Wednesday 29 July 2009

Rain Rain Go Away

I thought it was too good to be true when the Met Office issued their prediction of a long, hot summer. Apparently, they are now poised to revise this forcast. I had an idylic vision of spending day after day of the summer holidays down at the allotment, but so far, it's been a miracle if I've managed to get down there for half an hour without any rain. I made a quick dash to the allotment today, yes it was raining at the time, to harvest some courgettes and French beans for tea. The pumpkin on my son's patch has grown again since I was last there, and I didn't notice at the time, but if you look closely on the photo you will see a largeish piece of glass lying right next to it. I must remember to move this when I go down again, or else we'll have pierced pumpkin! This is the first year for years that we are not holidaying abroad. My hubby is a sun worshipper so we usually always head for the sun. This year I have persuaded him to stay in Britain, and on Friday we head off for Cornwall. After a week, we will be swapping this destination for North Devon for a second week. I'm really looking forward to it as I have never been to either county before, but if this weather continues, which looks likely, it doesn't look as though we'll be going back there in the near future. I can just imagine already what hubby will be saying - "We should have gone abroad"!

Last weekend we managed to get some serious weeding done, although it doesn't look like it in the photo. The brassica cage was opened up and that bed was cleared of weeds. It's definitely slugs which have been eating the brassicas. I found hundreds of those horrible tiny little slugs all over the leaves, and they have created quite an intricate lacy pattern on most of the leaves, great! The sweetcorn bed was also given a good weed. I underplanted the sweetcorn with squash as a variation on the three sisters system, thinking that the squash would suppress the weeds. It hasn't quite worked out though, as the squash don't really seem to have got going, and therefore, there were weeds a plenty.

I have harvested some of my potatoes, but all is not good. The smaller potatoes were fine, but any which had grown a little larger had small holes tunneled into them. A quick google has me thinking that Keeled Slugs may be to blame. I shall lift the rest of the potatoes before I go on holiday if I get the chance, to prevent any of the smaller tubers growing larger as it seems the bigger they get, the bigger the problem.

Work has started on the top end of the plot, which until last weekend hadn't been touched. The first job we have embarked on is clearing an area for the compost bins so that we have somewhere to put the spent plants once the harvest of each crop has finished. The ground just needs levelling off now before the compost bins get moved to their new home.

Sunday 26 July 2009


I think that Rudbeckia is such a cheery looking flower and they seem to flower for ages and ages. The one shown here is Rudbeckia - Rustic Dwarf, and from one plant many flowers are produced. This is one of the few flowers that I have grown from seed this year. In previous years I have grown many of my bedding plants from seed, but I seem to lose quite a few to damping off disease. This year I decided that I would buy alot of my bedding plants as plug plants from my local nursery, and I haven't lost a single one. Cost wise, I would say that there hasn't been much difference when you take into account the outlay for the seeds, the compost used for raising the seeds and the compost used for potting on. It's also saved on space in the early part of the year, when I had vegetable seedlings taking up that all important window ledge space. I don't know where I would have put flower seedlings too. I will definitely do the same again next year.

I seem to have cured the problem with my pepper plant. In earlier posts I mentioned that my pepper plant was producing peppers, but the fruit had lots of tiny holes bored into them. I moved the pepper plant from the greenhouse to outdoors as I was running out of space in the greenhouse, and this seems to have cured the problem. I now have lots of peppers on the plant without any holes in them. We'll just have to wait and see now if they get to full size without any further problems.

I'm pleased to say that the aubergine plant is doing well. I now have three fruit on it, and lots more flowers. I'm continuing to pollinate the flowers with a paintbrush and this seems to be helping them to set fruit.

I'm continuing to harvest courgettes and I'm really pleased to say that this is something which all the family will eat, so I don't mind gluts. Unfortunately, the plant looks as though it is starting with powdery mildew, so I have removed the affected leaves and following advice on Kella's blog, which you will find in my blog list, I am spraying with a milk solution. I had never heard that milk may be a cure for powdery mildew before, but a google search brings up lots of discussion on this topic.

