Monday 30 September 2013

Best Yet

Sweetcorn has been a huge disappointment ever since I've had the allotment. I used to grow it in containers in the garden and the cobs were always well pollinated and full to the tips with kernels. I haven't managed to grow anything nearly as good on the plot, in fact this year is the best yet, though it still isn't as good as anything I grew in a container. This year I've grown Early Extra Sweet. Popped straight in to a pan of boiling water and served with a dollop of butter, it was delicious. I've blanched and frozen most of the cobs for future use.

You can see the first harvest of my Blue Lake climbing French beans in the photo as well as my final carrot harvest. My beans had a bad start this year, not many of them wanted to germinate, so I had to make later sowings. I was unsure if I'd manage to harvest anything from these before the colder weather arrived, but now that they've started producing, I can see that there's plenty more on the way. It's a race against time. These carrots were from a later sowing than the ones I harvested previously and haven't grown half as big. I've managed to get something from them though, so I've blanched and frozen them for use in a slow cooker casserole I'll make at a later date.

The goldfinches have found my window feeder and are more than happy to spend long periods of time feeding from it. It's lovely to see them up close, though I never seem to have my camera handy when they arrive and any movement scares them away. I shall try my best to get a photo to share.

Friday 27 September 2013

Comparing The Potatoes

The main potato variety I chose to grow this year was Arran Pilot. I grew them last year and was so pleased with them that I decided I'd grow them again this year. Seen in the bottom right of the photo, they haven't disappointed. They cost me £2.25 for half a stone from the allotment shop, which is a little over the 3kg nets which you can buy in garden centres. They've given a very good yield again keeping us and my mum and dad supplied with potatoes over the summer months. I like to try new varieties so I picked up a small bag of Roosters from the garden centre. This is a red skinned variety and very versatile. They're shown in the top left corner of the photo. They didn't do as well as the Arran Pilots, though Roosters are a main crop variety so probably not as happy growing in a container as a first or second early variety. Another new to me variety I grew this year was Anya. Unfortunately, they gave a very small yield, but the flavour more than made up for it. They're in the bottom left corner and as you can see, they're a bit of a knobbly potato. They're a cross between Pink Fir Apple and Desiree. They've got a waxy texture and a slightly nutty flavour, and even though the yield was poor, I enjoyed them so much that I'm considering giving them another go next year, though I haven't quite decided yet whether to grow these again or give Pink Fir Apple a go. The last potatoes I tried this year were Desiree, seen in the top right corner. This was the only variety I grew in the allotment as I've found it a waste of time because they come out so badly damaged by slugs. I was hoping that these Desiree may have some slug resistance but they too had been gorged on. The photo shows the amount I managed to harvest from two tubers after the damaged ones had been removed. My records show that last year, I harvested potatoes from the last container exactly a year ago today. This year, I've still got four containers left to empty out, though I did plant more up than last year. It's been nice to share my bounty with my mum and dad.

I've planted two containers up with some of the Arran Pilot potatoes I harvested, hoping that I can grow some potatoes for Christmas. I've tried this experiment a few times previously with mixed results, so I'm hoping that this year is a good one and I manage to have some home grown potatoes on my Christmas dinner plate. The foliage is just starting to show through the compost so it shouldn't be long until I earth them up.

I've had some really good harvests this year and I'm using some of them up by making a roast vegetable dish and freezing it. The mix consists of tomato, courgette, potato, pepper, shallot, onion and mushroom, obviously the mushroom isn't home grown but everything else is. I'm sprinkling with black pepper before roasting and then freezing in individual portions. The potatoes are boiled and crushed before adding to the mix, and this makes it a substantial dish in itself. I enjoy it with some crusty bread. It'll be a lovely treat to have all these home grown veg when winter arrives.

Monday 23 September 2013

Dianthus For September

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.

It's actually hard to find plants in garden centres at this time of year, Christmas stock seems to take over and somewhere which is supposed to be the place to buy plants is full to the rafters with tinsel and baubles. I would have liked to have visited a nursery but I just didn't have time, so I put on my blinkers so as not to be dazzled by the fairy lights and navigated my way through the extensive Christmas displays to the small, in comparison, plant section.

