Wednesday, 22 June 2011


One of the things I look forward to each year is the first crop of broad beans. We have just pulled a few pods that are just about ripe. This year I'm experimenting with taking the pods a bit earlier to, hopefully, get beans that are more tender and sweeter. We'll see how that turns out when we eat them this evening.

We took more fruit too today, about a kilo of blackcurrants and 350g of strawberries. I feed the courgettes with tomato food to encourage the flowers they are just producing to turn into fruit.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Useful things

I made a few frames in the past because I thought they might be useful. They are simple things, wooden rectangles with reinforced corners covered either with plastic mesh or chicken wire. They have short plastic legs screwed the ends so that when the frames are stood on their edge they are resting on the plastic legs, which can be pushed into the ground to help support the frame. The plastic doesn't rot. When two frames are stood either side of a few rows netting can be spread across the top and the ends to keep the plants safe inside. Clothes pegs are very useful for holding the netting or fleece strung over these frames. Two of the frames have the legs at right angles to the frame so the frame is supported 15cm above the ground by the legs so crops can grow under them. The netting on that wraps over the edge to reach the ground.

When I made them I thought they would be useful and I was right. Of course they were not my idea - I copied the frames other people were using. I added the legs as my contribution to the evolution of the idea. Currently the two flat ones are covering the strawberries and some of the beetroot, the biggest two are protecting some leeks that would otherwise be outside if the fence and likely to become rabbit food. Another two, with the addition of some plastic netting,  are keeping the birds off our peas. The remaining two were being used to protect the French beans, but they are now big enough to not need defending, so I moved them to protect the carrots.

Yes, we do have some carrots! I have three short rows of them and room for two more rows which I will sow shortly. The carrots need to be protected from carrot fly, so I have used the frames to hold up a double layer of fleece which should do the job. Having struggled to grow carrots in the past I don't want to lose them to the dreaded fly.

We have been picking strawberries and blackcurrants in the past week, with a good crop so far of both and more to come. Gooseberries are ripening slowly, though some are splitting after the rain as they swell too quickly. The broad beans are stunted, for the second year. We will get some beans but not as many as I would like. Next year I'm going to research some different varieties. Courgettes are growing, though a bit more slowly than other people's. Our sweetcorn is looking good too. French beans have flowers and the leeks are growing well. Our winter onions and garlic both look promising. We have been nipping off the garlic flowers so they put their energies into growing the bulbs. A few onions have bolted so we ate them straight away. The spring onions are doing well, growing them in pots and planting them out in small clumps seems to work well. The summer onions look great with only one flower so far. The peas were set back by the partridge eating their leaves, but they are growing well now, though no sign of flowers yet. Sweet peas have their first buds showing.

Some decent rain has finally halted our march between plot and tap and we can now look forward to some great vegetables.

Monday, 6 June 2011

More fruit

Another batch of strawberries, which will become jam, and our first batch of blackcurrants were ready today. The leeks got some extra water to ease them over the shock of being planted out. Everything else looks good.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Last leek

The rest of the leeks went out today, except the few we gave away. I sowed a few more carrot seeds, I'm wondering if I'm wasting my time, I don't seem to have orange fingers.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

A flood of leeks

 I'm not sure what the collective noun for leeks is, but a flood of leeks sounds quite good in a pun sort of way. Anyway, we planted a flood of leeks today. It was more than half of the leeks we have in the greenhouse. The space I had reserved for them was too small, partly because Jean spaced them more widely than I would have done and partly because more survived the processes of potting and growing on than we expected. We now have to find a home for more leeks, that might involve giving some away. A flood of leeks is also appropriate for the amount of water needed to settle them in. We plant leeks, like most people I think, by making a hole with a dibber (the sharpened handle of an old hoe in my case) popping the leek in the hole and filling the hole with water rather than earth. Today the water just ran away in a second, so we used rather a lot.

The first of our strawberries have ripened. I put a frame over them with a plastic mesh on it to keep the birds off, sadly something got in and nibbled a few of the most ripe, most succulent berries - I suspect a mouse. One thing about the very dry weather is that slugs are not a problem this year. The strawberry patch is looking quite full, so I'm going to extend it a bit and use the runners from this year's plants to populate the extension. I might go mad and add a frame around it to just mark out the space. The removable frame would need re-sizing or perhaps a extra one adding to keep the size manageable so I need to think that through. I can do that while munching on strawberries later.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Sweet corn

Over the weekend and the Spring bank holiday there was some decent rain. The ground is damp, not wet, and it is starting to dry out again. I was expecting that the rain would have given us a little reserve in our water butts too, but sadly they are empty. The tap was not properly closed, so any rain ran out.

We have planted out our sweet corn in a block. There were 27 plants, so we could be overrun with cobs later in the year, I certainly hope so. The peas that were eaten by a partridge are producing the beginnings of a few new leaves, so they might yet survive.