Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Tuesday 18th July 2006 - Weather: 37', clear sky, no breeze, melting weather!

It was only a quick visit today, well, it was so hot what do you expect! Considering I was only up there at the end of last week, I was amazed at how quickly things had grown. Filled my basin with raspberries, goosegogs, blackcurrants and jostaberries. Another bowl full of peas and mountains of The Prince French beans. Over on plot number two I picked quite an armful of courgettes, I'm sure they weren't there last time I checked! And finally, cucumbers! I grow the apple cucumbers as there is then no waste as daughter number one eats them whole. There are loads to come. Runner beans are plentiful. Probably not doing as well as they should, a drop of rain would be super please! The last thing to pick was the first babycorn. I wasn't 100% certain when to pick, but I seemed to remember the idea is to pick them before the tassles are dry, and sure enough, a lovely long slender baby corn - I can't call it mini as it was over 20cm long. Daughter number one had it with her tea, fresh and juicy, just cooked.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Thursday 13th July 2006 - Weather: overcast and humid

Strawberry sort out day! They have finished now, sadly, so the plan of attack was to clear all the old straw and rough foliage, try to direct the runners, pot some of the runners up for an A4ALL buddy, and oik out some of the old ones along the back that didn't fruit at all. A long job, but not to hot thanks to the thick grey cloud cover. Wish it would rain! The strawberry bed should have moved forward by about 3 foot come next spring, if the runners all behave and grow where I have pegged them!
I seem to be spending more time harvesting at the moment that planting or weeding, which isn't a complaint! So, yet more peas, first proper picking from my runner beans 'Enorma', a goodly harvest of french beans, the majority being the extremely prolific 'The Prince', couple of very lllooonnnggg spring onions, 3 black skinned courgettes, half a dozen good sized turnips and beetroots, and although I promised I wouldn't, a pile of rhubarb!

Had a good weed and tidy around the globe artichoke plantation. I am quite tempted to shorten the row by a half next year as we don't eat that many artis, and they are huge! I may dig some up and take off the babies, pot them up and overwinter them in the greenhouse, then offer them out as they should be a good size and productive.

Looks like blight has hit some of my volunteer spuds. I cut down the foliage and dumped it behind my shed. Hope the toms don't suffer as I am now out of Bordeaux, and I really would prefer not to dust them again. They are looking great - upright and healthy with lashings of fruit....keep your fingers crossed for me! I was hoping to get in amongst them and tie them up and remove some side shoots and lower leaves, but as I had handled the blighted spud foliage I decided to stay well away from the toms rather than spread it from my clothes and tools.

Weeded 'The Pumpkin Patch' and examined the various friuts. Loads of courgies to come - yellow, black and green, pattypans showing themselves, round courgettes, melons and cucumbers. I reakon I will be able to pick 4 or 5 cucumbers by the middle of next week. Wish the people with the plot next to my pumpkin patch would pay their plot a visit as there are lots of weeds that have been in flower and are now going over, and a good gust of wind and you know where they will all end up!

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Redcurrant Gin recipe taken from Sensational Preserves

(For you Greenhouse Girl, and others who have more redcurrants that you could shake a currant bun at!)

Tis an easy one - 1 1/4 pounds redcurrants
10 oz caster sugar
27 fl/oz bottle of gin

Crish the currants with the sugar, then transfer the mix into a jar. Pour in the gin, cover and seal. Leave in a cool dark place for 3 months, shaking daily for a month, then just when you remember.

Strain, then I pass it through a muslin bag to get rid of as much sediment as possible. Bottle - if you can!

