Saturday, 11 July 2015

Allotment

Another beekeeper passed a swarm on to me the other day. Nothing unusual about that, and I dumped them in the top of an empty hive as usual, then moved them to the bottom where the broodbox is normally placed. A lot of bees were milling about, and some were going in and out of the empty hive next door, but again that's nothing unusual. I keep empty hives set up to attract swarms, and they're quite effective. But next day, those bees were still there, and there were fewer bees than I expected. So I investigated.

Half the swarm was the second hive, with two queens. They were well grown, but with abdomens which were short as queens go, suggesting that they're either unmated or recently mated. There had to be at least one queen in the original hive or they'd all have decamped. I ran the queens in the entrance with the rest of the swarm, and put the box containing the workers on top of the first hive. They united overnight, as expected, and in a few days I'll open it up and see how many queens I can find. Despite the books, multi-queen colonies aren't at all uncommon. Our climate is marginal for honeybees, and it's an insurance against queens failing to mate in bad weather.


I always let a few opium poppies grow, and over the years I've selected for the best colours. This is the first time I've had doubles; I usually prefer singles, but these are so spectacular I left them to flourish.


Pot marigolds are in full bloom. Parts of the allotment are in a disgracefullyt weedy state; ground elder grows in some of the newer raised beds. I'll did it out when I empty them of the current  crops. It's worked for the longer-established beds. Part of the plot is a jungle; I can't strim it as there's precious stuff in there, but building raised beds doesn't leave me the energy to do much about it either. It'll get better.


Last spring someone passed on a clump of stunted alliums with bulbs about two or three millimetres across. It turned out to be long-neglected garlic. All my garlic keeped over before it flowered for some reason. I don't know what's going on, but the same happened last year. It's well grown anyway. Meanwhile, other alliums are starting to flower. This is Babbington's leek. I've been growing on some bulbils for a couple of years, and at last it's at flowering size. It doesn't set seed, but the bulbils you see will grow. I don't know whether it's possible to persuade it to produce seed.


This one's Minogue; it's a perlzweibel, what the Americans call a perennial leek. It's a small clump-forming leek, which I'm told doesn't often flower. I've only had it a year or so. Most of it is dying back, but the largest produced this bloom. I'll try to grow the seeds out next year, but I don't know what viability will be like. I planted some everlasting onion this year, another which doesn't often flower. I ended up with one plant. I've got more seed in the frezer which I'll plant next year. I've got potato onions and a shallot coming along as well, but they're not out yet.


One of the lovage plants I put in last year is flowering. It's a perennial member of the  carrot family, and as you see, it's about six feet high and rather spectacular.


Lastly Skagit Magic, one of the potatoes I've been growing from true seed rather than seed potatoes. It's a diploid, with half the number of chromosomes most commercial varieties have, which is a pity as it seems to be immune to late blight, a disease which is the bane of potato growing. Like many diploids, the flowers are a far cry from the usual whites and insipid pinks.

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Better Garlic


I lifted the rest of my garlic today, since it was dying back. It's very early yet, so there are no garlic scapes this year, but it did the same last year. This is also supermarket garlic, but a few generations removed. I used the best I had from two very waterlogged years, and planted it in a raised bed last year. As you can see, I've ended up mostly with the purple variety, but I've still got the odd decent sized bulb of the white one, so at least I haven't lost it altogether. There are some nice bulbs in there, despite the early harvest.

As always, I lost a few due to white rot. I've always managed to keep it to a minimum by rotating, but I'm going to try boiling up a few bulbs to make a garlic infusion, and water it onto beds which show signs of the disease. I've never tried it, but the theory is that it stimulates the fungal spores to germinate, and they then die as there's no onion or garlic there. The other alternative would be Armatillox, a coal tar derivative which is sold as a garden cleanser. It's lethal to fungi, and probably a lot of other things as well, and I'm not keen.

