Summer Harvest

Summer Harvest

Summer Harvest

Summer harvest is one of the most exciting times for the kitchen. The allotment has enjoyed the early summer sunshine, followed by heavy rains. This season our successes are greatly outnumbering the failures, and we are starting to get to grips with the polytunnel. At this time of year, there is an excellent variety of fruit and vegetables available at the plot. It’s the time of year when the outdoor vegetables are maturing, and the first signs of ripening tomatoes and chilies are appearing in the polytunnel. 

Summer Harvest

Recent weather has provided perfect conditions for blight. Which luckily so far seems to have avoided our potatoes and tomatoes. So far from the few plants that we have lifted the potatoes seem to have done really well. Early Pink “Duke of York” spuds taste as good as they look. Our main crop “Maris Piper” is providing some excellently sized baking potatoes and perfect Sunday roasties. Having received them in a novelty Christmas gift I didn’t hold out much hope for these Purple Carrots. I’m delighted with the results and the deep water tank with a 50/50 sand/mpc mixture has worked a treat. 

Summer Harvest

One of my personal favorite parts of the summer harvest is the pea and beans glut. One bit of advice don’t bother growing Asparagus Peas. They do have a lovely red flower but they taste bland and 1 day late in picking and they are hard as a rock. Gathering enough of the same size for a meal is a chore. In conclusion, if it comes free with a magazine doesn’t mean you have to grow it.Summer Harvest Since every day is a learning day and the best way is by doing and trying. My first every runner bean crop is excellent with some whopping beans must look up those record books.  As always the ever reliable “mange tout” is starting to come to an end and have accompanied some great meals. 

Another steep learning curve for us this summer harvest is managing the polytunnel and greenhouse. There were a couple of days this summer when Conor was out of the country and I was too busy to get to the plot. Within 36 hours of the polytunnel door being closed and window vents being closed, we lost a lot of seedlings and damaged many plants. Hence now we try to open the polytunnel and greenhouse each morning to allow the air and insect to circulate around our plants. Having spent a sweltering few hours in the polytunnel removing excess foliage and removing suckers to increase the airflow around the plants. This not only makes it easier to navigate and water the polytunnel but reduces the risks of blight.

Summer Harvest

With some crops starting to come to an end and some spaces starting to fill up in the beds. We are replenishing them with fertilizers and using plug plants that we started from seed in the greenhouse. It is also possible to make some late sowings this time of year. Salad veg e.g. beetroot, lettuce, radish can still be sown. Along with a large variety of Asian greens, and early or dwarf veg. 

Summer Harvest

Living in Belfast it’s not every day that you come face to face with a live Dinosaur. Due to a long and boring training course about protected species, I knew not to touch or disturb it. Having taken a photograph and contacted  Ulster Wildlife, we soon learned that it was a Smooth Newt, Northern Irelands only native and protected species.

Summer Harvest

While the rain is great for the plants it’s not great for the plans that I had made to build a potting area and workbench for the allotment. May the sunshine return.

 

Alliums, Garlic, Onions and Shallotts – How to Grow

Alliums Garlic, Onions, Shallots

While the rest of the UK enjoys varied wintry conditions from the heavy snowfall up North to the bitterly freezing mornings that my sister in London likes nothing more than to complain about, we here in Belfast are practically having a heat wave. Tomorrow, 22nd January its predicted a high of 13° and were only 1 week off from being smack bang in the middle of winter. This is worrying for the months ahead. You may have read our post about taking a risk with the weather and started our broad beans early and we were going to compare them compared to the ones we are going to sow in the Spring. Well that’s not going to be happening now, and its all due to the weather, but maybe not in the way you or I thought it might have panned out. I went to refill the bird feeders at the plot yesterday after work and noticed that the broad beans had been destroyed. The plants had essentially been topped and tailed and the roots had been dug up and eaten. Look at the size of the wholes that the culprit dug.

Alliums, Garlic, Onions and Shallots
Prepared Bed

 

 

My guess is that it was a squirrel, we asked our followers on twitter and some of their suggestions came back pheasant, pigeons or even moles. Well I can thankfully say we haven’t got any moles in Ireland. I think St Patrick got rid of them all or was that the snakes? Maybe the snakes ate all the moles and then Paddy gave them all the boot. While Grey Squirrels don’t actually hibernate, during cold spells they are much less active often sleeping for long periods of time to preserve energy at times when food is scarce. The weather has been that mild that im sure who ever did eat the beans were glad of the feed and for that I cant begrudge them. Also I should have used protection over the bed the beans were placed in, its a steep learning curve.

Havnt spent the past few weekends working ive been missing the plot terribly, so much to do and prepare and before you know it the Spring will be here. I was able to get up briefly for an hour last weekend and turnover the bed I plan to put my Alliums Garlic, Onions, Shallots in and to dig in some well rotted manure. I plan to plant my bulbs in around 2 – 3 weeks when the manure has worked its magic. In the mean time ive started the garlic in sets as I like to get some roots established on them before I place them in the ground. Last year the garlic was attacked by black birds who kept pulling up the bulbs then not eating anything. Garlic and onions are strong tasting vegetables and I learnt this week that it can be a good idea to leave them out of your compost heap, as essentially its going to be broken down by being eaten by worms and worms don’t like the strong taste of these alliums.

Varietys of Alliums Garlic, Onions, Shallots that we are Growing This Year.

Garlic – Were only growing the one variety of Garlic this year same as last, Casablanca. Garlic loves to be grown in a sunny position with good drainage. Damp bulbs can often be prone to rot. Garlic is sold in bulbs, do not grow garlic that you buy from a supermarket as it wont be treated for resistance to disease. Simply break up the garlic into separate cloves, there is no need to remove the skin like when preparing it for cooking. The clove needs to be in the soil with the tips facing upwards and just showing above the surface. Then its important to firm around the soil around the clove and water well. A covering of chicken wire to deter birds from pulling the bulbs is a good idea. Garlic is a hardy plant and if well watered and not competing with weeds will often do well and produce bountiful and tasty crops.Garlic Bulbs2016-01-21 19.00.57

Onions – We’ve decided to grow the same white and red onions as last year as we had such a successful crop and the taste was delicious. Our whites are Stuttgarter and our reds are Red Pearl F1. Onions are probably the most commonly used vegetable used in my kitchen, in fact I dont know many recipes that dont start with chopping an onion. (Everyone should learn the proper easy way to chop an onion,quick, easy and efficient and leave the tears dripping down ur face, oh and a good sharp knife). The ground is prepared the same as the garlic in fact they will be sharing a bed. They are also planted similarly with just the tips of the bulb showing and being firmely bedded in and well watered.

Shallots – We didn’t grow shallots last year so we picked the variety’s were growing this year from the advice of other bloggers based on their success. The white shallots are Jermor and were going to be growing a red shallot variety Red Sun. Which are planted and treated the same as garlic and onions.

Something to remember onions are prone to onion fly and a good deterrent to this when the weather heats up a bit is mint. Goes great with some summer bbq lamb and also a great excuse to have a mojito or 4. Ummm mojitos.

onion box

Alliums, Garlic, Onions and Shallots
Onion Haul