I guess you could then use the pickled currants in something...what I don't really know, maybe a triffle or pavlova. I shall be buying my bottle of mothers ruin tomorrow to get the brew under way.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Tuesday 11th July 2006 - Weather: hot and sunny

No, no, didn't get to the plot, this is just a quick YIPPEE as what do you know, after I hoped and prayed to good Ole Mother Nature for a drop of the wet stuff yesterday on the arid plot, it drizzled here for a good couple of hours in the early evening, and then on and off all night! Hopefully when I get to the plot over the next couple of days it won't just be lush weeds that greet me!
Monday 10th July 2006 - Weather: humid and overcast

Today I realised what the most important tool is to the humble allotmenteer... the thumb nail! As I was snipping of peas, then beans, then dead heading some cosmos and squiding a slug, I smiled and decided I had better start taking better care of this tool! It does come in awfully handy!

A bit of a late start today as I wasn't sure if the motor was going in for it's MOT, but I got up there by 10am. Jack was already hard at work stripping out his peas, which was to be my first job. The last of the Kelvedon Wonder needed getting out. I sowed some spring onions where they had been, and this has now filled the bed that the peas were taking up, so I have a third over to pak choi, and third to turnips 'Snowball' and a third to spring onions 'White Lisbon (winter hardy). Glad to report that the pak choi and turnips are up already. Could really go a drop of rain to get things moving!

Mananged to fill my trug once again with peas and french beans, and a few runner beans to! Again, a drop of rain would really do the trick and get all of those baby runners nice and long.

Thrilled with the sweetcorn plantation this year. Last year was a total failure, so this year the kids sowed the corn seeds for me, and now there is a lovely strong bed of corn plants. Already they are standing 3 foot tall, and there's no sign of any flowers yet, so fingers crossed we could be harvest 3 or 4 cobs from each plant!

We visited the plot with the kids on Saturday for an hour and they had picked a lot of the fruit for me, but there was still masses to pick. It has been a great year for the humble currant and I am going to look for some different recipes to use them. Last year I made redcurrant gin, which was delicious, but maybe not the best way to use the fruit. Some will inevitably end up in jelly or jam, but I really would like to try something else. Will have to investigate!

Dug up my kestrel tats as really they should have been earlies, but we have had so many volunteers and the row of Nadine, that I really haven't needed any, and I didn't need these, but what I did need was the room as I had a tray of Leeks 'Autumn Giant' that I wanted to get planted. I have grown a lot more leeks this year as we had a real allium shortage last year thanks to the white rot wiping out my main crop onions. Anyhow, I don't know if this Kestrel bed was particularly stoney, but just take a look at my comedy spud!

The courgettes and pumpkins are finally coming on and I picked the first round courgette. Rain please, same story, a drop of rain and we will have a major glut on our hands! Not that I am complaining as I can't wait to bake the delicious courgette bread again. Of course, hardly any of my squashes have labels...again...as the permanent pen I used turned out not to be permanent enough! Next year I will get me one of those glass pencils to do my labels.

For a change, I thought I would wander around and take some photos of the flowers on my allotment as there are lots, and you do overlook the flowers when the veggies are all growing like mad. The yellow osteo has appeared from nowhere, and I like it a lot, so he will be coming home with me in the autumn to over winter in the greenhouse and propogation. The cardoon is now way over 8 foot, and still growing! It is a monster and the first thing you see when you enter the site. My sunflower is 6 foot, and although not a record breaker, still a good height.
The tomatos are doing okay and have been dusted again lightly with Bordeaux mix to try and prevent blight. I don't think I will dust them again. The fruits have started setting nicely so now I just have that long wait ahead, waiting to see the first hint of colour. These are Reibenstraube (or words to that effect) and are a cherry with a distinctive lemon shape.

I did something today that I don't normally do, and that is water the plot! I only watered my baby leeklets and seed beds where germination either hasn't started or has just started. It is incredibly dry on the plot now, hard and dry to a spades depth. Fingers crossed the forecasters have it right and we get some rain over the next 24 hours. Here is a photo of the stream, or the dry stream! You can see my little pallet bridge and the sunken bin which normally I use for topping up my waterbutts. There hasn't been water flow now since May. But even in these arid conditions, somethings just want to grow - my fortune peas have germinated quickly in the warm rough ground and will hopefully provide us with a late pea picking as the weather starts to turn chilly.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Thursday 6th July 2006 - Weather: Hot and humid with short showers

Well, this morning I had the pleasure of accompanying year two on a trip the Priory Arch. Very pleasant, although the sky was dark and there was a light breeze. Could rain be on the horizon?

