April 6th 2016 – busy in the greenhouse

It seems that I find time to write my daily posts later in the day so that the date at the top of the post is actually the following day – more confusion I’m sorry. Continue reading

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The Greenhouse and a bit of catching up

Although out in the garden not very much changed while I was away, it was a different story in the greenhouse where all of the tomato seedlings grew at quite a pace and have now all been pricked out into larger modules and some that I had pricked out before were ready to be put in 9 cm pots.  This is the stage I really enjoy partly because at this stage it is pretty certain they will survive.

There were positively forests of seedlings from the saved seeds of tomatoes that I had particularly liked last year; for the rest I had been more restrained in the numbers I had sown as I am always loathe to throw away unwanted seedlings.  I will still have enough to give lots away to friends. Continue reading

First of June First Tomatoes!

OK I know it isn’t the first of June today but for record keeping it is important that I know the date I harvested the first tomatoes that were enough for a small salad and not just the odd one plucked from the vine as I’m passing. First two courgettes too, small, but I like to always pick them small, were cooked in a little olive oil and tasted nutty and good. The spinach on the plate is the harvest from a pot. I find it easier to grow spinach this way, so far in the greenhouse but from now on I’ll let it germinate in the greenhouse and then put the pot in a light shady position. Continue reading

Not all Doom and Gloom in My Hesperides Garden

I know I sounded depressed in my post yesterday and I have been feeling down; so many plants suffering and feeling I could do so little.  But it really isn’t all despair in My Hesperides Garden.  The vegetable garden has been producing pretty well; true some crops have not been as plentiful as other years but many plants are thriving – the vegetable plot, orto in Italian gets irrigated each night but this is not enough for everything.

These sweet delicious orange fruits don’t always even make it into the kitchen, I just eat them like sweets while I’m in the garden

Tomatoes have been spectacular, they are planted in a bed that had manure spread last autumn and they have responded to the extra body in the soil by producing a wonderful crop.  My store cupboard is bulging with jars of homemade sauce and we’ve been eating them in so many ways EVERY DAY! – No, I’m not sick of them, I don’t really eat fresh tomatoes in winter, they are never the same as fresh picked in summer so in winter they are for cooking in sauces so I’m ahead of the game.  This is the first year I’ve made sauce, other years I’ve given huge quantities of tomatoes away and some have sadly just rooted on the kitchen work top.

These plus……

these, also from the garden, make wonderful roasted vegetables – I’ve made this almost every week for the last 6 weeks, not just for us but for parties too.

these were for Gazpacho – something else I make most weeks.

I love all the different small tomatoes, they are perfect in Mediterranean roast vegetables, or as a simple, hardly-cooked sauce or just to pop in the mouth as you pass by.

I often make a raw tomato sauce for hot pasta by whizzing tomatoes, without their seeds and water with a little oil and basil and sometimes a little added buffalo mozzarella.

The basil has also been better this year, not that it wants hot sun on it but with heat, shade and water I always have enough to make pesto and add to tomato salads etc.  Thai basil was new for me this year and although it seemed to take an inordinate time to grow into useful sized plants is now growing well and I’ve already frozen some leaves whole; the next batch I’ll chop first, it has such an evocative flavour of wonderful Thai curries that I’m inspired to cook more of them.  I think it might also be nice in cool drinks instead of mint or borage.

Today was a real high spot in my gardening life, I harvested my first peaches.  I planted small trees last autumn that I intend to grow as espaliers; they were really quite small so I had no great hopes of having a crop this year.  They are Redhaven and the label says they should be ready in July, well maybe because they a new trees or maybe the heat has stunted them they are ripe now!  They are quite small, no very small, because I didn’t prune off any of the fruit so the tiny tree has produced a large quantity of small but delicious fruit!  I had gingerly pressed them at the weekend but they seemed very hard; today they still felt hard (lack of water, I wondered?) so I picked one to eat and Wow!  It was juicy and sweet and well, just the perfect peach – to me anyway.  I harvested them all and I may put some into some white wine in the fridge so they last a little longer but the rest we’ll just enjoy as they are.  This year many people have found that tree fruit has gone from being under-ripe to over-mature in a day, due to the temperatures; but as there is a manageable quantity I’m sure we’ll be able to eat them before they spoil.

I suppose these should have been pruned to just one or two fruits!

The branches needed to be tied in to support the fruit

Sooooooo beautiful and juicy

…….and so many

……but small, I put the secateurs so you could see what size they are (but we’re always being told size isn’t everything!).

