Saturday 26 November 2011

Chillies and marrows

Well today was the local craft fayre and I had a stall to sell my Spitfire Sauce (a chilli sauce that I have made for the last 4 years) and also a Guess the Weight of the Giant Marrow competition to raise funds for McMillan Cancer Care.
Although my stall was not in a prime location this year, I sold 60 jars of sauce (and I know I can shift the rest with three phone calls tomorrow).
To guess the weight of the marrow cost 50p a guess and I raised £26.00 - not a huge sum I know but every little bit helps.

Anyway, the weight of the marrow was 46.5 lbs and the winner was Sandra Smart from Portmahomack, witha guess of 46 lbs. Sandra used to be impressed with my cucumbers - God knows what was going through her mind when she saw this beastie!

Monday 21 November 2011

NVS Scottish Branch Seminar 2011

I attended my first NVS event on Saturday - the annual Scottish Branch Seminar, held at the Moredun Institute ay Penicuik. Fantastic day !
I am becoming a regular on their members forum and it was really good to meet up with other forum members and put faces to names. Everyone was really friendly and the speakers were very good - we had a talk from Peter Glazebrook on how he grows his giant onions, including his recent world record onion (which it has to be said may be the heaviest but is far from being the best looking onion you'll ever see). A lot of what he spoke about could be put into practice for growing large exhibition onions but other aspects are, to me at least, beyond obsession. I just can't see me ever having a canister of Carbon Dioxide releasing a controlled jet of gas every ten seconds in my tunnel.
There followed a photo slide review of both  the NVS Scottish Branch and National Championships.
After lunch we had a talk on Biological Soil Management and finished with the best speaker of the day - Jim Pearson -  who gave us a very informative and extremely amusing talk on how he grows his exhibition cauliflowers. Once heard, never to be forgotten !
I picked all my pre-ordered goodies and have also brought back some of Ian Stocks peas and french beans for next season, as well as some Heathfield exhibition Broad Beans supplied by Frank Taylor of Grampian DA.
Thanks to all who made this a great day and I'll be making this an annual pilgrimage from now on.

Monday 24 October 2011

This year's tickets

I have taken a piccie of the tickets and trophies I won this year as this was my first year of trying to grow veg for the showbench as opposed to just for eating. I did okay but hope to improve dramatically next year by being a bit better organised and putting into practice all the tips and hints that I have picked up from fellow growers and also from the NVS forum.

I am going to attend the NVS Scottish Branch Seminar in November where we will hear talks by Peter Glazebrook on growing both heavy and quality onions and by Jim Pearson on growing cauliflowers for showing.
For those who don't know, Peter Glazebrook recently broke the world record for the heaviest onion, growing a moster that weighed in at 18lbs, and Jim Pearson is well reknowned for winning lots of tickets with superb cauliflowers and I hope I will take some of their knowledge home with me and translate that into better quality specimens

Monday 3 October 2011

Tunnel / Marrow update

Got across to the polytunnel this evening after collecting Niamh from the childminder. We've had very strong winds all afternoon and given that my tunnel has had a big rip in it, albeit smothered in duck tape, I still get very nervous,having lost the first cover several years ago in a wild storm, and keep expecting to see a huge sheet of polythene floating across the skies as I approach the farm. However all was well so we picked some more red Cayenne chillies, some bell peppers, some more tomatoes, 5 cauliflowers and a savoy cabbage.

That brings chillies harvested so far, aftre two pickings to 280, as I can keep count as they get bagged into batches of 20 in preparation for my chilli sauce. Still lots to come though!
I also checked up on the progress of the two marrows - both now have a girth of exactly 1m and are 53 cm and 58cm in length respectively - for those in old money that is a girth of almost 41 inches and lengths of 22 and 24 inches.

Not huge but as long as they look big enough for people to play a guess the weight competition I'm not too bothered as they were pretty much neglected after failing to set any fruit for an eternity. I will probably try again next year but the plants will definitely be outside where they will have all the space they could need or want.

