Thursday, 30 June 2011

June harvest: week four/monthly summary

The end of the month meant the peak of the strawberries - mostly intact, a good colour, and intensely fragrant!

Instead of doing my harvest update on Tuesday, I decided to wait till the last day of the month, and round up all that's happened. First of all, the daily totals:

Totals for nine days 22nd-30th June:
27th: 825g raspberries, 7g wild strawberries, 5g strawberries (day total: 837g)
29th: 1.225kg strawberries, 182g gooseberries, 1.83kg raspberries (day total: 3.237kg)
30th: 746g broad beans, 94g spinach (day total: 840g)
Total for period: 4.914kg

Yes, I wasn't out there so much this past week. I've been quite busy, and to be honest, I like to pick large amounts at once, rather than little and often, at least where the fruit is concerned (you need a certain base amount for most recipes, usually a pound). Still, the totals are impressive - and it's largely soft fruit. The vegetables put in a late showing, but are now mostly over, and I'm still waiting for their replacements (I warn you now: there aren't going to be any squashes for a long time - more on that in a future post). There are quite a few baby tomatoes in the greenhouse now, but I have no idea how long they'll take (the date for the theoretical first fruit has passed, unsurprisingly without ripening, as I've not been quite conscientious enough about the plants' welfare).

A little of the fruit has been discarded. I refuse to store fruit in the fridge unless absolutely necessary, and that's usually fine, but I was distracted by a number of other things going on (such as a friend's barbecue), so some of the strawberries went mouldy. A tragedy, but what can you do? Better than throwing away shop-bought food, and it all gets composted anyhow.

As far as June is concerned, however, it's been a raging success. I had harvested just over half a kilogramme of produce up to the end of May, which I was proud of, but seems pitiful now, after so many days with more than that in a single bowlful. As I keep saying, the soft fruit season is finite, and will soon end, so this is the first of two major harvest periods in the year (the other, I imagine, will be towards the end of August through September, when the tomatoes and other late things will be ready). I am enjoying it while it lasts. As if to confirm this, yesterday's prodigious strawberry harvest was almost the end - very few fruits remain, although a second flowering is not out of the question (last year they didn't have time to ripen the second crop, however). Raspberries have another week at least.

What else has been successful? The spinach, although that goes for the whole year - it has kept producing endlessly, and I haven't bought any for months. What hasn't? The peas were a writeoff, the beans were just so-so until the very end. They weren't so delicious as to justify the time and space devoted to them (let alone the price; bean seeds are quite expensive), but I will plant some again next year (or in the autumn for an early spring crop). I may revert to more productive, less unusual varieties, though - three beds have given around a kilogramme in total, which simply isn't enough. The gooseberry was a failure - for the fourth or fifth year in a row. It didn't lose all its leaves to sawfly this year, and the fruits ripened - they were meant to be deep red, but have never had the chance to get that far in the past. I will be ripping it out, and I doubt I'll grow them again - they take up too much space, only produce one crop a year (whereas that ground could provide a succession of vegetables), and it's not as though I'm crazy about gooseberries anyway. The currants didn't provide a mass of fruit, but I do adore them, so I'll buy new plants and try again somewhere else.

Total for June: 11.081kg

I had the idea last week, looking at the figures, that I'd set a final personal goal this month - of 10kg total harvest. A bit ambitious, but just possible. Well as you can see I beat it by some margin. Which means:

Year to date total: 11.591kg

Which is respectable, I think, and satisfies me for now. But the sooner my front garden is stuffed with lettuces, spinach, beetroot, turnips, and tomatoes, the sooner I can relax again!

Finally, what do I have to look forward to in July? Well, hopefully more settled, sunny conditions! We're in the middle of just such a period, and it's just what the garden needs (especially the tomatoes). I will be harvesting the shallots this month - the best have really swollen, each bulb now several, each larger than the original. Most will be stored for later use, some kept for planting next year. The first tomato! I am confident the largest 'Jaune Flammée', which is now around the size of a large cherry tomato (it may grow a little more, it may not) will ripen in the next two to three weeks, although I doubt I'll be harvesting very many until August. I'm determined to sow salads, and oriental greens for the autumn - hopefully, the first leaves will be ready in a few weeks.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

June harvest: week three

My harvest on the 17th: a bowlful of summer.

