Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Of eggs and weevils...

The white butterflies have been active in my garden, as is normal at this time of year.

The butterflies are searching for brassica plants on which to lay their eggs, which in due course hatch out as caterpillars - the ones that can so easily decimate your crop in the space of a day or so.

My main brassica crops are covered with nets which are hopefully keeping the butterflies out, but elsewhere in the garden (as far away as possible from the main brassica crops) I have a group of spare PSB and Cabbage plants, which are unprotected.

I'm not worried if these plants don't make it. I have dubbed them "Sacrificial plants" because they can help to lure the butterflies away from the plants I want to grow. The butterflies are making the most of the opportunity, and I see that the plants are already covered in eggs.

These are the eggs of the Large White, typically laid in groups:

These are the eggs of the Small White, typically laid singly:

The eggs are white when laid, but gradually turn yellow.

I'm not sure what type of eggs these ones are. They are definitely different. Anyone know what they are?

While photographing the butterfly eggs, I noticed a small beetle-type insect on one of the leaves. At first I thought it was a desirable insect, probably a predator of butterfly eggs.

However, closer inspection suggests that this is NOT a beneficial insect. It looks like the Rape Stem Weevil Ceutorhynchus Napi. Furthermore, it was not alone - there were several of them. My photo here is not of the best quality, but I believe it demonstrates conclusively that these weevils eat the central ribs of the brassica leaves:

Caught red-handed!

OK, so I think I have another task ahead of me now - picking off weevils! Perhaps I need to check my main crop plants too, since the nets covering them will evidently not keep out a 3mm weevil.

Monday, 27 July 2015

Harvest Monday - 27 July 2015

More Carrots this week. On Thursday this batch:-

These are a mix of my three types, "Early Nantes", "Autumn King" and "Kelly", but I forgot to identify which ones are which. I think the sharply-tapering one (extreme left, below) is "Kelly", but I'm not really sure.

They weren't all such good-looking ones though. Look at these...

Usually it is stony soil that makes Carrots go like that, but I went to great lengths to prepare the bed for them, by adding sand and removing stones. Soil composition has a part to play in it, and I did add lots of home-made compost too. Anyway, it's not too much of a problem because the vast majority of the Carrots are nice and regularly shaped.

I got another nice batch of Beetroot this week.

That's 3 of "Boltardy" and 3 of "Baby Beet Action". The "Boltardy" ones are the bigger, redder ones and the "Baby Beet Action" are smaller and slightly darker.

On Saturday I picked this mixed basket of produce:

There were more potatoes, the last pot of "Balmoral" (694g) and the last pot of "Charlotte" (970g).

More Carrots. No funny-shaped ones this time. And notice - no Carrot Root Fly damage!

One "Mini Munch" Cucumber.

And most welcome of all, the first of the Runner Beans.

It was only half a dozen beans, but it looks as if they will be the first of many. There are many more little pods forming. The recent heavy rain will probably have done then a lot of good, because Runner Beans like plenty of moisture.

I nearly forgot to mention the Lettuce. One little head of "Tom Thumb" here, in the centre of the basket, though we have actually had Lettuce several times.

Next week I hope to be showing off my first ripe tomato. Yes, probably only one!

This is my entry for Harvest Monday, hosted each week by Daphne's Dandelions, so why not visit Daphne's blog and see what harvests other people have been getting.

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Seeds from the Czech Republic

A couple of weeks ago I did a seed-swap with Dominika, a blogging friend in the Czech Republic. We agreed to send each other 10 randomly-chosen packets of seeds. Whilst I chose a mix of flowers and vegetables for Dominika, she knows from my blog that I specialise in edible plants, so she chose all vegetable seeds for me.

They are all varieties that I have not encountered before (which was the whole point of the exchange of course), with one exception - I think the tomato is one which I know as "Stupice", which I have grown in the past, a long time ago. The climbing beans ("Fazol pnouci" - see, I'm getting the hang of the Czech language!) "Konstantin" look particularly interesting. I'll definitely give them a go next year. It's too late to sow most of these seeds this year, but I think the Lettuces will have enough time to mature.

These two look to me like variations on the theme of Red and Green Salad Bowl. Google tells me that "Salat listovy k cesani" means "Leaf lettuce to harvesting"!! My interpretation of this is "Cut-and-come-again lettuce". Last weekend I sowed a seed-tray with some of both varieties, so we'll see how they get on.

The Lettuces that Dominka sent me previously ("Devin" and Cervanek") were very good and did well in my garden, so I hope these ones will do just as well.