I acquired some cucumber seeds through a seed swap which were just named as Lemon Cucumber, so I assumed that they would be Crystal Lemon. Having never grown this variety before I didn't really know what to expect, but had heard that the fruit were smaller and more rounded. The plant has grown really well, and I now have lots of fruit on it, but they're really not what I expected. They are a quite insipid colour and have lots of little spiky hairs all over them. I've had a taste of one, and can't say that I'm overly impressed, so I think I will stick to the traditional varieties in future. I think that seed swaps are great fun though, you get to try lots of different things which you wouldn't ordinarily buy yourself.

Wednesday 22 July 2009

Borage Ice Cubes

This is the first year that I have grown Borage. They have been grown from seed and planted at the allotment where they are doing their job of attracting pollinating bees very well. Each time I go to the allotment there are so many bees buzzing around the flowers. Although I haven't tried eating the flowers myself, they are actually edible and supposedly have a mild cucumber taste. They can be added to salads, dips or soups, or frozen into individual ice cubes and added to drinks, as I have done here. The flowers are so pretty and I will definitely be growing them again next year, although I probably won't have to sow them myself as apparently, they readily self seed.

The strawberries are now starting to slow down, but I'm really pleased with how they have performed this year. I have potted up some runners so we should have more plants next year. There have only been a few fruits which have had slug damage, and there has been no bird damage at all as the bed was netted.

The lilies have now started to open, but I haven't cut any for the house yet as I didn't have my secateurs with me. I'm hoping they're still as nice when I get to the allotment for my next visit.

The brassicas are growing very well, although I have noticed a few holes in the leaves. This must be slug damage as they are well protected with fine netting to prevent any butterflies from getting anywhere near them. The brassica bed is very weedy, so I must take off the netting on my next trip and tidy the bed up. This will also give me the chance to check over the leaves.

The pumpkin in my son's bed is growing extremely well and has some small fruit on it. It's making a dash for freedom though, scrambling out of the bed, across the path, and into the next bed. Luckily, nothing has been planted in this bed yet, so we'll leave it free to roam. I've never grown pumpkins before, so I'm hoping that as the fruit is only just forming, they will have enough time to ripen.

My daughter has harvested her first beetroot, and they look great. They've grown much better than my own! I've never eaten fresh beetroot before, only pickled, so I'm going to have a go at roasting some. I hope we all like it!

Sunday 19 July 2009

Blueberry Muffins

I have picked lots of blueberries from my two blueberry bushes and there are lots of fruit left on the plants which are still to ripen. Some of the blueberries have been made into blueberry muffins and they are deliciously tangy against the sweetness of the muffin.

I'm happy to report that the paintbrush method of pollinating the aubergine flowers, which I blogged about in an earlier post, is working. There are now two tiny fruits on the plant, and it looks like there may be more to come. It's now a waiting game to see if the fruits grow well. We certainly need alot of patience as gardeners.

I have harvested the first two courgettes and there are more just starting to grow on the plant, as well as more flowers waiting to open. This plant has been moved out of the greenhouse as it outgrew it's space and is doing just as well outside. It looks like I may soon be picking these daily, so I'd love to hear any suggestions of different recipes in which courgettes can be used.

The pepper plant has also been moved out of the greenhouse and it looks like there are some peppers now growing without holes in them. Again, it's a waiting game to see if some holes develop, but so far so good.

I haven't done much in the garden, or at the allotment, during the last week as it's been so hectic with my daughter leaving junior school and all the activities associated with this, and also having her birthday. I'm hoping that now we have started the school holidays I will have lots more time to spend in the garden. Cue the rain clouds!

Wednesday 15 July 2009

Beans Beans....

....are good for your heart, the more you eat, the more them! It was a quick trip to the allotment today in between the downpours. I'm pleased to see that not only are my runner beans flowering, as per the photo, but the dwarf French beans are starting to produce some small pods. The runner beans are Scarlet Emperor and they have lovely scarlet flowers to match their name.

Last weekend, I did some serious weeding around the parsnips and they seem to have doubled in size since. I've decided that it's a losing battle with the weeds though, so I think it's a case of having a weeding session each time I visit in a bid to stay on top of them.

