Pest of the day – Blackfly

It was going so well with the broad beans, until I walked around the “estate” this morning and found this…..

Blackfly!!! They must have moved in overnight because there were none there yesterday.  They are larvae and are all clustered around the tops of the broad bean shoots.  And they have their little attendants – the ants.  I just Googled and apparently the ants feed off of sugary secretions from the larvae.

Having read a lot of grow-your-own magazines and books over the last 12 months I knew this could happen and what to do so I went out with a pair of trusty scissors and cut all the top shoots off the beans.  One stalk I had to go down below the first few beans because the larvae were on those too but I only lost 3 beans.  It gave me a chance to open a pod and see what size the beans were and they were not quite big enough.  Perhaps I can pick some over the weekend from further down.

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Bursting out all over

Cripes, where did the time go?  Over a month since my last garden update and everything has gone bananas!  And these are almost the size of bananas……….

…….and growing at a rate of knots!!  These are the broad beans that I direct sowed last October.  They survived the winter and are about 4ft tall.  The larger pods are almost ready to pick, I tried one a week ago but the beans inside were still quite small.

This morning I have finally got around to planting my tomatoes into their growing bag.  It is a two sided patio bag and I have filled it with part homemade compost and part New Horizon organic peat-free.

In each half I have put 3 plants, one each of Gardener’s Delight, Moneymaker and a cherry plum called San Marzano 2.  All grown from seed, I’m happy with them at the moment, we’ll see how they produce!  The Tumbling Tom Yellow, I have also grown from seed and have put two plants in each of two large pots.  One of them already has a couple of flowers on it…

A couple of weeks ago  gave my step-dad one of each of the above 4 varieties and he is growing his in conventional grow bags so we shall see how his compare to mine as the weeks go by.

A few days ago i caught sparrows eating the leaves of my peas so we had to rig up a Heath Robinson style net using some canes, “BuildaBalls” and netting. There was much frustration from me as it kept falling over but in the end a bit of parcel tape and some clothes pegs were employed and at the moment it is still standing – just!

Thise are Meteor peas but I also sowed some Feltham First in a pot just outside the patio doors.  They aren’t growing as fast but there is already a flower.

The square foot patio bag is going great guns, and I’ve been cutting salad leaves from the front left square for over a week now.  The rainbow chard has really taken off too and everything else is catching up.  I have two types of kale, leeks, carrots, kai-lan, chard, asparagus peas and salad in there

I think there were some tomato seeds in the homemade compost I added as there are two rogue tomato plants coming up in the back right square amongst the kale!

The potatoes are doing well and were earthed up on Saturday, and the onions and garlic are swelling nicely.  One of the onions produced a tall flower spike but on advice from UK Veg Gardeners I cut it off as apparently onions that flower don’t store as well.

I am really pleased with the amount of blueberries on my two plants, but will need to net them soon to keep the birds (and dog!) off them

And finally the two non-veg beds.  In this one I just scattered some wildflower, cosmos, echinacea, and poppy seeds back in March.  I don’t know if anything is a flower or a weed at this point!!

And this one I call the Purple Patch because by pure coincidence I realise I have planted (mostly apart from the snowdrops and a white-ish lavender) all purple flowering plants – lavender, allium (which I seem to have cut out of the photo!) and a Japanese anenome.

Last but not least I bought a strawberry pot from Morrisons a couple of months back and a pack of 6 very tiny herb plants.  Since I planted them in the pot they are starting to get going

So that’s my garden round up for the beginning of June.  Hopefully the next post will be of my broad bean harvest!!

A diversion for a great cause

Today is a diversion from the veggies.  Normal service resumed soon…….

A friend of mine, and fellow Type 1 diabetic is hoping to do an amazing thing in October by climbing Kilimanjaro to raise money for Diabetes UK.  She needs to raise £3000 to be able to go and so far is up to £1200.  So if you could find a few pennies to sponsor Sue that would be fab, thank you.  The link to her JustGiving page is below, just click and it will take you there.

Sue Kelly’s Just Giving Page

Thank you!

