A good harvest so far….

It’s the middle of August and the extremely hot weather has finally broken. We’ve had virtually no rain since May and the temperatures have regularly been in the mid 30s so not the easiest of gardening conditions. Looking back at my May post and everything looks so tidy! Now I can hardly see the pond the plants are so high and the veggie plot is just mental. Getting inside poly tunnel number three requires a machete while poly tunnel one is more or less finished as most of the tomatoes have been harvested. The Green Zebras and the Crimean Black are from the polytunnel the other tomatoes were grown outside. At least five kilos of cherry tomatoes have been split, sprayed with oil, sprinkled with herbs, slowly dried then frozen…a bit of summer come the winter time. There are masses of outside tomatoes but they are a good way off ripening. I hope the late blight stays away.

toms

The mad veggie plot – NOTE to self do not overplant the raised beds! DO NOT plant beans in with anything else. PROVIDE adequate support for tomatoes, beans, chilies and tomatillos. ONLY plant squashes where they can trail over grass not over the top of other raised beds, beans or tomatoes! The raised beds have made such an impact on the growth of crops as to be amazing. I cannot believe how lush everything is. Despite the heat and lack of rain everything has romped away. I have been watering using two ten litre watering cans per bed per day – much less water than I would normally use but obviously targeted and presumably held in the bed.
veggieplot

These tomatillos are taller than me now and the husks look huge do hope the fruit expands to fill them. These freeze really well.

tomentillos

Been having a few fermenting experiments including carrots with dill, turmeric, lemon, coriander and ginger. A short 5 day ferment with a ratio of 10 grams of salt to 500 grams of carrots. Verdict – the carrots with turmeric has the best flavour and texture we’ll be doing that one again soon. We’ve also been playing around making goat’s cheese using kefir. This is way too scrummy especially on toast with raspberry jam!

I’ve been eating fresh fruit from the garden with my muesli since May; strawberries, raspberries then blackcurrants (3 kilos also in the freezer) I’m now on late rasps from the garden and blackberries from the hedgerows. I’m hoping I can keep this going with the plums picked yesterday, the blackberries still to be picked and the frozen blackcurrants until at least the end of September which means I’ve managed to provide us with five months of fruit outwith a grocery store. The apples look like they are only fit for making apple cider vinegar – yet another brew going on in the kitchen!

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Update at last….

Don’t you just love gardening, months where it’s almost impossible to be doing anything outside then months where 24 hours in a day is just not enough. Well, we’ve started the gardening year with good intentions…like adding a third polytunnel, ten raised beds on the veggie plot and growing salad stuff on the balcony. I began the year by clearing up the pond area what a mess that was. The herb garden was not much better so it too got the armageddon gardening treatment.

before_after

It’s taken us a couple of weeks to get the polytunnels sorted out. The cherry tree had to be trimmed back to allow in as much light as possible and still not sure if we’ve managed to create sufficient light. Unfortunately this is the only place in the garden where polytunnels won’t fly away!

The first one is planted up with strawberries to the front and back (foxglove missed seeding from last year) then green zebra and crimean black tomato plants. Down the centre of the middle bed and at the back of the other two beds I’ve sown carrots – not sure if they’ll come to anything but at least they’ll germinate what with the heat and regular watering. Had no success growing carrots outside however as they are supposed to be a good companion plant for tomatoes I thought nothing to lose and I might end up with the odd carrot. The trays of pots contain 36 chilli plants (main jalapeno) and the seed tray is sown with tomatillo and cape gooseberry (never grown these before).

The second tunnel is bursting with broad beans that I sowed last autumn. I’ve grown these outside but they always get attacked by black fly and never produce a crop. SO FAR these are fine and the bean pods are starting to swell. They need to get a move on though as I need the space for chillies, cucumbers and melon.

The third tunnel has sweet peppers in the middle bed and more tomatoes to the left plus I’ve sown beetroot down the centre bed and at the back of the tomatoes. I’ve got sunflowers, cucumbers, winter squashes, courgettes and sweet corn in the pots and parsnip, cabbages and pakchoi in the trays. Once I can get the seedlings outside I’m going to plant sweet potato in here. The trays in front of the poly tunnels have kidney, cobra and borlotti beans all destined for the new raised beds.

