Friday 13 December 2013


The time came to take up the ulluco grown for seed tubers and this is the result. That biggest tuber is the size of a man's forefinger and represents the sort of size of vegetable that I'd find useful in the kitchen. The crop is also relatively unblemished and has cleaned up easily. I'm pleased and the first reactions from other root crop enthusiasts are mostly impressed.

So how did this success come about? It's a lucky conclusion to a series of near misses and disasters over the last few years combined with the sort of nannying that I wouldn't generally find acceptable for subsistence gardening. Half a dozen bean sized tubers were started in early spring in good quality purchased compost, and then grown on as a clump in a 40cm pot, initially in a greenhouse and then when the weather improved outside. They were earthed up a couple of times during the year with that same good compost which kept the plants fed. We had an excellent summer and because I water pots but not the vegetable plot unless I must these babies never dried out. Finally, in mid October they were taken into a darkened room and allowed to complete their growth cycle in artificially short day lengths. The harvest was lifted a few days ago when the foliage had died down completely and was barely even there any more.

In the garden though, things aren't nearly so rosy. I planted out eighteen small pots of started tubers after the frosts had finished into well cleared ground with a handful of general purpose fertilizer to give them a boost.  The plants grew well and managed to keep going even though the temperatures went into the high 20Cs over several weeks. It seems deer don't like ulluco (yet) and they were ignored while Bambi and his mates destroyed most of the oca in the bed next to them. In October I fleeced the plants for cold and deer protection although as it happens a very mild autumn has produced few frosts. Looking at these plants for tubers at the same time as taking the potted plants revealed almost nothing below ground and only teeny tiny tubers just starting on the leafy stalks above ground. Clearly the field management needs a new strategy. On the Radix Root Crops facebook group I've seen others with better results this year and I'll try their plan next time, not just fleecing but covering with a mulch of straw in October. For this year, I've earthed up over the stems and baby tubers and put the fleece back on. Perhaps in a month it will be worth another look.

I do wonder if being a touch further south in Normandy is a disadvantage even with the warmer climate because the change in day length with the seasons is just a little bit less pronounced and the rate of change less dramatic as a result. Further north the nights are longer sooner which would help advance cropping considerably.

Early starting might be another approach. On the small potted plants that I start in January there are often signs of tiny tubers forming. I don't know what happens to these as the days lengthen. Do they stop growing or having started could they be persuaded to keep going with careful management? And is this sort of obsessive attention really worth it for vegetables that are mainly interesting for their novelty but aren't particularly more delicious than other easier European adapted roots.

Whatever, it's inspired me enough for now that I'll give it a go again and even see if I can search out some different varieties to start a breeding line - not that I have a clue about the pollination requirements. If I have to import a particular Peruvian slug as a vector I might yet give it a miss.

I'm putting some of these on the swap page but I've already got a list of takers as long as my arm so if you're interested please speak up quickly. I can't guarantee you'll be lucky.

Friday 15 November 2013

Autumn slow down is upon us

sunset 13-12-13 NP

One year the mould will be broken and it will be the start of many in which my gardening tasks carry on all around the year, changing a little in detail but otherwise providing work, exercise and vegetables continuously.

This year is not that first year. Everything has come to a halt and apart from a few treasured chillies and my hope that the rodents and deer haven't finished off the Peruvian roots nothing much is happening horticulturally and the pressures of other obligations are filling my time. So nothing to blog about and no inclination to do it really, except that I miss my opportunity to state my piece once in a while.

I'm thinking seriously about cropping plans for next year. I'd like to grow more peas and beans, indeed these are such easy vegetables I don't really understand the failures of the last couple of years but the deer certainly have played their part in the downfall. Fencing is a problem which needs to be solved.

What I don't need to do is buy more vegetable seeds, even without the need to study economy the sheer bulk of unplanted material in my seed boxes is embarrassing and even rather sad, lovely potential draining away with every month passing.

