Monday, 30 July 2007

Here comes the sun ! 29.07.07

Watch out watch out - there's sunshine about.
A quick visit to the met office weather site and it all looks kind of nice. After the recent deluges of recent days and weeks, the sun has finally got its hat on! Maybe now we can enjoy some good growing weather and get our gardens shipshape? I don't know about your plot, my mine is in need of some help.
Sorry about the picture quality here ! Its a bit difficult to get a good shot on my phones camera when staring into the sun!
The runner beans are looking good with a plentiful supply of beans just around the corner. Growth rate has been steady throughout the wet weather, and with the sun on its way, we should reap the reward very soon.
Mozzies are a constant problem here, making harvesting a nightmare!.

Wow - look at this lot !
My maincrop spuds are ready to eat - we had a roast dinner today with spuds straight from the garden. No food miles here !
We will dig up as we need them, as they should be ok in the ground for a little while longer.
I'm just glad we have not been struck by blight, as so many fellow gardeners report that they have been. We've been fairly lucky with the weather, not half as bad as some in the uk.

As reported last week, the toms (v. Moneymaker ) have all but collapsed during the recent winds / gales !
The plant are bearing large amounts of fruits, and although most main stems are now broken in half, I plan to leave them in place and hope the sun will ripen them off.
Failing that, I'll be making bucket loads of green tomato chutney!
This variety is definitely a heavy crop plant, but needs a bit more shelter than I was able to provide.
Which variety shall I grow next year ?

The toms in the conservatory, (v. Gardeners Delight), are doing really well.
I've cut the tops out on several occasions, to try and maintain them at about 4' tall.
Already there are large stems of flowers on each plant, and there 2 plants per bucket. I will top them up with fresh compost , and then begin a feeding regime to get the toms growing on.

I almost forgot these!
I planted these Leeks as a bit of an experiment, and just left them to it!
They have grown on really well - I guess they like the wet weather ?

And so to the peas. This second sowing ( v. Kelvedon Wonder ) are growing at a pretty good rate, reaching out for the canes and netting support in all directions.
About half of the seeds I planted are growing on nicely , which is not a bad success rate in my book!
We just need some weeks of sunshine to help them on. Not too much to ask for - is it ?

And finally for today, my poor Curly Kale.
Its not doing too well, so i might just chance it and plant out the seedlings, and then see what happens.

Thats another week gone, and Ruby another week older!
Time is flying by!

I hope you are coping with the weather, and managing to enjoy your gardens. I hope you have enjoyed this update, and I look forward to seeing you all again soon.


Sunday, 22 July 2007

Cat napping ! 22.07.07

Ok, it was me !
I had only just put the beef in the oven, drizzled it with a bottle of Balsamic vinegar, and left it to slowly roast at gas mark 3, when my plans for the morning went out the window!

Ruby was settling on the couch when she started hiccuping, so naturally I picked her up for a cuddle!
That was 2 hours ago ! Still not even dressed and with dinner still to cook, I'll get back to you later with my update !
Well, I managed to spend some time sorting through my shallots.
I had laid them out to dry from a couple of weeks ago, but some of the stems had remained damp and proceeded to start rotting. With these, I chopped off the stem just above the bulb, and will use these first.
The remaining bulbs will be hung in the shed, ready for use when they are needed.

The same exercise was also completed with the garlic bulbs. The stems of these had dried out much better. I couldn't work out how to plait the stems so simply tied them into bunches.

This lot will be hung together ( as pictured) and stored ready for use.

Elsewhere in the garden, its just a case of looking after the existing crops. We harvested more carrots for dinner today, as well as more runner beans. Of the latter, most went in the bin as they were too stringy for use. The good news is there are hundreds of smaller beans still ripening. If we can string a period of reasonable weather together, then maybe we will get a good usable crop?

