Tag Archive | Tomato blight

Tomato Blight & A Cake Sale

My small garden is continuing to produce crops.

This week I have been picking cucumbers (both indoor and outdoor ones), raspberries, runner beans courgettes, patty pans and I dug up the rest of my early potatoes (marfona) and a few of my main crop potatoes (desiree):

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I also picked my first kohl rabi of the season – which my daughters love to eat raw, dipped in salad cream, hopefully there will be more soon:

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I have also continued to pick tomatoes from my greenhouse and chery tomatoes from my outdoor hanging baskets:

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However, I spotted the dreaded ‘blight’ on my outdoor tomatoes.  I grow a variety called ‘outdoor girl’ which usually give me a good crop each year before blight strikes, however this year they didn’t grow as quickly as usual due to a colder start in late Spring and so all the tomatoes were still green.

Tomato blight:

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“Tomato blight is caused by the same fungus as potato blight.  It is called ‘Phytophthora infestans’, but it is more commonly known as ‘late blight’.  It is a windblown fungus that can travel long distances.  It spreads when the temperature is above 10C and the humidity is above 75% for two consecutive days, known as a ‘Smith Period’.   In the UK outbreaks can occur from June onwards and apparently it is usually seen in the south west first.

The disease is common on outdoor tomatoes – tomatoes grown in a polytunnel or greenhouse have a bit of protection from it, as the spores have to enter through doors and vents.

The early stages of blight can be easily missed and not all plants are affected at the same time, however it will spread rapidly”

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For some strange reason, the tomatoes next to my shed and my cherry tomatoes in hanging baskets haven’t yet succumbed to the dreaded blight, though I am checking them daily, together with my greenhouse tomatoes:

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However the cherry tomatoes that are growing in pots, began to show blight symptoms a couple of days after blight was first spotted in my garden:

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What to do if you spot blight on your plants:

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“If you catch blight early you can strip the tomatoes from the plant and ripen them on a windowsill.  Be careful to check them every day as some of them may already be affected.

If you have caught it really early, you can use the green tomatoes to make chutney, as provided they haven’t turned brown, the tomatoes are safe to eat.

Take up your blighted tomato plants straight away and dispose of them, so you don’t help to spread the spores to your neighbour’s plots.

 According to ‘Garden Organic’ the stems and leaves of affected plants can be added to your compost heap, as the spores won’t survive on dead plant material, but do not compost any blighted fruit (the tomatoes) as the spores survive in the seeds inside”

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My tomatoes are now on trays waiting to ripen….I always pick them off the plants when I first spot blight and this way I manage to save approx 75% of the tomatoes…provided blight is spotted early enough:

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I’ve been busy in the garden this week, summer pruning and cutting back overgrown plants.

I started with the pyracantha that was trying to escape over the fence into next doors garden.  The trunk was quite thick at the top so I had to ‘saw’ the top off.  Unfortunately I did lose most of the berries that would have ripened in autumn, but it needed to be done before it upset the neighbours:

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I then removed the sweet peas that were growing in a pot…they have given a wonderful display, but they sadly succumbed to mildew and were hardly producing any more flowers:

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 I also removed the sweet peas that were growing over the arch I made, again they gave a wonderful display but they also succumbed to mildew and had stopped producing flowers.

At the end of May I had also planted two pumpkin plants (that produce small pumpkins) alongside the sweet peas……these are growing nicely now and I made sure they tied onto the arch for support:

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I also gave my bay tree a summer prune and it smelt lovely as I was cutting the leaves.  It looks much neater now:

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One final job this week was to remove the lettuces that I tried to grow in guttering.  Unfortunately they didn’t do very well at all.  When I first planted them it was very wet and as they were so close to the fence…. I thought that they would stay really dry, however this was not the case and they were too wet and I suspect the roots began to rot.  This was followed by really hot weather and  the compost was really really dry even though I watered them every day.