Friday, 12 June 2015

Solo Garlic





This is garlic from the local market, which I planted in the depths of last winter; I can't remember quite when. It came up with no problems, but it was dying back already, and as you see, it hasn't cloved at all. I'll plant it in the autumn and see what it turns into. I planted some solo garlic I was sent last spring; last time I checked, it had roots and no shoots. It never emerged. I trust this is going to do a bit better!


I found this nice allium in a pile of grass cuttings and rescued it. You can tell it's suffered a bit.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Garlic, Perennial Onions and Leeks


Garlic, elephant garlic in the background, and Babbington's Leek in the foreground.

I've planted two varieties of garlic, plus some solo garlic someone sent me. This forms garlic rounds a couple of inches across. I don't think it's a special variety, I think it's been inhibited from dividing somehow. It hasn't emerged, which is strange, but when I investigated, the bulbs were still there, with established root systems. All rather odd!

 The two latter varieties are very similar above ground, with Babbington's being, as far as I can see, less strong-growing. It grows wild in a few places in the UK, but it's not clear whether it's a true native. I was sent bulbils - it's a topsetter which produces small bulbils in the flower head, and doesn't set seed - two years or so ago. the plants are in their third season, and a couple of them are budding. You can see the bud just appearing here.


The plant has a typical leek structure, with a 'stem' formed of tightly rolled leaves. The big difference is below ground. Elephant garlic has a garlic-like root the size of a fist, with half a dozen large cloves. It tastes like extremely mild garlic. Babbington's has a single bulb. I haven't tried it yet, but apparently it has a garlic taste as well.


This one's 'Minogue', an example of what the Germans call 'pertzweibel'. It has a small white bulb, which produces offsets round the base which look rather like pearls, hence pearl onion. The name, unfortunately, is applied to such a plethora of small onions that it's worthless from a gardening point of view. It's definitely a leek, and may well be the same as the American 'perennial leek'.


This one's a mystery. It was passed on to me last year by another plotholder. I split up the overcrowded clump of miserable little things and gave them room to grow. The bulb is greenish, and the biggest I've seen was about an inch across. I don't know how big they get. It multiplies by splitting, and appears to be another leek. That's the sum total of what I know about the plant, except that both it and 'Minogue' have a nice onion taste, they stand well through the winter, and I've named this one 'Guinea Garden' after the site.


These are topsetting onions. You can tell they're onions by the tubular leaves. It's a green onion, which, like Babbington's, produces bulbils at the top of the flowering stem. Many alliums will do this quite easily, but some use it as an alternative to seed production. I've gained five varieties of topsetters over the last year, and it's going to be interesting to see what the differences are, apart from size. All of them have at least one or two plants producing buds, though they take a couple of years to really reach full size from bulbils.

You can see a bit of ground elder coming through. I build this bed a year ago, with a base made of thick brown cardboard. It kept the weeds back for several months, but the ground elder, much weakened, made it in the end. Constant pulling should weaken it further. My strimmer is dead, and not worth repairing, so I need a new one to keep it down between the beds. This time I'm going for a petrol one. I don't like them, but while they get better all the time, battery ones have never been up to the job, and the good ones are more expensive than a petrol job.



 These are everlasting onions, which are similar to Welsh onions. I have the latter coming from seed. The big difference is that these rarely flower. I was sent a flower head, but the seeds haven't germinated. Neither forms a bulb. They haven't really got going yet, but they multiplied like mad last summer. They should provide green onions over the summer, but they get a bit battered and miserable over winter, and Minogue and Guinea Garden should be better then.



I've been interested in potato onions for a couple of years. The familiar shallot, as the gardener knows it, is a common type, and I'm not entirely clear what the difference between these and other potato onions is. It may be that they're milder tasting. The 'shallots' you buy in a supermarket are usually small onions. I could never grow them before I started putting in raised beds, but the problem seems to have been down to waterlogging.

