Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Change is afoot . . . Downsizing, big time . . . New Challenges ahead . . .

This will be the last season at my plot.  The field is being sold.  The reasons are complicated and out of my control.  It will be a sad day when I close the gate behind me for the final time.  I  raised hens and chicks, ducks and pigs and sheep and  lambs and my beloved goats and kids up there.  I have visited it every day for nearly twenty five years and tended the plot which has provided much of our food.

I will still have my small veg garden at home which has four raised beds and lots of container planting -  but everything will be scaled down considerably – a quart squeezed into a pint pot.  I’m thinking that this blog will be difficult to sustain under the circumstances – so perhaps I will close it down and just post veg-related pieces to my other blog ramblings from rosebank as and when they arise – I will give it a bit more thought and keep you posted.

Meanwhile, I missed my two year blog anniversary, which was in August.  The first post here was in 2011, since then there have been 180 posts, 3092 comments and 63,806 page views.  The most popular post was about tomatoes here which has had 1171 pageviews since it was posted.  It seems any post about tomatoes is always popular.  It has been a pleasure to read all your encouraging and entertaining comments – I should like to thank all of you who comment for sticking with me - particularly Flighty at Flighty's Plot who has commented on every single post – a loyal follower indeed.

‘Til the next time – maybe!

Lao Tzu

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Just a trickle of tomatoes . . .

You would have thought that with nine tomato plants in the greenhouse and twelve outdoors that I would be inundated with tomatoes – not so.  This year has to be the worst I can remember for a tomato crop.  No huge trusses – just the odd tomato here and there, hardly any ripening just the odd one.  I have a feeling that by the end of the season I am going to be left with a helluva lot of green toms that I will have to bring indoors to ripen.


And if I show you a collage of my daily harvest you can see just how few tomatoes there have been.

Beans, beans and more beans – but tomatoes – no.

All in all – a bit of a disaster, to say the least.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Let’s have a beanfeast . . .

As far as I’m concerned – this year has been an exceptional one for runner beans.  I only planted out ten plants; two each of five varieties.  The usual method of growing up canes was changed – I grew them straight up over a nylon net with cross-pieces as support.  This meant that the beans hung down rather than inwards on the usual sloping cane method, and it doesn’t take up as much space.  You know how difficult it is to find all the beans that are inside the wigwam or cross-cane tied-at-the-top method – this way I haven’t missed any, so none have grown to a huge size to stop production of other beans.  After they had established and started climbing I mulched with grass clippings and made sure I watered every day.  The trench they grew in was filled with well-rotted horse manure and topped with home-made compost.


There are still a few flowers left to be pollinated right at the top – the plants have been covered in bees for weeks.


To be honest, I have more beans than I know what to do with – friends and neighbours have benefitted from the bean bounty.

And still they keep on coming – I have been harvesting a few pounds weight every day – I definitely have a surfeit that I just don’t know what to do with – the freezer is full.  Maybe I could add them to picalilli or runner bean chutney.  We have them with our meals two or three times a week, and although I love them to death and could eat bucketsful – it is starting to wear a bit thin.  I can hear my husband thinking – Oh no – not beans again.  But what a nice position to be in  - and all for so little effort really.  Definitely a must-have crop for me.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Some bumper crops and, erm, some not so bumper ones …

Cucumber close up
The veg garden is going crazy, especially the runner beans.  It seems as though the garden knows that autumn is coming and it is pushing out everything it can before the weather starts turning colder and the hours of light get shorter.
This is my harvest for last week – many pounds of runner beans, french beans, three greenhouse cukes and four outdoor ones (found lurking under the foliage).  Nine courgettes, four summer squash, the last of the beetroot.
Looks like I have got some serious kitchen-work ahead.  All the recipe books are spread out – trying to find enough different ways to use everything up before the next batch are harvested.
Of course not everything comes in huge quantities.  Five blueberries, half a dozen tomatoes and a few cucamelons – look pitiful don’t they.

Oh well, you can’t have everything!
Till next time – HAPPY HARVESTING.

Saturday, 3 August 2013

The Midsummer Glut . Successes and Failures . My Own Homegrown Revolution .