Wednesday 14 September 2011

If you go down to the woods today

You better not get in my way!

At the moment, I am clearing all the scrub, gorse and self seeded Spruce and Scots Pine from the block plantings of the Nordmann Fir Christmas trees. The chainsaw deals with the big stuff and the Billy Goat chews up anything with a diameter up to 2". It is pretty unstoppable and will happily climb over gorse thickets if you let it. It really is quite an awesome tool but you definitely don't want to get in its way.

Sunday 11 September 2011

Polytunnel wind up and wind down

Got a text message from Finlay (the farmer I rent the ground from ) that there was a tear in the rear of my tunnel polythene and given the weather predictions for the high winds and storms for today, I set off this morning with a brand new roll of duct tape (or is it duck tape) and sure enough there was a rip about a metre long, but given that at the time there was no rain (so the polythene was dry) and very little wind (so the polythene wasn't flapping about) I soon has it taped up and back under control.
I went back out with Niamh (3 year old daughter / princess) this afternoon where we picked another huge pile of tomatoes, completely defoliating the plants as we went, to let those fruits still to ripen do so a wee bit quicker.

We also picked a load of cukes and decided to uproot the plants and dismantle their frame too, as I am quite honestly, sick of eating them, though I do like them a lot.
I also took the opporchancity to remove the three courgette plants for the same reason, though I now have four good sized courgette / marrows on the shelves in the tunnel - possibly Marrow Rum later in the year!
We also picked the very last of the calabrese, a savoy cabbage, runner beans and some bell peppers.
As some of you may remember, I had a go at a Giant Marrow this year but even with hand pollination I failed to get any fruits to set - well, left alone with Good Ole Mama Nature, it now has three largish fruits on it , so I gave it a bit of TLC and will wait and see how big the buggers get.

The pot baside each Marrow is a 1 litre pot for scale and the second marrow is considerably paler as it was hiding amongst really dense foliage. I have to say though, that I will not be growing this again - at least not in the polytunnel - I expected it to take up a fair bit of space but this thing would grow over the top of a triffid - not the best use of space ! If the fruits reach a decent size, I may take them to a local craft fayre where I will be selling my Chilli Sauces (more on that in a bit) and have a Guess The Weight Competition for charity.
So still growing in the tunnel are Sweet (Bell) Peppers, cauliflower, PSB and chillies - Jalapeno and Cayenne.
Now I know a lot of people grow chillies and that there are probably lots of people who treat them with kid gloves and spoil them rotten. Well, I am the polar opposite of that approach. I do take care of them til they are about 6 - 8 inches in height then they get transplanted into the polytunnel soil (which I admit is pretty nice and rich), get watered until they are established and growing away well, then they get ignored -and I mean COMPLETELY ignored - no watering , nothing, other than tying in as they get bigger. They seem to thrive on this laissez faire attitude as I get bumper crops every year and the chillies seem to be a wee bit hotter than those from pampered plants that I taste. I do grow quite a lot of chillies(between 60 and 120 plants depending on available polytunnel floor space (closer to 60 this year due to the triffid in the corner) and these are used solely as ingredients in the two chilli sauces and the chilli jelly that I make, which I sell locally - I always sell out completely and have already got advance orders in for this year. Anyway, this year looks like another bumper year and I have quite a few turning a lovely shade of red at the moment so may start picking them in the next week or so. The other main ingredients in the sauces / jellies are onions, bell peppers and apples - all of which I grow myself too.

Saturday 3 September 2011

Alness Show

This morning, after getting in from work at 2 am I was up 6 and drove over to put in an appearance at the Alness Show which is about 11 miles from me. Whilst I hadn't planned on entering anything at this show, I felt I should support them as some of the Alness boys and girls have entered my local show. Everything was last minute and with the exception of the onions from sets, was picked last night more or less in the dark and in a hurry.

I entered five classes and achiebed placings in them all
Cucumber - 1st
Onions from sets - 2nd
Cherry tomatoes - 2nd
Medium Tomatoes (Red) - 3rd
Runner Beans - 3rd.

