Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Autumn Colour

 Despite the appalling weather this year (and yes, we've had lots more rain since my last post) I have managed to create some colour round the house.  I have a number of different colours of pansies around the house, but these are particularly fine and cheerful.
 If you're not familiar with this flower, it's an autumn crocus.  I bought a couple of bulbs several years ago, I got one flower, then nothing, then one flower again and so on.  This year, however, they have been magnificent, flowering for the last couple of weeks.
 Sadly the wind and rain have knocked them about a bit, but they do give a great splash of colour.  And with absolutely no effort on my part.
 In my "summer" tubs I planted a few dahlias, all of which failed to do anything at all, except this one, which has just decided to flower, in October!  If we get below zero temperatures this weekend, this flower will be coming indoors in a vase.
 All in all, my pots outside the door are doing well.  The Rudbeckia are going strong, the lobelia is still flowering, after 3 months and the Tom Thumb nasturtium I planted at the bottom of the rambling rose to cover the bare base and shade its roots from the burning sun (?!) has scrambled up the plant beautifully.  Even my sweet peas have been flowering in recent weeks, only 2-3 months late!
 Vegetable have not had a good year, I picked the best of the beetroot, which was not very good, most of them are smaller than golf balls.  But the carrots are excellent and the parsnips are looking good too. Another good picking of autumn raspberries was also had this week.
 My solitary Spartan apple - both this and the Blenheim Orange flowered well but were decimated by the weather, each producing a single fruit only.  There's always next year.
With the fine days few and far between and usually coinciding with a day I have to work, it has been difficult getting out to the plot.  Working on waterlogged soil is never a good idea either.  But I have made a start, these two beds have been dug out and re-bordered.  After three years of rain on a sloping plot, the soil  in these beds had moved down, as you can just see by the height of the pile on the right compared to further up.  In fact, the soil had actually moved one foot out of the far bed and taken over some of the path.  So the wooden edges are an attempt to keep it where it should be.  Lots more work to do, let's hope for some good weather to do it in...

Friday, 12 October 2012

A Carrotty Success!

 I have been trying to grow carrots for over 10 years, with no success.  Our wet, clay soil is not conducive to the process, and despite trying lots of methods to prevent it, the dreaded carrot fly always decimated the crop.  Last year I tried a "variety pack" of seeds, most of which were supposedly carrot fly resistant, in a last ditch attempt to crack the problem.  The local carrot flies  have no respect for "resistant" crops it seems, and munched their way through them regardless!  But one variety - Autumn King- showed promised so I decided to try again this year.
 Autumn King is, as its name suggests, an autumn variety, so is sown late (end of June); this avoids the peak season for the dreaded carrot fly.  The advantage here, with our wet soil, is by that time the soil has warmed up so it benefits the carrots doubly.  However, with the dreadful weather this year I hedged my bets and sowed them in early July under a cloche which had been in place for a couple of weeks to dry/warm the soil.  It paid off handsomely.  I pulled some thinnings this week, plus a couple of bigger roots just to see.  So far, so good, only one carrot had carrot fly.  Very tasty too, so if you have a similar climate/pest problems to me, you may want to try this variey.
 Still got runner beans coming...
And the autumn raspberries are doing well.  Once again, we've had more rain but the weather is not as bad as it was most of the summer so I hope to get out to do some more digging soon.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

The Mampkin Experiment

 The weather this year has been dreadful all through the seasons, so earlier this year I did a first sowing of marrows and pumpkins using saved seed from last year's crop.  It was so cold and wet I didn't think they would survive and wanted to keep my bought seed for a second sowing.

To my surprise they germinated reasonably well so having given up on having decent weather I decided to use the seedlings, not expecting to get much crop anyway.  They have actually done quite well, and we have now gathered the main crop, as you can see.  What you can also see is that they have hybridised.  The marrow at the top of the picture looks like it has crossed with a courgette, while the one at the bottom looks like it has come true to the original seed variety.
This one is even more interesting - it grew on what looked like a pumpkin plant but appears to be a cross between a marrow and a pumpkin - a Mampkin.  I have a few of these, all pear-shaped fruit.  

All of these taste good, very marrow like.  The Mampkins are more marrow than pumpkin, I think.  An interesting experiment, I will revert to bought seed next year and hope we have a better gardening year so I get proper marrows and pumpkins.

P.S. The mouse living in my kitchen has now been relocated to its true habitat in the woodland outside.  I recommend the humane mouse trap from B&Q (£3.98), it took several nights but eventually the mouse ventured inside and was caught - in compensation it got a hearty meal of peanut butter.  The cat, not interested in actually catching the mouse, woke me up and then sat on the stairs at a safe distance to observe the human mouse catcher at work.  So I took the trap across the river and with two shakes the mouse was out of the box, a quick look up at its captor/host for recent weeks and then scampered off into the undergrowth.  A happy ending for both parties.