Wednesday, 30 December 2009
I'm starting to feel guilty that I still haven't cleared the pumpkin plants, cut back the asparagus, or the raspberries and there is far too much digging needing to be done before the planting begins. Tomorrow looks bright so hopefully I can make some progress but in the meantime I have turned my attention to seed buying. Last year I made the mistake of just buying all my seeds in November and then struggling to remember when they were meant to be sowed and harvested so this year I am being super organised and have a spreadsheet to record all the important details, including number of seeds so I can order the right number of packets.
I'm going to be buying the majority of my seeds from Real Seeds, a company set up to supply seeds for Kitchen Gardeners, hopefully this will lead to some very reliable and tasty varieties, best of all they are all true seeds so you can save them for the next year. I have already been convinced by their impressive Kale selection and am going to risk some outdoor aubergines along with some new winter squash varieties and the usual carrots, parsnips and brassicas.
On the one hand it is very exciting to anticipate all the wonderful things which will grow this year but on the other spring is always a mad rush of sowing and planting, hopefully I'll manage to get a coldframe sorted out before the rush otherwise I think I will have a ridiculous number of pots in the kitchen. How are you getting on with your planning? Anyone trying any new varieties this year?
Sunday, 13 December 2009
A few weeks ago I made this recipe with my borlotti beans some tomatoes and a few other bits from the allotment and it was amazing. So if you're not sure whether to add Borlotti beans to next year's planting list buy a few and try this recipe. I think you'll make up your mind.
My celeriac has been a total disaster this year, only 8 survived long enough to be planted out and all but one died over the summer before the final one scorched to death in September so I am celeriac free this winter. Only I'm not because I love it too much to go without, so they have had to be added to the shopping list and I can continue to eat the lovely smashed celeriac. Hopefully next year I'll have more success in the homegrow area.
Next year I am planning to experiment with some new squash types and increase the variety of beans that I grow too so I'll be putting these cold wet months to good use to find some winning recipes. Which foods are you planning to add to the list next year?
Sunday, 29 November 2009
Last year I bought the Garlic Lovers pack from T&M and ended up with rather a lot of garlic so this year I have replanted some of my own cloves, but just 4 bulbs instead of 8 this time. The garlic did suffer from a little rust this year so I am keeping my fingers crossed that they will grow up and swell as they're meant to.
Obviously I could have just played it safe and bought some new bulbs this year but the problem is I read somewhere that if you keep replanting your own cloves after 3 years you will have effectively cultivated your own variety of garlic which is completly suited to your allotment or garden. I think I have a romantic attachment to this idea so I'm risking the complete garlic failure of next year to give it a try. Who knows you could all be clamouring to try "Souper garlic" in just a few years time. Or maybe not.
Sorry about the lack of photos there wasn't much to see on the garlic front (well you know what a clove looks like and they just went into mud right?).
Sunday, 8 November 2009
Once you come to plant the sprouting sets be very careful when getting them out of the packaging or you will break each and every one of the sprouts. Mark the rows with a proper string and post thing, don't use bamboo canes laid on the floor; bamboo canes aren't straight. Remember not to mark your rows in relation to other wonky rows or you will have to look, and everyone else can laugh, at your wonky lines of onions until next July.
Once you start planting the sets make sure you don't stand on all the previously planted rows and most of all keep any eye on which row you are up to; it takes a long time to plant a row of carefully spaced onions, each covered with a crumbling of soil only to discover you have planted them on top of the previously planted red onions. Digging up the sets and replanting will be a slow and tedious task.
If you can avoid all of these pitfalls planting onions will be quick and painless. It took me the best part of 2 weekends.
Sunday, 25 October 2009
Autumn is a time of birthdays in my family so we have been away for a few weekends, it was lovely to see everyone and we managed to return with several pumpkins and squash, loads of apples and enough Kale to keep us fed for weeks.
Today was a excellent day, I managed to have a very lazy lie in and still get to the allotment at a reasonable time, wouldn't it be good to get an extra hour every weekend! After a seriously dry September we have finally had enough rain to make the soil workable, most of the old men have taken advantage of the weather and cleared and dug most of allotments already.
