Wednesday, August 24

Foxy lady

Monday, August 22

Onions drying - cue rain.

16 August
Last week we dug the rest of our six trial variety potatoes. We planted five tubers each of Orla, Vivaldi, Valor, Setanta, Amour and Blue Belle which we bought at a local garden centre's potato day. Orla and Vivaldi, being early varieties, had already been lifted.

So far we haven't taste tested every variety but yields and observations are described below.
Martyn posted more about our potato harvest here.

The yellow courgettes are still producing but the green variety is very slow to crop. It seems to concentrate all its efforts into producing one fruit per plant which swells to an enormous size if we don't pick it quickly enough. Now the plants have been hit with mildew so I guess there will not be many more fruits.
The blueberries are almost done but the yellow autumn raspberry - All Gold is beginning to produce fruit. As I dug up and divided the red Joan J we are not likely to have a crop from them this year. The plants have sent up some short new growth which should be much stronger next year.

We are still harvesting autumn planted onions as and when we need them. The spring planted onions and shallots had completed their growing and so we decided to lift them and leave them to dry off. We have had some very dry weather with sunshine at times which was ideal drying weather. Then guess what happened. Yes it rained.

20 August
I mentioned last week that I was keeping my eye on the peas as they were carrying lots of immature pods.
This week they soon started to fill out and I harvested them before they had a chance to become past their best. There's hopefully still lots to come. A bonus was that there was not a pea moth caterpillar in sight.

Unfortunately the same couldn't be said for the Victoria plums which looked good but most were inhabited by plum moth caterpillars.
Strangely the yellow Oullins Gage plums growing alongside wasn't similarly affected.

A calabrese head was added to this week's harvest. This was produced by a plant that had regenerated after a slug attack at the time of planting and so has been a long tome coming,
Finally we have the salad harvest from the garden.
The Mini Munch cucumber is producing fruit faster than we can eat them. The small Sungold tomatoes are now ripening but their larger cousins are still hanging back.
I don't think we will have a whole truss ripen as consistently as the shops manage.

The Woodblocx raised bed is keeping us supplied with salad leaves and spring onions. More salad leaves have been sown so I hope the slugs and snails keep their distance.

Today I am linking to Harvest Monday over at Dave's blog  Our Happy Acres

Copyright: Original post from Our Plot at Green Lane Allotments author S Garrett

Saturday, August 20

Wood chip berries?

Gradually our strawberry bed lost vigour and wasn't really performing. Generally speaking after three productive years you need to replace plants.

At the end of 2014 we spent time reading up on varieties and ordered our chosen few.

On 5 February 2015 our first selection containing, Cambridge Favourite, Cupid, Elsanta, Fenella and Royal Sovereign, arrived from Ashridge Nurseries. A few days later on 10 February three more varieties, Malwina, Marshmello and Vibrant arrived from Marshalls. We had ten plants of each variety which were planted into pots and grown on in our garden greenhouse.
We had earmarked and prepared a bed for our new strawberries which we planted up on 7 April 2015. We hadn't intended buying 80 plants and we had decided that this bed had only enough space for six of the varieties. Malwina and Cupid had to wait until we decided on and prepared another location. These remaining two varieties were planted on 23 April.
As you can see the strawberries were planted through weed control fabric and mulched with wood chippings. Really they should be called wood chip berries rather than strawberries.

As expected 2015 was a settling in period and fruit production was low but this year as expected things vastly improved as the following chart shows.
Not all varieties passed muster though. The Vibrant strawberry plants more or less all died . One or two Elsanta died and a couple were weedy specimens and one or two Marshmello died or turned out to be weak and fruitless.
Bed 1
Fewer fruiting plants in part accounts for the lower harvest produced by Marshmello and Elsanta. I am discounting Vibrant as a write off which is disappointing as that variety along with Elsanta was the first to produce fruit.

One plant of Fenella struggled and didn't fruit but this didn't prevent Fenella from being our best performing variety.
Bed two
All the plants from the remaining varieties grew strong and healthy but in spite of producing good plants, Cambridge Favourite and Royal Sovereign didn't perform as well as I would have expected in the fruit production stakes.

Our strawberry harvest started with a trickle on 28 June and ended with a trickle on 16 August (unless we spot some more latecomers).
As can be seen from the above chart Cupid had the longest production 'season'.
Fenella started fruiting later than most of the other varieties but made up for this in the amount of berries produced. The latest to start fruiting was Malwina but this was also the last to finish fruiting although we did have three or four (literally) berries in August.