So I removed the compost and drilled drainage holes along the guttering so the new compost wouldn’t become water logged in bad weather:

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I then thought about how I could keep the compost from drying out too much and came to the conclusion I should use water retaining granules…but I didn’t have any.  Then I remembered that in a gardening program once, Christine Walkden said she used old sponges that she cut up…..so this is what I did:

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I then mixed the sponge with compost and put it in the guttering……

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…..and then I sowed some more lettuce seed.

Unfortunately the local squirrel came along then and buried some monkey nuts in a couple of places, so I had to put some wire over the guttering too:

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I will let you know if this now works.

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This week in the home:

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This week has been a baking week.  My youngest daughter did a cake sale with her ‘NCS’ friends to raise money for ‘Wishes 4 kids’ and my eldest daughter and I helped by making some little cakes for her.  I also made a chcolate cake to raffle off and altogether they raised £120, which is incredible.

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However an hour after starting the sale they were beginning to run out of cakes and I quickly made some more.  I made 28 chocolate chip fairy cakes, 12 double chocolate muffins and a massive tray of cereal cakes and I defrosted some cheesy courgette scones from my freezer (which defrost quickly).  I somehow managed to deliver them all in the car within 65 minutes…..I didn’t know I could bake that quickly, but it helped that I knew the recipes off by heart.  Unfortunately when I got back home the kitchen was in a right mess with pots and bowls everywhere, but at least they raised some more money at the cake sale.

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This week I have also been doing my usual baking…

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And I also made some cheesy courgette scones which I froze for another time (though most of them went to the cake sale in the end):

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I also made some laundry liquid as I had run out (I still love making this as it is so cheap and I really can’t understand why I brought expensive powders for so long when laundry liquid is so cheap and easy to make):

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And finally I made some homemade burgers to freeze for another time and some to have for tea.  Homemade burgers are delicious as they actually taste of beef (I never think shop brought ones do).

They are so easy to make……I mix good quality lean mince beef with a couple of grated onions and a chopped garlic clove and I then mix in an egg to bind it altogether.

You can mix in any herbs and spices too if you want….a teaspoon of chilli powder makes them taste delicious too.

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I then take a handful and roll it into a ball and then flatten it into a burger shape (make sure your burgers aren’t too thick or they won’t cook evenly).  At this stage you can freeze the burgers between pieces of greaseproof paper for another time, or you can fry them until they are cooked.

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I served ours inside homemade rolls with salad, mayonaise and a slice of cheese.  I also added a side portion of sweet potato wedges and they were a real treat!

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Thank you for reading my blog today, I will be back next week as usual.

Have a great week.

XXX

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Greenhouse Shading And Banana Recipes

There has been some really miserable weather this week and it’s been hard to get into the garden to do any work.

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However, in between the showers I did manage to plant my mange tout, in front of my strawberries.  I am trying very hard to use every bit of space I have to grow vegetables.

This really is a trial year for my kitchen garden and I’m not sure yet if things will grow well or not.  I was hoping that I will have picked the strawberries before the peas grow taller and take away some of the sunlight….however due to the miserable, cool weather we have been having this may not work, as there are no sign of flowers on my strawberries yet.

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You can see in the second photo, I have put wire over the peas to stop the birds from eating them and my dog from destroying them (as she still goes mad when my neighbours dog is out).

I grew the monge tout in small lengths of guttering, which I ‘slide out’ into prepared soil when they have germinated.  I find this gives me a better germination rate.

You can read exactly how I grow peas in guttering here.

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I also planted out a few of my outdoor tomatoes that I sowed on the 5th April.  You can see in the photo above that I am leaving some glass over them because the temperature outside is still quite cool for this time of year.

