Magnesium deficiency and bay leaf sucker

After writing my last blog the great news came through that Planning Permission had been granted for the Tayport Community Growing Space. Being a relatively new member I am full of praise and admiration for the other members of the PLANT team and Peter Duncan, Fife Allotments Officer, who have shown such tenacity, ambition and vision in bringing the project through to this stage.
Thank you all for letting me on board for the rest of this adventure. I am looking forward to the challenge.

Now today’s tale;

I am sipping a cup of coffee (decaff of course) while I look out at the rain. Why am I in the summerhouse on a rainy day? It is quite simple, I was caught in the kitchen diluting my comfrey/nettle mixture!  This is apparently unacceptable conduct !!! Even my plea that it was research for my PLANT Blog fell on deaf ears.

However I must move on to what has been happening in the garden;

Beans

Although my broad beans did take a battering during the recent high winds all beans continue to thrive and seem to be enjoying the wet weather

Courgettes

They are cropping prolifically and we are enjoying them as a vegetable and in red pepper and courgette soup, delicious.

Butternut squash

Are showing no signs of flowering so I have pinched out the growing tip in the hope of speeding them up to flower. The seeds were given to me and I have no idea of the name of the variety . I have sourced “Waltham” for next year from Seed Parade who I use for most of my seeds as they are very competitively priced and liking their Facebook page gives access to more discounts. The seeds are in minimal packaging with no pictures or cultivation hints so are not ideal for an inexperienced gardener.

Leeks

I send my apologies to all citizens of Musselburgh for the misspelling in my last blog. Let’s put it down to a senior moment!

Salads

I am continuing to sow a mixture of salads in containers every two weeks to ensure a steady supply of fresh leaves. The seeds germinate quickly at this time of year. I prefer containers as I sow less seeds, thus there is less wastage and I can place them wherever I wish in the garden. It also makes it more difficult for the slugs to get a share.

Tomatoes

Green tomato fruit with pale green leaves
Still green with magnesium deficiency showing in leaves

These are really late this year thanks to the poor summer. I am usually enjoying them by now but they are still green. Hopefully the sun will shine in August or else we will be making jars and jars of green tomato chutney !! My late mother-in-law had a superb recipe which we still use.

In the meantime I have pinched the growing tips out of the plants after 5/6 trusses and this should divert energy to developing the fruit. I have also removed all leaves below the first truss of tomatoes to aid ripening and improve air circulation to prevent the onset of gray mould (botrytis) which is always a menace in cool damp weather.

The comfrey/ nettle experiment mentioned in my blog of 27 June is ongoing and there is no apparent difference at the moment in the crops. What is noticeable however is the comfrey/nettle tomatoes are showing signs of magnesium deficiency in their leaves. The usual antidote is a spray with Epsom salts but I wonder if any of you readers know of an alternative? Please leave a comment if you do.

Pests

Bay leaves damaged by the bay sucker insects
Bay sucker damage

I was puzzled why the sides of my bay leaves were curling inwards, after some research it seems it is the work of the bay sucker. The suggested cure is to remove and destroy the affected leaves or treat with a systemic insecticide. I cringe at the thought of anything systemic being used, especially on leaves likely to be used in cooking. As the bay bush is much too large to remove the affected leaves by hand I found a recipe for garlic spray. I have drenched the bush and it seems to be working.

I think I have created a new herb “Bay leaves with a hint of garlic”, I wonder if there is a market for this?

I have also applied the spray to plants being eaten by slugs and snails, hopefully they will also be deterred.

Weeds

I mentioned vinegar as a weedkiller in my last blog and I did manage to find a dry day to try it again. I added a dash of washing up liquid and sprayed it on the weeds between the paving slabs and on the drive I must admit it was successful in a very short time. Some people add salt to the mixture but this should not be done if you are applying it where there is soil as you will not be able to grow anything there for a number of years due to the effect of salt.

Well the sun is shining again and the garden beckons but I must finish my coffee first. I wonder if I can sneak into the house and heat it up in the microwave without being noticed? Wish me luck!

Thanks for reading and please leave your comments.

Enjoy your gardening.

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Lots of apples and strong growing tomatoes

Carder bee
Carder bees visit the glasshouse tomatoes

Sitting in the summerhouse with the evening sun warming my wine I am content. The heavy work in the garden is done and for the next few weeks it is a case of maintenance and enjoying the taste of fresh produce.  I do see some shrubs in need of pruning but that can wait for another day.

This is what has been happening in my garden:

Beans

Broad beans “Bunyard’s Exhibition” are cropping well and we have enjoyed tender beans by picking whilst still young and at their sweetest. I have had no trouble with blackfly this year and as I have pinched out the growing tips to divert the plants’ energy to producing beans I feel the threat has passed.

