Wednesday 30 September 2009

Disappointing Sweetcorn

After having great success with growing sweetcorn in containers for the past two years, I thought that having now got an allotment I would be in for a bumper crop. How wrong I was. The seed germinated really well and they were planted out after all risk of frost was gone, but just look at my total harvest. I could see from the moment they were planted out that they just didn't want to grow. Their final height was about two foot, and only a few of the plants produced any cobs. These didn't form correctly and this is what I ended up with. I think the failure is down to the condition of the soil. It hadn't been worked for a while, and I don't think it contains much goodness. I will remedy this ready for next year by adding lots of manure this autumn, as I'm determined that next year will be different.

Speaking of manure, last Saturday I sent my hubby off to the local stables. He spent several trips back and forth to the allotment with bags of the stuff in the boot of the car. All in all, he filled fifty bags, so there's a huge pile waiting at the allotment to be dug into the beds.

More clearing up at the allotment took place on Saturday. The rubbish sweetcorn plants were pulled up and part of the brassica bed was cleared. We have started digging the plot over ready to add the manure to the beds.

We're still harvesting courgettes and beans, and we also got the first harvest from the calabrese. The only plants left in now are Brussels sprouts, calabrese, French beans, runner beans, leeks, parsnips, and courgettes.

Sunday 27 September 2009

Autumn Blueberries

I had a great crop from my blueberry plants this year. I have two plants, one which was bought as a young plant two years ago, which didn't crop at all last year, and one which was bought as a slightly older plant at the back end of last year. This year they both cropped really well. Apparently, blueberries will crop if you only have one plant, but they will crop much better if you have two or more. They don't have to be the same variety. I love the colour of the blueberry plant's leaves in autumn. They turn a gorgeous reddish colour.

After the review of my allotment in my last post, I thought I would do a garden review in this post. Firstly, the small wildlife pond which I installed at the beginning of the year has been a huge success. The plants have thrived, although I was a little disappointed not have had any seed heads on the Typha Minima - Mini Bulrush. The pond went in a little too late for any frogspawn, but I've seen frogs hopping in and out so I'm hopeful for next year.

The plants in the wildlife border were all new plants this year, and they all seem to have done well, some too well so they will have to be moved. They have attracted lots of bees and hoverflies, but the butterflies still seem to be thin on the ground.

This year was the first that I have succeeded with aubergines. I gave the plants a help with pollination by tickling the insides of the flowers with a paintbrush. This seems to have worked and I got three aubergines off the plant. I'm not a huge fan of aubergines, so now that I have finally managed to grow them, I think I'll give them a miss next year.

I've been inundated with tomatoes this year. I have grown three cherry varieties and a salad variety. Next year I am going to have a go at some different heirloom varieties, but will probably still grow Gardener's Delight as they are so prolific and very tasty.

I had problems with my peppers early on in the season, when I kept finding holes bored into them. I moved the plant out of the greenhouse and this seemed to remedy the problem. They have taken all summer to ripen, and are only just doing so now. There are still some green peppers on the plant. Again, I'm not hugely fond of peppers so this will be another thing I won't bother with next year.

I grow my spring onions in a wooden trough, and they have done really well this year. I will probably grow them the same way next year, but will also sow some at the allotment to see how they do down there.

The courgette plant which I grew in a container succumbed to powdery mildew very early on in the season, so next year I will only plant courgettes at the allotment. The plant at the allotment is still producing now, without any sign of powdery mildew.

At the back end of last year I bought a Stella cherry tree which I planted in a half barrel. This year it produced the total amount of one cherry. I'm hoping that this was just because it is young, and next year will go on to produce many more.

All in all, I think the garden has worked hard for me this year. Next year, the greenhouse will be used for tomatoes and cucumbers only. Now that I have my allotment I'm going to cut down on the things I grow at home, so the things I'm not too bothered about are going to go in favour of those which I can't get enough of.

Wednesday 23 September 2009

Cut Flowers

I had a trip to Wyvale's again at the weekend, this time concentrating on seeds for the cut flower patch at the allotment. They still had their seed sale on, so I managed to get each packet for 50p each. So far I have chosen Sunflower - Harlequin F1 Hybrid, Cosmos - Purity, Cosmos - Picotee, Aster - Lazy Daisy Mix, Zinnia - Scabious Flowered Mixed, and Gypsophila Elegans - Covent Garden White. I also popped a packet of Sunflower - Giant Yellow in my basket, though obviously these aren't for cutting. I'm hoping to have vases full of fresh flowers next year.