This is the month where you have to put on your thinking cap and decide how you are going to use up all those crops that are coming thick and fast - courgettes, runner and french beans and summer squash - to name but a few.  This is my harvest for the last week.  When you pick one or two things everyday it soon mounts up and when I unloaded the salad drawer of the fridge I was astonished at just how many beans and courgettes I had picked.

But not everything in the garden is rosy.  I have had my failures too. 



Due to the hot, dry weather – lettuce, spinach and chard have bolted and gone to seed – even though I have watered them every evening.



And worst of all, the Romanesco cauliflowers have done the same – a big disappointment, I was really looking forward to tasting these again this year.


I’m not counting tomatoes as a failure yet, even though I am a bit disappointed that not many have ripened yet, that’s just me being impatient, but the fact that they have been slow to set.  The ones pictured are Marmande, as ugly as ever, with only two trusses on the plants, which haven’t even reached the top of their canes yet. 


One of the successes have been the onions, which after a slow start are all a fair size, and they have now been pulled and are drying on racks.


Another success is the chilli plant, I only have one, but as you can see, it has produced more than enough chillis for one household.

And, surprise, surprise – I have sweet peppers.  They weren’t doing very well at all in the greenhouse, so I planted them outside and told them they would just have to take their chances.  And they did.  Look.


And as for the outdoor cucumbers, well, they are way behind those in the greenhouse – but at least they are producing fruits, although the slugs seem to have taken a fancy to them.


Now for the Homegrown Revolution bit.  I bought three types of James Wongs’ seeds.  Inca Berries which were immediately devoured by the greenhouse snail, Cucamelons and Tomatillo.  The trouble is when you are growing something that is new to you, you aren’t sure what to expect.  This is the Cucamelon plant.


It has grown huge and has practically taken over the back of the greenhouse, linking its tendrils to anything it can find to support it, but if you look closely you can see the fruits forming, here is a closer look.


The plant was really weak and spindly for ages and I didn’t think it would make it, but boy look at it now.  Now we just have to wait and see if the fruit lives up to expectation.  The other survivors are the Tomatillo plants, something else I haven’t grown before.  The fruits are hidden inside paper cases, a little like chinese lanterns, they have grown really tall and are full of flower, so I am hopeful of a good harvest.


So that’s me up to date – I have done another round of sowing; salad leaves, french beans, chard and carrots so far – oh and I’ve dug up a row of potatoes, Charlotte, and from five plants I have a bucketful of potatoes.  I’m really quite pleased with the results.

And just to finish off I though I would show you a charity shop find which I’m dead chuffed with


Not bad eh.  A lovely chopping board for herbs in solid wood with a nifty chopper as well, can’t be bad for £3.00.


What have your successes and failures been this year?

Monday, 29 July 2013

A Week of Firsts - Summer Harvesting

The first carrots from my bottomless buckets - success.  Definitely doing more of these next year.
Container carrots

The first Sungold tomato to ripen and the first Summer Patty Pan Squash.  Contrary to everything written in my books about the squash family not producing very well in containers - mine are starting to produce and look really healthy.  Needless to say, the container they are growing in is huge.

Sungold tomato and Summer Squash
I am very disappointed with my tomatoes this year - the trusses are sparce with not many tomatoes per truss, even the bush tomatoes, although full of flower, just aren't turning into tomatoes.  Not sure what has gone wrong.  I have loads of tomato plants, more than I have ever planted before, looks like its a good job I planted so many - the harvest is going to be pitiful.

The first of the Runner Beans - success.  Many more to follow I hope.  If I only had space for one vegetable this would be it.  We had these for Sunday lunch with roast chicken - together with shredded cabbage, baby carrots and courgettes sauteed with butter and garlic, and of course, some of my lovely Charlotte potatoes - it's a good feeling when everything on your plate is home-grown.

Runner Beans

Thursday, 25 July 2013

The Summer Pudding Garden

Now that the Blackcurrants have finally ripened it may be time to think of Summer Pudding.  I have been freezing punnets of Redcurrants, Raspberries and Strawberries - so my garden has yielded all the ingredients that I need (except for the bread of course).  I would quite like to add a Whitecurrant bush to the mix as I have heard that the fruit is a little sweeter and if I wait for a few weeks I could add Blackberries, but then it would be Autumn Pudding rather than Summer.

