Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Another Bean surprise

Earlier this year I described how I ended up having yellow "Kentucky Wonder Wax" beans instead of green "Kentucky Wonder". Now I have a further surprise... I planted what I thought were four identical "Kentucky Wonder" (or whatever) plants, but now I find that one of them is an impostor - it is producing green pods:


The cane nearest the camera supports two of the "Kew Blue" beans, whose dark stems are unmistakeable. The further cane supports the yellow / green beans.

The pods of this new type are a very pale green, and the beans inside are very prominent. I think they are probably a variety intended to be used for the production of so-called "Shelling Beans" - i.e. ones for drying. That's probably what I'll do, although for obvious reasons I am unlikely to get a big crop.


The other beans have raised their game after a shaky start, beset with blackfly. We have had a fair bit of heavy rain just recently, which I think has done the beans a lot of good. There are lots of new pods forming.


I have picked plenty to keep us supplied with fresh beans for the kitchen, but I have also managed to freeze about 1.5kgs of them - some Runners and some of the Kew Blue.


I slice the pods and open freeze them on baking-trays, then bag them up, 200g to a bag, which makes a 2-person serving.

It is important to keep picking beans. If you leave the pods to become over-mature the plant will stop forming pods. This is why I even pick the odd few that never really develop and end up looking like this:


There's a bean inside that pod, which might well be a viable seed for next year, but the pod itself is not useable.

Something that we really look forward to eating in the depths of Winter is Runner Beans from the freezer cooked in home-made Tomato sauce (also from the freezer). To this end, I have just completed our first batch of sauce:


Monday, 31 August 2015

Harvest Monday - 31 August 2015

Urgh! What horrible weather we have had this last week. Torrents of rain; black skies; wind; temperatures more appropriate to March rather than August. I haven't been out in the garden very much, that's for sure. Just a few brief forays to bring in the harvests.


This is Wednesday evening's basket, containing Runner Beans, "Kew Blue" (French) beans, cucumbers and tomatoes.


Aided by the rain no doubt, the beans are doing well now. The Runners are big and juicy.


The cucumbers (Diva and Mini Munch) are not so impressive. They are not what I would consider good specimens. However, they taste all right - quite sweet in fact. The skins are a bit tough, but that's OK because we peel them off before eating anyway.


The tomatoes don't like the rain though. Many of them are splitting (see next photo). Because of this I have been picking them a bit under-ripe and finishing them off indoors. A split tomato is OK to eat as long as you use it straight away. They go bad quickly if you keep them.


That pointed one is an attractive tomato, don't you think? IT is one of the "Possena del Vesuvio" ones.

On Thursday I harvested another pot of potatoes. These are "Sarpo Kifli", another of the disease-resistant varieties from the Sarvari Trust.


Weighing in at 974g, with 22 tubers of useable size, this is a decent yield from one seed tuber.

This was Sunday - Runner Beans and more tomatoes:

Runner Beans - about 650g here

Mostly "Maskotka", with some "Primabella".

Oh, and I nearly forgot, this Lettuce. We have Lettuce from the garden "on demand", so I sometimes forget to mention harvesting it. This one is a "Can Can".


Its leaves are very deeply serrated, more reminiscent of an Endive than a Lettuce.



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This is my entry for Harvest Monday, hosted by Daphne over on Daphne's Dandelions. Please visit her blog to see what others have been harvesting this week.

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Miscellany

I have lots of photos, but I can't think of anything specific about which I want to write. You know the feeling? Let's see where this leads...

Tidying up my ferns, I found loads of Earthstar fungi living underneath them.


They really are weird things! Every year there are more of them. I now have quite a big colony of them.


One day recently I saw a Blue Heron sitting on the roof of a neighbour's house...  Crouching.


Fluffing-up its feathers.


Stretching.


Until a couple of days ago I thought my "Rocoto" chilli plant only had one tiny fruit on it. Then I turned it round to let the other side get its share of sunlight, and saw this:


I wonder how big they will get. I would imagine that the biggest of those ones are probably about half-grown.