There actually wasn't very many plants to choose from which are flowering at this time of year. There were some summer plants which were past their best, but in the end I decided to go for this Dianthus Sunflor Charmy. The information label states that it flowers from early spring through to late summer, so as well giving some colour in September, it should be a good plant right the way through the year.

I've enjoyed growing dianthus in the past, I remember them from my mum and dad's garden as a child, and as I don't have any in my garden at the moment, I think this is a good choice for my September plant.

Friday 20 September 2013

Blog Of The Month - September

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.

I've been reading the Blog Of The Month which I've chosen for September for quite some time. Living On The Edge is written by Su who lives and gardens on the edge of a small market town in Suffolk. Su comes up with some really interesting subjects for her posts, such as her latest one about Lunar Planting, something I'd love to have a go at some time in the future.

Su has a long, narrow garden, and she's managed to create lots of different spaces within it, seating areas, a pond, a patio, so many interesting and delightful features such as the naturally formed rose arch and the bench underneath the paper bark cherry tree. You must go and have a read of her blog and discover it all for yourself.

Su's love of plants shines through in her writing, especially her love of roses, she's got some beauties in her garden.

Su also writes about places she visits as well as her other love, textile art. All interesting stuff. Su's feline helpers also crop up on her blog from time to time.

Please do hop over and have a read of Su's wonderful blog if you haven't yet discovered it, I'm sure you'll agree that it's worthy of my Blog Of The Month award, and don't forget to tell her that I sent you.

Wednesday 18 September 2013

Cry Cry Again

I've had another bad year with my onions. Last year, I had a go at growing from seed, but they didn't like the wet weather and hardly grew. This year, I decided to hedge my bets, I wanted to have a go at growing from seed again, but I also decided to put some sets in. You can see the largest set grown ones in the middle tray along with ones on the left which are typical of the size that most of them have grown to. These are the variety Setton. On the right you can see the Bedfordshire Champion onions I grew from seed. They've done even worse than the sets. I'll still be able to use them, but they won't go far. The red onions - Red Baron didn't do anything at all. I think the problem this year was that I was late planting them out owing to the cold start to the year. I'd started them off in cells in the cold greenhouse but delayed planting them out when the ground was cold and wet which held them back. I think I'll give up on seeds now. I shall plant sets again next year and hope that I don't have three rubbish years in a row.

My squash plants haven't done very well again this year either. There's some small fruit on the Queensland Blue but they're not going to reach maturity and only one fruit on the Crown Prince. The Sunburst patty pan hasn't produced much either. Another thing I'm going to have to try harder with next year.

We had a bit of a lull with birds visiting the garden but they all seem to be coming back again. I have a feeder which attaches with suction cups to the window and I have a cheeky collared dove which comes and eats all the seed out of it. He's quite a heavy bird, you can hear a thud as he lands. The coal tits like the window feeder too, and I've also had a baby goldfinch on this particular feeder. It's great to see the birds feeding up close.

Monday 16 September 2013

Comparing The Tomatoes

It's been a great year for tomatoes here. I decided this year that as well as growing some plants in the greenhouse, I'd also grow some outdoors and I'm so pleased that I did because it's the outdoor tomatoes which have done the best. The large tomatoes on the left hand side are Ferline. They've done quite well producing an average crop of large tomatoes. Next to the Ferline are Gardeners Delight. This is a cherry tomato with a great taste and it's so reliable that I grow it every year. The beef tomato, centre top, is Costoluto Fiorentino. I've had a great harvest from these plants and the tomatoes themselves are delicious. The orange tomato is a favourite of mine, Tangella. I only grew plants of this variety in the greenhouse and they haven't performed as well as they have in other years. The plum tomatoes, centre bottom, are San Marzano. I've only had a few of this variety ripen so far, but there's some huge ones on the plants which are now starting to ripen. The tomatoes on the right hand side are Totem, a bush variety. These have been real stars this year producing a huge crop, the plants have literally been dripping with fruit. Most of the tomatoes are a little larger than cherry sized, and they taste good. I shall definitely grow them again next year. The outdoor tomatoes were planted in grow bags which had been cut in half and turned on their ends. They worked really well and I'll use this method again next year. I don't know why, but the plants in the greenhouse have really under performed this year. They were started off exactly the same as the outdoor plants and were identical when they were put in their final positions. The outdoor plants really took off at this point, whereas the plants in the greenhouse grew rather spindly and didn't produce much fruit. I haven't had this problem in previous years so I'm wondering if it's down to the compost I used.

