This week’s rain has confined me mostly to the greenhouse and polytunnel, both of which needed attention anyhow! Yesterday I cleared out the last of the mangetout plants (the outside ones are now cropping). We’ve been enjoying the Charlotte potatoes, broad-beans and purple kohlrabi all from the tunnel.
In the greenhouse, some of the tomato plants have set their first fruit and there are a couple of tiny cucumbers too, though the plants are still small. The purple dwarf beans have cropped quite well and the courgette plant is looking great. I need to take it out as it’s taking up too much room and I have more plants outside (looking very small and miserable) and one in the polytunnel. As it’s cropping very well I’m going to leave it as long as I can. So for now I’m removing some of the leaves.
Courgette in polytunnel
Today, it had stopped raining so I had a chance to do some weeding in the vegetable plot. I am leaving the strawberry bed (it’s full of weeds), as the damp weather has resulted in lots of slug damage and those the slugs aren’t eating the birds are. My plan for next year is to put the strawberries in pots in the blueberry fruit cage.
Slug eaten strawberry
Today, my son did manage to find a few nice ones. He decided he was going to eat a lunch that he himself picked. This was the result. (He did take my offer of a freshly cooked pancake too!)
My son’s lunch plate
Yes, we have some nice black and red currants ripening. They are one of our most reliable fruits. The green bean like pods are actually the seed pods of some of my brassicas. I leave some plants to get seed for next year but the kids and I find them quite tasty too.
Spring is definitely here though the weather is still cold and wet. But the flowers are opening and warming the heart. My favourites are primroses. They grow in the banks of our hedgerows. The first ones we saw were on the 14th February, but these were a bit battered by the hail showers we’ve been having. The ones below were photographed on the 19th February and are in a bank below some lovely old, wizened hawthorns on the edge of our hill field.
In the garden, the crocuses are opening and today our first daffodil opened fully.
In the polytunnel, we have planted our early potato crop – the variety is Charlotte and we can usually harvest them in May. They will be small but delicious! The second lot of broad beans I sowed (the first ones were eaten by a mouse!) have germinate and are just starting to grow. I’ve leave them in pots for a couple of more weeks before planting into the tunnel. In the greenhouse, I’ve sown some radish and early lettuce, a few kohlrabi and early cabbages in seed trays. We’ll see how they all go.
In the wood things are moving too. I spotted these badger prints a couple of weeks ago. Badgers don’t live in the wood but every so often we will find footprints on the muddy bits of the track, where they have been passing through.
And a sure sign of spring – the frogs have returned to spawn in the drain below the chicken field. It is always the first place they spawn. They will return to the pond in the next few days. It will be interesting to see if they will use the new pond, which lies between the drain and the existing garden pond. The photo isn’t great. I haven’t been able to sneak up on the frogs yet – without them all diasppearing under the surface of the water – but the picture will give you an idea of the amout of spawn. Each clump of spawn represents what one female has produced. There are about 50 clumps – that is 50 female frogs. And for every female frog there will be a male mating with her – that is 100 frogs in this little bit of drain. It’s pretty impressive!
Up to now we’ve had a pretty mild autumn so I think this is why things have done really well in the polytunnel. Growing greens outside, once autumn arrives, I find impossible in our damp climate as the slugs and snails soon demolish tender green leaves. But the polytunnel is great. The drier mirco-climate and small space which can be easily monitored, means few if any slugs. So things thrive. I may have made the mistake of letting last years winter purslane go to seed because it is now all over the polytunnel. Not that that is a problem really. It looks great and is very hardy.
Together with rocket, lambs lettuce and mizuna, it makes a great lunch salad. There are some winter density semi-cos lettuce maturing in both the poly and greenhouse and it will be interesting to see how they progress.
Winter Density Lettuce
Yesterday, I harvested another meals-worth of mange tout peas. Though they are admittedly getting to the end, now that light levels and temperatures have dropped. Still who is going to complain about having fresh peas in November!
Mange tout in November
In the greenhouse, there are still tomatoes going red too and some green ones that I really should find time to make chutney with.
And finally some Nasturtium flowers to warm the heart.
It’s been a wet week with plenty rain and little time to get outside with the camera as report writing is keeping me indoors. So I thought I’d reflect a little on the growing year. There is no doubt it has been the best one for years. Despite late frosts in the spring it has been a long growing season and this has helped a number of winter vegetables including the celeriac.
Some years this may only get to golf ball size for me but this year they are the size of a good fist, plenty to add to a soup or stew.
Leeks too have done well. I learned this year to give them an extra feed too, which has probably helped.
I love this curly kale. Not only does it look great, it tastes good too. Despite a few caterpillar attacks and late sowing it is now doing really well and looking healthy.
It has been a great year for squash in our garden and with the first frost the other night it was time to start harvesting. Last year, I discovered Little Gem squashes which have cropped very well for me again. But this year, I have also succeeded in growing Ushiki Kuri. This is another small variety – about size of small grapefruit. This variety didn’t do well last year – but I think our warm September has benefited them this time. I have harvested eight of them today.
Also included in the photos are the little gem and a large yellow variety. These large ones have soft flesh much like a marrow and not as much flavour as the smaller varieties, but they will keep us in squash soup for the next few weeks. The flesh is a wonderful deep yellow. This one was over 5kg and there are another 5 outside – all bigger!
Large yellow squash
The little gems are my favourite. They have a wonderful dark green skin and deep orange flesh inside. The skin is really hard so they will easily keep for a couple of months. We love them just quartered and roasted in the oven
Little Gem squash growing a month ago
In the greenhouse, plants have benefited from our mild September. Despite going in late (we were still finishing the greenhouse) the miniature peppers are now a wonder red and the kids love them just as they are.
Minature red pepper
The tomatoes are looking healthy. They are the best tomatoes I have every grown, even if they are still green. I can see lots of jars of green tomato chutney in my future. They are just beginning to go red so we may be lucky if the weather remains mild. Next year, I will have no excuses and will hopefully get things in on time.
With September fast approaching it is a time of harvest, but also time to get the polytunnel ready for the autumn/winter. I’m really please with my onion crop. I have never had such big specimens. I think it may be a combination of a good growing season and the new ground they were in. Today, I gave up waiting for a nice sunny day and started to dig them up. I have laid some out in the hope of a bit of dry weather this coming week. But the kids also helped me transport (using a little wheelbarrow and toy tractor & trailer) some to the greenhouse and polytunnel. There isn’t much space in either but where we can we have left them drying. Once dry, we’ll hang in an open woodshed for use throughout the autumn and winter.
Onion harvest drying
We also cleared out a couple of the less productive cucumber plants from the poly and planted some stir fry greens, winter purslane and rocket. The salad crops I set a few weeks ago are doing well. We’re harvesting them everyday for lunch. I think they may have benefited from the cool temperatures we’ve had this month.
Polytunnel – autumn salad crops
While out with my camera I noticed that despite the cool, cloudy day the thistle flowers were still attracting butterflies (and just a couple of bees) though not as many as that sunny day a week ago as in my previous post.
Red admiral on thistle