Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Potato rust?

I mentioned potato rust in a previous blog but didn't show you clearly what I meant.  I am not sure what it is but looks more like rust than blight.  It had affected the leaves of the row of Charlottes that I have just finished harvesting but the potatoes were perfect.  It is also infecting the leaves of the middle row of Estima.  This photo is of them.  Estima will have had the markings longer when I come to harvest them so it will be interesting to see if it has any effect on the tubers.

My third row and my all time favourite spud, International Kidney, is utterly unblemished.  I can't recommend these enough - they have been successful every year, including a blight year.  No wonder they are grown commercially - these are Jersey Royals but the name can't be used outside Jersey! They must be the best new potato bar none, but the surprise is that  they go on and on.  The end of my harvest will yield many good size potatoes often weighing around  half a pound each (225 g) and in perfect nick.

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Picking peas and bean the easy way

This is my favourite way to pick beans and peas - rip the plants up and sit down to pluck them.  I have cleared out the pea and broad bean plants  as they have come to the end of their production.  I had a decent crop from both lots and have frozen a few packets of two-portion size legumes.  They may get 'converted' to other things such as risotto or soup or in pasta.  Frozen isn't quite as good as fresh but they are still my own!

The emptied half a box is a bit of an experiment - I have sown some dwarf French beans, aptly named 'Speedy',  which I know is probably too late.  The truth is I am not fond of them so I don't care too much; I just want to see what happens.  I also bought some spinach seeds in hopes we can get some of that for our plate before we decamp at the end of October.  I have left some space in hopes we find some fast maturing calabrese plants I can put in - unlikely but who knows.  If not I may just shove in some carrot seeds and see if they do in time.

Anyone else who is here for the winter would be putting in their various brassicas but it it a waste of time for me.  I don't think there is anything I can plant to overwinter and give me some veg in April.  Please let me know if you know of anything.

Monday, 29 July 2013

Fed up with rhubarb crumble?

I spent ages moaning that the rhubarb was looking rubbish, then all of a sudden it sprang into life and looks great.  I have been very naughty and picked some!  You aren't supposed to pick at at the end of July and/or the first year you plant it.  It needs to bulk up and get its feet down properly to release the sugars properly.  If you pick too late in the season it doesn't get a chance to do this and you will get a smaller crop next year than you would do if you leave it. Plus the rhubarb won't be as sweet.   I broke both rules and picked just one pudding's worth.  How can you not when you have grown it and it looks like this?

Off to try a new pudding recipe with it.

Next day:  Nom, nom - excellent recipe - see the recipe tab at the top.  The top of the pudding isn't cracked, they are supposed to be sort of seven 'cobbles'. I think it serves six properly, four generously or two piggerly.  There's only two of us here - what can you do?  

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Using up spring onions

As always we end up with an excess of something or other and this time it is spring onions.  I grew a variety called Furio and, like everything else, it has done brilliantly.  This box of good size onions is destined for an experiment.  I am going to use them like shallots and put them in a beef in red wine casserole. 

Next day:  delicious - they are as good if not better than shallots.  Have a look in the recipe section (tab at the top) if you want to see what I did with them.

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Land cress - treat it mean

These are four land cress plants I transplanted to their own trough and they have done very well - too well it seems.

Whenever I have grown this it has been grown from seed and not thinned out so it has always been crammed in a pot or the garden and the ensuing masses and masses of small leaves have been delicious.

This began its life in the same way - crammed in a seed tray and we ate all the small leaves as they appeared, mixed in our salad leaves or on sandwiches and they were lovely.  Mean while I gave four plants the recommended space needed thinking they would be so much better. The leaves are huge and therefore a bit tougher.  To get them on a sandwich or in a salad they need chopping up.  There is no improvement in flavour and they send up flower shoots every five minutes so I have to keep removing those.  Moral of this tale - treat your land cress mean.

Friday, 26 July 2013

Strawberry runners

The strawberries were overrun with runners when we got back from a few days away.

I suppose if you grew these in a field you could let them do their own thing and wander and root at will.  Works really well on a steep slope.  Clearly this isn't an option for the average gardener.

You shouldn't let them produce more than four or five runners if you do want to make new plants from them, as it weakens the parent plant too much.  

The usual way to do this is to peg down the runners at each little plantlet so they are in contact with the soil and when you can see they are growing (and have roots) you cut the stem between them and the mother plants and move the baby either to a pot or to a new planting area.

You can also put small pots of soil around the plants and pin a plantlet attached to a runner into that and, again, when it is self-sufficient cut it away from its mom.

