Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Three courgettes – is this a glut?

I left the allotment today with an overwhelming feeling of smugness.  No, I hadn’t outdone one of the old boys or found my favourite fork, which has been “missing” for some time, but I left holding a bag containing a nice box of eggs and 3 courgettes.  I had also obliterated what appeared to be 95% of the worlds population of red mite that had taken to calling the chicken coop home, much to the horror of my girls.  It appears that I’m easily pleased.

The courgette plants, which once lay beneath the sweet peas – now dead and removed, have grown rather stately.  They all look particularly strong and are encroaching on my path in a bid to engulf the whole of the plot.  One bed is not sufficient, or so it appears.  Not content with plans of world domination and just looking beautiful, these plants are also starting to crop well.  The forerunners so far are ‘Taxi’, ‘Black Beauty’ and a new plant I’m trialing ‘Italian White’ (pictured above).  The latter, I think is pretty beautiful and is certainly holding its own against the seasoned pros.

What with harvesting three courgettes today, naturally my mind is turning, somewhat prematurely, to that wondrous time of year in the gardeners’ calendar, which has so far eluded me – the glut!  I did say premature, you remember?  Already there are small undeveloped fruits waiting in the wings and I can’t wait.  Courgette cake, spiced chutney, roast courgette … the list goes on and on.  Other recipes are welcomed of course!

Thursday, 23 August 2012


The undeniable successes of 2012 (so far) have largely come from the Allium bed.  The shallots, onions and garlic have all outdone themselves but there may be a vegetable set to challenge them.

So far the potato bed has remained largely untouched. I harvested some ‘Swift’ and ‘Pentland Javelin’, which were useless and disappointing respectively, and I then assumed that I was in for a repeat when it came to harvesting any of the others.  I was wrong.

When harvesting one potato cultivar, which I’ve not grown before, I was quite shocked to see that plant after plant, it consistently produced fairly large tubers and en mass too.  That potato was ‘Wilja’, a second-early, and I’ll definitely be growing it again.  From a row six foot long I harvested 5kg of potatoes (11lbs in old money), which I thought was pretty good considering Garden Organic state the average yield of early potatoes to be 5.5kg/3 metre row.
They didn’t disappoint in the kitchen either.  At the slightly waxy end of the potato spectrum (well, that’s what I’m calling it anyway), this potato is perfect for most treatments but simply boiled with a slathering of good butter - it tasted divine.  I'm a bit of a sucker for a good spud and although many people feel they take up too much room in the garden or at the plot I just don't think you can beat them and they are a must-have for me.

I’m yet to dig up the remaining 7 rows of spuds, which consist largely of ‘Sarpo Mira’ and two other main crop cultivars, the names of which are written on their labels but not emblazoned in my memory.  I can only hope that they produce as well as ‘Wilja’ has.  Usually, I like to change the potatoes I grow from year to year but I think I may be growing this one again in the not to distant future.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Gold at the allotment

Courgette 'Taxi'

The fashionably late arrival of courgette’s and runner beans has somewhat restored my faith in my ability to grow valuable plants, as opposed to just growing weeds, and also highlighted that this growing year has been, well, a bit useless really.  Though, for a second there, I was really beginning to doubt myself.  There’ll be no moaning though – perish the thought.   No, what doesn’t kill us only makes us stronger and next year is going to be a corker I’m sure.

I noticed the first of the Courgettes yesterday.  ‘Taxi’ was the first to produce anything, with two small golden fruits glowing amongst a dense green leafy canopy.  In typical fashion, whilst trying to get a good look at it, I completely ballsed it up and snapped the largest fruit off with my heavy handed approach.  Eaten on the spot (waste not want not) it made for a nice little snack and as the second fruit still remained in tact, all was not lost.  The one remaining fruit is now guarded like sacred treasure, with slug booby traps all around, and I’m hoping that this will be enough to defend it from the marauding evil that slimes its way across anything remotely edible.