Although I thought my onions from sets might place, I didn;t think the rest of my entries would do much, and certainly did not expect a 1st for the cuke, as I personally thought it was too big, but having got the ticket, I am not going to rock the boat and argue with the judge!

All the best known local growers were there and the standard was pretty high - especially in the 20 point veg classes. Best veg exhibit in show went to a set of 3 long carrots but quite a few of us reckoned the set of 3 parsnips from the same grower should have taken it - including the grower himself ! Most points in the Veg classes went to John MacKay from Golspie, whio judged the veg at our own show a couple of weeks back.

The floral displays were exceptional, with Robert Holmes taking the Dahlia titles, his wife Ann taking the Gladioli , David Munro taking the Chrysanths and George Pirie the Begonias.

Monday 29 August 2011

Tain Show update

Well, the show has been and gone and was judged to be a success -bigger and better than last year with more entries in almost all classes and some of the better known grow for show guys up here putting in an appearance for the first time, coming from Golspie, Contin, The Doll and Nairn, which was very gratifying, especially as they were all complimentary about the show itself.
The veg entries were up considerably on last year, as were ceratin classes in both the cut flowers and pot plants.
Anyway, although I didn't get as many cards as last year, I did get more red tickets so I was well happy. In no particular order I got reds for the following
Truss of Tomatoes (Cedrico)
6 Medium Tomatoes (Cedrico)
6 French Beans (The Prince0
Cauliflower (Cheesy)
2 Cucumbers (Carmen)
Pointed Cabbage (Hispi)
Onions from Sets (Setton)
3 Stems Rhubarb (Variety unknown)
2 Sweet Peppers (California Wonder)
3 Globe Beetroot (Pablo)
6 Chilli Peppers (Cayenne)
Collection of potatoes (Winston, Maxine, Harmony, Kestrel)
Any Other Veg - 3 Parsnips (Albion)
I also got a red ticket for my chilli sauce!
My Sweet Candle Carrots  were a nice set but when compared to the SC staged by Wattie MacBeath from the Doll and the Abaco put up by Ali Iles from Nairn, they came up short.
However, I came away with three trophies - R&B Garden Centre Shield for most points overall in the show,Glasstorm Trophy for most points in the Veg classes and Tain Pottery Plate for most points in the tomato classes (2 x 1sts and 1 x 2nd).
My oldest daughter Iona also got a red ticket and a trophy  for her vegetable animal (a tortoise made from a melon, courgettes and cloves) so she was well chuffed to have her photo taken with her old man and the other trophy winners.
The best Veg Exhibit went to Ali Iles for his set of leeks, the bestFloral Exhibit went to Robert Holmes of Contin for his set of Cactus Dahlia, which also pipped Ali's leeks for Best in Show.
The one low point was the lack of entries in the Floral Art classes - this was low last year but being the first year it was decided to include this section again, but after having only two entries, I think this will be dropped.
I'll apologise now for the photos - taken by the official photographer - will take my own next year! but for what they 're worth here a selection of the best of them.

Top Tray from Ali Iles, Nairn

Leeks (Ali's Best Veg Set are furthest right.

Globe Beetroot (Incl my winning set of three Pablo)

Winner of the Garden News Top Vase competition exhibited by Anne Holmes, Contin.
 She scored 23 out of 25 - apparently one of the white dahlias had a small hole in a petal if you looked at hte flower from underneath,

Winner of best Pot Plant , exhibited by George Pirie from Alness

 These are Robert Holmes' Cactus Dahlia which tookBest in Show

And here are most of the prizewinners - I'm at the back with the Shield and the Black Glass Trophy with the Carrots mounted on it. My daughter Iona is sat beside Robert Holmes, winner of best in Floral Section and Best In Show.

