Garlic Crop 2014…

I pulled the garlic in late June, as rather stupidly, I had forgotten that using the sprinkler to water the patch (it’s very hot here at the moment and hand watering wasn’t cutting the mustard, the ground needs a good daily soak to keep the plants happy) meant I was also watering my garlic, which I had left to start drying out in the ground.

DSC_0139As a result, rust was just beginning show, it’s very mild and I know from last year that it wont effect the crop and it’s long-term keeping but it made sense to get the crop out of the ground and to remove any leaves badly affected before leaving the bulbs to dry in a sunny spot.DSC_0146I’ve just checked back in the blog but it appears I never wrote down the garlic variety I bought from The Garlic Farm last Autumn, I’m pretty sure it’ll be Solent Wight or the usual Albigensian….I have  feeling Albigensian.  I was worried that the mild winter might have stopped the growing bulbs from forming cloves, but it appears not to have.

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I planted much less than I normally do, I bought a bag of four large bulbs (I’ve struggled in the past to find places to put all the cloves and I’ve ended up growing them in all available spaces, including in the flower borders) and they were also planted closer together, but I was much more diligent about watering and feeding the crop.  In return I have nice, uniformly large bulbs, not enough of them to see me through the entire year (once these are used up, it’ll be the first time in years that I have bought garlic) but I think I’ll stick with these smaller quantities, going forward.

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They have been drying for some weeks and yesterday I plaited them up.  I good few were left loose in a big bowl as they need using first (the bulbs have split as they dried, offering the cloves less protection in the long run)
DSC_0150and a few were used green, as they are on the edge of beginning to rot, from sitting in the wet soil.

I have to do some general catch-up posts for this blog, it’s been hideously hot out in the garden so I’m really just tending to the basics, but we’re finally eating quite a bit of produce so I’ll try to write a few posts in coming weeks, and get back into the swing of regular blogging.

Potatoes and Garlic (what no shallots?)…

We have enjoying eating the Charlotte’ potato crop over the past few weeks (even this late in the season).

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I’ve posted many, many times on the different ways I grow potatoes, but what has always been a consistent is I grow them in containers.

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I had a 2 year love of small, black exhibitors bags (with one seed potato in each, so you can just turn it out for a single meals worth of spuds, as seen above on the right), but this year I just chucked a number of chitted tubers into two of my extra-large plastic containers.

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It worked a treat.  When we came back from our holidays, the tops were all gone so I just covered the pots with plastic sheets to stop them getting too wet, leaving the crop undisturbed until we wanted to eat them.  I then just dug around in the soil and removed as many as we wanted for each meal.  I know this works fine, in past years there has always been at least one abandoned bag that when turned out in Spring has still had some edible tubers inside.  It always amazes me how long they can just sit in the soil and still be good, but as the garden is taking on a permanent damp feel, I think any final spuds will have to be removed this weekend.

My plan for next year is to grow them the same way.  I have gone for a change in variety and have ordered some ‘Lady Christl’ from Thompson and Morgan.  The blurb reads:

‘Quickly became a customer favourite for its good yields of very early, firm, oval, smooth, pale yellow-skinned tubers. The creamy flesh has an excellent flavour as a new potato and remains firm on cooking. This RHS AGM variety bulks up quickly as a first early, or leave it as a second early if larger tubers are required. With good disease resistance, including golden eelworm, Potato ‘Lady Christl’ is easy to grow and well suited to growing in containers and potato bags’.

I just fancied something new and they have a 5 star customer rating and a RHS Garden Merit Award.  I normally order my seed shallots at the same time as my potatoes, but I haven’t bothered with them, no idea why, they didn’t do well for me this year (first time ever, to be fair) and I have 2 less raised beds (more on that another time) so I need to remove a few of my staple crops.

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This year I also went back to ordering my garlic from the Isle of Wight Garlic Farm.  I seem to remember that the ones ordered from T & M last year were fine, but they weren’t exactly massive and I was very pleased when these huge beauties turned up.  As you can see, I added a few extras to the order, the P&P made it a necessity, it’s not silly expensive or anything, but in comparison to just ordering 4 garlic bulbs it feels so.

