Sunday, 19 June 2016

Good weather for radishes


Another month has passed I see. Oh well.

The weather hasn't been all that good, a little bit hot, but humid and stormy. A little bit cool, windy and overcast. There's been quite a lot of rain. So it's a true curate's egg and the nasty bits have overshadowed the enjoyable considerably.

But from all conflict some good may come and for a change there are radishes. These easiest of vegetables, given to children for their first crop, have always been a bit of a struggle for me. Not so this year. Even with the inevitable attacks of flea beetle the rows are bulging with roots, standard red ones and some Long White too. A miracle.

golden wonder flowers

We dug the first early potatoes a couple of weeks ago. Premier they were and lived up to the name having been in the ground for about 11 weeks and tasting really rather good. The flowers above are on the Golden Wonder. Pretty aren't they and nicely scented. The Ambo are also flowering already. So far we've had only a couple of Smith period days and with the current cool conditions I'm holding back on spraying for blight. Hoping this won't be a terrible mistake because the potato patch is looking good this year.

first pea

The first pea pod has set on the Raisin Capucijners which is nice to see. The Salmon flowered are just started to form their crown of flowers. I'd always thought these would be interesting to grow but now I have some, meh. We'll see, perhaps they will win me over.

Salmon flowered pea

asparagus beetle

The Asparagus beetle is back in adundance. This is probably my own fault, bad cultural practice and all that but it does look like asparagus is going the way of broad beans in this garden. Plants I'm unable to grow without special measures are going to be left behind, no matter how sad it is. It's been suggested diatomaceous earth might help with my problems with the broad beans but I've been reluctant to apply this to flowers where bees work. Perhaps on asparagus it could be utilised as a beetle deterrent, more research needed.


We had such an abundant crop from the green/purple tomatilloes last year that I've only done six plants this time. It was a great shame that the last two seedlings of Dr.Wyche's yellow variety which I had from Realseeds several years ago were eaten by slugs before I could prick them out. I was hoping to compare the two varieties for yield and flavour this year. Realseeds don't seem to have this variety any longer although it's still available on the American heirloom seed sites.

So much more to say but my blogging mojo is low. There's stuff about maize and other cereal crops, ocas to catch up on, disasters with deer and fruit trees, cucurbits and more but it'll have to wait for another day when the motivation is strong.

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Beans and stuff

spring is sprung

Today I have been mostly planting beans, but that's not just all that's been happening even if I haven't been recording it here. Here's a quick catch up now that spring has finally arrived.

breaking ground

How not to make an new vegetable patch from old meadow. My fault, things got delayed over winter and the designated patch only started to be prepared when we arrived at the end of March. The combination of the late start and some malfunctioning equipment has led to a novel approach to plot cultivation. Enter the erstwhile back hoe, last seen doing duty digging bean trenches in a previous season, now utilised as an all purpose turf stripper and earth turning implement.

It brings a new depth to double digging, and although permaculture buffs will be turning in their (shallow) graves it's going to make planting out the 400 or so oca in this newly designated Peru patch possible at all this year. It's slow work and not all done yet so the plants are hanging on in their pots and will be given a few doses of very weak liquid fertiliser to keep them in health while they wait. With luck they'll all be tucked up in the new beds by the 1st of June.

I should make particular mention of all the work Mr. Catofstripes has put in helping me with this mad foray into oca cultivation from putting up the little polytunnel to digging the area and finally fencing against deer including financing the whole project. He's actually rather lovely and it couldn't be done without him.

oak tree over meadow

There was a week of proper hot weather. It's over now and although the night temperatures are finally acceptable (we had a 2C night just a few days ago) it's not as warm as it might be, quite windy and the season seems delayed with the May blossom only really coming out in the last week.

This means that a lot of the more tender vegetables have been held back, either because I dare not plant the seeds or because seedling plants were chilled and refusing to grow. The okra that I have such high hopes for has been extremely sulky but is now beginning to make some growth. I could have probably waited to sow them another 3 weeks and they'd still be like this now.

okra 3

There's actually a lot more to record so I'll keep it to the point. All the spuds are in, there's a bed of yacon which I'm not sure I can spare the area for but it's done now. The peas are in situ and most of the beans - I've one patch of Riana Corbieres beans in the back garden for seed. There are two reasons for this, one is that the pods are so fleshy that it's best to let the earliest set mature and dry for the best quality seed production and the other is that I noticed some contamination of the type in the plants I grew last year and I want to be able rogue out anything I don't like the look of this year. The plants for eating won't need such attention but need to be well separated from the seed stock. That stuff they tell you about French beans being self fertile and not crossing isn't entirely true. There's a row of soy beans which are looking good at the moment, I'm hoping to harvest edamame rather than dry beans from them.

