Monday, 15 September 2014

Harvest Monday - 15 Sept 2014

Since I have been commuting to London again this week, my first harvest was not picked until late Wednesday evening:

It included a few more Runner Beans, a couple of cucumbers, a handful of chillis, one Turkish Sweet Pepper and these three radishes:

Normally I wouldn't be particularly proud of producing a measly three radishes, but these ones are pot-grown ones, and in view of my former lack of success in this area I consider them to be worth a mention!

The chillis are a mix of "Ohnivec" and the strange-shaped "Ring of Fire". The latter look for all the world as if they are actually sweet peppers, not chillis.

The Turkish Sweet Pepper is very small, but quite a handsome thing. This one is going to be dried for seed-production.

The following day I dug up the two leeks which I wrote about a few days ago - the ones that had been damaged by foxes.

Later in the week came these "Pink Fir Apple" potatoes:

This batch is the proceeds from one pot. They weighed just under 600 grams, which is over twice the yield from the first pot which I harvested on 28th August.

These particular tubers are much smoother than "Pink Fir Apple" ones often are. They look more like the variety "Anya", which is a cross between PFA and "Charlotte", except that "Anya" tubers never get that long.

This is an excellent variety - probably my favourite. The flesh is dense, firm and almost nutty in flavour. Very nice eaten just on its own, without other flavours to confuse the palate (Oh go on then, just a little butter and black pepper...)

I'm still picking a few Blueberries, and a fairly respectable quantity of "Autumn Bliss" Raspberries:

On Friday I cut down and disposed of the blight-infected tomato plants, but I kept all the green fruit that didn't look damaged. Together with a few more beans and a couple each of radishes and beetroot, they look like quite a decent harvest. I expect that many of the tomatoes will not make it to ripeness before blight develops in them though.

Finally for this week, the ingredients for a really nice salad (all this is home-grown):

This is my entry for Harvest Monday, hosted by Daphne's Dandelions, so please drop by and see what things other people have been harvesting this week.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Gourmet Salad

It has been a great year for salads in my garden, and I want to show you my latest crop. This is a tray of plants grown from a mix marketed by Thompson and Morgan as "Gourmet Salad Mix".

My tray looks a little patchy, but that's because a cat or some similar creature walked all over it shortly after germination! The mix contains Green Pak Choi, Lettuce "Red Salad Bowl", Mibuna, Mizuna, Mustard "Red Giant" and Salad Rocket.

The plants are not quite ready for me to start picking, but it won't be long. The packet says that they mature in 30 days during Summer and 60 during Winter. I will be snipping off individual leaves from these plants rather than harvesting them wholesale. I'll probably use them as a garnish or as elements in a salad comprised mainly of bigger leaves.

Nearby is the pot of Mesclun that nearly gave up the ghost a few weeks ago, after being attacked by the Flea Beetle. I think I pulled up all the worst-affected plants, but those remaining are looking healthy enough now. I see several leaves of Sorrel there, and some Celery Leaf. These will no doubt soon be combined with the Gourmet Mix.

Here's another salad element that's worth a go - the small leaves from some beetroot I recently harvested. Bigger ones can be cooked just like Chard, but tiny ones like this are tender enough to be eaten raw.

This is another salad element to which I am looking forward with eager anticipation... Curly Endive.

During the Summer months I always struggle to produce any decent Endives. They always bolt before they get to a decent size, even though I water them assiduously. However, when the weather begins to cool down and the days shorten, then the Endives start to do well. The one in my photo above is immature, but it won't be long before it is big enough to eat.

P.S. I drafted this post a few days ago. Yesterday we ate this salad:-

It included many of the elements referred to in my post. We ate it as an accompaniment to steak and chips, with a really special bottle of wine that Jane brought back from a recent trip to France.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Brussels Sprouts - letting some light in

Whilst undoubtedly healthy, my Brussels Sprouts were beginning to look a bit too luxuriant. I didn't want all their energy to go into leaves at the expense of sprouts, so I have given them a trim.

You may remember that I have six plants on the go, two each of three different types. In this next photo you can see that the shape of the three types is very different.

My view was that if I removed some of the lower leaves, not only would the plants put more energy into the formation of sprouts, but also the sprouts would benefit from a greater level of light, and air circulation - as indeed would the Endives underplanted beneath them.

This is "Before".


And this is "After".

The three varieties are developing at different rates, which is just what I wanted. The plan is to have Brussels Sprouts available for picking over a nice long period. You can see that the sprouts on "Brilliant" (photo above) are further advanced than those on the "Napoleon", below:


"Napoleon" is a tall variety and it is producing a lot of sprouts!

This variety is "Bosworth", whose sprouts are still very tiny:
This is how the bed looks now. 

Incidentally, I plan to remove the net in a few weeks' time, to further improve airflow and thus reduce the risk of fungal infections, but there are still plenty of white butterflies about so I'm not doing it just yet!

Friday, 12 September 2014

Leeks under attack

My leeks have been under attack not from the Allium Leaf-miner or the Leek Moth, but by foxes! At least, I think it is foxes, though I can't be 100% sure because I have not seen them doing it. During the night, something decided to dig around in the soil where my leeks are growing, presumably in search of worms to eat. Maybe it was badgers, not foxes? Definitely not cats, because I'm sure cats don't dig for worms. Whatever it was that did it, there is no denying the damage. Several of my few (and therefore precious) leeks have been damaged. They have rips in them evidently caused by clawed feet:

I realised that it was highly likely that damage like this could allow fungal infections to enter the leeks, so decided that the worst-damaged ones had to be used up very soon.