Onions come from seed, either directly, or via sets. These are planted late in the year, and form a small bulb which is grown on the following year to produce the onion. On;y certain varieties will do this; most will just go to seed and flower. They're biennials, flowering in the second year. Shallotts, on the other hand, are grown from a bulb. You plant one, and harvest half a dozen or so next summer. They don't often flower, though I had buds form last year. Like an idiot, I did the traditional thing and pulled them off instead of getting seed. I seriously wonder whethre the difference between onions and shallots is any more than breeding,

Shallots and potato onions are smaller than onions, possibly because the method of propagation enables viruses to build up over the generations. It seems that seed-grown examples reach normal onion size, possibly because the viruses aren't passed down via the seed. Kelly Winterton in the States has done some interesting work (his booklet here), and I've acquired some seed which is descended from his Green Mountain variety. It's about three inches high at the moment.

I didn't have much luck with my bulbs over the winter. I planted two varieties of shallot at the beginning of winter, a couple of months later than usual. This was purely because I didn't have the space ready for them. I don't know whether they got damp in storage or what, but most of them succumbed to a bacterial rot. Never mind, some have survived. Red potato onions were hammered by pigeons over winter; my topsetting onions got the same treatment, but they survived better. Previous experience with Catawissa, the biggest variety, suggest that they're almost indestructible. Only one of the potato onions came through. Yellow and white potato onions were planted later, didn't come up till March, and had no problems. By the end of the season I should have a bit more idea what some of these plants turn into!

Edit 6th May:

I noticed today that one of the Everlasting Onion seeds has finally germinated. It's been well over a month, but better late than never! I've added a pic of potato onions above.


Thursday, 9 April 2015

Perennial Kales



Green and variegated varieties of Daubenton's Kale, growing in a neglected patch of the allotment. The plants have been hammered by pigeons - I should have netted them earlier - and you can see the typical growth habit, with branching at every node along the stem. These are tough plants which grow where a lot of things won't, and they'll cope with the periodic waterlogging. So I've left them in level ground, on part of the plot which is still waiting for me to get round to my building raised beds there.


 Daubenton's grown from seed from the Heritage Seed Library. It's clearly crossed with something as the leaves are more crinkly than the standard version. That's to be expected as brassicas tend not to self-pollinate. All these have sweet-tasting leaves; from the culinary angle, there's nothing to choose between them.


Perennial tree kale; a cross between Daubenton's and a green tree collard.  This is a triffid, about five feet high when the pigeons haven't been at it. I've got four plants from this cross, all different. The leaves are a bit tasteless, lacking the sweetness of Daubenton's, but the difference isn't really noticeable in our spicy food. It still has the Daubenton's trait of branching at every node.



Taunton Deane Kale. These are from cuttings I was sent last year. so they're still quite small plants as these kales go. As you see, it lacks the branching habit, with leaves at the end of a long stem. Like Daubenton's, it's sweet tasting.

These are all recovering strongly from the pigeon damage, and will be very much bigger by the end of the growing season.


 Last but not least, three interesting packets from New Zealand. Dorbenton's is apparently a weaker version of Daubenton's; I don't know whether it's a cross or a completely different variety. These are crosses with broccoli, and a cauliflower, and I can't wait to see what they turn into!

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Beginning of Spring



Things are beginning to move on the allotment. The snowdrops have been flowering well as usual, and Crocus tommasinianus, which I found in Cornwall last year, is flourishing as you can see. The daffodils in the lane aren't flowering as well as they did last year, and I'm wondering whether this could be down to the weather. We had a wet autumn; could this have raised the water table enough to damage the roots, I wonder? Waterlogging is always a problem, but everything doesn't go back to that.



I'm currently working on the eleventh raised bed, in the gap where you see the mesh in the pic. That was protecting some small Taunton Deane Kale plants, which have now been moved. It's slow progress as I damaged my back again a couple of weeks ago, sawing a plank. It's not too bad, fortunately, and hasn't stopped me altogether.

