Sunday, 18 July 2010

Pausing for breath

I've tried fried green tomatoes, but I didn't think much of them. I definitely prefer them ripe and this monster will take some eating!
Well, I can't quite believe that I haven't posted anything about the garden since April! I've a number of excuses - I was quite ill for a lot of May, and then for June and July have barely had a weekend when I've been at home. Ah, the social whirl that is my life (apparently - never happened before!) Oh. And my dog ate it. Fortunately, we seem to have hit that summer lull, where things are starting to be ready to harvest, the weeds seem to have been burned out of the ground, and there isn't a huge amount to do - so here we go:

Of course, the combination of illness in May and social life in June couldn't really have come at a worse time in the gardening year. There were oceans of plants in the greenhouse to be potted on, then planted out - quite a number didn't make it past the seedling stage before they shrivelled to a crisp in the unseasonably hot weather we had in May. Those that did survive and were actually potted on, then had to reach the planting out stage ... Still, quite a number of plants have made it and we've been enjoying some harvest for a couple of weeks. First to crop were our strawberries, but we're also now sampled our broad beans (following a fantastic recipe for hummus from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall which we've already had a number of times this year), peas (simply boiled and served with a knob of butter and some mint) and carrots (we thought about entering the Caversham Horticultural Society show in the autumn and our carrots would definitely win the 'most misshapen veg' category!)
We've now harvested most of our first early potatoes (due to be sampled this week) and the second earlies are well on their way too, whilst the main crop of pink fir apple are still growing strong and have a very pretty white flower.
We've also had a good crop of garlic and a magnificent crop of shallots. The latter are currently drying in our mini-greenhouse (now situated outside the main greenhouse as it was starting to reach nuclear temperatures in there!) and I'm already looking at a number of pickling recipes with an eye to Christmas presents!

Our fruit is doing very well - all of the established trees in the garden seem to have borne our hesitant attempts at pruning with magnanimity. The grape vines in particular are well-established now and it seems a shame that we're going to have to cut them back in order to train them - one has a leader that is now taller than me! Our strawberries were delicious, but sadly over too quickly with nowhere near enough to think about jam this year. Fortunately, we've a number of new plants already growing on from runners from this year's purchases, so we'll have increased our crop for free next year! Our raspberries are autumn-fruiting so although we've had a handful of quite tasty berries we're still waiting for the main crop. The blackcurrant cropped (which it wasn't meant to in it's first year) but the berries taste quite bitter, so we're not planning to harvest them this year and will hope for a better result next summer.

The winter veg has rooted well and may soon outgrow our netted frames - we're looking forward to fresh parsnip, brussels, cabbage, leeks and kale from the autumn and getting into the purple sprouting broccoli in the new year. Finally, our solanaceas are all looking set to crop very well, with plenty of flowers and some emergent green fruit beginning to ripen - we should have courgette and squash by next weekend, although the tomatoes, peppers and chillis seem a bit slower. I've been feeding much less frequently this year (and I have actually only fed the tomatoes and the courgettes in the greenhouse - the other veg has grown without additional help).