Sunday, 31 December 2017

End of year round up

Well that was 2017!

A very strange year all round what with Trump and Brexit and the Weinstein fall-out, as well as all the problems out in the far east.

In the garden our efforts were much hampered by needing to spend a lot of time with an elderly neighbour, general care and keeping her company and also a lot of legal stuff. So the garden is a real mess - but will come up looking great in the spring as it always does.

The end of the year has been cold and wet. We had some serious snow and then rain, freezing and further snow. Today the soil is still frozen, so there's not much to be done. Yesterday while the sun was shining briefly I cleared out the spent tomatoes from the greenhouse. I was harvesting ripe tomatoes right up to the end of November.

Generally the year was fairly good for vegetables and absolutely crazy for fruit.


Potatoes

The early warm weather meant that the potatoes grew pretty well and harvested before any blight attack, and unlike last year they didn't drown. I just planted two varieties this year - Desiree reds and white Sante. The Desirees were really good with some nice big ones good for baking, the Santes a bit small but OK. There were very few worm holes or other kind of pest problem. The Desirees have kept well too.

Beans

All the beans were all pretty good - French climbing, runner beans and broad beans. This year I planted "Fasold" French beans and they were great. I won't bother with the Blue Lake again.

Beetroot

The first sowing was really good. I sow the seeds in modules and then plant them out in the veg patch. They all grew well, I think because of the warm weather. Most of the second batch are still out there, didn't grow so quickly, but will provide a few serving during January I should think.

Chard

I bought the wrong packet of seeds - Rhubarb Chard instead of Rainbow Chard - but still pretty tasty and continuing to produce dark green leaves on their red stems to replace those harvested.  They've taken a battering during the snow but are starting to shoot again already for meals during the winter.

Brussels Sprouts

Well, they started out fine, all seedlings surviving. I erected a netting cage to keep off the butterflies and pigeons and pheasants. But they really haven't done too well. They haven't grown very tall and the sprouts are the size of peas. However, we've had a few meals of sprout tops and they were very tasty. Hasn't helped that the strong winds during the autumn and the snow just before Christmas collapsed the cage!

Soft fruit

All the currants did well. We netted the redcurrants and one row of the blackcurrants and got a good crop off both. The gooseberries were good, especially the new bush which I took as a cutting a few years ago - it's really got into it's stride now. The jostaberries also produced - but I don't really think they are worthwhile. They don't have the flavour of blackcurrants.

The raspberries did very well at the beginning of the year, the fruit produced on last year's canes. This year's canes weren't so good, probably because it was cooler and much wetter by the time the fruit formed.

My strawberry plants have increased and we had some lovely fruit (Elsante). I took more cuttings.

Rhubarb

We completed the clearing of the first rhubarb bed and transplanted about 9 plants. We treated them with some care to let them get established, but still managed a few pies and crumbles and some rhubarb and redcurrant jam.

Apples

Amazing! More apples than we could eat, cook up, freeze or give away. Especially amazing because last year was a good apple year and some varieties like Bramleys tend to be one-year-on one-year-off. We have put some in store but some varieties don't keep.

Pears

The pears produced a good crop for the first time in years. They've been devastated by some fungal / bacterium thing which makes the little fruit turn black and drop off. For about 3 years I've been spraying the trees with a "winter wash" which is supposed to kill off such diseases and also eggs of moths and such which would turn into worms in the fruit. Maybe this has had some effect, or maybe just the weather - who knows?  - but I'll be out there spraying again during January and again before the blossom forms.

Plums

Mixed.  We have 4 plum trees of different varieties and a damson. One plum tree which we had given up for dead two years ago produced some lovely fruit, as did the purple plum which makes excellent jam. But the big plum tree (produces BIG PLUMS) was not so good, despite there being very few wasps this year. The wasps usually get to these luscious fruits before we do. The damsons were productive as usual, and we are enjoying damson vodka and vodka-soaked damson chocolates!

Cherries

We have a large, wild cherry tree which the birds love. We once managed to pick enough to make jam, but we don't usually bother and leave them to our feathered friends. The morello cherry produced about 12 cherries which were carefully observed and eaten by the birds when they were just ripe (before we got up in the morning). The Stella cherry is still getting going with only a few, quite tasty, fruits.


Well that was 2017 - so now it's time to start planning 2018!




Monday, 31 July 2017

French beans

We're having a really good crop of climbing French beans this year. After a couple of disappointing years (last year we had none, despite two sowings of beans from different suppliers) this year has been outstanding.

I have always planted Blue Lake before, but this year I bought "Fasold". These are climbing French beans with rather lovely mauve flowers. Every bean I planted in pots germinated and nearly all survived after planting out. Immediately after planting out they got chopped, as did the Runner Beans. I suspect slugs but could have been rabbits that had taken up residence in our Rhubarb patch.

But after that initial set-back they've all climbed up the bamboo supports and produced loads of beans - quite a bit longer pods than the Blue Lake - and very tasty. Here's some I harvested earlier...


"Fasold" climbing French beans

Monday, 24 July 2017

Garden Gallery

Very warm, proper summer but with occasional downpours - June was a great month for the garden. See this collage of shots around the garden, mostly in the vegetable area with brilliant, self-sown poppies sneaking in.The Desiree( large reds) potatoes had masses of pretty mauve flowers. Now in July they've turned into tiny fruits. I've started lifting them and they are looking pretty good so far.


The Sante (white) potatoes are much better than last year, when they mostly drowned, but some have been chewed by slugs so I'm going to lift them as fast as I can and store the best ones in cardboard boxes in the garage to use over the winter. I've also tipped out one of the big pots with potatoes (pots pots?) and they are fine. No slugs or worms and I'm wondering if it's a better method than planting in the ground, but probably harder work filling the pots and then keeping them watered. At least the garden-grown potatoes can send roots down if there's a dry spell.