Friday, 3 July 2015

Early July Update

July came in very dramatically here in the UK. 30th June and 1st July were both very hot days - especially Wednesday 1st July, which was a record-breaker. Here in Fleet the temperature reached over 35C. This is in stark contrast to the generally cold, dull, windy weather of which we have had so much this year. Our poor plants will be even further confused!

My chillis will enjoy the extra heat though. Many of them are producing flowers now, like this "Brazilian Starfish":

The Broad Beans are maturing rapidly, and I have picked a few batches. These ones are "Imperial Green Longpod", whose beans are bright green.

The Runner Beans have mostly reached the tops of their canes, and are now producing flowers, so hopefully I will be harvesting beans before the end of this month.

Lots of the tomato plants are setting fruit now. This one is "Maskotka".

I am very anxious about my tomatoes this year, after last year's disaster with the contaminated compost. So far everything looks OK, except for the fact that many of the upper leaves are tightly curled inwards. I attribute this to weather conditions, but I may be wrong. Several of my gardening contacts have reported the same issue.

I have lifted quite a few of my potatoes, which has freed-up a few pots, enabling me to plant the remaining Sarpo seed potato tubers. They are very keen to catch up with their siblings and popped up through the compost in just a few days. This one is "Kifli".

The successional sowing of Lettuces is going well still. We have eaten several of the mature ones, and more seedlings are awaiting their turn to be planted whenever a space become available.

I had a look at the Carrots and Beetroot, but neither of them is ready yet. They are doing fine, but I just need to be patient.

I have lots of flowers in bloom now. The Hydrangea is colouring-up very rapidly and is going to be a deep pink this year:

Elsewhere, the "Summer" colours are beginning to appear. My "Flighty's Favourites" Calendulas are already putting on an impressive display. Last Autumn I scattered some of their seeds into the borders, so I have some there as well as in pots:




This is one of the French Marigolds that I bought on Fleet market.

Tagetes, French Marigold.

The first flowers are opening on the Coreopsis and red Geranium too:

Not very impressive just yet, but once they get going these plants will soon be covered in flowers.

This is another one I am eagerly awaiting -- Dahlia "Bishop of Llandaff", whose first bud is just showing a bit of red.

As you can see therefore, the garden is filling-out very rapidly!

Thursday, 2 July 2015

The self-pinching Cucumber

The other day I wrote about one of my Cucumber plant developing droopy leaves:

Well, the whole growing-tip of this plant shrivelled up and died.

But further down the plant, several healthy side-shoots are appearing. People sometimes deliberately pinch-out the growing-tip of a plant in order to promote the production of side-shoots, but this one has done it for itself!

The next-door "Mini Munch" plant already has its first fruits forming.

Last weekend I put two more plants into the Cucumber container, to join their older siblings. I now have two each of "Diva" and "Mini Munch".

Four Cucumber plants in the same container may sound like a lot, but I think they'll manage OK - it's a big container (about 70cm in diameter).

And in other News... we have Tomatoes forming.


Wednesday, 1 July 2015


My garden is going through a "pale patch", with lots of white / pink flowers in evidence at present.


The Philadelphus (Mock Orange) is in full bloom at last, about a month later than normal.

I have noticed that most of the flowers are infested with little black Pollen Beetles. Anyone know whether I should be worried about them? Are they harmful?

The White Rose is looking nice too. The buds have a definite pink tinge to them:

Hydrangea flowers are green when at the bud stage, like this:

But then they take on colour as they get bigger. These ones of mine are just beginning to turn pink.

Lots of my potatoes are flowering too. This light mauve-coloured one is "Sarpo Axona":

And this is "Sarpo Shona":

Soon the colour palette will turn towards the reds and yellows of high Summer, but that's a story for another day...

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Broad Beans with smoked Gammon

This is the first meal I have cooked this year with home-grown Broad Beans.

Home-grown Broad Beans are not available very often. In my garden I usually only plant one batch, so their harvest season is limited to a couple of weeks, and I never have sufficient quantity to make freezing them a viable option.

