Monday 31 July 2017

Harvest Monday - summer bounties and a Norwich stroll

Whew, the harvests are cranking up a gear. I've lifted the first best for years. These were multi-sown at home (several seeds in one module), then the whole modules planted out, with no thinning. So when the beets start getting sizeable, you harvest the bigger ones and leave the smaller ones to grow on...simple really, I don't know why I've never tried it before. These particular ones are growing under a wigwam of climbing French beans. I've done three sowings of beets, and just planted out the last lot today, so will hopefully have harvests over a long-ish period.
The beet tops are good for eating too, like chard or spinach.
Talking of chard, there's been plenty of that too.
In the back garden, the sugar snap peas had started to get mildewy - we'd already had some but then I decided to clear the lot....not a bad amount.
The cucumbers are really going for it...loads of crystal lemons, marketmore etc. One day I had 17 in the plenty of them to snack on. And the courgettes are steadily cropping too. The plant in the back garden doesn't produce many (plus they're quite small fruits, possibly as it's too shady) but on the open allotment they're much more healthy.
Also in the back garden, the runner beans are properly getting going.
And in the lean-to the tomatoes are looking good, and a nice variety of flavours.
I have a few dwarf French bean plants on the plot, uncropping various plants (corn, kale) and some of these are starting to produce too.
...some of those cukes etc. I'm stockpiling the gherkins, to make fermented pickles in a big batch (I'd meant to do it today but didn't get round to it).
Earlier in the week, a vegetable Ood made an appearance (Dr Who).
We enjoyed a nice roast yesterday (and leftovers today). Oh yeah, I lifted the red onions this week too - they're drying in the allotment shed.
I roasted the beets at the same time, and am going to make a hummus with them (slow-cooked a big batch of chickpeas today to add to them), so that's one to make tomorrow too.
The other day we had a more healthier looking meal
On the fruit front, there are masses of blackberries, we've picked tubfuls, and added them to the freezer (I've eaten lots whilst picking too...well, you have to don't you).

I accidentally knocked a couple of apples from one of the dwarf trees (whilst trying to duck under a low branch to get at blackberries!). They're not quite ripe, so I'll probably actually cook them with some blackberries...classic combo.
The apple tree which I moved this winter has had quite a lot of fruit on it (variety Katy maybe?). But the fruit was damaged - not sure if this was because the tree rocked around with all the high winds (despite me staking it). But even the damaged ones have edible bits. I hadn't realised how early these ripened, as the tree was tucked away a bit....this explains why most of the fruit had usually dropped off by the time I noticed it. Now the tree has a lot more space and is more prominent. In fact this year is the best harvest I've had from the tree (there were a few more apples as well as the ones below) despite the damage, so it was worth moving it. Hopefully next year it'll have settled into its new position more as well (I probably shouldn't have even let it fruit this year so it strengthened up).
Nice chopped up with breakfast anyway
The other week I mentioned we were going to an open garden in Norwich, but it rained heavily. Well, this weekend we thought it was open again but when we walked over there it turns out we got the dates mixed up. Whoops again. So instead we had a nice walk around the cathedral area.....past Cow Tower pond with the cathedral in the background. There was a song thrush cracking snails next to the pond - could do with one on my allotment.
There are actually two peregrine falcons in this photo (get your magnifying glass out) - one on a nobble at the top of the tower, and one plucking a dead bird on the nesting platform
And the River Wensum looking lovely in the sun, with canoeists enjoying the still water

Well, this week I need to think about what to sow next, so I've got some veggies to plant out for the Autumn, replacing tomatoes etc in the lean-to. What do you usually sow now?