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I’ve been out in the garden all day today.  I feel like I’ve really been putting it off, to the point that the jobs had become overwhelming, but I’m pleased to say after a full day digging, planting (bulbs) and clearing leaves I feel a little more in control.  We are hoping for a fine weekend so we can move a lot of junk, my important stuff into the shed and free up some space in the house, there are also huge amounts of leaves that need clearing after our recent storms brought them all down.  I’m hoping that now the momentum has started, I’ll keep going and will finally feel pleased to look out of the window, instead of a slight feeling of guilt at the poor, neglected garden.

August round-up…

I am finally getting a bit of time in the garden after our holidays left me with rather a mess to clear up.  I’m at that stage where I am looking forward to getting everything cut back and tidied, there’s still a bit of time to go but I think the general crappy nature of the garden this year (it’s definitely not been my best gardening year) and the out of control vibe of the school summer holidays has me ready for a little more order and some neat vegetable beds.

The garden is full of butterflies today, we have some huge buddleia bushes growing on the other side of the fence, they are in fact taller than the fence at this time of year and the butterflies sun themselves on the wood.

This one sat on my arm and refused to move for about 10mins, I was walking around most of that time slowly doing jobs (and trying to photograph it one handed – not easy – lucky I had my camera around my neck).  Shame there are so many cabbage whites as well, leaving caterpillars munching away at my poor leaves.

Crops this year have been sparse.  We didn’t get to eat many tomatoes at all, most were very blighted by the time we returned from holiday, but we did get to munch some of the sungold before we went.  Their cherry size and orange colour was a winner with C, who likes to eat them whilst exploring the garden.

Also still going strong are:

Cucumbers

Alpine Strawberries

Carrots

Pak Choi

Chard

I have broccoli, barlotti beans, sweetcorn and a second sowing of chard on the way, but the definite highlight of this year are the squash.  I’ll write a full post on these once they have been picked for drying, it’s almost quite difficult to see exactly how many fruits I’ve got with the large leaves roaming everywhere, but it’s looking quite good and may well be my redeeming crop this year.

I pulled up all the shallots when we returned from Yorkshire.  They haven’t grown very big, the trapped rabbit (the one stuck in the vegetable patch) ate all the tops when they should have had plenty of growing time left and the rain had them sitting in damp ground so I have popped them into the greenhouse to dry off.  They may not be very big but there are loads, so I’m planning some pickled shallots this year, when the boys are back at school and I have time.

I’ve trimmed off the garlic and brought it indoors.  It’s been drying for some weeks in the greenhouse and this has about half the crop.  Although they started well they aren’t the size of last years, still good enough though and something I’ll always make room for, in fact I’ve ordered the autumn planing bulbs (Solent Wight) so I don’t forget from Thompson and Morgan.  I’m not going to order shallot sets, I’m going to try planing this year’s bulbs and see what happens.

I need to get my act together, I’m determined to get some autumn/winter crops started, it’s difficult when we are still having such hot days, so many plants have bolted this year, I’m waiting for things to cool off a bit and for the school holidays to be over.  I tend to get very busy with sewing work from September onwards, but I’m determined to make time for the garden, we’ll see, only time will tell 🙂

Garlic Harvest 2012…

I’ve just pulled all the garlic and just in time, it would appear, as for the first year ever, they have started with rust.

The bulbs are unaffected so once dried off a bit, instead of plaiting them, I’ll simply snip off the stems and put all the foliage into the recycle bins (ie not the compost) and store them in a bowl instead.  I usually do this with the smaller bulbs anyway, just so long as the garlic has dried enough to form a seal at the top of the bulb before really trimming them down.  At the moment, the shallots growing alongside the garlic are rust free, it’ll be interesting to see how they go as we are still in the midst of very strange weather, a mixture of hot sun and then torrential rain.