By 11am I was on the plot, and all was looking rather wilted, but still growing, just slowely. Glad to see the pak choi and kohl rabi I sowed has all germinated. Nothing yet from the spinach or the artic lettuce, but they haven't been in a week yet. Picked a cabbage and an iceberg lettuce - both have really good firm hearts so the cabbage will probably end up being used as coleslaw and the lettuce as a green salad mixed with other leaves.

First big job was to remove the last of the early onwards peas as they really had finished, and I wanted the room to sow another row of turnips. Look at these beauties that I pulled. These are called 'Snowball' and I got the seeds from Alan Romans website, 50p a packet. The ground was totally dry and crust, so I gave the area a couple of cans of water and waited for it to soak in before watering the seed drill.

Next out were the broadbeans. There were so few pods left, and as soon as they were getting to any size a critter was helping themselves, and as I found a sneaky hiding packet or Red Samuri carrot seeds, they were prompty evicted! I did leave the roots in because I assume as they are a bean, their roots have nitrogen fixing nodules, which will re-release the nitrogen as they break down.

The Alderman peas are now ready, and they are such good value. Huge thick long pods, each one with at least 10 large peas in. I have decided that next year I will only grow alderman peas and forget the shorter ones. I managed to fill my large trug with a mixture of broad beans, french beans, peas, and the first 2 runner beans!

Trying to plan for the winter, I decided to oik out a patch of beetroot and sow a nice row of spinach 'Bordeaux'. The young leaves are great in salads, and the older leaves are handy winter greens.

Right, head down, into the fruit cage! I managed to get stung on nettles, scratched on raspberry canes and prickled by gooseberrys, but my reward was a trug full of rasberrys, strawberrys, redcurrants, blackcurrants, gooseberrys and jostaberrys. I am hoping to make a summer pudding to take with us on Sunday when we go visiting. The redcurrants are amazing, masses of them! The blackcurrants, although black they could go another week really, same with the jostaberries. The red gooseberrys are in the sun, so they have ripened and are fat, squidgy and delicious, but the green ones are still a month or more away as they are in the deep shade of the apple trees. I might think about moving them over the autumn, or at least take a dozen cuttings, so if they take, after the bushes have fruited next year, get them out.

Had a little wander around plot number two. Everything is growing and at last I can see courgettes. Looks like the glut will begin next week! Grabbed the last of the overwintered onions as their stems were bent. Then gave all the tomato plants a good dusting with Bordeaux powder. Hope blight doesn't strike. There are so many young fruits coming, I would hate to loose them all! Some of the tops of some of the spuds have started to really die back now, so I guess I should think about digging those. Thing is, we have sack fulls of new spuds from the volunteers at home, and we haven't even tried the Nadine spuds I dug last week!

It is great this time of year when the harvests are plentiful, but I do seem to spend hours when I get home sorting it all out, freezing and fridging it all! Here you can see my frozen garlics. I do this because the allotment suffers from terrible white rot and usually my garlics rot, and you can't see the damage until you break open a bulb to find all the cloves shrivelled and rotten. I skin the cloves and put them in my little blender, then whizz them up until they are finely chopped. They are then pressed into my flying saucer shaped ice cube tray (it is meant to hold a slice of lemon in your ice cube) and put in the freezer over night. Once solid, they are tipped out and stored in a tuperware box in the freezer for use as and when I need it.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Friday 31st June 2006 - Weather: Hot and sunny!

An abrupt start to the day, number one son managed to get stung on his back on the way into school! Boy did he scream. I think it was more the fact that it was so unexpected. It wasn't a wasp, but it was a fly of some sort. As I lifted his t-shirt to see what he was screaming about, it flew out and away. A big hive appeared in seconds followed by a huge red welt. Fortunately I always have piriton in the car because of daughters allergy, so 2 spoons of that, and a kiss to make it better, and he was okay again. Number one daughter had her assembly this morning so after a lesson on the Great Fire of London, I set of for the plot.

