raspberryfool: (Gardening)
Summer has come at last and I'm beginning to feel as though all my hard(ish) gardening work is paying off. I've begun harvesting Golden Sweet mangetout pods since late May. Golden Sweet is a very beautiful variety of manegetout pea. Its tall plants produce bi-colour purple flowers the turn slowly blue as they mature. These are followed by pale yellow pods, which gradually fill with tender, sweet green peas making it a dual-purpose variety. Everyone I've shown them to loves them and it's not difficult to see why.Cut for boringness etc )

I've invested in a 22-Gallon water butt, which I've set up to capture run-off from my flat roof. Since I installed it we've only been blessed with a short, sharp night-time shower.
Water butt
waterbutt1
raspberryfool: (Gardening)
As the gardening year draws to a close, let's have a quick resume of what's been occurring. I've been harvesting various crops and have been pleased with the results, which thanks to a dry, sunny and warm summer, have been pretty darn good. The tent has done it's job nicely but it's now tattered, torn and falling apart.This year's tomatoes have been a marked improvement over last year's blighted washout. I picked my first few 'Sunstream' in late July and they've been cropping well since. The 'blocky plum' shape seems to be well-established in my grow-out line now, with only one plant giving me smooth, ovoid fruits. The rest look like little peppers, decorative and very tasty. I've saved my F5 seeds for next year and by the F7 generation the line should be stable. I haven't really been taking notes this year because the plants are fairly consistent. Perhaps I should designate a new name to my line; perhaps 'Stream of Sunshine' would be a good one.

Inside the tomato tent


Elsewhere in the tomato tent, the best-performing variety has been Real Seeds'  'Lettuce Leaf' bush tomato. It was my saviour last year; this year it's produced those small, slicing tomatoes with great consistency and a lovely, deep and complex flavour. But they're still interesting enough to produce conjoined or fasciated fruits and some 'mini-beefsteak' shaped tomatoes all on the same bush.
Also from Real Seeds came 'Jen's Tangerine', a lovely French variety that produces fruits ranging from cherry tomatoes to small slicers. These start out ripening pure yellow and then turn a lovely, golden yellow-orange. These have also been prolific producers and will definitely be a choice for next year. 'Gold Medal' has been a disappointment again; the first fruit has only just started colouring up. i'll save some more seeds but it won't be on my priority list next year, though I suppose I could grow it as alater-ripening crop to see me into the winter months. 'Black Cherry' is delicious as always but I only grew a few plants and I must remember to save some seeds from those too. Here we see Jen's Tangerine at the front and Sunstream behind:

Jen's Tangerine (front) and Sunstream (rear)


I'll post a few more pictures taken this summer sometime this week if I remember. Meanwhilst, what happened to the wascally wabbit? Well dear reader, just after my last post its owner returned from holiday and managed to recapture it. I haven't seen it since. I'd like to say I miss it but I don't, well not really. Oh okay, I miss it just a tiny bit but the thought of my plants going unmolested gives me comfort.

wabbit
raspberryfool: (Gardening)
The garden looks particularly lovely this time of the year, especially since the weather decided to edge the thermometers back above the ten-degree mark. On Thursday, I looked out from my bedroom to see the lilac in its full glory. You can also see that I've been busy with building stuff, more of which later.

lilac1


My garden has lots of bluebells, which my father planted to brighten up the drab spaces. There are both Spanish and English types, and even some pink and white ones scattered around in odd corners. They look particularly good in the morning, with contre-jour lighting:

bluebells1

bluebells2



Inside, the tomato and bean plants have been growing quite tall, and were clearly longing to get their roots into some good, warm soil. Here are the windowsill crew looking wistfully out of the windows:

sill1

sill2


So I decided to get busy and plant them out, but not before building the tomato shelter. I've been a little more adventurous than the usual sheets of polythene tied to poles. I bought nine bent cane supports from a pound shop, about a mile of string and I used the sheeting from last year to construct a mini-greenhouse. The point is to keep off the rain, which can lead to late blight infection if the plants remain wet for long periods. I planted out the plants today after their week's hardening off period; hopefully we won't now get a series of hard frosts that will send me scurrying out to protect my babies:

shelter1


Remember the rascally rabbit I wrote about last time? To stop it munching its way through my entire stock of pea plants I built a fence around 'Midsummer' plot:

peacage1


The rabbit actually disappeared for a few days; I hardly saw it last week but it appeared again today as healthy as ever. It's acting much more like a wild rabbit now and it's more wary of my presence. Perhaps the local cats have been chasing it around! I think it's a doe anyway, it has that cute, 'butter-wouldn't-melt' look that only females can muster! The final picture shows some of the damage it did; the plants in the centre and lower right are the youngest and obviously the most tender. Luckilly they've just started to recover, putting out new leaves.

