Tuesday 18 September 2018

A Blog Holiday

I'm going to be taking a break from blogging for a while. At present I'm finding it hard to come up with anything new to write about - it seems to be tomatoes and chillis all the time! See what I mean?

"Bumblebee Sunrise"

Chilli "Dee's Scotch Bonnet"

Chilli "Bellaforma"

Mixed harvest of chillis

I'll be back just as soon as I feel re-inspired, so Cheerio for now...

Sunday 16 September 2018

The plot keeps on giving

The balance of labour versus results has definitely been in my favour recently, at the Courtmoor plot. In the early part of the year I did a lot of work there, preparing the ground, sowing, and planting. Then from mid June until mid August it was watering, watering and more watering. Luckily though, for the past few weeks the most frequent task has been harvesting. This is what makes veg-gardening worth the effort!

The photo above shows my harvests from Thursday. A bunch of Beetroot "Boltardy", some tomatoes, a few Runner beans, a lot of French beans - and lo and behold, a red cabbage!

This red cabbage is one of those that was ravaged and nearly killed by pigeons, back in the Spring. The worst-hit ones were a write-off, but I hung on to any that looked as if they might recover, and this is the first one to be harvested. It's not big (630g), but still definitely worth having! Here it is seen next to a regular-sized lemon, to give a better impression of the size.

Jane is very partial to pickled red cabbage,(must be something to do with her Lancashire heritage...) and that little cabbage was enough to make three small jars of it.

I also want to show you a closeup of the beetroot. I had thought that once we got a bit of rain the beetroot would grow a bit bigger, but they don't seem to be doing so. These ones are about the size of a hen's egg.

My hosts - the property-owners - are very partial to beetroot, so this batch went their way.

They also like the New Zealand Spinach I grew for them. I know that they had two years of crop failure with this vegetable before I arrived on the scene, so they are particularly glad that it has done well this time.

If you like green leafy vegetables, this one has a lot to recommend it, and I can vouch for the fact that it is drought-tolerant! I suppose when you know of its origins (from the coastal dunes of Australia) it's not really surprising that it copes well enough with a hot Summer in the UK.

The tomatoes have done quite well too, considering that they have enjoyed very little TLC, and were in any case only some spares left over from my own garden.

The best of the bunch has been "Mountain Magic", a variety which is supposedly very blight-resistant. It hasn't been put to the test in that respect (fortunately) and it has churned out a big crop of very even-sized fruit. There are lots more to come, too.

Apart from harvesting, every time I go to the plot these days I do a little bit of weeding. Since I removed most of the perennial weeds on the plot last Winter, the ones coming up at present are annual ones. Now that we have had some rain, the weed seeds are germinating in huge profusion, and if left would soon swamp the whole plot. Fortunately, I find that 10 or 15 minutes' work with a sharp hoe every few days is sufficient to keep them in check. I'll be the first to admit that the Courtmoor plot is nowhere near as meticulously maintained as my own garden, but it was never my intention that it should be so. Hopefully it will be easier next year, since I have eliminated so many weeds this year that surely fewer of them have made it to the flowering and seed-setting stage!

Thursday 13 September 2018

End of the line for the Cherry Tomatoes

This year has been a very good one for tomatoes. The hot weather, combined with the absence of blight, has helped me to achieve a bumper harvest - probably my best ever.

However, all good things come to an end some time, and today I judged that the "Maskotka" and "Montello" cherry tomato plants (which between them produced over 18kgs of fruit) had reached the end of their useful lives. To be honest, to the unpractised eye they would have looked dead already!

Taking down tomato plants and emptying their pots is a job best done in good weather. Doing it when the weather has turned cold and wet is utterly miserable, so I wanted to complete this task before we get to that stage, even though there were still a few fruits on them that might have ripened. To be exact, I managed to rescue another 575g, although most of them are pretty green.

Actually, I didn't cut down ALL of the plants. One of the "Maskotka" plants got a reprieve, because it still had a significant number of fruit left on it. I moved it into the back garden, to the tall wooden planter where its siblings had formerly lived.

Here's a closer look. Some of those fruit might well ripen.

By the way, did you notice the flower sticking out of that pot? It's a "volunteer" Sunflower - probably something that has dropped out of the bird-feeder. It's very tiny by Sunflower standards, but quite pretty nonetheless.

While the weather is nice, I'm off up to the Courtmoor Avenue plot now, to see if anything up there needs doing too...

Monday 10 September 2018

Winding down

It feels very much like the end of Summer now. We still have daytime temperatures in the low to mid twenties (Celsius!), but the nights have been a lot cooler, and in the early morning it definitely feels Autumny. It won't be long before I have to start sweeping up leaves!

In my garden too there has been a subtle change from "Summer jobs" to "Autumn jobs". This week I have harvested the last fruits from several of my tomato plants, and put them on my garden table in the sunshine to finish ripening.

The spent tomato plants have been cut down and composted, the canes have been put away in the garage and now I just have empty pots. I think it's too late now to sow / plant anything else in them.

Behind the empty pots you can see some of my second-crop veg -- things that were sown once the potatoes had been lifted. For instance, one pot contains a few beetroot, which are just beginning to swell.

In another pot are two Kaibroc plants, which have produced a small but steady succession of broccoli-like spears for the best part of two months. The spears are getting smaller now that the plants are nearly exhausted, but they are still worth having.

In a third pot, half a dozen "Canadian Wonder" Dwarf French beans are just setting some pods. Hopefully they will mature before any frosts come along.

Talking of empty pots... after a very productive season, the Cucumber plants have come down too.