The tomatoes are a variety called ‘Outdoor Girl’ and I have grown them now for many years outside.  One seed company describes them as follows:

“Tomato Outdoor Girl is a really tough outdoor tomato, very easy to grow and tolerant to low temperatures. Early to fruit producing medium sized fruits of good flavour and colour

I think they are spot on with this description, as they really do give a good supply of tomatoes early on, so I get a good harvest before blight hits.

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In between my tomatoes I have planted some Tegetes as they look lovely when they are in flower and they also confuse the white fly with their smell, so this will stop them from attacking my plants.

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In my greenhouse this week I took the bubble wrap down that provided a layer in insulation over winter, (before it actually fell down on its own).  I have left it in place over the last few years and it was now brittle and tore very easily.

I replaced it with shading netting that will help my plants on hot sunny days.  I bought my shade netting from Wilkinsons as I found it cheapest from there:

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Last week I planted my basil in bags in my greenhouse and this week I sowed a catch crop of radish in between them and amazingly the radish germinated in just five days.  I also sowed a row of radish outside on the same day and they are nowhere to be seen yet.

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This week I harvested my first radish from the garden.  These were sowed on the 10th April:

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 I also picked a few of my everlasting onions:

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And I had my third cut of mixed salad leaves that I sowed in a pot in March:

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(Next year I am hoping to be havesting more things at this time of year, now my kitchen garden is up and running).

The aim of my kitchen garden is to harvest as much as possible from a small space.

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At home this week:

I made a big batch of tomato and basil soup from tomatoes I grew at my allotment last year and froze (I just chop the fresh tomatoes in half and place in a freezer bag and then into the freezer).

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When the soup was ready I then froze it in portions, so I can defrost a bowl full for lunch when I want to:

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Top Tip:

This week my daughter brought some plastic cups from the ‘pound shop’ and she couldn’t get the sticky labels off:

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So I put a drop of olive oil on the sticky labels and then I used a scrubber to easily remove the sticky label and residue remaining:

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This also works for removing the sticky residue on jam jars when most of the label has been removed.

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And finally I made some banana lollies and some super quick and easy ‘breadmaker’ banana bread from the ‘whoopsied’ bananas that I bought at the end of last week and I have written bothe of these recipies below for anyone that is intersted:

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Super Quick And Easy Banana Bread In A Breadmaker:

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3 over ripe bananas mashed

200 grams granulated sugar

3 tablespoons sunflower oil

2 eggs

270g self raising flour

1 teaspoon of baking powder

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Put all the above ingredients into your breadmaker pan and put it on a ‘pizza dough’ setting for 5 minutes.

Stop the breadmaker half way through and scrape down the sides of your pan with a spatula to ensure all the flour is mixed in well,

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When there is no trace of flour left, set your breadmaker on a ‘bake’ setting for 55 minutes:

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The result is lovely banana bread

(which incidentally can be sliced and frozen for another time):

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Banana Ice Lollies:

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2 Ripe banana’s

3 tablespoons natural yoghurt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

60 grams chocolate

2 tablepoons of milk

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Use a hand blender to combine the banana, yoghurt and vanilla until they are smooth:

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Pour the resulting mixture into four lolly moulds, leaving a slight gap at the top for the chocolate:

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Put the chocolate and milk in a microwaveable jug and microwave on full power until the chocolate has melted (this only takes a couple of minutes so keep checking it).

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Let the chocolate mix cool down for a few minutes and then pour it over the banana mixture:

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Put the lollies in the freezer overnight:

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And then enjoy:

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Thank you for reading my blog today, I will be back next Friday at my usual time.

Have a good weekend!

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:

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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.

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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:

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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:

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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:

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

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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.

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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. 

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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:

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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:

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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.

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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.

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

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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:

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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.

Purple Bullace Jelly And Courgette Chutney

This week in my kitchen I have been busy using all the home grown produce that I have picked.  I always have a lovely sense of satisfaction when I use my organic fruit and vegetables, as I  know one hundred percent that no chemicals have been used to grow them and I think this also makes them taste better.