I've been looking back at my successes and failures on the allotment this year. My biggest failure has to be the sweetcorn, which germinated so well, but let me down from the moment it was planted out. It's still in the ground but has only grown to about two foot. A few cobs have formed, but sadly I don't think they're edible. I put this down to the soil not being worked for so long, and no manure or compost was added. This is something I will be rectifying by adding lots of manure to the soil shortly.

Another failure were the brassicas. They were netted, which certainly worked by keeping the Cabbage White butterflies from laying their eggs on them, but the slugs got them instead. I did get a few cauliflowers, and the Brussels sprouts and calabrese look to be doing ok, fingers crossed, but the cabbages were a washout. I definitely won't grow cabbages next year and am still debating the other brassicas. I'll wait and see how the Brussels sprouts turn out.

I have discovered that I love roast beetroot, but didn't grow enough, so more seeds will be sown next year. Very few carrots germinated, and those which did didn't want to grow, again I'm putting this down to the state of the soil. I'll give them another go next year. The potatoes had alot of slug damage so next year I will try different varieties.

Well, reading so far it all sounds doom and gloom, but it isn't so. My strawberries were fantastic. I've taken some runners to add to the bed, so hopefully I should get an even bigger crop next year. I only had one courgette plant at the allotment this year, but it has produced plenty of tasty courgettes. I will have more than one plant next year.

I think my biggest success has been the beans. I've grown a dwarf French bean, a climbing French bean and runner beans. They have all done really well, and I'm still getting basket loads. The tastiest were the dwarf beans, but these had finished before the other two started cropping, so I'll sow more of those next year. I've also got some other beans to try next year, including some yellow and purple varieties.

The leeks are still in the ground but, as shown in an earlier post, are still spindly. I'll have to wait and see if they thicken up at all. I suppose they'll still be edible even if they don't. The parsnips are also still growing, but it's hard to know how they'll turn out without checking underground. Watch this space.

So all in all, I don't think I've had too bad a year to say I've only had the allotment since March, and the soil obviously isn't up to scratch. Now is the time to get some goodness back in the soil and start making my plans to improve next year.

Sunday 20 September 2009

Tom Woods

This is one of my favourite Fuchsia's at the moment. It's Tom Woods and I bought it last year at the Harrogate Flower Show. I love it's strong colours, purple corolla and white tinged with pink sepals. I have quite a few Fuchsia's in my garden, and can never resist buying another if I see one I like. I usually overwinter most of my Fuchsia's in my greenhouse as many are not hardy, but I usually also take cuttings just in case any don't quite make it through winter.

Good news on the pepper front this week. It seems that my patience is paying off for they are finally starting to turn orange. They still have a way to go, but it certainly seems as though I won't have to pick them whilst still green.

It has been a very good year for tomatoes. I'm still picking them daily and can't quite believe how many tomatoes I've got off four plants. I have chosen two of the four varieties I will be growing next year, Whippersnapper and Tangella. They are heirloom varieties and I've obtained the seeds from some very kind people on the Allotments 4 All forum. I still need to choose another two, so I'm reading up on different varieties at the moment.

A couple of posts back, I mentioned that I rarely get any other birds than Sparrows, Starlings and Blackbirds in my garden. Last week, my son came down from his bedroom and told me that there were loads of birds in the garden fighting over the goodies on the feeding station. I looked out of the window, but couldn't understand what he was talking about as there wasn't a bird in sight. Imagine my surprise when I looked a little closer and saw a Kestrel sat on my fence. He had obviously scared all the other birds off. I live quite close to open countryside and we often see Kestrels around and about, but I've never seen one in the garden before. I'm going to have to keep a close eye on my kid's pet rabbit's when they're out for their daily run. Mind you, it would have a problem with my daughter's rabbit, Sammy, he's the size of a small dog and getting bigger by the day, fat thing!

Wednesday 16 September 2009


This is how my leeks look at the moment. I'm a little worried about them as they don't seem to be thickening up very well, nor are they the lovely green colour of my allotment neighbour's. I think the state of my soil has alot to answer for. Having only got the allotment in March of this year, I have been planting out and hoping for the best. Obviously this method is not going to provide the best crops. I'm in the process of sourcing some well rotted manure so that I can add it to the beds shortly and hopefully next year I will have alot more success.

The weather over the last week has been really good and I've managed to get to the allotment every day. On Saturday my daughter went to her friend's house, so it gave us the whole day to work on the plot. Preparation for next year has started in earnest, and we have also started to clear the part of the plot which so far hasn't been touched. The strawberry bed has now been fully weeded, and all the runners have been removed. Some of these have been potted up to increase the number of plants I have, so I should get a good crop again next year.