One of the lilies has finally burst into bloom and the others look like they won't be long until they follow suit. I'm pleased to say that we weren't the only ones visiting the allotment today, there were so many bees there too. A buff-tailed bumble bee was feeding on the open lily and looked to be drunk on the nectar. I'm also really pleased that we planted borage as the plants looked to be buzzing. On further inspection we could see bees on nearly every open flower. Borage certainly is a bee magnet. Let's hope that all these bees are doing their job of pollinating my veggies.

The strawberry runners look to have put down roots in the pots already. I'll leave them a little while longer before severing them from the parent plants though. Hopefully I'll be bulking up my stock of strawberry plants ready for next year.

The kids patches are doing really well. My daughter's tomato plant, which she was given at Gardener's World Live, is in flower, and her beetroot is almost ready to be lifted, and my son's radish, which he sowed last weekend, has germinated. His pumpkin plant has put on lots of new growth and some flowers, with fruit behind, are getting ready to open.

I still haven't done anything with the top end of the plot, but this is the area where my compost bins are going to be placed. I'm going to have to pull my finger out and get this part of the allotment organised so that I have my compost bins sorted out ready for all the waste parts of my plants when they have been harvested.

Sunday 12 July 2009

Water Lily

When I went to the Gardener's World Live show in June, I bought a water lily - Nymphaea Pygmaea Helvola. This is a very small water lily and ideal for small ponds. The plant already had a bud when it was purchased and it has gone on to flower and produce another bud which is waiting to open. As you can see, the flowers are nowhere near as showy as the larger specimens, but it's a good compromise for a small pond.

I have had another shuffle around in the greenhouse as everything is growing so large, there just isn't enough room in there to house everything. The courgette has been moved outdoors and is now producing some fruit. There are two courgettes on the plant at the moment and lots more flowers waiting to open.

As the peppers are still getting holes in the fruit, I decided I would also move this outdoors. I don't think I am going to get any edible fruit off this, but you never know, moving it outdoors might just help.

The tomato plants are still in the greenhouse and now have small fruits on them. They are getting a weekly feed with high potash liquid organic tomato food, as are the cucumber plants, which so far have produced one cucumber.

The aubergine plant now has four new flowers on it, so following advice, I am trying to help nature along by transferring pollen with the aid of a small paintbrush. I am still hopeful of getting some fruit off this plant this year.

As mentioned in a previous post, the Stella cherry tree which I purchased last year and planted in a half barrel has produced the huge harvest of one cherry. This has been picked and eaten, and it was delicious. I'm hoping that the tree will have settled sufficiently to provide me with a little larger harvest next year, however, for now at least, I'm buying my cherries in!

Wednesday 8 July 2009

As Requested.... Elizabeth, here is a photo of my daughter's patch. As you can see, she goes for prettiness rather than practicality. All her plants are dotted around rather than in rows. Growing on her patch she has borage, French marigolds, mini sweetcorn, beetroot, strawberries, a Gardener's Delight tomato plant which she was given at Gardener's World Live, and a pumpkin which I fear will take over her whole patch once it gets going, but who am I to stop her planting whatever she feels like? The photo was taken a couple of weeks ago so most things are further along now, and the borage is just about to flower. She wants to pick the flowers, which are edible, to freeze in ice-cubes to make her drinks pretty. I think it's really important to encourage children to have an interest in where their food comes from. It does also help them with their studies. My son had a biology exam recently in which he was asked how nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium help a plant to grow. He was able to answer this based on some of the knowledge he has gained through feeding plants.

I have planted three different types of beans at the allotment and they're all doing well. The first to be planted was dwarf French bean - Safari and these are now just starting to flower. The runner beans - Scarlet Emperor were the next to be planted and they are now reaching for the top of the wigwams. The last beans to be planted out were climbing French beans - Blue Lake, and they're putting on lots of new growth.

The first of the peas at the allotment have now been picked and they are deliciously sweet. There are lots of new pods still fattening up so there will be lots more peas to come.

The strawberries are still producing lots of fruit. I'm really pleased with how they've performed. The plants have put out lots of runners so I've dug plantpots filled with compost into the soil and pegged some of the runners down so that I can hopefully bulk up my plants for next year and get even more fruit than I have this year.

