Archive | September 2014

A Cucamelon Review & Winter Salads

The mornings have been quite chilly this week, feeling very much like autumn is here.

On Wednesday we had some well needed rain overnight and when the sun came out in the early morning it was a beautiful sight, with rains drops glistening around the allotment.

SAM_0105

.

This week I have been concentrating on my polytunnel, getting it ready for winter.

The crops in my polytunnel had just about finished, except for a few tomatoes (which I will ripen at home) and some peppers and melons that were ready for picking:

SAM_0133

….and I mustn’t forget  the thousand ‘cucamelons’ dangling at me, ready to pick.

.

A Quick Cucamelon Review:

Every year I like to grow something different and this year I chose ‘cucamelons’ .  I had read different reports about them and came to the conclusion that they are a bit like ‘marmite’, you either love them or hate them….so I decided to grow them for myself.

  The fruits are grape sized and they are supposed to taste of cucumber with a hint of lime, but I am yet to taste one that actually had the hint of lime in it.  The cucamelon can be eaten whole or chopped up in salads.  The skin has the texture of a sweet pepper, so it has a bite to it….inside it is like a mini cucumber.

They were easy to grow in my polytunnel and after a slow start they started to take over, smothering my tomato plants that grew next to them, but I’ve got to say there were millions of fruits that just kept coming and coming and coming!

SAM_9802

Unfortunately my family didn’t like them and after forcing them at anyone that came into our house, I found that not many other people liked them either.   I didn’t think they were too bad, until I ate quite a few for tea one day and ended up with bad indigestion all night!

SAM_0103

Needless to say, I won’t be growing these again….but we live and learn.

.

Winter Salads:

Last month I sowed some winter salads ready for my polytunnel and they have grown quite well and were ready for planting.   However first I needed to clear the crops that were left in my polytunnel:

SAM_0101

One surprise I did find in my polytunnel when I was clearing it, was some carrots that I had completely forgotten about…and they had grown really well.  Carrots can be stored in compost at home until they are needed, but I know these carrots won’t last long in our house as everyone loves them.

SAM_0104

After I had cleared the crops, I forked the soil over and gave the soil a covering of homemade compost.  I also raked in some blood, fish and bone where I would be planting my salads:

SAM_0112 SAM_0119

The winter salads that I chose to grow were mizuna, winter lettuce, corn salad, rocket and perpetual spinach.  I also grew some beetroot as a trial, to see if I could use the small leaves over winter in salads (though I’m not expecting to grow a decent sized root).

SAM_0113

After planting the above crops I gave them a good watering and I must say the polytunnel did look different….another reminder that autumn is here:

SAM_0131 SAM_0132

One of the things I have learnt from bitter experience, whether you grow plants in a cloche, a greenhouse or a polytunnel, you need to provide ventilation during the autumn or winter months.  If you don’t then the humid conditions will be a breeding ground for grey mould, which will smother and kill your plants.  So on fine days I open the doors on my polytunnel throughout the winter months.

“Grey mould is caused by a fungus called ‘Botrytis cinerea’ which can infect plants at any time of the year.  It can enter a plant through a wound or infect a weak  plant under stress.  It will also infect healthy plants in humid conditions”.

.

At home this week I have continued to use up my ripening tomatoes to make soup and passata…

SAM_0041 SAM_0040

 …and I only have a few left to use now, which again shows me that Autumn is here and the wonderful harvest of summer is nearly behind us.

Now it’s the time that the Autumn harvest of pumpkins, butternut squashes, apples etc. begins.  The nights start to draw in and the leaves on the trees begin to fall.

SAM_0143

This is my favourite time of year when I start to reflect on my gardening year and work out what crops have been a success and which haven’t.  It’s the time of the year when things start to slow down slightly at the allotment, giving me time to breathe and admier the late summer flowers on my plot.

When I work my plot on a crisp Autumn morning it makes me feel glad to be alive.

SAM_0109

Thank you for reading my blog today.

I will be back next Friday at my usual time. 

 

Advertisements

A Brassica Week & A Final Finale

This week at my allotment my Michaelmas daisys have begun to flower and they look beautiful, standing next to the yellow and orange marigolds and calendulas.

The purple daisys remind me that Autumn is beginning and I think of these flowers as my allotments’ ‘final finale’ of the summer….and of course, the bees love them:

SAM_0085

.