Over the winter the first tunnel was filled with a variety of oriental greens – worth buying a polytunnel just to grow these! The pie below is packed with them – basically a savoury egg custard laden with oriental greens and baked in a spring form.Green pudding

Speaking of eggs – we have four new hens (marans coucou)  they are stuck in their coop at the moment as both the polytunnels and the veggie plot need an exclusion zone around them. The fencing for the tunnels is now complete but they’ll have to wait another week or so for the other fencing to be erected. I find it impossible to work in the veggie plot with hens as they want to be into everything. Looking forward to getting them onto the compost heap though and kicking the living daylights out of it!

Then to the big project…10 raised beds in the veggie plot. These are made with decking: they are the length of the decking (2.4m) and half the width (1.2m) so only three cuts per bed (plus the cutting of the supports). The hard work come with preparing the beds, first the soil is weeded and dug out into bins, a bin of fermented stuff (wood ash, veggies, fruit, coffee pads etc) is added then three barrow loads of horse poo. The soil in the bins is then mixed with three bags of compost and added to the beds. It takes me a day to complete one bed.

So far I’ve got two planted up with a third in place – rain has stopped play for the next couple of days but hopefully by the end of next week I’ll have five planted…more tomatoes, beans and maybe some pak choi.

two planted snip

I’m going to try growing the three sisters at the top of the garden; sweet corn and squashes are coming along in the polytunnel so I should get some runner beans on the go to join them. At least I’ve managed to weed the long strip that will host the sisters although it’s going to take some feeding before I can begin planting.  In the meantime the grass still needs cutting and the wonderful lemon balm continues to provide me with a lovely infusion.

Finally, the salad stuff on the balcony hmmm not sure how this is going to play out. I’ve got five boxes of lettuce, three of herbs, four of flowers (some edible) and (to be added) three of dwarf cucumber which I’m hoping will grow down the railings. These only went out yesterday so looking a bit grim as are my yet to fill out hanging baskets. Happy gardening everyone…balcony

 

Should be further on than this!

Not sure what is wrong with me but finding it really hard to get out in the cold and do some work. Did manage to make a start on the two beds at the top of the garden although they still need fed with about twenty wheelbarrow loads of manure. Hoping for an improvement from the asparagus bed in 2017 it was a very meagre crop this year. I’ve yet to do anything in the veggie plot bar plant out cabbage, collards, chard and kale plus sow more lettuce. I think I’m perhaps being overly optimistic with regards to the outdoor sown lettuce but we’ll see. It’s funny as soon as I don’t have any lettuce to pick I start craving it!

cleared-beds   veggieplot

Both polytunnels are at least complete for the winter. They both contain transplanted strawberries along their back walls. In the first one there’s some PakChoi progressing very slowly plus lettuce and oriental greens from seed that are just starting to peek through. In the second one I’ve left a chilli plant to see how long it lasts who knows perhaps it will be a mild winter and it will live to see 2017. I’ve also sown broad beans in the hope of a crop that is not decimated by black fly. I’ve tried on a number of occasions to grow broad bean outside – this will be my last attempt if the blackfly invade the polytunnel.

g1   g2

This is not a pretty sight but I’m sure the worms will love it. I did this last year on a smaller scale but going all out this year. We only put the fire on a couple of weeks ago and already I have a dust bin full of ashes layered with stuff we normally throw onto the compost heap. I reckon by the spring I should have at least 10 bin loads to dig into the veggie plot. The runner beans loved this smelly disgusting concoction.

ashbin

Finally, December in a couple of days and still there are flowers out around the garden…

rocket   bud   cornflower

honesty   campanula   sweetrocket

Time for the big clean up…

It’s almost the end of October and I’ve done just about nothing in the garden until yesterday and today. We’re still eating (and will be for a couple of more weeks) our badly misshapen but scrummy tomatoes. I’ve had tomatoes with just about everything but I think my favourite is with a blue cheese omelette. It’s something about the sweetness of the tomatoes and the saltiness of the blue cheese. Mind a ‘polytunnel’ plus chorizo pizza comes a close second!

