Saturday, 14 July 2007

Kitchen garden blues

It's turning out to be a pretty unsuccessful summer in the vegetable garden. Although we had no late frosts, the weather, which had been unusually warm in April, became cold and sunless in May, and everything newly planted or waiting in the greenhouse to be planted just languished without growing for a few weeks. Most of the cucumber plants died and I had to resow them.

Now, the greenhouses are doing very well. The cucumbers are late, but growing strongly and I'm picking every day, enough to send a few to the shop (though usually I'd have a dozen or more a day). The tomatoes were early and delicious - the varieties are Stupice, Red Brandywine, Black Russian, Minnesota Midget, Czech's Excellent Yellow, Green Zebra (haven't had any of those yet), Golden Sunrise and Gardener's Delight (most of these are outside and so were sown late, and aren't ripe yet).

There are several varieties of pepper, both hot and sweet. I haven't picked any Jalapeno yet, not Tobago Sweet Seasoning (those took some time to germinate), but Georgia Flame, Spanish Spice and Hungarian Hot Wax (which is my favourite variety name ever) have cropped well and Al has been selling them. So have the sweet peppers: King of the North, Orange Bell and a yellow pepper whose seeds I brought back from Venice last year. Okra is all right, but with nine plants I only get a few fruits at a time, not enough to do much with. The physalis (Cape Gooseberry) plants are huge and full of fruit, but some of them are dropping - they taste fine unripe actually, but are pale greeny orange at present. I'm sure there will still be plenty to ripen.

The not-so-good news is outside. Peas didn't grow very tall, but at least they are cropping well, unlike the Sugar Snap peas which (admittedly a short variety but they should still be 2 - 3 feet) only grew to about 6 inches, produced a few flowers and peas and then got overwhelmed by very small weeds. Broad bean plants grew well enough, but there has not been a good set, neither in the first sowing nor the second - a reasonable crop, but only because I grew a lot. However, I wonder if this is connected with the fact that I didn't get around to pinching out the tops this year? We had a few blackfly, but ladybirds moved in keenly and they were gone within days. Sweetcorn is a disaster. Only a couple of feet tall and few cobs. Usually, one gets three or so cobs to a plant, but most have one, some not even that. Another sowing did better, but this was a free pack of popping corn seeds, and of limited use.

French beans are lacklustre. The pencil-podded ones have hardly grown and don't look like climbers at all (they are not bushing out either, so it's not that I got the variety wrong). The purple beans and flat podded ones look better, but aren't cropping much yet - some of the flat bean plants died so I won't get many. The runner beans have finally, in the last couple of days, started to set.

The cabbages look open and not likely to heart up, but maybe they'll be all right. The Swiss Chard is all right, but the spinach (leaf beet, perpetual spinach) is starting to bolt, which is very unusual at this time of year. The early leaves looked scorched and yellowed by the sun and were not usable. I think I'll make another sowing for the autumn.

The early potatoes (all I grew) didn't grow very big, but they are an ideal size for new potatoes. The tops have mostly died down now, but we've still got plenty to dig as we need them and they are lovely, although the crop is not heavy. The courgettes are finally coming on, rather late, but will be fine now. Some of the squash plants didn't survive and it doesn't look as if many fruits are coming yet.

And, after all that rain in June, the soil has dried right out and I will have to start watering soon unless it pours again. I'd rather do that and have the sunshine, but the forecast is not good for tomorrow.

Sorry to those of you who are still with me but are stultified with boredom. I realise this post is of limited appeal!

16 comments:

Wendz said...

Not exactly bored. But just a bit dumbfounded that anyone could have so much stuff in a garden.

I have in my fridge (veggie wise that is)...tomatoes, cucumber and rocket.

I have in the veggie basket some potatos, onions and garlic.

In the freezer, spinach and flageolets verts.

C'est tout.

Z said...

The salad stuff is finished - I don't bother at this time of year as it goes to seed so quickly. In the last few years, I've narrowed the range of things I grow and gone for what's easy and reliable, but I've got more room now so I'll grow onions and roots and more potatoes and things.

I grow lots of everything because I can sell the surplus. I love growing vegetables, but I'm regaining an enthusiasm for growing flowers too. I have plans for next year..

Oh blimey, this is turning into a second post. Sorry, Wendz.

Chairwoman of the bored said...

