Friday, 27 July 2012

how close can you plant onions?

This close it seems.
Early this year I had quite a few spare onion sets so I decided to plant them in containers for use as salad onions. This lot are in a supermarket mushroom tray and they've been buried behind beans and assorted other crops until today. Surprisingly none of them have bolted and I've ended up with a good bunch of usable onions once they've dried.

I've also grown picklers in nine-inch pots quite successfully this year.

These are De Barletta but any bulb onion sown from seed seems to work.

The food hedge experiment is coming along nicely with the runner beans in tubs flowering as they twine their way through the privet. Many of the flowers are white and don't show very well but they are there!
If this works as well as I hope it will I'll be on the look out for more climbing vegetables for next year to fill the fifty foot or so of hedge that's available.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

I shouldn't complain, but...

everything's coming at once. I always sow/plant small blocks of veg. in order not to have a glut but this year, because of the weather, the early plantings just sat there for ages and have now all spurted into production. Broad beans sowed six weeks apart are all at the same stage and ditto the peas. That means I've spent most of the day picking and shelling for the freezer.

Some of the overwintered onions and the shallots had started to rot so they've all had to be lifted and are trying to dry. A week of sun would help but I'm not sure we'll get that.
shallots drying

The shallots harvest is a real disappointment. Those that haven't bolted or rotted are often no bigger than spring onions. On the other hand I've got some good big onions if I can get them dried. The problem there is that you never know how well they're going to keep until you open the net and find the rotten ones.
the biggest of this bunch weighed in at 353g

I also had to cut three cauliflowers today as they were getting very close to 'blowing'. Another couple of days and they would have gone, so more chopping, blanching and freezing. Cabbages I always sow in modules then pot on into 3-4 inch pots before putting them out on the plot with a good root ball. This ensures a good start and a quick getaway for them. By only putting them out a few at a time with a couple of weeks between them I aim to have a constant supply of young cabbages through the season. Not this year, though. When I removed the anti-butterfly netting to get the cauliflowers I found about a dozen mature plants ready for cutting. They will stand for a while but I prefer them small and tender.

Picked tomatoes are now starting to pile up in the kitchen (not literally, but there's more than we can eat) but I still have loads of chutney from previous years so I'm going to have to think of something else to do with them. I might have a go at making ketchup if I get the time.

OK moaning over but you know that gardeners and farmers are never happy unless they're complaining.

Those of you who like to grow things in neatly ordered rows should look away now. My theory is that the space between rows is completely wasted so you might as well fill it with something. If you do that there's no longer any point in the rows in the first place and you end up with a chaotic mix of plants like this. It works and weeds are not a problem because they don't stand a chance among this lot.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

tippin' oot the tattie barra

as they say up north.

The centre display of my back lawn, the wheelbarrow with potato plants, has yielded up its bounty.

The five plants (Novella) gave just under 4kg or 8.5 lbs of decent tubers. Not a great yield but hardly surprising given the appalling weather this year.

After re-charging the compost with a scoop of chicken manure pellets and some BFB it is now home to five cabbage plants. These are 'Golden Acre', a compact fast-maturing variety that should be finished in time for me to get some winter lettuce in. That's three crops from the same patch of ground.

Small space gardening forces you to be inventive and to maximize whatever area you have at your disposal, especially if the intention is to feed your family. I've said before that the ideal of the self-sufficient gardener is to get at least one pound of food for each square foot under cultivation. Given that the cabbages will come in at one or two pounds per head depending on when I harvest them I could easily be looking at 15-20 pounds of food from this barrow which has a surface area of three square feet.

One thing that seems to be enjoying the cool, wet conditions is bush fruit. I picked two pounds of blackcurrants from one of the bushes today and hardly made a dent in the crop.

The gooseberries are all picked and yields have been the equal of any other year. Also, for the first time, I've got some blueberries. The big problem here is that although you could probably survive for quite a while on jam and fruit smoothies I'm not sure I'd really want to!

Saturday, 7 July 2012

rain, radishes and rampant growth

Finally, something that seems to like rain....radishes.

I'm growing my best crops ever this year and have been picking regularly since mid April. Both scarlet globe and french breakfast are performing well and are not too badly damaged by slugs.

I suspect another result of all the rain is the amount of rampant top growth on many plants. I've had to nip out the tops of some broad beans today as they'd got to almost six feet high which makes them very liable to wind damage. The haulms on my Rooster potatoes have reached chest-high and the parsnip tops are heading for three feet! If this all translates into plenty of growth below ground I'll be very happy but I have my doubts on that.

Here's a foxglove that I measured at seven foot eight inches (I only have an old tape measure which doesn't do metric)
Given the few inches above ground before it broke you're looking at the best part of eight feet tall so if it ain't the rain it must be my compost. My wife said I should have combed my hair before she took the picture. Good grief, I don't want to end up looking tidier than the garden!

The rain is also good for our frog population as they don't notice any difference whether they're in or out of the pond. Here's one sunning itself on the netting above the strawberries. I hope it's on slug patrol and not just skiving.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

at last...

The tomatoes are starting to ripen, even without the benefit of sunshine which has been in very short supply for the last couple of months.

Of course, some long sunny days would really help them along but beggars can't be choosers!

I also have some fruit appearing on the pepper plants but, like just about everything else, they are well behind where they should be at this time of year. Plenty of flowers and, even though I'm hand pollinating, they seem reluctant to set fruit. It seems as if things have just ground to a halt and that has a knock-on effect because stuff that should have gone out on to the plot to fill gaps is just languishing in pots. This afternoon I put another dozen cabbages into four-inch pots so they will at least be able to develop a good rootball before going out, thus lessening the likelihood of damage by pests and disease. We've only had two cabbages from the garden so far this year which is really disappointing.

A few of the potatoes have got early blight which, although nowhere near as serious as late blight, has forced me to lift some of the plants and dispose of the tops.
The concentric rings on the affected areas are a characteristic of this fungal disease. On those plants which are only mildly affected I've removed the damaged leaves in order that the tubers will continue to bulk out. That's my hope anyway!