My method flies in the face of received wisdom but, so far, it has worked just fine.

I clean up all the bed by removing all the runners and, as quickly as I can, I choose the biggest plantlets and poke them in a pot. I need five so have rooted ten.

Strawberry plants will produce fruit for up to six years but after their second year they get less and less productive so it is wise to renew them every three or four years.  I have five plants along each side of the bed (four sides!) so I intend to begin at the front and work around the bed clockwise renewing one side each year.  Eventually I will have a mix of new plants and one, two and three year old plants in the bed each year.

This is a photo of the cleaned up bed.  We are waiting for the next batch of strawberries - there is  enough fruit and flower to do us a couple of decent puddings.  They are supposed to produce a pound of fruit per plant so twenty plants equals twenty pounds of strawberries by my reckoning when they get going properly next year. I do like these ever-bearers for living up to their name.

I have no idea if they are Albion or Calypso or a mix of both.  I had both in pots before they went to the lotty and - you guessed it - I never labelled them because I knew which was which.

Lucifer's back in town

This is one of my most favourite plants in the garden and brings my front garden to life every year.  Crocosmia Lucifer - just love it.  Have a look at the Garden album if you want to see it in action.

This is my (now) nine foot thalictrum.  It is the prettiest and daintiest flower against a blue sky.  Again it is the garden album if you want to visit it.

Last, but not least, meet Fred, Albert and Mary.  They seem to be here all day, every day - they love the Bowles mauve.  One was even cheeky enough to land on my finger when I had taken the picture.  They are the small common tortoiseshell  (I looked it up to be sure).  The large tortoiseshell is considered extinct now in the British Isles but there is evidence it has begun to re-appear.  Sadly I can't remember who was asking to be notified if you see one but I doubt at 53 degrees North that's very likely.  Here is Gauardian article if you want to know more.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Overall lotty update

Just a couple of photos to keep you updated on my raised beds before they switch to something else.  I reckon in a week or so the beans and peas and onions will be  out and I am looking for something to replace them that we can harvest before the end of October.  Any suggestions would be gratefully received.

Someone has painted the fence panels green and very kindly did my compost bin as well. I hope it is edible paint.  Nice thought though.

From left to right....

Peas falling off their supports.
Broad beans.
Runner beans.
Red spring onions
Tomatoes - they have baby tomatoes on them!

I finished digging up the first row of potatoes (Charlottes) - again absolutely perfect.... BUT.... I am concerned that the next row along - Estima (and the harvested Charlottes) - have a sort of rust?  Pretty sure it isn't blight.  Tops aren't soggy and spuds are fine.  I wonder if it is the heat, but that doesn't seem likely.

The first lot have been fine - enough tubers per plant, good size and no marks at all.  They only take about 10 minutes plus to steam as they are so fresh.  I put them in water and boiled them today but they do overcook very quickly.  Steaming is the answer -  this is a good thing.

This is how I fasten up the spare netting which is over the strawberries (and rhubarb).

I gather up the spare and wrap it round a cane three times.  I try to make all the sides of the netting taught on the outside of the box.

It is really quick and easy to do, keeps the net down the sides and is quick to release when I want to get inside the netting to pick the fruit.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Peas and beans

On Sunday I picked (probably) the majority of the peas and beans.  We had some peas for lunch and froze the rest along with the broad beans.

I have to crow about both of these - I know it isn't British to do so and humble pie should be the dish of the day, but there's no point in only sharing my disasters with you.  

I can honestly say I haven't had a single pea or bean that wasn't perfect.  I know this sounds weird and I do find it peculiar.  Every one has been free from any insect or other damage and are all just the bee's knees.  I honestly don't understand it.  

I do have a couple of notions as to why - new soil and in a raised bed.  I assume the soil carries no soil-born problems and I think the raised bed is great for drainage, shoving the veg up into the sunlight and giving loads of free air around the plants - win, win and win.

The broad beans are Dreadnought and the peas are Hurst Green Shaft.

Our Sunday dinner was our own peas and spuds and mint (sauce) we only bought in the lamb.... I can see how people go on to want their own pig and chickens.... don't think our lotty would stand up to that!

Tuesday, 23 July 2013


I am as giddy as a kipper - I have grown a cucumber!!  Yes, I know there are a zillion people who have not only grown a cucumber but have managed to produce ones that win prizes.  All I can say is it is a bit like having a baby - you feel like you are the only person to have done it at the time.  Say hello to Em's cucumber.