And not to be outdone, the front garden has been producing vegetables.

The fruit just keeps coming! The strawberries are ripening all over the place, and not getting too nibbled before I catch them (the ones I miss end up hollow and full of woodlice - seems to be their favourite food! Except wood, of course)*. And now, the raspberries are doing the same - and being held high off the ground, they tend to avoid any problems (the birds round here, which may have noticed my cherries, seem to ignore these equally delicious fruits). The strawberries weigh more, of course, the largest so far being 30g, so they still account for the bulk of the total. But in numbers, the raspberries are probably winning by this point. I actually prefer raspberries, so I'm perfectly happy with that.

Meanwhile, in the front, there is still spinach - what stars they've been (living up to their name 'perpetual'). The broad beans are swelling at last, and as you can see, the turnips that took (a handful) have got to a good size (they say pick them at golfball size, but I've had them nearer a tennis-ball and they aren't woody). So as you can see from the pictures, June is red and green, with just a touch of white.

Totals for week 15th-21st June:
15th: 98g turnip, 244g turnip tops (day total 342g)
17th: 323g raspberries, 774g strawberries, 6g cherry (day total 1103g)
18th: 1g wild strawberry
21st: 73g broad beans, 693g strawberries, 1049g raspberries, 159g redcurrants, 210g whitecurrants (day total 2184g)
Total for week: 3.630kg
Year to date total: 6.677kg

The exponential growth continues! Once again, a week's harvest has exceeded the year's total to date. I suspect this will be the last time - at least until tomatoes and winter squash are ripe. It seems appropriate that the largest haul I've had so far came on Midsummer's Day - the high point of the year for me, I think. Not that it's all downhill just yet - warmth and light can be counted on (to a point) for a couple more months.

So much fruit! It actually took ages to pick all this today, but in the peaceful sunshine, it was no chore.

I used the previous batch of strawberries to make jam, but despite following the recipe closely, and using proprietary pectin stock, it didn't set. That's a problem I always have with strawberry jam, so I need to work on it. The taste was great, though - perfect, light but intense, if that's not contradictory. The raspberries will be split between jam, syrup, and whatever fancy recipes that catch my eye in the next couple of weeks. The turnip and broad bean tops made a passable soup, but it was a bit fibrous, even after prolonged blending. Maybe not worth the effort.

*Picking strawberries this damp evening, it turns out the holes are made initially by tiny slugs. Thankfully, the damage has remained lighter than in previous years.

Friday, 17 June 2011

The tomatoes of midsummer

The stupid autofocus on my camera is useless in situations like this. However, you can see the first tomato here, a 'Jaune Flammée' swollen to the size of a pea!

It's time for an update on the heart of my garden this year - the tomatoes.

I'm being a little mean to the other crops, perhaps. But the reason I describe them in that way is simple (apart from the emotional attachment, the flavour, the usefulness) - they will be providing the bulk of my year's harvest, at least in terms of weight.

Three months ago, or about one third of the total season I suppose, I set out what I wanted to do, which varieties I would grow, and why. As time has passed, and I've seen how the plants have progressed, and especially once I'd committed to building my new greenhouse, I decided roughly how many plants I'd grow, where I'd put them, and then I worked out my projected harvest.

'Riesentraube' (bottom left), 'Gardener's Delight' (upper right), plus beans and winter squash (upper left), at the base of the outside wall of the greenhouse.

I started with 15 types of seed, and all have produced plants - although I had rather a glut of 'Green Zebra' and 'Gardener's Delight', and rather too few 'German Orange Strawberry' and 'Snowberry'. Nonetheless, I have met the minimum requirements - 3 of each variety. That makes 45 plants in total, but I decided I wanted a few more than that, and after I've distributed some to friends and family (so far, 6 to the boys, 18 to my friend and her mother, around 8 to my parents, and a dozen to my sister) I will have to find a home around the place for the remainder. That could be anything up to another 50 plants, but my rough total (i.e. the number I want, with anything over being a bonus, or a burden depending on your point of view) is 60.