My fears from last week with the outdoor growing tomatoes were well founded. During the wind and rain of the last week, the plants have all collapsed and broken. With main stems now in half, I will just have to leave them as they are and hope that some of the many green toms get enough sun to ripen off. I'm sure that in a sheltered spot this variety would prove to be a very good cropper, but i think i will try a different variety next year. Any ideas anyone ?

The seedling of Curly Kale have not grown on as well as I'd hoped, in fact have hardly grown at all. I will persevere, but again I'm dependant i think on the weather im proving.

I'm gonna plant up some Cabbage ( v. January King 3 ) and see how these get on, as i want to grow well into the winter months, rather than leave the ground bare. I'm also now thinking of growing some Turnip / Swede. I'll look into this and let you know what I decide.

Finally, you may remember I told you about the pumpkin seeds I found on the conservatory floor ? Well, one plant remains, and is only now beginning to form a fruit ! Its a bit too small to take a picture of at the moment, but I will add some pics as soon as I can.

I purchased a secondhand camera on ebay today, so am eagerly awaiting its arrival. Hopefully this will mean I can post better pictures!

Take care all. I hope your gardens are not submerged, as many are that have been on the news. I'm just glad we are not in a flood zone! My heart goes out to all of you who are suffering with these conditions.


Monday, 16 July 2007

Wow, what a busy week! 15.07.07

As promised, a quick update on my gardening week.
Those of you with little angels will surely appreciate how time fritters away !
As it is, there's not an awful lot happening at the moment, concentrating mainly on harvesting crops and tending to existing plants.
The runner beans are now in full growth mode, and although we try and pick them on a regular basis, there is still some wastage as the fruits become stringy.
Its a case of biting the bullet and discarding what is not needed.
The crop is not all coming at the same time, due to the weather I guess, and with no sign of that changing, just have to grin and bear it. The good news is that there is a plethora of rosy buds, so the outlook is for more runners in the next few weeks.

My second sowing of peas (v. Kelvedon Wonder) are doing great, with a good growth rate.
As you can see, they are starting to attach to the netting I put up, so hopefully they will grow better with this support.
Next year I will plant a lot more of these, as they do grow and crop well, and are so tasty.

My outdoor tomatoes are growing really fast ( v. Moneymaker ) , so fast in fact that I'm worried about the weight of the plants. Although the plants are supported by stout 4' canes, the plants are almost Pisa like! I fear they will collapse very soon.
With this in mind, I don't think I'll be planting them again next year, they need too much attention.
I will probably just grow Gardeners Delight next year.

Final pic for this short update ( sorry!!!) is of my Clematis, which is now flowering for the second time this year, having previously flowered mid April.

The blooms are glorious and there are plenty more buds forming.

Thats about it for now folks, but hopefully I will find more time for a full update next sunday. I hope you will join me then.

Take care all.


Sunday, 8 July 2007

Email your enquiries...... 08.07.07

By popular demand, I have set up an email address for you to send your gardening questions to:

Please be patient, I will try and respond to all questions.

Lets see how it goes !


Working with the Weather 08.07.07

Good morning all, welcome to my gardening blog update.

Over recent weeks we have had some seriously wet weather, something us Brits are usually good at dealing with. However, a quick read of various gardening websites / blogs etc, reveals a different story. There are numerous reports of spoiled crops , due in part to the rain and the volume thereof. This needn't be the case, as good soil preparation can overcome this problem.

One of the key attributes in any garden, be it for growing veg or flowers, is to get the soil condition right, or more importantly, getting the drainage right. I have read a lot recently about the benefits of gardening in raised beds, and I whole heartedly agree with the reasoning. However, you cannot simply place a raised bed in a garden, without first working the soil beneath, and expect to get great harvests.

When I created my veg plot, before any hard landscaping was done, i first prepared the soil in the area where the raised beds were going to be sited. This was done the hard way, double digging and hand weeding of the entire area. It took a great length of time, especially clearing the "cut and come again " weeds. My plot had not it seems been cultivated for over 10 years, and it really needed some hard graft. Over the area of the plot, I dug down approx 2', and turned that soil over 2 or 3 times, continually exposing the soil to the elements, including several hard frosts. This process enabled the clay soil to break down, and to form the right base for my plot.