In truth, there are about six of them and more to come.

I bought this as a plant in a pot with no name other than mini cucumber.

The poor thing has outgrown my tiddly greenhouse height so it is now expected to scramble over this Heath Robinson contraption I rigged up today.  I am hoping it doesn't mind taking a bit of a turn and will ramble happily across the horizontal cane.

Apologies if I have shown you these before........ these are the ball gizmos I use to joint up canes to make various constructions - dead easy - multiple size holes.

The right hand cane is just shoved down through the staging on the other side of the greenhouse.

Monday, 22 July 2013

Short break

We have just had a lovely five days in glorious sunshine in Lincolnshire.  Amongst other things we managed to take in places such as Clumber Park, Horncastle, Louth, Lincoln, Alford, Sutton-on-Sea and Nostell Priory.  Most of these had some garden or another to admire but the stand-out one of the trip and, therefore, the one to share was Gunby Hall.  Click on its name to have a look at the photo album.  Here's a couple of samples:

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Susan and Jefferson's Garden

I think I am all gardened out!  We have been away for five days and have taken in a lot of gardens.  We returned on Friday and then visited one of our favourite gardens today.  We have had the pleasure of watching this garden develop over the past four, or is it five, summers and it is astonishing what these two talented gardeners have created on such a difficult terrain.

It would be easy to witter away for hours about it here but, better still, just click here on the album and go for a wander through the garden for yourselves.

If you read this and can get to Haslingden, make a note somewhere to look out for it next July.  I did post their email announcement here when I got it and I will do so every year so you can always find out the date.

I also came away with a few ideas and a plant, not to mention a cup of tea and a cake!  I'm off now to Google asparagus pea which I saw there.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Thank you builders

 Just to show you why I deserve a gold medal, having made a garden at all.

Some of you may remember when I dug out the one foot edging border at the front of the house how much rock and concrete I removed (by the bucket load).

Like the rest of the plot our lawn is laid on rubble and something extremely crunchy!  Cinders?  Coarse grit?  Every time you put a fork or trowel in it you get a nice crunching sound.

Ken tried to put in a new rotary line spike.  The plants are so tall now where we have the old one there is a perpetual fight between flowers and sheets.

He started with the idea of just hammering it into the ground - we both knew it wouldn't work but he is such a Pollyanna.  Hey ho, struck stone.  We prodded all around the area with a spike and continued to hit stone and came to the conclusion it was over to digging mode.

The hole is 20 x 30 cms and 50 cms deep.  He removed approximately the same volume in brick, stone and slab. 

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Come for a virtual visit

Just sharing today's photos - or some of them - the rest are in the web album.  I love July and England ............ when the sun shines!

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Davenport Farm, Ainsworth

We got very dilatory about visiting NGS gardens last year and are even worse this year.

We managed to get to our first one on Saturday 6th July and, truth be told, that is because it was on the doorstep.

We have done Davenport two times before so it is nice to watch a garden develop year on year.  It is a lovely one to do - small but interesting and does great cakes and teas!!  It is also opposite Arthur Lane Garden centre so you can pop in there for a visit and a bit of shopping not to mention an ice cream afterwards.

This is their own description for the NGS site which  covers it nicely:  No more pigs and chickens! Farmyard redeveloped into 1½-acre garden. Now we have lawns, trees, shrubs and glorious herbaceous borders. Climber strewn walkway to lily pond and deck area. Newly planted orchard and raised bed vegetable plot. York stone patios. ‘Old stone folly’ now the white garden for 2013

I bought two huge astilbes (old man's beard)  for £4 each from the garden along with two thalictrums (rue) for £2 each - absolute bargains and precisely the four plants that were on my hit list to finish off my 'new' border.

I am hoping the astilbe is pink rather than magenta but I am not fussed as long as it isn't white as I have a ton of that already.  As I said these were lovely plants - huge and healthy and just ready to go.  

The rue is only a baby - you can just about see it behind the Bowles mauve (into its third month of flowering).  The rue will make about four feet in height when it gets going. This variety is thalictrum delavayi - the usual one.

In my north west facing border (and boggyish) I have got Thalictrum 'Elin' which I bought from Kiftsgate in 2009.  This tops out around eight feet tall and is a stunner. Not quite in flower yet so I'll share it here when it is.  

I nearly 'came to blows' with a stroppy know-it-all who simply didn't believe there was a rue that tall.  He just kept poo-pooing the claim and repeating "never gets past about four and a half feet".  That's the trouble when two know-it-alls meet in a garden!

