Saturday, 25 August 2012

Getting gappy

It's that time of year when gaps start appearing on the plot as crops are harvested. I mulch the bare soil with compost or fork in chicken pellets depending on what I'll be doing with it next. I'll also be sowing green manures in some of the spaces which won't be being used over the winter.

Still plenty to eat - peas and beans, potatoes, carrots, cabbage, tomatoes, rocket, herbs - and fruit - raspberries, blackberries and the first plums and grapes.

Looking ahead I've been sowing mizuna, leaf beet, Chinese mustard and spring cabbage. And in the flower department  foxgloves and larkspur.

These days, as you may have gathered, I'm more and more interested in making sure the plot is of use to wildlife, so I'm devoting more space to flowers for our bees and butterflies.

These ones are new this year:

 Aster Frikartii Monch
 Catananche Coerulea (Cupid's Dart) - grown from seed and just starting to flower. 
Scabiosa Beaujolais Bonnets - also grown from seed and just starting to flower. 


The top fruit hasn't done at all well this year - the apples, pears and plums all suffered through there're not being many pollinators about back in the cold and wet at blossom time. The only exception has been the little cherry plums which were blossoming during the heatwave in March. The blackbirds and thrushes carry most of them away but it's not as though I can eat them all. And the trees are not completely bare; having less helps me appreciate what I have got all the more. How right on is that?

With the exception of the gooseberries the soft fruit have been as abundant as ever. The summer raspberries have given way to the autumn crop, the grapes are about ready and the wild blackberries never have a problem fruiting - and their flowers are so useful for the bees and butterflies.

Holly blue on blackberry flower
Grapes ready to nibble

Friday, 24 August 2012

Peas and beans

Harvested the last of the maincrop peas today; I've been freezing most of them as I now have plenty of beans -  runners, climbing French and the wonderful Egyptian pea bean. This last one always crops well in either drought or wet; it's been doing well for me from saved seed for several years now.

Maincrop potatoes

These are a bit disappointing this year, but hardly surprising given the conditions we've had. I cut the leaves off at the first signs of blight about a month ago so they're on the small size, and at least half are affected by wireworm. I'll store them in trays rather than sacks so that I can keep an eye on them over the coming weeks and months. Still plenty to keep me going so at least I won't starve.

Nicotiana mutabilis

These have been the surprise hit of the year. I'd grown them from seed under glass and after the meadow mix failed to germinate I put them in in their place. They sat and sulked through the rain and somehow survived the attentions of all the slugs; they must have been putting down good roots because in the last month they've thrown up all these flowers up to 2 metres high. I always used to grow sylvestris but found out that British moths, unlike in their South American cousins, are unable to get at the nectar at the base of their long tubular flowers. Not so mutabilis, which is also enjoyed by the carder bees, and even the smaller honey bees squeeze their way into the flowers.

More flowers for bees and butterflies

 Corn marigold
 Field poppy
 Rose campion
 Eryngium "Miss Wilmot's Ghost"
 Cosmos "Candy Stripe"
 Echinacea purpurea
Verbena bonariensis 
 Helianthus "Lemon Queen"

 Evening Primrose

Marjoram again
Erysimum Bowles Mauve - perennial wallfower - flowers all summer long. 

Sunday, 5 August 2012


August and the climax of the growing season. We now have tomatoes and runner and climbing French beans to go with our our peas, potatoes, cabbages, garlic, carrots and lettuce. The summer raspberries have given way to the autumn ones and today I ate the first blackberry. The flowers look pretty too.


On to the next patch now; it's a miracle these have survived this year with all the pests they've had to deal with. They might look pretty ropey but have good hearts - a bit like some allotment gardeners.

Brussels and broccoli

These too had a difficult start - being stunted early on by the flea beetle - but are coming along now.

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Flowers and bees and stuff



Nicotiana mutabilis - good for moths

Verbena bonairiensis - good for butterflies


Shield bug on phlox

Honeybee on marjoram


Ragwort seems to get a bad press - ramped up by the British Horse Society - and it is toxic if eaten in large amounts by horses, but only if they eat kilos of the stuff. And as I'm not allowed to keep livestock on my plot this doesn't concern me unduly. In fact there are a lot of myths about ragwort as pointed out on this site. Ragwort is not toxic if handled by humans. Bees and hoverflies enjoy the flowers of this native wildflower and there are many other species which require its nectar and pollen. It is often a major and important resource for many declining species - there are at least thirty species of invertebrates which are totally dependent on ragwort as a food source, including the caterpillar of the funky cinnabar moth. So be nice to ragwort.