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


Monday 24 July 2017

Harvest Monday - summer pickings

It's been quite a bountiful week, but somehow I managed to only take a few piccies. In the back garden, the huge rhubarb leaves were really getting in the way so I pulled the bigger stalks. I brought a load back to my mum's (where I am at the moment). She actually gave me my rhubarb crown years ago, as a chunk from hers but mine has ended up growing better...oops!
At the allotment there have been loads of courgettes, cucumbers, chard and kale. I brought some kale, chard, cucumbers (and tomatoes from the lean-to at home) back to my mum's too, in my suitcase via the train .....if anyone had to look in the suitcase they'd wonder what on earth was in there. Ooh and we've already been harvesting blackberries....first a small tub (below), followed by a big one a couple of days later. And since I've been away, Jan's been in charge of harvesting, picking even more. Most will end up in the freezer, for us to use throughout the year. We've also picked the first few runner beans and dwarf French beans, yay.
I wanted to harvest the Sturon onions before I came away...they'd started to flop over and with all the rain we've been having I was worried that some would rot if I left them until I was back. So luckily I had a sunny morning on the plot, which meant I could lift them, leave them to dry for a couple of hours, brush off most of the dried soil and hang them in the shed on a sort of chicken-wire hammock strung up from the roof. They're my best onions ever I think - the bed had been manured last year for potatoes, and I'd 'fed' them with chicken poo pellets when they were first set out, then have been regularly sprinkling a light covering of grass clippings every couple of weeks - seems to have helped. There were several affected by white rot, which I brought home to use up first. I didn't get chance to lift the red onions, so it will be interesting to see what they're like.
The grass paths on the allotment were starting to get quite long so it was much more enjoyable to look upwards rather than downwards (I'll have the grass cutting to look forward to on my return). Sitting on the path I was surrounded by bees, butterflies and apples (dwarf apple trees). It's always tempting to think the apples are nearly ready once they start to reach a decent size but it'll be ages before they're ripe.
So anyway, weather pending, I'll be out in the back garden and nipping down the allotment late tomorrow afternoon / evening. It's always exciting to have a look around after you've been away for a few days. There shouldn't be too many overgrown veggies though, Jan has been doing a grand job of picking things whilst I've been away. I'm most looking forward to seeing if the winter squashes have put on much growth.
Thanks for reading this week, I'm linking in as usual with Harvest Monday, kindly hosted by Dave at Our Happy Acres.


Monday 17 July 2017

Harvest Monday - summer harvests

So the lovely yellow tumbler tomatoes in the lean-to greenhouse at home are coming along nicely. We've had quite a few handfuls like this. These types of toms seem to ripen earlier than the cordon varieties, so growing a couple of plants gives an earlier crop. It's also quite surprising the number of fruits from relatively small plants. I have issues with the other tomatoes though...I don't normally get any problems (apart from a bit of blossom end rot) but I think there's a virus going through some of the plants, wah.
The little yellow toms are nice in sarnies (gap left down the middle for easier slicing sandwiches in half without contents immediately falling out). Used a bit of purple basil and parsley in these too. The parsley in self sown in the back garden.
The courgettes are still coming steadily. I realised I got the variety wrong's actually coucourzelle (apparently an unusual Italian heirloom variety). I really like the flavour, and it slices well.
A few more larger ones.
Aaand another (plus little cucumber)
The first couple of gherkin fruits were ready too. We actually ate these like cucumbers (peeled) as a snack rather than fermenting. They had a nice flavour.
There were more crystal lemon cukes plus even more courgettes and burpless evergreen cukes. (These are from the other day, I've harvested more today as well).
I have masses of self sown chard, I like picking the soft young leaves and making them into pesto (slightly cook the leaves first).
I add a bit of basil too...and for the last batch I used toasted cashews rather than walnuts.
The pesto is lovely with pasta, or spread in sandwiches.
Or with a Sunday nut roast....these were the last of my early potatoes, and were delicious mixed with the pesto. I stuck a few of the tumbler toms in for roasting too. And the nut roast (made by Jan), included parsley and rosemary from the backgarden and allotment.
Tonight we had the rest of the nut roast with Nero kale and a courgette lightly steamed together (and only just picked this evening too), more of the pesto, homemade marrow chutney and home-sprouted lentils....not bad for a Monday night dinner, yum. I'm enjoying having kale so early but hope it keeps cropping into the winter...there are plants at different stages of growth, so hopefully the smaller ones (only recently planted out) will spread out the harvests.

Oh I also made a gooseberry cake yesterday using a different recipe to the one I made recently but it didn't turn out that well! And after a huge harvest the fresh raspberries are finally running out but we're enjoying the few that are still cropping (and have frozen loads).


I was hoping to share some photos of the Bishop's Garden, near Norwich Cathedral, which had an open day yesterday. But it chucked it down with rain all afternoon, so we didn't get there in the end (we actually got halfway there when the heavy rain started, so stood under a tree for ages with our brollies, watched some canoeists paddling by on the river getting rather wet, then we took shelter in the nearby bowling alley arcade, played some arcade games, rain wasn't stopping so we soggily came home.). Not quite the naturey planned afternoon but it was fun anyway. Will have to keep an eye out for the next open garden session.