One other job I have done this week is to remove the old Parsley plants from last year, which I had allowed to go to seed this year. I stripped the ripe seeds off them before they went into the compost bin, and scattered them on the soil from where the plants had come. It looks scruffy now, but with a bit of luck at least some of the seeds will germinate next year.

This is what I'm aiming for - a huge patch of Parsley that will supply us throughout the year - or at least the Summer! (This is this year's patch).

I've also been taking a close look at my apples to see if they are ready for picking yet. I notice that last year I picked apples in the last week of September. For me this is a 5-minute job, by the way. I have only three very small apple trees, and this year one of them has produced no fruit at all (it didn't even blossom). The "Winter Banana" apple tree has managed to hang on to about 8 fruit this year. All the others (and there were quite a lot this time) fell off at various points along the way - a rather prolonged "June drop"! The ones that remain look nice, but I think I'll delay picking them until the end of the month again.

Meanwhile, I shall just sit and admire my Squashes (of which, as a novice, I am inordinately proud) as they slowly ripen in the sunshine...

Saturday 8 September 2018

Late Summer bounty

I've recently written a lot about harvests from my Courtmoor Avenue plot, but my main focus is always on my own home garden. Since it is literally on my doorstep I am able to tend to it - and enjoy it - much more easily, and much more often. If you're in a hurry, you can sometimes miss things like this, a tiny Cyclamen:

This little chap is a volunteer. It just appeared spontaneously in the shingle of my garden. I potted it up and it now happily reappears each year, slowly getting bigger.

Now that the weather has turned a bit cooler, my Runner beans have finally started to produce a worthwhile harvest. Up till now I have only been able to pick the odd few beans here and there, saving them up until we had a viable quantity with which to make a meal, but yesterday I managed to find this lot (450g) all at once! Woohoo!

The plants are covered with flowers again, and this time it looks as if they are setting, so maybe I'll end up with a decent harvest after all. I just need the frosts to stay away for another month at least!

This week I harvested some more of my "Nantes" carrots.

They wouldn't win any prizes for uniformity, but they look (and taste) nice nonetheless - and most importantly they show no sign of Carrot Root Fly infestation, so the Enviromesh has done its job well again.

I'm still picking tomatoes every day. The small ones have just about finished now, but the big ones are ripening "in droves". This "Dwarf Caitydid" plant has produced comparatively few fruits, but they are huge and heavy and I have had difficulty keeping it upright.

Most of the chillis are ripening now, like this "Fish" one, changing from stripy green-and-white to orange and then to red.

My "Hungarian Hot Wax" plant only set four fruits, but they are nice and big. As their colour moves from pale yellowish-green, through orange to red, their heat increases (though they never get blisteringly hot).

Two of them were used yesterday in a Chinese-style Beef and Black bean dish, in lieu of the more normal Red Pepper, and very nice they were too.

I've got a fridge full of cucumbers at present (7 or 8, I think), so I think I can afford not to pick the last few fruits on the plants. They don't look very appealing, and probably contain more seed than flesh.

So, as you can see, there is still lots of veg coming out of my garden. As you know, flowers tend to take second place in my garden and I'm not so good at ensuring that I always have a fine display. One flowering plant that I do love though, is this one - Rudbeckia "Goldsturm" - which I think often looks most appealing when it is beginning to fade, and some of the petals turn russet-brown...sort of "shabby-chic".

Thursday 6 September 2018

My first Crown Prince squash

Yesterday I harvested the first of my Crown Prince squashes. Although it was not big by normal standards for this variety (2.67kg), it was a significant achievement for me, being the first one I have ever grown. The seed from which it was grown was extracted from a small squash bought in a supermarket last Autumn and eaten, so it effectively cost me nothing - unless you can put a price on all the work I put in watering the plant throughout the long drought!

It is now at home, "socialising" with its cousins the Butternuts and the Uchiki Kuris.

By the way, I have already written about us eating the first of the Uchiki Kuri squashes in a soup, and a couple of days ago we also ate about half of one of the Butternuts in a risotto. Jane makes an excellent risotto which as well as the rice includes squash, sage, chicken stock and chilli flakes. I felt that the Butternut we used was perhaps slightly under-ripe (for instance, its flesh was very pale) so the other ones will be left to cure for longer I think. We were just too impatient!

I'm still bringing back lots of other goodies from the Courtmoor plot. Here is yesterday's haul:

Apart from the aforementioned squash, there were 15 decent "Mountain Magic" tomatoes, 2 "Boltardy" beetroot, a handful of Kaibroc spears, and a few each of Runner beans and French beans ("Jean's beans"). With a steady trickle of harvests like this coming in, we are not buying many vegetables in the shops at present.

The only disappointments amongst the plot produce this week were the "Dwarf Barossa Fest" tomatoes. The single plant of this type up at the Courtmoor plot has produced a lot fewer fruits than its sibling in my home garden, and most of them have been of poor quality, like these two very cracked specimens. They will be OK in a sauce, but you wouldn't want to serve them in a salad.

Talking of tomato salads, here's the one I made to go with that risotto I mentioned. Apart from tomatoes of various colours, shapes and sizes, it includes thinly sliced shallots, a sprinkling of fresh Thyme leaves and a splash of red wine vinegar - the latter applied just a couple of minutes before serving.

I keep thinking I haven't got much left up at the Courtmoor plot, but then I remember that I have two rows each of 24 Leeks. OMG, look at those blooming weeds!

And there are quite a few cabbages too...

I don't have a photo of them, but I've also just remembered that there are some Parsnips as well, and of course the Brussels Sprouts, so there are actually lots of good things to look forward to!