Now for the maths. Some plants (between 15 and 20) will live in my greenhouse, the rest outdoors. The general advice with cordons (indeterminate plants, that won't just form a neat, self-limiting bush) is to stop the plant's growth after 4-6 trusses (bunches of fruit). I will probably push the ones under 'glass', as they will be kept under ideal conditions. A good average then would be 5 trusses per plant (300 in total). Trusses vary quite a bit in how many flowers they produce - each flower becoming one fruit, of course. The smaller the fruit, in general the more fruits per truss. A conservative estimate would be 6-8 fruits per truss averaged across all the varieties. That's 1800-2400 fruits, so let's pick a round figure in between of 2000. Two thousand tomatoes! Then, once again, the weight varies hugely, from as little as 15g for 'Snowberry' (probably even less for 'Riesentraube', but I couldn't find any figures online*), up to (apparently) as much as 800g for 'Great White'. I'll be modest, and say 50g on average across the board. That amounts to a lovely round 100kg grand total. Now, that's far more than I'd estimated I'd need, to attain self-sufficiency, which was a minimum of 50kg I think. So anywhere between the two, and I'll be satisfied.

A range of smaller plants, including 'Great White', 'Cherokee Purple', 'Cream Sausage', and 'Black Cherry'.

Now for a roundup of how each variety is faring.

Black Cherry
planted 2 • all plants <30cm flowers open fruit set
Fairly small, as they were in the later-sown batch, but healthy enough. Hopefully they'll catch up once established.

Cherokee Purple
planted 2 • all plants <30cm flowers open fruit set
They seem alright, vigorous and a good shade of green.

Costoluto Fiorentino
planted 3 • largest plant 58cm tall flowers open fruit set
Not all of these have survived, or look healthy, but the largest, in the greenhouse for a few weeks now, is doing very well. Its first flowers, however, are very odd - I think some sort of mutation has occurred, as there is one huge fused flower, with dozens of petals, and the truss is irregular. Hopefully an aberration!**

Not perfectly in focus, but the large, fused, mutant flower is in the middle, between normal ones. I doubt it will form a fruit. Sadly, inspecting the open flower to the right, I snapped it off. Still, plenty more coming!

Cream Sausage
planted 3 • all plants <30cm flowers open fruit set
I found one of these on the windowsill today, with a full truss of open flowers - still in a tiny plastic cup 'pot'. Amazing tenacity! The plants are small, not terribly vigorous (I suppose because they are determinates), but early flowering - all the plants have blossom open now. One of the ones I'm really looking forward to!

Gardener's Delight
planted 3 • largest plant 38cm tall flowers open fruit set
True to form, these have grown well, put up with a lot of neglect, and flowered early and profusely. They are popular for a reason! Again, I had a glut of plants, but that's no problem - I gave plenty away, as they're great for beginners.

German Orange Strawberry
planted none yet • all plants <30cm flowers open fruit set
A straggly bunch, rather neglected, still a little small to plant out (or at least, I can leave them a little longer while I devote space and time to other varieties).

Great White
planted 1 • all plants <30cm flowers open fruit set
No problems with these - and I found several extra plants when rearranging the windowsill, so hopefully I'll not be short of fruit when the time comes.

Green Zebra
planted 3 • all plants <30cm flowers open fruit set
There were far too many of these, around 40 seedlings. Thankfully, my friend has a greenhouse and seemed happy to take some for herself and her mother. They seem happy enough, showing no signs so far of the tendency to disease I'd read about.

Jaune Flammée
planted 3 • largest plant 70cm tall flowers open ✔ fruit set
The star of the show! These are strong, tall, early-flowering plants. The first buds, open flowers, and set fruit all came on this variety - although being the most advanced to begin with, I lavished more attention on it (it got planted first). I have taken side-shoot cuttings, which have started to root. Hoping it's as productive and delicious as I've read!

