In August’s bumper installment Jason shares his time-saving seed cleaner, rhubarb and custard tomatoes, and the uplifting prospect of an Irish Indian Summer…
After that spell of great weather mid-July and having been away for a week there is now a backlog of seeds ready to be processed. Crimson Flowered Broad Bean, Irish Green Pea and Sugar Snap Pea. On top of that there is more of the Red Thrills Red Mustard ready to swathe, some Coriander and the second lot of Uncle John’s Kale is ready to bring in.
I am currently in the process of building a Real Seeds seed cleaner and I am hoping that it will be a game changer when it is finished. I am also on the lookout for a thresher to speed up that work. It is hard to find specialist machinery new or second hand. It would spread the work a lot to have some mechanical threshing. Oh, and a mechanical pea and bean harvester, dream on…! I suppose if you had a good big thresher you would just feed the haulms in and the peas and beans would fall out!
Apart from birds I am wondering what damage can be done by leaving seeds on plants until I get around to picking or cutting them? Here, it is very obvious when it’s a damp day as all the seed casings are so much more pliable and less brittle. The other thing that slow things up is lack of drying space. Brassicas are very bulky and I am limited to one 18x50ft tunnel which means I have to work on a strict one-out one-in basis.
Second week in August now and full-on seed harvesting continues. The second cut of Kale was threshed yesterday and cleaned with the Real Seeds seed Cleaner. I made two in the end over the course of three weekends and delivered one to Brown Envelope seeds this week when we had a farm visit there. I also delivered the first of this year’s seeds – Esmee Rocket, Red Thrills Red Mustard, Purslane, Watercress, some Lambs lettuce and the first batch of Uncle John’s Kale and some Coriander (all of which had been through the cleaner). It is already revolutionising work here taking chaff, dirt and small lighter seeds out of a crop with what seems great ease. I reckon even with my most rudimentary carpentry skills and using a drill, a pruning saw, some mastic and some wood glue it took me 6-7 hours to make one. The amount of time it will save is incalculable, my winnowing skills were not great! It’s still early days but I am very pleased with what it can do.
On the crop front cucumbers are yellowing, there are lots of peppers appearing on the plants and I picked the first ripe one this week. Tomatoes are very slow since the hot spell, the weather here has been very overcast and on the cool side, not superb for saving seeds it must be said! Outside the leeks are a bit overgrown with weeds, but I started to rescue them earlier in the week.
Third week in August and the week was spent tidying up – all the outdoor crops were hand weeded, and they needed it. Tomatoes have been partially defoliated as have two lots of Climbing French Beans. Paths and headlands have been strimmed, crop residues and more weeds were cleaned out of one of the early tunnels. The compost heap is looking good with nice layers of dead brown seed plant haulms layered with lots of green weeds and tomato and bean foliage. It should get some heat up shortly.
Last of the tunnel Potatoes have been lifted for the house. I have harvested a second lot of coriander which looks like a bigger crop than the first. The last of the kale is in drying, two thirds of the Sugar Snaps are picked and half of the Broad Beans. Mice got the last part of the row of Irish Green Pea that I had been leaving to ripen! There is always something…
Outside the Ailsa Craig Onions are huge, even when multi sown, same with the Zebrunne shallots. The two varieties of Leek, Jolant and Bandit are doing well now that they are free of weeds. The Shiraz Long Top beetroot are looking good as are the Kohl Rabi. Beetroot seed is starting to senesce as is the Radish, there will be some serious work processing that when it is fully dry. I am thinking of using the compact tractor to drive over it by way of threshing – watch this space!
Last week in August and the start of another heatwave (anything over 20C counts as a heatwave in Ireland). Whilst the last month has been overcast, damp, cool and often wet, the last three days have lifted us with the prospect of an Indian summer. Cloudless skies, low humidity, slack winds and temperatures in the early 20’s make for great ripening and drying weather.
This week I pulled the Onions and the Shallots and left them to dry on the ground outside with the prospect of a good week of weather to come. I also cleared where the Kale had been and dug some potatoes. The area where the Kale had been for 18 months had become very dirty with rank grass, bog mint and woundwort – so a bit of a mess. I will have to give it a good few runs with the rotavator to bring it back to something I can sow a green manure into and build fertility for when it is next used.
Cleaning the second harvest of Coriander yesterday evening was fairly instructive. I had sown two trays at the same time and planted out in two different poly tunnels. One went into a small tunnel and was ready about three weeks ago, the other into a big tunnel and was harvested last week. The one from the large tunnel has twice the yield of the smaller which makes me think that pollination or even seed set may have been impacted by the extra heat of the smaller tunnel during flowering. Lesson learned!
On the harvesting front have processed nearly all the three pea varieties and the broad beans and am now waiting on the first French Beans to ripen. The Jersey Grex from Carol Deppe look like being the earliest. I need to get picking some of the ripe Beetroot seeds before they either drop or the birds get at them. I have been picking Moss Curled parsley seed heads and they are ripening on different plants at different speeds.
I will also start picking a few trusses of my tomatoes from my own breeding project. They will be F8 this year and I would like to start selling them. Unfortunately they have not settled into the all pink variety that I had hoped for, the yellow gene from the parent plant Galena may have been too strong and about 20% of plants are yellow. I was showing the seed team from Irish Seed Savers Association around the garden last week and they suggested selling them as they are and a marketing idea came into my head. So, look out for the new tomato variety Rhubarb and Custard next year – a single variety with two colours! You heard it here first…
First day of September today and I have been harvesting first onion seeds this week and first beetroot also, good crops on both. Cleaned out the tunnel that had garlic in it and also sowed some strips of green manure with annual rye grass, red and white clover and phacelia for next year. First pickings of French Beans and Runner Beans were in this week, still another good month of harvesting to go and then it should be mostly done for this year.