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Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Veg patch update - August

At the moment there's a wonderful lull in between frantic harvest activities. The earlier fruit is over, the broad beans and podding peas have been harvested and cleared out; there remains only the overgrown mess that was the mange tout to get rid of. Oh my god, did they produce! We got sick of them in the end.

The blight that I mentioned in my last veg patch update in July was kept at bay by several sprayings with Bordeaux Mix; however whilst it was easy enough to pick off affected leaves from the tomatoes it was impossible to do the same for the potatoes. I managed to keep the maincrop Desirees going as long as possible until they started to look a mess and then cut back the haulms. Thankfully they had almost finished flowering and after digging up several plants I'm happy to report they had grown to full size. I've left the others in the ground for now.

This photo shows the harvest from nine 'Belle de Fontenay' earlies and three red 'Desiree' maincrops. B de F are not known as heavy yielders but are grown for their flavour, but I find with 25 plants there's more than enough. The Desirees that I dug up had scab but they were at the end of the rows under the overhang of the peach tree thus the soil was bone dry, whereas the B de F's were still nice and moist and had hardly any scab this year. Scab is caused by dryness at the roots (although strangely enough Monty Don was saying the opposite on Gardeners World ???? never heard of that before!!!). Look, I NEVER have wet soil, it's always dry(ish) and I always have scab, even when I use seep hoses to irrigate (which is still never quite enough moisture). The one year when we have enough rain early on that I don't need to irrigate I had no scab on my earlies!

About 10 days ago I harvested my first French beans, first 3 courgettes and first big red tom! Haven't had any more courgettes forming since then and we've had two more tomatoes, but plenty of beans.

My courgette plants are still tiny, but I will be removing the borage shortly to give them a bit more light and room. I'm really happy that certain veg were behind so I haven't been having to cope with gluts of courgettes at the same time as peas and beans. It's actually worked out really well.

Some tomatoes are doing better than others. Since cutting the haulms from the spuds there have been no more signs of blight on the tomatoes. The best tomato for yield and the one that I'm already picking is 'Fournaise'. Every truss is loaded and I wish I had bought more of these plants instead of some of the others. 'St Pierre' is a total waste of space and has about 4 tomatoes forming. 'Rose de Berne' isn't very impressive either.

This is 'Andine Cornue' which is a heritage variety with funny pointy tomatoes; some even look like large chillies. 'Fournaise' is behind it with the ripening fruit.

'Fournaise'. Yes I know I've got to wash off the Bordeaux Mix very carefully as it can't help but get splashed onto the fruit, but what do you think commercial toms have been sprayed with, even organic ones? It's a small price to pay to actually have any tomatoes at all! 

My chillies are finally starting to produce after a really slow start. I even have the first tiny chilli forming on the Basque chilli 'Piment d'Espelette' whose seeds I bought by mail order at vast expense.

Below are good old Cayennes (the larger plants in the foreground above left) which have never yet failed me and are forming tons of chillies already.

Another slow starter were my cucumbers which struggled so much with my potting compost that I complained about in an earlier post called Germination Woes. Look, I have a cucumber forming! Some of the other plants are still only about 3 inches tall though.

My only two self seeded Potimarrons (winter squash/pumpkin) are romping away nicely now and have quite a few fruit forming.

An overview taken early this morning.

A view of what was the bean/pea bed which I haven't finished tidying up yet. Still need to rip out the mange tout and the strawbs on the left hand side are finished as they are three years old and will be composted. So soon I'll have loads more room for planting more veg as there's only French beans in here and one row of younger strawberries.

It's not all rosy in the veg patch. This year I have a new problem. Sparrows. Whole flocks of the damn things that are not only dust bathing in my soil but are eating my lettuce and beetroot greens. I need to fashion some kind of chicken wire covers to keep them off.

In desperation I have covered the munched Little Gem with these cloches. You can see the difference between the one on the left which was left uncovered and the ones on the right which were under the cover and have started to grow back. Trouble is, these cloches aren't big enough for mature lettuce or beets.

Flowers always do well in the veg patch though and I welcome their cheery sight. This is my tallest sunflower, about 3 metres now!

At the barn end of the veg patch the fence is taken over by nasturtiums and there's also self seeded dill, Verbena bonariensis and knapweed, all loved by pollinators.

View from my 'Wildflowers for pollinators' meadow - which has gone rather floppy so is roughly staked up. This has been a huge success and I will be doing the same next year. I will be writing up a blog posting purely about this experiment shortly.

And yet more sunflowers around the edges of the tomato plot. Did you know they were edible? The flower heads I mean. That's another thing I have yet to try as apparently they taste not unlike artichoke hearts and you prepare them in a similar fashion. 

Finally, now it's August, I can start to sow my brassicas such as radishes and rocket. I can't any earlier as they just get decimated by flea beetle. I have sown my winter brassicas (purple curly kale and PSB) which are in the cold frame and need pricking out and growing on a bit more before planting out in the veg patch. I've also got Chinese leaves/cabbage in the cold frame which will be ready for planting out soon. The outer leaves get munched by the Cabbage White caterpillars but I strip them off for the chickens and we eat the hearted bit. It works out well for everyone!


  1. All I can really say is wow at all you've achieved in your garden.
    Totally amazing and beautiful photographs to illustrate your blog.

    Philippa x

    1. Awww thanks Philippa! It's what I do every year really so just kind of part of the routine! But it's nice to do/try some different things each year, and every year changes a bit too, what with various challenges from climate to insects and disease etc so it's never exactly the same! (That sounds like gobbledigook but I think you get the gist!).

  2. I do get the gist!
    I'll phone you when we are in France to arrange a meet up in the last week of August
    Philippa x

  3. Very impressed with your outdoor tomatoes, despite the blight.
    I am still holding it at bay in the poly- tunnel with just a couple of sprays.

    Like you say, we never really know what gets sprayed on commercial crops, despite the organic label.
    Keep up the great posts, even though it puts my garden to shame. :-)

    1. Well B. Mix is supposedly 'organic'.... I wouldn't use it if I didn't have to though. I'm pleased that I haven't found any more blight on the toms since getting rid of the spud haulms though! Never totally stopped it in its tracks before!!

      Thanks Steve. How are all the rest of your veg? Isn't it time you did a blog update and showed us how it's all coming along? :-)

  4. Looking enviously at your tomatoes. Even though my plants are in a greenhouse there are only a couple with fruit on :{

    1. That's a shame Bilbo :-( These plants here were bought ones though - the ones I grew from seed are well behind. Normally I'd have loads of toms by now.