The other bit of garden design I'm still pondering is the creation of a prairie patch with late blooming flowers to provide more butterfly and bee foods. I found a nice wild flower and grass seed merchant, Emorsgate , and I think I'll put together an order for some of the things we are lacking which would enhance our environment at the farm, things like meadowsweet and yarrow (both of which I thought we had but couldn't find last summer) and some mulleins which I have started before but don't seem to self seed very successfully. That should satisfy my shopping gene.

Friday 1 November 2013

Seed swap list now live!

The title says it all really.

Go to the Seed Swap page to see what I'm currently offering and the terms of the exchanges.

If you have seeds or plants to swap and you'd like me to list them on my page then send me a link and I'll include it there for you.

Thursday 24 October 2013

Worm eaten


We opened the worm bin after a long gap and found the poor things desperately trying to escape from the rising waters. In an attempt to avoid this we often leave the tap on the bottom of the bin open and draining into a bucket but it seems the nozzle was blocked and the fluid had built up to catastrophic levels. It's happened before. Still we were pleased to see the healthy and large population and glad we got there in time.

The worm bin is an effective way of recycling smallish amounts of vegetable waste but we've not been good worm wranglers and haven't really made much use of the excellent worm worked compost they produce as it always seems just the wrong moment to tip the whole disgustingly smelly thing out and sort through before reloading.

At about this time of year I usually make a big batch of paper shreddings to pack into the top of the bin to help protect it from the risk of hard frosts but I'm not sure just how much that kindly gesture can be supported by science.

alberto locoto chili

As soon as the really hot weather stopped the rocoto chillies got going and the plants are now laden with fruit some of which are perfectly ripe and very hot indeed. These are definitely my sort of chilli plants and I hope to keep them going for another year, indeed another fifteen years if I last that long.

Next year I will supplement them during the hotter months with some Lemon Drop which we've enjoyed before and make a fantastic chilli shaking sauce (like Tabasco but more yellow!) and that will be all our chilli needs covered.

 Rook is looking rather regal here don't you think?

Rook on a pillar of bricks

Tuesday 15 October 2013

Selecting suppliers

late cosmos

I'm falling out with the big internet suppliers at the moment. Even using Flickr has become fraught since Yahoo started to tinker with it. Their latest modifications leave me with no easy way of embedding my pictures here despite being a fully paid up member. I've looked at other photo solutions in the cloud and I don't like any of those either.

And I'm not keen on Wordpress, and Google is getting far too intrusive and money grabbing. I could fall back into self hosting for everything but would I then lose all my viewers? Is this the real heat death of blogging approaching or am I just being overly neurotic?

I feel the same way about most of the big gardening suppliers too. Unusually this year I've bought goods from several of the market leaders and they've all let me down in some way. Orders are changed without notice, deliveries held back or lost in transit, prices are changed or payment methods are unsatisfactory. (I don't use Paypal either).

So, for this purchasing season I've decided to stay small. I bought flower seeds from Higgledy Garden a couple of weeks ago and although I've not had time to sow them yet, delivery was quick and efficient and my expectations are high.  Higgledy specialise in flowers for cutting and I'm hoping that next year we'll be having a much more colourful time on the farm.

I'll be looking out for other small businesses to meet my needs too and hoping to get some extra fun via the seed exchanges - and yes, I promise I'll go live with my own swaps soon.

Wednesday 9 October 2013

Everybody's doing it

pumpkins 2013

So I thought I would too. It's well into October so I've picked the pumpkins, squashes, cucurbits, what have you. Not a massive crop this year but that's probably o.k. as we usually have far more than we can eat and they often rot in store as I don't have enough warm dry places for them.

From the left:

The small corrugated dusky orange fruit are Black Futsu, which seems anomalous given the name but is expected behaviour for these moschata varieties.  Rather small for type they should probably be about double the size they are and I blame the very hot summer for this. They were picked a few weeks back and have been maturing in the warm and dry. I've yet to try eating one so can't comment on the quality but I'm hopeful they'll live up to expectations.

The largest orange pumpkins are without name or parentage but appear to be maxima. These are the plants I was expecting to be Pink Banana squash. I'll probably carve one for Hallowe'en but because they were grown in isolation I could possibly save seed if the eating qualities are good. Trouble is I'd need to grow them on for a few years to make sure the variety was stable and they just don't look interesting enough for that.