So, back in Autumn, I planted 4 large bulbs of ‘Albigensian Wight’ and some of my own bulbs stored from the pervious harvest.  I would normally plant a mixture of ‘Solent Wight’ & ‘Albigensian’, but I opted for just the one variety this year.

They have been harvested about 2 weeks later than normal, but how produced smaller bulbs, not a bad size and all, but definitely smaller.  I might try just ‘Solent Wight’ next year and see if this makes a difference (last year I had some huge bulbs but I couldn’t remember which cloves had been planted where).

I also planted much less than last time, as you can see, I still have some of that harvest left (along with the final shallots), the one good thing is both varieties are really good keepers.  I just don’t have enough space to plant huge amounts of garlic and there’s no point if we can’t eat it all.  I’ve tried pickling it in the past, but again, if I still have plenty of fresh hanging in the kitchen there’s not much need for the pickled version.

There is quite  a lot of work to do in the garden, the trouble is it’s either tipping it down or blazing so brightly that I can’t bare to work outside.  I am not a big fan of hot summer weather unless I’m on holiday, or relaxing, I find it difficult to be very physical in the heat plus my (new-ish to me) hay fever is really bad this year, even having the windows open in the house makes my eyes itch and sting, despite doubling up my hay fever tablets.  Soooooo British, ‘weather…moan….moan…weather!’ 😉

I’m off to cook a chicken for the boys, I plan to stuff it with last year’s garlic, I hate waste so I’m making a determined effort to use it up before this year’s is ready.

Autumn…

I started this post a while back and managed to forget to actually publish it.  Story of my life at the moment, I’m a bit all over the place, still it gives me a chance to add a photo of my fabulous new purchase ‘Wild Flowers Sarah Raven’ which is exactly as the title suggest a HUGE book about wild flowers.  It’s full of beautiful photos and is separated into simple sections (Wood, Heath etc) and on each page there are 2 flowers with very full descriptions and an image, they are organised alphabetically using their common names.

It really is a massive book and isn’t exactly cheap but I’m in love and I’m sure will spend many happy hours reading it and identifying wild flowers I don’t already know.  Right, back to the original post…

We are back at school after a week long break and what a difference it makes.  As soon as I started the school run I noticed how the trees have all turned colour in the past week, we have mostly been at home over the holidays (both boys had colds) and as we are surrounded in the garden by evergreens I hadn’t realised just how much change there had been in the other trees, and along with the clock change it really is finally feeling like true autumn.

I made a point today of picking the few crabapples and medlars that are on my new trees, they are both only a year old but have produced enough to make some jelly so I couldn’t resist.  I have to leave the medlars in a cool room for a week or two (or three!), until the skin turns blackish purple and the fruit feels soft and smells ‘winey’.  Basically until they start to rott.  This ‘bletting’ allows the fruit to loose it’s acidity and lets it release it’s juice.  I’m not sure how I feel about this, I am a bit funny about food past it’s sell by date (depending on what it is, you should have seen what came out of my herb/spice cupboard the other day!) but we’ll see how it goes.

I have also planted out the final garlic in the form of a couple of the largest cloves I grew last year.  These along with the ‘Albigensian‘ from the last post are all happily in their beds ready to sit out the winter, altogether I’ve planted up 6 large cloves which I think will be enough.

I placed a last minute order for seed potatoes after getting an email from Thompson & Morgan saying they were in the sale.  I decided to buy:

Potato ‘Charlotte’ – Truly sensational flavour whether eaten hot, smothered in butter, or cold in a tasty salad niçoise. Second early.
Potato ‘Swift’ – A particularly early maturing potato, producing excellent yields of round, smooth white-fleshed tubers. First early.
Potato ‘Vivaldi’ – Mouth-watering flavour and creamy texture whether boiled as new potatoes, or baked, mashed and roasted as larger tubers.

(Thompson & Morgans words there not mine)

and some extra ‘Charlottes’ as they are always a winner.  I’ve decided this year to only plant in the small 14 litre exhibitors bags with 1 seed potato per bag as it was such a great way to grown them, I’ve never planted in the beds as we simply don’t have room and I love being able to turn out one bag at a time which is just enough for a single meal, this works well for me.

