July in the Garden Smallholding

The garden is in full swing with frequent mini harvests of potatoes, carrots, beets, peas, soft fruits, onions, beans and squash (I could go on) providing plenty for meals, which of course generates a great sense of achievement and pride. A few days of much-needed rain gave the kitchen garden the boost it so desperately needed in order to spring back to life, sun-scorched tones soon changed to lush green – I find it fascinating how rain can change the colours and textures of a garden so quickly, almost like a magical tonic.

I’ve grown some beautiful flowers from seed this year including pretty Cosmos pictured above. Cosmos is one of my favourites for attracting wildlife, the flowers are like magnets for bees and butterflies. I’m slowly forgiving the sunflowers for their poor show this year, they’re still my absolute favourite flower.

Grumpy with Stumpy Sunflowers

I’m so disappointed with my sunflowers this year, they’re embarrassingly short and the flowers are titchy. Just pathetic really. Usually I manage to grow very tall plants with dinner plate-sized blooms, just how sunflowers should be. I grew my favourite ‘giants’ from new seed, just as I always do so I can’t start pointing the finger of damnation thataway. Hmmm.

I didn’t get around to planting any sunflowers at the allotment this year, I’ve no idea if they would have done better, but in saying that I was surprised to see other plot holders having the same problem with sunflowers too. Why are sunflowers so stumpy this year? Is it a Bedfordshire thing I wonder…….

Strange.

Sunday Dinner

Today’s harvest from the vegetable garden to use for our Sunday dinner.

Yummy!

Garlic Harvest

I spent a merry hour this morning harvesting the garlic whilst dodging the showers. I’m really pleased with the bulbs, they’re the biggest I’ve ever  grown. I planted cloves of ‘Cristo’ at the end of last year, they spent a few months buried under deep snow but are none the worse for it. Garlic needs a spell of cold weather – it certainly got that!

The bulbs are currently laid out on racks in the greenhouse to dry, when they ‘rustle’ they’re ready to store either in nets or old tights. I might plait the leaves this year and hang them.

Just as an experiment and for fun (because that’s what gardening is all about) I popped a few organic shop bought cloves in some spare ground when I planted the Cristo cloves. Here’s the result:

Yeah I know they’re small but look at that colour, gorgeous! They split well and are totally usable so I’m chuffed with them. If you’ve never grown a single veg in your life I’d highly recommend starting with garlic. Dead easy to do just pop some garlic cloves in a spare patch of soil (pointy end facing upwards) anytime from autumn to winter, just under the soil level will do then look forward to some home-grown garlic. Yummy!

When are Onions Almost Ready for Lifting?

When they begin to do this…..

Some of the onions are naturally bending or ‘flopping’ over now, the leaves are still very green so they’re not ready just yet. What they’re doing now is getting ready for the drying process which is really important if they’re to store well.

At the moment I’ve exposed the bulbs to the sun by removing any built-up soil around the bulbs and re-positioned the leaves to allow maximum sunlight through. I’ll leave them like this until all the onion necks have naturally bent over and the leaves start yellowing, then, gently lift them during a spell of dry weather and place on top of the soil to dry. If wet weather threatens I’ll move them into the greenhouse and place on racks to complete their drying process.

I used the garage to dry onions last year, trouble is the mice are a real pain and happily nibbled their way through some of them so the greenhouse seems to be the better option this year. I have noticed my onions are a tad smaller than previous years, I’m putting this down to the hot dry spring.

First Harvest of Kohl Rabi

Interesting vegetable, kohl rabi. Some would say it’s ugly or alien-looking, but, I rather like the look of it. It’s a fast growing vegetable so with this in mind I grew them in small batches to get a continuous crop. I have a batch ready for harvest now, according to my books I should slice the bulbs off at the root when they are still small – roughly the size of a golf or tennis ball. I’ve never grown or eaten it before so this is a completely new experience for me.

A member of the brassica family, the bulb and leaves are edible but it’s usually the bulb that gets used. It’s surprisingly versatile which pleased me, it can also be used raw in salads. I’m slightly less worried about actually cooking kohl rabi now, if you’re a regular reader to the blog you will know how utterly useless I am in the kitchen!

I will let you know what I think.

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