Thursday, 25 June 2009

Everything in bloom on the allotment...

Rocket's pretty four petalled flowers are characteristic of the brassica family. We've been enjoying the leaves in our salad, I'm hopeful that if they run to seed we'll have a fresh crop in a few weeks time.

The first sunflower came out last Friday and more have appeared since. These were self seeded, but seem very happy in the deep bed we built over them!
The tomatoes also started producing flowers last week and so I've begun to feed them weekly with a seaweed feed.
Nasturtium were also self seeded, hopefully they will distract some of the blackfly away from the beans (see previous post, below!) They seem very happy tucked in next to the thriving brassicas.

A few words about wildlife....

Have I mentioned that our allotment site is protected as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSI), because it hosts a colony of slow worms? Here's one we found the other day. Despite the name, they are actually quite quick so we were pleased to get this pic.
They hide under the old carpet on the paths between the beds. So some of them get trodden on I'm afraid. I hope it's not illegal to accidentally tread on a protected creature - I feel guilty enough!
Now here's a painted lady butterfly, one of the hordes that have made their way to our shores on hot winds from the Sahara in recent weeks. They're looking a lot brighter now, the ones we observed earlier in the season were quite faded after their long journey.
And last but not least some rather less welcome visitors - the dreaded blackfly on the broad beans. Stubborn little critturs and I now have no broad bean crop (not one harvested!)
My fellow tenants keep making comments about how I haven't got a crop because I haven't sprayed, but I usually do get a small crop despite lack of spray. And I happen to know that Bill sprayed my beans about three weeks ago "because I had a bit left in me bottle, and it seemed a waste". No he doesn't use organic spray. And now they've moved onto my runner beans as well, which are usually only mildly affected.
I looked at sprays in a DIY store in Dorking yesterday, but as they were marked "dangerous to bees" I bottled out. I know they all think that my blackfly will infect their plants but if their sprays are so effective, why should they worry?
What do you think? Are the blackfly worse this year than last spring in your experience?

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Podding purple peas

We harvested Victorian Purple Pods yesterday- at last there were sufficient big enough to pod and enjoy the peas! Not that we've complained about the young peas, which we've consumed with delight as mangetout in stir fries over the last couple of weeks.
They were delicious simmered for five minutes with a sprig of mint. And were served in a traditional way alongside new potatoes, broad beans, young carrots and lamb chop, with a home made mint sauce. Mmhmm.

Monday, 15 June 2009

Gardeners Bloom Day 15 June

This is my first contribution to Gardeners' Bloom Day, an idea started a couple of years back by Carol of May Dreams Gardens. On the 15th of each month everyone is invited to post about the flowers which are currently blooming in their gardens.

June has to be the best month for English gardens! All sorts of delightful blooms to share. Delicately starry Alliums have followed the dark pink purple pompoms featured earlier in the season, looking good alongside the dark pink Sweet William - a traditional favourite.
The Pink Gerbera were a delightful gift, made on Friday (thank you Shirley) and potted up on Saturday. A nursery must have lit them evenly for the blooms to be so perfectly balanced in the round! The lemon yellow flowers you can see behind are Potentilla, an easy shrub which now it's established, produces a profusion of blooms every morning, and drops them all in the evening. It goes on for months.
Next, a pale lavender Scabious which we planted last summer. It looked very sad earlier this season, but we put a slug pub behind it, the snails dove in and it's flourished ever since!
The pink rose is a Gertrude Jekyll, it generous roses smell delicious all through June and we have enough to enjoy in the garden and the house.

Last but not least, the shopping basket I planted up a month ago, which is proving big enough to only need watering every four days or so!
Thanks to Stevie for the photos - he nipped out to capture them just before it started to rain cats and dogs! Also to Sue Swift of the Balcony Garden whose post today reminded me to take part in Gardener's Bloom Day!

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Advice please on celery - my challenge for this season

Having read that expert gardeners could enjoy celery from June to November, I felt it was time to plant mine out last week. You can probably see from the size of the plants that I started them off too late for an early crop!
I haven't grown celery before. Uncle David had a crack at it on his allotment last year, to commemorate the centenary of my grandfather's birth. Grandad used to bring a beautiful white celery for our family to share at Christmas teatime, so it was a nice way to remember him. Unfortunately David didn't have much success, despite years of veg growing and horticultural experience. Slugs love celery so it was probably a bad season for it, even though there was so much rain, which should be good for such a tender and hungry crop. So what tempted me into growing a veg which seems generally accepted to be extremely fussy?
I confess it was lack of research. I read the very positive write up of Full White Celery by the Real Seed Company. This was designed to sell celery seeds, of course, and make it seem really simple, so I ordered them and didn't actually read up about growing it until the seedlings were well underway. Ah well, challenge is good. I've kept them frost free and well watered and they have done well so far. Let's see how they grow in the new deep bed.
RSC's write-up said that this variety doesn't need earthing up, I can just put an elastic band around the stems, or wrap them in newspaper as they grow. But I would like white celery rather than green, the flavour is milder and less bitter. So I've buried the plants, leaving just a couple of leaves above the ground. I've no idea if this is the right way to do it, but four plants I put into a big pot in the garden at home seem to be doing ok, they've put more leaves and stalks up and I'm earthing up as they grow. We can only wait and see! If anyone's got positive experience, or any advice about this I would be grateful.

Monday, 8 June 2009

Peas - the first treat of late spring

Victorian purple podded peas glory in the most beautiful flowers - dark purple and pale pink, my favourite colours in the garden - and look good enough to eat. Which they probably aren't. But the pods are! Paul and I greedily ate the lot as we found them, about two dozen between us and they were sweet and crunchy and delicious eaten raw on the allotment last week. A treat!

The flowers don't smell as good as they look - in fact they aren't scented at all, so we're still looking forward to enjoying the ornamental ones in the garden to enjoy the luscious scent.

Welcome sunshine...

This is Mesembryanthemum, one of those flowers that only opens when there is bright sunshine - fortunately there was lots on our SW facing patio last week! I have a shallow pot of them, the first I've ever had, as I spotted a tray of them in the garden centre some weeks ago.
My grandmother called them South African daisies, and used to grow them in a tiny bed by her sunny front door. They grow in such a glorious variety of colours and have such cheerful little faces - like all the daisy family.