I've begun planting a few things. Seven batches of true potato seed, derived from Violetta, Russian Blue, Desiree, Highland Burgundy Red, Blue Belle, Skagit Magic and 'diverse' from a number of varieties, went on the windowsill today. Skagit Magic seems to be blight proof from what I've seen so far. I've also planted Meconopsis betonicifolia, which is coming up at the moment, Helleborus argutifolius, Welsh Onion, potato onion 'Green Mountain' F2/F3, which arrived this morning from Templeton in Australia, and Everlasting Onion. The latter won't normally flower, but it does occasionally, and someone sent me a seed head. 'Green Mountain' is derived from seed Kelly Winterton in the States garnered some years ago. Potato onions (shallotts are a type of these) don't normally flower, but they will perform occasionally, and once the virus load is removed, the bulbs are apparently much bigger than shallotts, more the size of a normal seed onion.

I'm going as fast as I can, and I'll have more space available than last year, but it's never enough, and even when I'm not damaging my back, I'm still exhausting itself. Still, it makes a change from dealing with a queue of people needing help with their benefits, housing applications or whatever! Right now I need a new strimmer, since the old one died on me, wood preservative, planks, and some rat traps.

Thanks to the cuts, we can't get the Council rat man or the buckets of poison he used to leave us any more. Rats are all over the site, not surprisingly under the circumstances, and I'd expect increasing vermin problems everywhere. Combined with the deterioration in rubbish collections, with household rubbish being flytipped more and more, it's not a good scenario.




On a more cheerful note, two varieties of green onion, Minogue (top), which may or may not be a pearl onion (the definition of the term isn't clear) and one passed on by a neighbour, which I'm calling Guinea Garden after the site (lower), have stood well all winter. I don't know how to classify the latter yet. They'll multiply up and give me plenty for cropping over next winter. Everlasting Onion is looking decidedly miserable at the moment, but multiplies fast, and will produce over the summer.


The perennial kales were well chewed about by pigeons, but they're extremely tough, and as you see, they're coming back well. the one in the pic is a tree collard/Daubenton's kale cross, in practice a perennial tree kale. I've got some Daubenton's/broccoli and Daubenton's/cauliflower crosses to try this year. I really fancy a truly perennial broccoli. the nearest we have at present is Nine Star Perennial, and it's only that because we cut all the flowers off and eat them. If it's allowed to flower, it becomes biennial. What I've got in mind is a plant I can get big broccoli heads from, year after year, without that limitation.

Edit: Three more lines of true potato seed arrived this morning form Curzio Carvati. So that'll be a total of ten this year.

Friday, 19 September 2014

Perennial Onions

I've been accumulating perennial onions from several sources. Two sorts of pearl onion for a start, one with a name, one without. The named one is Minogue, with white bulbs. This is the other, which has green bulbs.


The weeds are going mad in the background because I'm currently minus a strimmer, and haven't been well. This was passed on to me by another plotholder who had no idea what it was. It's like a small spring onion, with a bulb up to an inch or so across. The bulb has no rings, as it's fored from the base of a single  leaf.





These are everlasting onions, similar to Welsh onions except that they don't flower. I was sent a little bundle of tiny bulbs at the end of last winter, with the Minogue, and both went happily into three-inch pots. As you see, these have grown like mad. I divided them a few weeks ago, and they're splitting again already. Next year I plan to use them as spring onions, but meanwhile I want to multiply them up for a season.


Potato onions are a new aquisition, along with four varieties of topsetting onion which are just beginning to show. Shallotts are a familiar type; others are rare, and can be stronger tasting or longer lasting. Like shallotts, they flower now and then; the ideal would be to get seed and try breeding them.

The next job is to build another raised bed - this is turning into endless labour, but it's worthwhile once it's done - for the shallotts; I have a nice pile of big bulbs ready to go in.

Friday, 18 July 2014

Bees settling in



This little toad was sitting in a seed tray. I haven't been posting much, largely because the plot is in cuch a humiliating state after being off with a bad back for much of last year. I'm getting it sorted slowly, but meanwhile I've no energy for the bits I'm not working on, and much of it is a jungle.

The broad beans have been a success in the main, and the direct planted ones did a lot better than the transplanted ones. I planted 17 varieties this year, and they should be well mixed up in the next generation. Many of the peas have also done well, though some of the last ones I planted are a bit stunted. I wonder whether that's down to summer heat? This one is Carlin Pea, the oldest known variety. It was first recorded in 1562, four years after Elizabeth I came to the throne, and may well be a lot older than that.



