Sunday, 9 September 2012


First carrots harvested
I haven't updated the blog for a while, partly because I've been busy at work, and partly because everything I've done in the garden recently has been odd jobs - usually an hour's pottering after work.

The bigger jobs have been taking up the last of the King Edward potatoes (a total of 12 lbs 3 oz) and digging the potato beds over, and taking down the millenium dome and digging that bed over. I've also cut down a small ash tree that was shading the tomato plants, and earthed up the leeks to make the base of the stems white. Regular tasks have been weeding, squirting soapy water on the runner beans to kill off blackfly, watering and feeding the courgettes and tomatoes, and keeping the the compost heap topped up.

I've also had a reasonable amount of produce: another two courgettes got to full size (one of 6 oz, one of 8 oz) before the plants took a rest - there are some more on the way but for a couple of weeks they didn't produce any female flowers that set - they just fell off. Beans continue to produce - 3 lbs 9 oz of runner beans and 8 oz of French beans, and I sampled some of the oldest row of carrots - 6 oz. I'll leave them to grow a bit more. The taste was great, but they could be bigger. I waited too late for the batch of turnips in the salad bed, and by the time I picked them they were woody, wormy or both.

The new plantings of rocket and French beans have come up nicely, although the beans may have gone in too late to crop, unless we have an Indian summer. The kale is also coming up, so that'll be something for the pigeons to eat.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Clearing and re-planting

Runner beans
Over the weekend I've got up most of the King Edward potatoes and disposed of the plants in the bin - not wanting to add blighted material to the compost heap. I did the same with the pea plants, which had developed black spots on the leaves and remaining pods, and then died off.

That left a fair bit of space in bed one, where there are just a few French beans growing, so I dug round them and planted more French beans there and in half of the potato overflow bed. The other half has been planted with lamb's lettuce. In bed two, where the Epicure potatoes were, I've planted two rows of kale and one of rocket.

I also did a bit of scything and shearing, partly just to keep the place tidy, but mostly to feed the ravenous compost heap. I noticed some earth sticking out halfway up the heap, which I thought odd, and on investigating found that it was full of ants, so they've evidently taken up residence in the compost. I don't know if this is a good thing or not - possibly they'll stir it and keep it aerated, but possibly they'll drive away the red composting worms who do most of the work.

The runner beans are doing well, and I picked just over 6 oz for supper.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

First courgettes

First courgettes of the season
The two largest courgettes looked about ready, so I harvested them. That's 10 oz, right there. I'm going to slice them and dip them in gram-flour batter, and have them as a fried side dish to a curry. The curry includes some of the new potatoes, 1 oz of French beans from the garden, and a couple of cloves of home-grown garlic to give it a bit more oomph.

If I'd known in advance what the summer would be like, I'd have tried growing my own rice as well.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

First French and runner beans

French and runner beans
The first of the French and runner beans were just ready for my visitors this weekend, and will be eaten with Sunday lunch.

2 oz of French, 7 oz of runner beans.

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Potato harvest

'Epicure' potato harvest
Today I dug up all the 'Epicure' potatoes (with Steve's help) - the first early variety whose leaves were severely blighted.

The potatoes are mostly sound, but have spots of rot on the surface and probably won't keep. I'll have to cook and freeze them.

The total weight of the crop was 14lbs 12oz.

The maincrop 'King Edwards' are less affected by blight and also haven't reached a good size yet, so I'll take a risk and leave them in the ground for a while.

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Re-dug brassica bed

Brassica bed with protective chicken wire
Bed eleven had become overgrown with weeds because of the chicken wire cage I put up to keep pigeons off, and the cabbages and cauliflowers inside had bolted.

This morning I took up the cage, weeded and forked the bed, and expanded it by digging turf away around the edges. I hope this will make it easier to keep under control - previously the edge of the cage was on the grass, and it grew up inside the wire.

I planted the last of the cabbage Advantage F1, which took up two and a half rows, and filled the rest of the bed with cauliflower All Year Round.