This year I had lots of success with my overwintered onions but less so with the ones I planted out in spring; they just didn't seem to want to swell. So this time I am going to plant a lot more overwintered varieties and maybe just 1 packet in the spring. I have the whole onion area dug over and weeded but have so far just planted out a packet of "Shakespeare" sets, next week the "Senshyu" and "Electric" sets will go in.
In a couple of weeks I'll get the Garlic planted and then that really is it for 2009, the tomatoes will soon be cleared and the courgettes and raspberries are already finished. I have plenty of cabbage to see me through the winter but the tasks ahead are all about digging, clearing, painting the shed and preparing. The number of seed catalogues is increasing so I am mentally preparing for some long dark evenings pouring over the little pictures and descriptions trying to select all the things I want to grow and eat next year.
Saturday, 26 September 2009
Obviously we already help in many ways, I have planted 6 trees in the last few years as well as prunning 4 others which are already in my garden and allotment. Growing your own veg drastically cuts down on the food miles (I don't think miles walked counts) and we are all more aware of climate change as we have wet summers and hot sutumns.
But I still own a car, I still use gas and electriciy as well as water. Worst of all I still have to buy food from Tesco, most of which is overpackaged. At work I have less control over the environment so I recycle less of my waste and spend my day in front of a computer.
I have signed up to 1010 and am committed to making as many changes as I can to cut my emissions, hopefully I will see the immediate affect on my utility bills but I also hope to see the long term affect on my allotment, I really hope to continue growing cabbages and leeks, somehow I don't think an entire allotment of grapes and peaches will have the same appeal.
Join me and make a different: http://www.1010uk.org/
Sunday, 13 September 2009
Most of the potatoes have now been dug up, the Charlottes were quite sparse and the King Edwards have so far been disappointingly small but the Roosters are incrediable so I think we will still have more than enough to keep us fed.
The onions and garlic are dried and in store, the garlic is absolutly amazing and I am hoping to have success next year by replanting some of the cloves. I grew 4 varieties this year, the purple wright seem to be the most successful with a great flavour a huge bulbs. The overwintered onions also turned out to be pretty impressive although they are fairly lethal to cut.
The courgettes and sweetcorn have almost finished but the squash are still going strong so I will leave them until the leaves start to die off. So far I can see 4 crown prince although only 1 is fully ripe, and 3 of the suspicious marrow/pumpkin cross things.
Authumn is nearly here so most of the tasks will now be to clear things up, weed, and dig over ready for next year. The new raspberry canes are making a mockery of my raspberry support so that will be high on the list of winter tasks and the shed could do with some paint before I put the guttering up.
Saturday, 12 September 2009
As soon as you pick a cob the sugars start to turn to starch so I you don't plan to cook it immediately chuck the whole thing in the freezer and then cook it from frozen, the leaves are a little tricky to get off but persevere and you'll get there.
All of these cobs are from my Swift sweetcorn plants which I had intended to plant close together to encourage them to produce baby sweetcorn. Unfortunately the germination of my Swallow sweetcorn plants, intended for the corn on the cob, was so dreadful that I had to abandon the baby sweetcorn plan; well you can't go without corn on the cob can you?
Monday, 24 August 2009
This is the first Crown Prince squash to be spotted beneath the rather impressive squash leaf canopy which is currently threatening a good third of the allotment. I love growing squash and pumpkins; they can easily fight with even the most persistent weeds, have long roots to break up the soil and give you something of a surprise when the leaves die back to reveal, hopefully, a dozen or so squash.
This year I have at least 4 Crown Prince plants, they are a nightmare to cut open but the taste makes it all worthwhile. I also grow Baby Bear which looks like a mini pumpkin but is apparently a squash, anyone know where the difference comes in?
Finally I am having a go at some butternut squash for the first time, I am fairly sure this plant is meant to be a butternut squash Hunter but somehow I think I am in for a pumpkin...
