Sunday, 24 July 2011

After the Monsoon...

While North America is sweltering, we're, well, not so much. The now customary July monsoon has come and gone, leaving my brassica frame flattened as you can see. Happily, the plants were ok and I got it back up quickly.
For several days I wasn't able to get out and pick the fruit which really needed picking. I've picked the ripest green gooseberries now. These have a reputation for being very tart, but if you leave them until they are soft and slightly yellow, they're sweet enough to eat off the bush, delicious. But the green ones make better jam as they're higher in pectin.
The red gooseberries have also been picked and mostly packed into the freezer. Very sweet indeed. The raspberries suffered in the monsoon, with mould taking over so we've lost a lot of fruit. Not unusual at this time of year, hopefully we'll get some more yet.
But the rain damage meant they were really only fit for jam making - as they don't set well on their own I mixed them with an equal quantity of redcurrants from the freezer. Raspberry jam is a soft set so it doesn't keep as well as, say, gooseberry jam, but it is one of my favourites.
The strawberries are past their peak now but still producing. The ones in the basket were rain damaged and I used them to make a cordial, along with the final remnants of last year's redcurrants from the freezer. I tend to eat perfect fruit fresh, poorer quality fruit gets packed into tubs and put in the freezer for making cordial in the winter. They turn mushy but for cordial it doesn't matter.
My experiment with different types of tomatoes is doing well, we have quite a number of small fruit on the little bushes, which is earlier than I have ever managed before. This is looking like a successful experiment, though it's a bit early to call yet.
The broad beans have had a very good year, with a huge crop, this basket is the last of them. The variety I have settled on is Claudia Superaquadulce, a very hardy variety suitable for north-western clay soils, and it gives 100% germination.
There were so many this year that this bowlful has gone into the freezer, after being blanched in boiling water for 2 minutes. Conversely, the peas haven't been as good, the weather hasn't suited them as well as last year, so more beans and fewer peas in the freezer. You win some, you lose some...
Potatoes have been similarly problematic. The first early crop was very poor, the second earlies better but not great. Lots of people have had this problem, a passing gardener at the allotment leant over the wall and told us he'd had very poor results from his first earlies too, and he grows them in tubs. This is the second year where the cold early in the year and the late frosts have really impacted the plants, so I'm seriously thinking about dumping earlies next year and going for maincrops. Will see how the remaining plants produce.
And another experiment, carrots, has also yielded its first, shall we say, unimpressive results. Believe it or not the carrots in the photo (the snail shell is for scale!) have been in the ground for over 3 months! Dreadful, and these are the good ones because they are actually carrots! Much of the crop was done away by the carrot fly, the rest suffered due to the soil, I think. These carrots were early ones sown under cover.
The autumn carrots which I sowed at the end of June are looking much better. Slightly patchy germination, but the plants seem healthy. There are two varieties, resistafly and fly away, both designed to handle the dreaded carrot fly. So far in this experiment the results suggest I should forget early carrots and focus on maincrop.
The bed which held the early carrots was, I realised, in a poor condition. It's under a tree which means that once the leaves are out, it receives less rain, and the soil itself was very lacking in organic matter. So since the carrots failed, it gave me the opportunity to get to work on this bed. I dug in a lot of fresh horse manure, something I wouldn't normally do as fresh horse manure kills plants rather than nourish them. But since I won't be using this bed again until 2012, I dumped a lot of manure on it, and will leave it to rot down over winter. Hopefully I'll have more success with this bed next year.

This week's projects are to pick more green goosberries, clear away and weed the broad beans and first peas, and I hope to pick the first courgettes. Happy gardening!
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