June Flowers in the Cutting Patch…

I have been a bit useless with the cutting garden this year.  Pretty much none of the Zinnias have survived (there should be Red, Elegans Sprite Mix and Giant Dahlia Mix) and I never got the Scabiosa in so there are a few gaps.  I also only netted one bed so a lot of the stems have grown all over the place instead of nice and straight for cutting, I have managed some nice vases of flowers though such as:

Flowers from Early June

Flowers from Early June

This is a typical informal vase and contains some of my favourite flowers:

  • Alcamella Mollis/Ladies Mantle
  • Calendula Officialis/French Marigold – Indian Prince
  • Salvia Viridis/Sage – Blue Clary
  • Anthirrhinum/Snapdragon – Classic Scarlet
  • Sweet Pea – Matucana

Also going strong in the cutting garden at the moment are:

  • Anthirrhinum/Snapdragon – Liberty Bronze
  • Centaurea Cyanus/Cornflower – Blue Boy
  • Salvia/Sage – Patens
  • Anthirrhinum/Snapdragon – Crimson Classic
  • Nigella/Love-in-the-mist –  Hispanica
  • Ammi Majus/Posh Cow Parsley

There are still a few things to flower but the easiest way to record what should be growing in the cutting patch I think is to photograph my plans and the actual so here they are:

DSC_0253DSC_0262

Ok so the missing thing here are the Zinnia (Giant Dahlia Mix).

DSC_0254DSC_0265

Bed 2 is complete with all it’s planned flowers.  The Bupleurum hasn’t taken off yet and the Cosmos are still waiting to flower.  The Moluccella are also waiting for their big moment later in the season but my big success was keeping last years Anthirrhinum and Salvia Patens alive as both usually die with the frost.  I mulched them and in very cold weather covered with a cloche, it has paid off as both have come back.

DSC_0257DSC_0266

Oh the shame…when I look at this photo I feel bad as it isn’t up to scratch.  Ok, so it did look better whilst the Calendula/Marigolds were in flower but on return from our holiday this weekend they had mostly gone over and had powdery mildew so I pulled them out (I have plenty of the same in the borders to use for cut flowers).  Also the Nigella Damascena (Spring planted) are still very small and are being rather shaded by the Autumn planted Nigella Hispanica (which are providing flowers and amazing seed heads at the moment).  This is a great advertisement for Autumn planting over Spring for Hardy Annuals.  Finally the nice weed patch at the bottom should be Zinnia Sprite, so failed there as well!

DSC_0260

I haven’t included a photo of Bed 4 as it’s not very attractive, mainly because the only colour should be provided by, yes you guessed it, the Zinnia Red which is so badly eaten (but hanging in there) that I don’t fancy it’s chances of survival.  The Sunflowers are coming along nicely, as are the Malope Trifida, Cosmos and Ammi Majus.  The Cerinthe Major is done but is producing seed for next year.  The Scabiosa never made it as the seeds didn’t germinate and I didn’t replace it with anything else.

Overall this period between the early summer flowers and all the Half Hardy Annuals is a bit sparce but there is still enough to fill a vase – I can’t keep up with picking the Sweet Peas climbing over the arches.

Advertisements

Fruit…

 

DSC_0254

We have been away for the last week and have come back to lots of ripe fruit which is quite exciting.  I grow the following in my garden:

  • Blackcurrant – Delbard Robusta
  • Redcurrant – Red Lake
  • Red Gooseberry – Hinnomaki
  • Cherry – Lapins, Colt
  • Strawberry (Alpine) – Mignonette
  • Rhubarb – Champagne & Timberly Early
  • Blackberry – Thornless
  • Fig – Brown Turkey
  • Blueberry – not sure what kind, I grew it in a pot at our last house

The gooseberry bushes, redcurrants and blackcurrants are grown in amongst the hedge of box, lavender and rosemerry that surrounds the vegetable garden (growing against and to cover the rabbit-proof fence).  The cherry is fan trained against the fence in the flower border, I love fan-trained fruit trees and would have loved to have them all along the fence but it wasn’t practical…I dream of a huge old walled garden and fan-trained fruit trees.  The fig is also trained against the fence (and is only 2 yrs old so isn’t doing much at the moment).  The thornless blackberry is growing along the fence behind my rhubarbs which are in a corner raised bed and the strawberries are in the vegetable garden in one of the raised beds.