My runner beans are now coming to a halt. They've given an average harvest this year, but I wasn't expecting great things from them as all my beans were very slow to get going. I had problems with germination of all my beans and had to resow. The Blue Lake French beans, which are usually so reliable, are only just starting to produce beans now. I fear it will be too late to actually harvest anything from them. I put the germination problems down to the cold start to the year.

I've been holding on to summer for as long as possible, but there's no denying that autumn is definitely here now. We've had dull, blustery conditions here over the weekend, and although it's brightened up today, it's still windy. The forecast throughout the day is sunny, cloudy, light rain showers, heavy rain and back to cloud. Autumn conditions or hedging their bets?

Friday 13 September 2013

Bargain Seed Giveaway Winners

Thank you for all the comments on my giveaway post.

Without further ado, I shall announce that the first two names drawn out of the hat were Sue from Our Plot at Green Lane Allotments and Snowbird from Gardens & Wildlife. Please let me have your addresses and I'll get the packets of seed off to you.

Cucumber seed can be really expensive so a top tip is to look for seeds in the sales, there's lots on at this time of year.

I hope you both enjoy growing these, I shall be growing them again next year so it'll be interesting to compare notes.

Thank you, once again, to everyone who entered the giveaway.

Have a lovely weekend.

Monday 9 September 2013

Corno di Torro Rosso

My peppers are doing well this year. I'm growing Corno di Torro Rosso, and although I started off with five plants, I'm now down to four. One of them became so top heavy that it completely snapped in half. The four plants I'm left with have done really well. There's about ten good sized peppers on one plant, eight on another two, and six on the other. This is the only one which has ripened so far, but the rest are starting to change colour now. Although they've done well this year, the plants are so big and take up so much space that I don't think I'll bother growing them next year.

I'm still harvesting carrots which have been grown in the old bath on the allotment, they've done so well this year and have provided a good few meals. Carrots aren't badly priced in the supermarket, but the taste of home grown is far superior, the carrotty smell just wafts through the air as you pull them up, no wonder they're so attractive to the Carrot Root Fly.

We had visitors at the allotment yesterday, four cute little kittens. We saw one walking along the fence and before we knew it, three brothers and sisters had joined it. They jumped down and were having lots of fun chasing each other around. We don't seem to have any problem with mice, but that's probably because there's so many other cats around, I just hope they leave the birds alone.

If you haven't already entered my giveaway, don't forget to do so. You have until Thursday the 12th of September 2013 to leave a comment on my Bargain Seed Giveaway post.

Friday 6 September 2013

Juicy And Meaty

I don't often grow beef tomatoes, but I'd bought the seeds of Costoluto Fiorentino as part of a multi pack when I was looking for some San Marzano seeds, so I thought I'd give them a go. I'm so pleased I did as they're such a tasty tomato. They're so juicy that it was like biting in to a very ripe peach, though the flesh is quite firm and doesn't have many seeds. It's a very meaty tomato. It was only after buying the seeds that I read it's an Italian heirloom variety and has been given the RHS Award of Garden Merit. You can see that it's a good size too. It's a tomato I'd definitely recommend.