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


Monday 10 July 2017

Harvest Monday and an allotment update

The harvests are getting a bit more varied now, with lunches including quite a few homegrown elements (not the carrot...I haven't grown any this year). I like mixing up lettuce leaves with a bit of green / purple basil and parsley, plus a lone tomato here, and a tendergreen burpless cucumber.
The kale which I planted out in June (after lifting my garlic early due to white rot) has been growing really well
And the self sown chard is all over the place, I've made several pickings, some of smaller leaves like this and others left to get a bit bigger.
Depending on how sunny it's been, we sometimes have more than one tomato at a time! (Here with a little bit of salad from Eves Hill Veg Co where I volunteer, including some borage flowers...I should really harvest some from the allotment the way, the Eves Hill salad is amazing...25 varieties of leaf I think, wow. We piled some more salad on after this pic but I wanted to show the tumbler toms first).
The courgettes are coming along steadily. Definitely not glut proportions, just a nice quantity. I have three plants all in quite different locations (different light / space etc), so that seems to be keeping the numbers steady. This variety is zucchini, from a free packet of seeds off the front of a magazine a few years back. It slices really nicely and doesn't go seedy, even when accidentally letting the fruit get a bit big.
I also spied the first couple of crystal lemon cucumbers (always good for making eyes in a veggie face). Now, although it's nice to have them, this particular plant I thought was going to be a dumpling winter squash. I must've got my baby plants mixed up because after a few new leaves had appeared it was obviously some kind of cuke...and turns out it is a crystal lemon. Oh well, it's doing the best out of the other crystal lemons anyway.
I harvested a bit more kale today too.
Some of the chard went into making a big load of pesto (lightly cook the chard then whizz with toasted walnuts, oil, garlic etc). It was tasty in sandwiches as well as with pasta.
Yesterday Jan made a yummy nut roast with Yorkshire puds...and even better, there was enough leftovers for tonight aswell, here with chard and courgette plus marrow chutney from last year (our last jar of it, will have to make more soon).
The allotment is looking pretty good at the moment, if I do say so meself. An allotment neighbour even said he thinks it's the best he's ever seen it (still early summer and time for weeds to take over though!). Here's the view from just inside the plot entrance. The lavender has flopped over the path even though I've already tied it back once. It's nice to brush past though, and there are so many bees on it (I apologise to them each time i disturb them walking past).
The rotational beds are all in use now, though some of the plants are quite small (like the leeks I planted into the old broad bean bed). My plot goes back to just where the swing is poking above the bushes. I have mainly soft fruit bushes and a couple of hazel trees down that end, plus the huge buddliea on the left of the plot. The three compost heaps are down there too. Incidentally, we've been picking lots more fruit this week but I've not got any pics. Jan's been helping pick the raspberries again. I was just looking back to photos from last year, and the different soft fruits do seem to be ready a couple of weeks earlier this year.
Looking across slightly to the right. Gherkins in the foreground climbing up sticks and netting
Bit of a polyculture with courgette, a couple of other squashes and self sown chard in the bed, beans and cuke up the mesh (which I purloined from a skip years back...I did check with the owners first, honest guv). Tray of leeks waiting to be planted out elsewhere. There are maincrop potatoes on the other side of the mesh. Originally I had this area as the strawberry patch, and there are some little plants which have grown in the path seemingly from nowhere. There's some mildew on these squashes / cukes and I keep forgetting to do a milk spray to try and keep it in check.
The kale / cuke / dwarf bean trial is going ok so far, with all plants looking healthy (this is where I've been harvesting kale but I have other plants at different stages in a couple of other beds too). I'm trying to keep on top of hoeing around the plot this year, probably for the first time ever, and it's really helping keep the beds clean and not too much slug damage.
This winter squash is a new one for me - sweet dumpling I think, without checking. There's meant to be lots of small fruits, though the other little fruits on this plant look like they're going to rot-off - in fact you can see the stalk of a tiny one I removed which had a rotten bum.
I was given a mixed packet of green and white butternut squash...I've never heard of green butternut but this looks like it might be one. I'll have to see if it turns white or not! You can also see a lot of soil splash on the leaves, from the huge storm last Thursday. It gave everything a good drink at least anyway, and filled my water butt at home up.
It's nearly time to lift and dry the onions (variety sturon). I want to use this bed for the leeks, so I'm trying hard to resist lifting the onions too soon (in terms of crop rotation, it's ok to follow in the same family within the same growing season, but to rotate next year).
Talking of leeks, here are a few more from last year that I've let go to flower.
The bees love them (ignore the fly). In the background are some of my wigwams for squash, cukes and beans, made from trimmings around the plot and willow from an allotment friend.
There have been loads of butterflies around too, here's a gatekeeper enjoying one of the many self sown marjoram plants around the top end of the plot.

Thanks for reading this mega-post. I'm linking in as usual with Harvest Monday kindly hosted by Dave at Our Happy Acres. Check out his blog to see what other people around the world have been harvesting too.