Tuesday, October 17, 2017

List of vegetables still to eat

A variety of prepared vegetables on a kitchen counter
Preparing vegetables for curry, October 2017
I've still got one more month of my No-Buy Vegetable Goal*.  Fresh veg from the garden is getting a little slim;  I have therefore compiled:

A Possibly Incomplete, Probably Inaccurate List of All Vegetables on the Property, Both Present and Projected

Now Stored Future
  • 5 winter squashes
  • 15 lbs potatoes
  • 5 onions
  • Lots of garlic!
  • 15 chard plants
  • 1 handful runner beans
  • 25 celery plants
  • 6 spring onions
  • 5 small zuccini
  • 2 handfuls carrots
  • 1 handful nasturtium leaves
  • 1 tomato
  • 1 handful arugula
  • 1 handful sweetcorn
  • 2 medium jars sauerkraut
  • 4 small jars pickled zuccini
  • 1 small bag dried peas
  • 1 small bag frozen broad beans
  • 1 small bag frozen runner beans
  • 1.5 medium jars pickled rhubarb
  • 1/4 large jar dried chard
  • 1/4 large jar dried nettles
  • 2 winter squashes
  • 4 chicory plants
  • 2 kale plants
  • 1 handful tomatillos
  • 2-4 rutabagas (swedes)
  • 2-4 turnips
  • Many miner's lettuce plants
  • 1 planter of lamb's lettuce
  • 1 tray of iceberg lettuce
  • 2 small summer cabbage
  • 1 medium pumpkin
  • 4 small pumpkins
  • 1 handful beets
  • 8 sorrel plants (small)

Interpreting the above chart, I estimate we should have a month's worth of vegetables left.  I didn't list every vegetable still growing in the garden, as some (namely the winter brassicas and leeks) are almost definitely not going to be ready before the end of the challenge (20th November).  Some of the items listed under Future may not be ready by then either...

*Note:  as per the rules, we can still buy "salad" fruits.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Squashes and pumpkins, hooray!

Five small orange squashes on a kitchen table
Garden squashes and roses, 2017
 When I picked my green tomatoes because of blight, I also picked my orange squashes.  I was worried that the warm, damp conditions might make them go moldy on the vine (it's happened to me before).  I know squashes don't get actual blight--but I was ready to pick them in any case, as the leaves have been gradually dying.

I let them dry off in the sun on my patio bench for a day, then brought them indoors to store in the (warm) kitchen.  There they'll stay until we start to get low on more perishable garden produce--probably around the next few weeks, I should think.  Because temperatures are still mild, the garden's still producing a modest harvest every day, be it chard, carrots, runner beans, etc.  The squashes can store till these veg are over.
A round, yellow squash ripening on a small brick in a garden bed
Left on the vine for now
There are still two squashes that I know of, not fully orange yet, but nearly there;  they're on the vine still.  Seven squashes from about as many plants--not bad.  Certainly my biggest squash harvest to date;  my previous record was two.
Close up of an elongated pumpkin, growing in a container
It's nearly there!
As for pumpkins, they're all still on the vine, and only this one is going orange.  I think there are about four small ones, still resolutely green.  I guess they have time to ripen, but only if they're quick!  One--small cantaloupe size--seems to have stopped growing now, so I hope it's actually working its magic.
Close up of a patty pan squash
Summer squash, at last!
And finally I've got some of these patty pan squashes formed.  They were sown, sprouted, and planted out at the same time as all my other curcubits (zuccini, squash, pumpkin and cucumber), but only just began producing in the last week of September--I really don't know why they're so late--maybe the location?  They're in the perennials section not in the main veg beds, but conditions are pretty similar.  I've picked most of them small (golf ball size), but this one is about the same size as the winter squashes above:  between a large grapefruit and a small cantaloupe.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Potato harvest, 2017

About 40 large potatoes, curing in the sunlight on a patio
Harvest from one Potato bed 2017
 I (well, mostly the husband) planted three beds of potatoes in spring this year.  One was in the main vegetable patch (pictured below), and the other two were in other, shadier parts of the garden.  The first batch in a lightly shaded place was harvested in early September and lasted us the whole month.
All dug up (cabbages in holding bed in foreground)
I dug up the second (main veg patch) bed last week on a nice sunny, breezy day.  I brushed off excess mud from the potatoes, let them dry on my patio for around 24 hours, and have now stored them in an old paper feed sack in my garage.  I expect them to last the whole month of October. 

Unlike the first batch, this second batch has some evidence of bug damage;  potato eelworm maybe?  But the damage is pretty mild, and there were only about five tubers I had to discard, out of about 50.

There's still one batch to dig up.  As mentioned in a previous post, I suspected blight at the end of September, so cut off all the leaves;  I also let the chickens onto that bed to help tidy it up for a few days.  I'll dig them up in a day or two.  I'm curious as to how this harvest compares to the other two:  it's the shadiest bed, but had loads of chicken manure on it the winter before;  the plants eventually grew about as tall as me--and I'm 172 cm!

Friday, October 6, 2017

September 2017 garden notes

Sweet corn plants growing next to a runner bean trellis with squash plants below
Three sisters: runner beans on trellis (far left), sweet corn, squash;  September 2017
Roots

Just celery and beets left in Roots bed, with a pot of spring onions and some carrots still in their planters.  I picked a few celery stalks and beets here and there, but mainly just harvested carrots from this section in September.  Green manure seeds broadcast in August still not made an appearance (should probably resow).

Peas and beans

Lots of runner beans at the beginning of the month, but slowed down by the end.  Letting a few grow on for seed.

Brassicas

Caterpillars mostly gone from brassicas by the end of the month.  We were still squishing a few at the beginning of the month.

Transplanted Brussels sprouts from the holding bed, to where the French beans had been.  Forming some small sprouts, but leaves still pretty holey from earlier caterpillar damage.  Purple sprouting broccoli growing nicely, and I staked it up.

Harvested a little bit of kale;  seems to be just one plant growing now after caterpillars.  Kale seedlings potted up, to hopefully be transplanted out soon. 

Planted spring cabbage in cold frame;  a few plants might go into next year's Brassicas bed (this year's Potatoes bed) in October.  Sowed cauliflower for next summer, which has now sprouted.  Pak choi in planter growing slowly--someone has been nibbling it.  I'm beginning to think it's not worthwhile to grow, as it always gets munched no matter where I plant it.

Turnips still very small, and nearly all leaf--a few have very thin purple roots forming.  About four rutabagas around 3-4 cm in diameter (pretty small still).  The last two summer cabbages still forming (small) heads.

Miscellaneous

Harvested a few handfuls of tomatillos:  tasty cooked in curry and stew. 

Regular tomato plants started showing signs of blight, so picked all the green fruits, chopped them, and froze for making green salsa later.  Put the plants in the council compost bin, which they collect every two weeks.  One plant left, in a planter;  its (sparse) fruit is beginning to go orange.  Only harvested 2 ripe tomatoes in total.