peacage2


Tomorrow, I'll plant out the rest of my French beans inside the 'Midsummer' cage, then I'll sit back and watch my bountious harvest develop...
raspberryfool: (Gardening)
Now we're into October and the weather is a huge contrast to last year's Mediterranean interlude, and we cannot be far from the first frost. I've picked the last of the French beans for drying and removed the canes, dug out the pumpkin, courgette and melon vines, taken down the tomato tents and sent their residents to Camp Bonfire. I picked 3 - 4 lbs of green tomatoes, most of which will probably end up in chutney. Here's a picture of last year's crop - happy days!

Here's some tomatoes I ate last year!


cut for waffle )

What's left in the ground? The leeks in 'Bonfire' have done well, but the cauliflowers in 'West' have been rather pathetic and have only provided tiny curds with well-spaced out florets. Perhaps they don't like heavy clay soils - oh well, I'll chalk that one up to experience! I had some decent plums this year, though these were a month late - and the meagre grape harvest will probably be left for the birds to enjoy. There's some autumn raspberries too; a real treat on a gloomy old day!
raspberryfool: (Default)
In the mild November afternoon, I dismantled the cover that had protected my tomato plants, keeping out the worst of the blight, or more specifically, the moisture that allows it to spread and ruin my plants. These 'tomato tents' are now firmly-established summertime fixtures in my garden. My plants had blight spots all right, but were mostly green and healthy when I removed their roof of polythene sheeting. Some plants even had hopeful flowers blooming amongst the green leaves! But they would only have survived until the first heavy frost, which could arrive any night now, and the green tomatoes hanging hopefully from the vines wouldn't have a hope of ripening in the gloom of winter, so out of their warm earth they came! I now have a couple of pounds of green tomatoes to use up. Chutney anyone?

Tomato tent 2010

I burnt the bonfire on Samhain; the mass of privet wood, holly clippings, raspberry and bramble canes and moss and other garden detritus went up rather quickly. That's another two plots cleared of their summer inhabitants! The only annuals left in the ground are the leeks and a few hardy French bean vines, which I'll be removing forthwith.

The raspberry canes are fruiting well, and I even saw a ripening strawberry, which shows just how mild it's been here, but that's not what brings these plants into flower. It's photoperiodism. Strawberry and raspberry are short-day plants, which respond to the increasing length on darkness and probably think its spring! So its the day-length that brings them into flower, but the warmth probably helps the fruits to develop and ripen.* Ain't nature wonderful?

So now it's time to clear the garden for winter. The lawns and hedges need a final trim, the grapevine leaves look resplendent as they change from green to soft yellows and glowing reds and the plum, lilac and maple leaves will need raking up. And I haven't even brought in the non-hardy geraniums as its been so mild; they look so much nicer in the garden but I don't want to lose some of them - that's another job for the weekend.

Now it's time to curl up with a warm seed catalogue and decide what to plant next year. Oh yes, it's all go in the garden!

*Don't say I never teaches you nuffink!
raspberryfool: (Gardening)
Autumn is a sad time in the garden. The lovely, fragrant fruitfulness is mostly past and the plum tree is already shedding its crop of leaves upon the grass. Yet, my tomato plants are still on the go, producing a goodly crop after a slow and late start. I'm particularly impressed with the 'Gold Medal' this year; last week I pick what must be my heaviest tomato yet; a 15 1/2 oz beauty that almost dwarfed my hand. There are others still ripening; I wonder whether they'll be quite that weight! The other varieties are doing nicely too; 'Gardener's Delight' have a full, rich tomato soup taste, and the 'Sunstream' produce fruits that, when ripened fully, have a distictive flavour of strawberry. Here's hoping they'll make it to Samahin intact and blight-free!

The grapevine in my garden has done me proud this year, producing many bunches of luscious purple grapes, uo to the size of large blackcurrants. Usually, they're quite acidic and take a little getting used to eating. This year, however, they've been pleasantly sweet and juicy, making my fingers sticky as I munch them. There aren't enough, alas, to consider pressing to make a vintage Chateau Raspberryfool Rouge 2011; i doubt I'd manage a bottle of juice! But they're very pleasant eating, and walking barefoot up the garden whilst scoffing them felt very deacdent, especially during that lovely, warm Indian summer we've enjoyed. Talking of grapes, I've been given a white dessert-grape cutting and I need somewhere to plant it out for next spring!