My first dish using these beans was a really simple one, making full use of fresh vegetables and herbs. Here we are - Smoked Gammon with new potatoes (home-grown "Annabelle"), peas, carrots and Broad Beans with herbs, all complemented with a Parsley sauce.

I wish I could say that the carrots and peas were homegrown too. They weren't,  but these were:

So were these herbs - Parsley, Mint, Thyme, Chives and Savory.

Cooking this meal was incredibly easy. The Smoked Gammon was wrapped loosely in foil and baked in the oven for 90 minutes and then rested for a further 15 before carving. The potatoes were boiled in water with a few sprigs of Mint added. Once these were well on the way I did the other vegetables. They were all boiled, but added to the pan at different times. I correctly judged that the carrots would take longer to cook than the other two veg, so I put them in about 10 minutes beforehand. Then the peas and beans went in just for about 5 minutes at the end. I also added the Thyme and Savory at this point (leaves only).

The cooked vegetables were drained, decanted to a serving-dish, and smothered in chopped fresh herbs (the softer ones - Mint, Chives, Parsley). The final stage was to add a generous knob of butter and let it slowly melt before gently stirring it in.

Meanwhile, as the meat was resting, I made some Parsley sauce. I used the time-honoured roux method to produce a Bechamel, with flour, butter and milk, adding the chopped Parsley at the end in order to preserve its fresh flavour.

By this time the meat was rested and the butter had melted into the vegetables, so it was just a matter of serving up.

This is it: thinly-sliced roast Smoked Gammon with "seasonal vegetables".

The Gammon was not too smoky, so it did not overpower the rest of the dish, and we were able to enjoy the fresh flavours of the young veg to the full.

Monday, 29 June 2015

Harvest Monday - 29th June 2015

This week I picked a couple of batches of Radishes - the first ones of my current sowing.

This batch is a mixture of "Cherry Belle" (round) and "Flamboyant 5" (long).

Although they were welcome, we thought they were not as nice as the ones I grew in the Spring. Somehow they seemed a bit watery rather than crisp in texture, and quite peppery in taste.

Flamboyant 5

The "De Ciccio" Broccoli yielded four nice spears:

I also harvested a few more pots of potatoes. These are"Annabelle" and "Winston".

"Annabelle" (Left) and "Winston" (Right)

This one is rather nice, I think!

These are "Vales Emerald":

When you look closely you can see that their skins are beginning to harden. If they had not been picked, these ones would soon have passed the "new potato" stage, when you can just rub or scrub off the skins. Not that we ever do, because we like the skins, and they are the most nutritious part of the tuber anyway, so it seems a shame to discard them.

The Strawberries are continuing to trickle in, a few at a time. Great taste, shame about the quantity (lack of)!

The best thing about growing your own Strawberries is that you can pick them at just the right point - when they are completely ripe (unlike some of the crunchy ones you sometimes buy in the shops!)

This week also saw my first harvest of Broad Beans, just over 500g.

Yesterday I picked a second lot, weighing-in this time at 1kg:

We had no immediate plans for eating Broad Beans, so these ones went into a plastic bag in the fridge, where they will keep quite happily for several days. I think it makes sense to pick them before they get too big. Over-mature Broad beans can be very floury.

We had Lettuce a couple of times. The red-and-green one seen here is "Amaze". It is quite similar (except in colour) to "Little Gem".

This is "Webbs Wonderful".

Those two are not prime examples of the type. The hearts ought to be really tightly-packed, but those ones aren't. I know why. They have been grown too close together. Given more space I think they would have developed more slowly and would have produced denser hearts. "Webbs "Wonderful" is really not well suited to my small garden.

We have also been using loads of Herbs - Mint, Parsley, Chives, Thyme, and Savory. They are at their best just now, mature and full of flavour, but not yet old and tough.

I love this time of year - the garden is beginning to yield up its bounty!

I am link this post to Harvest Monday, hosted as ever by Daphne's Dandelions, where I'm sure you will see all manner of good things being harvested from other people's gardens and plots.