Harvested more cherry tomatoes in September.  A few cherry tomato plants also look a bit diseased, but still producing ripe fruits;  I've been picking off diseased leaves/fruits.  As we've already had a good amount off these, it's not a big deal if they die of blight, unlike the regular tomatoes which we still had yet to harvest.

Picked five squashes for winter storage;  I left a couple yellow/immature ones on the vine to (hopefully) ripen in October.  One pumpkin mostly orange, a couple other small ones growing but still green--none picked yet. 

Zuccini productive until about the middle of September, then pretty much finished by the end.  Four plants (out of seven) finally started producing female flowers in the last week of September.  Picked them just after flowering--too late in the season to really grow, but tasty anyway.

Sweet corn ears growing fatter but none harvested yet.  Plants got battered by winds, but still growing.  Leeks growing slowly;  about 8-10 left, after chicken damage.  One chicken seemed to have a vendetta against them;  she jumped the fence every day for about two weeks and scratched at them, even with wire mesh on top to protect them.

Radishes mostly finished by the end of the month.  Chard slowing down, but still being harvested throughout the month.  Winter lettuce very small but growing slowly.  Arugula and miners and lambs lettuce seedlings sprouted in cold frame and planters (self-seeded), started picking miners lettuce at the very end of the month.

Potatoes

One bed (in the perennials section) dug up at the beginning of September;  we only finished eating them by the end of the month.  The other two beds (one in and the other out of the main veg bed) had stems cut off and disposed of a few weeks into September, because blight was suspected.  Those tubers are still in the ground, to dig up in October.

I collected a handful of potato fruits to try planting next spring.

Fruit

About five more alpine strawberries harvested this month, and one last blueberry.  Autumn raspberries forming but none ripened yet.

Harvested the rest of the plums and the last Sparta apple.  Harvested four more figs.  Williams pears and almonds still maturing.

Perennials and herbs

Artichokes still sturdy but not really grown much in September.  New asparagus plants still alive, still little and spindly.  Sorrel and rhubarb both alive but very small.

Cut back thyme, lemon balm, and rosemary;  rosemary had more die-back this month and looks very sad now--hope it survives.  Harvested dill seeds for culinary use, but will save some for sowing next spring.  Chives, mint, and tarragon still producing.  Mint, basil, parsley, dill (leaf) and summer savory produced a very small amount.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

September 2017 Food Totals

Purple plums hanging on a branch
Plums, September 2017
Vegetables:

94 oz zuccini
67.5 oz runner beans
49.5 oz tomatoes (ripe)
14.5 oz onions
155 oz potatoes
37.5 oz carrots
118 oz chard
1 oz shallot
5.5 oz celery
4 oz beets
5.5 oz lettuce
1 oz radishes
1.5 oz mizuna
2.5 oz kale
9 oz tomatillos
137 oz tomatoes (green)
1 oz salad greens (leaf lettuce, baby chard, miners lettuce)

5 squashes (unweighed)

Does not include fresh herbs (thyme, dill, tarragon, chives, basil) which were too small a quantity to weigh, i.e. less than 0.5 oz.

Total:  690 oz, or approximately 43 lb

Note:  I weigh all my vegetables after preparation:  peeling, trimming, etc. 

Fruit: 

1 blueberry
1 Sparta apple
5 alpine strawberries
16 plums
4 figs

Eggs:

Total:  107 eggs from 10 hens
Total feed bought: 2 bags layers pellets (40kg total)

Preserves:

1 medium bottle thyme vinegar
8 medium jars and 1 large jar unsweetened applesauce, from wild harvested apples
5 small jars apple jelly (more like thick apple syrup, actually)

Homebrew:  

Elderberry/blackberry wine still fermenting. 8 L of cider begun (from wild harvested apples).  2 L cider vinegar begun (from leftover cider pulp).  Earlier batches of cider and cider vinegar still fermenting.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Pumpkins, 2017

Close up of an elongated green pumpkin, growing in a planter
A pumpkin?  September 2017
My pumpkins (and squash too) were grown from my own collected seed this year.  Last year I managed to harvest two smallish pumpkins from my garden, and I saved seed from both:  the first pumpkin became a pie for Thanksgiving, and the second was baked some time after;  the second wasn't very tasty at all--I don't know if it was due to the length of storage (a couple months), or the pumpkin itself.  I still have its seeds, but we should probably just eat those too, and not keep for planting.

Still, one of this year's plants has been growing a very interesting looking pumpkin, pictured above.  It's kind of the shape of a zuccini--perhaps it's a zuccini-pumpkin cross?  By now it's even more orange, and is destined to be our Halloween jack o'lantern.  I like to carve our pumpkin on Halloween day and then bake and puree it the next--I freeze the puree for pie later on.
An immature green pumpkin, growing next to a lawn
Just a small one, September 2017
I have around six pumpkin vines in total--some in the ground and some in planters--and as mentioned previously, most of them are all leaf and no fruit.  A couple small fruits formed this month;  I don't really have high hopes for them.  It's just a bit too late, although perhaps this one above may have time;  it's around softball size now, but still completely green.  Though it's normal pumpkin shape, we may end up eating it (and its other, smaller compatriots) fresh like zuccini if it doesn't ripen fully.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

By-products of cider making, 2017

Apple pulp into vinegar, September 2017
I've been determined to use all five of my demi-johns for cider this year.  Last year we only managed a paltry one!  Let's be honest, 4 L of cider is not enough to last us a whole year until the next apple season:  we need a full 20 L.

This year, instead of composting all that leftover apple pulp from juicing, I've been experimenting with it.  For the first batch of two demi-johns, I collected around 8 L of pulp into some plastic ice cream tubs from my work, in order to make apple cider vinegar.  I filled the tubs with water and covered them with a cloth and left them on my counter.

Every day I gave them a stir and re-covered them.  After about a week, they were really bubbly!  They bubbled and fizzed for another two weeks or so;  once they stopped, I noticed the pulp had sunk to the bottom (it had floated on top until then).  At this point I strained it out through a cheesecloth overnight, making sure to squeeze out as much liquid as possible the next morning.  I tasted the pulp to make sure--and it was indeed flavorless now:  time to compost it.

I was surprised at how much liquid there was after all the pulp was gone--about 7 L.  The liquid was alcoholic at this point, but as I wanted vinegar, I kept it loosely covered, and continued to stir it every day, and tasting the spoon after.  It's getting there!

I got around 7 L apple pulp from the second batch, and it all went into the slow cooker, topped up with water.  My slow cooker is I think technically 6.5 L, and it was filled to the absolute top--I couldn't fit in much water.  I cooked it on low for several hours, stirring a couple times, then pushed the cooked pulp through my food mill to strain out any seeds.  I bottled it up while hot and processed it in a boiling water bath for 20 minutes, as plain unsweetened apple sauce.  It turned out very thick and smooth, and will be useful for apple crumble and other winter desserts.

To use up the pulp from the third batch (another single demi-john) I'm attempting apple jelly today.  Yesterday I cooked the pulp with water in my slow cooker until the chunky bits were soft (took about two hours).  I had to do it in two batches, as the full amount wouldn't fit all at once.  I drained the first batch through a cheesecloth-lined colander while the second batch cooked, then drained the rest overnight.  Today I'll cook it with sugar and hopefully bottle it and process it like the applesauce.  I've never made jelly before, so here's hoping for a success;  if it's not, I'm not too worried:  cider's the important thing after all.

