Monday 30 May 2016

Harvest Monday, slug control, and some allotment pics

I wish I'd looked ahead on the weather forecast.....the next few days are expected to be very windy with heavy any plants that have managed to avoid the slugs will now get a battering. I've still got a few things that need planting out though, so those will wait until the weather improves. Some of them are showing signs of distress (used up the nutrients in the compost), so I'll pot those into bigger pots. I'm also re-sowing some squashes (six have been eaten) and beans.
Slug control
Last night I went into the back garden around midnight with a light and *ugh* I could not believe how many slugs were around, it's a surprise any plants survive at all. I'd seen a comment on a blog (I think either CJ or Shaheen's) where someone mentioned using a yeast and sugar mixture to draw the slugs out, similar to a beer trap. I had an old pack of yeast and some old sugar, so gave this a go. I wasn't sure about the quantities so just added a couple of shakes of each (the sugar feeds the yeast) and mixed it up with a bit of water. And, hey it works! It only seems to work for a day though, the following day I saw slugs going into the tub and then climbing back out (rather than drowning) so I presume it needs topping up. But it was definitely effective for a while, and as its using up old stuff I already had, that's a bonus too. I've found an old pack of bran in the cupboard that's meant to be good as a slug barrier (they eat it and swell up, a bit grim), but I'll save that for when the wet weather's passed and use it round my remaining lettuces. Plus I've spent goodness knows how long checking hidey places and trying to reduce the number of hidey places (most annoying was actually under chunks of manure around the squash plants...after keep seeing more slug damage but not finding the critters I had a sudden thought that they might be under there, lovely and warm and moist for them. They've been dealt with and the manure broken up smaller. You live and learn eh).
The harvests
On to more pleasant news, I've had a bit more variety on the harvests this week...
I was given a couple of looong asparagus spears by my friend that I got the horse manure with, which went into a noodle soup
My self-seeded chard from last year has started putting on quite a bit of new growth and I've made a couple of decent harvests. I'll let most of them go to seed again this year to save sowing any myself.
I made flapjack again, this time using some rhubarb but with a few defrosted strawberries from the freezer (the last tub of them, but not to long until this year's first ones). I'd started putting the topping on when I remembered to take a pic.
In the back garden I had a couple of old rocket plants that put on some fresh spring growth, so I picked all of it, to make space for lettuce plants. We had some in a salad and I've used the rest to make a pesto.
Every year I think 'I must try making blackcurrant leaf tea'. Well, today I finally did it. It's really easy, I just ripped up three lovely fresh leaves and steeped them in boiling water for a couple of minutes. The flavour was actually quite nice and refreshing, so I'll give that another go.
We've also had a couple of nice harvests of lettuce leaves (no pics) from the ones I've been growing in modules...some have been planted into the back garden (by now some of which have been slugged or catted) and some are still waiting to go out. Well, at least if none survive we've had a couple of pickings...better than last year when my direct-sowings came to nothing.

On the allotment...

Jan came and helped a couple of times this weekend and took some lovely photos whilst we were there.


Loads of strawberry flowers
Soon be time for those sweet fruits
Early potatoes already in flower. The plot's very dry at the moment so I gave these a water as flowering time is meant to be when the tubers bulk-up. Instead of earthing-up (to prevent green potatoes) I use dried grass clippings as a mulch.
Here's my Saskatoon bush
The flowers have been and gone, but masses of berries are following on behind. The gooseberries and currant bushes are quite fruit-laden too.
Back at home I've finished potting on the tomatoes and have 18 plants altogether (I gave 11 spare plants to some friends)
Lettuce, dill and coriander still to plant out (when the weather's calmed down, if they haven't bolted by then)
I've potted-on all my brassicas as I'm not ready to plant these out yet either (the beds and nearby plot edges need clearing and are no doubt harbouring lots of slugs)

And Jan snuck a pic of the plot (about two- thirds down) with me weeding one of the beds. I'm just starting to feel like the plot is coming under control (ish) so if it wasn't for the slugs and the weather I'd be happy (ish)!

Thanks for reading this week. I'm linking in as usual with Harvest Monday hosted by Dave at Our Happy Acres

Monday 23 May 2016

Harvest Monday

This week my harvest is rhubarb again but I wanted to show the difference between mine (grown in a large pot in my back garden) and my friend Andrew's, grown on his allotment.


Mine are the smaller ones!

If I hadn't seen Andrew's I'd be quite pleased with mine. Actually, I am still pleased with mine, I get about the right amount for us from the pot, without thinking 'what the heck am I going to do with all this rhubarb?'. Andrew didn't need anymore of his rhubarb this week so I gave all of it away to some happy recipients in my art class this morning (including the tutor, not that I'm trying to be teacher's pet of course, hehe).


I've started setting out all of my little plants grown from seed...about half the tomatoes (and as usual have lost track of which varieties are which....I'm hedging my bets by picking out groups of three from the trays, hopefully getting a reasonable mixture), some of my squashes (a few of which are already showing signs of powdery mildew, caused by dry conditions I think, so I really need to get a move on with these), my sweetcorn (which I've under-sown with dwarf French beans) and a few runner beans to grow up a couple of wigwams at the allotment.