Finally, I am growing melon Edonis in the greenhouse and the first fruits are forming which I am very excited about.

DSC_0258DSC_0259

Last year I lost a lot of fruit to the birds so this year I put up netting and although we did loose a few of the cherries whilst we have been away, I got a lovely bowl full which we have been eating our way through today.  I grow the same kind (Lupin on a colt root stock) as I planted in our last garden as they are perfect for eating straight off the tree.  Sweet and delicious.  It took a while to find one fan-trained, but I finally got one at Blackmoor Nursery , I see they have a new jazzy website which looks quite good.  For the first year I left the cherries on the tree, but now, in it’s third year we had a nice crop (what was left!).

The blackcurrants are ready, the bush is only in it’s second year so there are just a few, enough to make a small bottle of cassis so today I set that going.  It’s very simple.  I put 230g of blackcurrants (as that was all that I had), crushed (and stripped from their stalks but not washed) into a jar with 225g granulated sugar and 300 ml brandy.  I sealed the jar and will turn it every few days and leave it in  the kitchen window for about one month.  Then I’ll strain it not a clean bottle and let you know how it tastes!

Finally, we took our last jar of strawberry jam away with us as a present so I made up a new batch as below: 

Strawberry Jam

This is my method of making strawberry jam which is a mix of various recipes.  I don’t like it too sweet and I am not very obsessed about a solid set, I don’t mind it a bit soft/runny, in fact I prefer it that way as it doesn’t over thicken with storing.

Makes approx 5-6 jars (320ml)

  • 1.25 kg Strawberries (don’t wash them)
  • 900g Jam Sugar (with added pectin)
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tsp butter

Put 3 saucers into the freezer.  Make sure jars are ready and clean (I put them in a dishwasher).

Hull the strawberries and cut in half or quarters if very large.  Add them to a preserving or large pan along with the sugar.  Mix gently then leave covered with a clean tea-towel for a few hours or overnight.  This allows the sugar to mostly dissolve and keeps the strawberries whole.

Put your jam jars and lids on a clean tray in a moderate oven to sterilize (or if they are in the dishwasher, don’t take them out until you need them so they stay warm and sterile).

Warm the pan over a very low heat until the sugar as completely dissolved (v. important.  You don’t want any crystals left), this can take a while, try not to stir too much.  Add the lemon juice and turn the heat right up to bring everything to the boil.  Keep stirring to stop any jam burning on the bottom of the pan.  Once at a ‘rolling boil’ time for 8 minutes them remove the pan from the heat.  Place a small teaspoon of jam onto one of the saucers from the freezer, chill briefly then push with your finger, if the skin crinkles the jam is ready, if not, boil for a further 3-4 mins and check again with a new cold saucer for a ‘set’.

Remove from the heat, skim off most of the scum and stir in the butter to disperse any last bits.  Leave for 20 mins to settle then pour into clean still warm sterile jars.  Cover with a wax disc and seal.

 

This is what a rolling boil looks like and why you need a large pan - both to get the heat and to make sure it doesn't boil over.

This is what a rolling boil looks like and why you need a large pan - both to get the heat and to make sure it doesn't boil over.

 

I am loving the colour of the Cassis after only a few hours

I am loving the colour of the Cassis after only a few hours

Powdery mildew…

Every year the garden suffers quite badly from powdery mildew. It generally starts on the flowers (the marigolds first, then the sweet peas, roses etc) and eventually I get it on all my cucurbits (squash, melons, cucumbers and courgettes). My understanding is that that there are hundreds of versions of PW and they are type specific, but if I see it on the marigolds you can bet general conditions mean it will appear on the rest of the garden soon.