Blighted potatoes

Epicure (L) and King Edward (R)
I dug up one of each variety of the potatoes - shown left. There were a reasonable number of spuds, but they were quite small. Unfortunately there are unmistakable signs of Potato Blight on both. One of the King Edwards was squashy and disgusting, but the rest were unblemished. All the Epicure had the beginnings of rot on the surface, but were OK in the middle. Once I knew what to look for, I went over all the plants and snipped off blighted leaves and stalks, hoping to reduce the number of spores drifting down onto the soil. I hope this will slow the effects of the disease on the crop.

I think I'll harvest them as needed now - the potatoes won't be full-size, but I won't run the risk of the whole lot being ruined. I hope.

Monday, 30 July 2012

Tomato developing

Tiny tomato
One of the tomato flowers has set, and there is a tiny green tomato about four mm in diameter ripening. The leaves smell great if I brush past them, so I hope it will grow into a good one. All five plants have flowers now, and are between three and four feet tall.

The runner beans are mostly doing well - one plant has died and another isn't long for this world, but the remaining five are all flowering and there are a few beans growing, now about two inches long.

There are a couple of French beans almost ready to eat, with more on the way, but I'll probably not get many at any one time.

Finally, three of the courgette plants have small courgettes growing on them - getting bigger surprisingly fast, and they are continuing to put forth big orange flowers.

Friday, 27 July 2012

Courgette flowers

Courgette flowers
Most of the courgettes are now flowering well, and tiny courgettes are starting to develop. The flowers only last a day, and they are at their best in the morning (when I took this picture).

You can apparently eat the flowers, using them to make parcels, but I think I'll leave them to grow into courgettes.

Monday, 23 July 2012

Bed five re-planted

Today I took out the sad remnants of the plants in bed five - bolted turnips, withered broad beans, and some good, healthy weeds - and re-planted with turnips (because the last batch did well) and beetroot (because the last batch did badly.) It's a logical business, gardening.

I also sprayed the runner beans with soapy water, since blackfly were starting to gather on a couple of the flower stalks, and tidied up a few nettles and bits of long grass that escaped yesterday's tidying session.

Since there has been no rain since Friday (unheard of!), I watered half the potatoes and peas, and the French beans and carrots. I mixed in a little comfrey tea into each watering can, to add nutrients to the soil. It's been in a fermenting bin since last autumn, and it certainly smelled nutritious.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Mowed grass

Garden in sunlight
Today I mowed the grass and sheared round the edges of the beds, providing a lot more green material for the ever-hungry compost heap.

The neighbour to the south has trimmed a lot of his trees and hedges, so a lot more light is getting into the garden now - I hope the courgettes like it. The larger ones are just coming into flower, and there are flowers appearing on the tomato plants as well.

Saturday, 21 July 2012

More produce

Peas and turnips
Fresh peas
Haggis for lunch

Today I harvested three turnips and another lot of ripe peas. The turnips needed to have a few grubs cut out of them, but had a good flavour. I got five ounces of peas, and there are more pods on the way. I notice that if the pods rattle, the peas haven't grown to full size and should be left on the plant.

For lunch I ate the turnips and peas, with shop-bought carrot and mashed potato. The onion and mushroom gravy was made with my own onions, and was delicious - it went very well with the excellent MacSween's vegetarian haggis.

And yes, that is a huge meal, and yes, I did have seconds.

Monday, 16 July 2012


Despite a steady drizzle I pottered about for an hour in the garden after work. The holly and some brambles were encroaching on the path to the compost, so I cut them back, and added some more nettles and goose grass to the compost heap. The compost continues to be warm to the touch, and the rate of decomposition seems very high. I keep adding green waste alternating with layers of crumpled newspaper.

I also re-potted some thyme and a chilli plant. The season hasn't been favorable to the chilli, but it might survive the winter if I bring it indoors.

Produce: Over the weekend I pulled up five more garlic bulbs which looked as if they'd finished growing - only one was visibly mouldy, and I hope the others will dry and keep. I had a good portion of peas, about four ounces (shelled), very tasty, and there are about twice as many pods left on the plants. However, some of the plants are starting to go yellow, and they may be moribund.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Garlic bulbs

Two of my garlic plants had fallen over, so I pulled up the bulbs beneath. The stalks had rotted through just above the bulbs, and I'm not sure if the bulbs will moulder away or dry out and be edible.

In any case, I'm pleased with the size of them.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Legumes developing, basil dead

Growing French bean
Runner bean flower buds

There are now several French beans on the way, even though the plants are tiny - I knew they were a dwarf variety, but I expected them to grow to more than a foot tall before flowering.

