruits on it at all, though it is still a young plant.

I sowed another batch of beetroot and spring onions a couple of weeks ago and they've all germinated. I may be far too late with the beetroot, but if the good weather lasts well in to autumn I may just be lucky. I'll be happy with some small ones. It's worth a gamble. The spring onions will be fine over winter if they're not ready to harvest this year, it will give them a head start so there's nothing lost there. I find it always pays to give it a go.

Monday, 26 August 2013

Taste Test

I haven't been particularly successful with cucumbers in the past, so this year I thought I would hedge my bets and grow three different varieties. The first variety I chose was Crystal Lemon, these are the ones in the photo. They don't really look like cucumbers being round and yellow, more lemon like, which I suppose is how they got their name. I've grown these in the past and I wasn't over keen on them but I decided to give them another go. The verdict on these is that I won't grow them again. They're full of seeds and I don't like the flavour. I should say here that everyone's taste differs though, my dad is really enjoying them. My second choice was Fanfare, a variety which is happy to be grown in a container. I've grown this plant outdoors and it's produced plenty of tasty fruit. Not quite as large a cucumber as some, but not bite sized either. I'd consider this as one to grow in the future. My pick of the crop is Mini Munch. As the name suggests, it's a snack sized cucumber and crops heavily. It's thin skinned and tastes delicious. I've grown this plant in the greenhouse but I'd like to give it a go outdoors to see how it does, and it's one I'll definitely grow again. There's only me in our house who eats cucumber, though I'm supplying my mum and dad with their's too, so I don't need to grow a huge amount. A couple of Mini Munch plants will be more than enough next year.

I'm getting a regular supply of tomatoes ripening now, though a couple of varieties are being a bit stubborn and refusing to turn red. The outdoor plants have done far better than the ones in the greenhouse in all respects. I shall do a more detailed post on this year's tomato crop in due course.

We've got some nice weather here just in time for today's bank holiday, though I don't think the rest of the week is now forecast to be as nice as they thought it was going to be. Hubby's got the week off work so I'm hoping it stays fine so that we can have some days out. Whatever you're up to, I hope you enjoy the bank holiday.

Friday, 23 August 2013

Tray Bien

It's always nice to hear that someone enjoys reading my blog, so I was thrilled to be contacted by a member of the dotcomgiftshop team to let me know that The Good Life had been selected as one of their 20 Gorgeous Gardening Blogs.

I was also invited to become a member of their blog network which involves reviewing items they sell on the website. Dotcomgiftshop sells all manner of gifts and things for the home, but as you know, I like to keep this blog devoted to gardening and therefore, it was the gardening section I looked at when making my choice of item to review.

There's four different categories in the garden section, accessories, gifts, decorations and party, with quite a selection of items in each. In the end, I plumped for this Vegetables Wooden Produce Tray, but there were many other items which caught my eye, so I'm sure I'll be back to purchase some of those in the future.

I was impressed by the delivery timescale. I emailed the team on the Wednesday afternoon to advise them of my choice and the item was delivered on the Saturday morning. It was well packaged, so arrived in perfect condition.

The tray itself is made from wood and seems very sturdy. I thought it would be ideal to carry my harvests home in from the allotment.

There's cut out handles on each side of the tray which will ensure it isn't dropped whilst being carried.

Those pesky beetroot and courgettes, which seem to roll about all over the place, will be kept under control with the lovely deep sides.

Here it is in use, carrying and displaying the latest harvest. The beans, St George runners and Cobra French, are starting to produce more now, and I've dug up the first lot of Anya potatoes. I'll mention them in more detail in a future post. You can see what I did with the blueberries over on my Through The Keyhole blog.

I will definitely get plenty of use out of this tray. It's ideal for use in the garden, especially if you grow your own veggies.

If you're ever stuck what to buy someone for a present, you should definitely check out dotcomgiftshop, there's gifts for every occasion and lots more besides, do take a look.

