Monday 26 June 2017

Harvest Monday, intercropping and Eves Hill Veg Co

This week has seen the proper start of *courgette season*....ooh. I picked these yesterday, two were from one plant, with a single one from another. I only have the stripey ones this year 'cause none of the dark green ones germinated (the seed was very old).
And today there was another from the plant that had two yesterday...that plant's going to be the most prolific by the looks of it - though it was the first one I planted out so maybe it just has a head start. Also there was the first cucumber, hurrah -an outdoor variety who's name I've forgotten (and I'm out babysitting so can't check). We'll have the cuke with lunch tomorrow, hope it's not bitter after this dry weather.
Yesterday I lifted a few early spuds - these were from three plants, so still not loads, but not too bad. The tops have died off completely now - a lot earlier than normal. And the maincrop plants look a bit dodgy, it's been so dry.
I tend to boil them all up then mix in with other bits n bobs.
At home in the lean-to greenhouse we've had our first ripe tomato - a yellow tumbler type - these always ripen earlier than the rest so it's good to have a couple of plants of them as well as the bigger varieties.
Look, we even cut it in half and shared it (new game 'spot the tomato'). There's been a lot of lettuce leaves from the back garden too, much better than last year when the slugs ate more than us.
Talking of the back garden, here's a quick snap of it. Raised veg beds on either side (the soil isn't very deep as the foundations of the old terraced houses are still under there). To make use of the space I grow things up the fences too (beans and cucumbers this year, the beans were direct sown, so are a lot shorter than the ones growing up the right hand wigwam, which I grew indoors in loo roll tubes). The beds are fenced off so our cat doesn't use them as a giant litter tray (she would if she could).
Back on the allotment, the strawberries have pretty much come to an end (they were earlier than usual) but have been replaced by summer raspberries, yum yum (there are a few tayberries in the tub too, which grows up the side of the shed). This pic is from the other day, the raspberries are really big and juicy, which is a surprise as I haven't been watering them and it's hardly rained recently. But this year I did mulch them with compost, then cover with several layers of newspaper, and weighed the newspaper down with old couch grass roots. It seems to have helped a lot, and kept the weeds down too.
So this afternoon I thought I'd have a couple of hours of proper berry-picking. Clockwise from top left - Raspberries (will need to pick again in a couple of days), gooseberries (need a dedicated session just for them another time), Saskatoon (what remained after a blackbird has gobbled the rest, doh), redcurrants (could again spend ages just on them), blackcurrants (still loads more). Well, it's a start, and the freezer will be well-stocked!
I thought I'd just share a couple of intercropping / polyculture methods I'm using this year - cucumber and blauhilde climbing beans sharing wigwams, with chard in between.
Nero kale with dwarf French beans direct sown inbetween, plus a crystal lemon cucumber growing along the ground through the middle. This one's a real experiment (and is the bed where I had to lift my garlic early due to white rot), whereas I've done the bean/cuke wigwam before. In other areas of the plot I've under-sown sweetcorn with dwarf French beans, have cuke / beans growing up a fence, and have beetroot under bean wigwams and under a gherkin climby thing. It'll be interesting to see how well each crop does.
I've left some leeks to go to flower too - they're so beautiful, and good for the insects (maincrop onions in the adjacent bed).
Out at Eves Hill Veg Co (not for profit market garden where I volunteer) it was the monthly community day on Saturday. I spent most of the session weeding and using the wheel-hoe (push-along hoe, good for doing the paths and quite fun). Other people focussed on getting leeks planted out - there's a lotta leeks! The salad area is still looking good, so many varieties...I'm not sure what this one is but it's a lovely shape.
Basil seedlings in the small polytunnel
Very long row of beans!
As it was near the solstice, we had a BBQ in the evening to celebrate...and were treated to an amazing rainbow
The light was gorgeous (here's those runner beans from a different angle).
Huge huge rainbow, what a treat!

There was no filter on those photos...don't think I've ever seen such an intense rainbow, wow. Well I don't think we can top that each session at the farm but you never know.
Thanks for reading this week, I'm linking in with Harvest Monday, kindly hosted by Dave at Our Happy Acres. Head on over to check out what other people have been harvesting too.


