Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Last Pickings

We finally got round to clearing away the tomato plants on Sunday. They've done better than I hoped this year, they suffered a few set backs at the start of the year with one thing or another, and I ended up buying a few plants in as well as managing to keep some which I'd grown from seed.

The photo shows the last fruit I managed to harvest from the plants before they were consigned to the compost bin. The green ones have been laid out on the windowsill where they'll, hopefully, ripen.

I've been especially pleased with the Maskotka variety this year. I bought two plants from a local plant sale and they've done really well. They're a cherry variety and have produced a huge crop of delicious, sweet tasting fruit. They're definitely on the list for growing again next year.

Other varieties I've already decided to grow next year are Totem and Gardener's Delight, other cherry types, and Ailsa Craig, a medium sized tomato.

It looks like I've quite a while to wait until I taste a tomato again as I rarely buy them, they just don't taste the same as home grown.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Squash Mad

Squash is a favourite vegetable in our house so I'm pleased to say that both my summer and winter squash have done well this year.

The Custard White patty pan summer squash started cropping late in summer and are still going now. I don't do anything fancy with them, I just cut them in to cubes and roast them, but we all think they're delicious. We've had so many that I tried freezing them, but it wasn't very successful as they turn quite mushy when taken out of the freezer again so we've ended up giving lots away.

The plants grow huge and this is the state of play at the moment, they're covered in mildew, but I don't do anything with them as it doesn't affect the squash at all.

As you can see, the plant is still producing, there's lots more squash to come just so long as the weather cooperates.

You only have to turn your back for a day or two and just like their cousins, courgettes, they've grown to gigantic proportions. They're still fine to eat but the skin can be quite tough if they've been left on the plant too long so I just peel them.

The winter squash plants are suffering from mildew too, but again, I leave them to get on with it.

The variety I'm growing is Little Gem Rolet, a cricket ball size fruit. I chose it as it's supposed to be a heavy cropper.

The other winter squash I chose to grow this year was Autumn Crown. I thought this a good choice as it's been bred specifically for the UK climate, including the North of England, however, it's never really got going. This photo was taken a couple of weeks ago and it's still at the embryonic stage. It's increased in size a little since then but it's never going to get to the size it should in the time it's got left to grow.

This weekend's haul was four patty pans.

Mick harvested all the Little Gem Rolet squash. We'd tried one a couple of weeks ago just to see how it tasted and we were very pleased with it. These are the rest from three plants, so we got eighteen in total.

I have to say that the skin is really tough, it's so hard to cut in to it, but I've done a bit of searching on the internet to see if there's an easier way and I've discovered that if you prick the skin and then microwave the squash for a minute or two, it should be easier. I shall give that a try next time.

Friday, 10 October 2014

The Pick Of The Crop

I've had my two little apple trees for a couple of years now. They didn't produce a crop last year but there was blossom this year and I've been waiting patiently for harvest time.

I have a green variety, Golden Delicious, and though there were quite a few apples on the tree, they didn't really grow. They're still only the size of crab apples. There's nothing there to get your teeth stuck into.

The other tree, Gloster, produces red apples. Again, there was quite a bit of fruit on the tree, but some dropped off and some rotted. Reading up about this rotten fruit, it looks as though it could be Brown Rot.

Some red apples made it through to harvest time, though there was only one decent sized one and a few small ones.

We all had a taste and we're in agreement that this variety is delicious. It's got a crisp, white flesh which is tinged with pink, and it's slightly tart.

Both trees are growing in containers at the moment but I think I'm going to dig a border out of the grass along the fence and get them planted in the ground, I hope they'll do better then. We'll have to wait and see what next year brings.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Mini Munch Giveaway Winners

Thank you to everyone who entered my Mini Munch Giveaway. I've been impressed again this year by this variety of cucumber so I hope the seeds I give away will perform just as well for the winners of this giveaway next year.

The two names drawn out of the hat were Gillian and Flighty. Can you please let me have your addresses so that I can get the seeds sent off to you.

I hope you'll both enjoy growing these Mini Munch, it will be interesting to see how they do for you.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

You Win Some You Lose Some

You win some.

My beans have been a bit of a mixed bag this year. The slugs devoured most of the Cobra and Blue Lake climbing French beans as soon as they were planted out, but left most of the St George runner beans and Purple Cascade climbing French beans alone. Exactly the same thing happened with my second sowing. Here, you can see which wigwams have done well, and which are rather sparcely populated.

I'm not complaining though, the plants which did manage to grow have done really well, and I'm still picking lots from them.

You lose some.

This is my entire crop of parsnips for this year, despite a few attempts at getting them to germinate.

Here you can see the bed I'd set aside for them. It shows just how few I have.

I'm just hoping that there's enough roots under the ground for Christmas dinner. Whatever I've got, they'll be savoured.

The autumn clear up has now started and I just thought I'd mention a bit of a bargain that Mick picked up in Asda. He'd been looking for a dustbin incinerator so that he could get some of the rubbish burnt and he came across this one at £15, cheaper than any he'd seen elsewhere.

How typical that he's got a bit of time to make a start on burning the rubbish this weekend, yet it's raining. Oh well, I'm sure he'll jump in to action as soon as he's able.

