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Thursday, 30 July 2009

Gotta Keep On Growing...

Just a quick progress report on what I’ve up to over the last few days.

Lots of seed sowing.

Cucumbers are now big enough for me to start using nets to support the fruit and to keep them of the ground.

The second scotch bonnet plant's chillies have begun to ripen.

Well it was only fear of breaking plants that I didn't faint with shock, my first melon was discovered two days ago, 'come on baby grow, grow'.
Oh and the kohl rabi I sowed at the beginning of the week are up already.
My Harvest This Week:

Yes I know the ochro in the picture looks tiddly but I grew it so I'll eat it, it's been this size for a week now, so I don't think it will get any bigger. The carrots were an unexpected surprise, these were from last autumn sowing, earlier this year I harvested some which tasted muddy so they were left to go to seed on request by my eldest as she wanted to see what carrot flowers looked like. Well while tidying up around that bed yesterday i noticed a couple of the left roots which didn't have any flower stalks were looking a little fat around the collar but as they didn't have much leafy growth I hadn't payed them much mind before. I decided to puul them up and see what the roots looked like and happily found perfectly good size edible carrots all be it a bit bendy. They had an extremely sweet smell and taste when they were roasted below with the rest of the harvested crops (see pic below) and in case you are wondering the variety was 'Autumn King 2'.

Vegetables for dinner: Olive oil roasted courgette, carrots, french beans and the tiddly ochro with home harvested opium poppy seeds all seasoned with my homegrown herbs and salt and ground black pepper to taste.

Mini Beasts


This peacock butterfly has been dodging me for days.

While reading some other bloggers writings late into the night this lacewing landed on the monitor to see what was keeping me up so late.
PS my monthly savings post has been updated.

The Dangers of Vegetable Gardening!!!!!!

No I didn’t have an accident (although judging by the untidy elements strewn around the garden, an accident is surely waiting in the wings for me). The dangers I want to blog about today are all mentally based.

I’m talking about the obsessive habits that dangerously sneak up on you when you start to grow your own veges. Since my last posting on the squash and pumpkin patch I have not been able to wake in the morning with out checking out The Patch rain or shine before eating my breakfast or even serving the kiddies theirs.

I find myself talking to them (nothing that strange there, show me a gardener of any type who doesn’t in some degree talk to their plants, if nothing else but to say ‘GROW DAMN YOU GROW!!!’). No I’m afraid it doesn’t stop at talking but I find myself stroking the growing fruits, photographing them in all manner of lighting and angles, smiling at them inanely or just standing looking at them for more minutes than I think to be normal. The worst part is this doesn’t happen once or even twice a day but far more, it would be ok if I didn’t have other things to do or if it only happened when I went to the greenhouse which is parallel to The Patch (in hind sight this was a bad idea) but I find myself simply wandering up to The Patch at all manner of the day just to check out the fruit and the plants.

Any jobs I have to do up there are strangely relished, for eg. over the weekend I decided with the increased wet weather it might be a good idea to place tiles under the developing fruits to keep them off the damp cardboard. The thankless plants scratched my bare arms numerous times, which led to a stinging shower later in the day, did I get peeved about it, not in the least, I somehow took comfort in that my pain was there protection……WHAT THE!!!!

Anyway here are some photos taken today of all the largest fruits next to a permanent marker for size scaling purposes. And I promise no more The Patch posts till their harvest (but don’t hold me to that).

Winter squash: Blue Banana, its unconventional shape makes me smile.

Squash: Crown Prince

Pumpkin: Hooligan.

Squash: Onion

Squash: Boston another odd shape although the pic doesn't show it very well.

Squash: Shark Fin/ Spaghetti, I have so many of these I'm scared and its still producing more.
Squash: Kobocha

Pumpkin: Snowman.

Squash: Celebration, this one has turned out to be a bush plant and so doesn't trail. Its colouring reminds me of custard.

Squash: Thelma Sanders Sweet Potato, I just love the shape and the creamy colouring of this one.