The second truss is already open, and two more trusses are visible higher up the plant.

planted 1 • all plants <30cm flowers open fruit set
What an odd variety! To begin with, nothing germinated. It ultimately took two or three times as long to get established as the others, and even then, most of the plants didn't thrive. They then exhibited two different habits; some remained short and stocky, putting out lots of side shoots (a bit like a determinate), and the rest grew tall and leggy. I have a feeling there's some sort of genetic variation, at least in the seeds I bought. However, those that have grown look okay.

planted 3 • largest plant 50cm tall flowers open fruit set
I thought disaster had struck when, searching for plants to give to my mum, I found they'd all died. They were from the first batch that went outside to harden off, and got blasted by hot winds, killing the tops. Thankfully, I'd already planted two for myself, and I later found another one clinging to life. I took side shoot cuttings from the strongest plant, so I won't go short after all. The ones that did get planted early are large, and very healthy, on the verge of setting fruit.

Sub Arctic Plenty
planted 2 • all plants <30cm flowers open fruit set
I don't mind if these don't do so well - I wanted really early fruit, and these are amongst the earliest, but I didn't plant them soon enough, so they'll end up fruiting later than some of the others. Small and early-flowering, like the other determinate type, 'Cream Sausage'.

Summer Cider
planted 3 • all plants <30cm flowers open fruit set
The one variety I don't need to label, as it has potato leaves (they really stand out). Otherwise, a little slower than some others, but strong enough.

Sun Belle
planted 3 • largest plant 75cm tall flowers open fruit set
Another one I started having a lot of, but lost some along the way.

This 'Sun Belle' is taking over as the tallest plant. The uppermost leaves are strangely curled back, with no obvious cause, but it seems untroubled.

Super Marmande
planted 3 • largest plant 40cm tall flowers open fruit set
Very strong, stocky plants, some of these, showing off the vigor that made me want to grow it again this year. Hopefully it'll be just as delicious, too.

This 'Super Marmande' may not be very tall, but it's very healthy-looking.

And one non-tomato picture: my largest squash plant, an 'Uchiki Kuri', which is really thriving in the greenhouse, but will need to be moved out soon.

*I've since found a source that says 6-10g.
**Looking at other people's photos of this, it seems the flowers do tend to have more petals/look rather odd. Watch this space!

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

June harvest: week two

Today it is sunny, and noticeably warm. Sadly, that's a rarity. It was similar on Saturday, but the breeze got up later in the day, and in any case I spent the afternoon and evening away from home (helping my friend with her tomatoes - well, giving her some plants, installing them in her greenhouse, showing her the ropes). So today I must make the most of a dry spell - Sunday was the opposite, cold and rainy, but most days are cool to mild, with showers. Not good for cementing, painting, or using powertools outdoors! I'm hoping to get the final roof panel on the greenhouse today, and maybe the door.

I pulled up the peas. I had one large container (almost a raised bed) of them, and although they'd persevered through everything we've had this spring, the snails didn't relent, and I decided to pull them up, releasing space for probably a couple of pumpkin plants. The broad beans similarly, have produced little - tiny beans, smallish pods, and not many of them. I will probably pull them up wholesale over the next week or so.
My pitiful harvest - this is all the peas I got, plus some broad beans.

I wrote the paragraph above before I went into the front garden a little earlier. In fact, patience has paid off there - the chest-high bean plants have fat pods hidden at the base of their stems. I still won't have a glut, but it's not a disaster - enough to encourage me to try again next year, with more plants, earlier sowing, and more discipline. I will leave the existing plants until the pods are ripe, rather than ripping them up.

However, there's been no shortage of strawberries, as I mentioned in my last post, and the raspberries are ripening too. I'll give the currants a few more days, and what gooseberries there are are starting to blush (they're a red variety), so I'll wait until they're ready. Otherwise, there's not much to have - the shallots are fattening, but the leaves are still green, so I expect it'll be a month before I can harvest them. The tomatoes are flowering left, right, and centre, but no fruit has set as yet (I'm starting to get concerned). Everything else is either too small, or I haven't sown it yet. Damn.