The sweetcorn Golden Bantam is finally up, another slow starter, and I have just 20 seeds of Oaxacan Green from an unlikely collection from a single plant last year. They've now been planted. I'll be hoping to separate the flowering times (locations as well but never by the recommend 2 miles!) so that I can multiply this back up again but actually it's a bit of a foolish ambition. You'll just have to humour me.

Possibly the latest I've ever started them, the ridge cucumbers Petit vert de Paris also went into the propagator today. I have no idea where these will be put but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

News on the cucurbits and other tender novelties next time. This post is long enough!

Saturday, 30 April 2016

Deep freeze

blueberry flowers

It's a strange time when I spend more time looking at the Météo than I do playing Bejewelled. But so it has been for the last couple of weeks as the temperatures have stayed resolutely 5 or 6 degrees below average day and night. Unpleasant enough for day temperatures to barely reach double figures, disastrous for spring planting when there's a frost nearly every night.

I've been glued to the forecast desperately hoping for good news to appear on the screen but unusually the long term view has been quite consistent and accurate, horrible cold until May. Tonight is, I hope, the last night I'll need to fleece within the polytunnel and greenhouse to avoid losing everything to frost.

play list

This is the rough planting list of plants I'm expecting to grow this year. Today I finally sowed the indoor melons and cucumbers, tomorrow the rest of the cucurbits - pumpkins and ridge cucumbers. The beans have been waiting for today although I did start the soya and Hutterite soup beans a week ago and they're just unfolding upwards now.  The tomato seedlings have been in stasis since germinating at the beginning of the month but I'm hoping that the improved warmth will give them a rapid boost. The okra was started far too early and is only just hanging on in there but while there's life there's hope.

There are more things to plant than are on the list, as usual I've given myself far more to do than I can possibly achieve successfully along with 4-500 oca plants that will need planting, tending and recording throughout the summer.


Today the sun was out and although it's another cold night it was possible to work outside and take a few cheerful pictures at last. The marigolds have been out for a month, plucky things, but I particularly like this dark centred one that overwintered in the shelter of the myrtle.

Before the cold snap came we did see quite a lot of butterflies on sunnier days, Brimstone, Peacock, Speckled Wood and I think I spotted a single spring Map butterfly. There was also at least one male Orange Tip. It's harder to spot the female, she lacks the bright wing tips but I think I caught her on camera today on the Lady's smock (Cardamine pratensis) which is just coming into bloom.

female orange tip

Not a great picture but I was pleased to get it. And to finish, my favourite rough comfrey shot, just love these curly flower heads.

rough comfrey

Sunday, 10 April 2016


23 spot

I was about to stop blogging, had a whole rant in my head. Decided to come here and just make sowing notes and when I got here, there were a couple of supportive comments that had slipped into the spam bucket and were nearly missed.

Thanks kind people.

Still don't have much to blog about so here is that list.

Planted today, four sorts of peas. Salmon flowered, Irish preans, Magnum Bonum and Raisin Capujiners which I liked a lot when I grew them a couple of years ago but failed to take a harvest from. HSL have come through with another batch so I'll try again, harder this time.

We had a big push a couple of weeks ago and ground is cleared for spuds so the first row of earlies, Premiere this year, are in. To follow mostly our favourites; Ambo, Sarpo Mira, Pink Fir Apple, some Highland Burgundy Red as my nod to novelty for this year (although we've grown them many times before) and Mr. C snuck in some Golden Wonder. I've no idea why but if it keeps him happy.

Onion sets mostly settled. Really too late for garlic but I'm going to set a row of cloves from the chunky bulbs I bought on the market last autumn which are still hard and healthy looking and hope for the best.

My pomegranate seeds came up. They're looking good.

In the new hoop house there are currently 400+ pots of oca but as soon as they're out and into the ground I shall have okra and melons in there. The okra is up already, lovely strong plants.

And I've made start on planning the rest of the vegetables. It always stuns me how a little vegetable garden can contain so many different plants and varieties of plants, no wonder it sometimes seems unmanageable but it's all good stuff and offers the promise of summer to my jaded senses.

Friday, 18 March 2016

I think I'm going mad


We're well into March and it feels like I'm stuck in a vat of treacle. Can't move in any direction. There are household troubles, emotional impediments and now for the last week I've been ill with some sort of noxious virus that stops me from doing anything but coughing and crying in my bed. I would say I can't bear it but of course that's not true, most things will pass and neither ranting nor passivity makes any difference at all. So it is with this situation but the numbers of tasks that are on hold are now assuming massive proportions while the time available to make a success of them dwindles. There is real despair here.

What little progress can be made is being attempted, I've not given up and can still envisage a couple of solid weeks work getting everything back on track but not yet. Some other things have to finish first. I wonder if either of us will survive that long.

