Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Harvest Monday - including edamame/ soya beans!

We've had some good rain showers this week, the allotment and back garden have been loving it (me too, as it means I don't have to spend time watering, huzzah!). It also means that my water butt at home has been filling up, so the lean-to greenhouse crops can get a nice drink of rain water too.

I took a harvest of the greenhouse basil earlier in the week, I love it when the leaves are huge like this. There's still a bit of purple basil too, though I've left most of it to go to flower...the flowers are purple too!
Tomatoes have been epic, with bowl after bowl. All varieties are doing well apart from super-marmande which has been suffering from blossom end rot, though fingers crossed, a few of them are now setting fruit without signs of it, (probably as the temperatures have cooled a bit so the compost mix in the pots doesn't dry out as much). 

Tigerella is definitely my favourite at the moment. They look and taste amazing.
My four over-wintered chilli plants indoors have some lovely ripe fruits on too, so I've picked a few of them this week, to make tomato and chilli sauce.

This batch had basil in too. I've made five tubs-worth altogether, which have gone in the freezer, there's still just enough room to squeeze a few things in.
It's been a colourful week too, with the first beetroots harvested. The variety is cylindra, and I multi-sowed them in modules at home first, before planting out under two of my bean wigwams. I had little gem lettuces growing amongst them earlier in the year too, so that small area has been very productive. 

The purple blauhilde beans are still producing well too, they've enjoyed the rain and so I've harvested a few handfuls over the week.

A nice variety picked yesterday...can you spot an exciting harvest? 
The sweetcorn (not actually the exciting harvest, but still pretty exciting), has come on this week and I've picked a couple of cobs. The variety is Sativa early. I've never seen aphids on corn before, but one of the cob husks was covered in them (and ladybirds). They didn't affect the edible part though.

We've had some really tasty meals, mmm.
Here's my exciting harvest....edamame / soya beans, wow! I had 12 plants I think, initially sown in loo roll tubes at home before planting on the plot. They didn't really need any special attention apart from tying to sticks when they got a bit tall.
I cooked them for a few minutes in boiling, lightly salted water.

They were so good, with enough to last over two meals for us both. So that's definitely edamame and chickpeas getting grown again next year (see last week's post for chickpeas)
I've had some more windfall apples, these have grubs in.
So I picked more blackberries...
..to make the first batch of stewed apple and blackberry of the year. The apples are quite sweet so no need for any sugar, I just added ground cinnamon mmm.

I'll end on a guided walk at High Ash Farm yesterday, organised by Norfolk Organic Group. It's just a couple of miles from Norwich, and quite well known as it focuses on farming for wildlife. I've walked around the farm several times before but you get a much more in depth perspective with a guided tour. Here's just a couple of snaps - first, one of the many fields sown with wildflowers...beautiful sunflowers have followed phacelia in this field. Apparently a lot of the flower varieties have finished much earlier than usual this year due to the heat and lack of rain. Last week's rain has brought the sunflowers out though, lucky for us.
And second, the group enjoying a grey heron flying past, putting on a nice show for us. But most unusual was a swallowtail butterfly that tumbled through the air along the lakeside - especially amazing as our guide had never seen one there before...quite a way from The Broads where they breed on milk parsley....what a treat!

That's me for the week. Thanks for reading and I'm linking in as usual with Harvest Monday kindly hosted by Dave at Happy Acres.

Monday, 6 August 2018

Harvest Monday - full swing (and chick peas!)

There are quite a lot of harvests coming through now, with plenty of kale and chard. Here's a small bunch I picked earlier in the week, though last night  I actually harvested about three times as much. I'm still thanking the wasps who've been doing a marvellous job of picking off most of the caterpillars.

Ooh, and talking of caterpillars, I was carrying out a bit of tomato care (removing lower leaves etc to improve light and airflow) in the greenhouse at home and came across this cutie munching it's way through some leaves. 

I popped it outside with a few leaves and later on, after a bit of book and web research, identified it as the interestingly named 'bright line brown eye' moth, which is also known as the 'tomato moth'. The name refers to markings on the adult moths, and apparently it eat lots of different plants, not just tomatoes. Anyway I'm happy to share a few leaves with it for now...in fact it probably did me a bit of a favour as the leaves were quite dense and needed thinning!