Monday 19 June 2017

Harvest Monday, a tomato problem and Eves Hill Veg Co

Oh my goodness, it is HOT! We've had a run of very hot sunny days (apparently it got up to 28C today - I was on a couple of small gardening jobs with not much I'm floomped on the settee, phew)
At the weekend (when it was also very hot) I fancied something a bit different to drink, so had a nice refreshing cup of nettle tea - just add hot water. There's a small nettle patch in the back garden so I snipped the top off some young re-growth from when I cut the patch back a bit recently. A lot of nettles will be past their best now. Oh I also had a couple of cups of fresh blackcurrant leaf tea (from the allotment) but didn't get any pics.
The stings aren't stingy anymore
With the hot weather, we've been eating a few with some more early potatoes from the plot, home-sprouted mixed beans, yummy salad from Eves Hill Veg Co and home made rocket pesto (from a big patch of rocket past it's best, which we cleared at Eves Hill on weds)
I've also been picking salad leaves from the back garden
Earlier in the week, the strawberry beds (I have two), we're looking very tempting at the allotment
Tuesday I picked about 2kg
And on Saturday I picked about another 1.5kg. I love the colour.
These ones I gently heated through on the hob - the berries release their juices into a delicious syrup, and the berries go a nice soft consistency.
I've frozen some and saved a bit in the fridge for our breakfasts over the next few days
At home I grow tomatoes in our lean-to gets really really hot in here and I try and keep it cool by leaving all the shutters / door open etc and splashing water around. Normally this does the job and most of my tomatoes have been fine (a bit droopy but then recover after watering). But one of them went droopy and stayed droopy. Then I realised the pot was heavily saturated with water, so it can't have been droopy from underwatering. I tipped out the excess water from the tray the pot was standing in a couple of days ago but it's even more droopy and the pot is still heavy with water. I think it's a goner, the roots have died in the saturated compost....sorry tigerella, you were doing so well. Luckily I have another 20 tomato plants so all is not lost! I've not had this problem before but I did put less crocks in the bottom of the pots so that may have contributed.
Out at Eves Hill Veg Co on Wednesday (not-for-profit community market garden I volunteer at), we had various bits to get on with (actually there's loads to get on with, but these were the priorities), mainly getting plants planted (salad and squashes), which includes preparing the beds first.
The salad area is looking really good (several beds dedicated just to salad - lots more than in the pic)
In the big polytunnel the tomatoes are really coming on
And the cucumbers are doing nicely too.

Out in the field the peas are fattening up (taste yummy) and the beans are growing up their poles, there's artichokes being harvested along with fresh garlic and onions, and not forgetting the delicious mixed salads (must take more pics). I can't go this Wednesday but hopefully I'll head out on Saturday instead, for the monthly open day. More planting and some weeding I think!


Most of my own plants are now in the ground or seed directly sown, although I do want to sow more beetroot. I've potted-on a few brassicas to plant out as soon as other crops are harvested (such as the broad beans, which are on the whole surviving the blackfly). I'm trying to keep on top of hoeing the dirt paths, cutting the grass paths, weeding/hoeing the beds, checking slug/snail hidey places, and now, picking the fruit (red currants are ripe and they taste good, and the summer raspberries are ripening, they're my favourite I think). I'll try and get to the plot early tomorrow and give it a water, it's so dry - first the strong winds, now the sun. Hey ho.


Thanks for reading. I'll try and take some more plot pics soon. I'm linking in with Harvest Monday kindly hosted by Dave at Our Happy Acres


Monday 12 June 2017

Harvest Monday - some season's firsts

One of my courgette plants had a teeny fruit on it, and I was willing it to get bigger (sometimes the first ones tend to just rot). Well, I could wait no longer and picked this little fella (or should that be 'little lady' as it's the female). I chopped it up and sautéed with some chard, yum. Hopefully the first of many (but not too many).
Today I lifted two of the early potato plants (variety Colleen). The tubers have a really nice flavour and texture...we had them simply boiled and drizzled with a bit of olive oil. There wasn't a massive yield from these two plants but I found a root from the nearby cherry tree (neighbouring allotment) cutting through the bed, so it might have inhibited the growth a bit. I pulled as much of the cherry root out as I could but they have a habit of popping up everywhere.
I've been continuing to pick's one session's harvest. But this was small in comparison to another day when I picked 1kg.
Yum (although I'm not sure if the flavour is as good this year)
Some of them I've mixed with last year's fruit, from the freezer (blackberries, gooseberries etc) getting ready for the upcoming berry and currant onslaught (the first to come are the red currant sprigs, which are almost fully ripe and I've been munching on a few of the plumper ones, I like the sharpness ). I went to the allotment for a while today but didn't have chance to pick the strawberries - there were so many I'll need to dedicate a bit of time to it!
I cooked up the last bulk of Autumn-sown broad beans. I fancied having a go at broad bean hummus (uses cooked broad beans instead of the usual chickpeas). My beans had got a bit big, so I decided to pop them out of their skins after cooking, to avoid a gritty texture. It takes a while to pop them all out (added to the time of podding them first as well), but it was definitely worth it.....we've been enjoying the hummus for several days.