The green one in the middle is another moschata, Muscade de Provence. If they didn't grow so large (this is a small one, barely mature enough to cut) these would be my favourite squashes, very fleshy and tender, excellent for cooking. But this was the only fruit on the last seed in a packet and very nearly didn't make it all all. For all that we've had a brilliant summer with wonderful air temperatures that slow chilly spring seems to have held back a lot of the more tender annuals just because the soil was so cold.

Steely blue, compact and dense, the Whangaparaoa Crown (maxima) are holding my hopes for winning the place of  'house' pumpkin but I'd nearly lost the lot. These two are to be coddled and their seed saved for producing the Normandy adapted landrace of my dreams.

Finally, the tiny orange ones are Gold Nugget. This is a bush type maxima which I'd never grown before. Again, I think the tennis ball sized fruit are perhaps a bit small for the variety but I've eaten one and it was good so because they're such tidy growers it's likely I'll try them again.

Not pictured are this year's courgette choice, Trieste White cousa. Unusually the courgettes didn't run rampant this year and I've been more or less able to keep up with the four plants. They resisted mildew to the last and are still producing baby fruit but because of this good behaviour I have no marrows for store. I almost feel cheated by this.

Are you ready for Hallowe'en?

Friday 4 October 2013

When life gives you melons

cucumber flower

This is actually a cucumber flower but I'm not at all sure I even took a picture of the melon in flower. I certainly wasn't expecting the fruit when it finally happened, one day there seemed to be nothing and then there it was like a golf ball.

Anyway, the cucumber flower is a close cousin and really rather lovely so I don't feel bad about using it as a stand in.

Rock melon, the one and only

The melon itself managed to reach about 20cm in diameter and then just sat there, neither getting bigger nor ripening as far as I could see and each day the vine seemed more yellow and less likely to be able to support any further growth or sadly, any more melons. So I picked off the solitary fruit and took it into the kitchen where it has been decorating the counter for a couple of weeks.

Today I realised the green and knobbly skin had turned quite yellow, the fruit seemed softer and it smelled delicious so without further ado, reader, I ate it.

Very nice too, the skin is a little thicker than the fancy Galia or Ogen melons found in all good French supermarkets all summer but the flesh is sweet, orange and very juicy. I'll be saving the seeds for another go next year but you can buy some from Realseeds.

Prescott fond blanc melon

Tuesday 1 October 2013

A year has passed

spooky sunset

Another year older and deeper in debt. Happy Birthday to me.

birthday cake

Sunday 29 September 2013

The perennial problem

stem tubercules on volunteer potato
Not something often seen in the well managed garden, stem tubers on a volunteer potato plant.

Whenever I become enthusiastic about getting involved in permaculture I have to pinch myself hard and remember just what the permanent crops in my garden have to put up with already.

poorly cleaned asparagus bed
Very untidy asparagus bed after a rough clean up. The intention is to give it thick mulch over winter in an attempt to keep the weeds down.

I'd love to be able to complain that there's just too much for me to do but the sad truth is that if I put a bit more effort into the tidying up both in the house and the garden things would be a lot more civilised.

This summer I directed my meagre efforts elsewhere and promptly lost control of the long term residents under a morass of noxious weeds and detritus.

sad little welsh onion
There are half a dozen poor little Welsh onion plants waiting for new accommodation.

So a task for this rather splendidly mellow autumn is to rescue what I can from my abandoned babies and re-home them in a clean bed, even though I know that they'll most probably become overgrown and neglected there within a season.

It's not helped by the ground being as hard as a hard thing still. Attempting to split a division from the lovage has been put on hold until we've had more rain. We broke a fork taking up a section of the thuggish Horseradish for a friend.

still life of sunchokes and docks
The Jerusalem artichokes seem resigned to sharing their space with docks.

After the horrible wet summer of last year there were only a few rotting sunchokes left in the ground this spring. I gave up on them in despair, unable to find anything that seemed healthy enough to rescue then. They've made a come back but as a vegetable crop they'd be much more productive in a weed free patch and regularly picked over to remove old and decayed tubers.

the battle for Good King Henry
Good King Henry battles on with bindweed, couch and buttercups.

