Green Magpie

Latest posts by Green Magpie

Sage gone wild

Posted: 22/07/2015 at 16:51

It does get very leggy, but pruning should help keep it manageable. You could try taking cuttings to produce a new bush, which could replace the old one in a couple of years.

This year I cut back one section of my sage bush straight after flowering, and the rest some time later. The first section has rewarded me (and the bees) with another crop of flowers, so I will try to remember to trim the whole bush as early as possible next year.

people moving into an area and paving over the front garden

Posted: 22/07/2015 at 16:46

I suppose they could argue that by providing off-road parking, they're keeping the street clearer and reducing congestion.

But there are limits now to the area of hard, impermeable surface you can put down. So gravel is OK but paving may not be, over a certain amount.

Onion Smut!

Posted: 21/07/2015 at 17:08

Oh, you have been helpful, Dove, don't apologise. 

There's no  risk of my saving my shallots this year, they're all in a sorry state. Next year I'll start with new sets in a new bed, and hopefully all will be well.

Making raspberry jam

Posted: 21/07/2015 at 17:05

There's no point at all in using castor sugar. Ordinary granulated will do the same job, but  I agree that you can't cut down the sugar very much if you want the jam to keep. A little lemon juice will help it set.

Onion Smut!

Posted: 18/07/2015 at 17:24

Thank you, Dove, that's really interesting. It does sound as if it would only affect seedlings or very new plants, whereas mine were all doing fine until a couple of weeks ago, and the onions are full sized now.

I think you are right, and it is probably downy mildew. This apparently starts as a whitish mould but then other moulds join the party, which could account of the brown and black colourings on the soggy leaves. Some of the red onions seem sound underneath, but some are rotting, and most of the shallots are rotting too. I suppose moulds are not particular about which party of the plant they attack. There may be White Mould there too, and the prognosis is much the same. Whatever it is, it looks as if I still have to keep onions away from that soil for several years.

The cause might have been that I have been saving and storing my shallots from one year to the other. Perhaps one or two of them had a  bit of mould on them and I didn't notice. Or perhaps the onion sets (bought from a large garden centre) were contaminated. Do you think that could be what's caused it, whatever it is?


Onion Smut!

Posted: 18/07/2015 at 11:57

I did see that RHS stuff, thanks, but it's not a lot of help.  I grow onions and shallots from sets, and this can't be safe, as sets produce their first leaf when in the soil. The affected plants were all grown from sets, in a bed that has never had onions in it before, so I don't know where the infection came from.

Luckily I have enough space to be able to comply with this rule, but it's a bit dispiriting, as it may happen again if I don't know how to prevent it. I've already  given up on leeks, which used to do very well, because of leek moth that completely ruined the whole crop last year.

But it's swings and roundabouts, I suppose; I have great carrots and beans, and masses of mangetout (which failed last year). We are just eating up the sound parts of the onions as fast as we can before they rot.

Onion Smut!

Posted: 17/07/2015 at 20:43

I am pretty sure that I've diagnosed it correctly,  using the web.  What I'm wondering is whether there's a lot of ot about this year, or whether I've just been unlucky or done something wrong.

Onion Smut!

Posted: 17/07/2015 at 14:31

No, it's not a rude joke about an onion, it's this year's new disease. I've been gardening this plot for ten years now, and yet there seems to be a new pest or disease every year. Last year it was leek moth - oh, and codling moth - and this year it's a new one: onion smut (I think).  Both my red onions and my shallots seem to have it. The tops go soft and have a black sooty deposit on them, and then the base of the bulbs develops a white soggy mould.

If I've made the correct diagnosis, this means that I can't grow onions or shallots on that ground for 5 years (or 8 years?).  Has anyone else suffered with this? What did I do wrong?

Making own softsoap

Posted: 16/07/2015 at 23:04

Well, my broad beans were left for a week while I was on holiday, and now the newest row is ruined by blackfly. Some of the plants are totally black and the tiny pods all shrivelled. I did see one solitary ladybird, but it obviously hasn't made much impact.

So I have resorted to a soap-and-oil spray to try to save the remaining plants.  I did remove the ladybird and put it elsewhere,  but just waiting for its friends and relations to turn up and help was clearly not going to work. Sometimes nature has no particular inclination o do the things we want, and the blackfly were definitely on the winning side until now.

Potatoes that turn to mush when cooked

Posted: 13/07/2015 at 21:06

Here's a great way of cooking small potatoes: wash them and chop any large ones in half. Put them in a bowl with some olive oil, salt and herbs (e.g. mint, parsley, chives)and stir well to coat. Divide the potatoes into single portions, on sheets of foil, and wrap each parcel loosely. Bake in a hottish oven for about 40 minutes. The potatoes stay in shape, full of flavour,  and should just be beginning to brown where they touch the foil.  Ideal if you are already using the oven for something like a casserole.

Discussions started by Green Magpie

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