Two leeks is enough for a serving for the two of us, so two of them came up straight away. More will have to follow soon.

These "Toledo" leeks are actually quite decent specimens. The table on which they are laid here is 5 feet (1.5 metres) long.

In order to make the leeks useable in the kitchen I had to strip off several layers, but I was still left with a couple of quite decent leeks.

You can see that the one on the left had been squashed by the offending animal and severely bent, but I straightened it up!

For now, I have draped a piece of lightweight anti-butterfly netting over the remaining, rather battered, leeks. Maybe it will deter the foxes; maybe it won't...

I'm beginning to think that I am going to have to buy some more nets and poles in order to cover ALL of my raised beds. It is animals that do most damage in my garden, not diseases or weather.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Blight strikes my tomatoes

Well, after all the other trials and tribulations, I suppose it should be no surprise that blight has finally arrived in my garden!

One of the best aspects of my garden is that it is right outside my back door, which enables me to keep a very close eye on it, which would definitely not be the case if I had an allotment on the other side of town. I was therefore able to spot the arrival of the dreaded disease on the day it arrived, unlike some friends who can only visit their veg patch once or twice a week and might therefore not be able to detect blight until too late. My immediate action was to cut off any foliage that was visibly infected. The brown / black stems and curling leaves were easy to identify, so off they came without delay.

I picked all the fruits that were of any significant size, in the hope that they would ripen indoors. Some of them will, but inevitably some of them will have been infected already and will go brown and shrivel up before they ripen.

I am now inspecting these ones at least once, sometimes two or three times, every day, because they can succumb very rapidly, and if you don't remove a bad one it will pass on the disease to its neighbours. The tell-tale signs appear very rapidly, but once they do, there is only one course of action that is appropriate - bin it! There is no saving a tomato that shows signs of blight.

Blighted tomato

There are still a few tomatoes on the plants that look as if they have a chance of ripening, so I have cut away any foliage nearby, to leave them dangling free, with maximum air circulating around them, like this:

"Giant Syrian"

 This 5-fruit truss of "Orkado" is the only one left, out of three plants of this variety. I normally have 5 trusses on each!

To be honest, once blight has infected your tomato plants, you might as well cut them down and dispose of them (not in your compost bin, because this risks perpetuating the disease). Tomato plants are quite soft and succumb quickly to diseases of many sorts. Blight can destroy a tomato plant in less than 24 hours. The best you could hope for is to delay the spread of the disease by ruthless pruning of infected material. If like me you grow your tomatoes in pots, then you could move them so that infected ones are separated from healthy ones, but remember that blight is an air-borne disease and its spores can travel a fair way.

On the Plus side of things, my favourites, "Maskotka", have so far not been hit by the blight (long may it remain so!), and there are more fruits on them which are approaching maturity.


The "Chinese Purple" ones are also still blight-free. However the fruits on the secondary growth have developed into a very pronounced pear shape:

"Chinese Purple" [A nickname]
There are also some "Banana Legs" ones that might make it, although I won't be massively disappointed if they don't because they seem to me to be very insipid in taste, and with very tough skins.

"Banana Legs"
All things considered, a very poor year for tomatoes in Mark's Veg Plot.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014


Regular readers will know that I grow Radicchio (and Endives) every year. This year I have been a lot more disciplined with my gardening, and one of the things I have been very careful to do is get my Radicchio planted much earlier than normal. Usually I plant it out far too late, because I haven't made space for it, and it has languished for far too long in little pots, so never gets as big as I would like. Not this year. This year, I got mine planted in July and August. Crikey, I'm so organised that if I'm not careful, I'll be doing a formal Gardening Plan next!

I harvested my first Radicchio last week. It was a "Palla Rossa di Chioggia" one, and a fine specimen it was too:

This was hopefully the first of many, though none of the others is ready just yet. This is just as well, because with Radicchio a little bit goes a long way. We like to eat a few leaves at a time, mixed in with other salad ingredients, although some people do cook it as a vegetable - for instance in a risotto.

I have a few examples of several different types. Don't ask me which, because I have lost track!

Well, at least I know this one - it's another "Palla Rossa di Chioggia".

And this one, which is the pale "Variegato di Castelfranco".

Just as the dark green ones gradually go red as the weather cools down, then the Castelfranco goes paler, and will eventually be a creamy white, with reddish-brown speckles.

Talking of speckles, this one has them too. I don't know what type it is though. Some of mine are from a mixed pack purchased from Seeds of Italy (strongly recommended as a source of all the Italian vegetables and herbs, by the way. Their seed-packs have HUGE quantities of seeds in them.)

Likewise with this enormous monster. If this forms a heart it is likely to be as big as a January King cabbage!

This one is pale, plain and almost lettuce-like. It might possibly be "Pan de Zucchero" (Sugar-loaf), but I won't be able to tell for a while.

This one is not a Radicchio, nor an Endive, but it's pretending to be an Endive... It's actually a "Can Can" lettuce, from the Sarah Raven's Best Winter Lettuce Mix.

If you have not tried growing Radicchio, maybe you should have a go? They are as easy to grow as lettuces. They take a bit longer to mature, but in compensation they will survive much colder temperatures than most lettuces, so they are well-suited to Autumn cultivation, following on from the other salad crops. Another positive point is that, unlike lettuce, mature Radicchio keeps for a long time once cut (it stays fresh for at least a month, if kept in the fridge!) In addition to this, it looks good in the veg patch, especially when it turns red.