Anyway, today as part of my plan to reclaim my direction I planted some more seeds. Whacky seeds for the most part that are reliant on hope and good fortune to get anywhere. They were:

Padron peppers - not so whacky but they couldn't wait any longer. Now I'll have to transport them as seedlings which is another issue but not as difficult as not getting them to fruiting size at all.

Tamarillo tree tomatoes -  having some poly tunnel space will make these more plausible and they have always amused me.

Tomatoes Scotland Yellow and Indigo Kumquat. The yellow one is one I've had from HSL before and is a very useful sort of tom, easy to grow. The indigo I have no idea about, it was a bonus pack from a supplier and I've never heard of it (goes to look...). Seems it's a F1 variety not particularly blue but orange with an indigo blush. Sounds attractive althought I don't do F1 as a rule. All my other tomato seeds are the other side of the channel. Hugely frustrating and I can only hope that a late sowing will catch up in time for harvest.

Pomegranate seeds that I saved from a Xmas fruit. Pomegranates are very nearly hardy enough to grow and fruit in Normandy so I'm going to give these a go on the same regime as citrus, outside during the summer and frost free in winter. If they germinate of course.

And finally in this round the least likely to achieve maturity some Baobabs - Adansonia digitata. Don't ask me why, it's a great tree and all that but totally impractical for my situation. Maybe it'll make a bonsai.

I've also got some lychee and tamarind seeds from bought fruit to sow as soon as there's room in the propagator. Madness indeed.

Sunday, 28 February 2016


raven feb 
Cheeky girl cat enjoys a spot of sunshine.

This is the internet so here is a cat. I've noticed something odd happening to my blogging habits. At the moment blogging seems like a self indulgence when there are more and better things to be doing elsewhere.

This isn't really true, this blog is where I hold onto a shred of personal awareness and autonomy. But I'm not doing it, or anything else much. So. What has been happening? Seeds came up.

Purple basil and the old favourite, sensitive plant. Just kids at heart.

There's been a bit of self indulgence in seed buying at least. I've obtained seeds for two sorts of Armenian cucumber. I'm not sure how they'll do in Normandy but I've wanted to try them for a long time and also some Queen Anne's pocket melon. This small melon which ripens to reddish brown with yellow stripes is not particularly nice to eat but allegedly has a lovely fragrance, the sort of thing to keep in your pocket for when the nosegay has wilted and the orange pomander seems too wintery. If I can get it to set fruit at all it will be interesting to see what it smells like.

Plans to get on with the new plantings at the farm are progressing. Something that has come out of my efforts for ocabreeders is that we may be getting a polytunnel at last. This is to make the nurture of over 700 new seedling varieties of oca just a little bit easier in the short term but of course it will quickly be turned into a useful area for our other crops as the season progresses. Also planned a new deer proofed area. It's all good stuff which helps to offset some of the other life impediments we're experiencing at the moment to do with jobs and family.

Next week I'm taking a trip to Devon to meet up with Incredible Vegetables. Mandy has been generously growing out some of ocabreeder's babies and will grow more for us this year. She's got skirret too and I'm hoping to buy some to bring back for a new bed in the vegetable garden as several attempts to start it from seed have been unsuccessful.

Friday, 5 February 2016

Exercises in hope


I've often said how difficult I find it to start writing without a relevant picture to hang my words beneath. Finally something turned up although I'd rather the cats hadn't done it (and thank goodness they couldn't get it through the cat flap).

The winter is horrible, no matter this is one of the mildest I've ever known and that on most counts my life is pretty good, there's something about grey skies and my life style choices that don't mesh and the sooner it's over the better.

On a moment of slightly more manic exuberance I did buy a lot of seeds from Thompson and Morgan, even though I despise them, who had a whole load of cheap packets. Just 99p each made it worth my while to pick up various exotics and ornamentals that would ordinarily be left behind to allow for more odd vegetables to be collected. There was a list on the site of these bargains but I can't find it now. Somewhere under special offers I think, you may be more lucky than me. At any rate some of the cheap things I bought are still listed at that price so just search for your favourites and you may get lucky.

I'm now waiting on three types of banana, some sensitive plants and lithops to come up. All things I've grown before that have been lost by the wayside of too many relocations and unexpected cold snaps.

Also in this first batch of seed sowing some oca seeds, bought from Cultivariable and from their out crossing project, seed type OC-14-2x08x05 x OP ( whatever that resolves to and written here because I always lose these things). These along with some others yet to start will, I hope, form part of my contribution to the Ocabreeders project this year. The seedlings, if they come up, are only part of my commitment as I've promised to create, tend and protect a bed of many of the Guild's germplasm, something which is nagging at me more and more urgently as the year trundles on and getting started never seems to happen. I'm hoping that some volunteers will appear to help me look after these valuable babies, so if you fancy a week in Normandy doing a bit of light hoeing (ha!) please contact me so we can make arrangements.

So, now the blogging baton has been picked up again perhaps it will keep running for another season. Happy growing, everyone.