Sunday, 28 June 2015

A day at the beach


A happy spell of good weather and Paul having a whole week to spend here gave us the opportunity to head for our favourite bit of the seaside, a wonderful patch of undeveloped shore. The area is a nature preserve and has nothing to encourage daytrippers except sandy beaches, dunes and exceptional wildlife.

seaside euphorbia

The variety of flora is intriguing, I would never have expected euphorbia to colonise sand dunes along with several sorts of orchid.

cropped orchid

I had never seen a Lizard orchid, Himantoglossum hircinum, before and these were really beautiful. Some of the sources on the internet suggest it has a goaty odour but I didn't find that although there was a definite scent. Maybe I just like the smell of goats. There were also pyramidal orchids and another sort, possibly Southern Marsh orchid but my pictures are poor and I'm not very experienced at identifying orchids.

bryony on the beach

There were lots of other plants some of which may have been introduced, a patch of Centranthus ruber didn't seem likely to be native, nor did a single outcrop of bugloss although it added some lovely colour. Irises planted under a shelter belt of conifers also seemed out of place. The bryony probably was a local, although it was stretched over a plant I think must have been privet.

glanville fritillary

It's not just plants either. Each year we find a species we've never photographed before. This year, it was the Glanville fritillary. This isn't a great picture - all the pictures here were taken with my Z3 phone - but you can see some better shots on Paul's flickr stream along with a Brown Argus and a Small Heath.

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Out to grass

13 grass

Today is rather gloomier and more overcast than expected. Even so, the gentle warmth and still calm is pleasant after the last week of ferocious winds followed by storms that took away my internet and the torrential rain that seemed to be about to wash everything away; although in the end it was a blessing to the vegetable patch.

14 grass

When this grey murk clears we are forecast ten days of sun and complete drought, so I'm hoping everything is making the most of the moisture while it can. The dryness will at least help keep the blight at bay for a little while longer - there are already Smith period warnings for Jersey.

I am entranced by the beauty of the flowering grasses this morning and have taken far too many pictures, none of which capture the real pleasingness of the actual plants. I've picked a few for this blog but there are more on my Ipernity pages following on from the link.

19 grass

It may not suit anyone with a grass pollen allergy but if you able to enjoy access to old meadowland or even a vergeside left feral then it's a wonderful source for reflective meditation, being graceful and fragile and yet absolutely tough and rooted in the present.

15 grass

In a startling reprise of last year we had another visitation from some loose young cows yesterday. This forced me into interaction with the local farmers because they needed to be collected and taken home.

Unlike last year the stock didn't belong to the stud next door but because of the contact we have revisited the idea of them taking our fields for hay this year, something which is of advantage to me in saved fuel costs and to the meadows as letting the cut grass lie as we've been doing will eventually damage the ecology by enriching the soil too much.

12 grass

Because we don't have animals grazing intensively here there is a delicate balance between removing material and retaining soil fertility at the right level for a complete ecosystem. It's not something that I believe has been much studied from a veganic point of view so we are experimenting while flying blind.

7 grass

The pyramidal orchid has thrown up a flower spike again which I was glad to see the cows had missed as they browsed their way along the lane. It's still small and unimpressive but it should get bigger over the next week. Still just the one that I can spot though which is a shame.

meadow brown

And the Meadow Brown butterflies, quintessential denizens of old grass land, re-appeared a couple of days ago. They'll be here all summer now, quiet and unassuming and very difficult to photograph.

17 grass

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Gardening in slippers

small tortoiseshell

If you were looking for advice on gardening in slippers mine is don't. Your slippers get wet and full of grit. It's not comfortable. Doesn't stop me doing it though.

Small tortoiseshells have made an appearance in the last couple of days. I'm glad, this year seems short of butterflies of all types and the windy weather of the last few weeks hasn't helped me catch them on camera either. It's not that we're short on varieties, rather that each species seemed to be represented by just one or two examples. I'm hoping that the next ten days, predicted warm and dry, will help bring up the numbers.

tidy greenhouse

I've tidied up the greenhouse and set the tomatoes, cucumbers and melons in their final spots. I still have to tie the wretched smelly things in, always my least favourite job particularly in hot sun. Most people I know revel in the yellow stench making happy faces and saying how lovely and summery it smells. It just gives me a headache. Still, it'll have to be done.

The first flowers on the toms are just beginning to open. I took a picture of the winner, on Surender's Curry, but decided one tomato flower looks just like any other and left it out. Luckily Surender's is a bush grower and needs little pruning which makes it a double win for me.