Totals for week 8th-14th June:
8th: 190g strawberries
10th: 4g raspberries and alpine (wild) strawberries, 274g strawberries, 22g snap peas, 20g broad beans, 28g peas (day total: 348g)
12th: 330g strawberries, 3g raspberries, 2g cherries (day total: 335g)
13th: 7g broad beans, 5g alpine strawberries, 43g raspberries, 172g strawberries (day total: 227g)
14th: 30g raspberries, 305g strawberries, 39g spinach, 50g broad beans, 87g turnip, 31 broad bean tops, 245g turnip tops (day total: 787g)
Total for week: 1.897kg (once again, more than the whole year to date!)
Year to date total: 3.047kg

So, not a bad week, statistically. In fact, the stuff I gathered just today amounts to more than one-and-a-half times the weight of everything I harvested up to the end of May! Clearly, June is a season of mellow fruitfulness - I just hope this isn't a peak, but more a sign of the bounty yet to come.

And what did I do with all that produce? Well, the strawberries went into a batch of syrup, and I'll make another one with some of the rest (the syrup really is divine - I'll post a recipe soon). I'll look through my recipe books for the small batch of raspberries I have so far - maybe a mousse, tart, or jelly. The spinach, peas, beans and turnip go into my dinners (usually rice), and their tops will make a soup (a bit of an experiment!).

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Strawberry season

Washed, hulled, and ready to use.

The strawberries were early this year. As I mentioned previously, I picked my first on the last day of May, but for me (based on average conditions round here), June is the time for these fruits. That's when they are in full swing, producing handfuls a day from my patch of a couple of dozen plants. I grow four or five kinds, although the labels I carefully placed next to each plant when they went in three years ago have long since disappeared, and they've multiplied so much (sending out runners despite my best efforts at control) I now just treat them all the same. For the record, there are 'Honeoye', 'Cambridge Favourite', 'Hapil' (I think labelled as 'Happil' when I bought it), and 'Rhapsody' (but I'm not 100% sure of that last one). I wanted a range, partly to mitigate against disease, partly to give a longer season. In fact, the sizes, shapes, shades of red, and flavours are all very distinct - a strawberry is not a strawberry is not a strawberry.

The plants are meant to be replaced every three years, which gives me an opportunity to move the bed - it's currently on a terrace of the slope in the back garden, south-facing, on enriched clay soil. They thrive here, but I need the space for something else. I will ditch the gooseberry planted with them, which has never done well. I'll probably put them in raised beds I'm planning on building by the side of the house, which is a tough spot, being quite shady and cool. Maybe not so ideal for ripening, but I'll keep some in pots, too, to hedge my bets. I need the current fruit bed for vegetables, which I care more about now, and which will really benefit from the aspect of that location. I probably won't buy any more plants, because there are enough self-spread across the garden to provide for my needs - I'll just dig them up later in the year and relocate them.

Anyway, this year is providing the largest harvest ever, so the bed is certainly mature. As for earliness, I have a photo from last year of my strawberries from the 20th of June - and although it may not be of the first fruits, it's clear that they are indeed (as I may have said before) around two weeks early. There are many more fruits still on the plants, although blooming finished over a week ago, so I expect to be picking some for the next fortnight or so - perhaps till the end of the month. Thankfully, a bumper crop of raspberries will take over - the first fruits have started turning red, which is early again (I think of raspberries as more of a July crop), but around two weeks after the first strawberries, which is about right.

But what to do with this bounty? Well, first of all, enjoy it! The process of searching through the fruit patch, looking under leaves for bright red (or in my case, blush pink*) fruits is exciting, and very pleasant in warm summer sunshine (today, in the cold driving rain, it was not so fun). Eating them, perfectly ripe, unadulterated, is a simple, but satisfying pleasure. You could do the cream-and-sugar thing (I've never been a fan), or use them in a smoothie or cocktail (I find they work well, puréed, with bourbon). Or make a basic custard, blitz strawberries, pass through a sieve and/or muslin, combine, and freeze in an ice cream machine (or however you prefer to make it), maybe adding chopped strawberries, or a coulis, to really enhance the flavour.

