Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Progress report...

I should apologise for the lack of posts recently – but I am not going to as this is clearly covered in paragraph # 2 of the disclaimer. I have been busy. I am self employed and work from home, so when I have a job on, I shut myself away in my office/studio and don’t come out until it’s done. Last week for example, I had rush-job deadline and worked 98 hours, which is not unusual.

I have stuck my head in the greenhouse each morning and made sure things that needed watering and feeding were watered and fed, but apart from that I have basically let things fend for themselves. Everything in the garden seems to be at that interim stage of development that isn’t really very noteworthy. I suspect it has something to do with the fact that it pretty much rained for a fortnight solid up here and we’ve had very little sunshine. As a consequence most things seemed to go dormant for a while and there hasn’t really been much breaking news from the veg plot since the radish explosion. Because the kitchen was too depressing I didn’t end up making any exciting radish soups etc as planned and ended up eating them in very basic salads that didn’t require any form of kitchen intervention. Regardless of this they were fantastic and the next glut of radishes is now due. I keep forgetting to plant them gradually in small batches and instead I suddenly realise that I’ve eaten them all and madly sow a ton more. One day I’ll get the hang of this.

Other notable developments:

The two chillies from Anna Valley are now huge and covered with flower buds. I was supposed to pinch out the growing tip but can't find one so will just let them run and see what happens. Now that one of the flowers is open I have taken them out of the greenhouse during the day to give them more of a chance of being pollinated.

This Chili is 'Spanish Spice'

It looks like I may have to start liking courgettes as there is a distinct possibility I will be buried under a glut of them and have to eat my way out. I only grew them to give to my dad, because he loves them but I’ve never really been that bothered about them. The only ones I can remember ever enjoying eating were on bus journeys in India and Nepal. Small boys would climb onto the outside of the moving bus and pass them through the windows in exchange for a couple of rupees. They were sliced in half lengthways (the courgettes, not the small boys - despite it being a highly dangerous manoeuvre) and covered in what I suspect was garam masala powder but could just as easily have been roadgrit as it was always very dusty and the buses didn't always have glass in the windows. The courgettes/marrows were however very refreshing on a long and dusty bus trip.
I have two varieties of courgette on the go, Cavili which is an F1 Hybrid and Black Beauty which is one of the BBC’s Dig In Freebies. The Cavili are real triffids and obviously love my garden as each one has about 8-10 little courgettes on it. The Black beauty were planted a few weeks later and have had a harder time from slugs but seem distinctly more delicate although they are also showing signs of having 6-8 courgettes on each plant.

Huge Cavili courgette plant bursts out of its cage.

I harvested my garlic as it was obviously ready/run its course, the leaves having gone brown and limp. I was rewarded with a handful of garlic bulbs roughly the size of a Malteser which I am going through the motions of drying although I doubt they’ll go further than a couple of meals as each bulb is no bigger than a regular individual clove. I am vaguely hoping that I have produced the Mini-Me of garlics and they will in fact be concentrated pure garlicky evil.

It seems to be touch and go with my melons (Ooooer). I have two varieties on the go; 3 each of Sweetheart and Minnesota Midget. Only one of each seems to be making any effort, the others seem to be prone to dramatic fits of the ‘vapours’ if I so much as look at them funny.

After some similar amateur dramatics from the cucumbers (I had one taken out and shot as an example) they seem to have got the message and settled down. I currently have two and a half cucumber plants and I am hoping that means I’ll get a few cucumbers at least.

After my disparaging comments about the state the strawberries were in when they arrived from Ken Muir, they have got their act together and both varieties; Mara des Bois and Tenira have produced plenty of flowers and are looking like delivering a respectable crop. I think the Gardman strawberry planters were a bad idea however, as the pockets spiral up around the bag which means that several plants are just not getting enough sun. The bags are way too heavy to lift without splitting because they didn’t come with handles the top lip on each bag is coming away. Next year the strawberries will go into the raised bed.

'Tenira' Strawbs

Last year I had a fantastic crop of Hopi Indian Blue Corn, which quite happily grew without any interference from me (a quality I find very appealing).

Hopi Indian Blue Corn

This year I decided to be a smart arse and try the ‘3 sisters’ idea whereby I grow sweetcorn (in this case F1 Incredible), interspersed with Dwarf French beans (can’t remember the variety), and squashes (Baby Bell). However, instead of 3 sisters I seem to have got the Addams Family. The sweetcorn are stunted, the DFB’s are slug ravaged midgets and the squashes are sad and embarrassing. Instead of being mutually supportive and complimentary they are fighting like a bunch of spoilt kids in the back of the car. ‘Don’t make me pull over and come back there!’

