No salad days just yet.

I thought I would put up a quick note about how the garden produce is going so far.

The rhubarb and blackcurrant are settling in well, although there has been a brutal aphid attack on the blackcurrant necessitating a bit of prunage.  I think we should get something out of both of these this year.  The gooseberry has been moved to the front of the house to try and loosen the grip of the sawfly.  This is the last chance saloon, but it appears to be OK at the moment even though it only has one berry.  The blackberry (Oregon Thornless) is also growing really well.

The seeds that I have sown in the last month are doing well.  Five out of six courgettes have germinated, which is fine as I don’t need any more (I am trying Partenon again, and it was my one remaining seed of Black Beauty that did not germinate).  My first salad leaves are growing well, I am hoping to make regular sowings and grow just enough for sandwiches or salad for lunch.  The beans and sweetcorn are also growing away nicely, although I don’t have any plans to plant these out for another month (as suggested by Monty Don).  I have included a few pictures of my most photogenic crops below, this is partly a reminder to myself of how they looked before the slugs found them!

Salad Leaf Seedlings
Salad Leaf Seedlings
Golden Neckar French Bean
Golden Neckar French Bean
Partenon Courgette
Partenon Courgette

On the negative side, my tomatoes are progressing very slowly, although they have germinated I think they need to get a wriggle on if they are to be planted out at any time in the foreseeable – none of them have even bothered to think about a second set of leaves yet.

Pak Choi are also growing well, with the beginnings of life beginning to show from the chard (new this year as is the Pak Choi) and radish.

Garden Produce Update

Ok, still no courgettes, but we did eat our first lot of produce this weekend.

Basket of Shetland Black Potatoes

We decided that the Shetland Black potatoes had died back enough to harvest them. I was a little nervous that there would be nothing there. That wasn’t the case, but it was not the greatest harvest ever seen (see photo for the entire harvest – no wide angled lens needed to get them all in). We have roasted the larger ones, whilst the small ones will find their way into a curry sometime in the next week. The taste was good, but not substantially better than those we have bought in the supermarket in the past, I don’t think that we will be growing them again. The Charlotttes will be harvested in a week or two for a comparison.  We have planted some more French beans in the tub and soil we had used for the potatoes.
Elsewhere in the garden, the first fruit are appearing on the tomatoes, we are getting some beans and the cavolo nero is growing in pots (although I am looking for eggs and caterpillars on a regular basis).

On the subject of courgettes, there are a lot of flowers, but no courgettes yet, is this due to a lack of bees this year? I have heard of others having problems with various vegetables on this front – I better find some bee friendly plants to entice them in – not long to go until the buddleja will be flowering, then maybe I will have some better luck.

Garden Update

So, the courgette is dead, the beans are under attack, has it all gone wrong? Fortunately, no it hasn’t. I did a quick stocktake today and a few days with some sun and no rain has allowed the plants to put a bit of a growth spurt on and stick two fingers up to Mr Slug.

Courgette PlantThe courgette that was planted in the tub is still there and starting to grow, although it is destined to be lonely because the seed I planted to replace the aforementioned marrowy martyr did not manage to shrug off its seed case and has since withered and died.

Hildora, dwarf french beanThe beans, both types, are starting to really take off (this being one of the lessons I should have learnt from reading Monty Don’s My Roots where he states that there is no point planting beans out until June, point taken, mental note made for next year).

Flower Buds on TomatoThe tomatoes are doing well and the first flower buds have appeared on the Gardener’s Delight.

The potatoes are also growing well with the Charlottes and Shetland Blacks in the tubs earthed up as far as they can be. I will be interested to see which of these give the best combination of flavour and yield (along with Mimi) as we do not really want to grow quite so many next year.

The chillis and sweet peppers have in the main survived their potting on and are lined up, awaiting transfer to the front garden where they will get more sun. As ever, I have grown too many of these, so may have to give some away.