As an aside, let me say that this seed-exchange thing is a great way to broaden your horizons and persuade you to grow something different! You do need to be a bit careful though, if sending seeds internationally, because customs regulations vary a lot and can be quite stringent. For instance, you are not allowed to send Tomato seeds to the Czech Republic, nor indeed those of Sunflowers, Lucerne, Beans or Potatoes. Everything else is OK as long as it is in small quantities and in unopened commercial packets. Here in the UK you probably need to check the details yourself before going to the Post Office, because in my experience Post Office workers are often not familiar with the regulations!

Saturday, 25 July 2015


"Afelia". It sounds like "A failure", but I can assure you mine wasn't!

Afelia is actually a Greek / Cypriot dish made with pork, wine, onions and large quantities of coriander seeds. I didn't have any Greek wine, so I used some Chilean Carmenere, but I'm sure that any decent red wine will do.

This is just the sort of dish that I like cooking - simple, with few ingredients, but with a good effort-to-results ratio. Let me show you how I made it...

The first step is to crush a large handful (about 2 tablespoons) of coriander seeds in a pestle and mortar.

Cut a pork tenderloin (approx. 400g) into 1-inch thick medallions and coat them in the crushed coriander, add salt and pepper, then put them in the fridge to marinate for about four hours.

About two hours before serving time, start cooking. Preheat the oven to 160C. Peel and slice two large onions. Brown the meat in some vegetable oil in a hot casserole dish, remove and set aside briefly while you turn down the heat and soften the onions in the same pan.

When the onions are soft and translucent (but not brown), pour in 300ml of red wine and cook gently for a couple of minutes before adding back the browned meat.

Then cover the dish and put it in the oven to cook for at least an hour, until the meat is tender and most of the wine has evaporated. At one stage I felt that the dish was getting too dry, so I added some water, but then it seemed too wet! I think the amount of gravy / sauce in this dish is a matter of personal preference.

I served the Afelia with plain vegetables - home-grown potatoes and carrots, but shop-bought peas.

It's hard to describe how this dish tastes. The coriander seeds give it a sort of warm "burnt orange" flavour, and the red wine gives it a deep richness which is enhanced by the soft sweetness of the onions. Really nice - and so easy to cook!

Friday, 24 July 2015

Leeks - Phase 2

I planted a second lot of Leeks last weekend - another nine plants, next-door to the first batch. Having harvested some more kohlrabi, there is only one left.

I used exactly the same technique as last time, so I won't describe it again, but let me just show you what I did with the leftovers:

Some of the big 35-litre pots in which I have been growing potatoes are gradually becoming vacant, so I thought this way of using them would be better than just throwing away the spare Leeks. There were four of the "Apollo" left over, and six of the "Toledo".

When the final Kohlrabi comes out my last batch of Leeks will go in. I don't think I will be able to fit in another nine plants as originally intended. It might just have to be six.

Still, if space is short at least I will be able to put a few more into pots. This has some advantages, you know: I will be able to move them around the garden if necessary, for instance to maximise the amount of light they get.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

An update

The Blossom End Rot has taken a heavy toll of some of my tomatoes, particularly the larger Beefsteak varieties, which is a real pain, but all is not lost:

"Giant Syrian"


This is "Clou". It is one of the new blight-resistant varieties. Look how few leaves it has. Maybe this is something that contributes towards its blight-resistance, because it must facilitate air-circulation.

None of the tomatoes has produced any ripe fruit yet though. I keep willing them to hurry up, before any blight appears!


Elsewhere, the Brussels Sprouts are gradually filling their "cage":

That net is not going to be too tall you know. It needs to stand at least a few inches taller than the plants, to stop the butterflies laying eggs on the leaves through the net.

The spare brassicas that didn't get planted are serving a purpose too. They are the "sacrificial" plants, poor things, luring the white butterflies away from the "A-team" plants!

The plants outside the net are just there for the photo. Normally they live at the other side of the garden, as far away as possible. I have inspected them and they are covered in little butterfly eggs.

White butterfly laying eggs on a PSB leaf.

I'm beginning to be mildly hopeful that this year might be the year in which I produce for the first time a vaguely worthwhile Celeriac. Do I see the vestiges of a bulb here?

I only have four Celeriac plants, but I'm doing everything I can to bring them to a successful conclusion - mainly feeding and watering.

The cucumbers have not done much yet. I have only had one fruit so far.

There are some more forming though, so hopefully it won't be long now before I get a worthwhile number.

This is a little patch of Oregano which is flowering at present.

The bees and hoverflies absolutely love it. Here are some photos of bees which I took last weekend:

Next to the Oregano I have some Lavender in flower too, and the bees love that as well.

As do the hoverflies...

Since I'm posting some photos of insects, I'll chuck in this one of a Cricket, just for good measure!