That's four demi-johns of cider, and no more apples.  Maybe we need to make one more foray into the hedgerows and fill up the last one.  And the pulp?  Probably compost for that one...

Friday, September 22, 2017

Garden Objective: flower arrangements

A green ceramic jug filled with flowers on a kitchen counter
September 2017:  dahlia, cosmo, hydrangea, sunflower, goldenrod
According to The Plan, one of my garden objectives is to provide materials for crafts including flowers for arrangements.  I'm lucky that my garden was already well stocked with many flowering plants by the time I moved in thirteen years ago.  In particular, there are lots of roses planted by the previous owner;  the husband says she worked at a rose wholesaler.
June 2009:  rose, hydrangea, campanula, fern
Over the years, I have made many flower arrangements from my garden.  I not only have a lot of perennials, but I usually sow several varieties of annual flowers, which vary from year to year.  This year it was nicotiana, snapdragons, lobelia, cosmos, strawflowers, and French marigolds (which the slugs ate entirely--they ate all but two strawflowers too).
August 2008: Lily, crocosmia, laurel leaf
Additionally, I have a few annual and biennial flowers which self-seed readily such as nasturtium, feverfew, honesty, and poppies.  And sometimes I receive seedlings from a friend;  this year I was given sunflowers, sweet peas, and borage. 
June 2013: daisy, roses, honesty seed heads
I still continue to add flowers to my garden, though to be honest, there's not a lot of room left now;  most of my space is already growing something beautiful or useful (usually both).  No doubt I'll be able to fit in a few more things though, to add more color and beauty to my garden and house.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Cooking from the garden: vegetable soup

A slow cooker with mixed vegetable soup
Vegetable soup, September 2017
For the past several weeks, our main meal has been a variation on the photo above:  garden vegetable soup/stew.  The above has carrots, onions, garlic, celery, potatoes, runner beans and zuccini.  I chuck in a little bit of meat (pork is a favorite), some herbs, plus a tub of homemade chicken stock from the freezer and maybe a dash of vinegar or cider--also homemade. 

The slow cooker is great in summer:  I can make a hot meal without heating up the house.  And it's much cheaper to run than the gas oven;  I've been making most of our meals in it.  It's really easy to do, if I schedule for it.

After I take the seven year old to school I do my daily walk around the garden;  after watering the pots, I usually pick anything that's ready.  After I've collected everything for our dinner, I bring them in and wash (root vegetables) or soak (leafy veg) them.  Some things, like runner beans or zuccini, generally don't need a wash.  Next, I trim/peel them if needed, weigh and record them, then prepare them for cooking. 

For the most part, I just chop everything up the same size and throw all the ingredients into the slow cooker together, on the low setting.  If using a mixture of hard and soft veg (for instance carrots, potatoes and chard), I'll leave out the soft vegetables until about an hour before dinner time (chard stems can go in at the beginning, however).  I usually add fresh herbs near the end of cooking too:  maybe 15-30 minutes before serving.

Does it get old eating vegetable soup five nights a week?  Well, it's so tasty I don't think so, and no one else has complained (yet).  I try to vary the spices and seasonings, and at the moment, we have enough variety of veg so that it isn't the same ingredients every single day.  Maybe if we ate it five nights a week for the next year...

Friday, September 15, 2017

The fig tree


A small Brown Turkey fig tree, with several immature figs
Little fig tree, September 2017
My lovely little Brown Turkey fig tree was bought as a tiny cutting.  I don't remember how much I paid for it:  less than £5, I think.  It lived in a pot for a year, then the following spring the husband dug a deep hole next to the patio, lined it on four sides with large paving stones, chucked some broken bricks then a layer of small diameter wood in the bottom, and planted it. 

The first year in the ground (two years ago), it produced two figs.  They were glorious (just ask the rats, who nibbled on them first).  Last year it grew figs, but none ripened.  It was still a small tree--just over knee height with about six leaves.  This year we've had five beautiful figs.  There are still several on the tree which may or may not have time to ripen.
Close up of a Brown Turkey fig, held in a hand
Ripe fig, September 2017
The tree now stands just over waist height.  I'll give it a little pruning over winter after it's dormant, as I only want it to grow against the fence, espalier style;  I'm not growing a true espalier, but most of my fruit trees are growing against a fence or wall, with other things growing underneath.  In the fig's case, it's the main vegetable beds (holding bed this year).

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

State of the flock, September 2017

Five black chickens preening on a garden bed
Cookie (far right) and her nearly grown up children
Our current flock total is now at 14, after two more deaths;  one of this season's chicks died from sour/impacted crop.  We tried to treat it, but couldn't save it;  Cookie (their adopted mother) also had this problem when she was a little chick and luckily recovered, though she's never forgiven us for what we did to save her (lots of crop massages and force feeding of probiotics).

The remaining four new season chicks are now huge--taller/wider than our biggest grown up hens, though not yet as heavy.  Cookie can still tell them off, even though they're twice as tall as she is.  I can say for certain that one is a cockerel, but I don't think the others are.  Maybe.  All their combs and wattles are very similar, and the one definite cockerel is technically a different breed (he's an Orpington and the others are Australorps);  he's the one in the foreground in the above photo.

We bought another six eggs for Cookie to sit on--she became broody again in late July/early August--but she ended up abandoning them after two weeks;  we later discovered there was a bad mite infestation in her little hutch.  We've dusted it with diatomaceous earth (DE) and will make sure it's mite-free before it's used again. 

We haven't had any eggs off our new season pullets yet;  thankfully no one's tried crowing yet either.  They're about four months old now, and I expect them to be ready to lay between now and November;  although it being later in the year, they may not start until spring.  That is, if they are pullets!

At the moment we're getting around 3-5 eggs per day (from 10 adults), and two hens are desperate to jump over the fence every day to lay in secret locations.  At least the rest of the flock aren't slim lightweight birds like these two--I think I need to attach weights to their little ankles.

We're hoping to keep our new cockerel for at least one breeding season;  if he's aggressive he'll be dinner, but if he's gentle like Tiny rooster was, he might get to stick around for a while. 

Friday, September 8, 2017

Too much food!?

Close up of a ripening Hokkaido squash in a garden bed
Squash ripening, August 2017
Above is my squash pictured back in July, now turned a lovely orange.  It has several compatriots, and some vines are desperately trying to squeeze out a few more fruits before the season ends--a bit optimistically, I think. 

Right now we are slightly overwhelmed by food from the garden (with the exception of eggs, which have really slowed down).  Of some things, there are currently too much to keep up with every day, including zuccini, runner beans, and chard.  Good old chard:  it's the gift that keeps on giving;  not only was the majority of it self-seeded, it's been going since spring.  However even smaller harvests--like the French beans and lettuce--have been hard to keep a handle on, with everything coming in all at once.  I mean, most days I've had to pick a handful of about five different things before they get too big and tough;  there's a limit to how many vegetables three people can cram down in a day.