They say that the proof of the pudding is the eating. Well, last week we had an almighty storm, thunder and lightning the likes of which I had not seen in a long time. Glancing out the windows from the conservatory, the grass area of the garden was under about 2" of water, yet the raised beds were not affected, but were indeed freely drained. After the weather cleared, I harvested some Garlic ( see previous post) and at the same time checked the soil. Ok, it was wet, but there were no signs of poor drainage.

Later in the week, I decided to harvest my Shallots:
The attached pic shows the fruits of my hard graft !
There has to be over 50 good sized and well developed bulbs, which are all healthy and disease free. Not only do they look terrific, they smell delightful too. Some of them have a glorious red hue which just makes you want to bite into them !
The soil remaining from the raised beds is still light and fluffy, no sign of water logging here.

Elsewhere in the plot, further planting has taken place:
These peas (v. Kelvedon Wonder) were planted out in the old potato bed just 10 days ago, and already are putting on good growth, with many of the seeds germinated.
I simply slice holes in the mulch fabric, and plant the seeds ( which were soaked overnight) about 1" deep.
Remember to water at least once a day, regardless of the weather!

The Curly Kale (v. tba ) have been potted on into individual pots, and should be ready to be planted out in a couple more weeks.

I've got at least the same amount again still waiting to be potted on. I just need to find some time!
Maybe I can do some more this afternoon? I'm also thinking of planting some in the borders as the plants are quite ornamental?

Moneymaker toms are growing well in the garden, with many fruits forming. All we need now is a bit of prolonged sunshine to ripen them off.Cant wait for my first cheese and homegrown tomato sandwich !

My maincrop spuds (v. King Edward) are still looking good. The foliage has taken a battering but still looks fresh and is still vigorous .
Its hard to believe just how much foliage there is, but lets hope that means big spuds too ? !!!
I can no longer see the bed beneath, and the surrounding paths are completely obscured!

Final pic of the todays update shows my favorite hanging basket.
There's plenty of work involved dead heading the trailing petunia, but the effect is truly worthwhile.
All four baskets are now coming on strong, and are a delightful backdrop to the dense green veg foliage that abounds in the garden.

Later today I'm planning on lifting more crops, Betroot for some lovely sandwiches and some runner beans / carrots to go with our dinner.

I hope you have enjoyed todays update, I've certainly had a busy and productive week. I hope you have had a good week too. Don't forget, there's still plenty of growing season left. I have only just ordered my Cabbage Seeds from Suttons (v. January King 3 ), which will be planted up on arrival.

Take care all and have a good week.


Tuesday, 3 July 2007

Fresh Garlic 03.07.07

Yesterday I found the time to check the Met Office weather forecast (one of my links ! ) and lucky i did too! With the forecast of a deluge of rain I decided to lift some Garlic from the plot.
The 12 cloves I dug up were a welcome sight, and ranged in size from 3/4" Diameter up to about 2" . As you can see, the foliage had started to yellow so they would have been harvested soon anyway.
The aroma that now fills my conservatory is gorgeous, and it's all I can do to not try them just yet, rather leave them time to dry out, before plaiting and hanging them in the shed. At same time a few carrots were disturbed so dug those up too! I've still another 12 garlic plants to harvest - if they have survived the rain - and boy did we get some!

I also managed to complete another small job today - erecting some netting to support my latest sowing of Peas (v. Kelvedon Wonder) which are already germinating and starting to grow through the mulch fabric.
I've added the bottles to the canes in the hope that having them rattling in the wind will deter the birds? It worked when I sowed the runner beans earlier in the year, so hopefully I will be okay.

My next job is to source some seeds / plug plants of winter cabbage, which will be planted in this same bed, along with the Curly Kale mentioned previously.
Time doesn't stand still in the garden. I take great inspiration from the RHS Harlow Carr (Check my links) site, whereby I try to use the available space to it's best advantage, keeping something growing throughout the year.