Fig related news is much better. Last year the fig arrived with one fruit and produced another two later in the summer. This year it has 3 fully formed fruit and is showing the signs of producing a second batch of 13 additional fruits. This must be because I actually remembered to stop each branch by removing the growing tip after 5-6 new leaves, my failure to do this last year meant things got a bit leafy and not so fruity. If things go to plan we are on track for a big fig tart this summer. As you know my life needs more tarts in it.

The lemon ‘tree’ is doing ok although no sign of any lemons yet so I have given up on the idea of having G+T’s with my own lemons on my birthday. Plan B is underway, my Borage is producing flowers, my mint is just about clinging onto life and I am hopeful of getting at least one cucumber so a jug of Pimms now looks like a distinct possibility. Huzzah!

I don’t think I am going to bother with carrots next year as so far I have only managed to produce one carrot from my raised bed and whilst it tasted exactly like a carrot, there were no fireworks, it was not the best carrot I’d ever had. The problem with these root veg is that I can’t see when they’re ready so I’ve been unearthing things too soon. The radishes had the right idea by literally climbing out of the soil and saying ‘pick me!’ If only all veg were so obliging.

Actual size

I have just broken my edibles only rule by buying a Sarracencia (Sarracencia Leucophylla) from South West Carnivorous Plants. Ok so I am changing the rule to 'only plants that are edible or liable to eat others'. It arrived this morning, very well packed, and is already in the greenhouse waiting for any wasps that stray inside. I’ve had pitcher plants before, but found the watering requirements a bit of a hassle (rainwater only) and they all died after a couple of years. Now I am more prepared with a greenhouse and water butt, so there should be no excuse. The Leucophylla have fantastic white topped traps which are supposedly particularly good at dealing with wasps, it does seem already to be a bad/good year for wasps up here and I don’t want to share a greenhouse with them.

Sarracencia Leucophylla

In other news, the kitchen still isn’t finished, big surprise – not! There have been numerous leaks and faulty appliances sent back/replaced and as a consequence the floor isn’t down yet and the cupboards can’t be finished off. It should be sorted by the end of the week so I am hoping to be actually able to cook something next week. In anticipation of getting some baking done I am ordering some new digital scales. Stay tuned!


  1. great stuff.. my courgette flowers have just opened, which is very exciting as I LOVE LOVE LOVE courgettes... I have a great recipe for courgette pie on my blog and i've also just seen a great recipe for courgette bread, where you grate the courgette into the flour... also remember you can always cut them into fine shreds and deep fry them in batter and make courgette chips!!! great blog by the way!

  2. I have really enjoyed reading this - not many blogs make me laugh out loud but you did. I feel the same way about some of my edible attempts this year as you do about the Three Sisters bed.

  3. Cheers Dominic. I've got your courgette recipe bookmarked in the hope that my courgette crop actually tastes of something and is therefor worthy of investing the time required to do the recipe justice. Think I've heard of a similar courgette bread recipe - it vaguely rings a bell. Might have seen it on http://foodgawker.com/ or similar, think it must be along similar lines as carrot bread/cake.

  4. Cheers Bilbo, glad to hear you are back - even if you didn't actually go away.

  5. If it makes you feel any better, my carrot is much smaller than yours. So small in fact that a trio of ants could carry it off if they were remotely interested in improving their vision. I've refrained from the oooeerrmissus. However, size is important...when it comes to veg.

  6. Dear Alex, Good to hear you and the plants are still alive and well(ish). Tried the 3 sisters without any success a few years ago, this year I'm having another bash, having first let the sweetcorn reach 18" or so. Suspect you need a Mexican climate tho'. You can pollinate your peppers etc. with a paint brush, if you own such an arcane object. Don't work too hard.

  7. Michaela - it's up to you to fly the flag for Carry On style double entendres and Viz humour in the US. They need much more Oooer missus and Fnarr Fnarr. I guarantee you that later in the season I will be telling everyone about my huge plums (actually it looks like I may only have one huge plum this year)

    Is - Don't know if it's the weather or the variety of sweetcorn. Last year the Hopi blue went from seed to 2 feet tall in less than 3 weeks and despite only being supposed to grow 5 feet in total they were all 7ft tall by the end of the season. This year the incredible still isn't 2 ft tall. Don't worry I have got out my old No6 sable and I'm giving eveything a good poke with it. Fnarr Fnarr

  8. Wow - you have been busy!