Sunday, July 22, 2007

Flooding, Greenhouses and Rose Arches

Just been up to the allotment to find that some of the localised thunderstorms we have been having localised themselves directly over the Nesserlaan! Gah!

I took some pictures. First here is the flooding:


This area of the garden has consistently flooded. I have two options here as I see it. I can move the sitting area from the other side of the garden down to here and have a squishy sitting area or I can raise the beds by importing a whole lot of sand and soil and improving the drainage. I'm leaning toward the first option purely because it will be simpler to have the chairs and table at the entrance where I can put all my things down as I enter the garden.

Also, I won't be able to leave my mobile phone lying under a pile of branches on the table at the end of the garden and completely forget it, like I did two weeks ago, and only remember that it was lost once it had started raining!

We put up an archway for the thornless blackberries and will be planting a climbing rose, one of the David Austin ones, to keep the blackberries company. My idea was to make a wider path, which sort of stepped sideways into a patio area to cover the flooded area. I could put my potplants in that section too.

Here's the archway:

Archway for the blackberries and the planned new climbing rose.

See the flooding on the pathway too?

I also bought some portable greenhouses that were a special offer at the Lidl. My neighbour spotted them in the Lidl newsletter and called me to take a look. At 25 euros each they are quite sturdy with a metal frame and a plastic cover. They have windows on three sides so you can open the plastic to allow the air to circulate. Inside the plastic is another zipped netting area which forms the window. These are they:

New plastic greenhouses

They are placed at right angles to cover the beds of ailing tomatoes and protect them from the wind and storms that are expected the next few days. When they are used properly they will be placed over beds that are the same dimensions as them so that they can easily be moved from one to another.

I think these will be perfect for next year for my tomatoes, sweet peppers and a melon plant. The plastic should keep any blight away from the plants and the whole structure will keep wind damage to a minimum. I'll be able to use the greenhouses to protect early crops from the birds too, like my peas and early lettuces.

Butternut & Gemsquash Update

Thank god for squash! If it wasn't for squash I'd have virtually nothing on my allotment now. We have harvested about 20 Rolet gemsquash so far and have been very pleased with ourselves. It's been years since I had gemsquash! The kids are not convinced that it's a good thing though.

The vines are very vigorous and have spread to cover the entire area that they were planted in and almost completely covered the compost heap. The vines and leaves are prickly so the slugs don't like them, although the slugs do seem to get to the flowers if the flowers are trailing on the soil.

The butternuts were very sad when it rained so much. Valiantly doing their best they had actually put out blossom and produced one fruit each. Two weeks ago I put them over black plastic groundsheet (worteldoek) and my goodness, what a difference. The new flowers that they are producing are the size of my doubled fists and the plants have renewed vigour.

Next year I'll be planting all my squash through groundsheet. The straw that I had put under them seemed close to useless with the amount of rain we've had and the difference in the warmth between the groundsheet and the straw is phenomenal. I am hoping to harvest at least three or four butternuts per plant and I have five plants. That should keep us going a while.

I'd like to try some other pumpkins next year, maybe Futsu. Butternut is always something we'll plant though - perhaps not in the same quantities, but nonetheless, it's a favourite around here.

Tomato Update

Weeks since I updated on the garden, but first I'll do an update on the tomatoes.

The Orange Berry cherry tomatoes are ripening. The few that I had on the allotment ripened first, but have very poor yields due to the excess rain we had (and are still having). But, hey, I got a few and everyone said I wouldn't harvest anything!Each Orange Berry plant (at home in containers) has set about five trusses with about 8 fruits per truss.

They are colouring quickly and today I removed most of the foliage to make them ripen a bit faster. I probably wouldn't do this if they were in a greenhouse or at the allotment, but here at the apartment they look a bit untidy on the balcony so I'd prefer to get them ripened and removed.

The Orange Berry's were sown on 3 March. My opinion is that I might plant a couple next year, but probably not because of yield or ease of growth. They are somewhat sensitive to the salt content in the soil and suffered initially from purpling leaves because of mineral deficiency and then yellowing leaves because of the too much salts from the tapwater. Finally they succumbed to powdery mildew.