It definitely hasn't impacted the tomato crop, I'm getting bowl after bowl at the moment, with four currently lined up on the worktop!  I'm really loving the detail on the stripey tigerellas. They're delicious too. One evening, when it's a bit cooler, I need to do a bit of batch prep with them, maybe I'll just do a tomato and basil sauce instead of slow roasting them...it's too hot to have the oven on!
Back at the allotment, the blackberries are continuing to ripen well. A fair few have already gone past their best on the plants (probably due to the rain last week, plus I haven't picked them as often as I'd like), but there's still plenty for us. I eat quite a few of the squishier ones whilst I'm harvesting, mmm. The beans are ok overall - blauhilde (purple) are now coming along nicely, whereas the dwarf beans are struggling a bit with the return to dry hot conditions. The crystal lemon cucumbers are romping ahead of the other varieties, their leaves are still looking ok whereas the others have quite bad mildew (which is worse in dry weather). The crystal lemons are in a bit of shade some of the day, so that may actually be helping them this year. Although there's a nice big courgette in this photo, I've only got one plant producing, and it's quite slow to put them out, so I don't actually have a glut for a change! The patty pan summer squashes are finally developing little fruits though, so we should have some of those soon. The tiny apples are windfalls, but are reasonably ripe, so we're able to eat those too, quite nice chopped into the breakfast muesli.

An example of one of my favourite meals at this time of year - chop it all up, fry a little bit and add a couple of eggs. This had some leftover potatoes in too,  yum!
And onto the chickpeas...I tried growing these last year. I think I just popped them in the ground (not even soaking first) - one plant grew up and excitingly started producing flowers...at which point I went to move it a little from growing into the path, and of course the stem snapped, ah! So this year I sprouted them at home first - soaked in a jar of water for a day, then drained and rinsed with water each day until they started sprouting, then planted out (probably about 3cm deep, just making a hole with a stick). I also put a stick in the ground at each location I planted a chickpea, so I knew where to look for them (they were a bit randomly planted, in the area I have two dwarf apple trees).

Anyway...ta daah! I had a few plants make it through, and once the pods developed, gave them some water, to encourage swelling of the pea inside (or peas...up to two per pod) and harvested when the pods felt nicely full. 

They didn't take too long to pod, but I imagine if you've got a lot of plants it could take a while.
I boiled them in a tiny bit of water for about five minutes. There were enough for us to have a tasty portion each, with a salad of homegrown goodies. The flavour was very fresh, a bit like a traditional pea but slightly different (bad description!). I'll definitely be growing these again (I didn't buy special seeds, just used dried organic chickpeas from the wholefood shop).
My next exciting unusual harvest to come is edamame beans / soya. The pods are there but need to fill out.

Apparently we might get another storm tomorrow night...we definitely need some rain again anyway.

That's me for this week, thanks for reading. I'm linking in as usual with Harvest Monday kindly hosted by
Dave at Our Happy Acres.

Monday, 30 July 2018

Harvest Monday - a return

It's been a while since I've posted - wow April seems ages ago! Hopefully I'll be back in to regular posting from now on.

I guess every growing year has its challenges - 2018 has seen a very wet spring (requiring lots of slug patrols - I lost a few plants) and a very hot, dry summer (requiring lots of watering - and I also lost a few plants to dry conditions, or pests that took advantage of stressed plants, such as one Brussels sprout plant that was totally covered in cabbage aphids, which I'd never even heard of before - I ended up cutting that plant off at the base and composting it). During the dry period it's been very easy to keep weeds at bay though, so that's one bonus - a thorough hoeing and hand weeding several weeks ago did the trick, with hardly any new weeds popping up - plus I haven't really been disturbing the soil, so no new weed seeds have come to the surface. There may be some that blow in from elsewhere though. My soil is very sandy and it dries out very quickly - I'd love to have a good supply of organic matter to improve the soil structure - there's only so much compost I can make, and I also collect leaves to make leafmould, plus get a few bags of well-rotted horse manure each year.  I really want to make some composted woodchip...sigh, one day, one day.