So my other obsession is definitely the tomatoes, thankfully this obsession is no where near the level of the curcubits as a lot of it is due to maintenance, so it doesn’t have me as worried as the other. It’s the constant looking over the plants for side shoots to prick out and the tying of the stems to their support (I keep the ball of twine and scissors right next the bed now so I’m not side tracked by The Patch when I go to the greenhouse to fetch the twine and scissors) but at least the other thing is once the fruits start to ripen on mass the obsessive checking of plants for signs of edible delights reduce somewhat but the hand on heart daily checks for signs of the dreaded blight increases as the season progresses.

This obsession also steals times from other duties as this year the tomato bed is the first bed that greets me as I enter the veg patch, so it’s jobs easily distract me from what I sometimes set out to do (its very hard to ignore side shoots and tying in of stems to supports…I sure wish some one would HELP ME!!!!).

Here are some photos of my tomatoes taken today:

So what’s your obsession?

Broad Ripple Yellow current: a very tiny yellow cherry.

Gardener's Delight: a red cherry, it won a repeat from last year till something better comes along.

Roma: a plum.

Costolluto Florinteno: a new beefsteak to try.

Vintage Wine: a repeat beefsteak from last year, way to acid if cooked but great in sandwiches.

San Marzano 2: a plum shape.

Tigerella: third year running in my garden.

Ailsa Craig.

Golden Sunrise: a large yellow cherry. We enjoyed it last year so its a keeper, till something better comes along.

Galina: a cherry.

Black Trifle: had this one today probably should have left it another day but from what we all tasted its a keeper to repeat next year. It was lovely and beefy tasting with a really full flavour great for salads and sandwiches, when there are a lot more I will try some cooked.

Monday, 27 July 2009

Finally Getting Back in the Swing of Things....

I haven’t taken much pictures of what I have been up too but you will have to take my word for it. A couple months ago I blogged that I was going through a bit of a down moment which left me feeling a little lacking in motivation to do much of any thing and this included gardening. The result of this lapse in attention has been the reduced produce I have not got to harvest this month. I simply didn’t water enough or didn’t act quick enough to halt differing early pest infestations and as for successional sowing of seeds??? Which means that my beetroots and carrots are really small this year, when I harvest my last ready lettuce I have none waiting in the foreground (they all in the seed packet) and my brassicus have been decimated by whitefly.

Well late last week I finally started to feel like my old self was coming back to the foreground and started by cleaning up some of the neglected beds and happily found the kale growing new leaves now that the lady bugs have wiped out the whitefly, there was some Chinese cabbages ready to be harvested under all overgrown cabbage leaves and the beetroot is finally getting bigger.

I also got some more seeds sown kohl rabi, swede, mooli radish, fennel and some mange tout peas (yep I know its late in the season but I‘m hoping the autumn will be mild which should hopefully give me a late crop of peas). The spring onions and beetroots I sowed back mid July are making an appearance but the beetroot seedlings were mucked up a bit by birds scratching in the soil so I may throw a ‘handful’ seeds in the area and thin them once they have germinated.

The over wintered chard plants that I have left to go seed are like I said before a great attractor for beneficial insects, the area was a real mess all falling down into the foot paths and onto my celeriac crop. Well I have tidied it up using lots of canes, I don’t need the area as yet so now its been tidied I would leave well alone for the hoard of ladybugs and hoverflies visiting the area and maybe I would also get some seeds off the plants for sowing in the future.

Other jobs I got done over the last few days was watering undercover plants such as the tomatoes, sweet peppers, aubergines and plants in the greenhouse. Some weeding of the foot paths was also undertaken. The celeriac plants that were uncovered from the flowering chard and poppy plants were tidied up as well, following from advice I gleamed off of the web I removed some of the lower leaves and gave them a really good soaking as they have not really been watered by me. The area they are growing in benefits from a little shade so the soil in that area rarely dries out. But I think I will be watering them more often from now on to help them put on more size.

Some of the harvests over the weekend and the later part of last week were prepared for the pot before I realised I didn’t photographed it (see second pic), so you will just have to imagine the ones you don‘t see here. The later past of last week more runners and French beans were picked along with my first ready sweet peppers and spring onions. Over the weekend more courgettes, two Chinese cabbages, my only two kohl rabis to grow from spring sowings, spring onions, and other herbs were also harvested.