Several of the runner beans have reached the top of the cane wigwam, and are starting to flower. I'll have to pinch off the tops soon to make them bushier.

The broad beans have almost all died, and the surviving plants are looking brown and unhealthy. I think I've had a net loss of broad beans this year - planted about thirty, and got to eat about twelve.

And the last basil plant has been critically injured by a snail. It was doing OK, with about six proper leaves, but a snail somehow climbed up the inside of the greenhouse, across a wire mesh shelf, and shredded it. Annoying. No home-made pesto for me this year.

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Onion harvest

The onion harvest
I spent ten minutes today getting in the onion harvest, shown in almost its entirety in the photo - I had already cooked with one, two were rotten when I pulled them up, and three have produced a flower stalk, so I'll leave those and see if I can get some seeds. This is the second year I've had disappointing results with onions, and I will probably not bother to buy any more next year.

Today I also did a bit more scything, and weeding, and pulled up some more bolted turnips. This was mostly so that I could feed the compost heap, which is warm to the touch and which processes new green matter very quickly.

Tasty tasty peas
A few days ago I ate the first batch of peas to ripen - there weren't many of them, but they were very flavoursome. The portion I ate for supper was even smaller than it need have been, because I ate quite a few of them raw while I was shelling them.

Saturday, 30 June 2012


Broad bean pods

Tiny potatoes
Last weekend I picked the small number of mature broad beans, and ate them on toast. Very good flavour, but because of the small number of plants which have survived this long, I will probably only get a handful of beans at a time.

The largest turnip turned out to be inedible - the plant bolted and produced flowers, and the root became very tough and woody. It had a good smell though, quite like horseradish. I dug out and composted the other turnips in that row, as they had bolted too.

It looks as if the onions have grown as much as they intend to - the tops have fallen over and have started to die off, so it's time to harvest the onions. The largest is about the size of a billiard ball, maybe a little bigger.

Today I excavated under one of the early potato plants, and found two potatoes the size of small marbles. The plants are in flower, but I guess they haven't finished growing the tubers yet.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

More sowing, potting on and planting out

Tomato plants in final pots
The two largest tomato plants are now in their final pots, and will sit outside in a sunny corner by the house. It's a bit sunnier after I pruned some hawthorn hedge and cut a big bough from an ash tree nearby.

I planted out another courgette seedling (only one out of three germinated from the second batch), and I put three chitted seeds in the bed to make up the six originally planned for (its actually seven, but two chitted seeds are in the same spot. I'll pull out the weaker one if necessary.) I'm not very impressed with the germination rate of these courgettes.

Lastly I planted another row of carrots in bed six, the radishes that were there temporarily having been thrown away yesterday. That finished up the packet of Early Nantes, and nearly finished the Nepal F1.

Putting a few more weeds on the compost heap I noticed that the top is warm to the touch - probably mid 30s C is my guess.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Dry day at last

Garden, post-tidying
Compost heap, rotted down quite well
A nice, sunny day today, and the neighbours have given me a key to their shed, so I can borrow their mower. I borrowed their mower, and eventually worked out how to start it. Once running, it made short work of the long grass, even the lumpy bits. Sadly it also made short work of a frog who I didn't spot and who didn't get out of the way in time.

I sheared the grass round the edges of the beds, and a lot of nettles and fumitory which was growing between the fence and the long row of beds at the bottom of the garden. The clippings have filled the compost heap to overflowing, even though it had sunk about two feet since I last filled it up (three weeks ago). I'm pleased that it is composting so fast - it must be hot composting, although I haven't got a thermometer to check it. Mild weather and lots of rain is probably just right for fast rotting.

Quite a few weeds went into the heap as well - I hand-weeded the carrots, onions and leeks, and I harvested the last of the first batch of radishes, and composted the tops.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

More tomato potting, new sowing of salad plants

Tomato plants
The three tomato plants from the second batch were poking roots through their peat pots, so I planted them into bigger pots. These pots are probably too big, but they're all I could find.

I also tore out the bolted rocket, choy sum, and pak choi from bed ten, and planted more mixed salad, lettuce (two rows), choy sum, rocket and radishes.