I should just mention that the item was sent to me free of charge, but I have not been paid for writing this review.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Carrots In The Bath

Last year, I had a go at growing carrots in the old bath which had been left on the allotment when we took it on, and they came out really well, so we've used the same approach again this year. Growing them in the ground is a definite no no without some sort of barrier protection as they come out riddled with Carrot Root Fly, but elevating them, even a small amount, in the old bath seems to eradicate this problem. They haven't been covered at all and they've been given no other protection either. As you can see, they're good looking carrots. The only problem with growing them this way is that I'm never going to get a huge crop, but a small harvest is better than none at all. It was actually Hubby's job to deal with the carrots. He sowed a couple of varieties and now can't remember which were which, typical. He thinks these are Nantes. We've had a few meals from this first batch and the other variety are yet to be pulled. They're delicious. The rabbits, Sammy and Monty, love the lush, green carrot tops. They're being very well fed at the moment.

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I'd noticed lots more frogs in the garden this year. Hubby was cutting the grass on Monday night and loads of little tiny froglets started jumping about. He was very careful not to run the mower over anything that moved and repositioned them at the side of the pond. It's funny really because I never noticed any frogspawn in the little pond, I wonder where they've all come from.

It's quite dull and overcast here today, though it hasn't rained, yet. The better weather is due to return on Sunday, just in time for the bank holiday, and then we're supposed to have sunshine all next week. That will do me as Hubby has taken the week off work and we're hoping to have some days out as well as put some work in at the allotment. Will the forecasters have got it right though, that remains to be seen.

Monday, 19 August 2013

Blog Of The Month - August

This year, I'm dedicating one post each month to Blog Of The Month. This is where I feature a blog I'm enjoying reading. Some blogs will be new to me, others may be blogs I've been reading for a while. I hope that by doing this, I can introduce some of my readers to other, interesting blogs, though I know that some of you will already read the blogs I feature.

This month, I've chosen a blog I've been reading for a number of years as my Blog Of The Month. An Urban Veg Patch is written by Caro who grows veg, fruit and flowers in a community garden in London. Her blog posts are a mix of what's growing in the gardens, yummy recipes, book reviews, garden themed days out and topical environmental issues.

Last year, Caro embarked on a part-time garden design course at Capel Manor and she'll be returning again after the summer break. I wish her lots of luck with that as it sounds like she's enjoying it very much.

If you haven't yet discovered Caro's blog, do pop across and have a read. The most recent post, What's Killing Our Bees?, provides food for thought and is definitely worth a read. Don't forget to tell Caro that I sent you.

Friday, 16 August 2013

Crimson Leaf Patio Peach Tree

Before I went on holiday, I was contacted by asking if I would like to review one of their products. I often receive these type of emails from companies, but I like to keep this blog devoted to gardening, so I mainly turn down these offers. This time, I looked at the Gardening Express website and liked what I saw, it's filled with all manner of different plants, and as it fits with the theme of my blog, I decided I would go ahead.

I looked at the wide range of plants on offer and decided that I really liked the look of the Crimson Leaf Patio Peach Tree. Its leaves are a beautiful colour, and the photo from the website made it look extremely attractive. It wasn't until Monday of this week that I emailed the company to let them know my choice.

Imagine my surprise when I came home today to a parcel waiting for me. It had been signed for by my daughter who was anxious to know what was inside.

It wasn't only my daughter who was interested, here's Archie trying to find out the contents of the parcel with his sense of smell. As you can see, it was very well packaged and I wasn't at all concerned about how the small tree had travelled as it was well protected.

I started by opening the top of the box and this is the sight which greeted me. Don't those leaves look beautiful, such a gorgeous colour.

There were a couple of notches in two corners of the box which prevented the tree from sliding about in transit. Once these had been taken care of, it was easy to slide the tree out of the box and this is how it came out, it still has the polythene wrapping around the pot.

Here it is in all it's glory with the polythene removed, isn't it gorgeous.

I wanted to get a close up of the leaves for you to show you just how stunning they are, they're such a gorgeous colour and the sun picks up on that colour beautifully.