For the last several weeks we haven't even bought any salad fruits (peppers, avocados, etc, which are allowed under "no bought veg" rule) to pad out our meals.  And we even fed houseguests for two weeks!  In fact, we were struggling to keep up with fruit for a little while, with apples, figs, and plums all coming ripe around the same time.  The only fruits we've bought at the shop have been bananas and melon--and we've been neglecting them in favor of our own fruit.

I admit, I've taken the easiest route to preserve and chucked some stuff in the freezer.  I'll probably serve them in October/November, to keep up my pledge of not buying veg.  I don't want to have a freezer full of veg, as I've mentioned previously, because it's only a small freezer and I prefer to fill it with frozen milk and meat bought on special--in other words, expensive stuff.  This extra veg in the fridge is only for the short term.

In my gardening manual, The Complete Book of Self-Sufficiency, the author notes that late summer brings out "an embarras de richesses";  I'm glad to have this kind of embarrassment, as well as this kind of riches!  No doubt I'll be missing this explosion of fresh food by the end of the month;  but I'll enjoy it while it lasts.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

August 2017 garden notes

A garden bed with various vegetables, including chard and celery, with a lawn behind
Volunteer chard and thyme in front, celery behind
Roots

Finished harvesting all the shallots in this bed, and harvested all the onions;  most onions pretty small, but a few lovely big ones.

Still eating a few beets and more carrots through August.  Celery very big!

I broadcast some green manure seeds over this bed, particularly where the shallots and onions were, but also in bare spots among the beets.  None sprouted yet this month.

Peas and beans

I harvested the second batch of maincrop peas in August;  I let them dry on the vine for winter storage.  Finally began harvesting runner beans.  Started and finished the French beans;  we really liked those French beans on dwarf plants:  very productive for such little plants.  I will have to remember to plant them at the edge of the bed next year instead of the middle, for easier harvest. 

Brassicas

I was out most days to pick off and squish caterpillars.  The seven year old and husband have helped a little.

I pulled up the summer broccoli (it was a disappointing harvest and by August was only feeding the caterpillars), and the last summer cauliflower (caterpillars had eaten its tiny newly forming head).

Harvested the remaining mature Savoy cabbages in August.  New season ones growing well, with only a bit of caterpillar damage.  Harvested a little bit of new season kale and two nice sized summer cabbages;  two or three summer cabbages left, but only just starting to form heads.

Rutabagas and turnips growing slowly;  rutabagas seem to have some root formation, turnips not so much.  Brussels sprouts in holding bed still growing nicely but with very holey leaves.

Sowed spring cabbage and winter kale in trays, sowed pak choi in a cleared carrot planter, all of which have sprouted.

Miscellaneous

Cucumber plants succumbed to disease, after a small harvest.  I left a couple fruits on the vine to hopefully save for seed.

Begun harvesting cherry tomatoes in August, but regular tomatoes still far behind:  none of the plants had formed four full trusses yet.  Tomatillos growing well, and covered in little papery husks;  they seem to have shaken off whatever ailed them last month.  None harvested yet;  not sure if they'll have time to ripen?  Never grown them before.

There are at least six small squashes formed, some going orange (I believe they are red kuri/Hokkaido type), and the vines are still attempting to make a few more.  I put a tile or stone under each fruit, to keep it off the ground (attempting to prevent them going moldy).  None harvested yet.

Only one pumpkin formed that I have seen.  Vines vigorous and putting out lots of female flowers, but don't seem to be pollinated.  One zuccini plant producing modest amounts of fruits, the others are behaving like the pumpkins:  all leaf and no fruit.

Sweet corn only just beginning to form little ears at the end of August.  Leeks still small and been damaged by marauding chickens--I put a wire rack on top of them to try and mitigate any further damage.  Still eating and sowing radishes.

Chard still producing well, but affected a little by powdery mildew.  Older lettuces (cut and come again) producing modestly, new ones growing well.  I sowed some winter lettuce seed near the end of the month but none up yet.

Potatoes

Some plants have now grown to shoulder height.  We harvested a few plants in August, to eat with guests.

Fruit

Still harvesting a couple alpine strawberries per week, but nearly finished by the end of the month.  Maincrop strawberries sending out plenty of runners, but not transplanted any yet.

Autumn fruiting raspberry bush just starting to form flower buds at the end of the month.  Bought a new whitecurrant bush and planted it out.

Started picking plums in August:  pretty purple color and very tasty.  Picked both Laxton Fortune apples.  Picked one (of two) Sparta apple, and two lovely figs.

Almonds and Williams pears still maturing.

Perennials and herbs

Artichokes still strong but not put out much new growth this month.  Asparagus from seed has some new growth, but still very small and spindly.  Weeded and mulched its bed.

Sorrel regrowing from its chicken harvest (they ate it right to the ground).  One rhubarb plant seems to have two very small leaves on it;  the other is completely dead.

Lots and lots of thyme growth this month.  Rosemary still alive, but looking a bit sad still.  Mint, tarragon, chives looking well;  dill, basil, parsley small but growing.  Summer savory flowering.

Friday, September 1, 2017

August 2017 Food Totals

Williams pear, small but growing
Vegetables:

48 oz carrots
169.5 oz cabbage
2 oz cucumber
122.5 oz chard
89 oz potatoes
32 oz French beans
66 oz zuccini
5.5 oz radishes
51.5 oz runner beans
1.5 oz broccoli
2 oz celery
4 oz shallots
2 oz kale
14 oz onions
15.5 oz beets
3.5 oz mixed herbs (chives, thyme, tarragon, summer savory, etc)
20.5 oz tomatoes
3 oz lettuce
6.5 oz peas (dried weight)

Does not include fresh herbs (rosemary, thyme, dill, tarragon, chives, summer savory) which were too small a quantity to weigh, i.e. less than 0.5 oz.

Total:  659.5 oz or approximately 41 lb

Note:  I weigh all my vegetables after preparation:  peeling, trimming, etc. 

Fruit: 

3.5 oz blackberries (from volunteers, aka weeds)
2 Laxton Fortune apples
1 Sparta apple
2 figs
12 plums

Eggs:

Total:  111 eggs from 10 hens
Total feed bought: 2 bags layers pellets (40kg total)

Preserves:
3 medium jars pickled zuccini spears (zuccini from friend's garden, dill and garlic from my own garden)
1 medium bottle tarragon vinegar
1 small jar salted mixed herbs
4 large jars sauerkraut
1 large jar fermented French beans
1 small bag dried peas (6.5 oz)

Homebrew:  

Rhubarb wine and cider bottled up.  Elderberry/blackberry wine still fermenting.  2 new demijohns (8 L total) of cider begun brewing, from wild harvested apples.  Approximately 8 L of apple cider vinegar begun, using leftover pulp from cider.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Preserving for winter, 2017

A collection of different jars filled with various preserves
A bit of this and that, Aug 2017
From left to right above:  mixed fruit vinegar (elderberry, apple, pear), a small jar of mixed salted herbs, a large jar of sauerkraut (plastic bag on top is filled with water and acts as a weight), garlic and dill pickled French beans.

