Thursday, November 09, 2017

Cover and Run!

I can't believe its been so long since I posted, but in all honesty with the season finishing so early, not a lot has actually happened on the farm.

We are determined to get everything closed down properly again this year as it makes the start of next season so much easier, even if it means clearing a few bits and pieces that aren't quite finished.

There won't be a lot of over wintering this year, leeks, parsnips, purple sprouting brocolli and sprouts that were planted this season will be providing the winter veg, while some garlic has gone in for next year, but that's about it.

I going to leave broads beans this winter and take my chances with the black fly and the bug gun next year. The wind caused so many loses this year I'm not sure its worth it, I may try again next winter if the crop is disappointing. I thought about over wintering some peas but our luck with those this year was so bad I decided against it.

Beds 1-4 have been cleared and covered, although 1 & 3 still need manure. I gave the beds a light digging over and weeding before a layer of manure was added and then covered with thick plastic. The manure wasn't dug in, I'll let the worms have that job.

Last year I rotivated the whole plot but not this year for a couple of several reasons, number one, I want to preserve the structure of the soil, hence only a light dig, and number two, It really doesn't warrant the work, the soil is very easy to dig and a nice texture.

On the last visit I cleared the last courgette, (used for a nice lamb dish), which closes off our courgette leader board at a whopping 163. Zuchinni were the clear winner, even factoring in the extra plant, I suspect we now know why supermarkets only sell the green variety!

The last chillies were cleared and the remaining bolted beetroot and radishes composted. The cape gooseberries were removed, they were still growing new fruits but they'll never ripen at this time of year. I enjoyed these but it was the first time I've grown them, I'll grow them again, but and a bit more support and planning is needed for next years crop.

There were a few useful salads left, but we've had a frost since this pic was taken so I suspect I've lost those.

When I removed the marigolds quite a lot had gone to seed. I picked up all I could but I suspect there will be a magnificent self seeded crop next year.

There is still  a bit of work to get things completely closed down, manuring, grass cutting, clearing leaves etc round the raspberries and removing runners from strawberries again, but we should have it finished in another weekend visit.

Thoughts are already turning to next year and I'll be doing a review planning blog post in the near future, I'm sure everyone is already thinking about it too. Now where's that seed catalogue.

Finally, the pumpkins were put to good use for Halloween, I like a bit of pumpkin carving but there is a boot more satisfaction when you grew your own!

Happy gardening folks! 

Monday, October 02, 2017

A Most Uplifting Experience

Especially if you are a King Edward!

After a weekend away, overtime at work and rain it was great to finally get down the farm, and it's nice to write another post.

I'd been a bit worried about the spuds, I had a nasty feeling the slugs and worms were going to get to them long before I did if I didn't lift them soon. They had been left in a bit longer than originally planned as they weren't very big, but the above excuses meant they were coming out a bit later than we'd like

When I got there some nice critter had started the job for me, the middle of the row wasn't the ideal starting point, but every little helps. Pity he didn't do the weeding while he was there. It didn't take long to lift them, a lot were dug out by hand so not so many 'forked' casualties this time around. 

Not a bad crop in the end. I bought some small sacks on Amazon (see below) so I could distribute some to the family etc, and still have half a sack in the garage for lots of lovely Sunday roasts!..

Elsewhere the shutdown is in full swing. All the beans are down, the sweetcorn are gone, the  squashes are down to the last 6 courgette plants, (which just won't stop), it seems everything peaked pretty early this year. This looks to be the final haul pic of the year, another pumpkin for Halloween.

I've sieved out one of the compost bins which has been rotting down for a year now, it produced 2 full builders buckets of lovely fine compost, which I was tempted to keep for sowing next year, but instead I dug it into the bed for over wintering garlic/shallots and next years root crop, where the spuds came from. One bucket of sieved compost left about half a bucket of stuff to go back in the bin. That bed is tucked up for the winter now.

This is were the sweetcorn and squashes lived. Its been given a light digging over and a topping of horse manure from the local stables, my car valleter will not thank me for that, and covered over for the winter. Once those final courgettes come out I'll cover it completely. At the back the sprouts are doing nicely in the brassica cage. 

When the plants are removed from the beds it can leave leaves and all sorts on the ground , along with any hidden weeds etc, it can look a bit of a mess. A quick tip is to run the rake over it, it clears the fallen rubbish and pulls out some of the weeds for you too.

