Sunday 26 July 2015

Work in progress

Things that have been happening in the last week...

vila fruit

Fruit has started to form on the  Vila vila, aka Litchi Tomato, or Morelle de Balbis. They are fearsomely spiny and I discover today that they are in weed proportions in South America, regarded as worse than thistles in pasture. Hopefully that won't happen here. As usual I doubt my ability to contribute much to the seed selection programme for a less spiky sort but maybe it could be me.

The other foreign vegetables aren't looking so assertive. I have finally got a few of the ulluco into the ground and popped in some very weedy oca along with some starved callaloo all of which have been waiting in pots since April. The yacon is disappointingly short too, even though that was planted out at a more reasonable time. I'm hoping the awful rain we've had in the last couple of days will give everything a boost whilst simultaneously praying that the hot humidity won't bring on blight on the potatoes and the outdoor toms.

gbk wladecks

Tomatoes in the greenhouse are still green. I should have started them much sooner to have ripe ones by now but at least they are looking much better than last year. It all comes down to feeding and watering in the end. I'm becoming more and more in favour of a full poly tunnel so that I can plant them in the ground - pots are more work and I'm a lazier gardener than most.

ridge cuc the 1st

Harvesting has begun on the ridge cucumbers. Already I'm feeling a bit pressured by them (although not as pressured as I am by the bloody courgettes) but once I get organised they are some of the few vegetables I find it worth preserving because I am a pickle addict.

A trip to the local market got me over 50 young leeks for only 3€, a bargain, and I was just motivated enough to get them in the ground before they became too stressed. I should have bought my cabbages from the same stall but I bought some a few weeks ago which have been struggling along in their blocks and are now somewhat manky. They've been planted too and at least the rain will help them along.

leeks etc

Thursday 16 July 2015


As promised, the butterfly collection for the last couple of months.

hay field

But first, a hay field. This picture appeals to me, it looks, so, country. Maybe the heat is getting to me. The bales are being collected now by an overheated and, I imagine, rather grumpy bloke with a tractor and trailer. I think he must be grumpy because it's so hot and because he's trashed a small willow tree that was close to the track and is now upon it. It happens, I'm only glad he didn't take the telephone line with it.

Long tailed blue - female

I like doing butterfly posts because the pictures are pretty and everyone loves a butterfly but of course, our charming darlings can be other people's pests. The Long-tailed Blue (Lampides boeticus) has received quite a bit of attention in the UK recently as it's a rare migrant and is eagerly searched for by the butterfly equivalent of twitchers (what is that word, answers on a postcard?). However, it feeds on pea plants and when it can't find wild peas it's perfectly happy with the cultivated sort, which is where I found this one, happily laying eggs on my Carlin peas. 

Still, it's a first for me and this garden as far as I know and I was as thrilled as any geeky lepidopterist has a right to be. I shall be keeping my eyes open for less raddled specimens in the future.

painted lady

The current batch of Painted Ladies is considerably more glossy coated than the early ones. This one is enjoying some common knapweed which seems to be a food plant of choice, there were several in attendance.


Skipper - I think this is the large sort. Really must gather up all the pictures and spend a bit of time trying to establish exact ids for them, I'm pretty sure we have the small but do we have the Essex and Lulworth skippers (such imperious naming, they are both available overseas!)?

small tortoiseshell

Of the usually more frequent and common 'garden' butterflies we have had examples of most but very few in quantity. It's probably nothing to worry about but it's surprising after the excellent warm spring we had. There are many Marbled Whites this year and plenty of Meadow Browns and Ringlets. Just becoming frequent, Gatekeepers, but almost no Peacocks, Red Admirals or Tortoiseshells. I spotted a Silver washed Fritillary half an hour ago but wasn't quick enough to get its picture.

purple emp on wall

And now, the jewel in the crown for this month - the Purple Emperor. We live in the perfect place for these magnificent butterflies and felt sure they were laughing at us from high in the canopy of the trees as we'd never made a certain sighting of one but this handsome chap deigned to come down and pose for a good 15 minutes while he gathered some salts from the mortar of our barn.  It's been a good year for spotting and photographing new species for us, the Long-tailed Blue, the Glanville Fritillary on the coast and this fine specimen probably make a record.

Wednesday 15 July 2015


Another picture heavy post for you.


I was going to picture and explain each variety of tomato in excruciating detail but life's too short and  I need to spray the spuds for blight. Above we have Clibrans Victory, which I have to say look pretty ordinary at this stage, not far removed from the Amateur or a Money Maker but I'm sure the victory is in the eating. The Wladecks are making beefsteak sized toms, looking good.

The Gezahnte B├╝hrer-Keel have set well but they really don't like hot temperatures and most of the first fruit have blossom end rot already as do the Harry's Plum. I've taken some measures that seem to be working - more food and water, plenty of ventilation - but suspect these varieties really need to be outdoors or at least in an airy polytunnel. The little greenhouse gets too hot.

Surender's Curry aren't setting well, again it might be the heat and it might be that I left them bushy and too green to initiate early fruiting. The Tondino di Manduria in the greenhouse are o.k. but the plants outdoors look better.

greenhouse cucumber in the garden

Another greenhouse plant doing well outside is this F1 cucumber. It's planted in the bean trench in the middle of a bean pyramid and seems to love it. Courgettes used as fillers for other bean pole constructions are enormously vigorous which may eventually prove to be a problem but it's nice to see such healthy growth.

first french beans

The very first dwarf French beans are forming. These are allegedly a yellow podded sort for eating green, the drying beans are a few days behind.

vila vila 4 in the garden

There are vila-vila (Litchi tomato) all around the garden and they're doing well, very floriferous and spiny. One plant of six has slightly blue flowers but this seems to be a temperature related variation that the plants in colder conditions can exhibit. No fruit yet, it'll be interesting to see if they're worth growing for eating.

Butterflies tomorrow, all being well.

Thursday 9 July 2015

Statement of intent

I haven't done it yet but this month I hope to blog about

a handful of basil

The state of the vegetable patch.


Butterflies, seen and photographed. Nothing too special this year unfortunately.

cream spot tiger moth

The new moth trap - a review of the kit and what we've caught with it.

big cutters

and interactions with the neighbours and hay making.