Monday, 25 July 2016

July round-up

Garlic drying in the garage
This is the month when the emphasis shifts from sowing to harvesting and processing. I've only sown three crops in July: carrots, mooli radishes and rocket. But I've harvested heaps and heaps and made a lot of jam.

The first big vegetable harvest for storage has been garlic. We are very pleased with this year's crop. It's big and beautiful and the flavour is excellent, too. Very few bulbs had turned mouldy. Now the bulbs are hanging up in the garage where they will dry for at least two months.

Strawberry conserve
The shallots have also been harvested in total, but it doesn't look like any of them will make it into storage; they're simply too good not to eat immediately. Now we're waiting for a few dry sunny days to lift the onions so that they can start drying outside in the sun.

The two major fruit crops this month have been gooseberries and strawberries. We have oodles of both. I've made strawberry & rhubarb jam, strawberry conserve and gooseberry &  elderflower jam. Two batches of gooseberry wine are on the go and there are 15 litres of strawberries in the freezer, to be consumed in our porridge over the winter.

Domino on berry watch
Both strawberries and gooseberries have needed to be picked daily as have the peas and mangetout. We've had a bit of bother from thieving blackbirds, but there was enough for everyone so we haven't bothered with netting, which makes harvesting cumbersome. We're hoping that the cats will put the birds off.

The broad beans and new potatoes are coming to an end, but broccoli, courgettes and beetroot are in full swing. Tomatoes, spring-sown cauliflowers and carrots are getting going, while runner beans are starting to flower and squashes are setting their fruit. Plenty to look forward to!

Teenage chicks
Meanwhile, our chicks are not so mini any more. They are distinctly teenage and their genders are now clearly visible. We have three hens and four Christmas cockerels. One of the little cockerels is already trying to crow. Interestingly, we have one hen with black comb, wattles and legs.

The chicks are currently upgrading from chick crumb to growers' pellets and we are also letting them roam out of their enclosure during the day. The door is only open a smidgen so that the adult hens can't get in and nick the chick food and so that the minis have a secure place to hide from their elders.

Quinoa in the new bed
Other than that, Jim's just about to finish digging the new growing area. We have to strictly limit the size of each year's new area since it is such hard work to get the ground prepared. This year's bed was extremely stony, but the soil looks good, almost sandy. The quinoa that has been planted in the first half cleared seems to be enjoying it.

We also plan to cover all the areas that are going to be planted next winter and spring with black plastic this month so that they have at least six months under cover for the weeds to die off (and to minimise ground prep). There will be two more new strips of hedging to plant and a couple to finish planting, plus a new ornamental plus herb bed in the top paddock and a new growing area near the wildlife pond, destiny yet to be decided.

Herb bed
This year's new herb bed, meanwhile, is beginning to look good and supply us with a wide range of herbs. Of course, it's another bed to be weeded, but Jim's near daily round of scything is keeping us in plenty of mulch, which is all getting used to good effect.

Pity we're meant to wait for a year before drinking the gooseberry wine (it remains to be seen how long we can hold out), but then patience is all part of the long-term gardening game.

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