Sunday, 18 September 2011

Some Successful Experiments!

After the difficult year we've had with the weather and temperatures, it's nice to see some of my experiments have paid off (and survived the recent hurricane left-overs).  On the left are some of our tomatoes, bush types which we tried for the first time on the basis that they fruit earlier than cordon types, which is now essential in our shorter growing season.  I tried two varieties, a small cherry and a larger type called Totem, and I think I'll stick with Totem next year, the cherries not being quite so successful.  Despite having only two weeks of summer weather, they are ripening though I had to scour the inside of the cloche for slugs this morning!

The peppers have also done well, though the small slugs are now starting to eat them so I picked them rather than watch them disappear.  Given better weather (i.e. actual summer temperatures) they should ripen to orange.  But I'm really pleased with them and will definitely try them again next year, though I will need bigger cloches for them and for the tomatoes.

I'm particularly proud of this garlic.  In recent years our garlic crop has been diminishing as our climate has cooled, our shortened growing season doesn't allow it to mature and we can't plant in autumn in our cold, wet soil.  So I decided a change of variety was in order and chose "Picardy Wight" from Thompson and Morgan.  This variety originated in northern France and presumably has been bred on in the Isle of Wight, a well-known garlic area in the UK, given its second name.  It can apparently be planted in autumn or spring.

I haven't counted the bulbs, but this crop grew from 6 bulbs (current price £4.49 for 3) and some of the bulbs are massive.  More importantly, it has actually matured properly (started Feb).  So I recommend this variety to those in northern climes, an excellent crop with good sized cloves, the kind you'd be happy to buy in a shop.

Still to come in the garden - more apples, carrots and marrows, maybe a few beetroot?

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Preparing for the next storm

Having survived the tail end of one hurricane this week, now it's time to prepare for the next one, which is due to arrive on Sunday night. The plum tree survived this week's storm quite well, mainly because all the weak branches had already broken in the atrocious weather earlier in the year. But with very high winds expected, it was time today to remove the last of the fruit; I did a picking 10 days ago which mostly went into jam.
My tomatoes are slowly, very slowly, ripening. Watching Gardeners' World last night, Monty Don suggested taking the leaves off the plants to bring on ripening. I though this was a good idea, so I set about it today. If you're wondering what the cloche frame is made of, it's plumber's tubing, very good and sold at all DIY stores. Add some plastic to the top, and it does a great job in protecting plants.
I'm glad I did this because as I dug among the leaves, I came across a bit of rot, and also a bit of blight. At this stage, it's not too bad and by removing the leaves I hope I've nipped it in the bud. The damp weather has created ideal conditions for diseases.
And here are the plants after their haircut! Rather denuded, but there will be more air around them and I also threw a few windfall apples underneath to encourage the tomatoes to ripen. The cloche has now been firmly closed in advance of the storm.
While I was working on the tomatoes, I disturbed this frog which was hunting slugs among the plants. I hope it will go back, as the slugs have eaten some of the tomatoes.
It was also time to remove the Worcester Pearmain apples, they started falling off this week with the weather, so they've all been picked now to prevent more damage. I finished picking the Katy apples yesterday. The remaining two apple trees are not at a stage where the fruit is ripe enough yet, so I've left those on and made sure the trees are secure.
Here's a selection of veg for today; the last peas of the year, the first runner beans at the bottom, a few tomatoes, my precious first ever cucumber and three french beans. I bought a climbing french bean plant earlier in the year as an experiment. Not sure £1.75 is a good price for 3 beans, one with a slug hole in it? The snails loved it, though since I prefer to feed myself instead of the snails, I don't think I'll grow any of these plants next year!

And a note for those reading this in northwest England; I hear that Lancashire County Council has bought extra salt this year and is expecting snow to fall in November. This tallies with my perception that autumn is 3-4 weeks early, we don't normally get this kind of weather until October. So I'll be trying, between the downpours, to get out and get as much work done as possible before the winter weather closes in.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

My first cucumber

Given the number of cucumber seeds sold every year, you'd think they were easy to grow, but I've never had any success with them. I've tried greenhouse types, outdoor types, round, long, almost all going and never produced anything. So earlier this year when we lost plants due the frost, I picked up a couple of cucumber plants in the garden centre. My Mum laughed at me, thought they would produce as much as previous attempts, i.e. nothing. But I proved her wrong - here is my very first cucumber, after 10 years of trying. It is a miniature type, designed to fruit earlier than others, just like the tomatoes I also bought earlier in the year. One to try again, I think.
This cucumber is growing in this long bed. You may think there are several plants in here, but in fact there are only three. The pumpkin you can see right at the back of the bed is actually growing forward from there right to the end. I decided to cloche this bed given the cold and now very wet weather, to protect the cucumber and also to help the pumpkins set as they were rotting off in the damp. It's worked well, with three pumpkins set on the one plant at the last count.
I weeded the parsnip bed at the weekend; they are small but the first sowing was wiped out by a plague of snails. At least they have room and light to grow now. It's been a fairly bad year for vegetables, cold and wet, and everyone at our allotments has struggled. We really must be due a better summer next year.
But the fruit has been doing well - I picked the first Katy apples this weekend, some rhubarb and a few autumn raspberries. I dread to think what the current windy and wet (America's hurricane) weather will have done to my trees since. I'm just hoping my supports held and the trees are still there, with most of their fruit still on!