With less-than-perfect, or slightly unripe fruits, try this: chop them quite finely, dust with fine sugar, drizzle with the best balsamic vinegar you can find, and if you like, some fresh, coarsely-ground black pepper, cover, and refrigerate overnight. Serve over vanilla ice cream, or with mascarpone. The strawberry flavour is much enhanced. I never used to like the idea of this, but it really works.

A pound of strawberries, waiting to be turned into syrup...

...and the finished product.

*I have to pick my strawberries a little before they are perfectly ripe, otherwise they get eaten by culprits unknown (probably slugs and snails). They turn deep red indoors in a day or two.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Maybe I was wrong...

They aren't full size yet, but they're definitely broad beans! Note the pinkish blush of this variety ('Karmazyn'). There's hope after all!

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

June harvest: week one

Two exciting things make this first June harvest particularly special. My first-ever home-grown cherry ripened a few days ago. I have two trees, which I planted two years ago. One I've trained as a fan against the top fence (a south-facing fence that runs along the terrace, higher than the house), and the other is planted on the opposite side of the terrace, and left to its own devices. I expected no fruit the first year (two or three flowers on one of the trees fell off), but last year there was some blossom, but no fruit either. The freestanding tree got infested both years by blackfly, making its new growth twisted and discoloured. This year, the fan-trained tree (which is much larger, whether due to the variety, the soil, position, or having its growth forced into a few strong branches) got the blackfly, but at least has set a couple of dozen fruits, but it was the other one that produced the first ripe fruit (of only three full-sized cherries on the whole tree).

Totals for week 1st-7th June:
1st: 8g chard (the last of last summer's rainbow chard - I need to re-sow), 40g spinach, 73g mint
2nd: 23g strawberries, 3g cherry
3rd: 62g strawberries, 33g spinach
5th: 30g peas + pea pods (I had to harvest some early, because one plant was looking sickly, so I stripped what was there, and cooked the whole lot as there wasn't much - the pods were tough), 53g broad bean tops (more on this below), 158g strawberries, and a negligible weight of (but big taste hit from) tarragon and parsley
6th: 128g strawberries
7th: 37g strawberries, 2g broad beans (I tried a large pod)
Total for week: 650g (more than the whole year to date!)
Year to date total: 1.16kg

Which means I beat my target a week early! (That's the second special thing, in case you were wondering). I'd hoped to harvest 500g in the first two weeks of June. Now, I don't want to get ahead of myself, so I'll revise it to 800g - I can't guarantee the strawberries will continue producing consistently (there's a mass of green fruit, but I suspect the weather has an effect on when they ripen). Second, I've harvested my first kilogramme of produce! Compared to Annie's Granny, it's small beer indeed, but it's a nice figure, and the heavy stuff comes later in the season (pumpkins, squash, tomatoes).

As you can see from the figures above, the vast majority of the weight is soft fruit, but I suppose it's slightly unfair since leaves don't weigh much (I've had lots of spinach, but even a large handful amounts to a few tens of grammes). If I was feeling uncharitable, I could also mention how most of it comes from perennials, rather than stuff I sowed/planted in the past few months. But produce is produce! And I think it's good to have a balance between crops that largely look after themselves with minimal intervention (mint is a prime example), and those that need more care, last a much shorter time, but allow for more experimentation year on year.