The tree itself looks extremely healthy, it's covered in buds so I'm sure there's plenty of growth to come.

Patio trees are ideal for anyone short on garden space, like me, as they don't grow very tall yet they can still provide a worthwhile crop. I shall be waiting for my tree to present me with some delicious, juicy peaches but in the meantime, I will enjoy it for what it is, a thing of beauty.

As for, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend them. I emailed my choice of item to the company on Monday and it was delivered on Friday. The tree was well packaged and arrived in good condition and I'm extremely happy with the Crimson Leaf Patio Peach Tree.

I should just mention that the item was sent to me free of charge, but I have not been paid for writing this review.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

A Surprise Harvest

The first bean harvest has crept up on me this year. I saw that my bean plants were flowering but didn't realise that there were beans anywhere near ready for picking. Hubby discovered them when he made a trip to the allotment on Sunday evening, yet none of us had noticed them when we were there in the morning. The runner beans are St George, a variety with both red and white flowers, and the French beans are Cobra, a variety I haven't grown before but decided to give them a go after reading about them on Mark's Veg Plot blog. Here they are with another freshly picked courgette. I have to say that both varieties are very tasty and I'm looking forward to the next harvest.

My squash are doing much better this year than they did last year. The patty pan variety, Sunburst, just seems to be getting going, but the winter squash, Crown Prince and Queensland Blue, are fruiting. I just hope that I manage to nurture some through to maturity this year. Last year, they fruited so late that I didn't get to harvest any of the winter squash, and only a few patty pans.

The Corno di Torro Rosso peppers seem to be doing well. I had five plants but unfortunately, one came to a sticky end, so I'm now left with four. They've fruited well this year, there's quite a few peppers on each plant, so they just need to ripen now. It's a bit of a waiting game at the moment with the tomatoes and peppers, I'm watching them daily waiting for them to show signs of turning red. A little more sunshine would be good.

Monday, 12 August 2013

The Weeding Operation

We dragged the teens out of bed yesterday morning to come with us to the allotment and help with the weeding operation, they were not happy. My son is a great help though, once he gets going on a job he puts a lot of effort in. I wish I could say the same about my daughter. She faffed about pulling out a few weeds before taking control of the camera and wandering about the site looking for things to photograph. When I came across this Elephant Hawk Moth caterpillar, I knew it spelled the end of any work she was going to do as she spent quite a while taking snaps of it, one of which you can see here. They're huge caterpillars and fuchsias are one of their favourite foods, but as we don't have any fuchsias at the allotment, I can only imagine that all the rosebay willowherb, which is in the same family as fuchsias, is keeping its hunger at bay. We managed to get an hours work done before the heavens opened and a heavy rain shower drenched us and had us running for the car. There's still plenty to do, but we've made a start.

My sweet peas have been short lived this year. I was picking them for a while before we went on holiday, but unfortunately, they were left alone over the fortnight we were away and I came home to plants full of seed pods. I suppose they believe their work is now done as they've set seed so they won't bother producing any further flowers. It's a shame they were over so soon as I was enjoying bringing the blooms indoors, they had such a gorgeous scent.

The goldfinches have gone in to hiding since we've been away. I filled all the feeders up before we went on holiday but they were all empty on our return. I filled them again when we got home but it seems they must have found another food source in the meantime. I'm sure they'll come back again in their own time, but at least the chaffinces and greenfinches are still visiting.

Friday, 9 August 2013

The First Of Many

It's tomato time. I harvested the first ones on Wednesday, which is far earlier than last year. After the poor summer of 2012, I decided to remove all the green tomatoes from the plants and bring them in to the conservatory to ripen there, and I eventually got my first taste on the 21st of September, so they're well over six weeks earlier this year. I added them to my salad and they were delicious, all the rich, fruity, tomatoey taste burst from within and reinforced my belief that shop bought tomatoes are nowhere near as good as home grown. These tomatoes are Gardener's Delight and were grown in the greenhouse, but I've harvested some of the same variety from an outdoor plant today, so there's little difference in ripening times between indoor and outdoor plants so far. The other varieties seem to be just starting to turn a lighter shade of green, so they too may be on the turn. The plants are loaded with fruit so there should be many more to come.