I also ordered some shallots ‘French Longer’ and onions ‘Electric’ to pop in for over wintering and some general seeds.  I prefer to do my seed shopping over winter when I plan next years garden, otherwise I over buy things that I don’t have room for but I couldn’t resist adding a few to the basket.

I’m looking forward to getting into the garden this weekend and doing a good tidy up.  Most of the leaves have dropped and the cold weather has killed off  all the soft flowers and plants so it’s time to lift the remaining sludge and maybe cover up anything that needs it.

Bulbs…

Despite my lack of blogging I have actually been out in the garden a few times over the past weeks, mainly attempting to tidy but also to get the final planting into place for winter.

Some garlic arrived that I’d ordered from Thompson & Morgan, 4 bulbs of ‘Albigensian Wight‘ to be exact.  If I’m honest I’d forgotten that I’d ordered them but they are now safely split and planted as per my usual method.  It’s a little less than I normally buy but I have promised the boys they can have a raised bed next year to share so I need to save a little space, also the ‘Albigensian Wight’ is by far my favourite variety so I decided to simply stick with this (I’d normally also plant some ‘Solent Wight’ which I’d buy from the Garlic Farm), even the inner cloves were big and fat so it saves me feeling guilty about making room for the usual mini ones in the center that never grow very large but take up valuable growing space.

I have also been planting quite a few flower bulbs, mainly Geums, Ranunculus and Anemones.  The Ranunculus and Anemones are best soaked overnight to get them off to a good start before planting, we have such mild winters here (usually – fingers crossed!) that they have always survived in my garden with little help, even thought their hardiness is in question, I did plant the Anemones (my usual favourites for cutting ‘Mr Fokker’, ‘Sylphide’ and new for me ‘The Bride’) in lines in the cutting patch though so that I can cloche them over the colder months to make sure the corms survive. The Ranunculus will just have to fend for themselves scattered in the borders.

Whilst placing a bulb order I bought some Fritillarias meleagris in Plum & White to add to my lonely single one that grows under our tree and I take great pains to stop M from mowing off each spring; an Amaryllis Emerald ‘Spring’ for some Christmas cheer (I do love Amaryllis) and some Hyacinth ‘Purple Sensation’ to grow indoors in hyacinth vases, if I can find them, I know I put them away last year but I can’t remember where.

In the garden it’s very much winding down, I quite fancy a rest this winter so I haven’t bothered to grow many new things, only a bed of mixed Kales as they tend to survive no matter what and look so pretty through the cold months.  I’d normally have purple sprouting broccoli and parsnips amongst others but this year I’d like to get everything properly tidied up and start a fresh next February with mostly clear beds.  I may attempt to get some of the hardy herbs in better shape and perhaps some winter lettuce, maybe some spinach but I’ve read we are due very low night temperatures this weekend so I’ve probably missed my window.

Still cropping (just) are:

Tomatoes (the last few)

Courgettes – I’m amazed how long and how many we have had from 4 plants

Strawberries, Alpine

Carrots

Horseradish root

Herbs

Cucumbers – they were so late to get going this year and now we are getting a lot of late crops.

Spring Onions

I turned out some of the last small potato bags recently, if you’ve been reading for a while you’ll know I just covered the bags with cloches once the tops died back to stop the soil getting wet, as we were a little potatoed out and couldn’t keep up with the eating.  I am surprised to say they still were delicious, even though they’ve been sitting in dry soil for many weeks now, the skins were a little thicker but they were still much nicer than store-bought ones (to be clear all the potatoes I grow are second earlies, so mainly ‘Charlotte’ and ‘Anya’ variety).

We awoke to our first frost this morning, a light one but it’s taken out the dahlias and a few other softer flowers, I am quite relived in a way as I need to get the borders tidied and it’ll be easier to do when much of it has died back.  Autumn has finally arrived!