The French beans produced an excellent crop this year, providing many-a-meal with some sweet, green beans. I'd left lots of pods to mature for seeds, and I harvested these before taking out one of the pyramids. The warm weather has encouraged two plants to produce their tiny, mauve and very lovely flowers, so a late bean bonus is on the way. Into the space i've transplanted the leeks I'd scattered around the garden. These haven't done half as well as their counterparts in West...; I can't quite understand why. Perhaps they'll thrive now that I've moved them - who knows?

And so it's into the annual autumnal clean-up; digging out weeds, cutting back and cutting down. I'm going to reduce the width of an old privet hedge that runs along my northern boundary; having reduced the height of the front hedges, I can see the lawn coming back to life. Hopefully taking out the back hedge will have the same effect. It'll also give me piles of firewood for my Samahin bonfire!
raspberryfool: (Gardening)
With autumn comes the main harvest of the year, and this year I'm fairly pleased with mine. After a ropey, larvae-infested start, the plums have been really good. I've been cooking, eating raw and giving lots away, and I made some chutney with 3lb of them. My neigbour gave me some pears (yay), I scavenged some beautiful Bramley apples (there's something very special about a ripe, hand-sized Bramley!) and some small but very tasty eaters, picked up from a street after the recent storms. A hatfull of crab-apples were thrown in for good measure.

My grapes are almost ready to harvest. I won't have enough to make more than a few glasses of wine, so I'll give some away and eat the rest. Thanks to the dry summer it looks like being another 'vintage' crop, so I'm sure the blackbirds and thrushes will be delighted!

The tomatoes are now on-stream; there's no sign of blight yet. The shelters I built sustained a lot of damage in the wind - presumable the polythene deteriorates in sunshine - but fortunately I found enough material to re-cover the worst one. I've been picking the cherry types - Gardener's Delight and Black Cherry - since last week. The larger types, Gold Medal and Lettuce Leaf look good too and they're colouring up now; Gold Medal has fruits the size of a Bramley!

My Sunstream tomato grow-out is yielding interesting results too. All seven plants are providing useful, tasty 'mini-plum' tomatoes, but the genetic variations are quite marked. One plant is growing fruits shaped like a miniature red pepper, one's fruit is bullet-shaped and one has tiny hairs all over the fruits. All have thick walls and less juice that a typical cherry type. I'll probably save seeds from two of the plants for the F3 generation. Much fun!

The French climbing beans, Cherokee Trail of Tears have been providing lovely fresh pods, but I'm dedicating the remaining beans to seed production. I don't think there'll be many more flowers this year.

My leeks - or some of them - are doing nicely too, growing around the aforementioned bean poles. Some, elsewhere in the garden, are still tiny and won't produce anything useful now, but I'll move them once the beans are out.

I gave up on my marrow/courgette, pumpkin and butternut squash plants; they provided nothing more than a tiny fruit and a tasty treat for the slugs and snails! Perhaps the weather conditions weren't ideal or perhaps my seeds are duff. Whatever the cause, I ripped the plants up and sadly consigned them to the compost bin. I can now dig their patch and rest it for the winter.

So, the rest of the year will be dedicated to reaping the precious harvest, tidying things up and bedding down for the long, cold months ahead whilst planning what I'll be growing next year!
raspberryfool: (Default)
I've been picking raspberries for the last few weeks now. I've made raspberry and blackcurrant jam and given away loads of fruit, and there's still loads on the canes. Most of last week I wasn't able to pick any, so the birds have had them to themselves.

The gooseberries have provided a good harvest too; I picked 1 ¾ lbs from the three bushes, which I mixed with two handfulls of next door's sour cherries and made about 2 lbs of jam. Cherry and gooseberry work really well together.

My tomato plants, which seemed as though they'd never get beyond six inches, are now mostly around three feet high, some reaching the ceilings of their tents. Most now have flowers open and some of those, particularly the cherries, have tiny green pea-sized fruit set. My mysterious potato-leaved plant is also in flower, with those big, showy blossoms with open stamens. I can hardly wait to see what fruit it produces; I'd put money on beefsteak - some of its leaves dwarf my hands! I still have a few tomato plants in pots, that I'd intended as give-aways, and I'm loathe to throw them into the compost. So I may plant them in the ground or find some larger pots. I think they've earned the right to thrive and produce fruit.

I've harvested a few new potatoes, which I enjoyed steamed with mint. Most of the potato plants are looking rather sad now, turning yellow and keeling over. This probably means they're ready to harvest but I'll leave them in the underground larder for a little while longer.