Three more beds to sort out now, as the pics show the grass is a bit out of hand too, the battery on the strimmer died and with all the rain its grown pretty quick. A new one is on order, I got a bigger one for 1/3 of the price of an original on eBay so it'll be sorted soon enough.

The picking and growing list have shrunk somewhat now. The courgette count will be over soon too, but I think we have a clear winner..

Happy gardening folks. 

Monday, September 11, 2017

Winding Down

Facebook is quite a good gardening tool if you regularly post your plot shots, it likes to remind you of what you were doing a year ago. The other day Facebook showed us a pic from last year and at that time we were still harvesting quite a range of crops, this year it seems things are nearly done.

The courgette harvest is finally coming to an end, friends will soon answer the door to us again and cucumbers are now producing just the sickly looking late season specimens. The runner and French beans are done but the dwarf purple still have a few to give. The remaining sweetcorn are bit tough now but its been the best year for these so far.

One thing I am pleased with is are my pumpkins which I cut at the weekend. The seeds for these came from the pumpkins I bought in Asda last year and these are similar size. I look forward to carving them for Halloween. There is one left which might grow a bit more.

I cut the first cabbage last week, Spring Duchy, so as the name suggests I am harvesting them late. Some have been attacked by caterpillars or slugs but cutting out the damage left plenty for me and they are lovely sweated off in a bit of olive oil and butter for 5 minutes max.  

At home some of the cape gooseberries seem to have ripened, here's the first one. Its not quite as ripe as I hoped, definitely more of a green house crop. I'll pop it on the windowsill and see if it makes it.

So now comes the clearing down. The bean canes will be coming down very and the main spuds will be dug up. There's a compost bin to empty and the beds still need edging. I've finished the new asparagus bed frame and filled it up with soil. As its wider than the older frame I have room for another 6 crowns which I'll try and grow from seed.

There are still some new bits and bobs going in, lettuces, radish, garlic and maybe some more turnips. I can always cloche them if it gets too cold. We will probably try overwintered broads again, but remember to support them properly this time.

Now comes the challenge of finishing everything before the weather turns!!

Happy gardening folks!!!

Friday, August 25, 2017

August Update

There is a certain sad feel to the farm at the moment, if feels like the growing season will end a little earlier this year, probably the result of the freaky weather early on. It will give us the chance to clear it nice and early and to close down properly for the winter, but it seems a bit of a let down.

So here is Augusts update.

Bed 1

Most of the squashes are pretty much finished. The courgettes continue to fruit but are nowhere near as prolific as they were. The winter squashes (pumpkin and butternut) are but picked now, a few remain on the plants to ripen. Heather has been removing the mildew affect leaves so  they all look like they have  had a extreme haircut, not many new leaves are replacing them now.

The parsnips have at least a foot of top growth, I had a dig around the top of one with my finger, it was about 35mm across, I've no idea how long. They have a way to go yet but its still too early. I'm just pleased with 2 full rows.

The carrots are doing well, not huge but very tasty. There is the mouse/slug damage I wrote about before but no sign of any carrot fly. Resistafly F1 are on the list for next year.

The fennel has been harvested, but not used yet and the celery is still growing, but not brilliantly. I think it needed a more regular water supply, the irrigation system I never finished! Its on the list for next year.

Bed 2

All the early spuds have been used. I dug up one plant of the main King Edwards, just to see how they were doing and because I was worried about blight after the tomato disaster.

They aren't very big yet, but there are no signs of blight and it yielded around 15 spuds, so if all goes well they could provide a very nice sized crop. I bought some small potato sacks so I could store and distribute them to family etc.

The spare squashes from Heathers are growing slowly but its too late in the year to expect anything from them.

The asparagus bed has a new frame, I just need to remove the old inner frame and top it up with manure and soil. As this frame is wider I think I'll add a few more crowns, maybe even grow them from seeds from the current plants.

Bed 3

I think we are now picking the last of the runner and French beans, there are no more flowers on the plants. I tried feeding them to stimulate a second round but it hasn't worked. They have produced a fair amount of crop as given the knock they took from wind and sunburn I'm not unhappy with them.