The Daubenton's and Taunton Deane Kales are planted out, and the tree collard x Daubenton's cross is now chest high, and buried in weeds. The one that flowered hasn't set much seed, but I'm hoping for a little once it matures out enough to harvest. Right now the flowering stems are all in a hessian bag hanging in the shed.

Butterflies are doing quite well this year; I just wish my camera was better adapted for that sort of thing. I have to get too close to get shots like this one of a small tortoiseshell, and it doesn't work too often. The next one needs to take something like the old-fashioned close-up lenses, so I can get them to fill the frame from further away.



The bees are doing well. I've acquired four swarms in the last month or so; three moved into empty hives of their own accord, and one came from another beekeeper. I'm still working on a video about them, but it's almost done. I've found and marked all four queens - the last one today - and all four have capped worker brood. I'm fairly happy with three of them; the last is a follower, yellow, with a broodnest shaped like a horizontal oval. That's not siomething I see much of; at the moment it's only using the top part of my 14x12 frames. Overall, I think it's one for requeening. I can't stand followers, and they'll scare my neighbour if they start bothering him on the other side of the hedge. They buzz about your head without provocation, in the most distracting way. I assume it's a type of threatening behaviour designed to intimidate and drive away large animals like bears and humans, and it's most unpleasant when they I'm on the plot and some wretched bee starts!




Tuesday, 3 June 2014

A swarm arrives... and leaves again.




Bees have a mind of their own, and this wasn't the first time I've had a swarm that wouldn't cooperate. I don't know why it is; I can post my own Youtube videos properly like this, but I can't get it to work with anyone else's.


Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Perennial brassicas

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=c30-3BWEGAw

I spotted this during a very wet visit to the plot this morning. A Daubenton's kale x tree collard cross is coming to the end of flowering, and strong new shoots are appearing below the flowering stems. A biennial brassica would die back at this stage.

Meanwhile I have flourishing seedlings from HSL Daubenton's seed, and cuttings of green Daubenton's and Taunton Deane kale are well rooted and growing strongly. The variegated Daubenton's I moved suffered a bit in that very sunny spell, but it's now recovering well.

Daubento's is a quite a low growing kale; I'm told Taunton Deane is twice the size, and it certainly looks it on this video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=c30-3BWEGAw

The kale is on near the end; I can never get videos to link properly for some reason. I find that the best way to propagate these is with small cuttings about three inches long, taken at this time of year. The sort of long cutting shown in the video will certainly root if it's taken in the autumn - I haven't tried at other times of year - but it's expensive to send through the post, and unnecessary. Small plants need protecting from harsh winter weather.



The good thing about the tree collard cross is its height and shape; it's a tall plant with space for another crop underneath. These have grown since the pic was taken, and are now level with the highest flowers on the one that's blooming. There's plenty of leaf there, and no doubt it's there all year round!



Sunday, 25 May 2014

Plot Update


My bed of Negresse potatoes is thriving, for the moment. It's a late late, like all very old varieties, and it's vulnerable to blight. I didn't get any last year thanks to the dry weather, and I'm hoping it'll stay away this year. The disease has been dreadful for a few years, as it thrives in a wet summer, then overwinters in the tubers people miss then they lift their spuds. It spreads from the next season's volunteers, which are often left by plotholders. After a dry year, however, there's a lot less of it around.



The broad beans are just beginning to flower. The bed above was sown directly after pigeons had most of my original transplants. These are doing better, but they're obviously behind the first lot. The bean above is a Crimson Flowered Bean; I've put in sixteen varieties and mixes, and one thing I'll be looking for is the red flowers. I've just planted 'Cote D'or' favaroles, which should flower after these have finished, and give me seed to add to the mix next year. Favaroles are BB's, but the size of a large pea. This particular variety is a mixture of mottled and near-black beans. 