It’s very easy to spot, it looks like it sounds, mouldy looking white powdery spots on the leaves (especially the undersides as it prefers warm, damp shade). It also thrives where there are high nitrogen levels. Good prevention is to keep plants well spaced so that air can move around them, keep them in bright sunlight and water in the mornings so they have the rest of the day to dry off. It looks unsightly, so to be honest on my Hardy Annual plants (ie the marigolds and sweet peas) I just pull them up and destroy the foliage then replace with something new. For my Cucurbits though, I need them to stay in good condition or the crop will suffer, especially the squash that need a long growing season. In these cases you can spray the leaves (as organic prevention) with a baking soda mix once a week:

1 teaspoon baking soda
1 quart water
A few drops of liquid soap

you need to be sure to spray the undersides as well. I keep reading about Mexican farmers using milk and it is reported to be very successful so I am trying this method. You mix milk (any kind, but skimmed will smell less as it has a lower fat level) 1:9 with water. You must not go over 30% milk as that can cause conditions favourable to other fungus. I’ll let you know how it goes.

On a extra note, my Squash are growing a very different rate from each other…some look like this:

DSC_0237

and others like this:

DSC_0239

Oh dear!  I don’t fancy the chances of this producing may squash!!

June eating…

Potato barrels ready for harvesting.

Potato barrels ready for harvesting.

The potatoes are ready, they flowered a couple of weeks back and today I lifted the bottom part of my potato planter so see a lovely white Charlotte potato all ready to eat, so I fished about some more and managed to pull out enough for the boys tea.  I love this method of growing as the planters allow you to remove a few tubers at a time rather than having to turn out a whole bag.  I tend to go carefully though as I feel once you create some space you allow the slugs to move in and eat.  I did put slug nematodes all over the garden (and in all pots) a couple of weeks ago but noticed a few lurking around the base of the potato planters.  It also looks like Early Blight is setting in and I would rather this doesn’t move over to the tomatoes (more on that in another post).

The first glimpse of new potatoes - sorry about the photo quality!

The first glimpse of new potatoes - sorry about the photo quality!

Also ready at the moment are sugar snap peas from the first sowing (March – the second sowing are still in gutter waiting to be planted out).  I am making a point of picking them every couple of days to keep the supply coming, they are so tasty I eat them raw whilst pottering about the garden.  We still have plenty of pak choi which I replace with a seedling each time I pull one up, cut-and-come-again salad and spring onions.  Finally, the first sowing of broad beans (‘Super Aquadulce’ sown last Autumn), have finished but the second sowing from February are ready to take their place.

The boys tea - to be washed and cooked obviously!

The boys tea - to be washed and cooked obviously!

Garlic…

Last years planting garlic selection from The Garlic Farm plus their amazing chutney.

Last years planting garlic selection from The Garlic Farm plus their amazing chutney.

Last year I planted garlic for the first time.  I ordered the Autumn Planting Garlic from Thompson & Morgan in late Autumn of 2007, only to realise that I had missed that years send out and I had in fact placed a very early order for Autumn 2008 – duh!  So I ordered Garlic Lover Selection from the The Garlic Farm and planted them out in mid winter, Jan 2008 I think.  By late June they were ready and we have been eating them since, I realised that by planting my own I will never have to buy garlic again which is great.

So, last Autumn my garlic pack came from T & M and included 1 bulb each of:

Albigensian Wight – Softneck

Early Purple Wight – Hardneck

Iberian Wight – Softneck

Lautrec Wight – Hardneck

Purple Moldovan Wight – Hardneck

Wight Cristo – Softneck

Elephant Garlic – 5 cloves

Garlic comes in 2 kinds, Hardnecked and Softnecked.  The Hardneck varieties only keep for about 4 months, the Softneck much longer – we are still eating last years Solent Wight which was my favourite.  You get Autumn and Spring planting varieties (some can be planted at both) but the general rule is that garlic needs a period of frost to make sure you get a number of small cloves and not one giant one.

