Monday, 27 June 2016

Hopes Dashed - What a Washout

I knew there were strawberries ready for picking.

What I didn't know was that overnight on Friday night there had been a recurrence of the flooding problem,

You can see the level the water got up to by the debris caught in the mesh of the carrot tent.

My shed was inundated too so had to be emptied, cleaned out and left to dry.  The smell is revolting.

Worst of all though - despite appearances and even after washing I dare not eat any of the strawberries without cooking them now!

What is the point?

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

24 Carrots All Told

I'm a great believer in the principal of "you should grow what you eat". Indeed quite a few years ago I wrote to Derek Cooper of  The Food Programme fame espousing this along with a few other principles like grow what the supermarkets won't stock because they don't have a shelf life and so on. The venerable broadcaster even rang me to ask permission to quote me in an article he was writing for the BBC Good Food magazine. Such dizzy heights.  Well in accordance with my creed I have year on year tried to grow our all year round staple food: carrots - without any real success. The fly in the allotment (see what I did there?) is the carrot fly.  Without any measures to fight off this tunneller the grower is set for disappointment at harvest time - especially in an allotment site where carrots will have been grown by somebody every year for about 100 years. Protection is either a barrier over 2 feet high or fine mesh plastic netting. So at some considerable expense I invested in some environmesh and set up "tents" to grow carrots under.  I do seem to remember one or two successes, but the problem with tents is that what is out of sight is out of mind. Thi laissez faire tendancy is also encouraged by the oft repeated warning that the pesky fly is just waiting for you to lift the covers in order to mount a raid on its prey. So generally what happens is 

a. You sow you carrots and cover them
b. You leave the contents of the tent to its own device
c. Belatedly you lift the tent after what carrots there are have been smothered by the weeds
d. You eat the carrot crop in one meal and declare them the best tasting carrots ever, then promise to do better next year
e. You do the same again next year.

Well this year my vigilance has been redoubled. I am wary of having marquees instead of tents because the larger the soil area the more of a chance of a stray fly emerging from within, So I set up twin tents.  (I also set up a tent at home with a whole raised bed to itself)

Carrot Tents 2016
Today I lifted the covers for some high speed weeding, well before the weeds took over. But alas alack the germination rate of the carrots across all varieties has been appalling.  The story is the same at home. 

Lifting the covers
 My quandary now is whether to resow the gaps or scrap the whole carrot protection project. At least that would give me room to plant out the leeks which are short of an allocated space this year.
Look - A Carrot!!!
Most likely I will resow one tent with any seed I have got left over and remove the poorer tent and give the patch over to leeks.

Now next year.....

Later sowing, incorporate sand, keep a closer eye on things, ...?

Monday, 20 June 2016

The Covers Are Off... Scottish Strawberries Before Wimbledon

After a mixed weekend I visited the plot this morning and was glad to find the first few strawberries ripened:
Marshmello Strawberries

Not only that, but these ones were reasonably pest free.  (Some have already been spotted by the slugs and had to be discarded.)  This post is for my record keeping, but I am happy to share the good news!

Friday, 17 June 2016

The Missing Ingredient

A week ago I welcomed the rain. Now after a wet week we need some SUN.  I've heard of strawberry crops rotting. It doesn't seem to put the birds or slugs off.

Strawberries at the ready

Runner beans at the ready

Courgettes at the ready
The only crop that really likes these conditions is potatoes.  (Sssshhhh but these conditions are blight inducing - fingers crossed)

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Facing Up To The Enemy...

Today I managed to capture my enemy - but only on camera:

Cabbage Root Fly

I was on the lookout because last time I was weeding the brassicas (Radishes and Swedes) the seedlings looked like this:

My first suspicion was Flea Beetle so I made up the contraption below.  It is a spare length of grease band taped to the underside of a cardboard sheet with flappy bits to brush across the top of the seedlings. This is based on the idea that flea beetles jump up when disturbed (?).