I have spent most of this week tidying the remaining vegetables at my allotment:

SAM_0078 SAM_0079 SAM_0089

I removed the netting from my brassicas and gave them a good weed and removed any yellowing leaves.  By removing any dead foliage, it helps to stop any pests from hiding underneath them.

SAM_0087

I noticed there are loads and loads of white fly this year…..I don’t usually bother to eridicate them, however the white fly have started to cause a ‘sooty mould’ on a couple of lower leaves on one of my spring brocolli plants:

SAM_0075

‘Sooty mould’ is a black or dark brown powdery fungus that covers the leaf and it actually looks a bit like soot.  In severe cases it stops the plant from photosynthesising and severely weakens it or even kills the plant.

‘Sooty mould’ is a fungal disease caused by sap sooting insects such as aphids, scale insects, mealy bugs etc, or in my case it is whitefly.

I removed the two infected leaves on my plant and I will continue to monitor the situation.  If it gets too bad I will use a ‘soft soap’ spray, but for the mean time I will do nothing as it isn’t affecting my plant too badly and in the past I have still had good crops from plants covered in white fly.

SAM_0076

One other thing I did whilst removing the yellowing leaves on my brocolli, was to tie each plant to a support.  I place a support into the ground next to my brocolli and brussels when I first transplant them earlier in the year.  This way, I don’t damage the larger roots when the plants are bigger.

Tying the plants to the supports will help avoid the plants rocking when strong winds blow them about.  The movement is sometimes called ‘wind rock’ and it can break some of the tiny root hairs that are responsible for taking in the nutrients from the soil.  This can cause the plants to weaken and brussel sprouts to ‘blow’.

.

.

I noticed this week that some of my cabbages are finally ready to eat.  Unfortunately these cabbages took a battering from ‘flea beatle’ when they were originally transplanted back in early summer.

Most people dig their plants up when they are attacked by flea beetle, but I always give my plants a liquid seaweed feed and give them a chance to recover…..and everytime they do recover with good results – though they always take longer to grow:

SAM_0088 SAM_0090

.

This week I have also transplanted my Spring cabbage.  I didn’t grow my own Spring cabbage this year, so I bought the plants from a local nursery.

SAM_0063

I raked in some Blood, fish and bone and then transplanted the plants and gave each one a homemade ‘cabbage collar’ to stop the cabbage root fly form laying it’s eggs at the base of my plants.

Cabbage collars cost between £3 or £4 to buy a pack of 30.  To save money I make my own by cutting out a square of thick cardboard and then cutting a cross in the middle where the stem will go.  As the stem grows it can expand because of the cross in the middle.

 SAM_6270

I place each collar around the stem and it will stop the cabbage root fly from laying it’s eggs and eventually it will just decompose into the soil.

.

.

Elsewhere on the allotment this week, I have been tidying up my woodland area ready for winter.  I weeded and removed some dead foliage and then gave it a mulch of one year old leaf mould that wasn’t quite broken down enough to use on my vegetable beds, but is great for my woodland area:

SAM_0061

 I also noticed that I have an explosion of weed seedlings around my strawberries, so I gave them a good hoe to remove them:

SAM_0073 SAM_0074

.

An Unfortunate Trip!

This week at my allotment I decided to move one or two large slabs and unfortunately I tripped over backwards and ended up with the slab in the photo below, on top of me!  Luckily the sack barrow took the weight of the slab, but I must have looked like one of those cartoon characters with just my arms and legs hanging out from the sides of the slab!…I must have looked funny.

There was no harm done though and I just ended up with a bruise on my leg and a ‘bottom’ that hurt the next day!

SAM_0072

.

Finally, at home this week I have been blanching and freezing my sweetcorn.  I have had a really good crop of sweetcorn this year, probably due to the warm summer.

I washed the sweetcorn and then blanched them for five minures before bagging them up in family sized portions and freezing.   It’s lovely having sweetcorn in the depths of winter as it always reminds of summer.

SAM_0081 SAM_0082 SAM_0083

.

I also weighed and bagged up some of the tomatoes that are ripening outside at home.  I then popped them into the freezer and I will use these to make tomato soup in the winter too.  The tomatoes will turn mushy when they are defrosted, but this is fine for soup.

SAM_0058 SAM_0060

.

The allotment is continuing to provide vegetables and salads and I think the taste of freshly picked homegrown organic produce is far superior to supermarket produce and it’s cheaper to grow.

I feel very priviledged to be able to provide my family with the fruit, vegetables and salads that I grow.

