Thursday, June 15, 2006
Friday 16th June 2006 - Weather: Hot and humid - perfect blight weather!
Another fabulous day here in Essex. That rain at the start of the week, then again on Wednesday has really brought things on! I couldn't believe my eyes when I arrived on site. My cardoon monster must be 12 foot tall now. No chance of me seeing up into those gorgeous flowers and watching the drunken bumble bees. Everything must have grown a foot since last Friday, weeds included!
I was one of those days, if it crept, crawled or flew, then it crept, crawled or flew near me! Firstly as I arrived, Vincent Vole and his kids all marched from my flower bed back into the rough area where the plum tree stumps are. I was hoping the removal of the trees might have evicted them and made them move on. Obviously not. Then down by the shed, where the waterbutt and my pallet table is, Millie Mouse kept darting about making me jump! She is the one responsible for chewing up a lovely heap of fleece over the winter! Then as I walked across the slab path to check out progress on plot number 2, Laura, Leonard and Les Lizards were all laying sunbathing. They scuttled off into the long grass as I approached. Bert Blackbird foolishly got tangled up in Lorettas strawberry netting, so I had to set him free, and Justin Jay sat in the tree above me chattering as I ate my lunch. Peter Pheasant, who is stunning, didn't show himself today, but he did sit in the hedgerow and screech at regular intervals. In the distance I could hear cuckoos and woody going about their business, and on the drive home, a daft grey squirrel decided to run infront of the car all the way down the lane. Really, all I needed was a heard of Bison to stroll through and my day would have been complete!
Anyhow, I digress, today I decided to split my work into 2 halves and spend the first half of the day on plot number one, and the second half tidying up plot number 2 around my toms, beans and squashes.
I weeded along the flower bed - lots of creeping buttercups and other creeping strangling little flowers. Now that the plum trees are all gone, I should be able to grow veg there again next year if I want. I do have a row of beetroot and a row of little gem lettuce in with the flowers and they are really growing strongly. Amazingly this year I have remembered to sow little and often with the salads so should be able to harvest as and when I need it right through until the dark nights of winter. The parsnips are growing really fast now - their foliage really is big and tough, but I must remember to be careful as their sap really caused me some bad burns on my arms last year. I still have the scars to prove it! Turnips are looking great - using them as I want them. I am pleased with the 'nips as I haven't had any success in the past thanks to the flea beetle decimating them, and the lack of water. This year however, a light dusting of derris as they germinated, and then that lovely wet weather, and they have grown really fast. I am using the thinnings grated raw in salads. Hoping the rest will swell and be okay later in the summer when the other roots start swelling for heartier meals.
Dug up the last of the bolted spinach. Must sow some more, but I think I will wait for another wet day so the seeds can get away quickly and not bolt immediately. If we haven't had rain by the middle of July, I will water a patch every day for a few days to get it really damp deep down, then sow. The new bright light chards have really put on some growth, and the young leaves are so sweet and tender. These are so much tougher than spinach and go a lot further for us. I love the colours also. Where the spinach was I sowed some sweetcorn. I have never tried these directly, but if they grow, they will be a good few weeks behind the maincrop, and even if we only get one or two cobs per plant, it will be fab! Last year my sweetcorn failed completely, either too early or the squashes got away too quickly and strangled them as I grew them altogether. This year I am growing them seperately to see if I have more success. So far so good! There are carrots everywhere as I tend to broadcast sow them rather than neat rows. Once they are up, I weed carefully, then cover with fleece to keep that horrible carrot fly off.
In the brassica bed everything is really coming on quickly thanks to that drop of rain, and again I have purple sprouting brocolli. Everyone keeps telling me how well it freezes so I might give it a go as I don't really fancy any at this salady time of year. The autumn planted cabbages that I have started picking are great! This one I think is called April (could be wrong) and is a pointy one. These make great coleslaws and salads. The cavalo nero kale is looking rather handsome. No catterpillas... YET! This really blackens up once the night time temperatures drop. This is for Christmas dinner!
Picked a load of peas, 3Ib of strawberries and some lettuce before having my lunch, cold spinach pizza! Delicious!! It was nice to sit in the shade for 10 minutes.
Plot 2 isn't as high maintenance as half of it is over to spuds, the middle section is my structure with beans up one side, tomatos through the middle and toms on the other side, oh, and bronze fennel which really seems to like my allotment, then the last section is currently a mix of onions and young squash plants, oh, and of course, volunteer potatos! The onions and garlic are starting to come home with me now. The onions once the tops are bent over come home, and I am digging garlic as I need it. Unfortunately the garlic this year really seems to have suffered from white rot, which is a pain as it means the garlic won't store. However, what I plan to try is bringing it all home and pulping it in my blender, then freezing the garlic pulp in ice cube trays. Once frozen I can bung them all in a big tub in the freezer, the idea being, when I want to add garlic, I just grab a frozen lump and bung it in. Good thinking huh?!
I have plenty of flowers on the runner beans already which is great as last year we didn't get many thanks to the Vole family chewing through the stems when the plants were young. Of course, they don't want to run up their poles, oh no, why do that when inside the structure are loads of bamboos supporting young tomato plants that you could strangle! Took me an age to unravel them and tie them to their own poles. Plenty of flowers on the tomato plants which is a very satisfying site. I had another dozen tom plants, 4 water melons and 3 honeydew melons to get in so I needed to clear a patch of stray volunteer spuds. Heavy going, but the ground is still so wet they came up quickly and I filled a bucket with 9Ib's of new potatos. Very chuffed! Looks like this is going to be a great year for the humble spud. Worked my way down the plot cleaning around the various squash plants. There are already some baby lemon cucumbers coming which is perfect. I did plant some more pumpkin seeds directly into the ground, just to see if they grow really. I also sowed some beetroot at the edge of the plot - well, I had half a packet of seed left in my pocket so I thought why not.
The Chapmans came over and we had a little chat. His spuds really aren't growing well which is a mystery as mine are looking great. Of course, there is no telling what is happening under ground! Plan to pop up after school on Tuesday for another strawberry and pea picking as it is school sports day and hopefully my darling will be able to get the afternoon off work. He wants to see how everything is shaping up. I shall have to moan about the long grass to see if it will encourage him to cut it for me!