One of my Daubenton's Kale x Tree Collard crosses is flowering. It's a perennial, so I'm hoping it'll survive the experience. These are big, tall plants which could potentially be undercropped with something that wouldn't mind a bit of shade. As you see, they produce plenty of leaf when they're not putting all their endergy into flowering.
 

 I'm getting some very useful help from a horticulture course, getting this area dug over. It's all going to be raised beds; health permitting (right now I'm recovering from a thoroughly unpleasant virus), I hope to have another seven raised beds done by next year's growing season.  The beds are making a real difference, as plants like shallotts, which I could never grow before, suddenly start flourishing once they're well above the water table, and it's a lot easier to keep them weed free. It's likely to take three or four years, but the plan is to do the whole plot.




Friday, 14 March 2014

Getting Sorted



It's going to be a long haul after seven months away from the plot, but Ive started getting things sorted.  The three raised beds I managed to build last year have been cleaned, topped up, and planted. The one closest to the camera has my racist potato, Negresse, in it.

This is a 200-year-old (or thereabouts) French variety, with deep purple skin and violet flesh. I haven't had any luck with it so far; I grew it for several years, or tried to, but blight, which is endemic on the site, hit it year after year. Like all very old spuds it's a late maincrop, and the tubers don't begin to swell till October. So blight coming around midsummer meant that it barely produced tuvbers big enough to survive at all. I wrote it off.

Last year, we had a dry summer, and no blight. The few plants that managed to survive being swamped by massive rat-tailed radishes produced enough tubers to plant up a bed, so I'll see how it does this time. After a dry summer, there should be a lot less blight on the site this year, other things being equal.

The other beds are planted up with alliums. I'm now digging as fast as I can go, trying to get two more beds done in time to get the broad beans planted out in them. These are already started, in pots. Sixteen varieties and mixes, with a tremendous range represented. Big seeds and pea-sized seeds; red, green and almost white seeds. One variety has deep red flowers, and one pure white. I'll see what I end up with in a few generations!

Friday, 10 January 2014

Back to the Plot



I did a little work on the plot today, for the first time since I did my back in last June. It was a very little; I forked over a couple of square yards of a raised bed, and got home knackered. It's a start, anyway.

As you can see from the above photo, the rough ground across the lane from my plot is completely waterlogged, with standing water. The level on my plot is a little higher, and there's no water showing, but I know from experience that if I tried to dig it now, there would be water at the bottom of the trench. This is why I need the raised beds; the waterlogging makes it impossible to grow some simple crops, like shallotts, successfully without them, and a really wet summer can wipe out a great deal.

It's the first time I've been on the site for a month or so, as I really haven't been well, and I was relieved to see the brassicas have remained untouched by pigeons. Once they lose the habit, they don't touch them until we get a spell of hard frost or snow, and then they don't stop till things start growing the following spring. Occasionally, they keep at it all summer. I didn't have the energy to net them after doing a little digging.

It's going to be a slow process, but at least I've made a start. Next time I'm down, I should get some pots and a seed tray, and get some true potato seed started on a windowsill. The earlier the better as far as I can see.

Saturday, 31 August 2013

Beans and Bees



My problem at the moment is that I've damaged my back somehow - I don't even know what I've done to it - an I can't do any work at all on the plot, which has become a complete jungle. It's embarassing. I force myself to go for a walk every day, often round the local reservoir, and get to the plot to pick beans and harvest seed. That's about all I'm fit for.

Hive 2 has superseded successfully. Four weeks ago,I found a single supercedure cell, as they raised a new queen. A week later, I opened the hive again, and found an act of regicide in progress. The cell had hatched, and the old queen, dead or dying, was in the middle of a mass of bees. Crawling over them and stinging repeatedly, was a fresh virgin. She's now mated and laying.



It wasn't a particularly strong swarm, and as a result it had a brood break of a couple of weeks, during which eggs weren't being laid, and it wasn't building up. A hungry bird could have eaten that queen on her mating flight or flights, or she could have failed to mate in a spell of bad weather. In either case, of course, the colony would have been doomed. Swarm survival in their first winter is marginal in our climate, and anything which prevents numbers from building up lessens its chances without beekeeper assistance. With our dodgy climate and long winters, murdering the old queen as soon as the new one hatches is not a survival characteristic.

