29 August 2011

Summer time and the living is...

... all a bit mad really. What with kids being off school, going on holiday, the allotment going mad and job hunting. Now that's the excuses out of the way, what been happening?

Plot no. 2
I discovered I have a plum tree! The tree was on my list to chop down in the autumn as I didn't know what it was - it not having bothered to produce anything in the last three years - and nor did any of my neighbours. But 18 plums this summer have saved it. Yes, everyone else was complaining about trees groaning under the weigh of plums and mine managed a paltry 18.

All 18 plums seemingly on this branch!

The picture does seem to show far more plums on the tree than I actually picked! However, the tree doesn't look the healthiest of trees so any advice on what's up with it, and more importantly what to do about it, appreciated. Clearing up around it would be a start though.

Unhappy plum tree

Elsewhere, the plot is really suffering from a lack of water. It's far drier than plot no. 1 at the best of times, but we've hardly had any rain this year here in Sheffield and it's like digging in sand at times. As a result there's not much going on up there really. The peas and climbing beans largely failed to germinate. I'm suspecting the seeds were eaten. The dwarf beans have been the stars of the show though, slow to get going but once they did we've had masses of yellow and purple beans, freezing quite a few of them. The only disappointment being the purple ones turn green on cooking.

The apples are looking good, even though the trees are in a 'transitional' stage. I pruned the two larger ones quite a bit last winter to stop them from falling over as they were growing sideways, which has obviously impacted on the amount of apples growing this year. There's still quite a bit of work to do with them to get them growing upwards again, so another quiet year expected next year too. And the smaller 'eater' tree is getting better although the birds and wasps have taken a liking to the fruit meaning most of them have been eaten before they were ready to be picked - there were probably only 30 apples anyway.

The strawberries were poor once again and will be going. The raspberries I attempted to move in the winter have largely died - amazingly for raspberries! - but I'm sure those that have survived will spread out in time to cover the space. I've remained restrained and not touched the newly moved rhubarb, not that there would have been much anyway with the lack of water.

The dahlias have been a bit crap up on plot no. 1 (another quality product from Garden 4 Less - not!) and the gladioli really needed staking, but the cornflowers have been the stars of the show up there. All I did was throw a packet of seed on the ground and they've been brilliant all summer:

They're going to seed now and have been battered by the wind in the last few days, but are still flowering away.

Plot No. 1
The polytunnel is keeping me busy with endless watering, and even then it's not really enough for the tomatoes. They could also do with a bit more sun and warmth. They're slowly ripening, I've even tried putting some bananas in there, but the six of them are a bit lost in there really! The chillies are also slow to ripen and somewhat of a mystery this year. Not quite sure what happened but there must have been a serious mix up with the labelling this year. To paraphrase Eric Morecambe, I have all the right labels, but not necessarily on the right plants. I have some Padron, Hungarian Hot Wax, Joe's Long, Cayenne, Jalapeno and Ring of Fire, but not one of them seems to be labeled correctly. I can recognise most of them but the wild cards are the couple I bought at the school plant sale, that I can't remember what they were and weren't labeled anyway. It appears as though I have many Joe's Long growing since most of the plants have very long chillies on (about a foot long), but not as many Jalapenos as I wanted.

The chaos inside the polytunnel!

Banana ripening trick

Joe's Long?
I've added some velcro fastened plastic over the door ventilation screen to keep some of the heat in over winter. However since it's not exactly warm at the moment, I'm keeping one of them closed most days and the other still open. I also put a wire along the length of the tunnel that I'll use to train plants up next year, but for now is handy to dry onions and seed heads from. Could do with tightening up a bit still though.

Outside, the Charlottes have been great as ever but almost at an end. I made the mistake of letting the kids dig up "one plant" only to realise they'd dug up half a row the next time I looked. We had potatoes a lot that week. And they didn't complain once!

I've just started digging up some of the others (Desiree, King Edwards and Pink Fir) since the tops died off a while back and they're all looking a bit small, which is understandable given the lack of rain. The slugs seem to have taken a liking to the King Edwards though, but none of the others???

The climbing French beans have been slow to climb but have been reasonably productive. The Borlotti beans positively sprinted to the top of the netting though and will be prolific if they fill out before it gets too cold. The peas I'd all but given up on have finally come to life and whilst we're not going to be eating many, there should be enough to keep the kids happy.

The courgettes of course are highly productive. I think I have about 8 plants this year across both plots but I'm keeping on top of them by picking them very young - about 10cm long. Well until we go away for a few days then they're at least twice that length and a lot fatter! Picked the first patty pan (Pattison Blanc) this weekend.  Not entirely sure what to do with it, any ideas? The Gemstore round dark green squash I grew last year have been a lot shyer this year. Last year I had 25 off two plants, this year I've got two growing on two plants. My orange pumpkin seems to have given up on the idea of producing fruits and the Crown Prince have produced a couple of small pumpkins between them. Again I guess the lack of water hasn't really helped.

The raspberries have finally kicked in, they're always a bit disappointing to be honest. As soon as they get going it starts raining then they all go mouldy. The blueberries didn't survive the birds, must do a better job with the netting next year.

The broad beans have gone and leeks have gone in where the Charlottes were. The recent rain has helped them bed in nicely. I underplanted the climbing bean and reluctant peas with salad crops that have been brilliant all summer. It even helped keep the rocket from going to seed as quickly as normal. Now it's cooling down a bit I've planted some more rocket alongside the polytunnel, together with some chard (which I originally thought was beetroot!), spring onions and dill.

Flowers - again
The flowers on plot no. 1 have been far better. We're inundated with sweet peas and various dahlias. I'm not sure why the dahlias have been so much better than on plot no. 2, as plot no. 2 is the one that usually gets the most sunshine.

The gladioli seemed to hold up much better and we've even had some carnations.

That's probably most of it for now, the next update should be along in a couple of days when it'll be five years since I took on plot no. 1!


Mo said...

Good to hear how things are :) I love that you complain about the lack of water then blame the rain for spoiling your raspberries ;) I'm saying nowt.
Can't help about Plum Trees, we pretty much let ours 'do their own thing', we were just lucky this year. Mo

RobD said...

Good point Mo, but it's barely rained all summer then starts just as my raspberries are ready, and I'm a gardener so I'm never happy with the weather!

It'll be slugs, then frost next ;>)

Sue Garrett said...

The lack of rain and cool temperatures have really taken their toll this year. We seem to have a similar problem to you although our clay soil goes rock hard rather than sandy!

AS for the plum tree - ours used to get lots of aphids that killed off the leaves in spring until we gave it a winter wash each year see this page on my website. Some pruning may help but don't do it now. This page on the RHS website may be of some help.

chris said...

Good to have you back Rob! We seem to have been luckier with the weather here, although it has been a bit of an odd year. It's turned cold now. Look at the pictures of my plum tree - similar colour to yours but perhaps more oval in shape. The banana trick worked, but I had to throw them away eventually as they turned into a fly factory.

Greenmantle said...

Erm....the banana thing works better if you actually PICK the tomatoes first, and put them in a drawer or box with it! Also, picking partially ripened fruit makes the remaining green one come on a lot faster. :)

RobD said...

So if I put several hundred in the polytunnel that might work? ;>) Nice to see you back on the scene though Greenmantle, you gonna revive the blog?