Runner Beans “Firestorm” and “Stardust” are growing strongly on their canes after their late start and I am optimistic that there will be a good crop.

Dwarf French beans “Castandel “ are in flower and as there are plenty of bumble bees around, they should be fine.

Courgettes

We have been enjoying “ Defender” steamed or lightly fried in butter. I always cut them just as the flower dies off, when I find that they are at their most flavoursome. It is very easy to miss one in the thick foliage and they bulk up very quickly. When this happens they make a very tasty courgette soup. I am hoping that Cathy will post her favourite recipe as I am anxious to try something new.

I have decided to extend my Comfrey and Nettles/ Tomorite experiment to this crop and I will keep you posted as to how it goes.

Leeks

“Musselborough” are relatively trouble free to grow, it is merely a matter of keeping them weed free and not letting them get dry, the latter not a problem so far this year.

Potatoes 

“Pentland Dell” are looking good coming into flower and will be ready to harvest when the foliage starts to die back. If seed pods form I will remove these as they are poisonous.

If you are ever in Northumberland you should try to fit in a visit to Alnwick Castle Garden.  It has a spectacular display of roses, delphiniums and other herbaceous plants. There is also a poison garden which is kept locked and you are only allowed in with a guide. I never realised that so many popular garden plants are toxic. It is almost enough, but not quite, to make me give up gardening!

Digging the first shaws of potatoes is always an exciting job as I have no idea how many potatoes might be hidden underground. The first boiling of home grown potatoes with butter is one of the culinary treats of the year!

 Apples

Green apples on a tree branch
Abundance of apples

Loads of apples this year, in fact too many. I will have to thin them out, discarding the weakest, smallest fruit. I will wait for a week or so before doing this as there will be what is known as the “June drop” when the tree naturally sheds excess fruit, or if it is under stress such as too dry. In this area the drop can be late into July, hence my waiting.

In The Greenhouse

Tomatoes

Pinching out tomato side shoots
Pinching out tomato side shoots

Varieties “Sungold”, “Gardener’s  Delight” and “Alicante” are growing well with lots of fruit set. Watering , feeding , removing side shoots and tying in are jobs that need to be done on a regular basis to keep them growing evenly. Erratic watering can cause the fruit to split. It is too early to judge how the feeding experiment is working.

Cucumber

I have only one plant ,“Femspot” , which is an all female variety and does not need pollinating to set fruit. So far it has produced five juicy cucumbers without a taste of bitterness. Plenty more to come!

In my last blog I was full of praise for the buff tailed bumble bee but interestingly the carder bee seems to be a more frequent visitor to the greenhouse – “carry on the good work please.”

Although there are automatic vents in my greenhouses I leave the doors open during the day in the summer months to prevent overheating and give easy access to the bees and other pollinating insects. At night time I leave the doors slightly open to allow the resident frogs a chance to have a jaunt outside but also to let the air circulate.

I make a point of leaving full watering cans in the greenhouse for at least six hours to bring the temperature of the water up to a point where it will not chill the roots of the plants when used. I feel this helps keep the plants growing well.

Weeds

A dutch hoe and a swoe
A dutch hoe and a swoe

I enjoy my time in the garden but my least favourite job is weeding, especially hand weeding!!  I always leave plenty of room between rows of vegetables to let me use a hoe without danger to the growing plants. While the traditional tool to use is a dutch hoe I prefer a swoe which is a much more versatile version of the hoe. It has more cutting edges and its design lets me get closer to the plants. A bit more expensive than a hoe but well worth it in my opinion.

I had hoped to try vinegar as a weed killer between my paving slabs but no sooner had I sprayed the weeds when a thunder shower undid all my good work. I am waiting for a nice sunny day to try again. In the meantime I suppose I could get down on my knees and hand weed !!

Pests

Most vegetables are strong enough to survive the attentions of slugs and snails now but removing fallen leaves and the like around plants will give them less places to hide and give predators a chance to do their work. Netting cabbages and kale has kept the cabbage white butterfly at bay hence no caterpillars!

I noticed some greenfly on the roses but a quick squish with my fingers and they were gone. So far they have not been a problem. I have seen a few ladybirds so perhaps their larvae are doing a good job for me.

The plants in my previously unused parts of the garden are surviving but not showing much promise of a decent crop but time will tell. The most successful so far are the salads growing with the courgettes.

Well that’s today’s tale over, but where did I put the wine?  Time for a refill I think, I am not a glass half empty kind of guy!!

Cheers

Thanks for reading and please feel free to leave a comment.