Thursday, 18 August 2016

July 2016 - hot!

July was an average sort of month for our area in the UK except that we had several days of very, VERY hot weather. On July 18th the temperature hit 35 degrees C. The cat gave up and tried to find somewhere cool indoors, we didn't even try to work in the garden and any watering that was needed was left to early morning. At least the spell of hot dry weather gave our squashes, peppers and tomatoes a boost, and one of the cucumber plants went berserk.

I was away working for a few days in the middle of the month and came back to a monster cucumber that had suddenly appeared alongside a couple of slightly smaller ones. It was a very nice ridge cucumber but not what I had expected. The plants that I had put in this container were supposed to be striped and globular (can't remember the name of the variety). I have no idea what went wrong with this one as the other plants are now fruiting as described on the packet. I probably mis-labelled the seedling.

The walking onions - also known as perennial onions, Egyptian onions, tree onions, or topsetting onions - are at last walking, They form a cluster of bulbils on top of a stem which makes it top heavy. The stem bends over and when the bulbils touch the ground they take root and produce more plants, so it is like they are walking across the garden. You can add the bulbils to salads or use them in cooking but this year we have reserved them for generating more onions. Nearby is a serpentine garlic, which I had completely forgotten about. Near the top of the serpentine stem bulbils are formed. When ripe, the stem uncurls and the bulbils drop to the ground, again forming new plants. Love these plants. Almost all you have to do, once they are established, is let them get on with it. Of course, you still have to thin them out and pull up the bulbs and stems that you want to eat! Otherwise, it is relax on the garden lounger with a drink and watch them do their own thing.

Egyptian walking onions
Serpentine garlic

This year has turned out to be a superb one for onions, although earlier in the year we did think that the overwintered sets were going to a disaster. A few did flower and set seed or bunch into something more akin to shallots but on the whole we have had a good crop.

The same cannot be said for the garlic. We gathered plenty of bulbs but they are all on the small side. Many of them also had bulbils forming halfway up the stems.

The veg in the containers in zone 1 alongside the kitchen/bathroom extension are doing well and an experiment in growing peas at the back of the gro-beds has been a great success. We have been having peas, peas and yet more peas for lunch! The lettuces have all been eaten and the tomatoes and squashes are now taking over the beds.

The chillis in the pots have finally sprung into action following the hot weather and it is onwards and upwards for the the runner beans. The problem with the beans is that they are so tall they are crawling across the kitchen roof. We shall either have to resort to ladders to harvest the topmost beans or leave them until the end of the season when they can be collected for seed for next year.

Peas, potatoes and cabbages are still the main crops at the moment with a few carrots and beetroot. As mentioned in the June posting the cabbages were very poor last year but have made up for it in 2016. Cauliflowers are the complete opposite. In 2015 we had several 4 pounders but this season we were lucky to have enough for a couple of meals - and the colour was weird. There is white cauliflower, cream cauliflower, green cauliflower and purple cauliflower. But we found a couple of mostly white with purple splodges caulis in our garden. It was in an area where self seeded stuff is allowed to grow so we're wondering if it's a cross between a white cauli and purple sprouting broccoli - or just a mutant! Disappointingly, the colour disappeared on cooking as is often the case with purple coloured veg.

Escaping horseradish
The bag containing the horseradish is in zone 3 and generally we don't pay much attention to it unless we want to pull up a root to make some sauce. This year we started growing strawberries for ground cover around this and other veg bags in that area and it was when we went to pick some berries that the horrible sight you see to the left greeted us. The horseradish has broken through the bottom of the veg bag, not just here but at four other points, and it is spreading. The gardening magazines, forums and blogs do warn that horseradish will eventually stage a break out no matter how well contained. This is war but it looks as though it is going to be a never-ending battle with no chance of either of us winning outright.

Mr or Mrs Toad (or both, or perhaps even the whole family) have been crawling around the garden and there are frogs a-plenty hopping everywhere. This one was spotted under the shade of the gooseberry bush. Great to see so many of them in residence.

Brassica seedlings
Everything is in place for the summer, autumn and early winter harvests but now is the time to start thinking about the mid to late winter and early spring supply of veg. We don't have to worry about the purple sprouting broccoli as we allow it to go to seed and it sorts itself out. Brussel sprouts and some cabbages are already on their way to being established as is the cavolo nero but this/next year's main project re brassicas is to try out different varieties of kale. Red Ursa on the right of the picture, a stable cross between  Frilly Siberian Kale and Red Russian Kale (seeds from the Real Seed Catalogue), leaves looks especially interesting.

With so much food coming out of the garden this month I have to show off at least one meal, which is what we had for Sunday lunch at the start of July - and we did rather pig out. NOT from the garden were rice, split peas for the dhal, chickpea flour, vegetable oil, milk for the home made yogurt, and spices. Home grown ingredients: beetroot (beetroot tikki), potatoes, peas, pea pods, cabbage, swiss chard, onion, garlic, cucumber, lettuce, coriander, parsley, mint. The bhaji (below the beetroot tikki) was made of onions, shredded pea pods and shredded cabbage.

And finally...

The view from the kitchen window, 22nd July 2016. The first crop of peas have nearly finished and now the triffids (squash) are taking over and trying to break in!

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