Monday, 20 October 2014

Harvest Monday - 20th October 2014

As you would expect in the middle of October, the harvests are beginning to slow down now.

However, as you probably guessed, I have picked a few more chillis, like these lovely "Aji Limon" ones:

We have an ample supply of chillis now, so those ones are being dried for their seeds, which I am going to send to a couple of my chilli-loving friends.

Last week I erroneously reported that I had picked the very last of my cucumbers. However, I didn't pull up ALL of my cucumber plants, and one of those left behind has produced these:

I have picked them very young because I expect we will get our first frost very soon, and that would be the death of them. Picked this small they are nice eaten as a snack before dinner.

I have also lifted another small batch of Beetroot:

My beetroot have behaved themselves very well this year. They have matured successionally, even though I only sowed two batches of seed about 3 weeks apart, and none of them have bolted  - as you would hope with a variety called "Boltardy"! I think there are now only about 3 or 4 left. Despite having been in the ground a fair old while, none of them have grown to a huge size. The biggest has been about the size of a tennis ball.

One more of the "Toledo" Leeks found its way into the kitchen:

It was another good-sized one. I have draped it over one of the compost bins in order to demonstrate its size.

Lots of the Radicchio is maturing now. It's best to pick it and keep it in the fridge in one of those "Stayfresh" bags, rather than leave it outside where it will rot.

The trouble is, these things are pretty dense, and we can eat them fast enough! One head of Radicchio like this provides enough leaves for several two-person salads.

This is my entry for Harvest Monday, hosted as ever on Daphne's Dandelions. Why not pop across and see what everyone else is harvesting...

Sunday, 19 October 2014

October salad update

My salad crops have been very successful this year, and are still going strong. We are not eating much salad at present, having moved on to more Winter-style meals, but it's there when we want it.

I still have several lettuces, although their growth rate has slowed down a lot, so whether they will make it to maturity before the frost gets them is a moot point.

"Marvel of Four Seasons"

"Can Can"

"Rossa Romana"

"All Year Round"

The "All Year Round" Lettuces are quite pale and delicate. Despite its name, this variety seems to do better in warmer conditions.

I have lots of Endives on the go, and they are all jumbled up so I have no idea what variety each one is.

Curly Endive - variety unknown!

I would grow this Radicchio even if we never ate it - it's very decorative.

This Radicchio is ready for picking. You can tell that it's ready when the outer leaves of the heart (not the main outer leaves) begin to go brown and slimy.

Radicchio "Palla Rossa di Chioggia"

Don't be put off by the brown slimy leaves - they are normal - just peel them back and you will find a bright red / white / pink core inside.

The last few remaining beetroot look as if they should be woody, but they are not. Well anyway, the last batch I cooked, on Thursday, weren't. They were lovely and tender.

Beetroot "Boltardy"

Photographed in the sunlight, the beetroot stems are such a beautiful colour.

Beetroot "Boltardy"

Here's a fitting conclusion to a post about salads: I found these by one of my raised beds. They are slugs' eggs.

After photographing them, I squashed them, because I'm not letting those darned slugs get my salads!

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Autumn colours - Dogwood

It's that time of year when I do a post about Dogwood (Cornus) leaves! I know I do one (or two...) every year, but they are different every time, because the leaves are different each year. Although there are some similarities, there are always differences too.

This is the 2014 version...

In a few days' time they will all be lying on the ground like this one:

Then with the leaves all gone, it will be time to admire the beauty of the stems, in an array of yellow, orange, red and black.

Friday, 17 October 2014

Earthstar fungi

A couple of days ago I was trimming back some of my ferns, getting rid of some of the shrivelled fronds, which revealed a big clump of Earthstar fungi:

I knew I had some of these in my garden, but I have never seen as many as this simultaneously.

Searching on the internet for more information about these fungi, I see that there are two very similar-looking types; the (True) Earthstar genus, Geastrum and the False Earthstar genus Astraeus hygrometricus. I'm not an expert on fungi, but I suspect mine are the Astraeus type. They certainly have the distinctive cracking on the leathery rays of the outer layer.

The spherical spore-sacs start off a pale beige colour, and gradually mature to a dark brown. Spores are ejected from the sac as a result of external pressure, e.g. being touched by an animal, or by raindrops falling on them. They come out in a cloud like smoke. (Look closely at the nearest one in the photo below...)