I'm doing my best to put some food by for winter use.  Most of my veg this summer has been harvested under the "little and often" principle, but occasionally there's too much to eat all at once, like the three Savoy Cabbages Gruff (little one, medium one, giant troll-busting one);  the excess of these became several jars of sauerkraut.

A few things I've grown particularly for winter storage/use:  squash and pumpkins--though the pumpkins are all leaf and no fruit yet--potatoes, and maincrop peas (dried).  I really need more peas next year though--I got about a cupful this year.

I've got a few jars of pickled zuccini spears;  I didn't much care for the ones I made last year, but I've gone for a milder vinegar and just garlic and dill for flavoring;  I couldn't get hold of any dill last year, but managed to grow some in a pot this year.  Hopefully they'll be better tasting, but I won't crack them open until the growing season's done. 

I've done some salted mixed herbs, which are simply finely minced fresh herbs layered with a lot of salt, and also a few jars of herb vinegars.  I normally try to make at least one jar of English mint sauce which for us is just chopped mint leaves in malt vinegar;  we not only eat it on lamb but use it as an easy base for salad dressings.  I had a light bulb moment about that--why not use my other favorite salad dressing herb in vinegar:  tarragon.  I look forward to having it in winter, when the plant has died back.  I hope to make another jar or two before this happens. 

Saturday, August 26, 2017

How I record my harvest

My official harvest records are on little pieces of note paper, stuck to the front of my fridge;  once I fill up a page, it goes upstairs to my garden notebook, where I keep not only my harvest totals, but also my garden journal, random plans and to-do lists.
A cluster of runner beans growing amongst leaves and flowers
Runner beans, August 2017
For each thing I harvest from the garden, I write down the date, the item, and the weight or number picked.  At the end of the month, I tally it all together and record it on this blog.  I (or the husband or seven year old, whoever collected them) write down egg totals daily on a separate sheet.  Eggs are tallied by week and then by month, along with total feed bought.  Incidently, the seven year old has his own record for eggs:  he's keeping track of three chickens with distinctive egg colors (Cucky, as he spells it, is in last place, with Rock and Florry in second and first, respectively).

At the end of the year, I record everything down onto a big sheet of paper in my garden notebook, and staple the little pieces of note paper to it.  I like to add up the totals of each item, along with the month(s) they were harvested.  This gives me a better idea of when to plant things, and how much to plant.
An oldfashioned set of baking scales, with fresh runner beans in the weighing bowl
My set of scales
My scale came from a charity shop several years ago;  technically it's intended for baking.  The weights are measured in ounces, and I have a 1 pound, a 8 oz, a 4 oz, a 2 oz, a 1 oz, and a 0.5 oz weight.  This means I can weigh up to just under 2 pounds with my scale, and am accurate to within half an ounce.  To be honest I'd prefer metric, but until I find a set of weights in grams this will have to do.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The giant cabbage, defeated at last

A woman holding a giant Savoy cabbage
My mother and the giant cabbage, August 2017
We served the giant cabbage at every dinner for a week while my parents visited, and still hadn't cracked into the head by the end of it.  In fact, I was so sick of the sight of it, my mother and I made a big jar of sauerkraut to finish it off;  the whole cabbage after trimming weighed in at around six pounds. 

In fact, I've got three big jars of kraut on the go, as I decided to pick the giant's smaller sibling (recall the smallest one, which weighed just over a pound after trimming) to prevent any more caterpillar damage;  I think it was supporting about a hundred of those pesky little bugs but was still more than a match for them, weighing around three pounds after trimming.  It sure took a lot of preparation though--all those leaves had to be scrubbed individually to rid them of caterpillars and caterpillar poo.
Young cabbage plants growing in a garden bed
Slightly bug-eaten young cabbage, August 2017
All the mature Savoys are finished now, and the next generation are planted out and growing well;  I'm picking off caterpillars daily and am mostly keeping on top of them.  I still have one more cabbage ready to harvest now:  a summer variety I sowed in early spring.  It has a few other compatriots, none of which have formed a head.  Still, one's plenty right now.  We've been racing to keep up with the cabbage and the rest of the vegetables have been a bit neglected (sorry about that, chard)!

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Garlic harvest, in full

A pile of garlic bulbs on a plastic packing tray
Not a bad haul
Here's my garlic harvest, which I dug up in June;  it was about a month earlier than I normally harvest, but the plants were ready and the bulbs were pretty big!  I'd planted it out October/November 2016.

Altogether I got about 90 garlic bulbs, not counting a couple very tiny one-clove-sized ones.  I planted out 50 bought cloves (from regular grocery store garlic), and around 30-35 of my own homegrown cloves.  The remaining bulbs were volunteers that I'd missed from the previous year's harvest.

I plan on replanting around 100 cloves for next year's harvest, though having a year's supply in the cupboard is the most important thing right now;  I'll keep at least 60 bulbs for culinary use and buy a few more for planting if there's any shortfall.  I've been fully self-reliant in garlic before, with enough for both replanting and eating.  Will it be the case this year?  I'll know by October, when it's time to replant.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Food for the soul

A colorful Peacock butterfly on a buddleia blossom
A welcome visitor
My garden is a beautiful place right now.  Apart from the abundance of vegetables and the promise of more to come--both fruit and veg--the whole property is at its peak just now.  Even the lawn looks glorious!

There are some wonderful flowers (both perennial and annual) in the perennials section and the front postage stamp, including roses, sunflowers, dahlias, sweet peas and more.  I put lobelia in some of my tomato planters, giving a pretty splash of blue to entice the hoverflies--we've had swarms of these helpful little insects this summer. 


It's so nice to sit next to the goldfish pond, listening to the trickle of water, and watching the butterflies flocking to the buddleia nearby.  The above picture is of a peacock butterfly, recently spotted.  I planted the buddleia to screen the view of the neighbors, with the added benefit of attracting butterflies and bees.  It does me good to see it covered in these lovely little creatures.

Part of my Plan for the garden is to provide beauty and tranquility.  What with the flowers, lush greenery, helpful insects and fresh vegetables and herbs, my garden is a haven right now.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Dreaming of squash

Small yellow squash growing under big leaves
Squash, unknown provenance, July 2017
I'm trying not to count my squashes before they're matured;  one year I had about five big pumpkins all go moldy and fall off the vine before they ripened.  This year I mistook the young plants for zuccinis as I was planting out, so that the squashes went in the main bed and the zuccinis (all but one) went into a bed in the perennials section.  Not a huge mistake, but it means I have to keep an eye on the squashes so they don't overrun the other veg--which most of them are attempting!  I think there are about six vines, each with at least three or four fruits on them (so far).

The seeds came from a grocery store specimen last autumn.  It was a smallish orange one with fairly dense flesh, and not too sweet.  We normally only see butternut squash at the store, which is not my favorite:  I buy it because it's the only option.  We really liked this little orange squash, and the sticker said it was British grown (i.e. theoretically better adapted to our climate), so I made a point of saving seed from it.  Here's hoping I can save more seed again, this year from my own harvest.