The Amethyst purple beans are still cropping nicely, no flowers any more but they just keep coming, the set rate on these has been amazing, they are definitely on the list for next year.

Our sole surviving tomato plant, a self seeder is doing ok and looking better after a feed, he has to carry the show now, so no pressure.

The courgette plants are still producing slowly.

The best thing in this bed currently are the leeks. All seem to have survived the transplanting and are doing well. I've seen some pics online of people already holding massive leeks, I think we are a way off that yet!

Bed 4

The brassica cage is stuffed. The summer PSB has finally decided its summer and sprouted. I however realised that I've put it at the back of the cage which will make picking it fun. The cage has done well keeping the pests out.

The cucumbers are coming to the end, another 3 or 4 max I think. I''ve been really pleased with these as they produced good sized fruits that kept well and didn't need peeling. On the list for next year.

The sweetcorn have done very well this year, way above the usual 1 per plant average, the cobs were a good size and very tasty. After the problems I had getting a full 2 dozen to actually grow they have come good.

My pumpkins are pretty much ready but as its still early I don't want to harvest them yet, I grew them for Halloween and they'll keep better on the plant than in my garage for 3 months. Just got to hope the mice and slugs don't find them.

The rainbow chard is producing plenty and I'm going to try and protect it better this winter to extend the season.

Bed 5

We have lettuce, turnips, beetroot and spring onions still happening in here, as well as some dormant radishes that have popped up now its cooled off a little.

The lost tomato plants have given more room and light to the cape gooseberries but while they have plenty of the paper cases there doesn't seem to be much of a berry in them. It was worth a try and I'll do them again next year as I suspect the cold snap early on has meant their growing season is too short this year.

The chillies are not tall but have a good few fruits, I leave the heat test to Heather but they aren't too bad.

The strawberries look pretty healthy, they didn't do well this year but with all  runner being cut off regularly they will hopefully get a good start as strong plants next year. 


My pallet store shed is finally nailed together. It will be used to store all the heavy stuff like bricks, slabs  and chicken wire that make the plot look untidy but which don't really belong in the shed. It also provides height for the water butts to get a good head for the irrigation system next year.

I've still got the bed frames to do as part of the winter shut down, if I can get those done I'll be happy and we will be in a good place for next year

Happy Gardening Folks!

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Death, Destruction and Blight..

Or at least that's what it felt like this weekend.

Yes the dreaded tomato blight has hit, just when things were really getting going nicely. We had been really pleased with the choc cherry and the Alicante were a fantastic size, but alas we had one really long day of rain followed by some humid days and bang....we've lost the lot.

We've picked everything we think we can salvage and the rest have headed for the wheelie bin, its best to deal with it early rather than help ruin everyone else's crop as its wind spread. We have one plant that popped up in a different bed left unaffected, (so far anyway), and we each have some backup plants at home that hopefully will keep us supplied. With a bit of luck of last bowl of plot Toms will keep long enough for us to use them all.

A lot of people on the gardening forums and blogs we follow have succumbed so we are not alone this year, it's just a bit heartbreaking when things are going so well. A lot of seasoned plot holder don't bother to try growing them in the open space of allotment sites anymore.


I had planted a couple of rows of Tom Thumb lettuces, which while fast growing, weren't very tasty, rather watery and bland. We were working our way through them but suddenly they all decided to bolt at once. Another addition to the compost bin!

This leaves us rather short of lettuce, down to salad bowl only in fact  as I have been a bit remiss in my planting duties of late. In desperation I have returned to buying in. A tray of Lolo Roso from the local market will hopefully plug the gap until my hurriedly planted Little Gems are big enough. 

Finally, another bolter! This is the first time I've ever grown bulb fennel. I wasn't quite sure when to pick it, but as some of the bulbs looked a good size I consulted the Alan Titchmarsh gardening book. "Pick when big enough to use" he said so I made a mental note to start picking on my next trip down.

You can imagine my displeasure therefore when I got to the picking moment, and the lot had bolted, which according to Alan "makes it useless for kitchen use"............oh bugger!

I've picked a few bulbs with the least top growth to try and use them for the braised fennel and fennel with parmesan I had in mind, but as Alan knows his stuff I'm not sure how it will go. Once they bolt they get a very woody core which I'm going to try and cut around.  You can see them in the first produce pic below, the rest sadly are compost.

