Monday, 25 May 2015

Harvest Monday - 25 May 2015

This week's harvest has again been mostly Asparagus and Radishes. Well, what did you expect??

Saxa (L) and Sparkler (R)
(L to R) Saxa, Flamboyant, Sparkler

We liked the Saxa radishes - they were very similar to Cherry Belle (our favourite) - but the pink and white Sparkler ones were a bit tough and not so tasty. The long ones are "Flamboyant 5", a French Breakfast-type variety whose seeds I bought (unsurprisingly) in France. Last year they didn't do so well, but this time seeds from the same packet have performed very much better - presumably just because of weather / soil conditions. I certainly didn't deliberately treat them any differently.

What can I say about the Asparagus? As nice as ever, but still not enough of it!

The batch of Asparagus pictured here was griddled, as part of a fantastic meal that Jane conjured-up, following a recipe in Sabrina Ghayour's book "Persiana". If you are Foodie and you haven't got this book, you are seriously missing a trick! [You can read about the meal Jane made HERE.]

There was a small salad crop this week too - some leaves from the "Cutting Salad" patch - mostly Cress, Mizuna, Mustard and Pak Choi.

These spare lettuce seedlings were surplus to requirements so they were also put into the salad. Every little counts, you know!

Here's where they ended up:

I'm linking-up with Harvest Monday over on Daphne's Dandelions, please stop by and see what other people have harvested this week.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

The Cotinus comes back

Last year my Cotinus tree ("Royal Purple") appeared to have died - or nearly so. Opinions about the cause varied from simple lack of water to the deadly Verticillium Wilt, and I don't know who was right. All I can say is that my tree is definitely not dead. The parts that were most badly desiccated have yet to show any new growth, but elsewhere the tree is putting out lots of new shoots. I am using this as an excuse to post some photos!

As the sap rises, these little shoots are appearing further and further up the main trunk. Let's hope they go all the way!

At present, the tree is "a game in two halves", as they say. One side is full of new leaf, the other is progressing more slowly.

This is what healthy young Cotinus leaves look like. Seeing this, I think you will understand why I was so keen that this tree should survive.

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Photo update

Right now the garden is progressing rapidly, and I have taken lots of photos, so I thought it would be a good idea to publish some of them, providing effectively an update of progress...

The Broad Beans are looking fine. Lots of flowers, which are just beginning to fade, so hopefully there will be lots of lovely pods to follow.

The Broad Bean bed

The Broad Beans have masses of flowers on them!

The bees have been enjoying those flowers

I have planted out two cucumber plants in a big container, protected by a big cloche.

"Mini Munch" is so far a lot stronger than "Diva", but it's early days still.

Some French Beans have joined the Runners in my new raised bed. These ones are "Kew Blue". I have protected them with some pieces of stiff wire, to try to deter the Blackbirds from digging them up.

The Blackbirds seem to have a particular fondness for the corners of the beds. They dig out the compost in their efforts to find edible bugs.

It won't be long before we are eating Lettuce!

Next to the Lettuce is my patch of Cutting Salad, comprising mainly Pak Choi, Mizuna, Rocket and Cress.

The Radishes have been OK, though maybe so far not as good as last year, which was an exceptionally good year for them.

Perhaps they have put a bit too much energy into their leaves? The large amount of home-made compost I dug into that bed a few months back may possibly have provided too much nitrogen (which promotes leaf-formation).

This is the bed containing brassicas and Parsley. I had been going to remove the Parsley prior to planting the brassicas, but I'm glad I didn't. It is currently very luxuriant and producing masses of leaves.

This is a closer view of some of the brassicas. The bigger ones are Brussels Sprouts and the smaller ones are "De Ciccio" broccoli.

You will notice that almost everything in my vegetable garden is netted. Without nets the crops would suffer a lot, possibly to the extent of being non-viable. I'm talking about damage from root flies, butterflies, birds, foxes, cats - the lot!

This is my Woodblocx raised bed, with two rows of Parsnips at the left, 6 Kohlrabi and 4 Celeriac at the left, and space in the middle destined to host some Leeks. One of the rows of Parsnips looks a bit sparsely-populated, but in between the visible plants are more little seedlings coming on, from a second sowing. By a happy accident therefore I should get Parsnips to eat over a longer period of time.

