Saturday, 26 July 2014

The Salad Succession

My self-imposed challenge this year has been to maintain a continuous supply of salads, through a disciplined approach to successional sowing. Every couple of weeks I have sowed seeds for more things like lettuce, endives, radicchio, landcress and Lamb's Lettuce (aka Mache)

I have devoted one of my seven raised beds entirely to salads (that's if you include beetroot):

This next photo demonstrates very nicely the variety of plants I have included, with beetroot at the top,  and lettuces, chicories and endives of various sorts at the bottom:

This is Curly Endive "Tosca" with lettuce "Marvel of Four Seasons" (the red one) and "Devin" (lower, centre). There is also a small "Can Can" lettuce and a Basil seedling.

Until recently I had a few Turnips at the end of the bed, but those are gone now, and I have slotted in some more lettuce and chicory seedlings from the next batch.

The Mesclun that I sowed in a small pot on the patio was looking good until a couple of days ago, but then the Flea Beetles found it and everything is riddled with holes. The mustard and the rocket is particularly badly hit. I'm not throwing this away just yet because the plants may survive and put up some fresh leaves, but I rather fear it might be beyond redemption.

It is supposed to be the case that lettuce seeds will germinate very badly or not at all if the temperature is above 22C (70F), but I don't believe this. The best germination rates I have had this year are the lettuces sown recently, at a time of prolonged high temperatures - up to 31C this week.

P.S. I have not been able to do much blog-visiting or commenting recently, because I have been working in London, which for me means long tiring days, and when I get home all I have the energy to do is to water the garden - and it has needed it a lot too, with all the high temperatures we have had. My stint in London comes to an end next week, so hopefully you'll see a bit more of me after that.

Friday, 25 July 2014

Veggie update

This is a sort of "metaphorical walkabout", so that I can show you how one or two things are faring...

Well, the first thing is (are?) my Cabbages. This one is a "Predzvest", which I mistakenly thought would not mature until the Autumn! It is ready now.

Here it is, posed on top of my wheelie-bin. That's a big cabbage! My netting managed to deter most of the butterflies, but the ragged outer leaves of the plant are ample evidence that netting does not deter slugs!

Next to the cabbage I harvested is this one, which is a "Caramba", a pointy so-called Sweetheart type.

It's not mature yet, but it is looking quite promising.

Still on a brassica theme, here's a novelty in this part of the world - a sunshade for the Purple Sprouting Broccoli!

The weather last week was a real trial. Very hot by our standards (high 20s Celsius), very humid, and with some severe thunderstorms that dumped a load of heavy rain. The PSB seedlings were already under stress (you remember I wrote about problems with Cabbage Root Fly?), and I didn't think they would survive the strong sunshine, so I rigged up the sunshade by draping some fleece over the protective netting and securing it with clothes-pegs.

I have labelled this raised bed the "Intensive Care Ward", because the survival of the "patients" is far from assured. A couple of the plants (seen here, nearest camera) seem quite strong, though even they droop during the middle of the day; three more will probably pull through if I keep watering them twice a day, and one is almost certainly doomed because it has been severely attacked by the Cabbage Root Flies. I have administered a good dose of "medicine" in the form of general-purpose plant food to try to build up their strength, so we'll just have to see what happens.

Elsewhere I have more potatoes nearing maturity, their "haulm" (foliage) now yellowing and beginning to die down:

Those are a maincrop variety called "Nicola". It's not one I have grown before, so I can't tell you much about it - yet - but since all the other potatoes this year have been very good, I have high hopes that these will be too.

The other day I wrote about seeds which were not what they were supposed to be. Well, here we have another interloper - in a row of Beetroot have appeared one or two plants of Perpetual Spinach (the ones with the plain green leaves):

OK, Beetroot and Perpetual Spinach are closely related, and the seeds are very similar to look at, but... Actually I'm not worried about this, because although Jane doesn't like it and I therefore don't grow it any more, I do like it and a couple of servings of it just for me will be welcome.

This is more like it - an attractive trio of "Iznik" cucumbers.

This plant is actually a spare one, planted-out when the other ones appeared to be in danger of not getting established at all, and for want of space it sits amongst the flowers next to the sliding door to our Living Room. Although perhaps not quite as prolific as courgettes, these cucumbers certainly deliver a good yield, and they don't take up much ground space.

Best news of all is that I have begun harvesting tomatoes. Most of them are misshapen, and many have Blossom End Rot, but there are still some good ones. More about these in a day or two...

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Late July Chilli update

Everyone knows that I love growing chillis!  Here's an update on how things are going this year.

The "Nosferatu" plants kept from last year are delivering ripe fruit now:

The difference in colour between the immature and the ripe fruit is really very dramatic, and the ripening process happens very suddenly with this variety. Often a chilli can be partially ripe for a couple of weeks, but these ones seem to go from black to red in not much more than a day.

These are Turkish Sweet Peppers, the first fruits of which are now turning colour.

Last year this variety produced a large number of peppers per plant (I had two), but this year, what with cold spells in the Spring and hail storms etc the number of fruits is much less.

The surface of the first couple of fruits is scarred in a way very reminiscent of the Jalapeno. I'm not sure if this is a good thing or not.

These are "Ohnivec". I'm tempted to try eating one of the fruits to see what they are like, but I want to see them turn colour first. They will eventually be red.

This is "Piment d'Espelette" - a chilli that thinks it is a pepper,

Or a pepper that thinks it is a chilli maybe?

These next ones are "Ring of Fire". The fruits on one of my two plants are short and stubby, and those on the other are longer and more wedge-shaped.

