Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Autumn Preparations For A Bountiful Winter

As the weather has turned colder, more blustery and extremely wet over the last couple of weeks – my thoughts have turned to preparations for autumn and winter.  A little early for that I hear you say, but I say, best be prepared a little early rather than leaving it too late.


I have been transferring operations into the greenhouse where it is obviously sheltered and warmer than outdoors.  The tomato plants have been unstaked and laid down so that the rest of the tomatoes on the vine get a chance to ripen -  and I have stopped watering – a bit risky – not really, they have reached full size now  and just need to redden – possibly too much water at this stage would affect the flavour. 


I still have Sungold outdoors where they have grown beyond their canes and are venturing over the fence into next doors garden – if they don’t get a chance to ripen now it has turned colder then I will strip the plants and bring the fruits indoors.



The French Beans left in plant pots have been transferred into the greenhouse away from the cold and the slugs and already these late-sown plants are forming tiny beans.


The runners have just about finished now but the ones I planted in the flower bed, which haven’t performed very well, are just starting – they obviously don’t seem to like being amongst the flowers and maybe haven’t had as much water as the others – I won’t experiment like this with them again as the beans are difficult to harvest in the flower bed.



I have had to buy plug plants of all the brassicas due to the slug invasion that wiped them out – but maybe this is no bad thing, later plants means that they have missed the onslaught of caterpillars – they have been covered with nets and dome cloches until they establish – and liberal doses of pellets have been applied – I am taking no chances.


The grow-bags that the tomato pots were standing on have been sown with lettuce and radish seed – the pea troughs also, with spinach and chard, and the potato containers have been re-sown with carrots.  These are all in the greenhouse where they will stay all winter in the hope of harvesting fresh crops. SDC12213

Once the courgette plants have been hit by frost I have some small cavolo nero kale seedlings to plant in their place – so that the raised beds stay productive all through the winter.


And finally, I have cleared the strawberry bed, applied fresh compost and manure and re-planted with the plants that were growing in containers in the greenhouse.  There is only enough room for a dozen plants which is plenty for us - I have covered them with a mesh cover as we are having problems with badgers in the garden at the moment, and with freshly dug soil – they are likely to dig all the plants up to use the area as a latrine.


I think I am getting the hang of this small scale gardening – it has been an interesting exercise to get as much as I can out of a small space – the secret seems to be to have plants-in-waiting, ready to pop in when a crop has finished - let’s hope all my plans are successful and we have a plentiful supply of food right through the autumn and winter.



‘Til next time – be prepared.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Plumple – Plum and Apple Jam

I have the plums ~ I have the apples ~ I’m going to make Plumple.


eating apples - variety unknown

eating apple - James Grieve

cooking apples - bramley

Take equal amounts of both ripe plums and cooking apples or under-ripe dessert apples.  De-stone the plums and cut into four or more pieces.  Peel and core the apples and cut into slices.  Place into a pan, just cover with water and cook until soft.  Alternatively, simply chop all the fruit roughly, cover with water and simmer till soft enough to sieve out the stones, pips and so on.  In either approach, weigh the puree and add the same amount of white sugar to the pan and simmer gently, stirring constantly until the sugar has dissolved.  Turn up the heat until it nearly boils and the puree turns jammy, take off the heat and pour into hot, sterilised jars.  You could add a little lemon zest along with the sugar for an extra tang.

(Taken from Bob Flowerdew’s – Grow Your Own – Eat Your Own)

‘Til next time – happy Plumpling.


Runner Bean and Sweet Red Pepper Chutney

I thought I would try a new recipe  for chutney – a way of using up a few surplus runner beans.  Great with a curry or maybe a strong cheese.   If you are interested I have put the recipe on the Preserves page on my side bar.




‘Til we meet again – happy chutney making.


Tuesday, 12 August 2014

The Errant Veg Grower Returns

You will have to forgive me for taking so long to decide whether to carry on with this blog. It has been eleven months since I posted  mainly because I wanted to see if I would have enough to  blog about given my reduced circumstances  of four small raised beds instead of a much larger plot that I had to give up.  So, after much mulling over, cogitating and pondering – I have decided that maybe I could manage a monthly post – to show what I have been growing and its progress – successes and failures both.

Sadly, this growing season seems to have been mainly about failures.

Every living creature seems to have been out to get my crops.  I have never actually seen them in action but they have had a good go at ravaging everything and anything edible.  I have replanted my brassicas three times now, only for them to disappear – the same with the French beans and the Rainbow Chard – I can’t ever remember a year where the chard has been eaten before – the possible suspects are sparrows and pigeons – but I can’t swear to it because they do it sneakily.


Container grown Rainbow Chard – not a pretty sight.


Perpetual Spinach – not in quite as bad a state as the Chard but not looking very appetising either.

I have also had to sow, re-sow and re-sow again the French beans – slugs and snails are the culprits this time – this is another phenomena that has never occurred before – why this year when it has been much drier – why have they come out of their secret hiding places to attack the beans – it’s a mystery to me.  The space allocated to beans has now been given to something else – so the last sowing remain in their pots.  French beans are a favourite of mine so it has been a bitter disappointment not to have a crop – may be this last sowing will produce beans before the first frosts – who knows.


Then there are the tomatoes.  The worst crop I can remember.  The flowers  just dropped off  before setting.  Another disappointment.  I only grew five varieties this year Ferline, Cuor di Bue, Gardeners Delight, Sungold and Tigerella.  Except for Sungold all the others were grown in the greenhouse and this is where I have had the most problems.  Not sure what the problem has been but the crops have been pathetic compared to other years.  Sungold is a clear winner once again with much healthier plants full cropping and no disease.  Whew.


Greenhouse tomatoes


Sungold grown outdoors – leaves pulled off below the fruits to encourage ripening but left on at the top of the plant.

The carrots which were doing well were all dug up by a badger and eaten – so I don’t even have a picture to show you. 

The early brassicas that were planted have all been munched to death by slugs and snails – so I have a final planting  of kale, cabbage and purple sprouting broc which I had to buy as plugs, they have been liberally sprinkled with slug pellets and covered with mesh cloches in the hope of keeping them pest free – only time will tell if I will be successful this time.




Sorry that so far it is a catalogue of disasters, if you are new to veg growing, I don’t want it to put you off – but when growing your own food you just have to take the bad with the good I’m afraid.

On the success side there are the runner beans, grown in deep containers and trained over an arch – a plentiful supply has been forthcoming – so much so that I am getting slightly fed up of eating them.


And of course there are the courgettes – thank goodness for courgettes – which have performed beautifully – a constant supply from just two plants.



Sweet peppers and chillies in the greenhouse are slow to ripen  but I’m in no hurry.


And lastly Cucumbers – a nice steady supply – better than last year when I didn’t manage to grow any at all. 


The early container grown potatoes have all been eaten – Charlotte and Foremost – I grew eight containers, four of each – and they performed well.  The only veg that I won’t be able to tell you about are the Parsnips – they germinated successfully and the foliage is abundant – but I won’t be pulling any till later in the autumn, fingers crossed I get nice long fat roots.


So, that has been my veg gardening year so far – it has been a learning curve -  I am slowly adapting to less space – when one crop is finished in goes another one – for instance, when the beetroot was pulled I spread fresh compost over the area and re-planted with leeks.  Hopefully by next year I will know what is possible and what not to bother with.

‘Til next month – happy veg growing! 

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