omlette   polytunnel-pizza

I sowed these trays of seeds (kale, cabbage, collards and pak choi) before I went off on holiday and my kind neighbour kept them watered. Hopefully, once I’ve finished working in the polytunnels I’ll get these planted out later in the week. This picture was taken a couple of weeks ago and they are really screaming to be in the ground.

plugplants

I have at last made a start in the polytunnels (not sure why I can’t get motivated at this time of the year?). I’ve lifted all the strawberry plants from the middle of polytunnel number one and transplanted them to the back of both polytunnels that should give me about 100 plants if they all recover from the move. In polytunnel number two I’ve planted broad beans which hopefully will escape the black fly. Tomorrow, I’m hoping to sow the large pile of seeds in polytunnel number one. After that the veggie plot needs tackled!

broadbeans     seeds2

 

 

 

Bone Dry…

Not had the heart to post as there is so little going on in the garden apart from the most boring of jobs -watering! We’ve not cut grass for almost three months and I can’t remember the last time we had rain. Even the weeds have given up the ghost. Temperature in the 30s for weeks on end and no rain does not bode well for a good crop of veggies. Although, having said that the chillies seem quite happy both in the polytunnel and outside.

dried chillies   Scotch bonnets

This is the first time I’ve grown Scotch Bonnets from seed so I’ll be quite pleased if I get a small crop. The Hungarian Wax and Cayenne have done really well in the polytunnel and as you can see I’m threading and hanging the surplus Cayenne chillies.

duck salad    courgette bahgis

We have been eating lettuce till it’s been coming out of our ears. No sign of it even bolting which is rather amazing given the heat and the sun. Well, it wouldn’t be summer without an over abundance of courgettes! The last pick got made into courgette bhajis which we’ve frozen for winter treats. We’ve also had a feta and courgette frittata which was pretty tasty.

toms

We’ve been eating lots of Greek inspired dishes given the number of cucumbers and tomatoes we’ve had. For the first time ever I appear to have a crop of aubergines that look like they might come to something. Lots of bell peppers, aubergines, cucumbers and tomatoes still to be picked from the polytunnels which we’re planning to live off until our holiday at the end of the month.

squash

A very disappointing crop (I use that word very loosely!) of squashes. You can see how dry the ‘grass’ is so you can imagine how difficult it has been trying to keep the squashes alive let alone fruiting well. There are still a few left unpicked but they are pretty pathetic especially the butternuts. But at least it’s something unlike the beans, onions and the beetroot which went straight onto the compost heap!

collards    tolttilos

Kale, collard and chard are all doing fine as are the tomatillos and I might even get a crop of parsnip and leeks as they seem to be doing well. It’s a funny game this gardening no two years the same.

Dry as sticks….

You would not believe the change in the weather. I seem to spend all my time watering the veggie plot(s) and polytunnels. Last rain was about two weeks ago and none forecast for the next 10 days. Coupled with temperatures in the high 20s to high 30s everything seems crispy, the grass crunches as you walk. I’m hoping I don’t lose too much to drought as there is no way I can water more than the edibles apart from a newly planted buddleia which is getting a drink, and the hanging baskets which are at least on a watering system.

House        IMG_0764

I think my veggie plot is in danger of turning into a flower plot if I’m not careful. It started with the red bergamot added in with the rhubarb, then a ‘bit’ of comfrey, then sweet rocket, borage (of course) and calendula. I also added some gladiola bulbs for cut flowers, tiny perennials and cuttings to grow on and of course a pyramid of sweet peas!

bergamot    glads    sweetpeas

I’ve now got two polytunnels, the veggie plot with the flowers, two long beds at the top of the garden and a patch in front of the big hut all growing veggie. I’m also growing fruit all over the place. The veggie plot is being given over more and more to salad and leafy veg as I can water it easily. There are about about six varieties of lettuce on the go at the moment along with a couple varieties of rocket. The basil (like most things) is really struggling with the heat. Kale on the other hand just grows! Eating lots and lots of salad.