These are my containers of Strawberries. Not yet netted, but they soon will be!

I'll never get a big crop from that small number of plants, but there are few things nicer than home-grown Strawberries eaten straight off the plant, so even a few will be very welcome.

Next year's PSB plants are already on the go. Still very small of course, but going according to plan.

So, you can see that it I have been busy in the garden. That's about it for now - more "status reports" will follow soon, I'm sure.

Here in the UK it's a Bank Holiday on Monday, which means most people get a 3-day weekend. It will probably be the busiest weekend of the year for gardeners and Garden Centres alike. Have a nice time, Folks, and make the most of it!

Just when I thought I was winning...

I thought I had potted-up my last tomato plant for this year... Well, two actually.


Including those two, I now have 18 plants potted-up. After giving away a few I still have 8 spares (just in case...).

Correction: I have 19, because in the post on Thursday arrived two samples of a new tomato variety called "Crimson Crush".

I had signed-up to receive these some weeks ago, and to be honest I had completely forgotten about them. Dobies very kindly sent me two little plug-plants like this:

Crimson Crush

Crimson Crush is a newly developed variety, alleged to be completely resistant to Late Blight. If this is true, it is going to be a very popular variety, because lots of gardeners here in the UK (and presumably elsewhere too) had all but given up growing outdoor tomatoes since blight has become almost inevitable.

Following this year's policy of growing only one of each tomato variety (the Maskotka is a special case!), I have potted-up one of the Crimson Crush ones and I will give away the other once I see that the first one has established OK.

Crimson Crush
You will notice that I used the new cane-support system I described yesterday. I hope it works well.

Friday, 22 May 2015

A new cane-support system

Regular readers will know that I have experimented with lots of different ways of supporting canes for growing tomatoes. There are a few good gadgets out there, but there are lots of poor ones!

You have seen this before, but just for the record, this is my preferred tomato-growing setup:

The key feature for me is the green wire cane-support device. In my opinion it is perfect for the job, but it doesn't seem to be available any more. There are many similar products on sale, but none of them are much good. They are mostly far too flimsy.

Anyway, the unexpected advent some more tomato plants prompted me to experiment with another method for supporting a cane. First off you need one of these:

I got them from Gardening Naturally.

That on its own is never going to support a cane big enough to hold a 5-truss tomato plant, but with the aid of a bent wire coat-hanger it just might! I drilled a hole in two opposite sides of a suitable container; cut the coat-hanger and bent it into a straight length; wound it round a bamboo cane; inserted the ends of the wire through the holes; bent them down to stop them shifting, and ended up with this:

Not ideal, but definitely worth a try!

I used the new method when potting-up one of the recent arrivals - a variety called "Crimson Crush", about which I shall write tomorrow:

If this method works well enough, I might try it on some of my other pots next year.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Carrot Root Fly precautions

Last year I used Enviromesh for the first time, to protect my carrots from the Carrot Root Fly, and I am now a convert. Carrot Root Fly infestation is more or less inevitable if carrots are not protected, and the results can be devastating.

Carrots infested by Carrot Root Fly - Photo from 2010

The manufacturer's website describes Enviromesh like this:-

"Enviromesh is a fine mesh netting, woven from U.V. stabilised polyethylene.  The mesh size is 1.35mm.  The weight is around 55g/m2, light passage 90% and air passage 75%.  The material is very durable.  In tests, it showed no deterioration after continuous exposure for a period of 60 months.  In practice, Enviromesh has lasted a period of more than 10 years."

Having seen the results of using this material, I shall be using it for the foreseeable future!

These are my maincrop carrots, duly protected:

There are three rows of carrots under there, as well as one row of beetroot.

And these are my little "cocktail carrots", growing as usual in a raised wooden planter outside our kitchen window. The actual carrots are in two plastic crates filled with compost.

I have used a small offcut of Enviromesh, supported by six metal rods topped with cane-toppers.

This will give enough height for the carrot leaves to grow unhindered.

The mesh is secured to the wooden planter with some drawing-pins.

All the carrot foliage looks good so far, but of course it is too early for any significant roots, though with all this protection I'm quietly confident... (famous last words).