I have been picking quite a lot of tomatoes this past week. After the very heavy rain we had, several of the nearly-ripe fruit split, so I decided to pick any that were nearly ready, and ripen them off the plants. I have put them in a couple of plastic seed-trays so that I can move them around to wherever is in the sun at that moment.


You remember I have written (frequently) about the problems I have had with compost contaminated with weed-killer? Here's what some of the upper leaves on the tomato plants look like at present. You can see how contorted they are.


Still, I'm getting a much better crop than I did last year. There's nothing much wrong with this truss of "Gardener's Delight":


The Runner beans enjoyed the rain. Many more little beans have appeared:


However, not all the flowers have set pods. Many of them have fallen off - some of them perhaps knocked off by the torrential downpours?


I have a few ripe berries on my pink Blueberry bush:


The bush was new this time last year, so it is not yet big, and it only has about 10 or 12 berries on it all told. Hopefully it will have more next year. Certainly the plant has grown a lot this year.

My Dryopteris Erythrosora fern has decided to produce some new fronds. When they are young they are a beautiful orangey-brown colour, though they turn green when they mature.




The spare Leeks I planted in containers are beginning to look promising - ironically, some of them are better than the "main" ones in the raised bed!


Actually, I think they all look fine, just not very big yet. Patience is required!


Well, that's all I can muster for today. I'll see how the mood takes me tomorrow!

Saturday, 29 August 2015

Blight-resistant potatoes

As many of you know, this year I have been growing a few of the Sarpo ("SARvari POtato") disease-resistant potatoes developed by the Sarvari Trust, kindly provided to me FOC for review. Recently I have harvested some of them, so I feel it is time to report how they have done.

If you are interested in the history of these potatoes, follow this LINK:

Bear in mind that all of mine were grown in plastic pots, one seed tuber per pot, and using a growing medium composed entirely of composted stable manure.

The first to be harvested were "Shona", planted on 18th April and harvested on 22nd August.

Shona

This pot yielded only a fraction over 700g which was OK but unremarkable. There were 19 useable tubers, the biggest of which weighed 114g. This variety is marketed as an Early Maincrop variety, so I thought it might not be ready until maybe mid-September, but all its foliage had completely died down and I don't think the tubers would have grown any bigger if I had left them longer.

Shona

The tubers were nice and clean (mostly because of the growing-medium I think) and quite regularly shaped. We ate them boiled and found them very tasty (Jane said "That's how a Jersey Royal tastes.") and they retained their texture well, without disintegrating at all.

The other variety I have harvested is "Sarpo Kifli". This is marketed as an all-year Salad potato. Planted on 18th April, harvested on 27th August. The yield was better - 974g and 22 useable tubers, the biggest of which weighed 108g.

Kifli

 I like the oval shape and relatively uniform size of the tubers.




The skins of this batch were a little rougher than many varieties I have grown, but overall the quality was pretty good.

Kifli
The texture of the cooked Kifli was good too - quite waxy - but we felt that the taste was rather bland. It might be better if served cold.

My third variety is "Sarpo Axona", but this one is not ready to harvest yet. Its foliage is still green and upright. I'll wait till it dies down before harvesting.


It's actually a good idea to have the potatoes mature at different rates, in order to extend the harvest period. Usually I only grow Early and Second Early varieties (with the exception of Pink Fir Apple, which I can't resist), so that they will be harvested before blight becomes a serious threat, but with the Sarpo varieties available there are now some more options.

Friday, 28 August 2015

It's All About The Chilli

This post is really just an advert - to make you aware of an upcoming chilli-themed event. It is the Challock Chilli Fest being held at Victoriana Nursery Gardens in Kent on Saturday 3rd and Sunday 4th October.

Chilli "Bolivian Rainbow"

I attended this event in 2014 and I can assure you it was a good day out! Here is what I wrote about it... Challock Chilli Fest 2014

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Here is Victoriana's "Press Release" for this year's event:

"There are Chilli Festivals and there are Chilli Festivals and we've been to more than one or two where we've struggled to find a fresh Chilli - let alone a Chilli Plant!
 
At Victoriana our Chilli Fest is just a little bit different - it’s all about the Chilli!
 