None of the berries disappointed flavourwise although the winner in the flavours stakes was without doubt Malwina.
We were not as impressed with the Royal Sovereign berries which were often misshapen and a more orange red. Even though they were amongst the best plants, berries along with those from Cambridge Favourite tended to be smaller than those of other varieties.

As the fruit began to develop, we protected the berries from birds by netting using a new (to us) softer netting that proved much easier to handle than the stiff netting that we have use in the past.
Netting doesn't however protect from slugs but, considering the damp conditions that prevailed this year, we expected that slugs would be a major problem. Fortunately the slugs didn't spoil many berries. They did make a meal of some berries which, once nibbled, were left in place for them to finished. This way they are less likely to move on to a new fruit. I also wonder whether the wood chippings prove to be less hospitable to slugs. The berries didn't rot as I had expected this year and again maybe the chippings provide a drier bed for the berries than straw. Another point is that water tends to pass through the weed control fabric rather than sitting on the surface.

The netting has now been removed in preparation for tidying up the plants. The dead leaves need cutting back and unwanted runners removed. We have already pinned some runners into pots of compost to root them. As I have already mentioned we have some gaps where plants have died and need replacing.
We have taken more runners from Malwina than any other variety as we intend to fill the gap left by Vibrant with new Malwina plants. This should give us a better harvest at the end of the season. The only other runners taken are from varieties to replace the odd dead plant.

It could be that the varieties will perform differently if the conditions next year differ from this year, for that we will have to just wait and see.

Wednesday, August 17

Dragons and damsels

Monday, August 15

A peach of a week

8 August
The berry harvest is in some ways slowing down now but the blackberries are stepping up production.
The canes are weighted down with fruit. Picking is a breeze as the canes are thornless and  the berries are large and juicy.
The Japanese wineberries, (I posted about these here), and blueberries are still continuing ro ripen and provide steady pickings.

We were disappointed with the gooseberries and the small fruits that had been left on the bushes had turned a deep wine colour. Out of curiosity I tasted one and am glad that I did as they were lovely and worth picking.
Maybe in future we should leave the berries on the bush for longer.

Yellow courgettes were coming thick and fast but the windy weather has delivered mildew in its wake so I hope this hasn't brought an end to that particular harvest.
Strangely only one end of the row has so far been affected.

Some of the potato tops had died down and so it was time to dig them up. The remaining half row of Casablanca were lifted and as previously were free of any slug damage. They are the potatoes in the box below.
The potatoes in the two buckets are Winston. We have considered leaving this variety off our 'to grow' list as it has usually suffered greatly from slug damage. It earned a reprieve on the grounds of taste and cooking qualities.
This year the slugs appear to have left them alone but some potatoes had small holes indicative of wireworm damage. Wireworms being the larvae of click beetle and not the thin orange centipede which often is blamed. See my post here.

Later in the week we dug up a further two rows of potatoes - Kestrel and Nadine which were growing alongside Winston neither of which had the same damage. It seems that Winston attracts pests more than some other varieties. It is the first time we have grown Kestrel which has produced some good sized tubers.
The highlight of the week was the harvesting of our solitary peach. We had been agonising over when to pick but had the decision made for us as the fruit was brushing against the branch from which it was growing and in danger of spoiling.
We shared the fruit and both thought it was delicious, so I need to improve my pollination technique to try for more fruits next year. The technique worked well for apricots so maybe peaches are more fussy.
11 August
The climbing French and runner beans are now in full production and so far the supports have stood up to the wind.
13 August

We have a patchy row of peas due to poor germination from which I picked a few pods. I am keeping another watchful eye on another long row that is loaded with pods as I want to catch them before they go past their best.

Our plums and greengages tend to crop every other year and this year is a rest year for them, however we did manage to harvest a few Oullins Gage plums which although a little bruised were delicious. There are one or two greengages that we will have to keep a watchful eye on and get to before the wasps.
One of our inherited apples which we think is Discovery is dropping quite a lot of fruit - much to the delight of the blackbirds - so we have decided to start picking a few. They are not quite ripe but as we don't mind them on the tart side that isn't a problem.

Gardeners tend to measure the year by key gardening events. The first ripe tomato is one of these key events. I can now report that we have joined all those who arrived there before us and have picked our first few ripe tomatoes, mainly Sungold.
We also continued to harvest a few salad crops from the garden.
Finally there are the flowers including sweet peas that didn't make the photoshoot other than in the full harvest photos.

Today I am linking to Harvest Monday over at Dave's blog  Our Happy Acres

Copyright: Original post from Our Plot at Green Lane Allotments author S Garrett