GB Harvest Day – July 5th

So many things have begun to be harvested since last GBHD in June.

I am picking and so eating so many tomatoes I think I’m turning orange.  I’ve made Gazpacho and am about to make tomato soup to freeze and sauce to bottle (this is the first year I’ve decided to bottle tomato sauce so I’ll let you know how I get on and how much work is involved.

San Marzano to the right, everything else to the left

Small golden tomatoes often don’t even make it into the kitchen, they’re so easy just to eat while I’m picking

Yesterday I harvested the first sweetcorn; they were picked and cooked within half an hour and were sooooo sweet.  The crop doesn’t actually look as good as other years so I’m thinking I’ll so some more and plant a second crop.

the first small but oh so sweet corn with a zucchini that hid and so became rather large and a few beans – these I’ve been picking some daily for a few weeks

Melanzane (aubergine, eggplant) are just ready now to harvest, they are different from the ones I’ve grown before, I also grew some from seed and amazingly they have some fruit so that’s encouraging, I may grow more of the vegetables from seed next year, growing more of what we really love to eat and what grows well.

Melanzane are ready now, luckily I’ve just finished using the ones I froze last year.

Peppers were ready before the melanzane this year, not sure why; but they need such a lot of water, many have a dry patch on one side but they are turning red (I only use green peppers in Gazpacho) and I’ve increased the irrigation so hopefully the new fruits will be better.

soaking up the sun and slowly ripening peppers

All the early heat is definitely making some crops suffer; there have only been two cucumbers so far usually I’m desperately trying to think of new ways to use them.

There are still salad leaves, but probably not for much longer as its too hot.

Pak-choi did very well until the flea beetle attacked, now the stems are edible but the leaves are no good, I’ll sow some again for the autumn as they were delicious and very quick from seed to table.

Before the flea beetle, must look into using mesh to stop this pest.

Strawberries are also not enjoying the heat, those planted through black plastic have scorched leaves and the fruit is very small, the ants also disrupt the soil under the plastic but I have been picking enough to eat and lots to freeze ready for jam or gelato so I’m not complaining.  My raspberries are also not as prolific as other years, one reason is the heat, secondly I pruned some of them differently and am hopeful for a better later crop and thirdly while I was a way the birds found them and even though the bushes are now decorated with shiny ribbon the birds aren’t fooled and know the fruit is there!

There are strawberries almost every day

… and a few rapberries

…and best of all there are figs!

The tree is struggling and the ants are eating more than us!

Last week I harvested all the garlic, most had flowers and weren’t as large as other years but expect there will be enough to last the year.

This is about a third of the garlic

there are red onions, lots with thick necks

and lots of white onions again many have thick necks

I don’t know if it is the weather but lots of my onions had thick necks last year too (maybe it’s the wind?)  some always rot during the winter, but ast year’s harvest produced enough to last until this year’s harvest was ready so I’m not complaining.  This year I didn’t grow yellow onions which are supposed to keep the best but mine rotted before the others, last year I also grew shallots but I’ve hardly used them, too fiddly to peel when I’m preparing dinner so I didn’t plant them this year.

I harvested some Barlotti beans, some to use fresh and some have ripened to be suitable to store as dried beans, I may plant some more of these as I love them in soups or puréed to serve with almost anything.

I’ll link to The Gardening Blog when their harvest post is up.

What are you eating from your garden?  Whatever it is I’m sure it tastes better than anything you buy in the shops; so ENJOY!

GBHD – What’s in the vegetable garden

I’m joining in with Barbara and Christine with their What we’re harvesting today meme; it’s interesting because they are now approaching winter and in Italy we’re going slowly into summer.

There are some strawberries almost every day

The strawberries have slowed down considerably since last month (am I really thinking “thank goodness”?)  There are some to eat most days and lots more flowers to give hopes of many more to come soon.

…and lots of promise of more to come with lots of flowers

Broad beans don’t always fulfill their promise

Having our own lemons is a treat

This year I decided not to buy grafted pepper plants and I am sure that this year the peppers will in fact be ready earlier.  If I wanted green peppers there are already a couple that are large enough to use.

Not actually harvesting peppers yet as I don’t usually eat them while they’re still green, except in Gazpacho, but I don’t have the other ingredients yet.