For one reason or another, I'm not sure what at all, I didn't even crop the Good King Henry this year, just left it to get on with it; under siege from various arch enemies particularly bindweed which is peculiarly well adapted to hiding in full view in the early summer with its similarly shaped and coloured leaves. And of course, as the Good King Henry is never lifted the wretched stuff can reside safely alongside even if the top growth is removed.

I've already moved the Babington leeks and the walking onions are in pots to be planted out. The lovage will have to wait and a pot of elecampane is waiting to join the ranks. Must try harder.

For the record, I planted a row of Cypriot ful today in the hope they will germinate and overwinter for an early crop next spring. Fingers crossed the mice don't take them.

beware of the thug 
Horseradish is a violent thug which can't be moved on.

Friday 27 September 2013

Funny old fungus

parasol gone over

It's not been a very good year for finding fungi of any sort this year, too dry, too hot so despite our excellent find of Chicken of the Woods at the beginning of July which was complemented by a nice harvest of Oyster mushrooms which have been cropping reliably in a particular place for several years now we've had no ceps, no chanterelles, no sheeps feet and no parasols.

Except we have, I've just been looking in the wrong place this time. Usually we find the different varieties around the forest in same sort of area each year and since we had a little rain a week or so ago I've been assiduously checking to see if our favourite patches are producing at all. Not a sausage, but the parasol mushroom above and his friends, all dessicated and gone over in the sunshine of the last few days were growing in a place we'd only just cleared of brambles and bracken. The ground was apparently barren and dry and it was the last place I would have looked but walking the cats this evening there they were.

And another example of the fickleness of our fungal friends - we have never had a harvest of field mushrooms here all the time we've had the place but this year I've found three individual mushrooms, all alone in three widely spaced places at about a week apart for each. It's rather disconcerting and not enough to do anything with but it just shows how unpredictable mushroom hunting can be.

field mushroom

Wednesday 25 September 2013

Taking a sickie

It's hard to take a day off sick when you're entirely your own boss, but still, after the excitement of visitors at the weekend my system was ready for a breakdown, and so I'm resting up for a few days. Luckily for me the weather has become mild and mellow and yesterday we had brilliant sunshine which brought out the late butterflies. I did a survey.


There were lots of Green veined White butterflies about. There may have been some other small whites about but I wasn't close enough to identify them for certain. The Green veined were some of the earliest here this year and now they're some of the last.


Not a butterfly but it might just as well be. We've had Silver Y moths all summer, they fly by day and rarely stop so are difficult to photograph.


The Speckled wood butterflies are remarkably pretty and we seem to have a very brightly coloured strain living here with far more patches of orange similar to Pararge aegeria ssp. insula which are found on the Isles of Scilly. I've done no study on it but it seems to me that the autumn flying insects are also brighter than the spring ones.


Not as many Comma butterflies as other years but there are still a few and this grizzled old chap stopped long enough for me to snap his portrait.

There was also a Peacock buttefly but it landed on my leg and I couldn't get the photo before it flew away in horror so here's a picture of one posing for me last year.

Predictable Peacock on Tansy

Wednesday 18 September 2013


Big Max was my daddy
This squash came from a seed marked Pink Banana but I think its mother must have been playing around because this big strong fruit looks pretty much like Bix Max to me.

Even though we haven't quite reached the equinox it's definitely moved on into autumn now.  There have been gales and rain for the last few days and although a settled dryer and warmer ten days is now predicted it's a bit too late to hope for any more summer crops to mature without help.

whangaparaoa crown
Just two of these from the one plant this year. I think they'll be o.k. but it's keeping the genepool small for the next generations.

I'm hoping to be able to share some seeds from these Whangaparaoa Crown pumpkins. With luck there will also be some Irish Prean peas and I have a couple of heads of  Babington Leeks bulbils if there's anyone left who doesn't have any by now. Watch out for a '2013 share' page coming soon with all the details.

a lonely sunflower
Small, late and neglected, sunflowers this year were a washout.