The garden has been getting a good tidy up throughout the week. We came home from holiday to the gate hanging off it's hinges, the grass looking more like a meadow than a lawn and all the plants overgrown. Hubby tackled the gate and my son cut the grass while I attempted to get the plants back under some sort of control. The tomato plants had gone mad so they've had all the sideshoots nipped out, the straggly stems cut back and some of the leaves have now been removed to allow the sun to ripen the fruit. The chives got a haircut and are now looking much smarter and the geraniums by the back door were deadheaded, they're already putting up new flower stems.

I've noticed lots more frogs in the garden than in previous years. There's lots of containers on the patio housing my potatoes and they seem to hide amongst them. I suppose the lush foliage has provided some welcome shade in the high temperatures, and as they've been given plenty of water, it's been quite damp around the area which the frogs will love. They've been making very good use of the small pond too, jumping in and out in order to cool down. It just goes to show that even a small amount of water will entice wildlife in to the garden, especially in this weather.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

The Plot Harvest

I managed to get down to the plot on Sunday where more veggies were harvested. The first few courgettes were ready and so was some beetroot which was delicious once roasted. You may remember the old bath which had been left on the plot when I took it on. We've grown carrots in it previously and Hubby decided he'd sow some seed in there again this year. They come out beautifully straight and there's no sign of any root fly damage. I also harvested some more cucumbers, both mini munch and crystal lemon from the greenhouse, as well as potatoes and spring onions which had grown in containers in the garden. A few more blueberries and tayberries which I'd missed the day before were also picked. All in all, a nice little haul.

We've had a couple of people tell us that they hadn't had much rain in Leeds whilst we were away, so we were really surprised to see just how bad the weeds were when we visited the plot. It's going to take some serious hard work to get it back in to shape.

The sweetcorn, which I'm usually unsuccessful with, has developed cobs which now have silks, so I'm very hopeful that I'll get a harvest this year. The beans are flowering, but they don't seem to be as good as I've had in previous years, though I'll reserve judgement until there's something to harvest. Germination didn't go according to plan though, so it may be a knock on effect. I had trouble with squash last year, but I've noticed some fruits on the sprawling plants so I'm hopeful that I'll have something to harvest eventually. All the hard work which is put in at the start of the year is so worth it when harvest time comes round.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Home To A Glut

We arrived home from our fortnight in Cornwall last night and I was thrilled to find that the cucumbers are doing so well. I've never had huge success with cucumbers before, but the two large ones in the photo are Fanfare, a variety which grows well in containers, and which I'm growing outdoors. The other is one of four Mini Munch, a lunch box sized variety. More of these have been taken from the plant whilst I was away. I'm growing this in the greenhouse along with the Crystal Lemon which is also doing very well, it had several fruit waiting for me on my return. I also harvested some potatoes from one of the containers, this is half of the haul from one pot, which were taken, along with the three cucumbers, for my mum and dad.

The tomatoes have gone mad whilst I've been away and a few are just starting to turn red. It's interesting to see that the outdoor plants have grown far better than the ones I'm growing in the greenhouse, though there's plenty of fruit on both. I'm growing the greenhouse plants in containers but the outdoor ones are growing in growbags which have been cut in half and turned on their end, so there's plenty of room for their roots. I shall definitely use growbags in this way again.

Some really fat blueberries have been harvested. I'm really pleased with the amount as I initially thought there wouldn't be much fruit this year, and the Tayberry is still producing even though it's still languishing in it's pot, it still hasn't been planted out yet. I'm hoping to visit the allotment later on today where I'm hoping I'll find more things ready to harvest. We've returned home to some worrying and upsetting news about my dad's health, so I'm hoping to have plenty of fresh goodies from the garden and allotment to supply him with. I'm hoping to catch up with all of your news very soon.
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