Tuesday 28 September 2010

Starting To Ripen

I have one chili pepper plant which has produced lots of chilies, but until now they have refused to ripen. Now, one by one, they are turning from green to red. I don't usually cook with chilies so wouldn't have grown the plant had it not been for my daughter buying me a matchbook of seeds for Christmas. This is a variety called Serrano, and the one plant has produced many chilies. Whether we will eat them or give them away remains to be seen.

I thought I would give you an update on the blue potatoes which I grew this year, Blue Danube. I wouldn't have ordered this particular potato had it not been for the fact that I qualified for an offer and bought the potatoes for 99p. The plants produced a good crop and there was little slug damage, however, when it came to boiling they just turned to mush. I tried baking some but their skins turned rock hard, no good for someone like me who thinks the skins are the nicest part of a baked potato. So on the whole, I was rather disappointed with this potato and won't be growing them again.

The garden got a good tidy up at the weekend. The rabbit hutches were brought down from the grass on to the patio for the winter where it's much easier to clean them out and tend to the rabbits' needs. They still get a good run around when the weather permits though. Lots of pots containing summer bedding have now been emptied out in to the compost and put away ready for next year. The garden is definitely winding down ready for winter.

Wednesday 22 September 2010

Potatoes For Christmas

After the success of my potatoes for Christmas experiment last year, I decided to grow more again for this Christmas. Last year, I just saved some of the seed potatoes which I bought for planting earlier in the year, but this year I decided to order seed potatoes which were delivered later in the year specifically for planting for Christmas. The varieties advertised were Orla, which is a first early, and Vivaldi, Carlingford and Maris Peer which are all second earlies. When they were delivered the Orlas had been substituted for Bambino. They've all been planted in containers and are growing well. At the moment they're outside but I'll make sure that they're moved in to the greenhouse before we get a frost. I don't heat my greenhouse so they'll be covered with fleece for extra protection. It was lovely last year to have newly harvested potatoes on our Christmas dinner plate.

The weather has picked up again over the last couple of days. Last week was so cold that I turned on the central heating to heat the house through before we got out of bed, but that's been turned off again as the weather has improved. I'm hoping that it stays dry as I want to get plenty of digging done before winter sets in.

My tomatoes are still ripening in the greenhouse. I've noticed lots of people starting to take off their green tomatoes and ripen them on the windowsill but I haven't had to resort to this yet. There's a couple of varieties which I've grown for the first time this year which I will definitely grow again next year. The first is San Marzano, a plum tomato which is ideal for cooking or making sauces with, and it has a lovely flavour when cooked. The second is a heirloom variety, Tangella, which has medium sized orange fruit. I was very kindly given some Tangella seeds to try, and so far I haven't been able to find anywhere which sells them, so I'm making sure that I save some seed. I just hope that I manage to grow them again next year as they're delicious.

Thursday 16 September 2010

Lucky Lucky Me

Many thanks to Damo from Two Chances Veg Plot Blog who hosted a giveaway. I was one of the lucky winners and yesterday I received my prize of a £25 Lands' End voucher and three packets of Nasturtium seeds. I had hoped that I might get to spend the voucher on myself but I made the mistake of showing my twelve year old daughter the website and now she has other ideas. Actually there are some fab clothes on there for girls, I could spend the voucher over and over again on things for her. Thanks again, Damo, you can see that we'll have no trouble spending it.

It's that time of year again when the garden is in desperate need of tidying up. Many plants have finished flowering and stems are wilting and turning brown. I don't tidy the garden like I used to though. I now know how important it is to leave some of those stems and fallen leaves, no matter how unsightly they look, so that the beneficial insects have somewhere to overwinter. I keep meaning to make a bug hotel but another year has nearly passed and I still haven't done it. If I manage to keep the beneficial insects in the garden over winter, then they will hopefully stay and give me their help again next year.

I'm having another great year for beans. I'm still getting huge amounts of French and runner beans from my plants so I intend to freeze some for the winter months. How nice it is to have the taste of summer during those cold months.