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This week my outdoor tomatoes have started to ripen and I have begun picking them daily.  They are a variety called ‘outdoor girl’ which are usually a little bit earlier than other outdoor varieties, however for some reason they are a little bit later than usual this year.

I am constantly checking for tomato blight as my tomatoes have only escaped once over the years.  You can see photos of tomato blight here, together with lots of information on what to do when you first notice it on your tomatoes, as some of your crop can be saved if you act quickly.

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With my first batch of tomatoes I made a big pot of tomato and basil soup, which we had for lunch with a loaf of warm, crusty homemade bread.  It was far nicer than any soup you can buy in a tin and it only cost me a few pennies to make as nearly all the ingredients were from my allotment.

You can find the recipe here.

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I am also still using all of the courgettes that my plants are producing.  This week I made my favourite courgette chutney….

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Courgette Chutney Recipe:

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2 onions chopped

500g tomatoes chopped

500g courgettes diced

300ml white wine vinegar

2 cooking apples peeled and diced

250g brown sugar

2 teaspoons mixed spice

1 tablespoon of mustard seeds

Thumb sized piece of root ginger grated

4 garlic cloves crushed

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Put all the ingredients in a large pan and bring to the boil slowly, stirring continuously.

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Simmer for 2 hours uncovered, until it is dark and looks like chutney.

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Pour into hot sterilised jars.

( To sterilise jars, pop them in an oven for five minutes, gas 4 / 180C / 350F )

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Leave for 3 weeks before eating.

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This year at my allotment I had a bumber crop of strawberries.

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At this time of year I usually tidy the plants up a bit…. I remove the straw that I lay around the plants in the spring and put it into my compost heap.  I then cut the strawberries back to approximately 3 inches (8 cms) from the crowns.  It always looks harsh but they grow back really well.

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Cutting the strawberries back in this way helps the plant produce more fruit the following year, as the plant then puts all it’s energy into producing a strong root system.

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This is the second year my plants have fruited so I am not keeping any runners, so I cut them all off.

  If I wanted to increase my stock I would just peg down the runners with a large stone or wire, so that the new plantlets are in contact with the soil.  When they have good roots on them at the beginning of September, I cut each runner from their parent and replant it where I want it to grow.  This way they are settled before the winter and produce fruit the following year.

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Incidentally, I found this little fella under the old straw around my strawberries:

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I have been told he is a ‘death head hawk moth’ caterpillar.  He looks quite evil doesn’t he, but I left him alone as moths are hugely important for the food chain and some of them are great plant pollinators.

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This week I have been picking ‘Cucamelons’.  It’s the first time I have grown them and they seem to have taken ages to become established….and now they are taking over my polytunnel!

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When I was researching the cucamelon, I found some people loved them and some people hated them, so I thought I would try them for myself…..I’ve got to say I am somewhere in between.

I think they taste like a cucumber, but with a crunchy skin.  The plants have certainly given me a good crop, but after we all tried them, we decided we like normal cucumbers better….so this is one I won’t bother growing again (sorry James Wong).

However this year they will go to good use in salads, with a drizzle of olive oil, lemon juice and a pinch of salt:

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At this time of year I am thinking about storing my crops ready for the winter.  My potatoes have all been dried and they are now storing in sacks.

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  My french beans are doing well at my allotment this year and I have been busy blanching and freezing them, together with the runnerbeans that I am still picking:

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If you have been reading my blog for a while, you will remember that this time last year I gave the old tree in my woodland area a real good prune as I don’t think it had been pruned for years.  I had been told by a couple of people that I would be better off chopping the tree down as it never has fruit on it….but I decided to give it a chance.

I prunned away approximately a third of all the dead, diseased and crossing branches and I will continue doing this every August until it is back to how it should be.

….And after just one year of pruning it has rewarded me with a bumper crop…..