Don't forget, if you haven't already entered my giveaway, you've got until twelve noon on Monday the 6th of October 2014 to do so. Just leave a comment on my Mini Munch Giveaway post.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

RHS The Garden Anthology

My RHS membership lapsed some time ago, but one thing I really enjoyed about it was The Garden magazine which arrived each month. When I was asked if I'd like to review a new book, RHS The Garden Anthology, I jumped at the chance.

Published by Frances Lincoln, ( www.franceslincoln.com ) and released today, the collection features the work of 80 of the world's most celebrated gardeners and commentators from the early 20th century to the present day, including Gertrude Jekyll, E A Bowles, James Wong and Nigel Slater.

As you can see, it's a hefty tome, 320 pages which present more than 100 years of the best writing in The Garden magazine.

The articles cover a wide range of categories from Seasons & the Weather and Wildlife & Wildflowers right through to Practicalities and Science & Innovation, and cover a huge range of subjects, What Future for Peat?, Reinventing the Dahlia and The Hidden Power of Plants, to name just a few.

I like the bold illustrations but I'm looking forward to getting stuck in now that the evenings are drawing in and having a good read. It looks to be an ideal book for dipping in and out of as each article is mostly two or three pages long, some just half a page.

I'm sure this book will be on many of your Christmas wish lists, but if you can't wait until then, the publishers are offering RHS The Garden Anthology at a reduced price.

To order RHS The Garden Anthology at the discounted price of £13.50 including p&p* (RRP: £16.99), telephone 01903 828503 or email mailorders@lbsltd.co.uk and quote the offer code APG233. 
*UK only - Please add £2.50 if ordering from overseas.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Mini Munch Giveaway

I grew Mini Munch cucumbers for the first time last year and was so impressed by them that I grew them again this year.

Mini Munch, as the name would suggest, are small, mini cucumbers which are both delicious and prolific. I grew one plant in the greenhouse and one outdoors this year and didn't notice any difference between the two, so they're adaptable.

Last year, I offered two packets of seed as a giveaway to give a couple of my readers a chance to try them for themselves. Sue from Our Plot At Green Lane Allotments was one of the winners and I know she'll be growing them again next year as she too was impressed by them.

When I visisted the garden centre and picked up some bargain seed at the end of August, I also picked up an extra couple of packets of Mini Munch seed so that I could do another giveaway. These seeds are supposed to retail at £3.99 for a packet of four seeds. I always find cucumber seed expensive so the 50p seed sale is great for seeds such as these.

If you'd like to be in with a chance of winning one of these packets of Mini Munch seed to try, just leave a comment on this post by twelve noon on Monday the 6th of October 2014 after which, two names will be drawn at random.

As you might guess, I'll be growing this variety of cucumber again next year. It's become a firm favourite in our house.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Garden Visiting In September

I've visited some lovely gardens this year and been really surprised by some of them, I've found some hidden gems. Unfortunately, the garden I visited this month was a bit of a disappointment.

I'd read about Thornes Park in Wakefield on the internet. Supposedly featuring a beautiful walled rose garden, conservatory and secret garden, it sounded perfect for a visit.

As we walked through the gate we could see the walled garden and conservatory ahead of us.

The borders to the side were well kept and well stocked.

Such a gorgeous house.

The flower garden outside the walled garden was beautiful. We had high hopes for what lie beyond those gates.

I was expecting to see an abundance of roses in this walled garden but as I entered, my heart sank. It all looked rather barren and bare.

I wondered if it was a little late in the year to see roses at their best, but as I looked further, this is what I found.

The sign is asking for sponsors, either for a rose or a whole rose bed.

I do hope they get some takers as this could be a beautiful garden. It's such a shame when old, walled gardens are allowed to fall in to disrepair. The garden already has a backbone, plants trained against the wonderful brick wall, it just needs some tlc to bring it back to life again.

How about this fabulous arbour?

It would look stunning covered in blooms.

It was nice to see some roses flowering, especially my favourite colour, yellow.

Some of the beds were filled, but not especially looked after.

Never mind, I thought, there's still the conservatory to see. I'd read that it holds plant collections from three distinct regions of the world, Temperate and Tropical, Rainforest and Desert.

Unfortunately, we couldn't get anywhere near. These signs were posted along the barriers barring our entrance. It's no longer safe to enter the conservatory due to structural problems with the roof.

Looking from the conservatory back towards the entrance you can see how lovely this garden could be.

Some work has definitely been done already, it just needs a little more. It seems as though the work has started but has been held up due to lack of funds, such a shame.

Some leeks have been planted along the far wall but weeds are creeping in amongst them.

There's been an attempt to fill a border along the far wall with a combination of plants. I'm sure this will look better once the plants have had time to fill out a little.

The bees and butterflies were enjoying the blooms of the verbena bonariensis.

Looking back as we were leaving the garden, you can see how beautiful it could look with full, flowering beds.

More effort has been put in outside the walled garden and it shows. Look how beautiful this border is.

The flower garden has certainly has more work put in to it than the walled garden.

With thoughts of the Frances Hodgson Burnett book I read as a child, we headed off to seek out the Secret Garden. Another disappointment.

Even the nursery to the side of the park was closed, which was a shame, as I could see some lovely plants for sale.

This garden and conservatory could be a gem but I suppose it's decline is down to funding.

I wouldn't say that this month's garden visit was all that successful, let's hope for better luck in October.