Thursday, 21 September 2017

The Allotment in September

There are signs that summer is coming to an end, so here's a celebration of the veg patch at it's best before the turn.

Squash Carrots Jerusalem Artichoke and Sweetcorn 
The Jerusalem Artichoke is taller than I can ever remember it. 9 ft.  If it gets windy I will have to chop it down to size even before the frost burns the tops. Nestling behind those leave s in the foreground are some happy looking fruit:

Sharks Fin Melon and Kabocha Squash

Main crop potatoes Rooster being lifted
 It has been a fabulous year for potatoes. Yields have been massive, but wet conditions also mean more pest damage.

Brassica Patch
 Already Cauliflower Cabbage and Kale.  Plenty more to come right up to the Purple Sprouting Broccoli next March.

Fill in Salad patch where the broad beans were

Uniform carrots

The most sensitive crop appears to be the French Beans.  They stole a march on the runners but are not lasting as well.  The runners are just going mad!
Runners (left) v French Beans (right)
I hope your 2017 season has been good too.

Time of the Season

Friday, 8 September 2017

Incredible String Garland

Yes it's time to string the onions for winter storage again.

It has been a good year for onions although a few white noses reminded me that white rot is an ever present threat.   I am glad I lifted them when I did as the weather has been dampish recently as evidenced by the blight sweeping in and the proliferation of slugs.  The  onion bulbs have been under cover in greenhouse and shed for a couple of weeks.

Most days I have been giving them a quarter turn to help even out the curing process.  Any blemished bulbs have been used first, so I am confident the rest will store well under the right conditions: that is suspended on a string in an airy place out of direct sunlight.

Here's my step by step guide to stringing onions:

First dry your onions for a couple of weeks.  You want the tops to still have some flexibility and strength rather than be bone dry so don't leave it too long.

You need to secure a hook in a location strong enough to carry the weight of the onions and with sufficient clearance below.  The doorway of a shed or greenhouse is ideal.

Cut off a length of strong twine and tie the ends together to form a loop.

Hang the loop onto the peg at the top and tie a nice big onion to the bottom end. (Shorten the loop if necessary by tying a further knot at the desired height and rehanging the new smaller loop. You will now have two vertical strings and the method is to add one onion at a time wrapping the onion top in a figure of eight around the two strings and then closing off the knot by passing the onion bulb over the top between the two strings.

Close up on the figure of eight.

Progressing  up the parallel strings
You soon learn that each additional onion is best presented from opposite sides of the string so that when they pop between the strings they fall into a free space between lower bulbs. It is not an exact science and they generally rub along together.

End result

In a week I will snip off the loose ends to improve the look and ensure the air can circulate freely around the bunch.  It is sensible to use onions of a similar size in a single bunch. Provided you do use strong cord the size of a string is only limited by the weight you can manage to support! I will need four of these this year, including one for the smaller sized onions.It has been a good allium year.

Hanging Around

Monday, 4 September 2017

Chilling Discovery

A couple of chilling sights in recent days.  Here is a text book case of blossom end rot.  These tomatoes were San Marzano (the Italian plum tomato you get in tins from the supermarket). They clearly don't enjoy the Scottish climate.  This was my last attempt to grow them and I have had to axe four out of the six plants I raised from seed so as to reduce the risk to other plants. 

Another nightmare was the state of the potato patch on my last visit to the plot:

I have, of course chopped these blighted tops off and here's hoe it looks now:

Still on the theme of nightmares we visited Chillingham Castle in Northumberland last Saturday.  It's not a National Trust Property being still in private hands, and is rather refreshingly quirky as a result. The claim that it is the most haunted castle in Britain has done nothing but good for the visitor numbers.   The very first alcove I came to rather took me aback I must admit.

I had to picture this sign for the stairs up to the dungeon!

Once you got to the roof there was a splendid view of the formal garden with the herbaceous border along the ramparts.

Here's the reverse view from the end of the formal garden

with some eerie figures keeping watch.

Mystical creatures adorn the water feature in the middle of the lawn

And a bat keeps an eye on the weather:

A quirky place, Lots to see.  Mysteriously there were no plants for sale!


Thursday, 24 August 2017

Goodbye Grass - Going Wild

So, you have a central lawn with borders all around. What are you going to do?   Create a new bed and fill it with weeds!

Here's the new bed...

...and here's the weeds:

That is to say we have devoted a portion of our garden to meadow flowers so as to encourage bees butterflies and other pollinators.

Here's the reverse view:

It has taken a while but there is now a riot of insect activity where previously we had a uniformly green lawn.

Any regrets?  None at all.

Go Wild

Monday, 21 August 2017

Can You Have Too Much Of A Good Thing?

Last years carrots were rubbish. They didn't germinate, the weeds got on top of the second sowing which was too late.  I thought of giving up on growing carrots.  Instead this year I grew 4 times as many using fresh seed, fed the soil in advance, staggering the sowing, and lifting the protective net to weed and thin. Add to these factors the early dry spell and subsequent rainfall in June, July and August.  Result:  a bumper crop of cylindrical roots coming up clean without root fly tunnelling or forking.  I think I've cracked it.   For the first time after harvesting today I am having doubts that I may have overdone things.  But then you can't have too much of a good thing!

Good Thing

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Home Improvements

The elephant garlic has dried up enough to plait the "keepers".  I am happy to report an improvement on my usual laughable attempts to do so.  This is courtesy of an internet search for instructions. (How did we manage without it?)

My ordinary garlic got the same treatment.  From the picture you would think they were  the same size!  A side by side shot reveals all:

Only the best bulbs are plaited for storage. There are plenty not so perfect bulbs to keep us going for a month or two.

Soon it will be the onions turn.  It is looking like a large crop.  Fortunately they are much easier  to string, because unlike the plaited garlic they are hanging off a string!  

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Spot The Difference

I tried growing potatoes in a sack at home for the first time this year.  Just one sack and three Winston potatoes.  All I got was 8 potatoes - but 8 big potatoes. They crop weighed in at over 3Kg and the largest potato was 686 grams (over a pound and a half).

We only needed one for a meal for two. Next year I might not leave it so long before tipping them out.  2017 is proving to be the year of the massive tattie!

How to Dig Potatoes