Only yesterday I was saying how much I missed gardening, and what I would like to be able to do in the garden, and then I read your post :-)

I had conveniently forgotten the disasters, be it bad weather, slugs, poor planting choice, etc. I had only remembered the good bits, the sowing, planting, and growing, those warm evenings when the Chairman and I would look out at the garden before we went to bed with quiet satisfaction. Sitting by the pond with a glass of wine in the twilight while the bats flittered round the Ash tree (always a sign that it was time to go in, as I hate them). The occasional 'plop' of a very small, but beautifully marked Koi breaking the surface of the pond.

So today I don't feel so sad about the gardening, but glad that I have had a successful week on ebay, having bought 2 fairly rare pieces of Carnival Glass at good prices.

Z said...

Well done on ebay - those last few minutes are really quite exciting, aren't they, and satisfying to buy at the right price.

My garden can be quite disheartening - I've given up on some areas because of the ground elder. And there's more work than I'm able to do. However, the enlarged veg garden will be big enough to put in some flowers too, around the fruit trees I'll plant against the wall (when it's built).

I'm never sure whether the pleasure of reminiscing is worth the pain of knowing those times are gone. Better to have happy memories than sad ones, however. I hope you will recover and be able to garden again.

PI said...

We have to buy our veg and fruit but I had some delicious toms this week-end - on the vine - Jersey ? and they had that lovely acrid smell. I wish gooseberries were more easily available. I have one son who drools over my gooseberry fool and I can never get them when he's coming.

Z said...

That vine smell is almost as good as the tomato itself, isn't it.

I don't know if Al could get gooseberries from the wholesaler, but people bring them in from their gardens for him to buy. Mine did well this year.

luckyzmom said...

I read every word with wistfulness remembering the lushly planted .5 acres we left four years ago. The .16 we have now in an HOA is a sore spot with so many rules and regulations. We were allowed 6" weeds last year. With a new regime this year, they can only be 4". And it took us awhile to figure out just what was planted and what was a weed. We have a lovely view though!

Z said...

You're right - I'm lucky. And I'm not complaining, but observing. 4" weeds? Eek. Some of mine are nearly as tall as I am.

hey bartender said...

As a relatively new gardener, I am dumbfounded by the sheer volume of what you grow. Our yard is so loaded with weeds and the famously (infamously?) difficult Georgia clay that I was barely able to manage a couple of beds this year. Jealous of your greenhouse. And curious about gooseberries.

Z said...

I've never had a garden with a clay soil, I think I'd find it difficult to adjust to it. Here, I can dig the garden in the pouring rain without it becoming sticky. Not that I do of course.

Gooseberries. They grow on a bush about 3 or 4 feet high, which is covered with thorns. They are slightly bristly round green berries (some varieties redden when they ripen) about half to three-quarters of an inch in diameter and have a fleshy outside and lots of seeds in a pulpy middle. Before they are fully ripe they are sour and, even when ripe, the outer flesh can be sharp, depending on the variety. They make lovely jam and jelly, when the green turns to a pretty russet, and can be cooked, sieved and mixed with cream and custard for fools, or used for pies etc. I like them raw. I split them in half, let Squiffany have the sweet fleshy seeds and eat the sharp outer flesh myself.

Dandelion said...

I have one son who drools over my gooseberry fool and I can never get them when he's coming.

A classic.

Z said...

Trust you, Dand!

Dandelion said...

Sorry. I hope pi is not offended.

Also, I was wondering if you'd thought about a polytunnel?

Z said...

Pi is not easily offended and quite able to put you in your place if needed.

Er, we have a polytunnel. We haven't got around to putting it up yet, though. It would give us another 40'x15' - we cleared the space, but at present I grow squashes there.

Of course, I know there wasn't a hint of sarcasm there...(no, no, just friendly irony).

Dandelion said...

Actually, no, no sarcasm there. I just wanted to show off that I knew what one was, and that it might be apropos. I'm delighted that you've got one. Is it a funny shape?

Z said...

I'm a funny shape all over, Dandelion. The polytunnel is the usual long rounded shape like a giant cloche - but all we've got is the framework and net (in case one wants to use it for shade and to keep birds out). We'd have to buy new poly-whatever-material. It was going begging, so we begged and got it, but I'm not sure what to use it for yet.