The French beans - Cherokee Trail of Tears - and the leeks I planted are all doing well. The beans have beautiful purple flowers, which contrast nicely with the lush green foliage. The rain has done these a real favour and they're climbing their poles at an impressive pace. The leeks too are bulking out nicely. I've left a couple of last year's crop of leeks to flower and I'm hoping they'll produce some useful seeds for future crops, and to give some away.

Finally, the orange day-lilies have given a tremendous display this year. These grow beneath a flat roof and benefit hugely from run-off rainwater from the roof. They really bring a lot of colour and cheer to an otherwise drab area of the garden.
raspberryfool: (Default)
And so, an update! I'm getting really slack at updating my LJ, but there's not been a great deal to write about. Garden activity is gearing up though, so here's what's going on in my back paddock...

I've been digging out dandelions again, the things just get everywhere. They spread in on the wind from the neighbouring gardens which are infested with them. Simply ripping the heads off isn't enough, and digging the roots out of the grass often ends with half a root in my hand. The smaller ones come out easily though, and I'm hoping this is enough to keep their numbers in check.

A few weeks ago I cleared the strawberry beds of weeds, as far as I could. There seems to be more grass, primrose and violets than strawberry plants these days, something which I'll have to fix. The primroses can stay though - they do look lovely at this time of year.

I bought some seed potatoes, can't remember the variety but they're second earlies. They were pre-chitted (sprouted) and were half-price. I've planted them in the 'Midsummer' patch, where i grew tomatoes last year. I also found a handful of 'volunteers' in last year's potato patch, which will be beans and leeks this year, so I dug them out and moved them to the small patch that I was planning to grass over.

Inside, I've planted leeks, pumpkin, butternut squash, marrow and tomato. The tomato seeds have mostly germinated and are looking good, including the one that germinated last November. the latter is now two feet tall and ready to plant out. Unfortunately, the weather won't be ready for another month! Today I'll be planting French beans. I use old plastic meat trays, which are ideal for germinating a large quantity of seeds in a small quantity of compost.

And now, if you'll excuse me, I have to evict an errant wasp from my bedroom. Zzzzzzz...
raspberryfool: (Gardening)
This morning was cold and bright. I left the house just after sunrise for work and noticed ice upon the grass. Cars had frozen windscreens, and here and there were patches of more tangible evidence of winter impending.

Last night I realised it was likely to freeze when the temperature suddenly dropped, even between the heavy showers of rain. So I dug out my chilli pepper plants, repotted them and brought them indoors. being in soil all summer, they've grown quite substantially taller and bushier, and still have a few chillies dangling from their branches. I think they're fantastic plants - even though the chillies were anything but hot this summer - and well worth overwintering. They look like Bonsai trees.

I also picked the remaining viable tomatoes, almost all of which are green. The plants survived the night, but tonight looks like being frostier, so I don't expect them to see tonight through. Nature has brought down her axe upon my plants and the tomato season. All good things, etc.

I'm not complaining, of course. It's been an excellent tomato-growing season.
raspberryfool: (Gardening)
Last weekebd, i harvested the first row of my Charlotte potatoes that I planted in March. The foliage had died down so i knew it was time to harvest them. The tubers ranged from the size of a pea to that of a hen's egg, and tasted absolutely great when I steamed them with mint and a litle salt. Also I picked the first of my 'Cherokee Trail of Tears' beans, which are green, spotted with purple, French beans. The plants have been doing really well, and have climbed the poles, showing off their lovely mauve flowers for the bees to polinate. I can't wait to taste the beans tonight, steamed of course.

I've been harvesting fruits too; the raspberries have suffered in the dry spell, some canes producing only tiny berries. There are plenty of full-sized fruits though, and I expect I'll be making raspberry jam pretty soon. The gooseberry, whitecurrant and blackcurrant bushes have produced excellent crops too; I have so many whitecurrants i don't know what to do with them all. The birds usually steal most of them, but haven't bothered this year. There are also next-door's sour cherries to make use of; the neighbours never use these and they hang in the tree until the birds gorge themselves.

My tomato plants are doing really well; I've picked a few 'Gardener's Delight' cherry toms already, and am eagerly awaiting the mass ripening. 'Gold Medal' and 'Lettuce Leaf' are doing well too; the former producing green fruits that hang on the plant like tiny Chinese lanterns. They're both larger varieties, so will take longer to reach full size and ripen. I picked my first corgette, which was huge and probably more akin to a marrow. I gave the first one away but will await reports of edibility eagerly.