Now, a note on peas and beans, pre-empting the next couple of harvest totals. I planted two beds of broad beans in the front garden. One has been rather swamped by surrounding plants (mostly weeds), so I expect little from it; the other has grown luxuriantly - they are chest-high, with not a blackfly amongst them. But, there's part of the problem. I got it into my head that pinching out the tops was only necessary if they became infested, so I left them. They flowered their heads off, but the pods are small and few. The rule is, pinch out to allow the energy to go into the fruit - just like tomatoes. Second, the winds here in May have blasted the plants, stripping a lot of flowers. So, I don't expect much from them. In the back garden, I have two large planters, one with more broad beans, the other with peas. Incidentally, the two varieties of broad beans I planted were 'Karmazyn', a pink-fruited kind, and 'Red Epicure', with even darker pink/red beans (I have a batch of young crimson-flowered plants ready to go somewhere); the peas are 'Serpette Guillotteau'. Well, both have been attacked by snails relentlessly - even now they are large, the lower leaves are stripped, and even the pods have been nibbled.

So I don't expect much from my legumes this season. I've never done terribly well with peas, so maybe I should give up on them. I had high hopes for a glut of beans, but it seems it's not to be. At least the French and runner beans are looking healthy - for now!

Monday, 6 June 2011

Ups and downs

The centrepiece of my rose bed: a huge, fragrant pink bloom (whose name I've sadly forgotten)

I lost the internet for the best part of a week, hence a lack of entries on here. The router's plug had literally melted to the socket, which was worrying, and the service provider was less than helpful in resolving it. Anyway, I'm back now, and interestingly, it was blogging (and reading blogs) that I missed most, I think.

What's been happening? Well, the new greenhouse is almost finished. It's taken three times longer than it should, but only a third of that is my laziness (maths never was my thing) - the rest was down to the terrible weather slowing me down (say no to power tools when it's raining, and laying polycarbonate sheeting during gales is not advised) and actively destroying some of what I'd already done. However, I fought the tendency to get disheartened, and repaired it - and made it better than it would otherwise have been. As of this afternoon, four of the five roof panels are on, all but two small end panels, and the only major thing lacking is the door (which I'll put together indoors for ease). A discovery of new things at the timber yard (excellent self-adhesive flashing strips, special exterior sealant, new kinds of wooden trims) have left it looking good, sturdy, and watertight.

The roof - compare it with the photograph I took a few weeks ago. My proudest achievement!

A view down the greenhouse - it looks pretty good! The tomatoes are loving it.

This is why - today's maximum temperature outside was around 14ºC. The thermometer is inside the greenhouse.

Inside, it's full of plants. The oldest tomato plant is very large and sturdy (and has given me three side shoots worthy of attempting to root into new plants), and several others aren't far behind. Flowers are everywhere, though no fruit has set yet. The chilli seedlings, Thunbergia alata ('black-eyed Susan'), and few squash plants I've shoved in there are doing well too, though probably that has more to do with the ease of watering in there compared to indoors (a lot of plants have withered because I've not kept up). The best thing of all, it smells like a greenhouse in there now - a proper greenhouse, like they have at the park, or in garden centres. Warm, humid, earthy, alive. That spurs me on like nothing else.

The star, as ever - 'Jaune Flammée', now with three trusses (two open, but no fruit)

Nestling under the table: spare tomato plants - rather too many!

And on top - a handful of summer and winter squash, chillies, tomatoes, T. alata, and Lobelia.

And the harvest totals have really picked up - but more on that tomorrow.

Friday, 3 June 2011

End of May harvest update

Plenty more to come!

A quickie. May was a poor month for weather, and only those crops that were already producing yielded much, until the very end. However, as a portent of things to come (I hope!), the very last day of the month was the most exciting, and I picked my first strawberries of the year! That's a good fortnight early, so the recent cooler weather can't have retarded things too much.

Totals for two weeks from 15th-31st May:
17th: 43g spinach
21st: 22g spinach
25th: 27g lettuce (a 'volunteer', or self-sown plant, from who knows where), 15g spinach
26th: 28g mint (applemint, to be precise)
31st: 29g strawberries (three whole fruits!)
Total for fortnight: 164g
Year to date total: 510g

From now on, I'll post weekly harvest updates, as the soft fruits, peas, and beans will push the weights up considerably. I've already picked as much in the past three days as in the previous two weeks, for example! My goal is to have 500g from the 1st to the 14th of June - I'm pretty confident about that.

More details on the garden (and photos!) coming soon.