Null Points

Sadly the result was non existent.  Answer: it's not primarily flea beetle. Having seen flies on my last visit I took my camera along (as well as my Weapon of Minimal Destruction) to help identify the culprit.  Massively blown up it is the first picture. Cabbage Root Fly (CRF). It seems there are at least three generations of CRF each year and these are the parents who lay their eggs in the ground near brassicas.  The emerging grubs then tunnel into the stems and roots of brassicas.  That's why brassicas collars were invented: to stop access to the stem at soil level.   I'm not sure which manifestation of the CRF is eating the seedling leaves but I do know there are plenty of these small housefly-like  flies active around the seedlings. They are clearly too clever to fall for my flea beetle trap. I did manage to squish a few at ground level with my fingers.  Now that's what I call organic gardening!

For good measure I've added my best shot of a flea beetle taken on the same day. These are smaller than the CRF so harder to capture.  The give away for identification is the lines on the abdomen (and they are black).

Friday, 10 June 2016

Going Lupi (n)

No gardening today due to rain - Hurray!

Just thought I would share some back garden shots from two days ago.  The lupins are out, although this snap does not do full justice to the vibrant colour of these ones.  Maybe a bit of photoshopping is required to faithfully reflect the hue. Also in the background is blue Wysteria growing up an arch.  In the foreground is Pixie a companionable cat from hereabouts who love to check up on gardening activities. He thought the shot would be enhanced by his presence.

A wider angle reveals a big clump of catmint, so that may be an accessory.

This is a cat's idea of help:

The tree is a mulberry btw.

Monday, 6 June 2016

Piping in Another Year

I'm so chuffed with my birthday present this year. As requested I got 30m of the highest grade lightweight, non-kink, frost resistant etc money can buy.

I think this tops the incinerator I got in  happy birthday 2012  not least because it has a thirty year guarantee (whereas the incinerator became a disintegrated incinerator in a very short while).

Mint condition - not for long
I was also given a weather station - the sort you can read the temperature remotely from the comfort of your living room. Not a bad haul!

Saturday, 4 June 2016

Pondzi Scheme Set Up

News from the home garden.  

Last year we were enthused by the pond in a barrel idea.  We bought the largest plastic tub available and after letting it half fill with rainwater (not too difficult in a Scottish summer), we bought 5 plants from the online aquatic plant nursery.  Being unsure about water plants we couldn't agree on where the "pond" should be located, so it sat up in a corner of the garden - and duly filled to the brim with rainwater.
Roll onto spring (May) and 4 of the 5 plants have survived and started to grow on again. This encouraged us to find a permanent location for the pond suitably sunken so as to allow access for wildlife. And here it is:

I say 4 out of 5  survived because our free floating oxygenating "weed" seemed to have disappeared, but while decanting the water before relocation there it was still growing but enveloped in green blankets at the bottom. I removed the slimey blanket and returned the plants to the water.
The water is pretty murky as a result of the water decanting and refilling but it will settle down, and we have a supply of barley straw extract to treat it with if the slime starts to develop.

Getting a bit carried away with enthusiasm I've also bought a water lily plant which is sitting on the bottom - the rest of the plans are sitting on a shelf aside from the free floating oxygenator.  Now if  that likes the set up enough to grow on and even flower you will be the first to know!  Hope springs eternal, even allowing for the fact that a pond is not a spring!

Friday, 3 June 2016

Three Steps to Bean Heaven

Some titles are unavoidable...

From the top: peas, broad beans and runner beans.  As you will have gathered I grow these at home and plant them out at the plot. Here they are ready for the off.  There are some signs of storm damage from the recent hail but all are now taking to life at the allotment quite happily.

In case you are wondering about broad beans going out at the same time as runner beans, this is the second batch.  The first were sown direct at the plot 6 to eight weeks ago.  Something was digging them up, something else was nibbling the edges of the leaves in characteristic scalloped bitemarks.  The slugs also had a good go at them, So all in all they were a disaster.  4 sickly sticks with few if any leaves remained.  This is the reinforcements, already up and ready for a fight.

Last year I transplanted peas for the first time and they were a success.  I've only ever sown them direct in the past.  Hope this year is as good as the last.

Thursday, 2 June 2016

One Potato, Two Potato...

Just emerged:

OK OK all you southerners will be laughing that they are so late. Well this is Scotland and a week ago we got this:

The hailstones weighed down the thrip netting on the carrot patch.

Now when I saw my parsnips on my last post I realised just how weedy they really were. Situation now rectified.