Thats all for now. See you all soon.


Sunday, 1 July 2007

The patter of tiny footsteps! 01.07.07

What a mind blowingly fantastic week!
Our daughter made her appearance on Monday 25th June at ten to midnight, which pretty much put paid to gardening this week. But don't get me wrong, I wouldn't have it any other way. Her beauty far outweighs the vocabulary in the english language - leaving me searching for superlatives with which to describe her. Despite her birthweight of 9 Pounds 6 ounces, both Mummy & Ruby Ann ( and of course Daddy too) are doing just fine. I was pushing too you know!

So this week folks, its just a short summary, although thanks to Mum ( Nana ! ) I did manage to get a few jobs completed:
The potato bed that was planted with First & Second Earlies has now been cleared. All spuds were harvested, dried, and are now stored in a cool dark place.Not quite sure how long they will survive as we are devouring them at quite a rate.
The bed was dug over with a trowel after our harvest, then raked to a fine tilth. Next was a fresh covering of mulch cloth to hold in the moisture and also to block out the light. This will keep any weed growth at bay while fresh planting takes place. The first planting was 4 rows ( left to right ) of Peas (v. Kelvedon Wonder) which should provide us with a further late crop of fresh tasty peas, hopefully about mid august?. This planting followed the news that approx 30% of the UK Pea crops have been wiped out due to flooding / persistent heavy rain in farmers fields. This is the advantage of growing in Raised Beds - having thoroughly prepared the ground before constructing the beds, I know that I have good soil structure as well as good drainage. Bring on the rain - I think I can cope!

This will be my next crop to join the peas! Mum sowed these Curly Kale seeds a few weeks ago, and I plan to pot them on until they are a bit bigger, then plant them out in a couple of weeks time. This should give us a nice crop of leafy greens for the coming cooler months.
I'm also planning to sow some Savoy Cabbage ( if I can find a decent supplier ) in the remaining space in the bed.
These are 3 crops that are ideal for planting following a potato harvest, and should do well in this soil.
I'm looking forward to some good results here - fingers crossed eh!

This bed will be the next to take some attention.
The Garlic and the Shallot's are both about ready for harvesting, But I'm going to need to warmer / drier weather to dry the crops out before storing. The bulbs of both sets are a good size, and the weight of the foliage is pulling them over.
If they spend too much longer in situ, they will surely be ruined.
Also, following their harvest, a lot more light and air will be able to reach the row of carrots that have been smothered beneath.

The foliage in the bed to the left is my short row of maincrop spuds ( v.King Edward), which are growing at a tremendous rate.
In hindsight, this bed was way too small for such a crop, so any pots harvested from here will be a bonus, as are the flowers in Purple and white which adorn the lush green foliage.You can just make out my Rhubarb (v. Timperley Early ) by the fence. Growth here too is fast. Crumble and custard will soon be on the menu!

My tomato plants are going great guns too. I've got 6 sturdy plants outside (v. Moneymaker) already bearing fruit, as well as 8 Sturdy plants (v. Gardeners Delight) in pots in the conservatory.
Ironic then really, that closer inspection of my planters on the patio should reveal a couple of self seeded plants of unknown variety springing up amongst the flowers! Beware then in future when composting - as these plants are from my home made compost !

Just when you think there will be no more surprises...... I had found a few leaves of a wild (?) passion flower late last summer, which i simply trailed up a fence and forgot about. Imagine my delight when I discovered a couple of days ago, that there a loads of fruits adorning the plant. I believe they're edible, but will need some advice on when to harvest etc. I'm sure one of my readers will know, so please get in touch.
That's about it really.
I hope you've enjoyed this short update.
I'm off now to try and squeeze in some shut eye before the next feed! I hope you all have a good week, and if I get time, I'll post some more info during the week. I'm also hoping to get my new email up and running to make contacting me a bit easier.