I will put up a Davenport Farm album on the web, so seek it out from the link on the right if you want a look.

At its best

This is probably the week that my garden is at its very best all year.  I have planted the back garden for a summer show as this is when we are here so it isn't great in Spring and it has pretty much waned by September.  Because of this I do keep adding to the web album fairly frequently right now but don't post here necessarily.

That said, I thought I might share a couple of today's with you.

I think this is Iris Spuria and it has finally flowered!  We visited the Cotswolds four years ago with some friends and they were overflowing their beds at the B & B they were staying in - the iris, not the friends - .  I asked the owner if I could snaffle a couple and was told to take as many as we could dig up.  They knew what they were doing - we couldn't hack them out of the ground.  They were in baked clay alongside a concrete edging, bordering a gravel drive in high summer. My friends bought me a trowel and we had another go.  We gave up at two or three of them, brought them home and planted them.  I confess to having moved them around a few times as they look 'odd' in my garden (and still do) but I was determined to have them after all that trouble.  As I said this is their first year in bloom.  If you look at the photo carefully you will see there are four flowers per stem and the whole thing is more than three feet tall, so they are remarkable specimens.

This is another odd ball.  A primula, yes, but strange colour and even stranger development.  As it starts to put up the flower stem it is covered in a silver grey powder so they look for all the world as though they have some mold/fungal problem.  They then come to fruition and produce the prettiest of flowers above pale green, spotless leaves. It is the Asiatic primrose -Primula capitata.

This is a bit of my wild and woolly garden.  My other half loves little tidy plants dotted about surrounded by clean black soil and I just love this!  Good job I am the gardener.....

As I said if you want to see more take a look in the web album now and then.

Saturday, 6 July 2013

My garden 2013

My garden is six years old this July.  Happy Birthday to it etc.

Every year in July I take 8 photos - one from each corner and one half way between each corner - roughly eight points of the compass so I can see the results of the 'work' I do.

I thought I might share a couple with you....

This is looking North east and is the corner in 2007 and 2013.  In 2007 we had a small seating area in the corner which we quickly decided was a waste as we never ventured that far! The patio had just been put in and I was never going to have pots all over the place that needed constant watering.  So to 2013... the bench in the corner has moved on to the patio along with the pots (!)  and we now have a very useful summerhouse down there.

This is the opposing corner - looking South West.  In 2007 we had the caravan at the side of the house and a BBQ area.  I think we used the BBQ twice (!) and the caravan has moved on to new owners.  I love looking at the twigs aka box hedge.  I planted this because our garden travels every which way and the patio is nice and level.  I reckoned the box would hide the concrete up-stand and from the patio it would soften the edges.  Come 2013 and indeed it does just that.

Friday, 5 July 2013

Bakers dozen

If you don't count the half a strawberry each that we have already eaten - these are our first pickings they are not a bad size, so six (and a half!!) each will add something to some ice cream.

I also dug up three days worth of potatoes from the row of Charlottes - everyone a good size and absolutely without blemish.  So pleased.

I intended not to be negative here in the blog about the lotty as I would like others to join in but I do need to say my two apples trees (in pots) have been stolen otherwise folk who follow this would wonder what happened to them.  There are some miserable folk about.  My water butt got stolen pretty soon after we put it in place - as I said - I left that 'news' out of here.  So, the simple answer is do not have anything at the lotty that someone can pick up and walk away with.

I refuse to let it blight it for me - keep in keeping on.......... a bit sad though.

Monday, 1 July 2013

Jobs for July

Reminder (as always) this is no where near a definitive list of garden stuff for July - you can get a zillion of those via Google.  This is a list of what I do in July here 'up North'.

  • Every month during the summer I chuck Phostrogen (7:7:7) at the borders at the beginning of the month and feed hanging baskets every Sunday
  • Feed tomatoes every two weeks until they fruit
  • Spot weed the lawn (did a full weed and feed in June)
  • Feed rhubarb (if it was fully grown and I was using it I would also need to think about stopping picking end of the month)
  • Divide iris
  • Have a think about what other veggies I can still sow
In that vein here's what I think I will be sowing this month with crossed fingers.

  • Carrot - early Nantes
  • Beetroot - Wodan F1 if I can get the seed - have never grown a successful beetroot yet but am hoping the lotty will make the difference.  Mine are not only picked at golf-ball size but have the same density.
  • Considering growing French beans - don't like their squeakiness when you eat them - yes, I know, not a well woman!
  •  Keep succession sowing salad leaves and radishes
  • How about perpetual spinach?