Learn by my mistakes and better luck, and fore warned next year!

So while it was a frustrating farm visit this weekend it hasn't been all bad news, we are still producing far more than we can use, (see the courgette count), and taking away a wonderful range of veggies. We even managed to trade some produce for a couple of drinks in the local pub, so that cheered me up a bit. 

It is pics like these that make the low spots worth it.

Its also a good job Heather got a bike with a basket!

The full August Update to follow soon.

Happy Gardening Folks!!

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

The Plot Thickens..

Or at least the grass on it had any way.

My last few posts have all stated that we haven't been able to get much plot time lately, all we have really done for the last 6 or 7 weeks is pop down, pick and water and feed when we could, leaving everything to fend for itself.

Finally on a sunny Sunday afternoon last weekend we had time to play catch up.

First order of the day for Heather was to pick her winter squashes, the Spaghetti and the Uchik Kuri pumpkins for storage. The spaghettis are from the same seeds as last year, but much bigger than last years crop. Either we must have done something right, or we got lucky. All the squash plants are slowing down and dying back a bit now, I know you wouldn't think it from the courgette count!! As the plants have a few more flowers and undersized pumpkins we left them to continue growing, maybe without these fruits and after a feed they will have a second flush of youth. For now we're happy the first wave is safely away from mice etc.

Next was the beans, the runners, dwarf and French varieties all needed a  thorough picking, rooting out those illusive stragglers that hide behind the canes. The inverted teepee has made this easier this year with less congestion at the top of the poles, definitely one to continue. The extra ground space around the base also helps. 

As you can see, add in courgettes, cucumber, the first outdoor pepper and a turnip pulled up during the weeding and we got a decent haul for the day. The beans Heather is supposed to be freezing, but most never get that far. Then again not many tomatoes make it back to mine!!

My Halloween pumpkins are starting to colour now and as well as my 2 bigger specimens I found another little one growing down the side of the bed about 10 feet away from the others.

The shop bought butternut squash plants have done very little, just the one small fruit so far. They went in a bit late and may have got a bit over crowded. Like our centre of the row cucumber plants that weren't as fruitful as the outer ones.

Better spacing next year me thinks. Hopefully the mice and slugs don't get to them before they are ready for me.

Talking of pests, something has been at my carrots!! Quite a few now have been nibbled, almost hollowed out at the top. Sometimes this can actually chop off the top, which whatever it is doesn't appear too keen on. Seen here next to a healthy examples of Resistafly F1 you can see the damage they do.

Given that this year has been pretty much pest free, we've hardly seen a slug or lost anything to them, I don't think I'll put too much effort into irradiating the critter as I have enough to go round.

Resistafly by the way do seem to work. No signs of carrot fly attack and they are a good tasting carrot to boot. Maybe having them next to fennel has helped too

While Heather was busy harvesting I was busy tidying up. Which mostly consisted of rediscovering the edges of the beds and disturbing multiple red ants nests....que several painful bits. Seriously why do we need red ants!

Once the edges were done a run over with the hand mower and a final strim round the edges and shed, or at least it would have been if the strimmer was charged, something I was sure I had done.

Never mindI thought, I'll use the time to finish the new asparagus bed frame, nope, the battery drill was dead too. Not really my day in the battery department so with the farm looking a lot more presentable we called it a day after 5 hours. 

A satisfying daywith one last discovery, I think someone at B&Q had been messing with the plant labels, my Kale is looking a lot like cabbages!!

Happy gardening folks.. 

Monday, July 31, 2017

The Full Salad

Its the big day finally, the full home grown salad is ours. The tomatoes are starting to ripen!!

This weekend saw the first bowl of toms heading for salad, the Lidl, Choc Cherry and Gardeners Delight are delicious. A few have split thanks to all the heavy rains but they still taste good.

In fact not a bad harvest all round and to top off  today I had the first of the sweetcorn, Ambrosia F1. A two tone number with good sized kernels and good sized cobs, also a good cropper with 2 or 3 cobs per plant. Sweetcorn and home grown salad...result. This is when all the work pays off.

I love this time off year, tomorrow sweetcorn and new potatoes!

We have a quiet weekend coming up so if the rain holds off we'll get a few hours in tidying the farm which looks a little neglected, however productive.

Anyone need a courgette!!!

Happy gardening folks :O)