Thursday, 21 July 2016

A small harvest

a small harvest

It might be small but it's perfectly formed. This year's strange weather has seemed at times to be completely minacious to growing vegetables, too cold, too wet, too hot and now too dry, but there are some old favourites that slugs and deer aside can be relied on to come through and give a crop.

ice crystal was bean

These are the first Ice Crystal wax beans to arrive. Named for their almost glistening pale colour, these are short beans on bush plants which try to climb in some seasons producing scrambling floppy growth that can hide the pods. Best taken very young like this they are magnificent in a dressed bean salad but even when a little older and larger will make a good vegetable if you have the patience to string them. The seeds are tiny, rice beans, but the flowers are prolific and it's easy to shell out a couple of hundred grams of dried beans for soup at the end of the seaon from a 3 metre row. I'm very fond of these beans and recommend them.

Riana's Corbieres bean

Another first harvest. These are the beans with no name - they are so good I can't believe they're not a well known variety but I only know them as Riana's bean from Corbieres. Long fleshy green pods without strings on plants that truly enjoy hot weather, their only downside is that it takes a long time for the pods to mature and dry. I've started marking the first few pods of each plant at the start of the season to ensure  that enough pods mature to collect viable seed for the next year.

white courgette

I can't believe I grew three courgette plants this year. And what plants! Determined to get white 'cousa' type fruit I picked an F1 seed variety - I forget the actual name - and the vigour that comes from this sort of breeding is frighteningly apparent. At the moment I'm picking one or two 15cm courgettes from each plant every day. The hot weather predicted for the next two weeks might slow that down but it's far more courgette than this lone diner can contemplate. Must dig out that recipe for pickles.

salmon flowered pea pods

 The salmon flowered peas are growing on me, even though I was less than impressed earlier in the year. They are pretty during their brief flowering and are prodigious croppers of quite pleasant peas. They need better staking than they got this year, the top heavy plants fall over as the peas swell but I'll grow them again, perhaps in a block instead of a row to make them self supporting.

Monday, 11 July 2016

Around and about


We've had visitors and the sun, although unreliable has been giving some warmth and joy for a few days, so little work has been done on the various projects for a while. These bright red pelargoniums make a bold show in a re-purposed mail box but fickle as I am I've decided I'd prefer deep purple next year. Just enough willpower stayed my purchasing hand last time I was at the garden centre buying more Bordeaux mixture but I will upgrade my colour choices for 2017.

japanese wineberry

The Japanese wineberry that I was given by a permaculture gardener neighbour of Incredible Vegetables when we visited in the spring is looking good. It was one of my mother's favourite plants but when she tried to sneak it into my aunt's glorious garden it was relegated to a back corner and faded away into obscurity. This specimen will have a happier future than that.

tigridia pavonia1

First flowers on the Tigridia pavonia - also known for its edible bulb cacomitl. It was introduced to me by Rhizowen but although I read his blog closely I was still amazed by the size and splendour of the flowers. I shan't be taking a harvest of bulbs this year but the blooms are a lovely addition to the vegetable patch.

baobab seedling

Amongst the oddities I tried this year, the baobab. Of six seeds only this one has germinated but that just makes it more special. If I can keep the slugs off I'm hoping for great things from this baby.

First Indigo Kumquat tomato

First fruit on the Indigo Kumquat tomato. They look very dark at the moment but I believe they will develop some orange flushing as they ripen.

white admiral

Butterflies are still rather scarce but examples of all our regular inhabitants can be spotted. This lovely White Admiral was fresh and new when I snapped it a couple of days ago which makes a change from the tatty specimens that we usually see.

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Ranty half hour


meadow brown

small copper



There was going to be a rant. I even wrote half of it. Then I decided not to.

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.