Tuesday 9 August 2011

Ten days to go

Well the show that I allegedly am in charge of is a week on Saturday so a week on Friday will find me a pretty busy chap - organising collection of tables and setting up the hall, not to mention picking, cleaning and boxing up all my own veg.
I started the show last year and it was fairly well attended, and if the number of schedules actually uplifted this year is any way of judging how many entries we are going to get, we should get considerably more than last year. We also have 7 new trophies this year to add to those from last year, as well as the Garden News / Thompson & Morgan vouchers for the Top Tray and Top Vase Competition, so I really hope we get a good turnout.
As for myself, some of my veg is looking good, some has failed misearbly and it doesn't look as if my second batch of cauliflowers will make it on time, but I can only learn from this year as it is my first time of trying to grow anything specifically for showing - and my sowing times next year will be adjusted to suit the show dates I want to attend.
So here we go - my onions from sets (Setton) have been harvested, trimmed, skinned and are starting to colour up nicely. They are not the biggest onions I have grown but I should get a couple of decent sets of 3 from them
My tomatoes (Cedrico and Shirley) have performed well over at the polytunnel especially when you consider the crap summer weather we have had, and I should manage a set of 6 Cedrico and possibly a truss too.

The Carmen Cucumbers are struggling - these two are on the first plant, the next two plants were eaten by creatures unknown and the last two plants are looking okay but whether the cukes on them will be ready in ten days is unlikely. I usually grow either Pepinex 69 or Euphya and these have both performed brilliantly for me the last five years but Carmen does seem to have struggled - don't know whether it is down to the variety or to the crap summer !! And just to add to my cucumber woes - the first plant is now showing signs of RSM though mercifully the other two have kept clear of it thus far.
I have grown some Sweet Candle outside in the garden and in spite of taking what seemed to be forever to germinate, they actually look okay, but I am only judging this from the tops and from a couple that have pushed their shoulders out of the growing media - only time will tell if a) they have grown nice and straight and are not all forked below ground, b) they have formed a stump end and c) they haven't all split as a result of the recent heavy rains. I hope they pull up okay as I would really like to bench a decent set of carrots as these were the first veg I chose when I was looking at what I wanted to grow for show.

Next we have the Parsnips - these are a variety called Albion and are a sort of bonus crop as I had no plans at all to grow these but when my seed order arrived from Medwyns, there was a packet of these included in error which I was kindly allowed to keep. Unfortunately there isn't a class for parsnips in the show but if they pull up nicely then they will go in the Any Other Veg section.
Finally a pic of my Snowball turnips. These have rocketed on since sowing and I have cut back the tops since taking this photo to try and slow them down as the largest one had started to split. The skin finish on them looks really good and I need to bench a set of 3 - I have, at the moment, three good looking large ones and 3 good looking tennis ball size - I can only hope no disasters befall them in the next week or so.

I will also be entering Broad Beans, Courgettes, Potatoes (White, Coloured and Collection) French Beans, Rhubarb, Globe Beetroot, Pointed Cabbage, Chiilies and hopefully Capsicums if they manage to reach full size in time - it'll be tight but they did it last year. I will also put some Zonal Pelargoniums in to support the flower side of the show but next year I quite fancy trying some dahlias - we'll see.
What I won't be entering is Runner Beans - loads of flowers and not a bean set - however it seems I am not alone in this up here - very few people I have spoken to locally have beans set this year - lack of insects and bees due to the weather seems to be the common complaint.
Similar story with the aubergines - loads of flowers but none set - I have grown these before in the tunnel but they do seem to be a bit hit or miss up here.
As for peas - growing Hurst Greenshaft in all the gardens I work in and they are cropping and looking really well - I sowed Show Perfection and got three sickly plants from 25 sown - and they died too. I'm not sure what went wrong as I have grown peas for a lot of years for both myself and others with no problems.
Anyway, will take pics of what I am showing before the judging starts and hopefully a couple after the judging with a card or two placed beside my exhibits.
I am also going to enter the best trug / basket of veg - using anything I have that isn't required to make up a set - my second string veg if you like but the girl who won it last year might take some beating - great veg and all beautifully arranged - I can grow decent veg but I might fall down on the second part!
That's it now til after the show - unless something startling happens -maybe we'll have a riot up here - they could always loot the local kilt hire shop!!