My spring-sown broad beans have got blackfly on them, darn. I spotted it on Friday but also noticed some ladybirds and waspy-type things which looked like they might keep the blackfly in check. But when I was there today, the blackfly had spread. There were more ladybirds, and I saw a ladybird larvae too, but there were also ants around (which farm the aphids for their honeydew sap). So, being careful not to squash any ladybirds, I reluctantly went along squashing as many of the blackfly as I could...a bit of a grim job and there's no way I'll have got them all. I might try a soapy spray in a couple of days. Ugh.


Overall, I'm not having too many pest problems at the moment (a bit of slug / snail / woodlice damage, but nothing major)...famous last words of course. The soil is very dry - although we had lots of rain for a while last week, the continuing strong winds are just drying everything out (and blowing all the pollen around, a bad time for us hayfever sufferers). But it means there aren't too many slugs at least.


I still have a few young plants to set out on the allotment but have done the bulk of them now. And I've finally potted-on most of my peppers (and the three aubergines) at home. Just some basil and a couple of hot peppers to pot-up now, phew. (And a bit later there will be the beetroot and lettuce that have just germinated). The tomato plants are looking healthy and there's some cute little fruits forming. The tumbler variety (which I have two plants) should be the first to ripen. Can't wait, eh.


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


Monday 5 June 2017

Harvest Monday, allotment peep, and Eves Hill Veg Co

We've eaten a lot of Broad beans this week - I've picked all of the Autumn-sown super aquadulce. This pic is about 2/3 of the crop, my bag was rather heavy on the way home.
I quite like podding beans, as long as it's not in a rush just before cooking, so I did a whole load at once.
Some of them went into a poached egg dish (added a bit of water, eggs, a few noodles and stuck the lid on)
I also made a couple of curries, this was the first, which I then repeated as an easy meal last night when we had a couple of friends over. It includes my own garlic (which I had to lift because of white rot), and a big bunch of chard from the plot too. I harvested the rest of the broad beans so that I could plant out a couple of winter squashes in their place. This means I have another big bag to use up somehow...I feel maybe a humus is on the cards.
I've been harvesting lettuce leaves from a tray I have growing in the lean-to at home. The baby chard leaves are from the allotment, where loads of self-sown seedlings are popping up all over the place. I've planted out some lettuces into the back garden too but I'm not sure how they'll get on, I have a idea they'll get slugged. I do have some anti-slug wool pellets but as the lettuce plants didn't look that great to begin with, I think I'll save the pellets for another time.
Strawberry season has arrived in earnest, I've been picking loads. I weighed them all last year (total 19kg) but have forgotten to this time round.
Nice with brekkie
Saturday night treat - caramalised strawbs with Stilton, honey and toasted walnuts on sourdough, yum.
The allotment is looking quite good at the moment (I'm surprised!). Jan has helped with cutting the paths recently, which really makes a difference. It also helps reduce hidey places for slugs. Though as I write this, it's raining, which will set the grass off and the slugs n snails will be on the move, darn.
Looking down the main path from just inside the entrance (shed to my right, and two dwarf apple trees to the left)
A few maincrop potatoes, and just-planted Nero kale on the left under the mesh (I have also sown some dwarf French beans inbetween the kale as an experiment)
I was weeding the red onion bed next to the sage hedge and kept getting the lovely scent as I accidentally brushed against the bushes. There have been so many bees on the flowers too, and I even saw a painted lady butterfly the other day.
The Spring-sown broad beans (Eleanora express), with radishes intercropped (and parsnips if they ever germinate)
Red onions in the foreground, with some self-sown chard seedlings. The various wigwams are for winter squash, cucumbers and beans. I still have more to put up / plant / sow (I've also been giving squashes and cucumbers away - I sowed loads). The other side of the plot has three beds I need to clear for these and more brassicas. Behind me are mainly all the fruit bushes (red currant, blackcurrant, raspberry, Saskatoon, gooseberries, hazel trees etc). Yesterday I also sowed more beetroot and lettuces in modules at home - an attempt to be organised and have things to plant out once other crops have been harvested, or squeeze into unoccupied spots. Oh I also need to pot up all my peppers and aubergines. Wow, it never ends eh.
Last Wednesday I headed out to Eves Hill Veg Co (not-for profit veg farm on two acres) to volunteer as usual. We had a nice day for it, skylarks and yellowhammers singing away, and a good gang of volunteers and trainees. These two lovelies were planting out the summer squashes. Just think how much food this will make! So much more productive than 'conventional' farming.
I was mainly helping to plant out celery and celeriac - with a good thick layer of mulch on this sandy soil. We went a bit wobbly but nevermind eh. The salad area is looking amazing, as is the big polytunnel, I'll have to take some more pics this week if I get the chance.

One of my gardening jobs has swapped days this week, so if there's a break in the weather I'll hopefully pop down to the plot tomorrow for a bit of slug patrol. I did find a toad the other day but I think he or she needs a bit of support.


Thanks for reading, I'm linking in with Harvest Monday, kindly hosted by Dave at Our Happy Acres.