It is generally agreed that this type of fungus, whilst not poisonous, is inedible. What a shame! If they were edible, I'd have a valuable resource at my disposal.

Thursday, 16 October 2014


"Under-planting" is the term used in gardening to describe the concept of growing a small plant underneath a bigger one, in order to maximise the yield from the available space. Since my garden is small, this is a technique I frequently use.

Here are some examples:

This is Landcress underneath Purple Sprouting Broccoli.

And this is Endives underneath Brussels Sprouts.

Notice the pots of chillis in the foreground

Here are some tips, based on my experience with the technique:
  • The bigger plants may overshadow the smaller ones and prevent them getting enough light, so you have to aim off for this. You will notice that I have removed many of the lower leaves of my Brussels Sprouts, which helps the Endives to get their share of light. Also, for the same reason, I put the smaller plants around the edges of the bed rather than directly underneath the big ones.

  • Plants that tolerate some shade are good as the "underneath" ones - e.g. Parsley, Celery Leaf, Endives, Spinach, but definitely not Radishes. Their small size makes them sound ideal, but Radishes will bolt if they don't get sufficient light.
  • Choose plants that like roughly the same watering regime, since you may be unable to water one without watering the other. Furthermore, excessively thirsty plants are not good ones to use for under-planting, because they may deprive the "main" plants of water.
  • Consider whether sowing / planting the smaller plants can be done without disturbing the roots of the bigger ones. Sow / plant at the same time, if you can - e.g. sow some salads at the same time as planting-out some brassicas seedlings.
  • Using the under-planting technique doesn't give much opportunity for weeding. But then again the additional ground cover it contributes often prevents weeds from taking over where they might otherwise do so. For example, Squashes or Pumpkins grown below Sweet Corn.
  • If you are going to cover your plants with nets or mesh, think about the practicalities: I planted Landcress and Lamb's Lettuce (Mache) underneath my PSB, which was netted, but this meant that any time I wanted to harvest the salads I had to pfaff about partially removing and then replacing the nets. It might have been better to plant something that only needed harvesting once, as opposed to repeatedly.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Carrots "Early Nantes"

I'm still pulling more of the Carrots I have been growing in the big Woodblocx raised bed. Each time I pull about 250 or 300 grams, which is just about right for two servings. I sowed three different varieties in the same bed, but I marked which ones went where, so I know these are "Early Nantes".

They're still coming up clean as a whistle, with no fly damage at all, and the best news is that there are more to come! They seem to be really liking the soil conditions in that bed, which is filled mainly with home-made compost to which I added lots of sand. I obviously got the soil texture right, because none of the carrots have forked, and their skins are practically blemish-free.

You can appreciate them better when they are washed:

They are quite "stocky" - short and fat - which makes this variety very suitable for growing in raised beds, since these often don't have a huge depth of soil.

The thing which has made the most difference for me this time is the Enviromesh with which these carrots have been covered. It has kept the Carrot Root Fly out completely. There is no damage at all. My only reservation about the mesh is that it does cut down the amount of air and light that the plants beneath it get, which might be a problem sometimes.

Not this time though. I'm really happy with these!

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Tomatoes - the final fruits

A couple of days ago I noticed that Blight had finally taken a hold on my last two remaining tomato plants - the "Maskotka" ones.

There was still a significant quantity of fruit on these plants, which I did not want to lose.

So I picked everything that was not already blight-infected or slug-damaged. It came to nearly 600g.

With a bit of luck some of those will ripen before the blight develops. Inevitably a few of them will already have been affected and will have to be discarded, but at this stage of the proceedings, any ripe fruit will be a bonus.

The plants themselves have now gone into a plastic sack for eventual disposal at the municipal Tip. I don't want to put diseased material in my compost bins.

Meanwhile, more of the "Banana Legs" tomatoes have ripened on the Dining-Room windowsill.

I just wish they were nicer to eat. I have found them very insipid. One of those varieties to grow for looks only, not flavour.

Actually, I've just thought of another use for them... You know that they say you should put a ripe banana in with your green tomatoes to help them ripen? Well, surely some "Banana Legs" tomatoes would do the trick with those green "Maskotkas"!