Saturday 23 July 2011

Sutherland Show 2011

Today was the day - Sutherland County Show, just across the water in Dornoch. Although I didn't have a lot of veg ready I did take what I could get together without leaving myself short for our own local show which is next month. Anyway, I ended up taking a cabbage (pointed Savoy type) 3 stems of Rhubarb (variety unknown), six French beans (The Prince) and 3 beetroot (Pablo). These were all entered in the Any Other Veg (Amateur) class as there are only defined classes for potatoes, peas, onions, carrots and leeks, as well as a top tray competition. After placing the exhibits and also distributing some of my own show schedules, myself and my girls went for a wander round the livestock and had a blether with some farming friends, then watched George, one of Iona's pals Dad, doing some demonstration sheep shearing - damn he was quick - I remember doing this when I used to shepherd and it was the one job I really didn't take to.
After lunch we returned to the tent whwre I was in no hurry, but Iona was desperate to see what her old man had won, convinced I would win something, whereas I was convinced I wouldn't. Results in photos below!

First prize with the cabbage

Second Place with the beetroot, regardless that one was a lot larger than the other two

And third place with the rhubarb - result for the crop most neglected by myself all year round!

 However, before I get too carried away, here are some of the winning exhibits from the other classes
Shallots (Hative De Niort)
Carrots (Sweet Candle)

Leeks (Pendle Improved)

Top Tray
I hope that some of these exhibitors will come to our show next month and was talking to quite a few who seemed very amenable to the idea, especially as we have managed to avoid clashing with any other local shows this year. Speaking to a few of them, it would appear that potatoes and onions have not faired teribly well this year up in this neck of the woods for whatever reason, though having daytime temps in the high teens or low twenties and then having it drop to anywhere from 5 - 8 degrees at night certainly has made it tricky.
And just to prove I am not a vegaholic here are a couple of the floral exhibits for you to enjoy
Vase of Garden Perennials

French Marigold Blooms
And finally , here is the NVS stand, manned all day by Neil Drummond, which seemed to attract a lot of attention and signed up quite a few new members from what I saw.
One final word of thanks to JK Ross, show convenor - my girls were delighted that they got ro take home two huge bunches of the cut flower exhibits but even more delighted when John gave them each one of his winning rosettes!

Saturday 16 July 2011

Showtime approaches

It is the Sutherland County Show next Saturday, and I have deceided that I should try and enter some veg to support it - especially as their show convenor is going to judge tyhe cut flower and pot plant classes at our local show in August. With that in mind I took a look at one of my 5 bags of Casablanca, contents pictured below
In total there was 2lbs of potatoes, with the largest weighing 3oz, so not quite there yet but I am not too bothered as ther were being grown with 20th August in mind, and anyway, I had them boiled with lashings of butter tonight for my supper and they were really tasty. One good point is that they were really nice and clean with no sign of scab.
As with the spuds a lot of my stuff is being grown with mid to late August in mind, so I don't have too much to chose from, though I will probably enter some globe beetroot (Pablo) and some french beans (The Prince) both of which are good to go from now on.
I also have two caulies left in the tunnel which are ready now but I know they won't keep in there for another week so I'll try cutting them and wrapping them in clingfilm and putting them in the fridge to try and keep them fresh for nest Saturday. This may or may not work but it has worked in the past accorsing to some posts on the NVS forum.
The only other veg I have ready is a pointed Savoy cabbage called Samantha (that's the variety name - I haven't quite reached the stage of becoming so attached to my brassicas that I give them all names, not yet anyway!), and I ahve to say that they look pretty good too.
I have lifted the first six onions to leave them to dry but they are a ways off yet so they're not going on Saturday. I grew the onions from sets (Setton) and they have done pretty well - they were lifted at a diameter of between 10.25 and 10.5 inches.and after four days drting they weigh and average of 230g - though uniformity is more impotant than weight as the class is for onions from sets as opposed to  250g.
Anyway, I'm liiking forward to next Saturday and picking up a lot of advice from the guys who have been growing for show for a long time up here.