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The gentleman that rented the plot before me (my dear friend Eric) told me that the tree was not a damson tree, but he didn’t know what it was.  I think the tree is a ‘purple bullace tree’….I may be wrong, but it doesn’t really matter as the fruit makes a great fruit jelly…which I have been making this week, ready for my Christmas hampers:

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A Wild Plum, Damson or Bullace Jelly Recipe:

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First cut your plums in half just to make sure they haven’t been infected by the plum moth (discard any that have).  Don’t bother removing the stones. 

Put the plums into a maslin pan or a large jam making pan.

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Cover the plums half way up with water.

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Slowly bring the plums to the boil and then simmer until they are soft (approx. 15-30 mins).

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Meanwhile, bring a pan of water to the boil and place some muslin or a clean tea towel into it and boil for 3 minutes.  Take it out of the water and wring it out and then leave to cool.

Tip the fruit into the muslin and let it drip overnight or for approximately 8 hours.  I find it easier to put the muslin over a colander that is already over a bowl, as it’s easier to pour the fruit into it.

In the picture below, you can see how I suspend my muslin bag over a bowl.  I have read that an upside down stool can be helpful to do this, but I have never tried it.

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The next day put some side plates or saucers in the freezer to check the setting point of your jelly later on.

Measure the juice.  For every 1 pint of juice, measure 1lb of granulated sugar.   Put the juice and sugar back into a large pan and bring it to the boil slowly, over a low heat, until the sugar has dissolved.

Also, as I don’t use jam sugar I add two tablespoons of lemon juice for every one pint of juice.

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When you can see no sugar crystals on the back of your wooden spoon, turn the heat up and boil hard until the setting point has been reached.  This can take quite some time.

(I always continuously stir my jams and jellies to stop them from burning at the base of the pan, however I have never seen a recipe tell you to do this, so it’s up to you).

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To check the setting point, put a small amount of jelly on a saucer from the freezer and wait for a few moments, push the jelly with your finger and if it wrinkles then the setting point has been reached, if not just continue boiling for a further five minutes and then check again.

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When the setting point has been reached, take the pan off the heat and leave it for fifteen minutes. If there is scum on your jelly, you can skim it off, but I just stir in a small knob of butter which does the same job.

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Sterilise some jam jars (gas mark 4 for 5 minutes)

Pour the jelly into the jars and seal with lids.

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Enjoy it for months to come!

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Thank you for reading my blog today.

I will be back next Friday at my usual time.

Moving A Shed/Pond And A Butternut Squash Problem

Last Monday I wrote about our very exciting building work that was due to start last Tuesday.  Unfortunately, for one reason or another the building work was delayed another week, but I am pleased to say they have started today.  As I write, The kitchen has been removed and our backroom carpet has been lifted and they are currently removing the ceiling.

It is all very exciting.

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Up until now the builders have been very professional and they have great references from people we have been to see, so we are hoping that the delay was just an unfortunate ‘blip’.

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I’m very pleased to say that at the weekend Mr Thrift and my brother-in-law managed to move my shed on to my newly laid slabs, without it collapsing and I no longer have a ‘crooked house’.  I am very grateful to them.  They also moved and set up my two water butts ready to catch the winter rains.

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My pond in Spring

My pond in Spring

I also decided to move one of my small ponds at the weekend.  Unfortunately the pond was in an awkward place next to one of my compost heaps so I came to the conclusion it needed moving.  I wanted to move it before the winter as I wasn’t sure if I would disturb anything that would be hibernating over winter.

I put the pond at the far corner of my woodland area.  This area is not in the shade and it is near the middle of my plot, so I thought it would be a good place to encourage frogs to visit it and then go away and eat the slugs and snails on my plot.

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First I dug a hole ready for my pond liner.  The soil was rock hard as I don’t think this area had been dug for years and years:

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I then put all the pond water into an unused water butt next to where the pond was moving to:

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I dug out a bit more soil so the pond liner sat straight and then I filled the pond up.