There's a plot on our allotment site which hasn't been touched since we took on our plot at the start of the gardening season in 2009. Someone had, apparently, been paying rent on it until the beginning of this year, but had finally decided to give it up. It's such a shame that it's been allowed to get in to the state it has, it's absolutely covered in brambles and it will take such a lot of hard work to get it back in to shape. It will be a daunting task for anyone who takes it on, and will probably put people off from wanting the plot. Amongst all the brambles and weeds, there's some mature apple trees, both red and green, and they're fruiting profusely. I don't like to just help myself, but it's a shame that all the fruit will just go to waste.

I'm not ready for autumn yet, I'm definitely a summer girl, but there's no denying that it's on its way. The mornings are noticeably darker when I get out of bed, and the nights are starting to draw in. It's raining hard today and it hasn't really got light yet, though I'm sure the ground will be thankful of a downpour, everywhere is parched. It looks like I'm definitely going to have to let go of summer and embrace autumn.

Wednesday 4 September 2013


UFO in this instance is an Unidentified Fruity Object. If you look at the squash in the photo, you'll see that they look nothing alike, though they've actually both been grown as patty pans - Sunburst and the seeds came from the same packet. They should look like the squash on the left of the photo. I wonder if a different seed has been included in the packet or if cross pollination has occured, either as it's been growing as I'm growing other squash and courgettes in the same bed, or before the seed was harvested. Sue from Our Plot At Green Lane Allotments wrote about her courgettes undergoing transformations recently on her Are Courgettes Promiscuous? post. I've never had anything like this happen before. I didn't get to eat the mutated squash as it was full of seeds, but I wonder if it would have tasted like a patty pan. I shall be interested to see what further fruit the plant produces, whether future fruit will look as it should, or not. I'll keep you posted.

I'm intending to have a go at growing some potatoes for Christmas again this year, in fact, I really need to get them planted up in the near future. I'm going to use some of the Arran Pilot potatoes which I've grown as first earlies this year and just replant them in new compost. If I get them planted now, there should be some decent enough weather to get them started off before the containers have to be moved in to the cold greenhouse and covered in fleece when the bad weather arrives. I've tried this experiment on a couple of previous occasions with mixed success, so I hope they do well this time as it makes Christmas dinner a little special having home grown veg on the plate.

I have a bird feeding station in the front garden, it's positioned in a flower bed which is a little inconvenient at times as birds are such messy eaters and seed is often dropped. I have to hoe the area regularly to stop the dropped seed from germinating, but I happened to notice that a sunflower had sprung up. I decided to leave it, even though it looks a bit out of place where it's situated. I'm glad I did now as it's blooming away. It's not a huge sunflower, probably three feet in height, and it's not growing in the most convenient or pleasing place, but it's flowering it's socks off and making me happy.

Sunday 1 September 2013

Bargain Seed Giveaway

It's that time of year again when The Garden Centre Group reduce all their seeds to 50p per packet. Never one to miss a bargain, I popped in to our local branch in York to pick up a few packs.

I was quite sensible this year and went through the seeds I've already got before I visited the store, so I only bought seeds which I really needed. Other years, I've come home with seeds I thought I needed only to find I'd doubled up in some cases.

I ended up buying fifteen packs of seed for £7.50. I've tried to work out how much I've saved but two of the packs aren't priced so the nearest I can say is that thirteen of the packs should have cost £41.99. On top of the fifteen packs, I also got three packs free. They were offers for buying two or three packs of the same brands.

I was really pleased to pick up some Mini Munch cucumber seeds. I find cucumber seed really expensive, these packs should have been £3.99 per pack and each pack only contains four seeds. I mentioned these cucumbers in a previous post, I've been really impressed with them, they're so tasty and produce high yields. They're a variety which produce mini fruit. I had a few commenters expressing an interest when I posted about them, so I picked up a couple of extra packs of seeds which I'll giveaway. You can see them right at the front of the above photo. I should just mention that even though the seeds have been reduced, they're not out of date. The expiry dates on these packs of cucumber seed is 2016.

If you're interested in receiving one of the packs of Mini Munch cucumber seeds, just leave a comment on this post saying so and I'll draw two names at random. The giveaway will stay open until twelve noon on Thursday the 12th of September 2013 and I'll announce the winners soon after.
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