Tuesday 5 July 2011

Polytunnel update -July 5th

I was across at the tunnel for a bit this evening to see what's what. I don't manage to get across there as ofetn as I would like due to pressures of work and family but as the three ladies in my life are away at my mum's house for a couple of days I thought I better take advantage of the opperchancity, before coming home to get the bathroom painting completed for my wife coming home tomorrow.
With the exception of the stuff I am growing in my garden (tatties, stump carrots, beetroot, broad beans, turnips, shallots, culinary onions and french beans, everything else in is my tunnel as I have given myself this year to sort out growing area outside at the tunnel ready for next year.
So first off - the rhubarb - this continually amazes me in the tunnel - I have three crowns and they all produce lovely long red stalks for about 9 months of the year. All it gets in return is a thick mulch of well rotted manure every winter
 This year I want to try and get a set of tomatoes for our local show and to this end I am growing Cedrico and Shirley. After seeking some advice on the NVS forum, I am going to thin thr trusses on 5 of the 10 Cedrico plants and 2 of the 5 Shirley plants and leave the others intact . The toms are looking good, though the plants have looked better - heat stress after the last couple of days - the tunnel gets very warm even with both sets of double doors open. This is an intact truss of Cedrico.
I am growing about 80 chilli plants this year -mainly Cayenne with some Jalapeno too - these will be used solely for the purpose of making my Spitfire and Hurricane Sauces in the back end of the year, though  I might throw a couple into the show if they are ready in time.The cayennes have just produced their first flowers.
Now for something I am really pleased with. For the last 5 years I have tried to grow cauliflowers indoors without any success - I have tried various varieties but I always ended up with brown sunburnt curds, despite the seed catalogues promises of curd protection from strong leaf growth. Well, this year I tries a variety from Johnsons called Cheesy F1. Look at the photos and see what you think about the leaf protection for the curd - you would almost miss the fact that the curd was there at all. The first photo shows the cauli in situ, and the second shows the two I brought home - the smaller of the two is the one photographed in situ.

Next we have the aubergines - these were devastated last year by earwigs which reduced the leaves to lace, and therefore seriously affecting growth and fruiting - no such problems this year - really healthy plantswith  loads of flowers . Once fruits have set I will remove the surplus to leave a maximum of five per plant.
As my wife is not a fan of summer cabbage but loves the Savoy types, I have a pointed variety called Samantha in the tunnel this year and the first head is nearly ready for harvesting!

And finally Medwyn's triffid has really exploded this week. Again, as advised by those who know more about these things than I do (but I'm learning all the time) on the NVS forum, I have hand pollinated 5 female flowers and will keep an eyse on them - if all 5 set fruits, I will thin these down to two. I have also thrown soil over some of the stems - this apparently encourages the plant to put down more roots and so help feed the plant. The only problem is that my courgettes will have to be sacrificed or they will smothered by the marrow - no big deal there though as we have already had loads.