Squash is a great vegetable to have, as it stores for a long while--making it an excellent winter vegetable.  Ideally, I'd like to have enough squash in storage to eat one a week from December to April/May:  20-30 squashes.  Realistically, I'll be lucky to get six (one per vine).  If I get two per vine, I'll be ecstatic!

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Me and my cabbage

Woman holding a large savoy cabbage in a garden, with chickens behind
It's me! July 2017
I don't know if I've put a picture of myself on this blog--well, here I am, with one of my Savoy cabbages;  photo taken by my seven year old son.  I'm on our back patio facing the house, with the garage to the right of the photo, and the vegetable garden to the left (not pictured).

This is one of three Savoys that somehow got missed over winter;  they were sowed in the summer of 2016, and the one I'm holding is the smallest.  All have very little slug and bug damage compared to the summer cabbages I sowed in early spring, and have big waxy leaves.

In fact, the leaves are so big and thick, I thought they would need a lot of cooking to be edible--not so.  They cooked up normally and were nice and tender.  We did not eat the stems or mid-ribs;  trimmed of these, the leaves weighed in at just over a pound.  Unlike chard, which cooks down to about a quarter of its volume (a pound of chard makes one meal for us, and we eat the stems too), this lovely cabbage didn't decrease in volume and ended up being served in four meals. 

The giant cabbage?  Yeah, I picked it about a week ago and we're still eating it every day.  So far it's clocked in at over 3 pounds, trimmed weight.  Not all of it has been weighed yet (just the outer leaves so far).

Saturday, August 5, 2017

July 2017 garden notes

A garden bed packed with different vegetables, including cabbage, beans and potatoes
Misc bed in front, Peas and beans behind (with classy DIY runner bean support), Potatoes at the very back, July 2017
Roots

Begun harvesting shallots in this bed in July.  Most of them have flowered, and the bulbs are small and woody.  I'll definitely try growing them again, but make sure to catch them before flowering.

Eating some beets now, both white and red (pretty sure I didn't buy white beet seed!  but very tasty).  Most still small but growing.

Onions and celery both getting big, but none harvested.  Eating carrots in planters gradually.

Peas and beans

Finished and cleared away all peas in this bed: early, maincrop and mange tout;  maincrop plants hung up in the garage to dry pods for winter storage.  There is still another small batch of maincrop peas in one of the perennial beds, nearly ready this month.

Runner beans and French beans flowering and forming tiny pods, but none harvested in July.

Brassicas

Harvested main heads from two broccoli plants, one small, one medium. 

Planted out winter cabbages after peas cleared away, about 18-24 inches apart (really they need about 36 inches, but they'll have to share).  Kale and spring broccoli planted out earlier growing well.  Rutabagas sown earlier (both batches) growing a bit.  A small batch of turnips sowed and some sprouted.

Brussels sprouts in holding bed growing nicely.  About half the summer cabbages eaten in July;  of the remaining ones, two or three are forming nice compact heads.  The leftover Savoys also forming lovely heads.

Miscellaneous

A few cucumbers harvested in July, but plants seem to be diseased:  possibly cucumber wilt.  Melon plants completely demolished by slugs--none left.  Both grown in planters.

Cherry tomatoes forming good trusses of fruit, but none ripened yet.  Other tomatoes only just beginning to flower in July.  Most tomatoes in planters, but two growing in the main bed.  Tomatillos in main bed flowering and forming fruit, but also look diseased.  No idea what though--leaves are yellowing and wilting slightly.  Hope they survive.

Most squashes and pumpkins planted in the main bed, and two pumpkins in planters.  No pumpkins formed yet, but several squashes growing.  Plants look strong with good growth and flower formation. 

A couple zuccinis harvested at the end of July.  One plant very big, the others not as advanced, but just beginning to form fruits at the end of July.

Sweet corn plants still pretty small, but growing.  Not sure if they'll have enough time to produce.  Leeks still very small.  Harvested some radishes, and sowed some more seed.

Eaten pretty much all the bolting chard, now on to the non-bolting chard.  So much chard!  Eating lettuce leaves still about once a week, and still sowing a few plants in pots.  Eating a few spring onions and sowed a few more in pots (now sprouted).

Potatoes

Some potatoes chest high now.  I staked them up at the edge of the holding bed.  Still growing!

Fruit

Finished Kordia cherries (we had about 6-8, birds had the other 12-15).  Finished blackcurrants (tons!), finished gooseberries (lot more than I expected off two 18 inch tall plants), finished raspberries and blueberries (only a handful each), finished last redcurrants and maincrop strawberries.

Alpine strawberries still producing in July, though slowing down.  Maincrop strawberries sending out runners, which I will transplant in August or early September.

Plums getting big, apples getting big (only two apples on each tree, sadly).  Williams tree has two small pears--I was wrong to doubt you, Williams! 

Fig still has three or four big fruits, and forming lots of little ones--probably don't have enough time to mature this year though.  Almonds growing well.

Lightly pruned plum, both cherries, Sparta apple, and Williams pear in July.  Tied down a few branches on Laxton fortune apple.

Perennials and herbs

Artichokes growing well, and even produced small flowers in July, which I picked off to encourage root growth.  Hoping for a good harvest next year.

Asparagus from seed still growing little spindly spears.  Chickens ate all the sorrel;  hope it's still all right.

Still no sign of either rhubarb plant. 

Most herbs still growing well;  rosemary still alive after its bit of die back.  Thyme and bergamot flowering.  Harvested mint just before flowering to make a bottle of mint sauce.  Newly sown parsley sprouted.  Basil and new dill in pots very small. 

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

July 2017 Food Totals

A flock of chickens grazing a lawn
Black chicks nearly grown up, July 2017
Vegetables:

215 oz chard!!
39 oz carrots
53.5 oz cabbage
11 oz cauliflower
9.5 oz lettuce
15.5 oz beets
1 oz peas
0.5 oz artichoke
8.5 oz new potatoes
2 oz celery
1 oz spring onion
4.5 oz broccoli
5.5 oz radishes
5 oz cucumbers
4.5 oz shallot
7 oz zuccini

Does not include fresh herbs (rosemary, thyme, dill, tarragon, chives, summer savory) which were too small a quantity to weigh, i.e. less than 0.5 oz.

Total: 381 oz

Note:  I weigh all my vegetables after preparation:  peeling, trimming, etc. 

Fruit: 

44.5 oz mixed berries (mainly blackcurrants but also gooseberries, redcurrants, strawberries and alpine strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and sweet cherries)
10 oz morello cherries

Total: 54.5 oz

Eggs:

Total:  143 eggs from 11 hens
Total feed bought: 2 bags layers pellets (40kg total), 3 bags growers pellets (15kg total)


Preserves:

2 medium jars pickled zuccini spears (zuccini from friend's garden, dill and garlic from my own garden)
1 medium bottle mint sauce

Homebrew:  

Elderflower wine bottled up.  Cider, rhubarb wine, elderberry/blackberry wine still fermenting. No new homebrew begun

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Update on the state of the flock, July 2017

English game bantam cock
Tiny rooster, April 2017
We said goodbye to two of our chickens in the past two months, both younger birds whom we had raised from chicks, one of whom was Tiny, our bantam English game cock.  We don't know the cause for either of their deaths;  Patches then hen was two years old and Tiny was one year old.  Both were in good health in the days up to their unexpected demise, and both had been eating and drinking as normal. 

