Tuesday, 9 August 2016

June - busy, busy, busy

Like 2015, 2016 started off cold and sometimes extremely wet. Everything, including parsnips, was started off indoors but May saw the start of warmer weather and planting out could begin. The good growing conditions continued in June and we had a continuing harvest of overwintered crops. We also had to play catchup over a very short time-span with sowing and planting out so there was very little time to relax and lounge around.

I started to clear and tidy up an area against the kitchen wall where, last autumn, I had dumped a couple of pots and piled up some wood. I abandoned the tidying up and replaced everything when I spotted this grumpy looking inflated toad. It could explain why the chard and brussel sprout seedlings that I had forgotten about and left out overnight had not been gobbled up by slugs and snails as they normally would have been.

I saw a second one at the other end of the garden but it could have been the same one having a wander around in search of alternative hiding places. May he/she and their friends continue their good work in the garden.

At this time of year not all the possible food growing areas are in use so if flowers pop up I leave them be. Like this poppy, they add a welcome splash of colour and encourage pollinators into the garden.

The potatoes bags right at the back of the garden are doing well and we've managed to plant runner beans against the fence itself. We still can't plant much in that strip because of  the sycamore tree roots. The trees that were on the other side of the fence have been removed but the substantial roots remain and are close to the surface. The beans do OK there but very little rain reaches them with the potatoes overshadowing the soil, so I have to remember to water them regularly.

The Babington's leeks have now reached maturity (it is their third year in the garden) and three of them have sprouted flower stalks. Hopefully they will mature and we shall have dozens of bulbils some of which will go back into the garden and the rest shared with other gardeners in the area.

Clouds of these beauties have been darting around the garden this month. Common blue damselfly Enallagma cyathigerum.

This was an experiment in growing potatoes from supermarket potatoes. It is not generally a good idea to try this as you cannot guarantee that they will be disease free and they are usually sprayed with chemicals that inhibit sprouting; but I decided to see how far I could get with some Ruby Gem. As expected, they didn't sprout very well when left on the dresser in the kitchen (my usual chitting area) but there was enough growth to encourage me to plant them out in a potato bag. Growth was rather leggy and it quickly died back. The total yield from 3 potatoes was 274g. Some supermarket salad potatoes fared even worse. They just sat on the dresser for two months and turned green.

The experiment supports the general opinion that it is not really worth trying to get a decent group out of the treated potatoes to be found on supermarket shelves.

The peas that I used to test viability and germination rates for the Reading Food Growing Network are growing apace in the bags alongside the kitchen and bathroom extension. This is what they look like from the kitchen window.

And here is the outside view. The runner beans in the tub are also starting to take off.

We have plenty of  overwintered pointed cabbages and onions this year. Last year the cabbages were a great disappointment but they have more than made up for that in 2016. I have been cutting the heads off but leaving the stems with a few of the lower leaves hoping to encourage them to regrow. We are now starting to see a second crop of looser heads of leaves.

We have a lot of wild alpine strawberries in our garden that were planted to provide ground cover at the rear of the garden while we decided what to with that patch. The area had, for the last few years, been overshadowed by sycamore trees on the other side of the fence and their roots still restrict what we can plant there. The strawberry fruits may be small but they are gorgeous little flavour bombs. Delicious with homemade yogurt and the first of this season's locally produced honey from 600 yards down the road.

The wild strawberries take over a patch of ground very quickly and are difficult to manage so regrettably they will have to go now that the ground is to be used for higher yielding crops.

Replacing the wild strawberries in some places are the larger "domesticated" varieties and the first of those are beginning to ripen.  
Two years ago I planted a small grape vine that I bought from a stall at a RISC Roof Garden open day. We may have grapes this year!

The tea bags for this year's Tea Bag Index Project have arrived. See my posting about last year's participation for details of what is involved. This year the pairs of tea bags are going into the strip of ground next to the back fence, the ground that is next to the composting area, and the narrow strip alongside the garden shed.

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