Thursday 30 June 2011

Tain Horticultural Show

For my sins, I suggested that my home town should host a Horticultural Show last year and although a lot of people were keen on the idea, I organised the whole thing by myself. It was however deemed a great success and as a result the second show (August 20th) has been adopted by the local gardening club, though I still head up the committee. Anyway we had a meeting last night at my place and we have now finalised the schedule, and the poster design etc so we're well on the way. Last year I won best veg exhibitor and overall best exhibitor, though to be fair, none of the veg in the show was actually grown for exhibition purposes, and I entered a shedload of stuff as I was worried about entry numbers. And was rewarded with 8 firsts, eight seconds and 6 thirds. I also enetered veg from gardens that I work in and they got a further three firsts, 4 seconds and a highly commended.  This year is different - I am at least attempting to grow some decent show veg as are a couple of others and we have promises of attendance from a couple of local boys who have been showing for a long time.
However I still want to win the trophy for best veg exhibitor. Here is piccie of it -it's made entirely from glass and is quite simply outstanding -thanks to Brodie at Glasstorm for taking the time and making the effort to go above and beyond - especially with the hand blown carrots!
Why am I posting a pic of a trophy I won 10 months ago - because I have only just got it ! The carrot foliage sits proud of the edge of the glass bowl and one snapped at the show. It was put in for repair and they asked if they could keep it for display at their open day - no problem. The carrot foliage got snapped again!!
It is quite delicate.
Anyway, I fully intend to try and emulate last year so hopefully there'll be another photo like the one below, though there may be either slightly less hair or maybe more grey hairs!

Tuesday 28 June 2011

Ups and Downs

Apologies for not posting for a wee while - there just don't seem to be enough hours in my days. So here is a wee update on what's happening.
Over at the tunnel, the tomatoes are continuing to grow apace - they don't look the best as they are quite badly heat stressed, due to the very high temperature today when I couldn't get across to open the tunnel doors until late afternoon / early evening, but they are healthy enough and continuing to put out trusses. They are currently fed every second feed with tomorite and a comfrey tea alternately. I removed some of the lower leaves this evening as I have done every year I have grown tomatoes - more energy into top growth and it also aids ventilation to the plants.

Next we have the aubergines which are looking really healthy -especially as last year their leaves were reduced to lace by earwigs and it took them a long time to recover. Behind the aubergines ( to the right in the photo) are the Stenner runner beans which have now all started to wrap themselves round thier canes and are heading skywards, and dotted along the back of these canes are some baby cauliflowers, with some Jalapeno up against the tunnel wall.

This next photo shows the first planting of cauliflowers - the idea being that once the cucumbers clad their frame, they will provide some shade for the curds (similarly the runner beans will provide shade for the second sowing of caulies.

The last photo from the tunnel shows the current state of play with Medwyns Giant Marrow - it's beginning to get up speed and I am gently wrapping it round itself with bent wire hoops securing the stems. It has the required two fruits set as I mentioned before, but one of the original fruits dropped off (????) so I let another one start to take it's place.

Other than that, the chillies are starting to show their first flowers, I have now harvested 11 of the 12 Hispi Cabbages - one remaining and I started taking central heads off the calabrese this evening, as well as picking another Cucumber Petita and some courgettes - oh yeah and a couple of punnets of strawberries from the bed outside.
At home in the garden, the potatoes are putting on a huge amount of top growth - the shaws are now at least 4ft high - lets just hope tht this translates into some good tatties below ground, The Casablanca have flowered ( a small white flower with a yellow centre) but the rest are still reaching for the sky.
The Sweet Candle seem to have regained their composure after I lost one to something unknown and are growing well, as are the parsnips. Mt beetroot are concerning me a wee bit as they seem to be getting away ahead of themselves and may need to be lifted well in advance of my local show - though I may eneter them in the Sutherland County show on 23rd July), when I also hope to enter two Carmen Cucumbers. The Snowball turnips are having a bit of a growth spurt, the broad beans are now not only flowering but also finally setting some beans. My shallots have been poor doers this year. I only have sixteen left in the ground that are still growing (albeit very slowly) - the rest seemed to go over all at the same time. There is no sign of secondary growth so I shall leave them in the ground as long as I can to see if these reamaing specimens will get any larger. The Festa red lettuce is looking very nice too. My Show Perfection peas were unfortunately devoured by sparrows within hours of being planted out and have never recovered, so these are a non starter this year.
In the greenhouse the leeks are still growing though I have the three of them in 5 litre pots and the roots are clearly visible at the bottom of each pot. If anyone can advise whether or not to leave them in this pot or pot them on again into a largere pot I'd be grateful as this is the first time I have grown leeks other than for culinary use.
The Dwarf French Beans are now all in 5 litre pots and seem to happy in them - first flowers were produced yesterday and the plants go out in the morning and in at night.