Sunday, 23 August 2009
The borlotti beans are coming along nicely, I don't think I will ever have a glut but hopefully there will be enough to try out a couple of Sarah Raven's recipes. I took the time to patch up their rather shakey structure and removed a few of the weeds but this weekend was mostly about improving the look of the allotment rather than actually improving the allotment so I have been hoeing the weeds rather than digging.
The weekend turned out to be a hot one and also to be a weekend of firsts, the first plums were eaten (very tasty) and the first maincrop potatoe roasted, more exiting thought was the first of the sweetcorn, boiled and eaten. Delicious, and there is plenty more to come.
The couregettes have been politely producing 1 couregette per week which has been a very modest amount but it looks like all this sunshine has convinced them to put out 3 or 4 each, next week will mark the beginning of the courgette glut...
Wednesday, 5 August 2009
The tomatoes have been doing brilliantly and today I finally got my first few, there were 6 "Gartenpearle" which were good but fairly thick skinned and just 1 sweet "Sungold".
The "Gartenpearles" were strange plants, they hardly grew at all, most are about 15cm tall but carry loads of fruits for their size, they are the earliest to ripen but are also suffering from some slug attacks, probably just because the fruit is so low down.
The "Sungold" and "Gardener's Delight" all have plenty more green fruits but also the early signs of blight, not really surprising after the humidity we have been having but annoying early compaired to last year. Since all the plants have signs I am going to leave them alone for now and hope a few more fruits ripen, then I will be digging out the green chutney recipes.
Saturday, 1 August 2009
There is plenty to be eating at the moment, the onions are good and the garlic is very tasty. We have almost finished the Charlotte potatoes but hopefully some of the maincrops will be ready soon. There is plenty of spinach and at the moment the courgettes are supplying just the right amount for us to get through, no doubt that will all change soon.
Hopefully tomorrow will be dry enough for me to have a go at reclaiming my allotment, yep you guessed it the weeds have taken over.
Sunday, 5 July 2009
The squash plants are starting to spread out, soon I hope they will be big enough and brave enough to fight it out with the weeds which I have deliberately not bothered weeding because I know squash have excellent smothering tendencies which will hopefully kill even the most persistent of weeds. Most of the squash plants are planted over an upturned bottomless bottle to help funnel the water to the roots, and it seems to be working, the plants with the bottles are definitely more vigorous than the ones without.
It was far to hot to actually attempt anything today so I picked some cabbage and globe artichokes to go with my new potatoes and then took some snaps of the bees enjoying the flowering parsley.
Sunday, 28 June 2009
I had heard that you shouldn't plant tomatoes out until they have formed their first flowers and it seems this is true; the plants which had flowers have stayed small and focused on producing flowers whereas the plants which didn't have flowers are definitely just growing big and leafy. Someone remind me of this next year! arr
I have 18 plants, mostly "Gardener's Delight" but also a few "Sungold" and "Gartenperle", all of them are cherry tomatoes which should increase the chance of any actually ripening outside.
I love growing tomatoes, mostly because the rewards are great but also because they have so many demands, but unlike some things, if you can keep up with the divas you will get the rewards. At the moment I am frantically tying up, pinching out side shoots and trying to water them consistently which is quite a challenge in this weather. Luckily the plants don't seem to be bothered by pests.
I am already dreaming of home made tomato sauces and fresh salads with basil.
Sunday, 7 June 2009
I managed to harvest them by rummaging around the roots of the biggest plants rather than actually pulling anything up, hopefully they plants will continue churning out the beauties.
So this is it, the official start to the summer accompanied by a bit of butter and plenty of fresh mint.
Saturday, 30 May 2009
The plum tree is in its second year and is covered in baby plums. It will need some serious thinning out in a month or so.
Not quite ready but the blackcurrants are swelling up quickly. I think there will be some eating in just a couple of weeks, this year I might even have enough to take some home rather than just grazing on them as I go.
The new gooseberry bush is doing well and has plenty of berries ripening, hopefully there will be enough to make a crumble.
