Saturday, July 28, 2007

Bud the Spud

I've just harvested the Roseval salad potatoes and I'm well pleased. The weather hasn't adversely affected this lot. There are 100 excluding the top row of little ones, from only 5 seed potatoes.
Here's Stompin'Tom to sing the praises of his home growed potatoes.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Detritus 101

A part of the 'Integrated Pest Management' that beekeepers must routinely do is an inspection of the litter tray. You insert a sticky/greasy paper under the mesh floor and after a few days take a good hard look at what's dropped there. The idea is that if a mite falls it'll stick and be counted. And the good folks at DEFRA have calculated mite populations based on that. Well we've got good news and bad news. One hive with less than 2 mites a day is very good for this time of year. But the other one with about 8 a day will require some immediate action. It's going to interrupt the honey harvest from that hive but hopefully we can get the bee population healthy enough to last the winter. The honey bee got a lot of press this spring (not as much as Paris Hilton maybe) concerning the phenomenon that has been termed 'Colony Collapse Disorder'. Current thinking is that it isn't any one thing but rather like a bee Aids, whereby their immune system is weakened (stress, pesticides, etc.) and then they can be finished off by something that wouldn't normally be fatal. Anyone interested can 'listen again' to a recent Food Programme on Radio 4 which looks at the problem. And I see that Patrick @ Bifurcated Carrots has flagged up an article which has yet another theory.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Vestal Virgins

It's so heartening to see the first female flowers on the squash plants as there can be a long succession of male only, particularly early in the season. And you can already begin to see evidence of the shape, colour and markings of the mature fruit in the unfertilized ovaries.
John Loudon, a best selling garden writer at the turn of the 19th century commented on the growing of squash that " The seeds of pumpkin are scattered in the field, when planting corn, and no further trouble is necessary than throwing them into the wagon when ripe."
While I know this to be essentially true, I still go and check on them daily and wring my hands when the fruit doesn't develop but just turns yellow and drops off. Some plants wait until late August to start producing a real fruit. I have a couple of plants that have only managed one or two male flowers so far. Some of the factors affecting flower production and sexual expression such as temperature, daylength and light intensity, I know I can do nothing about anyway. So I'll take comfort in the evidence of past harvests.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Daylight Robbery

The philosopher Democritus advised that for a long life you must 'moisten your insides with honey and your outsides with oil'. Yesterday we made off with 28 lbs. of the sweet stuff from our two hives and there was a lot of licking up needed doing to get it packed into jars. By the end our innards and outards were well moistened. This crop is very light coloured with a decidedly flowery taste. Mmmm mmm.
Apparently in Slovenia, Job was the protector of beekeepers. Here is a little painting of the guardian sitting atop a pile of manure next to the hives from the Museum of Apiculture in Radovljika.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Tender Buttons

"It was a cress a crescent a cross and an unequal scream, it was upslanting, it was radiant and reasonable with little ins and red."

"Very well. Certainly the length is thinner and the rest, the round rest has a longer summer. To shine, why not shine, to station, to enlarge, to hurry the measure all this means nothing if there is singing, if there is singing then there is the resumption."

Gertrude Stein

Wednesday, July 04, 2007


We've been having some wild weather here this spring/summer. After a lackadaisical April - the warmest & sunniest since MET records of 1914 with only 2mm. rain - we got the wettest May ever (103mm. in my garden). Typical of the last few weeks is this little sequence that I recorded while sitting in the studio yesterday afternoon. It came complete with lightning and then rainbows when I cycled into town later. It's enough to make you want to join the Cloud Appreciation Society. Have a look at their photo gallery and be amazed.

Monday, July 02, 2007


Yesterday (Canada, Oh Canada, Day) we got a sunny afternoon so I went around the allotment and garden, camera in hand, to record the growth to date. This is the kind of list that nobody but me wants to read but I'm writing it as if someone will.
(a) A 12 foot row of climbing beans 'True Red Cranberry', after a slow start are now about 2/3 of the way up the pole, leaf amaranthe 'Kahulu' is over a foot tall, Roseval salad potatoes are in flower and 3 squash moschata 'Shishigatani' have vines 4 to 5 feet long.
(b) Corn 'Golden Bantam' (20 plants) is as high as an elephant's thigh (well knee maybe).
(c) Enough Morello cherries this year for 2 bottles of cherry schnapps methinks.
(d) Four courgette 'Costa Romanesca' are producing fruit now. I've also got three 'Albarellodi Sarzana' almost ready to plant out.
(e) One of 8 squash 'Blue Hubbard' in the foreground, some 'Weggiser' snap peas and a couple of the 10 'Green Globe' artichokes that I started for next year.
(f) Parsnips 'Half Long Guernsey' are looking hale while the cabbage 'Holland Late Winter' and brussels sprouts 'Groninger' behind are a bit pigeon-pecked.
(g)'Keswick Codlin' cooking apples will be ready in about 4 weeks.
(h) We're having salads most days to keep up with the lettuce which is thriving in this weather. In the top corner just visible are a few of the leeks I dibbed-in (?) 10 days ago - 30 'Swiss Giant Zermatt' and 45 'Siegfried'.
The cucumbers 'Kaiser Alexander' didn't get their picture taken because they have just sat and stared at me since I planted them out 4 weeks ago. Also not pictured but doing well are a dozen celeriac 'Giant Prague', 2 squash 'Marina di Chiogga', 5 squash 'Buttercup', climbing haricot beans 'Aunt Jean' and 'Soissons', dwarf bean 'Magpie' and 4 each of tomatoes 'Pink Brandywine', 'Yellow Pear', 'Stupice' and 'Isis Candy'. A dozen kale 'Nero di Toscana', 8 purple sprouting broccoli, and a dozen 'Westfalian' kale 5-6 inches in height got planted out yesterday. In modules 'Large Green' chard, corn 'Orchard Baby' and okra 'Beck's Gardenville' are about an inch high.
On Saturday I sowed a tray of lettuce 'Black Grained Simpson' and 'Craquerelle du Midi', more parsley and fennel 'Romanesco'. We have finished the early potatoes and are now on the 'Charlottes'. The 'Guerande' carrots that I thought had failed to germinate have just shown up and beetroot 'Devoy' and 'Lutz' have 2 true leaves.
Hmm, this diary could be useful in years to come if only I had kept a detailed record of sowing dates. Next year.