Today I’m afraid its teeming down with rain so I’ll have to delay my lettuce and carrot seed sowing till tomorrow afternoon after I return from taking the girls out. In the mean time enjoy the photos taken since my last posting.

Crop Progress
The first chillies to start ripening.
The male (see above pic) and female cucumber flowers of this variety 'Burpless' are really big and blousy, the varieties I have grown in the pass are normally much smaller and nondescript.
The Invertebrates

24 spot ladybird 'Subcoccinella 24-punctata'

Cream spot ladybug 'Calvia 14-guttata'

There are three variations of the 10-spotted ladybird here are two of the guises they present themselves.

2-spots getting it on.

A pollen beetle an important pollinator.

Female Migrant Southern Dragonfly 'Aeshna mixta'

Female Parastic Wasp 'Gasteruption jaculator (L.)'

Lygus cf. pratensis. Family- Miridae

Field grasshopper 'Chorthippus brunneus'

Male Speckled Bush Cricket 'Leptophyes punctatissima' in his mating colours.

A couple posts ago it showed you what a hoverfly pupa looked like this is the larva which is a voracious aphid feeder.

Lacewing 'Chrysoperla carnea agg'

Well a picture speaks a thousand words, I didn't realise that pond skaters were carniverous till I saw this mass gorging on a dead wasp, blech!!

Garden Spider/ Garden Cross spider

Haven't shown much of these for a while but they are around and very busy.

There are so many butterflies and moths in the garden this year, it makes the place so much more cheery. At the moment the most dominant are the gate keepers and cabbage whites but there are still the odd early spring species to be seen like the speckled wood (see pic below).

I think this is a: Large Yellow Underwing 'Noctua pronuba'

Male Vapourer Moth 'Orgyia antiqua'

Medium Size Wildlife Seen
Friday morning when I went out to put tiles under the young squashes and pumpkins to keep them off the damp cardboard and hopefully away from the slugs, I checked a hole my husband dug for a fence pole to see if any frogs had fallen in as they sometimes do following a night of rain. Well I didn’t find any frogs but two young hedgehogs, I’m afraid its not all nice as one was dead DAMN!!! So I fished out the living put him in an enclosed place with some water and donated raw mincemeat from my neighbour. The dead one was well… thrown out and the hole was dutifully covered as it should have been (I did check it Wednesday but was out all day Thursday so I assume it died from dehydration???). Happily the little one recovered ate all the meat and drank all the water, then escaped.

Saturday must have been frog finding day as I found one in the pumpkin patch, one in the flower beds, another under some sticks in the vege patch, a medium size froglet in the boggy area around the vege pond and an injured frog in the vege pond.

Still a few fledglings around from time to time, saw this young blackbird calling it parent/s.

What’s Blooming

I found this plant growing in one of my raised beds. Its called Small Toad Flax ‘Chaenorhinum Minus’. From my research it doesn't appear to be rare in the UK except NI and less common in Scotland or up north but did find out due to modern farming methods it is starting to decline. So I'm loath to yank it out. I will most likely let it set seed but will sprinkle seed on the edge of the foot paths and in my flower beds. I haven't got a clue how it got here but one probable way is; the bed I found it in was bought top soil, that bed is also full of field poppies so maybe it came from a farmers field.
Coriander seed heads.


The buddlia I'm attempting to grow as a standard is beginning to flower.

Still have some california poppies, this sef sown one is in the raised bed with the cucumbers, onions and celeriac.

Not sure what this is but I planted them out along with other summer flowering bulbs that I got free through an internet promotion in the spring from J.Parkers.

I sowed these rudebeckia seeds in the early spring but by the time i got round to planting them out they were terribly root bound in theie individual cells in the seed trays but they have begau to fower at about a foot in hieght. I hope they survive the winter and are able to put on a spectacular show next year.
The sage in the herb patch has been flowering for months now, just thought I would share.


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