SAM_0071

Thank you for reading my blog today.

I will be back next Friday at my usual time.

A Lot Of Hardwork!

I love this time of year as the harvesting of crops is finally slowing down at the allotment after a very busy summer and I can finally carry out some other jobs.

A couple of weeks ago I started to remove the old, unproductive raspberries from my plot and I laid a new path next to the area.  I have finally dug up the rest of the raspberries now and the area will provide another bed for me to use next year:

SAM_9936 SAM_9954

The weed suppressant in the middle of the raspberries (in the first photo) covered the grass that I sowed a few years ago to walk on.  I covered the grass for a few months to kill it, so I could just easily dig the grass into the ground.

Weed suppressant kills the grass and weeds well, except for bind weed which just skims the surface and ‘pops’ out at the side.  However it does make it easier to just pull most of it up, though I will have to make sure I hoe this area every week during the growing season to weaken it, in the hope I can eventually kill it.

For those of you that don’t grow organically, ‘glyphosate’ does kill bindweed easily, though I choose not to use chemicals.

 SAM_9952 SAM_9953

After digging the area over I topped it with some of my homemade compost and I laid some paths so I don’t need to walk on the soil that I plant into and I was very pleased with the result:

SAM_9954 SAM_0035

.

As I had a few spare slabs I also laid a path between my woodland area and my strawberries.  This area was a real pain as before I only had a small path made of weed suppressant that I struggled to walk down.  I also finished off a path next to my water tank, which will also make things easier for me:

  SAM_0016 SAM_0026

.

If you read my blog a couple of weeks ago you will remember I stripped the green tomatoes from my outdoor plants as I was worrying about losing them to ‘tomato blight’.  I put the tomatoes in my mini-greenhouse at home and they have been ripening well:

SAM_9933 SAM_0018

….And I have been busy at home making lots of tomato sauce to use in spaghetti bolognaise, pasta sauces. pizza sauce etc.

SAM_0041 SAM_0040 SAM_9892 SAM_9893

And it is a good job I did remove the tomatoes when I did, as ‘blight’ did strike a week later and you can see in the photograph below how it very quickly affected the few remaining tomatoes that I left on the plants.

SAM_0024 SAM_0030

I dug the tomato plants up quickly, removing any remaining tomatoes and put the foliage into my compost bin.

The stems and leaves of tomato plants that have ‘blight’ can be added to your compost heap, as the spores won’t survive on dead plant material.  Do ensure that you remove every last one of the tomatoes on the plants, as the blight spores survive in the seeds….SO DO NOT COMPOST THE FRUIT. 

SAM_0031

I dug the area over where the plants had been growing and forked in some manure.  I again split the bed up with some old weed suppressant, so I could easily walk around the bed without treading on the soil…and this was another bed completed for the winter:

SAM_0032

.

Another area I have concentrated on this week is outside my polytunnel.  This area used to be a real problem area as it looked unsightly with a few slabs, crazy paving and couch grass and the area was full of weeds.  So last winter I removed everything from the area and laid weed suppressant, with woodchip on top and it looked lovely.

However, this is how the area looked again last week:

SAM_0046

Unfortunately, the weed suppressant I used was just not up to the job and the weeds had grown through it!

I bought this weed suppressant from our allotment shop and it was a different sort to normal.  Weed suppressant is sold in different grades and this was obviously a low grade, but as I have never had a problem with their weed suppressant before, I just never gave it another thought….that will teach me not to check.

So I had to remove all of the wood chip and lay some more (better quality) weed suppressant and then put the wood chip back……I have got to say it was really hard work!  Hopefully this will work this time.

SAM_0048 SAM_0047 SAM_0053 SAM_0055

.

A couple of weeks ago I picked my saved pea pods from my pea plants and left them to continue to dry for a couple of weeks in my kitchen on trays.  This week Mr Thrift helped me to ‘pod’ the peas so I can use the seeds next year.

SAM_9908 SAM_9917

I store the seeds in an envelope in a tin, which will be placed in a cool, dark place.

SAM_0043 SAM_0044

 .

Finally, the first of my melons from my polytunnel was ready this week.  They are a variety called ‘outdoor wonder’.

The melons aren’t really big, but they are really sweet and delicious.  I grew them last year for the first time and I know I will be growing them every year from now on.  According to the packet they can be grown outdoors, though I grow them in my polytunnel just in case we have a bad summer:

SAM_0039 SAM_0038

That’s it for this week.  I hope you have enjoyed reading my blog.