It's easy to see why it's quite common for colonies to keep the old queen going; it removes the brood break, and provides insurance. If the first virgin fails, another can still be raised. This is why two-queen colonies are found. I suspect it's a lot more common than we realise, but not many people keep on looking for a queen after they've found the first one.

I've now harvested almost all my broad bean seed. I planted nine varieties, some of which had already crossed, and let them hybridise. I'll grow out the seed next year and see where I've got to. The aim is to produce a grex (variable variety) with red flowers and red, or 'black', seeds.

 I planted five longpods; Aquadulce, Red Epicure, with red seeds, Dumont's (a Californian mix), Fava Lunga Della Cascine from Italy, and Karmazyn, another red seeded variety from Russia. None of them did particularly well, but the pods they did produce were full of beans. Red Epicure is now on the F3 generation. I've ben selecting for red seeds, and they don't look that different from the originals. The obvious difference is that the seeds are half the size of the originals. That could be down to soil or season, but I plant a lot of smaller seeded varieties, and they do better.



The Crimson Flowered Bean is an old one, aparently identical to the Red Blossomed Bean described in 1831, and probably older. It was originally very variable in colour, and Robinson's Seeds sell an apparently unselected strain. Real Seeds are working on a sport with chocolate coloured flowers. This may not be quite so surprising, given that there are 'black' (deep brown) beans. I have some in the freezer waiting to be grown out. It produces lot of small pods, with plenty of beans when it does well. This is the first time I've had any success with it.

Oldambster Wierboon,  a Dutch variety, has pure white flowers. It grew well, but cropped very lightly. 

Kaulion Valkea, from Finland, did well, as did Wizard, a very reliable variety from Real Seeds which crops a little later than the others. Both have masses of small pods and small beans.

I'm now trying Luz do Otono, a day length neutral longpod from Spain. in a mild autumn, it's supposed to prodice a November crop from a July sowing. It's not doing well at the moment. Whatever it does or doesn't manage, I'll add it to the mix next spring. Meanwhile, I've got little jars of bean seeds everywhere. That's one drawback of plant breeding; you have to save a lot more seed.

Friday, 2 August 2013

Settling in


I had a bad attack of migraine last night and didn't manage to write. but I checked both hives yesterday. They're looking good. Both have plenty of worker brood, at various stages of development, eggs, and lively-looking queens. Hive 2 has two frames of brood, and Hive 6 has four. Hive two has a supersedure cell.

Swarms are sometimes headed by old queens which are past their best, and it's not too surprising that the workers are trying to replace her. However, this is a bad moment, as I have no drones. The weather has been ideal for large-scale drone assemblies to form, but from what I've seen, the vast majority of queens mate close to home. I've never had one mate successfully unless I had the drones myself. I'd be much happier if they kept the old queen. Bees usually know what they're doing, far better than beekeepers, though, so I'm leaving them to it.


 The rat-tailed radishes are now triffid-like, and sprawling all over everything. Apparently you harvest them when they're about 5mm thick. They're nice and peppery, but are going to be fiddly to deal with. 


The runner beans are now in full flower; the French beans are well behind despite being planted at the same time. There are three varieties here; Black Magic, Mrs Cannell's Black and Black Pod. I'm going to let them cross and see what I end up with.

Meanwhile the broad beans are well developed, and I need to harvest what I want ASAP, if I can just bend down to get at them! A few weeks more and I'll be harvesting for seed. Then I can build some more raised beds in that space. I've already treated the planks.

The day length neutral broad beans are up, and looking a bit wilted in the heat. I'm waiting to see how they get on; if they don't do well, no matter. They'll just go into the mix next year.

I'm harvesting peas for seed, and I've lifted onions and garlic. They're no good, but the shallotts are by far the best I've ever had. I've never been able to grow them at ground level, but they thrived in a raised bed. If my back would just recover from whatever I did to it, there's loads to get on with.