Thursday, 24 September 2009

Strawberries' Final Fling

My strawberries seem to think it's June again. If I wasn't sitting next to a calendar turned to September I might be thinking the same thing myself. It hasn't rained for weeks. I picked all these yesterday and there are a lot more coming as another warm and sunny weekend approaches. The grass is turning quite brown and things in the garden are starting to wilt. Why didn't we get this weather in the summer holidays?

We had a very dramatic sky at sunset last night.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Annual Allotment Performance Appraisal

Autumn is a pivotal point in the allotment year, the end of the summer season, and the point at which the whole cycle starts all over again. This is when my crops get rotated to the next patch and I will start to plan next year's sowing and planting, starting with overwintering onions and garlic, and broad beans. So it seems like a good time for a review of the current year's successes and failures.
Beginning with the greenhouse crops:
Despite the pretty rubbish summer weather this has been one of the best years ever in the greenhouse. About half of the tomatoes succumbed to blight in the end, but not before producing some really good crops, and the remainder are still going strong now. The Sungold were very tasty and I have seen a variety in T& M which are described as a 'sister' variety, tasting very similar but with thinner skins that resist splitting.
The cucumbers, though slow to get going, have fruited much more steadily than in previous years, rather than all at once and all over by July. They are still producing now, at just the right rate.
I didn't expect much from the melons but I have been pleasantly surprised to have produced three edible, good sized fruits. Not much yield from the space they take up but satisfying nonetheless. Not yet sure whether to go for it again next year.
Chillies (Ring of Fire) - having learned from previous years not to overwater, these plants have produced the highest yield ever, but I'm a bit disappointed that they are not as hot as in previous years. Next year I'm going to try some different varieties, including some described as 'atomic'!
Peppers - also an amazingly high yield, and hardly any pest damage compared to the last two years.

Now down to the allotment:
Runner beans (Desiree, a white flowered variety) - disappointing really. Failed to grow to the top of their canes and stopped flowering and producing pods really quite early. The beans we did get were very nice though. Next year I think I will do a mixture of them and good old red flowered ones.
French beans (Aiguillon) - fantastic, will definitely do again next year, but will probably sow them all direct, as it is much easier and the direct sown plants were much bigger and healthier.
Broad beans - very good and hardly any blackfly. Next year I might do a spring sowing as well as an autumn one, but it depends a bit on whether I decided to bother with
Peas - delicious, but just so much faff. I have saved masses of seed, so I might find I just have to sow some next year, but I'm tempted to just do more broad beans instead. Bought frozen peas are pretty good really. To be decided.
calabrese and summer caulis - all pretty rubbish and I definitely won't bother next year. Will concentrate on winter brassicas and a few summer cabbages. These weren't up to much either this year but I will try maybe a different variety next summer. Must remember to start psb much later.
Tomatoes - if they hadn't all got blight they would have been amazing. Will try some blight resistant varieties next year.
Sweetcorn - did too much and haven't been able to keep up. A lot of it has gone to waste. Delicious though, as usual.
Squashes - pretty good. Tried the first Blue Ballet squash roasted the other night and it was delicious. Even the children liked it. Next year will do fewer pumpkins and more of this type of thing. The butternuts have done well too. Despite having three courgette plants we don't seem to have been quite so inundated as in previous years, but a reasonably steady supply anyway.
Potatoes - Mimi and Anya definitely the nicest. Charlottes were fine, just a bit boring. My maincrops - Sarpo Mira are a huge disappointment. Tough skins and a very dry texture. Feeling a bit depressed at the thought of the amount we still have to get through. Definitely never again. They are supposed to be blight resistant, but frankly I'd rather take my chances with the ordinary sort. Possibly won't even bother with maincrops at all next year. Use the space for something else...
Carrots - better and more than last year. Something I need to keep working on.
Onions - all pretty good really and hardly any rot.
Garlic - not bad, but pretty small cloves and some not split properly. Must try harder.
Leeks - first planting looking really good, will start harvesting soon. Second planting still quite small and developing rust. Not sure what to do as not had this problem before.
Celeriac - haven't harvested any yet, but looking good...
Strawberries - it seems so long ago, but they did pretty well, and still producing the odd one now and again.
Currants - didn't get many. Plan to plant more bushes in the winter.
Loganberries - early days, not much to harvest this year.
Raspberries - a lot of raspberry beetle in early ones, later ones much better. Plan to buy fresh canes and put them in at the allotment rather than in the garden.
Apples - two new trees - two apples on one of them! Not sampled yet.

Not a bad year all in all. I haven't had to buy vegetables at all since June, and I still have plenty of potatoes, onions, leeks, celeriac, french beans, squashes, winter cabbages and carrots to keep us going for a good few weeks yet.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Eating the melon

This is our last melon of three. The flavour of two and three was slightly better than number one, after leaving the plants unwatered for several weeks, however it was still slightly bland. I suppose water melon often is. Still - they were a pretty good size and lovely and juicy.

This afternoon I have spent about two hours chopping up apples, courgettes, green tomatoes and onions for a batch of 'glutney'. The apples are from my neighbour's tree, everything else was mine. The actual cooking will take place this evening. Hopefully I will also find time to do a batch of spicy pumpkin chutney. Not today though.

The peppers are beginning to ripen now, you can tell which ones are going to be red and which are orange.

I've bought myself a new bike! It was an amazing bargain - less than half price. I have put a lift-off basket on the front for bringing the veg home in.

Looks like the house move is off. We haven't been able to find anything suitable so have had to take the house off the market. Oh well, probably wasn't to be.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Overdue plot update

Here is the bit where I recently cleared the path of weeds and put down bark chippings. Should be much more low maintenance now. On the left you can see the purple sprouting brocolli, which is covered in black mould from all the whitefly. Even the cabbage whites have been put off, as there are no visible caterpillars on them.

This is one of my very respectable-sized butternut squashes, there are four of them altogether, this is the biggest. For ages I didn't think they were going to produce any fruit at all, but once they appeared they grew very quickly.

The pumpkins and strange marrow/pumpkiny hybrid thingies. I bet they will taste disgusting. Sweetcorn in the background - we have corn coming out of our ears - I ate three cobs in one sitting this lunchtime.

I weeded the Autumn King carrot patch today, and also dug up the few remaining Early Nantes from the other patch and cleared that area. Weeded and tidied the celeriacs too.

Here is some really lush looking clover, ready for digging in - lots of nitrogen rich humus for next year's brassicas. And some bolted lettuces which need pulling out.

And finally, the ornamental area, above, and plot overview, below.

My French beans, Aiguillon, have been superb. My only complaint is that they are a bit fiddly to pick, and difficult to see, being the same colour as the foliage. But they have gone on and on producing masses of pods, they have done much better than the runner beans.

We have been busy stressing out over our house move as well - looks as if the house we wanted has some structural problems, so I think we will be walking away from that one - more's the pity. Going to see another one on Tuesday, meanwhile we are hoping our buyer doesn't get fed up and pull out.