Thursday, 28 July 2011

Snack Size

When I look through seed catalogues, I notice more and more seeds being sold which are suitable for growing in containers. Having grown edibles in containers myself before taking on my allotment, I know you don't need a huge garden to grow at least some of your own food. I decided I would have a go at growing some courgettes - Firenze in a container this year. This is one of those varieties which is billed as ideal for growing in containers. I've grown Hestia runner beans in containers previously. This is also a variety which is especially suitable for growing in containers, but I wasn't very impressed with the amount of beans I got from the plants. I was much more successful planting normal runner bean seeds and giving them some canes to grow up. I'm afraid that I'm of the same opinion with these Firenze courgettes. I have previously grown normal courgettes in a container with great success, whereas the ones I have just harvested from my plant are extremely small. I've grown lots of things in containers before I got my allotment, all regular varieties, and was thrilled that most things did extremely well, even things such as sweetcorn which I thought would need a much larger growing space. My advice would be to give anything a go, I've found that most things work, just so long as you give them a little extra attention, especially making sure that the container doesn't dry out.

It's a lovely day today so I shall take a trip to the allotment. I need to harvest anything which is ready as we go on holiday on Saturday for two weeks. Let's hope the gorgeous weather we've got today continues.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Ollie's Sunflower

The sunflowers I've grown this year are very special indeed. Let me tell you all about them. Earlier on this year I mentioned that I was going to have a go at growing mange tout for the first time. I received an offer of some seeds from Bilbo Waggins from The View From Bag End. The seeds were Stephens and Robinson, both of which are actually peas but can be used as a mange tout, and both have performed very well. Enclosed in the parcel were some Ollie's Sunflower seeds which I've felt very privileged to be able to grow. Ollie was Bilbo's Bearded Collie, a once in a lifetime dog, and he sadly passed away in August 2009. On that very same day, a bird sown sunflower bloomed for the first time in Bilbo's garden. She collected seeds from the plant and whenever she sends seeds to anyone, she also includes some of these sunflower seeds in the parcel too. What a wonderful way to keep Ollie's memory alive. If you'd like to read about Ollie, you can visit Bilbo's blog via the link, and you will find the label for Ollie down the right hand side.

I got my leeks planted out yesterday, there's fifty four of them in total, so they should see us through the winter months. We also planted out another sowing of dwarf French beans and climbing beans. The first sowing are just starting to come in to flower now so this second batch should extend the season. I'm hoping to be able to freeze plenty. I also lifted my shallots and they're now drying.

All the brassicas which I sowed a few weeks ago have been devoured by slugs. I'm having lots of trouble with the little blighters this year. I was hoping to have plenty to plant out for winter, so I'll have another go at sowing them this week, though I might be a little late now, only time will tell.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Sunday Harvest

It's great to be bringing plenty home from the allotment again. It gets to that time of year when more than one or two things make their way in to the trug and on to the dinner plate. Last weekend I picked the first of the cavolo nero, beetroot, and calabrese of the year, and there were also more mange tout and peas which were ready. For our meal on Monday evening we had Beef Bourguignon with home grown potatoes, carrots, calabrese, mange tout and cavolo nero, you can't get much better than that. It was all very tasty and there were four empty plates at the end of the meal.

I'm still not sure if the sweetcorn is going to make it. After languishing in their pots for far too long, they were planted out late at the allotment. They're very yellow at the moment so we'll have to see if they stop sulking and put on some growth.

The shallots look to be ready to pull. Their tops have started to die back, so it's time for them to be lifted. They seem to have done very well, each set having produced lots of shallots, though a couple did try to flower. I'll remember to use those first as apparently, they don't store as well if they've bolted.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Didn't Make The Cut

I've always had great success growing my cut and come again lettuces in containers. I find they grow well and are clean when leaves are taken, and up until now have been free from any slug damage. I wonder what's different this year. Have those pesky slugs just realised that they're able to climb in to my containers and devour my delicious lettuce at will, or are other factors involved? It's not only this lettuce which has been decimated but the whole lot. I suppose I'd better resow.

The first sowing of peas are still producing well, and I've even managed to get a batch stocked up in the freezer for use later. The second sowing is coming along well too. I'm impressed with the taste of this years variety, Hurst Green Shaft, and I shall definitely grow them again.

My blueberry harvest is going to be very poor this year. I think I can see about twenty berries on the two bushes and they're just about ripe now. At the end of the season I shall repot them and replenish the ericaceous compost in the containers. This, and a mulch of coffee grounds, will hopefully give the plants a much needed boost and enable them to put on a better show next year. I was looking forward to some blueberry muffins.

Monday, 11 July 2011


There's some lovely fat pods on the pea plants now, so we picked a batch at the weekend ready for tonight's meal. There's  more pods just starting to swell, and a second sowing which is a little way behind, so plenty more to come yet. I've also eaten my fair share popped straight from the pod and in to my mouth, the best way to eat them in my opinion. I never grow many peas as there's really only me who eats them. The rest of the family will have a token few on their plates, but they're usually still there at the end of the meal. As I only grow a small amount, I'm able to net them. This prevents the pea moth from laying her eggs in the flowers which results in maggots inside the pods, urghhh.

The sweetcorn has finally been planted out. It's taken all this time to dig a bed ready for them, I really must be more organised next year, though I say that every year. I don't know if it's too late for them now, but at least they've got a chance of growing, they wouldn't have had any chance left in their pots.

I've just pulled up more of the stumpy carrots to have with our meal tonight. I'm really pleased with them, one container will give all four of us four or five servings each. They're ideal to use whilst waiting for the ones at the allotment to be ready, so well worth growing.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Delicious Strawberries

I love this time of year when the strawberries are producing well. We've got another great harvest this year, in fact, I'm going to have my first go at making jam. I never got round to planting out all the plants we took from runners last year, nor the everbearers which we bought at the back end of last year and potted up. They're all producing, though they're still stuck in their pots. I'll make sure they get planted out at the end of summer or beginning of autumn so that they can get established before winter sets in. I'll also pull out all the old plants from the strawberry bed at the allotment, they won't do much in the way of fruiting next year.

I didn't get any jobs done at the allotment at the weekend, though I did go down there to harvest some strawberries and mange tout. We spent some time sowing seeds for winter crops, spring greens, purple sprouting broccoli, kale and chard, as well as sowing some more stumpy round carrots in a container and some more spring onions. I'm hoping there'll be enough time left for them to grow.

I emptied out another of my potato containers yesterday. There aren't as many potatoes in the containers as I've had in the past from other varieties, though the potatoes are bigger on the whole. I will definitely grow this variety, Arran Pilot, again though, they're absolutely delicious, nicer than any I've grown before. They stay firm when boiled and have a wonderful tasting pure white flesh. I've been eating them with butter and mint. Heaven.

Friday, 1 July 2011

Tasty Lunches

At last, my spring onions are ready. I've been enjoying them in sandwiches with cheese all week, though they can also be used in cooking as well as being eaten raw. I grow spring onions in a container rather than at the allotment, they seem to do better this way. These are White Lisbon, a variety which I usually grow as they've always grown well for me. There's plenty more where these came from, though I've fallen down on my successional sowing again. I'll get some more sown this weekend for a late summer harvest.

The cherries are ripening well now, I picked a bowl full today and there's still plenty more on the tree. I know it's not loads by some standards, but the tree is only small so I'm more than happy with this year's crop.

I've just noticed the first tomatoes on the plants. I'm growing Tangella, San Marzano and Gardener's Delight, and the first ones are on the Tangella. They weren't there last time I looked, there's always something new to discover when gardening.
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