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I put some old bits of crazy paving around the pond and then transplanted the aubretia that I grew around the pond previously.  Finally I emptied the water from the water butt next to the pond.  I didn’t want to use the same pond water, as there were leaves, mud and lots of lots of pond weed in it, but I hoped that by emptying it next to the pond, any pond life would be able to crawl back into my newly located pond.

I was very pleased with the result, however I will need to cover it with netting soon to make sure that the autumn leaves don’t blow into it:

Before

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After

After

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I just thought I would finish with a couple of things.  The first is my tomatoes….I am sad to say that they have finally succumbed to the dreaded tomato blight.  You can read more about it here.  As I have caught it really early, I have stripped the remaining tomatoes off my plants and I will be ripening them in my polytunnel and greenhouse at home (I would normally ripen them on my windowsills but due to the building work this isn’t possible).  I may still lose some of them to blight, but time will only tell.

I have read so many times that you should burn the foliage when you have blight, but this is just not true.  Blight is a fungus that remains in the seed (the tomato) but not on the foliage.  The fungus will not survive on the stems or leaves after the plant has died, so it is safe to add it to the compost heap, provided you have removed all of the tomatoes.  If you are still unsure, you can read more on the Garden Organic website here.

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And finally, three different people at my allotment have asked me the same question this week, so I wondered if the answer would help anyone who reads this blog, as it is obviously a problem that a few people are suffering from…..butternut squashes that are not yet ripening?  I have been asked what to do with them when they are still partly green?

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Butternut squashes were late producing fruit this year as if you cast your mind back, it was still quite cold in late May and June.  This meant the squashes were all slow to get going.

My reply was that I would leave them out as long as possible and watch the weather forecast like a hawk.  If there is a frost forecast I would either cover them up with fleece for the night or if I couldn’t leave them outside any longer, I would bring them into a cold greenhouse or polytunnel to see if they would ripen just a little bit more.  If they are still green then they won’t store very long, so I would eat these ones first.

I hope this helps someone here too.

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Thank you for reading my blog today.

I will be back on Friday, hopefully with some better news about our building work.

Tomato Blight And Planting Winter Salads

I thought I would start today by telling you about a couple of things we did at the weekend:

On Monday it was my dad’s 82nd birthday.  It has been a long time since my family all got together, so I decided to throw him a surprise birthday party.  He thought he was just coming to our house for tea and loved it when our whole family appeared.

It was a really lovely evening.

My eldest daughter decorated the cake

My eldest daughter decorated the cake

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Another thing that happened last weekend, was my husband and youngest daughter did a ‘Car Boot Sale’.  We had spent the whole of the last week having a massive clear out and decided we would try and make some money from all the things we didn’t want anymore.  It’s amazing how much ‘stuff’ you collect over the years isn’t it.  You can see it all in the photograph below:

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I am so very proud of them, as they made just over £90!  It just goes to show that one man’s junk is another man’s treasure.

We still had some things left at the end, so we took them down to our local charity shop the next day, in the hope that they would make some money out of it too.

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A butterfly on our window, captured by my youngest daughter.

A butterfly on our window, captured by my youngest daughter.

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This week I have been preparing for the long cold winter by sowing a few winter hardy salads to plant out in my polytunnel when I have some room.

I have sown a winter hardy lettuce called ‘Arctic king’ and  some winter hardy spring onions.  I also sowed some mizuna and corn salad as these were both so successful last year.  Lastly, I also sowed some perpetual spinach which will hopefuly be ready in early spring if I plant it under a cloche outside.

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Mizuna and corn salad last year in my polytunnel over winter

Mizuna and corn salad last year in my polytunnel over winter

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My allotment is still providing a feast of salads and vegetables everytime I visit it.

The runner beans are doing very well, even though they started to produce slightly later than normal.  This has had a knock on effect as I have noticed my french beans are nearly ready to pick now and I usually start to pick them when my runner beans have just about stopped producing.  So I will soon have double the amount of beans to harvest and freeze at the same time.