I still have all my brassicas, lettuce, dill, coriander and peppers to sort out too. Wah! But I did get some really lovely well-rotted horse manure yesterday, so the squashes and tomatoes will hopefully be happy.


I've been noticing quite a lot more slug and snail damage...pea plants in the back garden are getting eaten, as are the bean seedlings that are popping out of the soil, and my little row of rocket seedlings are nearly all gone. I'm going around each day (most days anyway) checking under and behind things that might be hiding slimey munchers. It takes a while but is worth it to reduce the chances of losing plants and seedlings. I've also tried putting hair trimmings and cat fur around seedlings but tonight I found slimey trails going right over the fur and hair so that's obviously not working! Maybe I've made it too thick and it's too easy for them to move over.


A walk from Winterton-on-Sea to Martham Broad

I got the bus from Norwich to Great Yarmouth, then changed to head up the coast to Winterton. I haven't explored this area that much before and didn't realise how easy it is to get there by bus....and quite cheap too, only £6.50 for a special ranger ticket to cover the whole journey.


For this particular walk, I headed inland along pretty lanes to reach Martham Broad....lots of birdie treats including good views of a cuckoo, a marsh harrier and buzzard having a fight, and house martins swooping low over the water, dipping their heads expertly for a drink.

Definitely an area to explore more. I bumped into a couple out walking and birdwatching who were on holiday there for two weeks, even though they only live just south of Norwich....brilliant, why bother to drive miles when you have this on your doorstep.


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


Monday 16 May 2016

Harvest Monday and a seedling update

I only have one major harvest to report this week, but it's quite a good 'un.....a lovely big load of purple sprouting broccoli. I helped out at the community farm again and it was the last harvest from their site before they have a bit of a hiatus whilst sorting out the next place. So I did actually pick this myself but didn't grow it!
It was nice to actually help with the harvest as up until now I've mainly been hauling stuff around / folding up absolutely huge sheets of enviromesh (one of them was ginormous, I cannot describe how massive it was...and a real challenge to fold up and tie with rope to be transported for storage, even with three of us manhandling it).
So anyway, this was my portion of the PSB....delicious
Back at home, my tomatoes are getting rather large....ideally I've have potted them on by now but I'm holding off until I've collected some horse poo with a friend (hopefully this weekend coming). The pots are drying out really quickly, they're far too small. Luckily, even if the toms get a bit droopy they perk back up quite quickly after a watering.
I did plant out two of the toms though, just using some bought-in compost (peat-free). I also popped in a little basil plant with them as its meant to help keep pests away. When the basil gets a bit bigger I'll pinch its top out to encourage it to bush-up. I have some other basils that I've potted on too. In the tub behind the toms I've got a couple of cucumbers - I haven't grown them in here for a couple of years as I started to get red spider mite and wanted to break the cycle. So we'll see how they do this year. I have an old bit of trellis for them to climb up (that I got from a skip of course). The sticks are to stop our cat digging up the compost (which she would definitely enjoy doing!)
I'm continuing to harden-off the plants that will be set out in the back garden or allotment eventually. It's a bit of a faff taking them all in and out of the lean-to each day but it will be worth it as they'll have got used to being outside. It's also important to check under / along the sides of the trays for slugs and snails as they try and hitch a lift and then rampage through all the plants overnight.
This afternoon at the allotment I've been weeding the two beds where my sweetcorn will go....they're my priority to get planted out first as they don't like having their roots disturbed (here they are in the pic below in loo rolls). The beds were riddled with couch tedious to weed, though quite satisfying when you pull out a really long root all in one go.
I have a few runner beans in loo rolls too for up at the plot, which also really need to get planted out....another job for this week but more weeding needed first. The squashes are all getting big as well...basically everything is needing to go out, argh.

So that's me...weeding, potting on and (hopefully) planting out this coming week. Oh, and re-sowing things that didn't work or have been eaten by slugs, ugh ( I have found some slug hidey-places and am trying to be more vigilant checking them).