The seed catalogues have started dropping through the letterbox. I've started making a list of flowers I want to grow at the allotment for cutting. I have seen lots of pictures on other blogs of Zinnia, and this is one flower already on my list. I also want to grow some small sunflowers, as I think they look so lovely in a vase, as well as some large sunflowers as I like to dry the heads for the birds.

I'm still harvesting huge amounts of French and runner beans. The plants aren't showing any signs of slowing down so I think I'll have plenty more to come.

Sunday 13 September 2009

Tomatoes And Spring Onions

The best harvest I've had from my garden this year have been the tomatoes and spring onions. I've grown four different kinds of tomatoes, Ferline, Gardener's Delight, Sungold and Sweet Million. The Ferline is a salad variety which is supposed to have some resistance to blight, but as I grow my tomatoes in my greenhouse I didn't choose it for this reason. The other three are cherry tomatoes. As you can see, some of the Ferline tomatoes are absolutely huge. It's the first time I've grown Sungold and Sweet Million, and I've found that the Sungold are rather squishy. I won't bother growing them again. The Sweet Million are, as the name implies, very sweet and I've had a huge harvest from one plant, and the Gardener's Delight, as always, has also been a heavy cropper. I enjoy trying different varieties and next year I am going to have a go at some heirloom varieties.

Deb at Carrots and Kids has kindly passed on to me the 'You are a great read!' award. Thank you Deb. It's always nice to know that someone enjoys reading my ramblings. As part of the award I am supposed to list 10 things about myself, but seeing as this is a gardening blog I thought that I would list 10 things I love about my garden instead. I hope that's ok Deb.

1. I suppose the first thing I should say is that I love being able to fulful my hobby of gardening in it. I can while away many happy hours whilst I am out there totally absorbed in whatever I am doing at the time and lose all track of time.

2. I love my greenhouse, which I bought three years ago. It's only 6x4 but it serves it's purpose. I grow my tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers in there and it's also used for overwintering frost tender plants.

3. This year I created a wildlife border in the one flower bed I have, and I love it. I chose plants which will attract beneficial insects into the garden. Some of the plants have put on so much growth that I will have to move them to a more suitable place for their height and spread, and there are still a few gaps which will have to be plugged, but isn't that the fun of gardening? I have noticed lots more bees and hoverflies in the garden this year, but I'm still waiting to see any other butterfly than the Cabbage White.

4. I incorporated a small pond in the wildlife border, which I love. It went in a little late to get any frogspawn this year, but I have noticed frogs using it to take a dip so I'm hoping for some tadpoles next year.

5. I love the safety that my garden provides. Not so much now, but when the kids were little I could allow them to play out there safe in the knowledge that they could come to little harm. My kitchen door opens into the garden so I could be making dinner whilst they were happily playing out in the fresh air.

6. This may seem a strange one, but I love my fence. A few years ago we had our old fence replaced with one six foot high. As we live in a semi-detached house it affords us some privacy from our neighbours.

7. I have a bird feeding station in the garden, although I rarely get any birds other than the run of the mill Sparrows, Starlings and Blackbirds visiting, I love to watch them. It's like watching regular little families with all the usual nurturing and squabbling.

8. Although my daughter is now 11, she still has a playhouse in the garden. It's one of those large two storey wooden ones and has been well worth the hefty price tag. It's had lots of use over the years, and still does even though it's now a bit of a struggle for her to get up the stairs, she's growing like mad. I love it when she has her friends round and it starts to rain, I don't have to have multiple pairs of muddy feet trailing through my house.

9. As I only have one flower border, I love my plant containers. I've got the usual terracotta plantpots but also other more quirky containers too, such as a wheelbarrow, a watering can and a cup and saucer. If the plant combinations don't look very good together they're easy enough to move to another location.

10. Last but not least, I love being able to have somewhere out of doors to call my own. This is my own little piece of the earth, not very big, but it's mine.

I now have to pass this award onto other people whose blogs I enjoy reading. I'd like to give it to Kat at kats corner, Georgie at Little London Garden, and Kella at Kella's Musings on Growing Her Own, Wildlife and Her Brand of Parenting. If you'd rather not join in that's fine but I wanted you to know that you are a great read!

Wednesday 9 September 2009


These are the mini pumpkin - Hooligan which my eleven year old daughter is growing on her patch. There are half a dozen pumpkins on the plant and they only grow to about three inch in diameter. Apparently they can be microwaved by slicing off the top, scooping out the seeds, replacing the top, and then microwave for four minutes. Alternatively they can be baked or stuffed. Aren't they cute? I'm sure my daughter will want to carve a mini pumpkin for halloween.

