Corn on the cobsKeep a close eye on developing sweetcorn. Once the silk tassels have turn brown, they should be ready for harvesting in about a week, depending on the weather.

To check the sweetcorn is ripe you need to peel back the outer layers of husks to reveal the kernels. Sometimes the kernels near the top of the ear of sweetcorn  may not have developed, so it’s always worth checking further down the cob. Sometimes the ears of corn don’t get properly fertilised so not all of the kernels develop. The rest of the sweetcorn is still edible, just cut off the under developed part of the cob.

Use your thumbnail to puncture a kernel. If the liquid is translucent and milky then the sweetcorn is ready for harvesting. If it is still watery and clear then they are not yet ready and you need to replace the husks.

The first year I grow sweetcorn, I kept leaving the cobs thinking they weren’t ready. In fact it was just that the top kernels that had not developed properly. We ended up with over-ripe cobs which were rather dry!

Pick the cobs as close to when you are going to cook them as possible. Once picked, the sugar in the kernels turn rapidly to starch. They can easily go past their best in a day or two. This is the reason why it is worth growing your own, as shop ones just don’t taste as sweet!

Picked our first sweetcorn cobs of the season for our tea today. They were delicious. Sweet and juicy!

ripe tomatoPicked my first ripe tomato today and ceremoniously ate it for lunch – it was delicious. The rest of the tomatoes are still looking very green though, so I have removed some of the leaves on the plants, to help them ripen.

The runner beans are not coping well in this hot weather and the beans are going to seed before they get the chance to grow.  Have been watering them every few days, but all it does is keeps them alive, just!

Ladybird eggs and larvae on runner bean leafThe aphids are still a huge problem, making the plants look sick with curling up the leaves. The organic insecticide we used, I think, was ineffective – possibly been in the shed too long. Tried spraying some diluted Ecover washing-up liquid on the leaves yesterday, which may have helped, it’s difficult to tell. However, found some ladybird eggs on the underside of some of the leaves tonight, so am going to give the ladybird larvae a chance to eat the aphids before any more spraying. Spotted two ladybirds as well, one of which was spotless!

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The runner beans are still not big enough to pick at the moment and I suspect they don’t like this heat. Unfortunatley they are severely infested with blackfly, even though I planted marigolds around the plants. Despite our best efforts we cannot seem to get rid of the blackfly by squashing them. Even spent an hour the other night hosing them off, only for them to return the following day. Have now resorted to using an organic insecticide, suitable for vegetables.

I discovered a lone ladybird on the beans tonight, the first seen this year – just need a few more to join him!

We are picking the climbing beans most days. They get placed in a bag in the freezer and kept for winter meals. They seem to freeze better than the runner beans, which seem to get a peculiar taste when frozen. Strangely these beans do not have any blackfly on the leaves at all. Even some runners planted in the same row have blackfly, but not the climbing beans.

Aquilegias, also known as Columbine or Granny’s Bonnet are a lovely cottage garden plant which has put on a magnificent display this year.

Aquilegas growing in the border

Aquilegias are hardy perennials which propagates by seed in a big way. They are very promiscuous and cross pollinate with one another and the self-sown plants grow all over the place. Sometimes you can get some absolutely stunning flowers on the next generation as a result, but equally the flowers can be small, bland and uninteresting.

Purple AquilegasFree plants are always welcome, but like to weed out the ones that are in the wrong place, perhaps because they are too close to something else. I move other small plants either in the autumn or early spring, to where I want them to flower.

I never have the heart to pull up the plants when they are in flower, even if they are a bit insignificant, because the bees seem to enjoy them so much. However, whilst they are still flowering I  always go round the garden with a ball of brightly coloured wool and tie a piece onto the stems of all the Aquilegias that I want to keep. That way I can dig up all the less interesting ones once they have stopped flowering, knowing I will be keeping the best.

Have you noticed how the bees cheat to get at the nectar in aquilegias?