Thursday 9 September 2010

Caught In The Act

It's four weeks today since Archie arrived in our household and ever since he's been a little rascal. This is him, caught in the act of eating leaves off my alpine strawberry plant, which to be honest has seen better days. He can't pass this plant without having a nibble. The other day he was running around with a worm dangling from his mouth, but he does help with the garden pests too. The other night when it was quite dark my daughter thought he had picked up a twig so promptly stuck her fingers in his mouth and pulled it out, it turned out that it wasn't a twig at all but a big juicy slug, urgh. Last night he came running in to his bed with a huge snail which I had to retrieve and dispose of. I can see that we've got our hands full with him.

Last year when I installed my small wildlife pond I had high hopes that there would be some frog spawn in there this year. Unfortunately this didn't happen but I'm now keeping my fingers crossed for next year. There have been three resident frogs in there all summer so I'm hoping that they'll stay and raise some young.

I have dug up some more of my maincrop potatoes, Lady Balfour. They're a really nice potato, delicious baked, but sadly quite a few have slug damage. None of my first or second early potatoes had any damage, even though they were left in the ground quite a long time, I've only just finished digging up the International Kidney, and I know that other people have had less damage this year due to it being a dry summer, so that's disappointing. I've decided that next year I will grow my first and second earlies only in containers and that will free up more space at the allotment for maincrop potatoes so that I have plenty to store over winter. I was very happy with my first earlies, Sharpes Express, so I will grow these again next year, but I wasn't keen on International Kidney and I'm not happy with the slug damage in the Lady Balfour so I'm on the lookout for a second early and a maincrop to try next year.

Sunday 5 September 2010

Harvest Time

I had a good haul from the allotment today. I'm still digging up my second early potatoes, International Kidney, but I'm not keen on their flavour or the way they break up on cooking so I won't be growing them again. I've started digging up my maincrop potatoes, Lady Balfour and Blue Danube, a blue variety, but haven't eaten either yet so can't give a verdict on taste. I've also harvested runner beans, three varieties of French beans plus the last three Sonesta which are the yellow beans, chard, curly kale, cavolo de nero, courgettes, tomatoes and a swede.

I've started thinking about crops for the winter. I've already got some curly kale, cavolo de nero, chard and purple sprouting brocolli in the allotment. I have lots of leeks at home which are still waiting to go in, and at the weekend I bought some plug plants from a local market. I got some spring greens and also some savoy cabbage. They were only £1 for each tray and look like strong healthy seedlings.

I don't think I've given the allotment the attention I should have done this year for one reason or another. Even so, I think it's been well worth the £20 per year rent. I've definitely had more than £20 in produce from it, strawberries alone would have probably cost me more than this in a supermarket. Next year I want to give the allotment more of my attention, so I intend to get as much of it dug over before winter comes so that the frosts can help break up the soil. This was my intention last year but somehow it didn't happen and this year it seemed like a mammoth task to get it all done. Let's hope that the weather holds up now so that I manage it this year.

Wednesday 1 September 2010

Tomato Varieties

Every year I try some different tomato varieties along with my old favourites such as Tigerella and Gardener's Delight. The new ones I tried this year were Harbinger, Tangella and San Marzano. Harbinger is the one on the left in the photo and Tangella is the light coloured one. The San Marzano were started off quite a while after the others and is only just starting to ripen now so I can't give you my verdict yet, but I'm quite impressed with the others I have grown this year. I think next year I will simplify things a little and grow one salad variety and one cherry variety.

As the season is coming to an end it's time to start thinking of next year. A job for this weekend is to go through my seeds and see what I've got and what I need to buy. I usually go to the Wyevale sale which starts sometime in September where the seeds are on sale for 50p per packet. Some great bargains can be had. In the past I've had a sweet pea collection, five varieties in one packet which should have been over £4, a herb collection, again with five varieties in one packet and again it should have been over £4, and last year I got my cucumber seeds, Bella, which should have been £4.45.

I've really enjoyed writing this blog for the last seventeen months but would also like to include other things about my family life. I toyed with the idea of widening the subject matter of this blog but I would really like to keep this to gardening, so I have started another blog. Keeping with the theme of television programmes my new blog is called Through The Keyhole and will hopefully give you a glance through the keyhole of my front door in to my family life. I hope I will see you there.
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