Today I also potted on the Cavolo Nero that I am growing for Winter harvesting. This is the first time I have grown any kind of kale and so am really growing by trial and error. I am not sure if they should be potted on, but they look a bit little and defenceless at the moment and so I am unwilling to pop them in the ground just yet.

Flower bud on the blackberryMain failures so far this year – radish, should have thinned them, salad leaves, Mr Slug strikes again.

Plant that came back from the dead – thornless blackberry, bought too early, left in a pot for too long, looked like it wasn’t going to survive, now coming into flower.

Garden Duties

Today I decided that I had better get on with sowing some of the seeds that I had planned to do last weekend. So in went the courgettes, two types of beans (blauhilde and hildora), some sweetcorn and cavolo nero (I have never grown this last one before so it will definitely be a case of trial and error).
Following on from my four carrot success of last year, we have put some seeds in a smaller pot this year and are trying our hands at growing them as baby veg. I have also started some salad leaves and radish off. All of these are things I want to try succession planting to try and prolong the season.
I also took the plunge and decided to pot on some tomatoes that I started off last month. I am trying coir pots this time so that I am less likely to kill them off when they get into their final pots.
Other things that seem to be growing OK at the moment are the gooseberry (lots of flower buds already, but I am checking for sawfly infestations daily after the wipeout that was last year) and the blackcurrant (it has finally been put back in the ground after being held in a pot for a couple of years whilst we relandscaped the back garden). Of more concern is the blackberry (oregon thornless) which we kept in a pot for too long due to delays in the aforementioned landscaping and which does not show many signs of life yet (but I live in hope).
I need to plant the seed potatoes soon as they are well chitted, but every time I look at the weather forecast there is some frost expected. They are going in tubs, so should be better protected, so they will be going in next weekend, whatever the weather.

Greenfinches – where did they go and why are they back?

When I first moved to Daventry my back garden was a barren wasteland with respect to little feathered friends. Eventually, after putting out peanuts and other bird foods, rather than the expected starlings and sparrows, our first visitors were greenfinches. We have welcomed these back every year, including some youngsters, numbers increasing as I tempted them in with sunflower hearts.

However, this Winter, there seems to have been a dearth of the little fellows with chaffinches being this season’s greenfinch. Where I had regularly seen 6 or 8 of them fighting over the feeders this year there were just one or two. I mentioned this to someone at the Northamptonshire Bird Club who knows more about such things than I, and he also seemed to think that the numbers were down. He thought they may have succumbed to a disease that has hit finches over the last couple of years.

This morning, I opened the blinds to look at the windy world and immediately counted 8 greenfinches in the garden. I don’t know where they went especially when the weather was cold and the bird numbers in the garden increased, but I certainly welcome the greedy little chap and chapesses back to fight over the feeders once more.

A birding first for me and my garden – are we in for a cold Winter?

Last Sunday it snowed here in Daventry (and in numerous other places in the Midlands). The snow settled, but had gone by morning. On thinking about this I cannot remember the last time I saw snow in November – it snows in April more than in November, and this time last year there were still Red Admiral butterflies about feeding on the ivy flowers.

The cold weather also seems to have brought increased bird activity in the garden. Although I am at work during the week my other half keeps me informed to the best of his ability (having only a beginner’s knowledge of bird types) of the number and varieties of birds that he sees during the day. This week he was trying his best to describe a bird that didn’t look like the other birds (his description was by necessity hampered by being colour-blind and I couldn’t decide what it was that he had seen).

Yesterday when watching a flock of 8 greenfinches in the tree I saw what I at first thought was one of the chaffinches that had been about earlier, but it didn’t look quite right. It flew away before I could confirm my suspicions, but came back later. Yes, said my beloved, that’s the one that has been in the garden for the last few days. As you may have guessed it was a Brambling (female I think) and the first time I have seen one (although I have always been hopeful as there seem to be a lot of sightings around). As this is the first time I have seen one in my garden, and it is November and the food out in the fields should not yet be too scarce I am wondering if this is a portent of cold weather to come this Winter.