"Ring of Fire No.1"

"Ring of Fire No.2"
"Turkey Small Red" doesn't so far have any fruits set, possibly as a result of the setback caused by the contaminated compost - whose effects you can clearly see here in the distorted crinkly leaves:

There are plenty of flowers on the plant, so it may yet go on to produce a crop - albeit a late one.

This is "Red Jalapeno", whose fruits are mostly uncharacteristically round.

The small plant I nicknamed "Redfields Small Red" (possibly "Demon Red") is setting lots of tiny upward-pointing fruits now.

"Explosive Embers" is a similarly compact plant. It has loads of flowers, but no fruits yet. I have been unable to reproduce the colour of the flowers correctly. You will just have to take it from me that they are a lot less blue and a lot more purple than they appear in my photo to be.

"Bird's Eye" has made a remarkable recovery from the verge of extinction. It was looking so bad that it came VERY close to being dumped.

Making allowances for that (and ignoring a few brown spots on the leaves), it doesn't look too bad now, and it even has a few flower buds:

Not illustrated here is "Aji Limon". At present there is little of interest to show you. Sowing it was a last-minute decision, after the non-germination of a couple of other types. I'm hoping it will be able to produce some fruit before Autumn comes along. Last year it kept on fruiting up till the first frosts.

Anyway, there you go, that's how my chillis are doing. How are yours?

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Tomatoes - will there be a late rally?

The other day I wrote about my decision not to remove the sideshoots of my tomato plants in the hope that they might be able to produce some more fruit. Well, the plan seems to be working out...
Here you can see one of the new sideshoots at the left, tied with string to the old main stem and its supporting cane. The leaves on the new shoot look much more normal and best of all, tucked in there amongst them is a flower and a tiny fruit.

I have used the same technique wherever there is a viable new shoot.

This "Yanni's" plant with two strong sideshoots sporting a fair few flowers looks promising.

Taken from a different angle, this photo shows the existing truss of fruits rather better. Up till now I thought this would be the only truss this plant would produce.

Meanwhile, lower down... This is "Larisa".

If just one of those huge fruits would ripen without rotting I'd be reasonably happy!

Likewise with these "Dinnye":

This is one of the "Japanese Purple" ones, though it has yet to show its true colour.

And this rugged monster is "Cherokee Purple".

But this is what I really want:

Well, actually I want twenty times that amount! They are "Maskotka".

Maskotka is an untidy, trailing type at the best of times - probably best in a big tall tub so that it can cascade downwards. But what it lacks in looks is amply made up for in terms of yield and flavour. This year it has earned more credit in my book by being the least affected by the compost contamination problem. Having said that, the plants are much smaller than I would expect, and there are far fewer fruit trusses than I normally get.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Rudbeckia Fulgida "Goldsturm"

One of the perennials I bought last year in my drive to add more visual interest to my garden was a Rudbeckia called "Goldsturm".

I put it in a large terracotta pot, rather than in a border, so that I would be able to move it around whenever I wanted. This has proved to be a wise decision because it seems to be a very vigorous plant - one of those that will take over your garden if you give it half a chance, by the look of it. In this next picture you can't even see the pot!

The way the petals are arranged on the buds before the flowers open reminds me of a Linzer Torte! If you don't understand this, follow the link and you'll soon see what I mean.

The best is still to come. At present only a few flowers are open, but the plant is covered with  buds.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Harvest Monday - 21 July 2014

After all the setbacks I have had this year - contaminated compost, Blossom End Rot, Cabbage Root Fly etc - I am beginning to wonder if I am the subject of a jinx! However, I am trying to remain positive and to focus on the good aspects of the situation, so what do you think of this?

You can see for yourself that there is nothing wrong with my potatoes! These are a mixture of three types - "Charlotte" (700g), "Balmoral" (515g) and "Harlequin" (411g), each the yield from one pot. This year I have been trialling a number of varieties new to me, and some of them have been very nice (for example "Sharpe's Express"), but I have to say that I don't think any of them can beat "Charlotte". In the photo above the "Charlotte" ones are those at the bottom right. Aren't they clean, regular and good-looking? They also have great taste and texture when cooked.

In the photo there are also three "Iznik F1" cucumbers. I have four plants of this type, although one is still very small, having been planted a long time after the others, so I'm not going to be short of cucumbers. They are very prolific fruiters.

Behind the cucumbers you can see some "Cobra" Climbing French Beans - a batch of about 180 grams. Regular readers will know that this is my favourite variety of French Bean, one which I have grown every year for many years.

In the background are some "Purple Top Milan" Turnips, weighing-in at just over 400g. I'm planning to serve these roasted in a glaze of Sweet Freedom (as a low-GI substitute for sugar).

This week I have also harvested more lettuces. In fact, I have been harvesting lettuces pretty much every few days for weeks and weeks now, but I don't always see fit to mention it. Though I say it myself, my lettuces have been first class this year, and I have grown lots of different types. This is "Fristina", and a massive specimen it is too. That basket is 42cm in diameter.

And this is "Little Gem":

On Friday I pulled the first of my maincrop Carrots:

You may recall that I had a fair bit of trouble getting my Carrots started - I had to sow three times before I got what I felt was enough. These ones I suppose are the result of the first sowing, since there are only a very small number that are ready. I am quite proud of them, because although they are not even in terms of size (no prizes on the Show-bench then!) they are really clean and unblemished. No sign whatsoever of Carrot Root Fly damage, so the Enviromesh has done its job properly. This little batch weighed 470g.

They look even better when washed and ready for cooking:-

Next week I may be able to report the harvesting of my first Runner Beans of the year. I certainly hope so...