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My outdoor cucumbers are having a fantastic crop because the weather has been warm and I am picking them daily and giving them away as we just can’t eat the amount they are producing. The variety I am growing is ‘Burpless Tasty Green’ which I have found to be a reliable outdoor crop (though last year I only managed to get three or four cucumbers all in all,  due to the rotten weather we had).  The skins are a bit prickly so we peel them before we eat them and they taste lovely.

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I picked my first kohl rabi of the year this week.  Again, they are a little late this year, but it was worth the wait.  Kohl rabi can be grated in salads or used in stews, soups or casseroles.  I don’t get to cook mine, as they are eaten the minute I bring them home.  My family love them peeled, chopped and eaten raw, dipped in salad cream.

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You can see in the photo above that my outdoor tomatoes are finally starting to ripen.  They seem to have been ‘green’ for eternity this year.  When I get enough of them I will be making soup with them and lots of passatta to freeze and use over the winter.

So far my tomatoes are free from tomato ‘blight’, but I am checking them daily for signs.  Below I have written some information regarding tomato blight, which you may find interesting if you are growing your own tomatoes:

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Tomato blight

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Tomato blight

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Tomato blight is caused by the same fungus as potato blight.  It is called ‘Phytophthora infestans’, but it is more commonly known as ‘late blight’.  It is a windblown fungus that can travel long distances.  It spreads when the temperature is above 10C and the humidity is above 75% for two consecutive days, known as a ‘Smith Period’.   In the UK outbreaks can occur from June onwards and it is said to be usually seen in the south west first.

The disease is common on outdoor tomatoes, though tomatoes grown in a polytunnel or greenhouse have some protection from it, as the spores have to enter through doors and vents.

The early stages of blight can be easily missed and not all plants are affected at the same time, however it will spread rapidly.

Symptoms usually seen are brown patches that appear on the leaves and stems and spread very rapidly. The fruit will also turn brown. The underside of leaves can develop a downy white coating of spores in moist conditions.

The first signs of 'blight' on my tomato plants last year

The first signs of ‘blight’ on my tomato plants last year

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What can you do to prevent blight?

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You can grow varieties that are not so susceptible to blight e.g. ‘Ferline’ and ‘Legend’, but remember that some varieties can resist some strains of the fungus but not others.

I like to choose an earlier maturing variety that is ready to harvest before blight strikes, though the tomatoes are usually smaller.

Do not save seed from infected plants as it can survive in the seed and reproduce next spring. Instead, buy good quality seed from a reputable supplier.

Remove any potatoes that were left in the ground from the previous year as the pathogen over winters in rotten potatoes. 

Keep the plant foliage as dry as possible by watering in the morning and at the base of the plants.  Mulch will reduce the amount of watering needed.

Try to avoid brushing past tomato plants when they are wet as this can increase the likelihood of spreading the spores.

Space plants wide apart so the air can flow around the plants.

Keep monitoring your plants and act quickly if you see blight on them.

You can use a ‘bordeaux’ mix to control blight, but you need to spray before blight takes hold as it protects the foliage.  It also needs to be sprayed on your plants regularly so organic gardeners do not favour this method.

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 My tomato plants have blight, what can I do?

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 If you catch it early you can strip the tomatoes from the plant and ripen them on a windowsill.  Be careful to check them every day as some of them may already be affected.

If you haven’t caught it really early, you can use the green tomatoes to make chutney, as provided they haven’t turned brown, the tomatoes are safe to eat.

Take up your blighted tomatoes plants straight away and dispose of them, so you don’t help to spread the spores to your neighbour’s plots.

 According to ‘Garden Organic’ the stems and leaves of affected plants can be added to your compost heap, as the spores won’t survive on dead plant material, but do not compost any blighted fruit as the spores survive in the seeds.