Last Autumn I planted up one of my raised beds (which will have Brassicas once the garlic is out),  in rows 30cm apart with 15cm between cloves.  The individual cloves were planted without any tips showing and with about 3 cm of soil above (deeper if you live in a cold area).  It took me a while as the weather wasn’t great so I had to run outside when the kids were occupied and quickly push a row of cloves in, it took me a number of weeks to get the whole lot planted which is reflected in their growth.  I only separated the bulbs into individual cloves as I planted them and binned any that looked damaged.  I had too many for just the raised beds and couldn’t throw any healthy ones away, even the small ones (bigger cloves = bigger garlic bulbs) so I also planted up my apple crates and potato bags and finally, the last few went into the flower borders dotted amongst the flowers (for containers plant 4 cloves to a 6″ pot, 6 to a 8′ and 8 to a 10″ pot).

Once the leaves start to yellow and die back and about 10% have drooped over (in May-June from an Autumn planting), you can dig out a clove or two and see if they are ready.  They should have tight outer skin around fully separated cloves, if so I dig them up and lay them out in the greenhouse to dry for about 2 – 3 weeks then bring them indoors to dry some more out of direct sunlight.  Once fully dry (outer leaves dry and if cut at the neck it should be fully dry so as to form a tight barrier to protect the cloves but don’t let the leaves get brittle – how many times can I use ‘dry’ in one sentence!) I plait the Softneck and tie the Hardneck in bunches, store out of direct light in an airy spot and enjoy eating lovely fresh garlic.

The garlic raised bed in mid June

The garlic raised bed in mid June

As you can see above, my garlic bed is not quite ready (the leaves are not really turning yellow yet) but I am rather impatient and have a gutter of pea shoots to get in so I dug up one row of Albigensian Wight today, they are about 6cm in diameter so a decent size but I will try and resist digging up the rest for a few more weeks.

 

The final few of last years home grown garlic - Solent Wight

The final few of last years home grown garlic - Solent Wight

 

Albigensian Wight beginning it's drying process.

Albigensian Wight beginning it's drying process.

 

 

 

 

 

June’s Fragrant Flowers…

 

Fragrant June Flowers

Fragrant June Flowers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Allium ‘Purple Sensation’ is already gone although the other alliums are coming into flower.  There are touches of red in the borders to add to the blues and purples of May but the main flowers right now are the wonderfully fragrant Roses and Sweet Peas.  I grow (as pictured above from left to right) the climbing bourbon rose ‘Rosa Zephirine Drouhin’ which is planted with honeysuckle ‘Lonicera x heckrottii Gold Flame’ next to my bench in the vegetable garden (in time, to climb over the fence whilst smelling lovely) the gallica roses ‘Rosa Charles de Mills’ and ‘Rosa Tuscany Superb’ are both in the top border.

Sweet peas climb over the arches in the vegetable garden.  I started them indoors last October, first by soaking the seeds overnight in water, then planting 2 seeds to a toilet roll filled with seed compost, standing in a tray (I figured this acts as a kind of root trainer, to grow long roots…it has worked for me so far) I keep them covered with news paper until they germinate and usually on the kitchen counter  where it’s warm.  Once germinated I uncover (as soon as the first green appears) and move them into the greenhouse.  I pinch out the tip when there are about 3 or 4 pairs of leaves to promote side shoots. I pretty much leave them too it, I sometimes plant them up into a pot of they start to get big, and then plant them out in March during some mild weather.  The aim for about 4 plants per leg of my arch (so 2 toilet rolls if both seeds germinated).  Once they start flowering you need to keep picking, or at least pull of the dead flowers to stop them from creating seed pods, that way you will get a longer flowering period.  Above is sweetpea ‘Matucana’ which has an amazing smell and in my opinion lovely colour. 

Don’t forget to dead-head your roses to keep them flowering as well!