It was old seed but even so I was expecting better things from the small patches of sunflowers dotted around the place. The weather was good enough and this one in the back patch was watered all through the driest spells so I'm not sure what was wrong.  Very disappointing, and this is the only one that's even come close to flowering yet.

chewed yacon
It was bound to happen. The deer have discovered that yacon is edible.  They still don't think much of ulluco except as trampling space.

So we do still have naughty deer, the small sneaky sort who creep by in the night to nibble away on my precious vegetables but much as I wish them to the other ends of the earth I am a bit concerned that we've not heard anything from the Red deer so far this year. Usually by now they are preparing for the rut by bellowing out challenges and securing territory for the does but there's been nothing so far. Strange and a little worrying because the hunters are already on the job.

chile rocoto
The Alberto Locoto chillies have formed fruit, but not a lot.

The tree chillies came through the winter well and I thought they'd make a lot more growth this year but they are rather pot bound and the unexpectedly high temperatures don't seem to have been to their liking either.  There are fruit forming and slowly acquiring some size and with luck they'll over winter again back in the UK where they can be better protected from the cold.  I really want them to succeed - perennial cool weather chillies seem to me to be a much more perfect crop than ridiculously hot and finicky annuals. I'd like to find some other varieties too, they come in a range of colours from red to yellow and with various fruit shape and sizes.

medlars and blackberries
Blackberries and medlars.

We've had such a good year for blackberries even the birds can't keep up and there are fruit mummifying on the brambles. I've been eating them raw, foraging as I wander around the garden but I've not bothered with jam or jelly as we still have leftovers from last year.

The meldars are doing fine and will be harvested in November for jelly. We always manage to eat that.

And elderberries are desperately in need of harvesting for syrup, as are the rose hips.


Wednesday 11 September 2013

No more Mr. Blue Skies


It had to end and now normal service has been resumed. Which is not to say that there's anything like enough rain falling to do much towards improving the moisture content of the soil but the sun has lost its intensity and clouds are piling over the horizon taking the light away and spreading gloom.

There's still a touch of blue about the place. Morning Glories that I had planted in the hope of a glorious display near the Doghouse eating area have finally, rather sulkily, started to flower. It's not much like the ravishing curtains of colour I had envisaged but each individual bloom is still a wonder.

morning glory

Even now the seasons seem to be running a little late. On the bay tree yesterday I found this lovely Brown hairstreak butterfly, a female, who might in other years been out and about ten days earlier. Very pretty and we're glad to see her as she makes our second new butterfly species identified on the farm this year.

Female Brown Hairstreak

Thursday 5 September 2013

Rest and Relaxation

Clouded yellow on dahlia

Bit of a holiday today. It might just be the last good day of summer; sunny blue skies with temperatures expected to reach the high twenties and a warm breeze. I hope it isn't of course but a change is expected at the weekend, we're heading into autumn with no hope of reprieve and this is as good as it's been at any time in the last four months.

With my main tractoring tasks completed for the summer (there's more, there's always more but I'm going to pretend I shouldn't have to do it) it seems the perfect moment to stand and stare and enjoy a summer that I am more grateful for than can be described. For all my middle England antecedents, stretching back as far as the eye can see, I should definitely have been born in a Mediterranean country.

Rock melon, the one and only

Proof of the excellence of the summer, a rock melon in the greenhouse. Admittedly it's pretty small and it's the only one but it's probably the second time in my life a melon has grown for me. Years ago, in Worthing I did have one even smaller Jenny Lind but that really was more than twenty years back now. This is Prescott Fond blanc from Realseeds.

Cats on a walk in the hayfield

The cats have had a good summer too although as they enter early middle age they've slowed down a lot and we're having to watch their diet to avoid excess weight gain. But they still love a good walk with us in the evenings. It's just a pity that the hunting season starts soon. I won't want to take them with me far from the house then.