Some of the suggestions I came up with are:  bird flu (joke!), freak accident (it looked like Tiny may have been caught under something), poisoned accidently (I've seen some of them pecking at various things like potato leaves, laurel leaves, rhododendron leaves...).  Both chickens were found in the morning, cold and dead, with no obvious wounds. We'll miss them both, especially Tiny.  Even though at times he could be an annoying little pipsqueak, he was still a good rooster and we liked his funny little antics.

This year's chicks are nearly the size of the adults now, though still with chickie characteristics such as small combs and squeaky voices.  No crowing yet, and to be honest, I'm still not entirely sure who's a boy and who's a girl.  There is one with obvious male features--early development of comb and wattle--but the other four, who knows?  We want to keep one rooster to try breeding next spring, but I'm also hoping to eat at least one. 

And Cookie, our little bantam hen, has gone broody again.  I'm half inclined to give her another batch of eggs to sit on, to give a few more layers and have chicken to eat in winter.  We have sixteen chickens altogether, including newest chickies.  I'm sure we can handle another six, right?

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Broccoli and butterflies

Photo of a small head of broccoli growing on a plant
Broccoli, July 2017
I've never tried to grow summer broccoli, also called calabrese, before.  I thought I'd give it a try this year.  I managed to get about six plants growing this spring (there were at least twice as many to begin with, but the slugs had them).  A couple started growing heads at the beginning of the month, and last week I harvested two of them.

One was too small but I had to pick it as it was about to flower.  It was about as big as a purple sprouting broccoli head:  about the size of a golf ball.  The second, shown above, was a much nice size.  We had it in a chicken stir fry, along with garden carrots and garden garlic.

Now, however, is the time of the dreaded cabbage white butterfly.  The seven year old has helped me inspect brassica leaves for eggs and caterpillars.  There are two types: the small and the large;  one lays single eggs which turn into relatively harmless green caterpillars.  The other lays a grid of eggs, around 20 or more, which grow into black and yellow striped caterpillars that wreak havoc!  If 20 different butterflies each lay a single egg, a broccoli plant can withstand that kind of damage.  However, 20 eggs each from 20 butterflies:  complete defoliation. 

Last year I diligently inspected each plant every single day for a month.  Then it was about three times a week for another month...I don't think I can keep up that standard of vigilance this year.  I'll try to look at the bigger plants every few days, and I'll keep an eye on the newly planted winter cabbages.  It's best to rub off eggs before they hatch, but I'm willing to be ruthless about caterpillars too.  I don't really have the stomach to kill actual butterflies--I don't have the patience to chase after them either.  I can only shake my fist and growl at them.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Waiting for onions

Photo of three onion bulbs growing in a cluster
My biggest onions, July 2017
We officially stopped buying vegetables a month ago, our last purchases being carrots, rutabaga, and onions.  The first two are long gone (and we're eating our own carrots now), but we still have a couple onions left--which I'm trying to ration out as slowly as possible as my garden onions aren't quite ready yet.

Several garden onions are a pretty decent size now;  some are approaching store-bought size.  Some are not.  I sowed the seeds in January in a tray on my kitchen windowsill.  I planted them out in February (I think?  Or was it March?) in clusters of two to five onions.  As space is limited, growing in clusters rather than rows means I get more onion per square meter (or about half a meter in this case).  The bulbs are bigger on average this year than previously;  last year I planted out onion sets separately, not in clusters.

They have also been getting the diluted contents of our wee bucket (yes, you read that right) two or three times a week.  I don't know if it's made them bigger/stronger but I've read that all the onion family like a lot of nitrogen.  When I can be bothered to walk all the way to the end of the Misc bed, I'll give the leeks a dose too.

But the onions are still growing and I'm not prepared to harvest them until they reach their maximum size.  We may be going without onions for a few weeks.  I guess I could always pull up a few shallots;  having planted them from grocery store bulbs I'm not quite so invested in their success--I really pampered those onions to get them to where they are today!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Summer fruit: strawberries

Photo of a bunch of red strawberries growing next to a low brick wall
Alpine strawberries, July 2017
 The alpine strawberries, variety Baron Solemacher, have been producing regularly since June.  It's nice to pick a small handful of these sweet little berries.  They really are small, though!
Photo of a small red strawberry on the palm of a hand
This is a big one!
They have a nice sweet flavor, with a little bit of tartness.  I like their crisp outer seeds, too;  they add a nice texture.  Most of the berries get eaten out of hand, but as we've been picking the blackcurrants to freeze, some of these strawberries have snuck their way into the freezer bag (gooseberries too).  This is their second summer:  I sowed them as seeds in 2016. 
Photo of two ripe strawberries growing under chicken wire
Strawberries under chicken wire;  it stopped the birds but not the slugs

I have around ten or twelve maincrop strawberry plants, but don't really have a dedicated bed for them.  Some of them live next to the alpine strawberries, a couple were hiding under this spring's sprouting broccoli (I thought I'd moved all of them last summer), and there are a few scattered elsewhere in the perennial section of the garden.  They, like the alpine strawberries, flowered quite early but not all of them produced fruit this summer.

We ate most of these berries in June--about a month earlier than usual--and now they're finished.  As these strawberries are sending out lots of new runners, I hope to establish a brand new bed for them in the perennials section later this year.  Hopefully next year we'll get a bigger harvest.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

The giant cabbage

Photo of a mature Savoy cabbage growing in a garden bed
January King 3 cabbage, July 2017
When I cleared away the purple sprouting broccoli in May, I discovered this little Savoy (winter) cabbage hiding underneath them, which got missed when all the other cabbages got eaten in February/March.  It was so small, I figured it might grow a little and we could eat the greens.  Well, little did I know--it's now around three feet across and forming a big compact head. 

I don't know if you can tell from the photo, but I've been planting this year's winter cabbages (same variety) just behind it.  I was going to pull it up to make more room for the new ones, but the husband pleaded its case:  "it's not fully grown yet!"  Yikes.  It gets to stay for a little while longer, until it's fully grown.  Four feet across, maybe?

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

What's on the menu, July 2017

Photo of fresh garden produce:  peas, cabbage greens, multicolored carrots and a tiny artichoke
Dinner, 10 July 2017
At the moment my most abundant garden vegetable is chard--not surprising, seeing as I harvested 371 ounces (approximately 23 pounds) of it in 2016.  This year most of it self-seeded and then I transplanted to the Misc bed;  some of these plants are trying to go to seed themselves.  The ones with this trait I've been pulling up whole to eat, and they usually weigh in at around a pound of leaves and stems per plant.  The rest I treat as "cut and come again", taking the biggest leaves.  All of it is still tender and mild, even the really big leaves.  Yum.
Photo of a collection of plastic containers filled with vegetable plants
Big planters of carrots on the patio table, smaller seed trays in front

We started harvesting the carrots from the planters on the patio recently, too.  They really only get finger size in there, but that's good enough.  I have terrible luck with them in the ground (carrot fly and slugs), but so long as the planters are kept moist, they grow well.  I bought a pack of seeds for multi-colored carrots, and we're thrilled to eat yellow, white and purple carrots as well as the usual orange.