I have spent the last two days picking Redcurrants which look glorious shining from the bushes in the sun - it's a messy job but someone has to do it.  A few pots of Redcurrant Jelly a few pots of Blackcurrant Jam and one or two with all the berries mixed together, and if there are any berries left over, maybe a bottle or two of cordial.

This year I have an overabundance of small fruits, last year, except for gooseberries, I had nothing - so I am determined to make the most of natures' bounty with foods to remember this hot summer by in the depths of winter.

Have you grown all the fruits needed for a Summer Pudding this year - as long as it isn't too tart and there is plenty of fresh cream to go with it, what could be nicer on a hot summers' day.

Summer Pudding - amazing dessert at The Gate #desert #food

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Soft Fruit Season and July Harvest


summer cabbage

I always say that I won’t bother planting summer cabbage as there are plenty of other things to eat, but in between the broc being harvested and waiting for the beans, I have a row of summer cabbage that have matured just at the right time.  We had the first of these on Sunday for lunch – just the right size for the two of us – slathered in butter and very succulent – I’m glad that I decided to plant some.


courgette flower

The courgettes are just starting to produce – this has to be the biggest flower on the container courgette that I have ever seen.  I am picking the courgettes whilst they are finger-sized – if I let them all grow to full size they overwhelm me and I have to start finding ways to use them all, whereas when they are picked fairly small I can use them up no problem.


July is the month for great harvests – early each morning I spend an hour watering and harvesting whatever veg is ready – potatoes, peas, courgettes


and on checking the row of beetroot found quite a few at tennis ball size, so I pulled half a dozen


But it is the soft fruits that are the stars of the month



Strawberries – which are almost at an end and Redcurrants



I have been picking a punnetful of raspberries every morning, the plants are looking a bit tired and dried out but they are still fruiting their socks off.


And finally the gooseberries, masses of them, some I will leave to get larger and riper, I love to eat these raw as they are so so sweet and juicy, I’m not too keen on the tartness of the smaller ones, but they make good gooseberry crumble.


The blackcurrants are almost ready too – it looks like I am going to have a busy time over the next few days.  The freezer needs sorting out now so I can squeeze everything in – it is too hot at the moment to stand over a boiling pan making jam – so what doesn’t get eaten straight away, will be frozen until the weather cools off a bit.


How are you coping with everything coming all at once

do you freeze, bottle or make jam

or just try and eat everything fresh as and when you harvest


This is the first post I have published using the Windows Live Writer as I have been having so many problems with Blogger – it takes a while getting used to a new system so I hope it has turned out all right.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Am I A Terrible Gardener?

When I see the state of my veg plot - I think I probably am.  I cannot seem to keep on top of everything.  If I were to show you pictures of my plot as it is right now - you would cover your eyes and run away screaming.  For all you 'neatists' out there - those of you who expect nothing less than perfection - you would be horrified at the state it is in.

First broad beans of the season

During this hot weather my time has been taken up with watering and harvesting with no time left for weeding.  The plot went bananas whilst we were away on holiday, the sun and rain being perfect conditions for everything to run riot.

Six cucumbers developed quickly - all at the
same time and all the same size
Yet, even though the plot is semi-wild I am still getting good harvests.  Last Sunday I picked five heads of broccoli - it never ceases to thrill me when I see something ready to pick that I hadn't spotted the day before - one day no broc, the next it is ready for picking.

We had this with cheese sauce and roast gammon, freshly
picked that morning - so tender and tasty
surplus strawberries in sugar ready for making into conserve
runner beans in large pot
Would the harvest have been better 'sans' weeds - maybe, who can say.  I won't be posting any pictures just yet though until I get it a bit more under control.  I will show you my jumble of a container garden which is going great guns too.
purple tee pee french beans

Curly kale
Romesco cauliflower in raised bed edged with Echium
container courgette plant - courgettes just starting to form 

Outdoor tomatoes

I am doing the best that I can, but with it being so hot my gardening time has been restricted to early morning and late evening - although I love this summer weather I tend to wilt like a lettuce in the heat.   It has been a little cooler today so I have been making up for lost time.  Can't stop, just off to get everything watered.

Hope you are all enjoying this lovely weather
after all we have been waiting for it
for a long, long time.
Are you managing to keep on top of all the weeding and watering?
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