Anyway, the soft fruit has enjoyed the hot weather (a small example in the pic below), with very sweet harvests of raspberries, blackcurrants, gooseberries, redcurrants and saskatoons (all of which I'd mulched around the base with cardboard and compost. They still needed watering though, which I focussed right at the base of each plant so it would go under the sheet mulch and reach the roots, and only did it during the ripening period so they swelled up nice n juicy.) It takes so long to pick soft fruit, I'm almost glad that's nearly over (Jan helped a lot with the raspberries in particular which was handy). Blackberries have started ripening now, so we've started cramming them into the freezer too. I'd normally make cakes with some but it's been too hot to have the oven on.

Earlier on in the summer I had a nice crop of radishes, intersown between the broadbeans. I really should've sown some more to get a staggered period of harvests, maybe next year.

I roasted these with almonds (I think there was a recipe in The Guardian paper) - would never have thought of that myself!

Broad beans were also really good - the Autumn sown variety (super Aqua dulce) produced a lovely large and tasty crop, and the spring sown variety (Eleanora express), which ripened a few weeks later were even sweeter. There weren't as many pods because blackfly got a few plants, but it still wasn't bad. At a community allotment I've been helping with we sowed green long pod (? Not sure if that's the right name) in May and have had an amazing harvest over the last couple of weeks, demonstrating how broad beans can provide a great harvest over a long period. That variety is incredibly tasty too so I think I'll get some seeds for myself next year.

My early potatoes did alright, and the scab wasn't too bad considering it's worse in dry conditions. I forget what variety they were - a new one for me, which I have written down somewhere.

At home in my lean-to greenhouse, the basil was very happy, though after this photo I did get some caterpillar damage.

The scent of basil is delicious. I've got more to pick now too. In fact some of the plants are starting to put up flower heads, so I've been pinching these out to keep them producing leaves rather than flowers. 

Also at home, in the back garden I have a wigwam of runner beans (variety Lady Di). The flowers were just falling off and not setting into beans to begin with due to the dry weather but now they're doing alright, and I'm picking a handful every couple of days or so. Because the growth isn't very tidy, the beans end up a bit curvy, but they still taste good. We've had very strong winds (and rain finally, yes!) over the weekend and the leaves are looking a bit shredded now, but the wigwam didn't blow over, hurray (which has happened in a previous year, ripping out the bean plants from the soil). In the back garden I also have a wigwam of borlotti beans, which hasn't started flowering yet, plus at the allotment I'm growing csar, blauhilde and a yellow climbing bean, and two dwarf bean varieties -  a green and a yellow. Some of the plants had struggled with the dry conditions so they should all appreciate the recent rain. It sounds like a lot of beans, but we'll eat some fresh, freeze some and also leave some for the bean inside to develop, for stews etc. I had wanted to do some fermenting too but I'm not sure if there'll be any spare...may be if the growth picks up after the rain...

Salad leaves have been good so far, I've surprised myself, even growing some decent little gem lettuces with nice dense heads! I intercropped the little gems with beetroot, under a couple of the bean wigwams at the allotment, and in between some strawberry plants. Here they are in the foreground earlier in the year - they were ready to harvest before the beetroot or beans really got going, so I'll try and repeat this method again next year, it makes good use of the space. The wire mesh was to keep the sparrows off - they loved to nibble the young beetroot and lettuce leaves!

At home I grow salad leaves that need more regular picking, and for the first time I've tried mustard frills - very tasty. I'll be sowing more salad leaves in August for Autumn, winter and early spring cropping. Some of them will get planted in the tomato pots in the greenhouse, when the tomatoes are over.

Kale has been good, though there seems to have been a lot of white butterflies around recently, laying their eggs and then little caterpillars hatching. I should really have netted all the brassicas. Good news is there've been lots of wasps about now as well, and they go around picking caterpillars off the brassicas...thank you natural predators. I made a pesto last week with cooked kale leaves and dry-toasted pumpkin and sunflower seeds...yummy.

Chard has again been a dependable self-sown crop. It's growing well where it's near other plants I've been watering, so not needing any extra effort to get extra harvests.