Tomatoes ripening on my windowsill last year

Tomatoes ripening on my windowsill last year

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I hope this information has been of use to you.

I will be back on Monday at 4pm.

I hope you have a good weekend.

A Week Of Planting Tender Crops

The weather has been beautiful this week, making it a real pleasure to work at my allotment.

I’ve had a good week there, as I have started to plant out my tender plants.  These plants are the ones that can’t tolerate any frost, so I have kept them at home until this week.

Two weeks ago, I prepared the soil by spreading some blood, fish and bone fertiliser over the area where the plants were to go.

Unfortunately, the week didn’t start off too well as I had an accident with my first set of plants…I dropped a whole tray of sweetcorn, face down on my path!  Every one of my home sown plants either bent, or snapped in half and they were unusable. Only a ‘gardener’ can understand how upsetting this was for me, I just kept looking at them in disbelief!

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Luckily, a wonderful nursery in Syston came to the rescue and I managed to get some replacements.  They were really reasonable in price too, as they were £2.00 for twelve plants, which isn’t as cheap as growing them from seed but cheaper than buying ready grown, tasteless ones from the supermarket.

I planted the sweetcorn in a block.  Sweetcorn is wind pollinated and by planting them in a block it gives the male flowers at the top of each plant more opportunity to shed their pollen on the female tassels below.

Afterwards, I planted my butternut squash plants in between the sweetcorn.  I do this as it saves space, but also because the leaves of the squashes are quite large they help to prevent weeds from growing and help to keep moisture in the ground (as the ground is shaded from the sun).  I have grown my sweetcorn like this for a number of years and I have always had a good result.

My sweetcorn with butternut squashes between them

My sweetcorn with butternut squashes planted between them

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This week I planted my outdoor tomato plants.  They are a variety called ‘Outdoor Girl’.  I use this variety as they fruit slightly earlier than other outdoor varieties and this gives me a chance to get a decent crop before the dreaded ‘blight’ hits.  You can read about tomato blight here.

If you live in the UK, you can use a wonderful website called Blightwatch UK.  If you register, they will email or text you (free of charge), when the conditions are perfect for ‘blight’ in your area.  It doesn’t necessarily follow that you will suffer from blight, but it will remind you to check your plants.   You can find their website here.

I also planted some ‘Tagetes’ in between my tomatoes, as they are one of the best organic controls against aphid infestations, as their foliage has a scent which aphids hate….and they look nice when they are in flower.

My tomatoes

My tomatoes

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My courgettes and patty pans went in this week and my pumpkins too.  The allotment society is having a pumpkin competition this year and we were all given two or three seeds each to grow.  My daughter won last year’s pumpkin competition with a pumpkin that weighed 24.4 kg.  I wonder if we will be lucky again this year.

Last year's winner

Last year’s winner

This year's plant

This year’s plant

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I like to make sure we always have salad leaves, as we eat a lot of them in our house.  So I sow lettuces often through the spring and summer.  I planted some this week and I covered them to keep the birds away:

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Finally, I planted my celeriac (which incidentally need lots of water to get decent sized plants) and I also planted my swedes.  My swedes were still very small, so I put mini cloches over them (made out of pop bottles), to protect them from slugs, snails and flea beatles.  The mini cloches will also keep them in a sheltered environment until they are bigger.  You can see from the picture below that I also put a small cane in the cloche, this stops the wind from blowing them over:

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Things seam to be growing well around the plot at the moment.  I noticed my gooseberries seemed to have appeared since I last looked:

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and my strawberries seem to have grown just as quick…

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My poached egg plants that attract the bees and hoverflies are looking beautiful now…

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and the flowers in my flower bed have sprung into life, together with my ‘sink’ of alpines:

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I love days at my allotment when the sun is shining and the weather is warm.  Days like these make me very grateful for living the life I do.

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Thank you for reading my blog today.

I will be back on Monday at 4pm.