The maincrop peas are hanging in the garage to dry in their pods now, but I picked the second batch of earlies for a (very small) harvest this week.  Enough for a spoonful each--very tasty.  If you look closely in the photo above, you'll see there's also a tiny artichoke in with the peas!  I've read that you're not supposed to let artichokes flower the first year (to encourage root growth), so I picked this one and the seven year old and I ate it between us.  Kind of tasted like the cabbage I cooked it with.

Speaking of cabbage, we're eating the summer cabbages direct from the holding bed.  I'd wanted to transplant them out after the Peas/Beans bed was finished, but ended up not having enough time--the cabbages are too big to transplant now;  they could have moved a month ago, but as the peas were still going strong there was no where to put them.  I transplanted in the smaller winter cabbage seedlings instead.  Some of the summer cabbages are trying to head up, and I've been picking every other one, to give the others a chance.  It's very tender and mild cabbage, almost like lettuce.

Speaking of lettuce, I've got my lettuce patch going at last!  My pots of lettuces are tucked away on their own little table under the big patio table.  They get a bit of shade during the warmest part of the day, but get a bit of late afternoon sun.  It's really too hot on the patio during summer for lettuces, but they seem to be fine in the shade.  I'd have them in the ground (much cooler) if I thought the slugs wouldn't massacre them.

Most of these vegetables, with the exception of lettuce, just get added to casserole/stew/curry/etc.  On Monday we had roast pork and gravy, with a selection of garden vegetables, shown in the first photo, steamed lightly.  We all shared the purple carrot!
Photo of various pots growing lettuces on a patio
Lettuce patch, 2017

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Drowning in blackcurrants

Photo of a branch with ripening blackcurrants
Blackcurrants, June 2017 (does not accurately indicate the extent of the flood!)
I can't believe the blackcurrant harvest this year!  I don't have the exact date of planting for these two bushes, but I would guess about five years ago.  I bought them from a church jumble sale for £5 (I think--it was a while ago);  they were just rooted cuttings, about 12 inches tall.  They grew and grew for those five years, and I think it was two years ago we finally got our first tiny harvest.  Last year was a bit better, but no more than a few ounces total. 

This year so far it's been more than a pound of blackcurrants.  Bear in mind the size of these berries--about the same as blueberries--and I think you'll agree this is a LOT for two bushes to produce in one year:  and harvest isn't over yet. 

We've been picking them every few days for the past week, and making them into berry and banana smoothies, along with a few alpine strawberries, and raspberries and redcurrants (these two now finished).  A bit tart, but very refreshing and tasty.  There have definitely been enough for jam making, if we had been so inclined!  But a smoothie is fresh and healthy, and we're looking forward to a few more next week.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

June 2017 garden recap

Roots

I harvest all the garlic bulbs at the beginning of June and once that spot was cleared I resowed it with beet seed, some of which have sprouted (still pretty small).  I also resowed other bare spots with more beet seed, and most of it seems to have come up. 

Earlier sown beets are growing--one or two getting big--most small.  Some onions forming little bulbs now.  Celery looking lush and leafy.

No sign of parsnips, so I hoed away the weeds in its patch and relegated it to the brassica section (right next to it) for replanting with young kale and spring broccoli.

Earliest sown carrots in planters are at about finger size now--probably as big as they'll get, given the size of the planters.

Shallots in Roots bed all have big flower heads on them.  None harvested yet.

Peas and beans

I harvested all the broad beans over the month of June, and cleared them away at the end of the month.  Their patch, and the adjoining failed parsnip patch, has been replanted with young kale and spring broccoli.

First batch of early peas was harvested and cleared away:  resown with rutabaga seed.  Lots of mange tout peas harvested in June, but not cleared away.  Maincrop peas and second batch of earlies still growing but formed plenty of pods.

Nearly all dwarf French beans up and growing, but no flowers yet.  Only about nine runner bean plants survived the slugs (40 seeds sown).  Growing quickly but no flowers yet.

Brassicas

As mentioned above, kale and spring broccoli planted out.  Rutabaga seeds sown but no plants appeared yet.  A few earlier sown rutabaga growing.

Two cauliflowers harvested in June, one small one big (both given away).  Two plants left, one of which has a nice head growing;  the other plant is spindly and has no head.

Been thinning and eating summer cabbages as greens--none forming heads yet.  Two very large Savoy cabbages (leftover from last winter) are forming heads--the outer leaves of one of them stretch about three feet across (!!).

Brussels sprouts and broccoli growing nicely in the holding bed.  New winter cabbages growing well in seed tray, soon to be planted out (probably after the peas are cleared away).

Miscellaneous

Planted out all the tender plants started indoors:  tomatoes, sweet corn, tomatillos, zuccini, squash, pumpkin, cucumber and melon (some of these in the ground, others in containers).  Tomatoes, cucumber and tomatillos started flowering in June.  Others are still thinking about whether or not to start growing!  One zuccini plant looks promising, at least...

Sowed a row of radish seeds in between the squash plants.

Leeks growing slowly.  Lots of chard growing, lots eaten already.  Most of the chard was self-sown and moved to the appropriate bed:  I've been pulling out (and eating) the plants which are trying to bolt. 

Lettuces in pots on the patio table are growing well--slugs haven't found them.  Been eating salads about once a week in June.  Shallots in Misc bed are beginning to flower.

Potatoes

Potato plants all about waist high now, and covered in pretty white and pink flowers.  I've staked them up where they're draping over adjacent beds.   A few volunteer potatoes (from the Misc bed) were dug up and eaten in June.

Fruit

All morello cherries harvested in June, which is a month earlier than normal.  Fruit was small and sparse and tree looks a bit stressed (it was moved over winter and has endured a hot and dry spring).

Nearly all redcurrants harvested in June.  Enough for eating out of hand, or adding to smoothies.  Began picking blackcurrants--many more than redcurrants, but still just for eating/smoothie-ing. 

Almost all maincrop strawberries harvested (around a dozen), alpine strawberries started, and sweet Kordia cherry harvest started (only a few dozen of these on the tree) in June.  Picked two gooseberries to test (not ready yet).

Plums, apples, raspberries, figs, blueberries and almonds all still growing.

Perennials and herbs

The new artichoke plants are still growing strongly, at about waist height.  No flowers on them, but I hope to pick some next year.

Rhubarb both look dead.  Hopefully they're not...

Asparagus from seed growing a bit bigger but still very small and spindly.

Sorrel flowering.

A bit more die-back on the rosemary.  Thyme, tarragon and chives have plenty of growth.  Bergamot, (new) chamomile and mint still growing.  Chervil (in pots) finished.  Dill in pot going to seed.  Summer savory in pot growing nicely.  Sowed more dill and basil in pots, and parsely in the ground:  none sprouted yet.