Wednesday, August 10, 2011


Last minute rush

Before my hols. Picking vaguely red tomatoes so they don't over ripen while I am away, chopping down the rocket so it doesn't bolt, planting out lettuce, lifting some spuds. Unfortunately I don't have time to weed :-( so it's a bit of a mess. But after that I have another week off so I can tidy, prune and prepare for the end of the season.
Happy holidays to all! I will try and take some more pics of the wonderful fruit and veg in the south of France!

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Monday, August 08, 2011


Still raining

The summer is a total washout. The weekend again was filled with rainy skies. So what does one do in that case? You bag up your onions! :-) I went to fetch them (during a brief non-humid period) and discovered that something (probably the bloody vole)had been rifling through them and a couple were even nibbled! The cheek! So the shed is not rodent proof (note to self). Still not too bad, I filled 3 5kg spud bags with brown onions and 2 2.5 kg bags with red onions and 5 small bags of echalotes. That's plenty to see us through the next year, especially as I have lots that are slightly damaged that we will eat over the next few weeks.
Incidentally the bloody rodent has been chewing the beetroot too. For once I got some decent size roots and they have big chunk taken out of them! So I lifted them scrubbed them and cooked them, we will just have to chop them about a bit. Maybe before the late harvest it will have breathed its last or been eaten by something.
In a rare moment of lucidity, I also planted out a doezen small lettuce plants - it subsequently drizzled all day which is a great way to start them off!
I harvested some more tomatoes, a yellow courgette as well as a bagful of mint which is currently steeping to make mint cordial, and lots of sage and thyme for drying and a heap of rocket for salad. Lots of cucumbers on the vine but still very small. I hope they will be ready when we go on hols at the end of the week. There are plenty of peppers growing, and a few aubergines (not the best harvest this year). I also brought home the first Turk's Turban pumpkin, beautiful creation in dark orange and green stripes. Striking.
I also cut a bit of grass, hacked down a few weeds, so it didn't look so untidy, but I fear that the plot is going to be in less than pristine condition when I leave it.

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Friday, August 05, 2011


Unpredictable weather

The weather is just stupid right now. Rain, then sunny periods then grey skies and cold winds. All in one day. Freaky.

So maybe now is a good time to make Mint Cordial! A friend gave me her recipe. It's really refreshing in cold water and probably nice in cocktails too! It doesn't have that sickly chemical mint taste (commercial mint cordials are like drinking toothpaste, erk) but is more like the taste of mint tea. I have loads of feral mint growing around the sides of the shed, sounds like the perfect time to hack it all down and put it to good use.

300g fresh mint, washed, which is basically several big bunches
1 litre of water
1.2kg sugar
(Yes you can reduce or increase quantities proportionally).

Chop up the stems of mint roughly and bruise it.
Boil the water and pour over the mint in a bowl, and steep the mint in the water for 24 hours, covered.
The next day, wring out the mint getting all the drops of juice out.
Dissolve the sugar into it then boil for 2-3 minutes.
Cool and bottle.

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Tuesday, August 02, 2011


Change in the weather

Last night, after a day of very hot sunny weather I was rushing down to water the vegetables, including the pricked out lettuces that were looking decidely shrivelled under their fleece (I have more if I have accidentally killed these). Today it is warm but overcast and it definitely looks like it will rain for most of the week. There is no justice.

The tomatoes are starting to ripen, I picked 3 reddish ones yesterday and there are several others that are looking quite yellow. But I am rather hoping that many will be ripe before my hols, in a fortnight's time... There really are some splendid toms this year, if I may say so myself. There is a large fruited-variety (it is probably Marmande I think) that has a truss of 6 huge fruit, tightly packed around the vine and dark green so far. A great outcome, as last year's fruit were healthy but quite small. I think the July rain was obviously a big factor.
I also dug up a few kilos of spuds. As predicted, the red Rosabelle second earlies are very good. About 6 or 7 spuds per plant of a good size, many 8 or 9 cm long. I hope the Desiree mains will be just as good - their foliage is almost completely dead now so underground they will swell for another week or so, I guess.
It was a quick visit, just time to water, and rip out a few weeds here and there. It does need a pretty good cleanout before the holiday break, but if it rains, will I be able to do that in time?? Ah, always something getting in between me and complete vegetal victory.

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Monday, August 01, 2011


First tomatoes

At last! I got 2 Coeur de Boeuf (note to self - remember to save seed from this baby), and a couple of Gardener's Delight.
In a rather paranoid fashion I have been pulling off any yellowish or imperfect leaves I have found, in a blight panic attack, following all the wet weather we had. So far, so good. There are masses of fruit and flowers, now it just has to all ripen!
I also ate my first cucumber, beautiful; not a hint of bitterness. There are 3 more swelling and other vines are still to reach fruiting stage. So hopefully many weeks of cukes to come.
The courgettes are now up to speed, giving several fruit a week. The Serpente has not yet given fruit but as it is covered in its gorgeous white flowers it will surely not be long. I have also identified my other courgette plants: there is a Sunbeam yellow summer pattypan squash and a yellow Parador courgette. So lots of colours this year.
On Sunday I pricked out some lettuce seedlings, and fleeced them as it has suddenly turned hot. Didn't want them in full sun unprotected.
The pumpkins are still suffering from powdery mildew but I am trying to remove affected leaves and giving them milk baths, so hopefully the fruit will still ripen. There are heaps of fruit on them! A very successful start to the squash year!
And strangely enough, the rhubarb has suddenly decided to perk up and throw out wonderful stems! I may be tempted to pinch a few of them, they are much better than the spring ones which suffered badly in the drought conditions.

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