Garlic Harvesting 2011…

I have been keeping an eye on the garlic as the cloves are nice and big and it’s been odd weather this year with so much early sun and now quite a bit of rain, but as I am in no hurry for the bed, I was planning to wait until the leaves start to turn yellow and the stalks bend before pulling them up.  That was until I glanced at them a few moments ago and noticed that a couple of the stems weren’t looking very happy, on closer inspection their cloves were moulding away in the damp soils so in a hasty digging session I’ve pulled everything that’s large enough up and laid them out in the empty (phew, thank goodness for that) greenhouse to dry.

The rain that was due came early and I was only dressed for picking blackberries in sunshine so now I smell like a wet sheep (due to my very damp wool jumper) but I’m happy that I only lost 2 cloves to mould and the rest are looking good, if a little bit muddy.

I’m going to leave them for now as they are nicely spread out and well ventilated but with the wet weather set to continue I might bring them indoors in a couple of days (after the soil has dried off a bit more and I can shake some more off, I don’t want to over handle them today)  and dry them in front of our glass ‘wall’ inside.  I’m a little concerned the damp air in the greenhouse might make matters worse.

To get an idea of scale they are

this big.  The best ever so I’m very pleased.

Garlic, potatoes and shallots…

I spent some of my winter ‘hibernation’ as always dreaming of the garden and planning what I’d like to grow.  As this is my 4th year with this vegetable patch, I mostly just check last years planing list (organised by month) and edit or add according to how the recent harvest has gone.  I don’t like to plant things we don’t end up eating or that have failed in such a way I feel no desire to try again (although some things I’ll attempt more than once, I’m determined to grow Kai Lan this year!) and ideally I like to add new varieties, if not new vegetables, otherwise I get a bit bored.

I’ve ordered the first installment of  seeds, potatoes and shallot sets, all from Thompson & Morgan.  They had an offer I couldn’t refuse on potatoes, 3 new planters plus 15 (5 of each) seed potatoes all second earlies and including my favourite Charlottes.  In their own words, here’s what I’m getting:

Gourmet Potato Collection

Solanum tuberosum

Colin Randel, Chairman of the RHS Vegetable Trials Committee has tried and tested hundreds of potatoes over the years. With his specialist knowledge he has picked three tasty potato varieties as his top rated for flavour. Grow this special selection in our effortless patio planters for a taste sensation. The perfect potato dish simply doesn’t get any easier than this!

  • Collection comprises:
  • Potato ‘Charlotte’ – Second early. Sweet, earthy, long oval tubers with pale yellow, waxy flesh. This superb salad variety produces heavy crops with plenty flavour whether it is eaten as a new potato, hot or cold.
  • Potato ‘Inca Bella’ – Second early/ early maincrop. From ‘Mayan Gold’ parentage, with a pink-blushed cream coloured skin and golden coloured flesh. The distinctive nutty flavour makes this variety a superb salad potato, or harvest later as an early maincrop if larger tubers are required. Cooks approximately 30% quicker than your usual potato.

  • Potato ‘Piccolo Star’ – Second early. Very high numbers of mouthwatering, oval baby new potatoes, with a firm waxy texture and bright, creamy skin and flesh. Absolutely superb as a boiled ‘new potato’ or left to cool as a salad potato.

Sounds good huh?! Here is the link and all for the price of £14.99.  Now, if I was prepared to give up some of the raised bed space I could buy much cheaper and larger amounts of seed potatoes but I really enjoy growing them in sacks/planters, so this works for me.  In addition I have ordered some Anya variety and a number of individual (cheap) bag planters that will have 1 tuber planted in each.  Last year I put any extra chitted potatoes into black buckets and it worked so well to tip out a single  bucket full for a meal that I’d like to repeat this method.

I’ve also ordered my shallots, again I’ve gone for Longor, I did think about changing variety but I do love these and haven’t bought shallots for 3 years now so figured I’d stick with the same.  Again (this is kind of cheating isn’t it? – Oh well!) in their own words:

Shallot French ‘Longor’

Allium cepa (Aggregatum Group)

This French version of ‘Jersey Long’ has been awarded an RHS Award of garden merit for its extremely long bulbs and robust flavour. Shallots have a much sweeter flavour than onions and can be used in stews and casseroles for a more delicate taste. This variety is a particular favourite with exhibition growers, and can be stored over a long period.