Back in the lean-to greenhouse at home, the toms are picking up the ripening pace. These are 'tumbler' - very prolific for a small plant. I have a few different varieties growing in pots. Some of the varieties are definitely more susceptible to blossom end rot, which has been bad this year (caused by calcium deficiency, which in my case is because it's been so hot that the smaller pots have dried out, meaning the roots can't uptake calcium). So next year I'm not going to grow super marmande, which is a shame. May be if they're grown in the ground they wouldn't suffer so much, as the soil would have a better capacity to hold water.

There are a few tigerella in this pic too - smaller than normal due to the plants growing in small pots, but other plants I have in larger pots have much bigger fruits (yet to ripen).

So that's a whistle-stop tour of some harvests so far. Of course there's courgettes (though I'm yet to have a glut!) and the usual suspects like onions and garlic. I haven't taken many harvest photos this year but hopefully will get back into the swing again. I'm quite excited to soon harvest my first ever crop of chick peas, and soya beans!

I've been to some interesting places recently and plan to share some piccies another time - including The Eden Project and Lost Gardens of Heligan, which I last visited over ten years ago...it's a long way to Cornwall from Norwich!

Thanks for reading and see you next time. I'm linking in to Harvest Monday, kindly hosted by Dave at Our Happy Acres.

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Harvest Monday - false security and an allotment update

It's been unusually sunny and hot here the last few days, easily lulling us into a false sense of security. The good thing is it's brought on the growth of things like tomato and pepper plants which really hadn't been enjoying the cold, dull weather. And luckily none of my little brassica seedlings got frazzled in the greenhouse, which did happen one year. Quite a few things need potting on now, so I should get on with that before they become too leggy. Ooh, and I noticed today that the first cucumber and winter squash seedlings are emerging. 

Down at the allotment I've been getting the beds ready for this year's plantings. This meant harvesting the remainder of the leeks, though I did leave a few little ones to go to flower, because they look pretty and the insects like them too. 

I've also made another harvest of purple sprouting broccoli, this was about half.
And the self seeded chard is putting on some lovely fresh growth, before it begins to bolt...so I should really go round harvesting as much of this as possible. 
The broad beans I sowed in Autumn made it through the recent cold weather, phew. They're quite hardy but showed a big of damage  (blackened leaves) after several freezing days (interestingly, the snow didn't cause any damage, it was the extreme cold later that did). They've all been nibbled by weevils (which create little scallops all round the leaf edges) but it never seems to bother the plants too much. I love the flowers, that white and black is stunning.
At home we're eking out the last of the rocket in the lean-to greenhouse. Not many harvests left now. Excitingly our local organic greengrocers has Isle Of White tomatoes in - the tomato company uses waste products to generate heat for their grow-houses, plus they have a warm micro climate down there, which means very early tomatoes - it feels like a real treat.

Here's a quick look round the allotment. I mowed the grass paths the other day, so it looks quite neat (I have one of those push-mowers, which are great if the grass isn't too long to begin with). Also, you can't see the edges of the plot, or around the main fruit bushes, which all need mulching. But on the whole I'm quite pleased. No doubt the grass will need cutting again the next time I go down though....so I'm trying to get rid of some of the smaller grass paths by mulching with cardboard, to save maintenance in the future.

Standing near the entrance looking down length. One of my dwarf apple trees in the foreground. Shed to the right (out of shot). Bags of manure ready to spread on the beds (I went with a friend to collect manure the other day...very well-rotted, I could do with a trailer-ful!)

About two-thirds down...the neat bit. I've started mulching the summer raspberries on the left. In the foreground is self sown chard which I'll crop and remove when it's time to put the new plants in. Oh and I left a few plants of corn salad to go to flower and seed.

These three beds are potatoes. The two outer ones have manure added on top (ideally this would've been done earlier) the middle bed had manure last year for squash plants, and as I don't have loads of manure I'm prioritising where it goes. I'm also going to try not earthing-up the potatoes (which disturbs the soil) and instead try and find enough mulch material...will see how this goes but may end up earthing-up after all.
The fruit bushes (far end and edge of plot, behind me) are all full of flowers, it looks like another good year for them, I'll try and get some piccies next time. The plum tree next to the shed seems to have responded well to the pruning I gave it last summer so I'm looking forward to plums as well, mmm.

I'm linking in with Harvest Monday kindly hosted by Dave at Our Happy Acres
Dave at Our Happy Acres