First harvest of 2012!

Well here we are.  Cabbage sown inside in September and planted out in October into the brand new veg bed.  I’ve just cut the first one to go with our dinner this evening, how exciting!!  Seeds from SimplySeed, variety Advantage F1.  Hope it tastes as good as it looks!!

I’ve got a Square Foot Garden

Well not officially.  I saw this growing bag in Morrisons a few weeks ago for a fiver and bought it, not knowing what size it was!  When I got it home it turned out to be a metre square divided into 9 sections.  So theoretically in old money each section is approximately a square foot.  So I have dug out my copy of All New Square Foot Gardening to have a proper look at.

We set it out today and so far there are 3 and a half 60litre bags of peat-free organic compost in there. And the first small offering from the bottom door of my compost Dalek, how exciting. I’ve watered it and will allow it to settle before I add any more, but it may not need it.  I’m not planning to grow the longest carrot in Cheshire in there!

I shall probably do lettuce, rainbow chard, leeks, and a few other bits and pieces with some kind of squash in the middle.  Or perhaps a tumbler tomato could go in the middle and I could keep my fingers crossed the dog can’t reach across that far!  I won’t be able to put anything fruiting in it for that reason, she’ll have the lot!

Any ideas for other things I can put in there?  I’ve got so many seeds I’ve probably got something anyone might suggest!!

Kitchen table nursery

This is the state of my kitchen table, covered with all my little seedlings growing away.

I have patio doors there so it is the place with the most light.  On there I have 4 types of tomato, 4 types of bean, rainbow chard, sweet peppers, 2 types of leek, 2 types of lettuce, butternut squash, peas, sweet peas, sunflowers, basil and cress.  The beans are way too early and will probably get chucked except the dwarf ones which are actually starting to flower!  The tomatoes got a little bit scorched when I put them out in the sun but have made a stirling recovery and I think they are going to be ok.  I’m a bit scared to put them out into the mini plastic greenhouse as they might all die and I’d be left with nothing.

I bought the packet of cress seeds in Morrisons, but it doesn’t look like the cress I’m used to…..these are like little umbrellas

I tasted some and it was quite peppery.

A lovely member of my local knititng group very kindly gave me some terracotta pots last week as she is moving away and can’t take everything with her.  I got quite a haul and am very grateful….thanks Sarah!

I ordered a few more seeds yesterday from MoreVeg who sell small quantities for 50p, cos I don’t need many.  I’ve got a couple of different squashes coming, some alpine strawberries and asparagus peas (and a few others, ahem!).  My veg patch is going to be absolutely heaving in the height of the growing season!!

In the next few days I shall be sowing some nasturtiums and pot marigold seeds which Flighty kindly sent me to use as companion plants and attract insects, and hopefully getting the rest of my seed potatoes into the ground as their chits are getting rather long now.  Looks like it is going to be warming up a bit again at the weekend although it could be a bit damp.

I shall also be going to The Chester Food & Drink Festival this weekend.  We go every year and my favourite bit is the lunchtime hog roast,  yum!  On Sunday, Eaton Hall is open to the public for the day so depending on the weather we may go along to that.  We went at the end of the summer last year so it will be interesting to see the difference at this time of year.

Book review: Taste of the Unexpected

A Taste of the Unexpected. Mark DiaconoA Taste of the Unexpected. Mark Diacono by Diacono

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a bit different to other veg gardening books I have read. It doesn’t include the usual suspects of carrots, spuds and tomatoes, but tells you to make a wishlist of things you would like to eat and then see if it is possible to grow them. And surprisingly you can actually grow quite a few unusual things in the UK.
The book includes fruit, veggies, nuts and seeds, herbs.
I like the way Mark Diacono writes and regularly read his blog posts.
This book certainly gives you things to think about growing that are definitely a little out of the ordinary. After all, you can buy spuds and carrots anywhere can’t you? (Saying that though, this is my first proper growing year so i have included these in my small veg patch. But I might have a think about including some of these “unexpected” plants in the future.)

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