I've been planning to build a mini greenhouse by the back door. The original idea was to use various bits and pieces of scrap this and that to construct it from scratch, frame and all; but then my parents offered me the frame of their old one (the cover having expired).
So with a big pile of bubble wrap and some parcel tape, this is the result:
Just in time to house my chilli pepper over winter. The highly scientific "put a hand inside it" temperature check suggests that it is doing its job in keeping things at least a little bit warm.
This week I also harvested the last of my tomatoes, and pulled the old plants up. I have a fair few green tomatoes, but also a surprising number that had gone odd-looking -- slightly brown or black, but not in a pattern suggesting blossom end rot. My only guess is that it's been cold enough that they're suffering from that. Certainly some of the plants have died off already, so it may just be that any surviving tomatoes died with them. I'm sure I've harvested this late before without problems, but perhaps it's been warmer for longer those times. My tomatoes also started later than usual this year, due to the bad spring. I will bear it in mind for next year; and I still got a decent crop. The remainder of the red ones went in a very low oven for a couple of hours today with some oil, and became very tasty indeed.
Then today I planted a new grape vine, with full snail defences from the start. Let's hope it's more successful than the last one.
A quick round-up of this year's garden successes, as the summer growing season comes to a close and I start thinking about autumn planting.
Garlic! No photo, but I got between 12 and 15 garlic bulbs, all of which are tasty and fairly easy to peel. That's 4-5 weeks of our garlic supply, which is great. (We use a lot of garlic.) I will definitely be putting more in in November.
The rhubarb I transplanted from the allotment has settled in fine, despite being transplanted at totally the wrong time of year. No harvest this year as I've been letting it gather its strength, but looking forward to rhubarb crumble and rhubarb jam next year.
The apple tree is doing very well, despite some concerns with the ants earlier in the year, and we should have a good dozen apples this year, assuming they keep growing and no further problems. It needs a good prune over the winter.
The tomatoes are doing wonderfully. I've just started harvesting the first few this week, and they taste great. I have about 50% large (which will mostly be cooked down into passata) and 50% cherry (which will mostly be eaten straight off the vine). The ones in the self-watering containers have once again done best, so plan for next year is to make a few more self-watering containers.
The herb garden has mostly done pretty well. I still think it's a little underutilised (not all of my pots have been filled). The basil struggled a lot, which I think might be a snail problem (see the problems post for more on snails. Main plans for next year: plant more basil and coriander, deal with snails in some way, find a way of reminding other cooks in the house that the fresh herbs are there.
We have all of the rocket in the world (this is just one of the many rocket jungles, some of which emerge from cracks in the paving slabs), mostly self-seeded. The bees like it too. The only issue is that we're not eating that much of it; I need to think about harvesting strategies for next year. However, as weeds go, I'll take rocket over most things.
The chard is also doing very well (note also more rocket). I think this lot self-seeded, but I might have planted it. I eat chard quite regularly, so it is being eaten.
The thing I note from this is that it's the low-maintenance and self-seeded plants that seem to be doing the best. Something to bear in mind when planning for next year.
Despite the erratic weather, things in the garden are moving on happily. A quick list (no photos this time, may try to add some tomorrow):
Apples on the apple tree! Research suggests that as this is a 3-yr-old tree, I should thin the apples a little but don't need to remove them all. So am hoping for at least one apple from the tree this year.
Tomatoes now planted out. Two in a polystyrene tub, two in the back of one of the raised beds, three in self-watering containers, and I will see which do best. My bet is on the SWCs. They're all up against a west-facing fence so should get plenty of sun.
The broad beans have all come out now. A middling harvest; the ones in the raised beds did fine (although hard to get at the ones at the back for harvesting), but the ones in the polystyrene tubs did quite badly. I think they really need more space for their roots.
Peas are growing away merrily and have just started to flower.
Turnips also doing very well; thinned out last week and nibbled on a few of the thinnings raw.
Rocket heading rapidly to seed, so very very peppery.
Lettuces doing great and I really must eat more of them for my lunches!
Nearly none of the beets or chard have come up. I am wondering if the seeds were past it? Will get new seeds to plant for chard to overwinter, anyway.
Courgettes flowering but not yet any female flowers, only male ones. That quite often happens initially, so I'm happy to contain myself in patience.
I have a spare half-bed that I'm not sure what to do with; and a squash in a small pot that badly needs to go down to the allotment as there's no room for it to do well in the garden.
A quick photo to illustrate why it's worth keeping tomato seedlings inside (or in a greenhouse) for that little bit longer, rather than just dumping them outside once they've grown their first couple of leaves and been transplanted. These are the same type of tomato and were sown at the same time:
Transplanted and put straight outside
Transplanted and given another week on the windowsill
Not only does the indoor one have a healthier colour, it also has an extra pair of leaves. I'm hoping that the outdoor one will pick up in time but it'll certainly take longer to reach fruiting stage.
I am considering a further experiment by picking one plant to put straight out from the windowsill without hardening off, and comparing that a week or so later with its hardened-off siblings.
It's spring, so I've been doing a lot of planting in the garden. For once I actually have a month by month list, entered into my diary on a weekly basis, as the only way I'll get things done on time while also wrangling a newborn. I feel alarmingly organised.
Last month was tomato-planting time, so I now have 5 pots of seeds sprouting away on the kitchen windowsill.
Two pots were from packet seeds (Lettuce Leaf, a bush type from the Real Seed Company, though it looks like they no longer stock them, and Peacevine Cherry, from a heirloom packet I got free) which I've liked in the past. All the seeds planted of both have germinated and are doing fine. The other 3 were seeds saved from last year's plants; but only one of them has germinated, which I found a little disappointing.
It turns out that the problem is probably down to a cackhanded effort on my part to increase germination rates. If you're saving your own seed, you can put the seeds in a jamjar with some water for 3 days, you can improve their germination speed. It turns out, however, that that is a strict 3 days - no more, no less. Five months in the jar? Not so good. Ah well; I have 9 baby tomato plants which is plenty, and will have to try seedsaving again this year. In fact last year's plants started out at my old house and finished off at this one, so they might not have been the best-adapted to the new location anyway.
In other signs of spring: the apple tree has started to produce green shoots, after a couple of months of looking a lot like a stick.
That was taken a couple of weeks ago; there are more shoots now, all looking pleasingly healthy.