Not actually harvesting peppers yet as I don’t usually eat them while they’re still green, except in Gazpacho

The vegetable garden is already quite productive.  The greenhouse enables me to buy in small plug plants of many things early and grow them on, so that when I plant them out they are already good sized plants.  The tomatoes in the greenhouse have mostly already reached the top of their canes and those outside are well on the way to doing so too; the job of the moment is to keep them tied in and the side shoots pinched out.  When I plant the tomatoes I add an alkaline tablet to each planting hole to help prevent bottom rot.

The soil was, I think, a little acid for some of my herbs and vegetables as I’d used my own compost as top dressing and perhaps it needed a little longer to decompose.  Initially the basil was very yellow and it is only after watering with the heavily alkaline water from the well that it is now looking temptingly green and ready to use with tomatoes and very soon the first pesto sauce of the year.

The outdoor tomatoes are winning the race as to which will have the first ripe tomao to pick, this week, I think

The Basil was really yellow and sick looking but is now looking much better, I love using fresh basil with tomatoes and mozzarela de Buffalo

The Basil is looking beautifully green now

We have had rain all day today and when I went out to take these photographs it seemed that the sweetcorn had grown 10 cm during the day!  They are under-planted with melons, which are growing slowly, and Rainbow chard planted between them that will fill the space when the corn has been harvested (this inter-planting is also a sign that I am running out of space).

I can almost see the sweetcorn growing

I have already harvested quite a few of zucchini and the yellow variety that I grew from seed is just producing its first, rather weak-looking specimen.  I’ve used them in frittata, pasta sauce and in salad to replace cucumber which isn’t ready yet.  I like them cut very thinly into ribbons (like pappardelle) and served with an olive oil dressing.

Onions and garlic are growing well and I have been using any of the onions that have tried to produce flowers and young fresh garlic is perfect for Spaghetti, aglio e olio e pepperoncino (spaghetti dressed with garlic, oil and chilli with a topping of some freshly grated Parmigiano reggiano.

Garlic on the right and red onions on the left

There are various lettuces popped in around the plot, we’ve been eating them all through the winter

On the right misticanza, there is a lot of mustard leaves included, some would have been great but there is too much, on the left Barlotti beans are flowering now the cool weather has delayed their growth

Pak Choi has been a big success; it tastes delicious and grew from seed that I planted in April, I’ve been harvesting the outer leaves and leaving the rest to grow, I don’t know if this is standard practice but seems to work.

There is rocket around the garden that I add to salads and also Syrian thyme which adds a spicy edge.

The Greenhouse

I’m joining Helen at The Patient Gardener for her round-up of what’s happening in the greenhouse this month.

I posted about carrots grown in a pot in the greenhouse over winter here, we are now eating the crop and they are delicious.  I like carrots raw in salads and the purple ones I grew add an interesting colour.

The tomatoes are growing well, I am continuing with the on-going task of tying them to their canes.  As last year most plants I am allowing to grow three stems and the rest of the other side shoots I’m removing.  I may later try the off-shoots as cuttings (as recommended by Bob Flowerdew) and plant them up to produce new plants later in the season.  I’m not very sure of the timing for doing these so it will all be trial and error, has anyone else tried it?

We have had salad lettuce all winter and there are still some to harvest.  I have planted 3 melons and 3 yellow peppers in the back border but I’m concerned as there is a lot of roots from the Laylandii that have obviously been attracted by the irrigation tubes so that the soil in this border isn’t going to be as rich and moist as I would have liked.  I think I will have to put a membrane of some kind to stop the roots and maybe make this a slightly raised bed.

I germinated the seeds in the house as it was too hot for seed production.  There are some aquilegia from seed I collected from a plant in the garden and also some McKenna hybrids I bought.  The Achilea that germinated well are damping off; they were pricked out into my own compost which I fear is too rich for them, they need sharper drainage even at this stage.

I took sedum cuttings this week some leak and some stem cuttings (this site is great at explaining what you do), it is too soon to tell how well they will grow but I do remember my father taking leaf cuttings from a sedum plant of my great aunt and he was very successful.

A large empty pot contains Freesia corms that I’m very much hoping will grow to provide some perfumed cut flowers.

As soon as I put up the shade netting the temperatures dropped but even with the cold winds we are experiencing at the moment the temperature inside is comfortable warm.  I usually have the door open during the day and will soon, I hope, have it open at night too.

The broad beans I sowed in November are now cropping quite well. As I want the tomatoes to have more air and space I am harvesting by pulling up the whole plants.

Rainbow chard waiting to be planted out

Beautiful vegetable foliage counts for Garden bloggers Foliage Day on the  22nd, just leave a link with your comments on the GBFD post.