Monday, 25 May 2009
I managed to clear 2 of the embarrasingly weedy areas but only with the dutch hoe, it is far too dry to dig over so that will have to go on to the To-do list for a wetter week than this one. Still I am hopeful that if I keep the leaves off the weeds then the roots should weaken enough to make the removal just a little bit easier. Only 2 more embarrasignly weedy areas to go.
Still no sign of the carrots or parsnips but the new carrot seed arrived so I sowed another few rows and gave them some all some water. It should be noted that watering is no small task, each can requires a walk past 4 other plots and then a thorough soaking as you remove the full can from the water trough (no we don't have taps). Next year I intend to have one of those funky hand pump hoses.
As I was weeding away it occurred to me that we haven't seen much of Joe Swift's allotment this year, what do you reckon, has he lost it to weeds?
Anyway after all this exertion, and in the full sun too I had to go home to have a beer or three.
Friday, 8 May 2009
Picking my dignity up I prepared to sow again, well it is successive sowing so 3 rows every 2 weeks should give me a beautiful, and continuous, carrot crop and than was when the disaster stuck - I have lost the seeds! Thats right not only have I failed to germinate a single seeding but I have somehow failed 2000 others! Surely this is a carrot disaster?
Saturday, 2 May 2009
I also got around to sowing 8 more squash plants, the batch sowed 3 weeks ago came through ok but then I lost 3 so hopefully I will have a full set before the month is out. I have also sowed my courgettes inside, two plants this year and also a full list of couregette lovers from work, well you need to have somewhere to ofload the excess.
No sign of the carrots or chitted parsnips on the allotment, hopefully they are just biding their time. Managed to get the dward beans, pak choi and beetroot sowed but sadly no extra carrots because I left the seed at home, doh!
With 2 more days of the bank holiday stretching ahead I am hopefull that more sowing will happen, some weeding might not go a miss and if the weather stays like this there will certainly be more watering.
Sunday, 26 April 2009
With all this beautiful weather it is easy to get carried away and in fact my neighbor's row of tomato plants has had me very tempted but there is still a risk of frost for a couple of weeks yet so I am going to play it safe and keep my tomato plants in the crappy greenhouse until we are well into May.
The celeriac and leeks were started off inside, so far both are growing well and I allowed them out for their first day of sunshine today, they'll go back inside for the night and I'll begin the tedious task of moving things inside and out for the next week or so. The spinach was also started off inside to keep them safe from slugs, they'll be planted out when they are a little larger.
Last week I also sowed rather a lot, probably way too much, sprouting broccoli, so far most of it has come through so if I case just keep it safe from the cabbage whites and the rabbits I am in for a bumper crop. We are due a week of rain so hopefully the soil will get a thorough drenching without losing too much of the heat and then next weekend can be a complete sowathon!
Sunday, 29 March 2009
This year I am growing lots of Charlotte, these did very well last year and kept us well supplied with lovely new potatoes. Being a salad potato and therefore a potatoe which holds together well when cooked I found Charlotte to be very useful for putting in Spanish Omlettes as well as for potato salads.
I am also growing Rooster and King Edward as my maincrops. Rooster is a red skinned variety which is very popular in Ireland, the Potato council rate it as a 6/10 for flouryness so it should be good for mashing. King Edward is also rated as a 6 but it is more suited for roasting. Both are good for chips.
Hopefully I will also have some volunteer Arran Victory potatoes overlooked in last years potatoe bed. If I do then these should crop much earlier than a normal maincrop, they might even miss any blight.
Friday, 20 March 2009
I have 5 Glen Moy raspberry canes to join my other 10. Glen Moy is an early summer variety and spinefree - yey. In the background you can see my new pistachio (no it is NOT green) trug which is a present to myself (well you need to be sure there is at least 1 present).
I have also got a pear tree. This is a 'Concorde', a late variety, and hopefully a heavy cropper even on juvenile trees (I hope Ken Muir is right!). Yes it looks a little wonky but after I took this picture I dug it up and planted it straight so all is well.
Now that the weather is turning warm and sunny the work is progressing at the usual frantic March pace. Most the plot is cleared of weeds but there is still plenty of digging to get the soil ready for sowing.