Monday 30 May 2011

Thought I better update this blog !

It's been a while but I have been quite busy what with one thing and another recently. Anyway, where to start?
Well the van has gone - the 4 year lease contract was up and so I have purchased a Volvo 940 to replace it - got it locally and it'll do for me - £600 all in, with a new exhaust (incl Cat) front to back, new battery, two new winter tyres, new brake discs,152K on the clock but only 3k since it's last MOT so should be good for quite a while.

On the work front, here are a couple of pics of the most recent garden I have been asked to work at - it's at Cullisse Farm near Fearna and is well established and well looked after so there is no real heavy work involved, just general maintenance and weeding, which singles it out from my other gardens!

And so onto my own veggies. Things have progressed a bit but due to the cold weather and biting winds (and yesterday and today we even managed hailstones!) things haven't grown on as much as I would have hoped, so I think on the show veg front, changes for next year will involve a lot more stuff going in my polytunnel. Anyway here we go with a pictorial update for you to peruse at your leisure - feel free to pass comment on anything you want - all advice gratefully received!!
To start us off, here are the toms in the polytunnel - these are Cedrico (x 10) and Shirley (x5). They are watered via the pots sunk into the ground at the base of each cane. I also have 2 x Favorita which is a cherry tom.

Next we have the 5 aubergines - I have grown these before but they has a very slow start last time due to the seemingly voracious appetite that the local earwig population developed for the leaves - hopefully thais problem has been addressed and they will not suffer any setbacks this time around.

And here is a shot of the various brassicas - cabbage, savoy, calabrese, PSB, cauliflower and kale.

The tunnel will also play host to a second of Medwyns Giant Marrow - the first one I think was planted too early and has suffered as a result, and Stenner Runner Beans, with the remaining spaces being filled with chillies, capsicums and salads.
Back at home in the garden I have some Sweet Candle. These took an age to germinate (dunno if it was to do with the blue clay coating or not) and are not really growing on as quick as I would have liked so these are one veg that will be destined for polytunnel growing next year.
Next we have the parsnips - these are a variety called Albion that I received in error from Medwyns so after I was told just to keep them I thought I might as well have a go at trying to grow them for show. Again, these will probably find their way to the tunnel next year.
The beetroot are looking quite good, though one station failed to germinate. These are Pablo and I'm quite happy with their progress to date

As for the tatties, the first pic shows the polypots of Maxine and Harmony, and the other pic shows from right to left, Casablanca,(1 x row) Kestrel (2 x rows) and Winston (1 x row). There is also one polypot with a solitary Charlotte tuber at home - this for the local gardening club class at the Horticultural Show.

The Hative De Niort shallots have been thinned to four bulbs and I have about ten (that's 40 bulbs) that look like this at the moment. Hopefully they'll turn out okay though these were planted primarily to build up a stock of this variety for next year.

And finally, still in the greenhouse we have the second of Medwyns Giant Marrow plants in a 5 litre pot , Stenner Runner Beans, some more aubergines and some spare toms all waiting to go over to the tunnel this weekend,  Thre are also 4 Dwarf French Bean The Prince again in 5 litre pots, along with some newly germinated ones (in smaller pots natch), some Festa Red Lettuce in cells, ready to plant out, two pots of baby leeks for culinary use, a second sowing of each of the following, summer cabbage, cauliflower, lettuce and spring onion and some more beetroot for culinary use
There are also three Pendle leeks that I was given to try this year, but I have just transplanted these into 5 litre pots, put some foam insulation round the barrels and left them to it for now.
And finally there are 7 courgette plants waiting for a home, two more Carmen cukes which have just germinated, and a sowing of Pea Show Perfection in root trainers. I sowed 18 peas in the trainers but i=only about half have germinated - dunno why?  Same sowing compost, same water, same sowing date,  same depth of sowing - everything the same.

Anyway, feel free to comment. I will try and update again next week, time and wife allowing!