I have harvested some of my potatoes. I have planted second earlies so I really should have left them a little longer, however, I really wanted to get my leeks in the bed which have been used by the potatoes. Although there were plenty of potatoes there, they were a little small, which is understandable in the short time they've had to grow, but they're delicious all the same. Some have been eaten already, cooked with mint and covered in butter, and there are still more left. I'm really pleased because the rest of the family aren't really huge fans of new potatoes, but my daughter has taken a liking to them and can't get enough of them. I've still got one and a quarter beds left with potatoes still in, so they will be left to reach full maturity. After removing the potato plants the soil in which they have been has been transformed. I now know why people recommend planting potatoes in soil which hasn't been worked. The texture of the soil is now a lovely crumbly consistency. The leeks have now been planted in the place of the potatoes, and they look really good strong plants. It's been worth holding on a while before planting out.

As ever, the weeds are growing thick and fast, but I did manage to concentrate on getting lots of them cleared over the weekend, giving the plants more room to grow.

Sunday 5 July 2009

Keeping Cool

What do you do in the middle of a heatwave if you're a cat and you can't get cool? You go into next door's garden and sit on their bird table! This is next door's cat trying to stay out of the sun under the roof of my bird table. It's a good job that I've also got a bird feeding station or else the birds wouldn't get a look in.

The wildlife border which I created earlier this year is working well. I've now seen two different frogs in the small pond, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed for frogspawn next year. There are lots of flowers on the plants which I chose for the border and these are attracting lots of bees and hoverflies, although I haven't seen many butterflies at all this year.

The courgette plant is now producing flowers, so there should be fruit to follow, and I have harvested my first cucumber. Unfortunately, the flower on the aubergine plant has dropped off without any sign of fruit forming. There are more flowers waiting to open so I am ever hopeful.

I have eaten the first of my peas, which are planted in a container in the garden, and a little further on than the peas at the allotment. Of course I had to eat a few straight from the pod, and they were delicious. The rest made a good size portion to have with last Sunday's dinner.

My pepper is still producing fruit, however, I still haven't got to eat any. There are still holes bored into the fruit and I'm unsure what's causing them. I have cut up the peppers to have a look inside, but that hasn't given me any clues. I'm starting to resign myself to the fact that I won't be eating peppers this year.

Wednesday 1 July 2009

Lily Beetle

I have lilies in pots at home and they have never suffered with the dreaded Lily Beetle, however, when I went to the allotment yesterday there were three of these pests feasting on the lilies which I have planted there. They feed on the leaves, stems and flowers of lilies and you can see where parts of the leaves have been eaten. This causes the plant to stop producing food and weakens it preventing it from flowering next year, and in some cases, killing it. I'm not very good at killing insects, even bad ones, so I got my hubby to squish them. I'm going to have to be extra vigilant and check over the plants each time I make a trip to the allotment.

The sweetcorn which were planted out a few weeks ago are putting on new growth now after sulking for a little while when they were first planted out. The sweetcorn which I have grown previously in containers always did really well for me so I'm hoping that they do just as well at the allotment.

It is nearly 12 weeks since my potatoes were planted and they are now starting to flower so I shall be unearthing some of them within the next week or two. Again, they have done really well for me in containers previously, so it will be interesting to see what difference planting them in the ground makes.

I can't believe how much growth the brassicas have put on. They have literally romped away since they were planted out. Unfortunately, I lost a few of them to slug damage, but I replaced these plants and they are now doing fine. They are planted in the brassica cage which I posted about earlier, to prevent the Cabbage White butterfly from laying their eggs on them, as their caterpillars can do more damage than slugs.

We had a huge downpour during the night but today is warm and bright again. This weather is just what plants need to make them have growth spurts, but unfortunately, the same goes for weeds. I think I'm going to have to set a day aside to do some serious weeding of the beds at the allotment as weeds are popping up everywhere.

With everything growing so well at the allotment, my attention is now turning to follow on crops. On Sunday I picked some peas which I have growing in containers in the garden. After eating some straight from the pods (how could I resist?), there were just enough left for one meal, with more pods forming on the plants for later. The peas at the allotment have pods which are just starting to fill, and I have some more plants at home which are ready to be planted. Yesterday I sowed some chard and some curly kale so once they have sprouted I will have to find room for them at the allotment.
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