Saturday, 29 October 2016

The last tomato of summer


As I suggested just over a month ago, it's been a race between the advance of autumn and the reddening of my tomatoes.

Well, with Halloween just two days away, I've admitted defeat and collected my last tomatoes this afternoon. I have started pulling up their plants, partly to make room for the tulip bulbs I want to plant.

So here it is, the last tomato of summer.

And if you wonder why I've given up on the rest, this is why: they are looking seasonally spooky.

They are going to go brown before they go red. Sad that my most promising-looking green tomatoes have gone this way. Oh well, maybe next year...


Sunday, 25 September 2016

The race between Autumn and tomatoes


No matter how early in the year you start growing tomatoes, around now you always seem to be waiting to see whether they're going to have enough sun and warmth to ripen before the chill, dark days of Autumn.

Or whether they'll stay green until their plant dries out and then gets soggy and you just have to watch them rot. It's not good if dew and rain start appearing and the tomatoes are still looking like this:

In fact, with the changeable weather recently, there's been good news on the tomato front in my garden. This is what they've started to look like:

And several times, I've gone out into the garden and returned with quite a decent crop: 

But there's still plenty to play for. Some of the best plants are still looking like this: 

Please, just another few warm days, and it could be a bumper crop. 

Sunday, 7 August 2016

From greenhouse to gut?


I hate that phrase you hear on food programmes on the radio: 'from farm to fork'. But what would the greenhouse equivalent be: 'from greenhouse to gut'? 'From greenhouse to gustatory experience'? 'From greenhouse to getting supper'?

Well anyway, if we had a suitable phrase, we could have used it yesterday, because we went from this:

And this:

To this:

And this:

And jolly good they were, though I say so myself.

I planted both courgette and marrow seeds in the greenhouse a few months ago, but I can't remember which were where. I suspect the darker one here was a marrow and could have carried on growing more and the lighter one was a courgette. They seemed to taste the same though, and probably both better than a big marrow would do in a month or so. 

When you use a kitchen knife outside to cut a vegetable, you're turning something from the world of the garden into something for the world of the kitchen. Where previously, a bit of mud and the odd insect were perfectly acceptable, now tiny blemishes are examined forensically and removed before cooking and consumption. Imagine having to clean the greenhouse to the standard of the kitchen. 

Saturday, 30 July 2016

What a difference two weeks makes

We just got back from a fortnight away, and the place looks like a jungle:

The marrows and courgettes have taken over, filling up the passage through the middle of the greenhouse and pretty much excluding other plants from the light. I don't particularly mind about the nasturtiums, which self-seeded anyway, but there are also tomato plants in there which are looking unhealthily tall and thin. 

That may be partly because the greenhouse itself doesn't get as much light as it should, being in the shadow of the house in the morning and that of some large trees at the bottom of the garden in the afternoon. But obviously the big marrow leaves don't help. 

Someone kindly watered the greenhouse while we were away, but I forgot to ask her to leave the door open if it was hot, which I think it was. So there are signs of decay, of living in a hot, damp atmosphere:

Now I've left the door open, hoping the plants will get used to more normal conditions for England. 

Plants that I'd already transferred outside did best while I was away, and I'm pleased to see that there are some quite healthy looking marrows and courgettes on the way: 

I have now rescued some of the lanky tomato plants from death by marrow leaf, hoping a new life in the real world will restore them to health. 

Saturday, 2 July 2016

Parsnip surprise


This is the first time I've grown parsnips. They seem to be doing well, although I probably haven't given them enough space, letting them squeeze together in a couple of pots.

But when will they be ready for picking? I read one book that said it's when they're about two foot high. Well, some of mine had reached that, so I thought I'd pull one out. I wanted to avoid leaving it for so long that the roots had become tough and woody.

What I found was a relatively large bulb immediately below the surface and a lot of little parsnips growing out of it.

I'd been expecting to find just one parsnip. So do parsnips grow in bunches, as these ones look like they would if I'd left them? Or is this some kind of anomaly caused by transplanting or a time when it was short of water or something?

Anyway, my conclusion is that I should leave the rest to keep on growing for quite a few more weeks. Any thoughts would be welcome.


Monday, 16 May 2016

Courgettes v marrows


Only a week ago, I planted several lots of seeds from the bumper pack I bought back in January: courgettes, marrows and onions. I hope I'm not too late to be starting now (like Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman).