Now that the kids are back at school I've found that I've got some spare time back during the day, and I've spent quite a bit of time at the allotment this week. My main task has been clearing the strawberry bed, which really should have been done earlier, but I've left it so late that the runners are trying to escape into next doors plot. I had pegged some of the runners down into pots filled with compost and these have taken well, but many of the runners have rooted themselves into the bed, so I have lifted these and they will be potted up too. I want to increase the number of plants I have as you can never have too many strawberries.

The huge courgette which I found on my return from holiday seems to have slowed down the production of more courgettes. The plant is still producing the odd one here and there, and still has some flowers on it, but I think it's really on it's last legs now. I had one courgette plant in the garden, which got powdery mildew and had to be disposed of a while ago, and one plant at the allotment. Next year I will plant more at the allotment, and maybe still have one in the garden.

The parsnips seem to be doing well, but one can never tell what's going on underground. I don't want to rush winter upon us all, but I'm really looking forward to lifting and tasting them.

The weather has been wonderful this week. The sun has been shining and the temperatures have risen. Perhaps we're still a while away from autumn afterall.

Sunday 6 September 2009

Birthday Presents

It was my birthday last week, and of course I got some gardening related presents. I'm now the proud owner of a new camera, which I chose myself, and after looking at many different models and reviews, decided to go with a Canon Powershot A1100 IS. This camera has a viewfinder as opposed to most other cameras, which only have an LCD screen. I also got Joy Larkcom's Grow Your Own Vegetables of which I have read many reviews. I haven't had chance to have a good read of it yet, but it looks quite comprehensive. Another book which was on my wish list was a butterfly and moth guide. I'm hopeless when it comes to identifying these, so the Collins guide will help. The digital minimum/maximum thermometer will be sited in my greenhouse. Next year it will take the guesswork out of when it is safe to move the seedlings out of the house. I also got a cutting and pruning knife. It has two blades, one curved and one straight, so it will come in handy for many tasks. As Brucie used to say, didn't I do well?

My peppers are still refusing to ripen. They are still green and don't look as if they're ever going to turn anything but. I'm still holding out picking them in the hope that I'll get some orange or red, but it's looking more and more unlikely.

On the other hand, my tomatoes are ripening so quickly that I don't know what to do with them all. I grow mainly cherry tomatoes, and one plant can produce hundreds, so I'm picking them daily.

I've still got lots of spring onions in the ground. They will see me through till the end of the season. I have these planted in a container at home rather than at the allotment, but next year I will have a go at growing them at the plot and see how they do there.

Autumn is certainly in the air. It has got much cooler of late and the nights are starting to draw in. Alot of the flowers in the garden are starting to die back. The bedding plants look to be on their last legs and will be composted shortly. Many other plants are looking rather bedraggled and need cutting back. The compost bin will be filling up, and everything will soon be tucked up for winter.

Wednesday 2 September 2009

Spring Bulbs

I have started buying my spring bulbs ready for planting at the allotment. I'm hoping for a riot of colour which I will be able to cut and bring home to cheer up the house. I have opted for Daffodil - Las Vegas, which has white petals and a yellow trumpet and is highly scented, Daffodil - Early Flame, which has yellow petals and an orange trumpet, Tulip - Darwinhybrid Red, and Tulip - Triumph Shirley, which is a white tulip tinged with lilac. I will buy some more before planting time as I come across any which take my fancy.

My dwarf French beans are now finished and the climbing beans have taken over. I have grown two plants to each cane in a wigwam structure and I can see already that this is producing plenty of beans to keep us going. I don't know yet if I will grow runner beans next year, as I much prefer French beans. I am going to try some different varieties, but will definitely grow the dwarf French bean - Safari again as it's been delicious. It grows very straight and is very fine. I wish I had grown more of these this year.

I haven't done very well with carrots this year. At the start of the season I was wondering if they would fork as the soil is very stoney. At this point I would take any carrots, forked or not, offered to me, as the carrots I did sow have amounted to hardly anything at all. Very few of the seeds actually germinated so there are hardly any carrots actually growing. Those that did germinate look like they're ready for lifting so it now remains to be seen if they're edible.

The allotment has been very neglected recently. I thought I might get down there over the bank holiday last weekend, but days out with the family took precedence. The kids go back to school on Friday, which I'm not looking forward to, I like having them at home with me, so I'll get my spare time during the day back in which to tackle the allotment.

I just want to add my congratulations to Kella who has just been given an allotment, and to welcome her to the world of allotmenteering, although she isn't new to 'grow your own'. You can find a link to her wonderful blog in my blog list to the right.
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