Sunday, 14 August 2011

The height of summer

There have been a few large butterflies hanging round my front garden this summer, but only one at a time. This red admiral kept startling me today.

Another garden update? Aside from the tomatoes (which I wrote about a few days ago), so much is going on right now, I thought I'd do a summary. What's coming up to harvest, what's just germinating, what's yet to be sown.

I started this post over a week ago. This is what the seedlings in my first (shallow) front garden raised bed looked like...

...and here it is today. The mizuna has lived up to its reputation as a good catch crop, being ready now, long before the beetroot (left) and kohl rabi (right).

This is the other (deep) raised bed. In one half, carrots, swede, and radishes are just appearing, while here, I have transplanted stem lettuce (celtuce; above), and rainbow chard (below).

First, the old. The beans and squash aren't doing too bad, considering my earlier neglect and worries! Okay, so 95% of what I sowed went to waste, but what I did find space for has burgeoned. The runner beans have just started showing signs of setting pods - so maybe there will be a crop, after a few dozen failed flowers. They have been pretty, and not defoliated by snails as they have been in previous years. The French beans, on the other hand, have been problem-free since I sowed them. They have lovely, rich purple flowers, purple-tinged stems, and it seems, purple-blushed pods. They're actually ahead of the runners, even though they were slower to get started. They lose their colour when cooked, so it's best to just quickly steam them, or pick young and eat raw.

Finally - baby runner beans! And lots of them. They should be ready in a week or two.

The squash were a bit of a disaster. I sowed dozens, of around ten varieties. But most I allowed to die - I just didn't have the space or soil for them, and I was concentrating on tomatoes. I planted one in a large container on the terrace, where runner beans had been. It had been thriving in the greenhouse, but almost immediately was attacked by snails in its new home. I thought I'd lose it - but it fought back. Now I think it will survive. One more (a different kind) went into the large runner bean pot - it has grown well, straight up the sturdy supports. This week, I spotted the first, tiny, embryonic fruit - so there's hope. Actually, I've been overrun with self-sown squash - wherever I've spread homemade compost, they have sprung up. I've left a few, around the place, where they aren't harming other plants. Their identity, and whether they will produce anything, I can't comment on.

After my tomatoes, this might be my greatest achievement so far - a tiny pumpkin! It's 'Uchiki Kuri', a (one-day-to-be) red Japanese "onion squash".

Now the new. All but two of the things I sowed at the start of the month have germinated (the two that haven't are year-old red perilla seed - it may be one that loses viability quickly - and mixed salad leaves, which were several years old, and had come free with a magazine - there are plenty more where they came from). The ones that have grown are rainbow chard, stem lettuce ("celtuce"), Chinese cabbage, mizuna, mibuna, mispoona, kailaan, tsoi sim, heading lettuce, green perilla, fennel (herb), and sage indoors, and turnips, beetroot, more mizuna, black radish, kohl rabi, and mesclun (mixed salad) outside. Parsley and namenia, both also sown outdoors in trays, were destroyed by slugs and too much sun respectively - they will be restarted indoors. In the last week or so I've also sown carrots, cheeky late summer squash, swede, and radishes outdoors, and several kinds of basil (Thai, holy, purple, cinnamon, and Genovese) and bulb fennel inside.

This is perilla. I sowed green and red, but only the green has germinated. It's perfect for sushi and Japanese-style pickles.

And sage! You can grow it from seed, and it's so easy, why would I ever buy plants again?

And here is another aromatic herb - basil. This is standard ('Sweet Genovese'), but I also have several other kinds. Still tiny!

The near future holds a little more sowing - spring cabbage, more basil (Greek, maybe giant-leaved), kale, cavolo nero, more carrots, more radishes, more turnips, perhaps some cheeky late chillies - I can overwinter them indoors or in the greenhouse if they take. Then it's over for a few months - until November probably, when the greenhouse will be cleared of tomatoes and repopulated with winter salads and oriental vegetables, and outdoors I can attempt overwintering broad beans and peas. I'll also plant some garlic and shallots, maybe onions too - since most of what's going in now will be harvested by then. I've found an exciting mixed multipack of garlic sets, nine different varieties, for £17.99. Pretty expensive, you'd think, but that will easily provide enough garlic for a year - 10 bulbs and 5 extra cloves, let's say 8 cloves per bulb, could make as many as 85 bulbs by next summer. They sit out during the winter and spring, so they're not competing with other crops for at least half their lifespan, and they can be planted quite densely - I'll only need a couple of raised beds for them. I eat a lot of garlic, so it makes sense. As for shallots, I will plant some next spring as I did this year, but some (especially Japanese varieties) can go in before winter, and I'd like to see if they're worth it. As for onions, I have a pack of 'North Holland Blood Red' seeds, which I got for spring onions, but they are a dual-purpose variety, which can be grown as full-sized red onions. I might see how that goes.

Plenty of seedlings on my windowsill again! In the foreground, heading lettuce 'Pinares'.


Sally said...

So much to catch up on. Lots of great photos and progress reports. I do love that Japanese Onion Squash, the shape,the colour, the hairiness!It is very endearing to look at.What will it taste like!

The allotments are amazing. That strawberry bed is breathtaking. I don't think I've seen anything of quite such a high standard before!
And how great that the site allows poultry and ducks. Definitely worth putting your name down on a waiting list.

Great tomato photos - I do like those pleated ones - they really do demonstrate why experimenting with different varieties is so enjoyable. If you don't grow your own it's easy to think as the choice as "on or off the vine", "standard, plum or cherry". But when you have some many different types they somehow become more than just one type of produce. You can use them in such different ways that they become like growing several crops.

It's all looking very vibrant and tasty!

Scyrene said...

Well, I bought a couple of onion squash from the market last winter, and they were delicious - not too big, dense-fleshed, perfect for stuffing and baking or steaming. If I get even one ripe I'll be happy.

Some of the stuff in those allotments was astonishing - inspirational. I've got the number of the site administrator, so I'll contact them in the next few days to see how long I might have to wait.

The ribbed tomatoes are unusual to look at, and taste great, but I wouldn't like to have to peel them! I'm surprised how early they've ripened, given they're an Italian variety. Last year, I had to peel some 'Super Marmande' and it was very wasteful - though this year, they seem to be rounder. 'Summer Cider' looks to be ribbed too. A strange process! :)