Sunday, 8 March 2009
All this means that Celeriac will be present on your growing schedule for 12 months but it really is worth it. Shop bought Celeriac will cost you at least £1 and is miles away from the tender home grown roots. Easier to grow than Celery but with a similar albeit milder taste Celeriac, or Celery Root as it is often known is the swollen root and contains most of the plants nutrients making it super good for you.
This week I enjoyed watching my seedlings stretch for the sun, maybe I could do a better job with the tray turning...
And enjoyed eating several of last years successes in a very tasty Celeriac and Bacon layer:
Serves 2 hungry people
3 medium celeriac
4 rashers of un-smoked bacon
1/3 pint Veg stock
Heat the oven to 200 oc
Peel the celeriac and chop in half. Boil for 5-10 minutes until soft
Meanwhile chop the onion and fry until soft
Add the chopped bacon and 1 tsp ground cinnamon. Fry until the bacon is cooked.
Add 1 tsp of brown sugar to caramelise the onions. Then turn the heat off
Remove the celeriac and chop into 1 cm thick slices
Butter an oven proof dish that is about 15 cm wide and at least 10 cm deep
Layer the celeriac over the bottom of the dish, add half the bacon and onion mixture
Repeat with another layer of celeriac and the remainder of the bacon and onions
Finish with a layer of celeriac
Pour over the stock and finish with the grated cheese
Cover with foil and bake for 1 hour
Remove the foil and bake for a further 15 minutes or until the cheese is bubbling.
Serve with veg.
Sunday, 22 February 2009
I am hopeful that the council have finished faffing around and that I am now a permanent resident on plot 19 (now re-numbered but that is a story for another day) so I have bought a shed.
The building project began back in December when I bought the flag stones and then provided my fellow plot holders with a long afternoon of entertainment as I heaved them from the car to my allotment. Once the bruises had subsided OH helped me dig over a nettle patch and we laid them in a vaguely level square.
The shed arrived and sat in the garden for oh a few weeks until my parents took pity on us and helped carry the pieces down to the allotment. A surprising number of trips later we had everything in place and just needed a cordless drill to get it together. Strangely there seems to be a unusually high demand for drills so we have to wait a week for HSS to locate one, finally, in the middle of the snow they did. One day later and the shed was standing.
So there you go a full 5 weeks to build a shed. We have actually put the roof felt on since the pic and there is a huge fat padlock which will hopefully keep my spade safe. But more importantly I have shelter from the wind and the rain so I can drink my tea in comfort. Just need to buy a chair now.
Friday, 2 January 2009
It was another washout summer but there was still plenty growing, I had my first experience of growing tomatoes and potatoes, and then my first experience of blight, although thankfully the potatoes were untouched. 2008 also saw me completely fail to get any spinach, beet or normal, growing.
The allotment was going well, the cold winter months gave me a chance to make some impact on the nettles and the vigorous growth of the squash and pumpkin plants helped keep things under control. There was a bumper crop of Crown Prince squash and the Baby Bear pumpkins were pretty good too. Once again I had far more courgettes than I would ever want to eat.
Sadly the plum tree failed to fruit and the apple tree dropped all its fruits and then had a nasty case of leaf miner which finally seems to be under control. I failed to net my blueberries so a lucky bird received a very tasty meal, but I did have some fantastic raspberries and the asparagus crowns seem to be settling in well; with a bit of luck I can harvest a few shoots this year.
The parsnips are making up for their poor germination by being huge and very tasty, the celeriac took plenty of time but I am now harvesting small but wonderfully sweet bulbs and there are plenty more to go. Sadly the carrots were a complete disaster, the fleece tunnel experiment gave the slugs some warm lodgings from which they ate most the carrots and the rest fell victim to root fly.
So the winners of 2008 were the squash, pumpkins, potatoes and celeriac; and the losers were the carrots, spinach, tomatoes and plums.
2009 will hopefully see a shed on the allotment, some proper raspberry supports, carrots, plums and asparagus. How was your 2008?