Sunday, 26 July 2009

Melon, Raspberry Beetle and the Trouble with Fruit

The biggest melon is now grapefruit sized, with the other three ranging from kiwi-sized to apple-sized.

On the left (above) is the pumpkin-squash hybrid thing, you can't really tell from the picture but it is in fact about 1 ft long, and 8" in diameter. On the right is a Blue Ballet squash.

The runner beans being pollinated.

The leeks I put in a few days ago, just visible in the foreground. Behind them, some others that I planted a few weeks ago, doing well. Behind them, the shallots I am about to harvest (the smallest will be pickled), and the onions.

And finally, a plot overview, showing lots of empty spaces where I have cut down the peas and broad beans and sown clover and field beans as green manure, and a gap behind where potatoes have been dug up, but that bit is still empty. You can't see much else without enlarging the picture.

So, to my raspberry dilemma. As I mentioned previously, I was thinking of starting some new raspberries at the allotment this winter, but having read this discussion with some fellow raspberry growers, I've been rather put off the idea, and it's also put me off blackberries.

For me, the most useful fruit is the sort you can just pick and eat raw, unsweetened, and with nothing more than a small dollop of creme fraiche to make palatable, as opposed to the sort which needs cooking and turning into high calorie puddings. Strawberries only last a few weeks, and raspberries are the obvious thing to take over when the strawberries have finished. Other than tree fruit, for which I am limited by space and cost restrictions, what else is there?

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Tomato Pulp

I have christened my passata maker. I had enough ripe tomatoes to make these two containers of tomato pulp for the freezer. When I've got plenty I will make it into proper tomato sauce with garlic, olive oil etc. I had already picked the herbs, thinking I was going to make the sauce straight away (but didn't), so the herbs are already included.

Dish of the day today is pasta with fried courgettes and garlicky cucumber tsatsiki (?) tsasiki? - the greek stuff.

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Greenhouse Report 2

The first few peppers forming, they are either red or orange, I lost track of the labelling when I potted them up.

The melon is roughly the size of a small lemon, or maybe a satsuma. There are another three which are also swelling, still about grape/walnut sized.

Went to the allotment today to a) show a friend who hadn't seen it before and b) check for storm damage, but what I actually found was a bird trapped in one netting tunnel and a cabbage white in another - eek! Managed to free them both but have not as yet checked to see whether it left any eggs behind ( the butterfly, not the bird!)

Courgettes are really starting to take off now, picked 5 today. The pumpkin seeds which I had saved from last year are, as predicted, some interesting pumpkin/squash hybrid. One plant has an enormous marrow like thing growing on it, the other has some knobbly elongated pumpkin shaped things on it. It'll be interesting to see what they taste like.

Getting lots and lots of cucumbers and tomatoes now, I just hope the outdoor tomatoes don't succumb to blight, after all this rain. I wondered about spraying them with dithane or some other anti-fungal preparation as a precaution, but haven't done anything about it, still just wondering.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Monday's harvest

In the yellow container are the last of the 1st early Mimi potatoes, and we are now onto the Charlottes, which seem to have done very well indeed. This basketful is from the first two plants. The dwarf french bean plants are still very small, but are already producing quite a lot of pods, and I have picked the first few runner beans as well. The peas have almost finished. The tomato skins are getting better, although they still don't taste particularly sweet or juicy. Perhaps I need to let them ripen a bit longer before picking them.

The melon (which in the picture below was the size of a gooseberry) is now the size of a ping pong ball! I will post pictures at regular intervals... next one at the weekend.

Saturday, 11 July 2009


I have counted about 6 female flowers, with tiny melons behind them, and two of them are beginning to swell. If they grow to full size I will have to come up with a way of supporting them until they ripen. I have heard of people using bras or tights to hold them up, but I hope my bras just won't be big enough!

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Notes for Next Year

Have had a whole day at the plot today and about time too. Did lots of weeding, sowed some green manure in a few empty spaces, removed broad beans (leaving a few stumps with pods left to ripen for seed collection), re-sowed two rows of carrots which failed to germinate (although I'm a bit worried it might be the seeds that are at fault - they are Autumn King as opposed to the Early Nantes which are doing really well at the moment) and put a few more french bean seeds in the gaps where they hadn't come up.

I have run out of compost bin space. Next job, as a matter of urgency, is to empty the older bin to make some more space. One thing I could do with it is mulch the PSB.