I will be back next Friday as usual.

  I hope you have a good week.

What To Do In The Kitchen Garden In September

When I first started to grow vegetables I really needed this information to be in one place, so I could look it up easily. However, I found I had to search for lots of little bits of information, scattered between internet sites and books.  It used to take me a long time to find the information I needed.

I thought it would be useful to have this information altogether in one place.  So for the benefit of the UK gardeners, I will write a list of things to be done each month and any useful information I can think of.

It is worth remembering that different parts of the UK have different weather conditions e.g. the last frost is expected earlier in the south than the north.  Therefore, this is a general guide.

A Veg box given to my mother-in-law

.

September:

September is the first of the autumn months and night time temperatures will begin to fall.  After clear nights, mist and dew will form and early morning frost may be something to watch out for again, however September can bring lovely warm, sunny days too.

SAM_4156

.

Vegetables and salads to harvest:

Aubergines, swiss chard, globe artichokes, swedes, french beans, runner beans, sweetcorn, onions, cabbages (both red and white), cauliflowers, chillies, peppers, beetroot, summer and winter squashes, potatoes, florence fennel, kohl rabi, spinach, marrows, turnips, tomatoes, celery, chicory, lettuces, cucumbers, radish, spring onions, pumpkins, carrots, oriental leaves, courgettes, patty pans.

.

Fruit to harvest:

Apples, pears, perpetual strawberries, grapes, pears, blackberries, autumn raspberries, figs, plums, damsons, gages, cape gooseberries, melons, cranberries, blueberries.

SAM_3705 - Copy

.

Vegetables and salads to sow:

Oriental leaves, perpetual spinach, winter lettuces, radishes, rocket, winter hardy spring onions, corn salad, mizuna (you may need to give these crops protection over winter)

SAM_7242

.

Things to plant:

Spring cabbages, onion sets, strawberries.

SAM_3159

.

Jobs to do:

September is a good month to start clearing away old foliage from plants that have finished cropping.  The foliage can be put on the compost heap.
.
You can sow green manures this month.  Phacelia, annual ryegrass and field beans will overwinter well.
 .

Phacelia - A green manure

.
Earth up your brussel sprouts or stake them ready for any winter winds.
.
Lift any remaining onions and dry them ready for storing.
.
SAM_7239
.
Turn your compost heap regularly to help it to decompose quickly.
.
If you have managed to avoid tomato blight, cut off all the lower leaves now.  At the end of the month, pick all the remaining green tomatoes and ripen them on your window sill.
.
SAM_2975
.
If your tomatoes have succumbed to tomato blight you can compost the foliage provided that
EVERY LAST TOMATO HAS BEEN REMOVED.
  Tomato blight is a fungus that will survive in the seeds inside the tomato (as the seed is still alive), but it can NOT survive on the foliage after it has died off.
Tomato Blight

Tomato Blight

.
Cut down your asparagus to 1 inch above the ground when the foliage starts to go yellow.
.
Keep feeding celeriac and remove any old, damaged leaves from around the stems.
.
Continue to lift main crop potatoes.
.
Remove a few leaves from your squashes so the sun can ripen the fruits.
.
Keep watering crops if the weather is dry.
.
Keep harvesting apples and pears.
.
Check if your sweetcorn is ready to harvest: if the tassels have turned black or brown, peel back the outer leaves and push your nail into the sweetcorn.  If the juice is milky then it is ready to eat, if the juice is clear then leave a bit longer.
.
SAM_3336

.

Prune Blackberries as soon as they have finished fruiting.

SAM_9690

.

Septembers pests and diseases:

Keep checking potatoes and tomatoes for ‘tomato blight’.
Carrot flies are still laying eggs this month so keep your plants protected with fleece or environmesh.
Powdery mildews may affect plants this month.  Keep plants from becoming dry.
Continue to protect crops from cabbage white butterflies.
.
SAM_3407
.
Leek moth caterpillars feed on the leaves of leeks and burrow into the stems.
.
Slugs and snails are still a problem.
.
Check for brown rot on apples, pears, quinces and plums.  Remove infected fruit.
.
SAM_9728SAM_7274
.
Remove apples and pears that are affected by scab.
.
Don’t prune cherries or plums now as this may allow the silver leaf fungus to enter the trees.
.

SAM_3170 

.

I hope the above information will be helpful.

Thank you for reading my blog today.