dry veggieplot  bowllettuce

The polytunnels are romping away – they have put on even more growth since I took this picture as I gave them a drink of the very stinky comfrey juice the other day. I’m going to make a HUGE batch of this from all the bloomin comfrey romping about the garden. The first tunnel is filled with 15 tomato plants (too many I fear) and the now fruited strawberries. The second has chillies, sweet peppers, aubergines and cucumber in…I’m not very happy with the look of the ‘soil’ but everything seems to be growing away – that’s a big clump of honesty in the front – forgot that is also in the veggie plot!

toms      chilies

The squash bed is doing well and the ‘asparagus’ bed is now filled with spare (aka the weakest) squash, chillie and tomato plants. At the back of the squash bed I’ve planted giant sunflowers (Titan) which are now over seven foot high along with some dwarf sunflowers. Next to the squashes I’ve planted leeks which I’m hoping will take advantage of the shade on their roots offered by the squash leaves and the trench I dug and filled with manure. A bit of an experiment…

squashbed      leeks

These bed are about 22 metres long and I’m thinking of extending them to maybe 30 metres. Also thinking my ideal veggie plot is a single, metre and a half wide, 120 metre long strip.

Well June and July have been fruit months we pigged out on raspberries and strawberries with homemade muesli for almost six weeks. Last night we had a red gooseberry, rhubarb and blackcurrant crumble – scrummy. The freezer if full of rhubarb and black currants however the rasps and strawberries were all gobbled down as they became available. I note my greengage tree has a total of four fruit showing and the blueberry bushes look decidedly short of fruit…such is gardening….hmm no picture of the pond as the weeds are even bigger than they were in June – an autumnal task me thinks.

goose    rhubarb    Rasps

 

 

Missed May…

I missed blogging in May just too many things going on both in and outwith the garden. Could really have done without the huge storm on the 28th of May. In the picture below you can see a river running through the polytunnels. I’ve had to replace the bark chipping paths as they got washed away.

After the stormNot sure how but the contents of the tunnels survived despite the sudden drop in temperature after the storm. I really did think I’d lose the lot given everything was sitting in cold wet ground for days on end. Mind, having said that I lost a good number of strawberries due to botrytis but I’ve still had a pretty good crop. Poly one has been planted with 15 tomatoes plants alongside the strawberries. Poly two holds 6 aubergines, 6 bell peppers, 2 cucumbers (I lost one) and 8 chillie plants (one is a cheat I bought at Lidl already fruiting!).

poly one  poly two
So far I’ve had five lots of strawberries with maybe two more to come. The chillies are a novelty for June and have been put in oil for use on pizza!

strawberries   red 2

I find trying to get everything into ground at this time of year a real challenge This week I finally finished the veggie plot. I have one wee bit to do but the rest is planted up with, mange tout, lots of lettuce, sweet potato, tomatoes, zucchini, cucumber, tomatillos, kale, beetroot, onions, garlic, leeks, collards, parsnips and turnips. Yesterday I sowed runner beans which I hope do better than the French beans which look to have been eaten by all and sundry!

veggieplotseed  veggieplotdone

At the top of the garden I extended the ‘onion bed’ a little bit and planted winter squash, leeks and sunflowers. An odd combination I know but I had too many leeks to fit them all in the veggie plot. Mind they are so thin you can hardly see them unlike the mole runs which are very visible. I’ve also added more lavender and a couple of peony roses.

In the adjacent asparagus bed I’ve planted lots of chillies, more squash and three tomato plants.

squashbed

Back in March in a nasty corner at the opposite end of the garden I cleared a few weeds and planted some artichokes and comfrey. It’s now all gone a bit crazy but the chokes are growing. I just hope they are robust enough to see off the bracken, nettles and brambles.

Chokesmarch   chokes

Finally, I know I’m always saying no more projects but…this is a last ditch attempt to grow celery and celeriac. Really should have taken some before pictures as these are just the end result. In front of the little fence lots of foxgloves amongst other plants and behind is the celery and celeriac together with some sown (but yet to appear) spinach and pakchoi.  The little fence is to keep hens out. Phew, just keeping on top of stuff for eating is taking time let alone the rest of the garden. Now if the weather is kind this lot can grow and I can get on with other work.

new project   new project two

Next big job is whipping the pond into shape this is how it looked on the 10th of June…hopefully a bit tidier come my next post.

pondbefore