Basil seedlings

Basil. Inspired by another blogger I bought some peat free starter pellets made of coir and used these to start the seeds weeks ago. I nearly lost the lot and won't be repeating the experiment. The pellets may have some use for cuttings, maybe lavender which I have plans for later in the year, but for seeds they are simply not right. These survivors are finally beginning to grow now they're potted on.
flowers on the tomatillo

Out in the garden the tomatillos have started to flower. It's not what I was expecting from previous crops, the plants are very short if sturdy. Let's hope it's the variety which was 'Large Purple/Green' from Realseeds and not a sign of horrible stress and imminent death.

Heading over to the potato patch for the first harvest of the season I found this volunteer oca growing up next to the row. It looks much happier than the tubers I started this spring from overwintered stock but I can categorically state it's no seedling, we haven't had that oca flower here since 1969 (not quite true but some will know what I mean).

volunteer oca in the potato patch

flowers on epicure potato

And here they are, potato flowers are so beautiful.

The new potatoes are small but perfectly formed and I shall enjoy them later. 

first new potatoes - epicure

Friday, 29 May 2015

Photo diary

Not many words but here are some pictures to show how the season is progressing.

wapato in the bath
The Sagittaria latifolia or wapato that Rhizowen sent me are doing well enough, but they'll need bigger quarters if there's to be a crop I think. Still working on that coypu. Maybe I should try one plant as a sacrifice, maybe coypu don't like wapato.

vila vila 3
Most of the vila vila are now in the ground. This one looks a bit starved but I'll pot it on for a few weeks more until I can find a place for it. Nice and spiny isn't it?

Houseleeks looking their best at this time of the year, but these will need splitting and repotting soon. I'm almost tempted into starting a small specialist nursery, then I remember how lazy I am.

seedling walnuts
I thought I'd blogged about the four walnuts we harvested from our poor old tree last year but I can't find it.  There's a pic on the twitter feed here. Anyway, I planted them and these two have germinated. The other two were subjected to vernalisation which I don't think helped much, I'm hoping they'll grow, one certainly has a root but they're not showing any top growth yet.

Chive flowers are looking good but the foliage is a bit rusty. I'm increasing my herb stocks this year and have seedling rue, sage and greek oregano. The giant fennel hasn't come up though.

lavender and marigold
Herby favourites, lavender and an overwintered marigold. The green boxy plant behind is a common myrtle saved by me to and from many locations around the UK and France. I think the original was variegated but no longer. It very rarely flowers or fruits needing an exceptional couple of summers to get there.

wild redcurrants
The self seeded redcurrants are coming along nicely.

Dioscorea japonica
All twelve of the Japanese yam starts have made nice little plants. I'm planning to set them out in the bean trench soon.

tomatoes in final pots
What a difference a month has made to the tomatoes! Now in their final pots, there will be twenty in the greenhouse,  five in pots outside the back door, four under the poly tunnel cloche and four (still in small pots) in the ground if I can find a space for them.

Two greenhouse cucumbers. I've got one more that I'm going to try outside just because I've run out of space. In the past I've grown a variety called "Long Chinese" from Lidl on trellis outdoors but I couldn't get fresh seed and the old seed failed to show. I'll be looking out for this variety if anyone knows where to get it.

ulluc o
Some of the ulluco waiting for the bed to be made for them. Peru corner is going to look terribly sad this year if something isn't done rather quickly for it.

poly cloche
Tomatoes, melons and weeds under the poly cloche. It's not going to be big enough, it's not going to be big enough at all.

uchiki kuri (bought plant)
I was surprised to find these flowers on the Uchiki Kuri squash. The plant was bought in and is more advanced than the home starts but it still seems very early. Fingers crossed it's not about to turn up its toes and collapse in a heap.

first flowers on epicure
Flowers are now beginning on the Epicure potatoes so I hope we'll be able to take a first crop in a couple of weeks time. I've mulched with some grass clippings to save my back from earthing up but there is a worry it will harbour slugs. It might be better to do the work properly on the main potato bed.

main potato patch

Friday, 15 May 2015

So wrong

The metéo was wrong again today, promising cloudy but dry conditions but actually supplying a constant drizzle worthy of Ireland in summer. It's a bit disappointing as I'd intended to pull myself together and get the pumpkins and courgettes out of their pots and into the ground today. For someone with nearly 24 acres at my disposal no one would believe I'm running out of land but poor management in the last couple of years means that the rotation has gone to pot and patches which should be in cultivation are having to be cleared and covered to fight back perennial weeds and soil poverty. I've no stomach for digging out brambles and nettles in the soggy conditions today so everything will have to wait.