I found one milder day over Christmas to get my garlic in, I just looked back at old posts and see this was my first post on garlic from June 2009 when I harvested the first batch, outlining what I’d opted to grow.  Gosh didn’t I include some nice photos back then?….must try harder ;).  Then after declaring Albigensian Wight and Solent Wight as the winners, these were my choice for last year’s planting, they worked so well I’ve been rather boring and opted for the same again, ordered from the Isle of Wight Garlic Farm.

They have been planted, as always, in rows 30cm apart with 15cm between the individual cloves with about 3cm earth on top.  They are in raised Bed 1 and will be replaced with Brassicas (probably purple sprouting broccoli) later in the year, the smaller inner cloves have been put into 2 of my massive containers, I am thinking of planting the squash in the beds this year and using the containers for other things, either way I can move them when the weather warms up a bit.

Now, if you’re thinking all these photos are familiar, yes they are, I had planned to pop out in the garden before publishing this post (written a few days ago), but quite frankly it’s pissing it down and shows no sign of letting up so I was looking up past relevant images, I do love this one of the garlic drying out on our spare bed.

And finally,  it cheered me to find this photo, taken in April 2009 and a reminder of what’s to come 🙂

July Eating…

It would appear I am slipping well behind with my blog posts, the above photo was taken back in mid June, after I had removed the outer skin of my first garlic, having left them for a few weeks to dry out in the greenhouse.  They are now plaited and hanging in my kitchen (better than last years solution!)

I have since pulled all remaining garlic and shallots, which are a bit weeny this year, quite frankly due to lack of water but they are still tasty and will keep us going for some time.

The beetroot from both the first (planted in gutters in the greenhouse) sowing and the second from May is ready.  I pretty much always boil or roast them,  then slice and eat with Feta cheese, Marjoram and an olive oil and balsamic dressing.  I really should try something new but I do like beetroot this way.

The first of the tomatoes are ready, there seems very little difference between the ones grown in the greenhouse and outside, all are cropping at a similar time, which rather surprises me.

The Alpine strawberries are still providing lots of little treats, you have to be quick though

as C is a strawberry addict.

We are also eating cucumbers, spring onions, courgettes, red onions and salad at an alarming rate.  I confess that already a few cucumbers have ended up in the bin, despite the fact we eat at least one a day (well, C does).

My blog is not the only neglected thing around here, the garden itself is in desperate need of attention, there is little point starting any new planting as we are away here and there and the total lack of rain here means new crops are quite high maintenance until they get going.  So, I guess there may be a few gaps in a couple of months but for now I will simply enjoy eating our lovely ready produce.

The overall picture…

I took these photos a week or so ago, even in that time a lot has grown but I am about to start the first big dig up (such as the garlic) so here they are, oh, and please excuse the mess, it’s as much as I can manage to water the vegetable patch in this heat, let alone tidy it.

Bed 1 is as it was planned in the cold Winter, when I dreamed of hot Summer days and what we would like to grow and eat.  It has Sweet Corn with salad crops between, a single row of Spring Onion and 5 plants of Alpine Strawberry (on their first year so only lightly cropping).

Bed 2 has a double row of Barlotto Beans, with some Red Onions between (I heard on Gardeners’ Question Time that you should never plant beans with onions – oops!), Garlic, Chard and again, Alpine Strawberries (on their third year and producing masses).

Bed 3 has Sugar Snaps (about to end) and Garlic, about to be pulled out to make way for Broccoli which is sitting in pots at the moment, wilting.

Bed 4 which I stole from the cutting flowers this year, is a bit messy but contains Parsnips, Kale, Beetroot, Pak Choi, Red Onions and Shallots.

Right, I need to dash out for another watering session as we’ve had yet another hot day without any sign of rain.