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.

 

Greenhouse Goodness August 2106

Greenhouse Update

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Our Greenhouse
After our early doubts about the effectiveness of our DIY greenhouse, we can safely say that it is working a treat and we are starting to reap the benefits. Next season the greenhouse will be mainly used for seedlings, with the larger plants going to be in our, as of yet non existent poly-tunnel. This season, I started some seedlings at home on my windowsills, with the intention of maturing them in the greenhouse. Thankfully everything went to plan, and the greenhouse was constructed in time, as all of our outdoor tomatoes failed, suffering from blight. The greenhouse provides us with much more controllable and consistent growing condition, and thankfully all of our plants inside remain blight free.

We are currently growing two variety’s of tomatoes in the greenhouse.

Gardeners Delight – Is very much a favourite of gardeners, producing delicious tangy but sweet cheery tomatoes. These tomatoes are hardy and perfect for growing on a sunny windowsill or on a patio a large container. When the fruits started to show we have been feeding weekly with tomato feed.

 

Costoluto Fiorentino – These are a large growing Italian tomato with irregular ribbed and deliciously juicy fruit. These are also easy to go and suited to UK conditions and are also suitable to grow in a large pot.

Along side our tomatoes, we are growing two variety’s of Peppers.

Sweet Romamo – are a long sweet pepper deliciously slow grilled straight on the BBQ, we are trying one of these plants outdoors so we will show the comparison at the end of the growing season.

Bell Peppers – these are a year round staple of most cuisines, so we decided to grow some in time for the end of BBQ and salad season. Germination of these seeds were rather difficult and I only got lucky when I kept the seeds inside a mini greenhouse instead of just the windowsill.

We also started some gherkins “Adam F1”off from seed and when they started to sprout we gave them some time in the greenhouse, too to grow strong roots before hardening off and placing them in their final growing positions. I constructed a meshed lean-to at the front of the shed with enough room for the containers to hold the creeping or climbing plants. Previously this year I had a crop of mange tout growing in the same position, but I decided to switch for a gherkin patch as they are one of my favourite veg to pickle and deff one of the the best tasting. After a few days hardening off and with Conor making a cracking job of a protective fleece for their first few nights outside on their own, I can happily report that I harvested my first ever gherkin tonight. Ta Da !

Another first for me to grow this year is Aubergine, I have three plants that have been flowering for about 4 weeks now but none of them had set fruit yet. It was only last night when I was rotating the peppers, that I seen the first of my eggplants.

The last of our greenhouse variety’s and this one is a complete accident is our one and only cucumber. I sowed 6 cucumbers with the thought of keeping two and giving a few away which I normally do to friends. I was left with the two I was keeping for myself (the best examples obviously). But I had nowhere to put them so they were neglected at the back of a blind on a sunny window sill with the intention of compost bin. When it came to dispose of the fallen climbing plant I was surprised to see the yellow flower of a small cucumber on one of the plants. I had to try and save it. With nowhere for it to climb properly I just planted it into the ground where the one fruit continued to swell. It may look like a kids constructed oil rig, but its my cucumber, my pride and joy, and boy is it gonna taste damm good !

August Allotment 2016

Mid August and the Allotment is in a transition period, from the dull wet summer conditions to whatever Autumn has in store. The warm and moist weather has been a perfect breeding ground for diseases and we lost all of our outdoor tomatoes to blight, across the allotment. The potato plants started to show signs of blight too, so we cut the plant of and let the potatoes stay in the ground until we either harvest them or need the space.

 

We harvested our red cabbages this month “August” “Red Drumhead” a variety that we purchased from SeedParade. They were great tasting and and had nice big heavy heads, defiantly a variety I will be trying again. We are also starting to harvest some of the produce from the greenhouse. Our sweet peppers “Sweet Romano” are now at the perfect length for sloshing with some olive oil and throwing on a hot grill.

It seems that all of our peas and beans have come good at once. We tried many different variety of varied architecture and colours all producing good and tasty yields.

These purple beans are, while not only visually striking are a firm favourite in my kitchen. We have grown both Dwarf Bush Bean Purple Teepee from Thompson and Morgan, and a Purple Climbing Bean also fromTthompson and Morgan. While the dwarf plants have produced a vastly superior yield the climbing beans when mixed with other colours of climbing bean create a beautiful structure. We have also been consistently harvesting our mangetout “Pea Kennedy” and our podded peas “Pea Ambassador” which have both been problem free and heavy yielding and both produce a pleasing white flower. Freezing individual portions of peas, helps to provide fresh tasty veg in times when its not available in the garden.

Looking Ahead

Looking ahead to autumn, we decided to lift all the potatoes and replenish the ground with manure and nutrients (fish blood and bone and chicken manure pellets) and allow the worms to work their magic, while our autumn veg seedlings are growing strong roots. Brassicas are hardy vegetables and can handle the ever changing Autumn weather conditions, but its important to give them a strong head start. When planting brassics seedlings its well known the importance of firming the plants into the ground, Firm them in then do it 5 times more. We always put a collar around our brassicas to help deter root fly. This autumn we are growing, curly kale “westland Autumn”, cauliflowers, black kale “Nero de tosca”, Radicchio”Palla rossa Precoce,” swede “Gowrie,” Swede “Best of All,”

Turnip “Purple Top Milan”. Our broad beans took a battering in a wind storm last week so I think once I let what is left of the crop when the beans reach a good size I will lift the crop, and then haunt the gardening stores for something to fill the gap.

We received a warning letter for non cultivation of our plot from the council this month, this gave us a good laugh after the initial shock. Were pretty sure they have made a mistake for an over grown neighbouring plot as I think were way ahead of where we had planned to be at this time.