Holly blue butterfly

There are still quite a lot of butterflies about. One of my more grandiose plans at the moment is to turn the entire existing vegetable plot with its poor and rock filled soil into a large prairie garden strip with Michelmas daisies, Joe Pyeweed, Hemp Agrimony and other strong growing late flowers to help feed the insects into autumn. With a few patches kept for nectar rich annuals it would also provide a wonderful draw for photographic models through the year.

sun goes down tonight

Tuesday 3 September 2013

Working the Tractor

Working the tractor

I've been trying to blog for a few days now and being given writer's block by the subject that I wanted to share with you. It's too frightening even to put into words.

It's no secret I find using the tractor one of the most consistently terrifying experiences of my life. Put me on a frisky horse and even after all these years out of the saddle I reckon I could ride it out, find the fiercest roller coaster and I'll take it with nary a peep but this monster, this essential tool of farm life is something that sets my heart racing with such speed I fear an attack every time I start the engine.

There's just no feeling of control or being able to communicate with it and yet unlike a roller coaster where you can surrender to your fate it needs coaxing along, steering, directing and anticipating. The sheer weight of the thing renders me negligible by comparison and the unsteadiness of the ride as we inch over tiny humps and bumps is every anxiety and fear of death I've ever had rolled into one awful moment after another.

I've been cutting meadows over the last weeks. It really is the perfect weather for it, baked dry and delightfully warm and sunny.  It's not a bad time for the plant life either, these old hayfields are full of flowering plants (if a few too many thistles and docks) and they have reached the stage where cutting and scattering their seed heads will keep them going for future years. As I work I'm surrounded by swallows scooping the insect enriched air and often have birds of prey, a buzzard and a kestrel watching for displaced rodents and lizards as well. After my initial fears have had time to settle a little I can occupy my mind with choosing the most efficient path to cover the area with fewest repeated cuts and after that there's even room for some boredom.

But last week I really think I lost one of my cat striped lives. In our fields are cider trees, huge old things, covered in mistletoe and on their last legs frankly. We keep them because we hope they are old varieties that we will eventually identify and because one day we'll make drinkable cider, also it's a lot of work taking them out.

One of these trees had fallen in the winter. It wasn't dead but was lying on its side, head poking up at an angle such that I thought I could see where the root was, so I swept up to it in my fierce beast of a tractor, engine roaring and cutters whirring and drove over the real trunk submerged in the long grass. The whole machine reared up, it wobbled and rocked. I was clinging to the steering wheel for dear life, convinced the whole thing would topple over with me inside it. Then the back wheels came over and finally the cutter, each new impact creating further perturbations and causing some unladylike language most unsuitable for taking to the pearly gates. And I survived. It was a lesson. Well, several lessons but possibly the most valuable was that the thing isn't quite as unstable as I believe it to be. Even so, it still takes me several hours to convince myself to go out for another session.

At last that's done. Perhaps I'll be able to do some stuff about vegetables, butterflies and cats now!

Thursday 29 August 2013

Potato: Druid

druid potatoes

A new potato variety for us this year, you can read the technical spec. on it here; a red skinned tall maincrop covered by plant breeders rights until 2026.

It wasn't our first choice but I can't remember what it replaced on our want list in the early spring. We think we chose it because it's recommended for chips and crisps, two of our favourite ways to enjoy the potato.

It's been a mixed year for spuds, little rain and a lack of humidity have helped keep blight away but the resulting dry soil has given disappointing yields and scabby tubers. The picture shows pretty much the full crop from 25 plants. Not impressive at all.

Although there was no blight one or two plants did fall to the sort of virus infection that gives stunted weak leaves and a couple were mined by rodents so didn't contribute to the crop. That slug hole in the  picture is probably the only one we found.

Our soil is poor (yes, we're working on it!) and I don't feed in any significant way. I think these potatoes would have benefited from extra input so I'd recommend a wider planting distance than I gave these which was about 50cm between starts on anything less than perfect ground. The ones on the end of the rows were considerably more productive.

Eating quality is good and the few crisps we made as a trial excellent.  I'm not sure I'd grow them again but I wouldn't rule it out either.