That’s not the only good news though.  Today I stumbled upon a developing ‘Black Beauty’, which goes to show that, although late, I’m set for a small but perfectly formed courgette harvest.  Give it a couple of weeks and I may even use the word glut that is so often associated with courgettes.  Although planted late on in the season, they now appear to be thriving and they’ve almost doubled, if not trebled, in size since I last wrote.  I know it’s a bit early to draw conclusions but I think the experimental use of hay mulch has really benefited the plants.  It seems to not only blanket most of the weeds but retain heat and reflect light back up to the plants leaves as well.  I think I’ll persist with this method, after all it costs me nothing and can only help improve the plot in the long term.

The runner beans I mentioned are now flowering and I should be able to harvest a few before the summer (pah!) is out.  Saying that, as I type I can hear the wind howling down my chimney and I fear that upon arrival at the plot tomorrow I may be faced with a scene similar to that of my now deceased broad beans.  Imagine the most perfect beans you’ve ever seen lain prone on the ground, some snapped, and that should give you an idea of what happened to them.

The last of the garlic has been harvested and this crop was probably on of my biggest successes this year.  The Elephant garlic is tremendous and is likely to become a staple crop for years to come.  This leaves me plenty of room now to sow a few late crops and green manures and, I hasten to say it, tidy up ahead of the Winter.
In chicken news, “Chick”, the sex of which is still uncertain, has now moved in with the big girls full time.  One night last week he/she decided that the big coop was the place to be and so it’s remained there since.

Saturday, 4 August 2012

'Not the most prolific blogger but...'

I’m slowly becoming a one-blog-a-month kind of guy, of course it’s not something that I strive to be but I guess the label’s already stuck after ‘The Edible Garden’ magazine wrote: ‘Ryan might not be the most prolific blogger but …’.  A case of the looking-glass-self I presume?  In my defense, I do update my ‘image of the day’ every day (well most of the time anyway) and I just don’t have the time to sit quietly and write at the moment.  I’ll have to make it a priority if I want to improve things around here.

With the never-ending monsoon and the lackluster vegetable performance at the allotment, I’ve been pretty much lost for things to write about.  I could tell you about my senescent sweet peas, my blighted potatoes or my battered broad beans but I fear most of us are placed firmly in the camp of crap summers already.  No, let’s maintain the stiff upper lip and casually move on.  Surely as we are in the midst of the Olympic Games we can adopt some of the athletes grit and determination to succeed.  Small victories and all that.

In the garden, all is not lost in the fight against weather, pests and time really. It’s close to being completely lost but I think I’ve managed to just about hang on in there.  With that being said we did have a patch of very nice weather recently and for the few tough nuts of the vegetable world it worked wonders on lifting their spirits and helping them to put on a bit of late growth.  The courgettes that sat and sulked for weeks after planting appeared to relish their time basking in the warm sunlight.  With a new mulch of haylage, a left over from my horse, they seemed to be rather cosy and content.  This is a new practice I adopted late last year and it seems to be working really well.  The Sarpo Mira potatoes that I’m trialling for Thompson & Morgan also appear to be doing very well, despite being across the path from the rest of my blighted spuds.
Blueberries, which are rather abundant this year, have also ranked highly as one of my 2012 highlights thus far.  I have two small bushes that are around 3-4 years old and although they aren’t cropping in bulk fruits continue to ripen on a daily basis allowing me a few delicious snacks whilst visiting the plot.  A few have found their way in to the stomach of the ever-hungry pigeon, along with gooseberries, blackcurrants and raspberries but it’s a sacrifice I can live with.  After all, something has to provide Mr & Mrs Fox with some food and I'd much rather their attention be on the large wood pigeons as opposed to them trying to work out how they can break in to the coop.

In chicken news, “Chick” continues to grow strong and is now 11 weeks old.  I have an inkling, however, that it may be a male as several attempts to pick it up has resulted in it coming towards me as if to attack.  Only time will tell and this could mean him either going to a new home or becoming lunch – I’m undecided yet.

The winner of the last Ryan’s Garden competition to win a £50 voucher from Creative Garden Ideas, is Claire Davies of ‘License to Kill Slugs’.  Congratulations!  Please email me: ryan@ryansgarden.co.uk to claim your prize.

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