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


Monday 9 May 2016

Harvest Monday and a little lookie in the back garden

I expect a fair few home-growers have started harvesting rhubarb this too. I'm not a huge fan so I just have a tub of it growing in the back garden, just outside the lean-to (I used to have it in the ground on the allotment but decided I'd rather use the area for something else...the spot is now occupied by a Saskatoon bush).
I meant to split the crown this winter to re-invigorate the plant but didn't get round to it, but it's looking ok so far. I pulled the three largest stems.
But a few days later I was on the allotment and popped onto my friend's plot (the chap in a wheelchair) to see if any help was discover absolutely huge plants down the far end of his plot. I don't know how he does it....everything grows so well! So we shared the harvest - he had 5, I had these 6 (Too big to fit on the chopping board) and I gave another 5 to another chap on the allotments. There'll be more to pick soon too. Crumbs....(or should I say 'crumble').
Actually I didn't make a crumble, I've made rhubarb flapjack instead (twice). The recipe uses softened fruit, and as I don't like rhubarb massively I add in berries from the freezer to mix it up a bit. Because there was so much rhubarb I had enough fruit mix left to freeze a couple of tubs of it too.
For the flapjack I use a recipe that I adapted last year, which you can see on this post from August.
I've not harvested much else, but on the kitchen windowsill I have a few pots of onions for adding into salads etc. These were small onion sets that I had leftover after planting the rest on the allotment. I tried to do something similar with them last year in the garden but kept forgetting about them so never picked in the kitchen I can't miss them.
Snipped onto a leek a potato soup from the freezer
In the back garden....
You'll have to forgive the terrible pic, the sun was very bright so you can see my reflection and I couldn't really see what I was photographing! Anyway, I've set up two wigwams for beans (one in each raised bed) and also tied canes to the fence for them too. Beans do much better in my back garden than the allotment. I've sown two bean seeds at the base of each pole - a mixture of runners, borlotti and blauhilde purple French bean.
My plastic mesh 'gate' into the left hand raised bed has broken, so I thought I'd have a go at making a very rustic one from buddliea trimmings. It's not finished yet as I ran out of twine, but I've quite enjoyed making it (and it's free apart from the twine). I don't know how sturdy it will be but really just needs to keep the cats out (including my own little kitty).
I've started hardening off my seedlings fact I need to bring them back inside now....

So that's it from me, thanks for reading. I'm linking in with Harvest Monday hosted by Dave at Our Happy Acres



Monday 2 May 2016

Harvest Monday and a trip to South Yorkshire

This week I thought I'd expand my foraging to include plantain from the allotment. I also picked the last of the PSB (purple sprouting broccoli - the plant which I'd moved recently), a few leeks (three of which had self-sown from plants I'd let seed previously), some corn salad which had started to go to seed, plus I lifted a couple of garlic plants to see how they were getting on.
First the plantain....I'd read it's full of nutrients and that you can boil it. I have it all over the allotment so thought I'd give it a go. Well, unfortunately it was rather grim, even with a bit of added butter! I've since read that broadleaf plantain is better (I had ribwort plantain) and that after boiling, you can sauté it and add other stuff to make it more palatable. This time though, it was far too bitter. Eugh.
My second fail of the week was an attempt at corn salad soup - there's a very basic recipe in a Wild Food book I have (can't remember the author right now). After the fail with the plantain I thought I'd cook it up with some other bits and bobs (chickpeas, onion, potato). Well, it turned out really bitter aswell, oops! I should have suspected this before as I knew that the plants turn bitter when they go to seed, sigh.
But some tasty harvests have been the PSB, which basically was a bonus crop as the plant had been going a couple of years
The garlic was also really good - I chopped it up with scrambled egg and other leftover veggies. Dave used some green garlic last week on his blog (link below) and as I was out of dried garlic I thought I'd try some too. I used the whole length of it except any yellowy bits of leaf. It was interesting to see that the clove shape had completely gone. I harvested alternate plants from the row so that it would give the others more space to grow. (I haven't used the leeks up yet, they're in the fridge).
But the best 'harvest' from the week was the strawberries I defrosted from the freezer. Yum. Before freezing strawbs, I heat them a little in a pan which releases some of the juices. (And I did add milk to my breakfast, I can't imagine dried muesli is very nice on its own).
A trip to South Yorkshire
We're visiting Jan's folks at the nice of them to arrange the Tour de Yorkshire to pass by whilst we're here. It literally went past a few metres from their house so it would have been daft not to watch.
Women's race in the morning
Men's stage 2 in the afternoon. We even managed to get on TV for a fraction of a second (I shan't be signing autographs)
We've been for some lovely walks, dipping into other nearby counties too
Down by the river for an evening stroll, where we heard our first yellowhammer of the year in the farmland nearby (their characteristic call of 'a little bit of bread and no cheeeeeese') and saw incredibly cute ducklings on an adjacent dyke. Skylarks trilled away and lapwings peewited.
As is tradition, we went to Clumber Park but tried a new route this time (where we heard our first cuckoo of the year, hurray)
And we visited the village of Laxton, which still has a traditional medieval field system (you can just make out some of the field strips here, which was the view from the top of the site of a motte and baily castle).
It's a nice place to walk around, with three main route options.

It's been very cold at times over the weekend but jan's mum risked putting out her peas and beans (protected by fleece) and they've been ok so far. Apparently it's going to get warmer aswell so I might direct-sow my runner beans when I get back. It does feel like spring though....the bright green leaves are pushing through on the tips of branches, and we've been treated to some beautiful bluebells (pic by Jan).

Back in Norwich, before we came up here, we'd also seen our first swifts of the year (whizzing around over the broad at Whitlingham Country Park on the 28th April, the earliest I've ever seen them I think), along with swallows and house martins, vacuuming up all the little insects to refuel after their long migration. So, yes, I think spring is properly here at last.


Thanks for reading this week. I'm linking up with Harvest Monday hosted by Dave at Our Happy Acres