My chillies have been ripening for a few weeks now, but boy was I disappointed when I harvested the first couple of fruits. There was no heat whatsoever, which is odd. It can't be genetic because these are second-year plants that have produced hot chillies before, so the problem must be environmental. I've read that one should stress the plants, withholding water until they become droopy.So I'll try this approach and see if I can't turn up the heat a little. Mind you, it could be a good way of havinjg a little joke with friends.

Finally, the leeks I planted in the spring are mostly doing well, although some have failed to grow and are still looking like tiny strands of grass. I won't be harvesting the leeks until winter-time so I hope they'll do something by then.
raspberryfool: (Gardening)
I'm bored, sitting in front of the computer instead of doing something practical - and we all know where that leads, don't we? My achievement for today has been to sort out my tomato plants.

I've now moved the largest 'Black Cherry' plants outside the house to harden off. This may seem premature considering the current cold weather, but they'll sit in the passageway behind the garden door for a while. No frost can reach them there, and hopefully they won't crave the warmth of my bedroom windowsill for too long. Likewise, The Clone, a 30" long 'Gardeners' Delight' plant I grew from a cutting taken last November when blight and cold were looming fast, is almost within site of its eventual home. Its flowers evoke the promise of early tomatoes. But I don't always trust promises!

The 'Gold Medal' are doing really well, with most ready to join the 'Black Cherry'. Some 'Lettuce Leaf' have grown considerably and won't be far behind. But oh dear - the 'Gardeners' Delight' are way, way behind in the growth stakes. I've seperated most of these into their own pots, where hopefully they'll get their roots down. If you wonder what to do with your stragglers, or are tempted to consign them to the compost heap - don't worry. You can keep them indoors for a whole year. They'll become very leggy over the winter, but will pick up nicely when the sun climbs higher. You may even get the chance to clone these lanky plants by layering them in another pot.

Four of the pumpkin seeds I planted last week have germinated and look strong and healthy. There's no sign of the rest though, or of the butternut squash.

The 'Cherokee Trail of Tears' beans now have their first leaves and are ready for planting out. I'm not certain whether this variety is frost-hardy so i'm going to play it safe and wait until the end of the month. I will, however, be planting out the geraniums this weekend; I know they can stand a little frost and the front garden is sheltered enough for them not to suffer too much.

My potato plants in 'strawberry' caught a frost the other night, and have black leaves where it settled on them. I've earthed them up to cover the stems and lower leaves, and hopefully this will keep further frost damage at bay. Those in the 'mint' plot didn't frost, which is unusual. Perhaps the neighbour's fence provided them with a little more shelter.
raspberryfool: (Gardening)
I've mentioned before that I'm overwintering some chilli plants, so last week I dug out the three-foot beauty that had fruited well and placed it in the dining room. Next out was a foot-high Jalepeno (I think!), which had also done exceptionally well in the garden. I decided not to worry with sweet peppers as I only saw three fruit which never ripened. The rest - and the tomatoes - are still alive under my covers which is remarkable and they all seem cold-tolerant. I even picked a handful of tomatoes in various stages of ripeness. One touch of frost will finish them off though; that's if we ever get one!

The compost bin was full and considering it had been filled and re-filled since March, it was time to empty it. So I removed the half-decayed top material and dug through the lower half of the council dustbin I've co-opted for the purpose. The material had completely decayed - no doubt helped by the worms - and nothing except some sticks and moss were recognisable in the black substance. It didn't smell of anything much, just a little earthy. Anyway, I forked out most of it and mulched the rhubarb, whitecurrant and gooseberry bushes, and left the remainder atop the bare earth of the beds. I then re-filled the bin with layers of half-rotted compost, lilac leaves, grass and weeds, which I've stored in plastic bags for the purpose. I'll expect some wonderful fruit come summer!

I also slightly extended the west-of-the-plum-tree plot, digging the lawn turf carefully and replacing some dead patches on the oh-so-mossy lawn. I want to renew the lawns anyway, but don't see why good (ish!) turf should go to waste. Digging is much easier now we've had some rain.
raspberryfool: (Gardening)
The garden is winding down, and I've been tidying it up in preperation for the cold, dark days ahead. Last week, as I may have mentioned, I picked the last of the plums, placing them inside to ripen a little. The wind has brought more plums to the ground but they're in poor condition and better off as compost. The plum leaves are now falling; I'll leave those to decompose beneath the tree with the rotten plums. More garden waffle... )

Finally, along with half a tub of raspberries, I picked two almost-ripe strawberries over the weekend.

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