This tomato really needs good ventilation and to be watered with rainwater and not tap water.

Orange Berry Cherry tomato

The Ildi tomatoes, sown on 11 March are doing amazingly well. They have heavy trusses of fruit and very extensive growth. They are the tallest of all the tomatoes I have grown this year. They are very vigorous with strong basal growth and don't seem to be affected by the same issues as the Orange Berry. So far there is no powdery mildew and the leaves haven't shown any signs of purpling. There is some yellowing to the lower leaves, but it's not nearly as pronounced as on the other variety. I'm looking forward to seeing how these trusses of fruit ripen.

Ildi tomato

The Red Pear is also a moderately vigorous plant, but a poor bearer. Despite having flower trusses that are similar to those of the Ildi it has more limited trusses of around 8 fruits per truss. They are heavy and definitely pear shaped. The plants set about 5 trusses each, and the basal growth was poor. I'll have to wait and see how it tastes before dismissing it as a replanter.

Lieven's F2 (Ida Gold x Whippersnapper) which I got from Patrick is an awesome little tomato! The one I have is determinate and a low growing bush form. It is absolutely covered with tomatoes. So far this one seems a keeper. I hope that it's a reproducible cross!

Lieven's F2 tomato

The Carrot-topped Tomato is another keeper. The plant is also low growing and has set heavily with large tomatoes. The feathery leaves managed extremely well with the high winds we've had this season and the plant suffered virtually no wind burn at all. One of the fruits has windburn but considering the carnage amongst some of my other plants this one is definitely a winner.

Carrot topped tomato

The other varieties I have in pots are:

Black Pineapple
Black Prince
Gardener's Delight
Costoluto Fiorentino

The Tigerella has set a few fruits and the Gardener's Delight has several trusses. The others are still a little way behind. The Black Prince and Black Pineapple are very strong plants with very firm stems. Quite different to the bendy-stemmed cherry tomatoes. I don't expect much from the Costoluto Fiorentino as I think it really has to be in a greenhouse to protect it from the elements. The Tigerella and Costoluto Fiorentino were sown on April 15, so almost a month after the cherry tomatoes. I don't have photos of these because it's just started to rain!

Unfortunately all these varieties were on the balcony when we were battered with storms so they suffered quite a bit of wind damage. They're doing their best, but they need more shelter. I had three currant tomatoes from Patrick too, which have been placed at the allotment. Since yesterday they are covered in portable greenhouses so it will be interesting to see if that makes a difference to their production.

Next year I think I will use pots for propagation for all of my tomatoes but I'll use the portable greenhouses set up at the allotment to house the tomatoes in. Any varieties that I grow at home will need to be dwarf or determinate varieties that will fit onto a staging against the wall. I'd love to hear recommendations of any varieties that fit these requirements.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Water misery ....

My garden was underwater for about a week.

In the one half where I have raised beds the water was able to drain away more easily, but the other half is still completely soaked and the earth has started to smell terrible as it rots.

The potatoes were in that area and they became infected with potato blight, so between the smell of the wet ground and the rotten potatoes it's terrible!

The potatoes, cauliflower, kohlrabi and lettuce are a loss. Luckily I took my shallots and onions out before the flooding and, although small, they are adequate. The tomato plants are struggling along. No blight on them, but they look very unhappy - a sickly yellow colour.

Leeks and carrots are ok. Beans and sweetpeas (lathyrus) are drowned.

The only plants that really seem to like the water are the gemsquash (Rolet) which are clambering everywhere. They are more vigorous than the butternut squash which are also struggling to keep up with the water damage. The fruit trees and bushes have done extraordinarily well with a ten kilo harvest from my plum tree and several kilos from the berry bushes. The plums were early and the apples look as though they will also be early.

Today I plan to put black semi-porous sheeting under my butternuts so that they can grow across the sheeting without the leaves rotting. Hopefully it will make a difference.