Sunday 25 August 2013

In the eye of a depression

It's dark and gloomy outside today, thick black clouds cover the blue skies I've become accustomed to and yet it's still as dry as a bone out there. Checking the forecast suggests we might get as much as a millimetre of rain today and if we're lucky another tomorrow before we revert back to another week of sunny days, a little bit cooler than they have been perhaps but just as arid as the last few weeks.

not sure what sort of pumpkin
I'd hoped this was a Pink Banana Squash but it seems not. Looks healthy anyway.

It's beginning to be a problem in the garden. Planting seeds for autumn cropping today - a bit late but again dictated by the weather, the high temperatures were prohibitive - the soil was sere and like crumbled concrete 15cm down.  I took out several full watering cans out for the new rows and hoped to bluff the rain clouds into dropping their load but the bluff's on me and if I want my seeds to make any sort of a start I'll be watering them all next week as well.

Hops are flowering or is it fruiting? Whatever, it's a sign that autumn approaches.
For the record today I planted out some chicory which had been started in modules, two sorts of radish; the quick salad sort and some long black winter ones which we make a wonderful stinky pickle from.  A half row of yellow carrots - I don't expect much from these but if they germinate and over winter they'll be food for swallowtails next springs - and the other half row with parsley root. Again, if the roots come to nothing at least I'll have a crop of (rather coarse) flat parsley next April.

These new additions are sharing a plot with previously planted burdock, cardoons and evening primrose (for their roots) interspersed with some dill and coriander going to seed and a few spots of salsola. There are also a few beetroot and carrots  which were started in modules a few weeks ago and have now established fairly well.

In the bed next to the courgettes I put half a row of Florence Fennel and the rest as spinach, to be picked small if it comes up at all.

The swallows left on the 23rd August, probably a week earlier than we've ever had them go before.  It's quiet without them and the yard is bereft of their amusing games of tag so they are missed.

crow licks his nose
A naughty black cat shows his disrespect while I take his picture.

Wednesday 21 August 2013

In the garden

fushia autumnale

A bit of a catch up in the garden. I've not had a lot to say about it this year, the weather is o.k. and most plants are doing what might be expected of them but I've made poor planting selections, things are a bit stunted from lack of water and food and the continuing attacks by deer are dispiriting so there's not a lot to be enthusiastic about.

The fuchsia is one of a trio I bought in the spring in an attempt to brighten the place up a bit with some container planting but this one, Autumnale, seems frightfully tender and I had to take it back into the greenhouse early in the season as it looked as if it was about to die. It didn't and has hung on to make some flowers but I fear it won't overwinter in my care. Pity.

whanga crown

The last plant from the last seed of the Whangaparaoa Crown pumpkins I had such hopes for a while back. I'm not really sure what happened to find myself with just this single survivor of my seed saving but at least it has a couple of fruits; it's not all lost yet. I am a bit worried about the mottled and slightly pitted skin texture and hoping it's a function of physiological stress as it doesn't seem quite right for the variety.

yacon in august

Yacon were new to me this year but I was expecting them to be bigger by now. The three plants look well enough, if a little dry but are still only 50cms high.

purple beans

Some of the very few beans that survived (so far) the depredations of the deer. These are (I think) Cosse Violette and will probably be eaten rather than saved for seed since it's a widely available variety but they're not going to make much of a meal.

Irish preans

In a different, more protected, part of the garden are the Irish Preans and I am hoping to have enough of these to have a few for swaps this year which will be nice after several seasons with nothing to offer.

Santero  and Stuttgart Giant

Onions have been, like the shallots, more  successful than most things this year. Two varieties, both planted as sets and looking good. I love the flat bulbs of the Stuttgart and I'm not sure why I bought the F1 variety Santero other than an insatiable need for novelty. It looks from the picture as if the round bulbed Santero are bigger than the others but that's just bad photography. The Santero may be prettier for the show bench but seem to have little benefit for my purposes.

Herbert blueberry

Blueberry Herbert. I've become a convert to home grown blueberries and bought this plant of Herbert to extend the season of my unnamed original plant which usually fruits in late July. In fact the two plants have fruited at almost the same time this year so I'm now looking for much later and earlier varieties to supplement them.