I am hugely impressed with the courgettes:

Especially when the marrows look like this:

I haven't grown onions before, so I don't know what to expect from them. I've planted some outside and some in the greenhouse. There are signs of life from the ones in the greenhouse, but I can't really believe I'm ever going to end up with real onions:

Finally, although it's nothing to do with the greenhouses, I couldn't ignore the colour of our new rhododendron, recently acquired from a garden centre and therefore, in my mind, cheating. Its colours are so bright that they practically broke my camera. Is there a colour equivalent of over-exposure - because that's what I was getting? The only way I could try to stop this picture burning out (or, as I say, the colour equivalent) was to under-expose and then brighten in Photoshop - and even that didn't completely work. Still, I'm not complaining: they look great:


Saturday, 7 May 2016

Getting out in the sun


It's May 7th, the sun is out, and it's hot too.

Last weekend, I did a bit of 'landscaping' around my greenhouse. Well, I built a little path to the door and turned a small square around it that wasn't quite lawn or flowerbed, into flowerbed. This was thanks to some planks I'd got off the back of the truck belonging to the man who'd come to cut our trees a few weeks ago. They were heading for the skip and so he was happy for me to take them.

And this morning, confident that spring has finally sprung, I transplanted some of my parsnips and cauliflowers out of pots in the greenhouse into the new bed, and moved a pot of leek seedlings out there too.

Behind them are wild raspberries and some mint that my aunt gave me a few years ago. Above it all is a cherry tree, whose white blossom has been blowing around today.

The cauliflowers have been rather horribly chewed by something in the greenhouse, but I hope they will have escaped whatever it is by being outside. Could it be snails? I have been systematically removing them from the greenhouse - well, systematically on random occasions - but they never seem to be fully eradicated. It's not like Bill Gates and polio.

And I moved out all the repotted geraniums too. None have died, amazingly, but they don't seem to have grown either. I expect a bit of warm weather will bring them on.

So now the greenhouse is looking rather empty. Tomorrow I hope to change that by planting some more seeds - tomatoes especially, and I'll see what else I've got.

A final word of praise to rhubarb. I don't know where this lot came from, but it's doing very well with no help from me, even if it is hogging the light that some more of the parsnips and cauliflowers that I transferred into the same tub really need. And what's the plant on the right - please, anyone know? It never seems to do anything much. Is it some kind of iris maybe?


Sunday, 31 January 2016

The caulis are coming


Yesterday my eye was drawn to the window by a sudden bright light in the garden. The sun had come out on January 30th.

I went into the greenhouse and found it was warm enough to produce those delicious soily, leafy smells that are as much a part of the pleasure of having a greenhouse as what you see in it. 

Could it really be 29 degrees, or do I have a thermometer programmed to tell people what they want to hear?  

Well, maybe it's right. The cauliflower seeds I planted three weeks ago have already burst into life. 

Maybe Homebase's promise of "Cauliflower All The Year Round" will be fulfilled. Or at least, I could have a glut of cauliflower all at once, in about April or May.

And there's more. Last weekend I managed to sprinkle a big pot with Parsnip Student seeds ("very good long-rooted narrow cored heritage variety"). They're not due to be harvested until October at the earliest, but there's no harm in giving them a good run at it. 

Saturday, 9 January 2016

Ten vegetables for 2016


I have too many half used packets of vegetable seeds. I don't want to waste them, but nor do I want to waste my time preparing the soil and planting them if they're too old ever to germinate. I'm abandoning them for the moment.

Instead, as kind of new year resolution, I went crazy and spent £3.99 on a Homebase bumper pack of ten kinds of vegetable seeds. They're not particularly exotic - just things like  marrow, parsnip, spinach and onion. But they come with easy to use directions about when and how to plant, and so I'm thinking that if I can just get them out of the packet and into the soil at the right time, it could be an easy way to produce something useful from the greenhouse this year.

I started today with the 'all-the-year-round cauliflower'. I can't be bothered to plant seeds with measured spaces between them, so I just scatter them into a pot, cover them with a bit more soil, and will transplant the best ones when they pop up.

If I keep it up, by February, I should have leeks, onions and parsnips under way too.

The instructions don't say anything about a greenhouse, but I'm assuming it will be frost-free, and that they should have a better chance in there than outside. Of course I'll have to water them, although the greenhouse seems permanently damp at this time of year, so that shouldn't be too much work.