Cauliflowers have suddenly appeared, although they are a bit yellow and pathetic looking. Several of the PSBs are sprouting and one has already started flowering. Gathered enough cauliflower and brocolli to make a very nice brassica cheese, topped with grilled red onion and served with new potatoes and cherry tomatoes - delicious.

Pauline was going around with a man with a clipboard, taking notes. She says, "this gentleman is judging the plots."
"What for?" I ask.
"Best kept allotment" says she.
"I thought you had to enter for that - fill out a form and such like"
"Well," she says, "if I see a plot that's looking pretty good, I enter it."
I was being 'entered'. Gosh. I wonder what constitutes 'pretty good' - it obviously doesn't necessarily mean neat and tidy and no weeds.
They stood there for quite a while looking at it, and I could hear her telling him all about the vandalism, and all the misfortunes that have befallen my shed. Perhaps I will win the 'most stoical in the face of extreme provocation' consolation prize.

Below is a list of 'things to do differently/better' next year, I have been meaning to jot down for a while now. A bit boring to read but hopefully will be useful for me to consult next spring.

Vertical supports - two rows - use both sides. Sow one row a month starting in April. Sow direct?
French beans:
Sow direct - four rows, two in May, two mid June. Some spares in pots.
Sow runner beans direct?
Lots more early Nantes
Maybe just 3 varieties, 1 early, 1 2nd early, 1 main. Stagger planting times - 2nd earlies later than 1st.
P.S Brocolli - sow later - late spring, transplant early summer.
Don't bother with calabrese/cauliflower
Slug protection for cabbages

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Greenhouse Report

These posts are coming thick and fast, I know, but there is just so much happening at the moment. Below, right, are Sungold and Gardener's Delight toms, on the left cucumbers and down at the bottom peppers.

Below are Marmande (left) and Moneymaker, Red Cherry at the far end, and lots more peppers. You can't see them but there are lots of pepper flowers hiding under the leaves.

The chillies (below left) have plenty of flowers and some fruit. On the right, the melons are going a bit beserk. There are only one or two female flowers, with tiny fruitlets behind them, which I have tried to pollinate even though the blurb said they were self-pollinating. I don't want to leave anything to chance. I have nipped out the growing tips to try and stop them taking over the whole greenhouse. You can't see too clearly from this picture (unless you click to enlarge it), but the shoots are snaking all over the place.

This is interesting - the lettuces, which I sowed last September to overwinter, began to bolt several weeks ago, but I never got around to pulling them out, and they are now developing flowers. I have never seen lettuce flowers before, but I thought I may as well let them go all the way now and produce some seed which I could collect.

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Progress photos

The sweetcorn have really come on in the heat, some of them are starting to put up their flower stalks.

This is the first ever Romanesco sprout - it doesn't look like the ones you see in the shops, I thought they were supposed to be all green. This looks a bit like purple sprouting brocolli - talking of which, I have also picked two heads of that as well! I have also picked quite a bit of ordinary green calabrese. Despite all this, I have come to the conclusion that these type of brassicas don't really justify the amount of space they take up on my plot. The heads never get bigger than a couple of inches. Next year I think I will concentrate on cabbages (winter and summer) and purple sprouting brocolli.

These are the outdoor tomatoes, which are beginning to ripen. I have tasted a few of my greenhouse tomatoes, and they have so far all had rather disappointingly tough skins, so while I am hoping that the outdoor ones will be better, I have picked a few of the green greenhouse tomatoes and brought them into the kitchen to ripen in a box, in the hope that this will improve them. Otherwise they will just have to be made into soup and sauce.

Here are the first little runner beans developing! The french beans are forming as well. Not long now.

So currently I am harvesting new potatoes, peas, carrots, lettuces, cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, shallots, spring onions, and very nearly courgettes. The strawberries have slowed right down and are only producing quite small fruit now. I have amassed quite a few in the freezer for jam-making this weekend. The broad beans have just about finished.

In the garden, I'm afraid I have to confess to having resorted to spraying the asparagus beetles with Bug Clear. But it has certainly done the trick. As I mentioned in my previous post I also have a problem with raspberry beetle, but when I inspected my neighbour's allotment raspberries they appeared to be affected by it as well, so now I am in two minds as to whether I should put new plants in up there. Is this a very common ailment of raspberries I wonder? And do loganberries get it as well?