With well over 100 varieties of freshly harvested Chillies to taste, and the growing plants from which they were harvested to see, the centrepiece of our Chilli Fest truly is the Chilli!
 
From the infant beginnings of Stephen Shirley (co-owner of Victoriana) first starting to grow Chillies as a personal hobby 26 years ago, Chillies have become one of the specialities of Victoriana - supplying a wide range of varieties both as seed (many of which are produced at the nursery) and plants.
 
What started as a simple 'tasting afternoon' has grown over the years to first a day event and now, for the second year a full weekend.
 
Free to enter, visitors will be able to taste (for a small donation to charity) as many Chillies as they can manage, buy fresh fruits from the plants - or seeds for sowing next year. There will also be many stalls selling sauces, chutneys, and jams - as well as foods to eat on the day from Chilli Candyfloss to Chilli Coffee. Couple that with a range of arts and craft stalls (all who have to sell at least one Chilli themed item) and you have the perfect event for the lover of all things Chilli.
 
Challock Chilli Fest will take part at Victoriana Nursery Gardens, Challock, Ashford Kent TN25 4DG from 10.30am - 4pm on the 3rd and 4th of October 2015.
More information and a full list of the Chilli Varieties on taste can be found at https://www.victoriananursery.co.uk/Challock_Chilli_Fest/
 
We'll also be updating our Facebook page and tweeting @Victoriana_NG regular updates prior to the event and over the weekend using #ChallockChilliFest
 
Donations from the Chilli Tasting will be distributed to The Mission for Seafarers and the RNLI
 
Thank you for taking the time to read!"

Ring of Fire
 

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Late August update

Late August is a time of year when I find there is not much that needs doing in the garden apart from harvesting. I thought I'd just give you a quick tour...

The brassicas (PSB, Cabbage "Mira" and Brokali "Apollo") are growing away nicely. I have staked the 3 big PSB plants in the middle, and apart from the occasional watering there is little else that needs doing to them.


The four "Mira" cabbages were welcomed avidly by the local slug population when first planted out, so their outer leaves are a bit "lacy".


However, once I applied a few slug-pellets the situation improved markedly and they are now beginning to heart-up quite nicely.


The Brussels Sprouts are still getting taller. The one nearest the camera here is unsurprisingly the tallest, because it gets more sunshine than the others. They are all shaded to some extent by the overhanging tree.


Tallest at the left, shortest at the right - Go!


My Celeriac is growing at an agonisingly slow pace. Will it ever get big enough to be worth using, I wonder? I keep feeding it with general-purpose liquid fertiliser and watering it copiously. What else can I do?


The Leeks look healthy enough, but not yet big. That's OK by me, because they are intended for cropping in the Winter, so they have plenty of time yet to put on some weight.


The beans are doing a lot better than last year. Although I like the Runners best, I'm impressed with the yield from the "Kew Blue" French beans. Better than I had expected.


The Cucumbers, on he other hand, have not been very good this year, producing a very modest number of fruits. A stark contrast to the gluts I have had a few times in the past.


Still, having enough cucumbers is better than having too many, in my opinion. I don't like pickled cucumbers and I don't know any other way of preserving them. Maybe there are more to come too...?


As recently reported in another post, the tomatoes are cropping well now. This heart-shaped beauty is a "Larisa".


Cordon-grown or indeterminate tomato plants can get very tall if you let them, so I generally pinch out their stems when they reach the tops of their canes, but even so many of them produce 5 or 6 trusses of fruit. Some of these will not set in time to ripen before the first frosts, so it is actually best to remove the top one or two and let the plant concentrate on ripening a smaller number of fruit. This truss is on "Primavera" and is ripening well.


But this truss is further up the same plant, and I think it is unlikely that it will set fruit - which is a shame, isn't it, because it's massive.


It's not all veg in Mark's Veg Plot these days, so now let me show you some flowers too...

Echinacea "Pom Pom White"

Verbena Bonariensis

Rudbeckia Fulgida "Goldsturm"

Dahlia "Bishop of Llandaff"

Helenium


Coreopsis

Hydrangea

And finally, this one, which is both a flower and a vegetable:

Runner Bean "Enorma"