Asparagus beetle - Crioceris asparagi

I was wrong about these. Fooled by the attractive big white spots on their backs I thought they were Spotted Asparagus beetle but actually a bit of research confirms they're they boring ordinary sort, Crioceris asparagi. This is more depressing than merely making a mistake. The spotted beetle does most damage to seeds but the common sort is a worse pest, with several generations in a season and larvae that feed on new shoots and leaves, damaging both and weakening the plants. You can see eggs as well as adult beetles in the picture.

I've been hand picking them off and drowning them but as we've stopped harvesting now I might resort to some chemical solution. I don't want to do that and probably won't but it soothes my heart to think I could cause an apocalypse for the wretched things if I wanted to.

My identification skills with bees are still lacking so I can't tell you what sort this is, just welcome it as a reminder of how lovely it it when the sun shines.

bee on clover

Thursday, 7 May 2015

May already


Haven't really been keeping up with the posting, weather and mood have both been bad. Still, here are a few recent pictures. The gazania above came from the local garden centre, a bit of an impulse purchase that has no place in the garden to go really. I will have to pot it up by itself and use it as an accent in some sunny corner.

We went to the garden centre hoping to get globe artichoke plants but at 12€ each that was obviously a non-starter. That 12€ would have bought us about 10 big heads from the supermarket even this early in the season, and they don't do particularly well here, I just like to have them. I'll start some more from seed, probably not until next winter now.

baby apricot

The new apricot tree has set three little fruit. I think they can be left on the tree without stunting it in its first year and it will interesting to see what they're like. The apples are in full flower now, particularly pretty is the Ellison's Orange which is a nicely shaped little tree - I don't think it can be a maiden even though that's what we paid for. Unfortunately massively strong winds over the last two days have broken a small branch from the Victoria plum. I've popped it into a propagator in the hope of rooting it but really there's little chance of it taking. The actual tree will survive but it is very brittle, it was one of the only trees to suffer during transport over here.


A wisteria gifted to us when we got here by Paul's mum. She gave us three and I killed two of them but this is hanging on in and this year the flowers have avoided the slugs. Needs more TLC but I'm pleased so far.

tunnel cloche

I'm not a big fan of complications in the veg. patch and find most cloche and floating row covers more trouble than they're worth but I wanted to try some tomatoes in the ground and thought some shelter would bring them on more quickly and provide a measure of protection from blight spores. It's an experiment and the cloche is a very cheap one which is barely going to be big enough to take four bush tomatoes although I'd hoped to get six in. Still, we'll see how it does. I'm still hoping to tuck a couple of rock melons in at either end, no idea if that's a suitable companion planting!

Thursday, 30 April 2015

In the greenhouse


Late as I am this year with getting seedlings started I've decided that it's better to do things properly, and by that I mean by traditional methods, than do my usual know-it-all shortcuts that so often lead to disaster. As a result the greenhouse is looking almost professional with lots of cell trays filled with freshly pricked out baby plants.

Mostly in the picture are tomato seedlings. This year I'm growing the old favourite Gezahnte Bührer-Keel. Wladecks, Clibran's Victory, two new to me varieties from Victoriana Seeds; Surender's Curry tomato and Harry's Italian and six plants of Tondino di Manduria, sourced from Kokopelli some years ago. I'm hoping to grow these outdoors under a cheap poly cloche-tunnel. Even with that the greenhouse is going to be overloaded again unless I harden my heart and discard some. I grew Clibran's Victory last year I think but treated the plants so badly I don't think I had any fruit at all, so I'm trying again. Although my seed came from the Heritage seed library there's almost no documentation on the web from anyone who's had a photogenic crop. Perhaps this year will make it into a new star.

vila vila 2

Telsing from the Facebook group Friends of Vila Vila sent me seeds from her breeding programme, and I started some a few weeks ago. The baby plants aren't very big yet but they look healthy enough and will be about the right size to plant out by the end of May when the weather should be more reliable. The plan is to select the seedlings that are least spiky and painful to harvest but this year I'll be pleased just to achieve fruiting plants.

a relative of borage

It seems I put a picture up of the Symphytum asperum every year but I can't resist those scorpioid cymes and the bees love the flowers.