Monday, 3 October 2016

Berries and squashes

It's well and truly autumn here. The range is on most days. The hens are going to bed noticeably earlier, long before our bedtime. More and more pumpkins and squashes are appearing in the house every day. So far we've sampled Golden Nuggets, Bon Bon (a new favourite), Olympus, Forest Nut and Pink Fairy. All of which have been delicious and since they were the first to ripen they are on the list for next year. Now I'm trying to remember when I picked each squash - we are waiting two weeks to eat them after picking to give them a chance to cure and sweeten.

Bon Bon squash
Marina di Chioggia, Olympus and Pink Fairy

Sdobnaya and Christmas cactus
Other than eating lots of squash, we've also been eating lots of berries. Mainly raspberries, but we've also got our first cranberries this year. And the first flower has appeared on the Goji berries so maybe next year we'll have some of them, too. Both cranberries and Gojis should be wonderful dried, as a raisin alternative.

Early Black cranberry
The first Goji berry flower

We decided to make a third strawberry bed so that we can dig up and replace the plants on the three-year-old bed every year after letting them fruit a final time (the yield is not so good on the older plants). I'd been potting up runners in July and August and they were ready to go to a new home. All three beds are roughly the same size and the plants are one year apart so there should always be one at its peak, one just starting out and one fizzling out.

The new strawberry bed 
There's still plenty of colour in the garden. One of the most spectacular plants at the moment is the grain amaranth. I'm not sure it's going to be ripe before winter, but it's fun to look at and touch.

Funky grain amaranth
The winter salad greens (lettuces Density, Valdor, Merveille de Quatre Saisons, tatsoi) have germinated. They'll be planted out into the polytunnel once the tomatoes have finished cropping. The greenhouse has been emptied of strawberry plants and replaced with 36 cranberry cuttings. We could be talking a lot of savings here, if even 10% of them make it!

Monday, 29 August 2016

I say tomatoes

Medley of tomatoes: Dattelwein, Black Cherry and Orkado

I didn't think there was such a thing as too many tomatoes. I was wrong. Carried away by the new space in the polytunnel (and the interesting tomato seeds I got sent), I plumbed for 40 plants this year: 30 in the polytunnel and 10 in the greenhouse. I had lofty ambitions of making enough tomato sauce to last the winter.

Batch of tomato sauce in the making
But I have to admit that it's hard to find the time to process all these tomatoes. Maybe when we don't have so many other jobs that need attending... Like painting the garage (including the roof). After half a day on the garage roof inhaling bitumen paint I just don't feel like peeling several kilos of tomatoes, simmering them for a few hours and then canning them.

Only one more coat on the roof to go
I'm already thinking about how much to grow next year. 25 tomato plants is more realistic. Less tomatoes, more cucumbers. No more achocha (they make nice table ornaments but unfortunately aren't very tasty) and okra (too little yield to make them worthwhile, sadly). More peas and potatoes. Less cabbage but more different kale varieties. The experimental new crop will be scorzonera.

The autumn raspberry season has started and our first ever pears are hanging on the two pear trees. Unfortunately it will be a while before our first grapes, but the vine has expanded quite a bit.

Autumn Bliss
First ever pears! A Glou Morceau

Grapevine in the polytunnel
The new crops are doing well. The first of the oca is beginning to die back. It will be time to earth them up soon. The grains are appearing on the amaranth and the quinoa looks laden. It will be interesting to see what the yield is.

Grain amaranth

Quinoa seed heads
We went on an excellent mushroom foraging walk with Mark Williams of Galloway Wild Foods. We learnt lots and brought home our first ever dinner of Galloway chanterelles. Quite a lot of tasty mushrooms around these parts and hopefully they will increasingly be on the menu.

Mushrooms found on our foraging walk
I do love the crisp sunny days at this time of year, with just a hint of coolness in the air. Obviously the sunflowers enjoyed the recent rays as well. The four survivors are just about to open up.

Almost there

Saturday, 6 August 2016

Colourful times

Cooking is so easy at this time of year. You take some of these (which are replenished daily):

Medley of tomatoes, chillies and lemon cucumbers
Add a few of those:
Sliced Latino courgettes
And maybe some Purple Sun carrots and you're most of the way there.

Pretty carrots
The onion harvest was rather small this year. Not enough rain in May, I guess. But it should still last a few months at least. I will try to grow more onions from seed rather than sets since the August-sown onions did very well this spring.

Of the new crops, I've harvested the first Savoy cabbage. The first three achocha hedgehogs have appeared and the quinoa is growing despite getting buffeted by the wind.

First of the Savoy cabbages
Rather cute achocha
The herb bed is filling in. The perennial herbs are really spreading out.

Anise hyssop and Vietnamese coriander
In the veg garden, the squashes are on a rampage. The Pink Fairy has already left the veg garden through the fence and is expanding into the bottom paddock. I'm growing rather an insane number of squashes this year (30) to find the absolutely best varieties (and the ones which do best here) so friends and family can look forward to gifts of squash later this autumn.

Golden Nuggets: at what stage do you harvest these?
The sweetcorn is looking promising in its sheltered position behind the polytunnel. At least there are plenty of tassels.

Early Bird, I think
We managed to cover all the areas to sort out next year and will now forget about these until March.
Herb/flower bed to be, plus protective hedging for it
On the ornamental front, the honeysuckle is giving out heavenly scent and the wildflower border has a different mix from last year.

The ultimate cottage garden plant?

Wildflower meadow strip
But we are still waiting for the summer weather to return!