As usual, noone there but the scarecrows. Picked a few peas and a plenty of broad beans and then set about digging up the row of Nadine second early spuds. Well, Rosemary Connley can stick her aerobic workout where the sun don't shine as digging spuds in the hot Essex sunshine certainly got me sweating...oh no, girls don't sweat, we glow, so I was positively glowing! Filled a carrier with lovely sized, clean spuds. No slug damage or eelworm, or anything else come to that. I also filled yet another carrier with mixed volunteer spuds. We are going to look like new potatoes before long! The ground turned beautifully where Nadine was growing, so I raked it over and decided to sow a patch of carrots. I broadcast sow carrots rather than sow in rows. I know this probably doesn't fit in with the rotational plans, but they will be out for Christmas, and needs must when you have mouths to feed! I also sowed a row of late peas 'Fortune' where I dug the last of the volunteer spuds.

I weeded a little around the various squash plants, and because of the success of the pumpkin seeds which germinated directly in the ground, I plonked another few in....Lemon cucumber and round courgettes. Still plenty of blackfly on the runners, but only on one plant. I am contemplating oiking that plant out, but then if they all stay on that one, then I can use it as a sacrificial plant to protect the others. I also have baby tomatos at last. I know some people are already getting colour on theirs, but they tend to be greenhouse plants, these are in the open, and the fruits are just bigger than marbles at the moment. I dusted them last week with bordeaux to keep the blight at bay, I will do it again next week on the new lush growth.

Back on the main plot...time for some lunch, which I forgot to bring so I made do with some freshly podded peas, lettuce and a cup of coffee. I decided to cut back some of the early onward peas that had finished and I carefully dug over the area - about 4 foot long - and smoothed it over. I have left the pea roots in the ground to return the nitrogen they absorbed whilst growing. Here I sowed a short row of Pak Choi. I normally leave these veggies until August because they bolt so readily, but I thought as they are in the dappled shade end of the plot, and because the broadbeans and alderman peas are also providing some shade, it must be worth a go. Then, in the dappled shade of the apple tree, I sowed three short rows of arctic lettuce - an iceberg variety which stands well through the winter. Then, to be honest, I just pottered around. Did some weeding, did some picking of this and that, thinned out the yellow Australian lettuce, one of which I gave to Daughters teacher, and admired my handywork.

The views from the plot are great at the best of times, over the farmers fields, but at the moment they really are pretty as he has a field full of linseed and it is in full blue bloom. I have often seen blue fields around here and assumed they were lavender - now I know otherwise.

Picked a selection of berries. Mine are a lot later than other people who have reported that they have already harvested redcurrants and gooseberries. My gooseberries are in the shade of the apple trees and therefore are a good month behind sun lovers. Fine by me, when everyone elses are gone, I have mine to enjoy! The strawberries, dare I say, are becoming a bit of a bore! I now have about 4Ib to make jam with in the freezer, and about another 2Ib in the fridge, which if I don't use up soon, will going mouldy! Might try bottling some - mum did one year and they were gorgeous. Thinking that I could do some little fancy bottles to do for Chrissy pressies.

I guess it will be a week now before I get back to the plot. As we haven't had any rain, the weeds are slowing, but so are my freshly sown seeds! Come on Mother Nature, it is still Wimbledon fortnight, the least you can do is provide us with a drop of the wet stuff!

Just to show off, here is my garlic plait. I wasn't planning to plait them this year as thanks to the white rot, they normally deteriate after a month or so, however, I went over the bulbs very carefully, and they all look in tip top health. I have about a dozen bulbs left that are small, or damaged or have mini bulbils up the stem, and I will get them used, or frozen first, then go onto these lovely bulbs. These are purple Wight which I have been pleased with for the past 3 years, however, this coming garlic growing season I am going to try something completely different!

Back home in the greenhouse I have a selection of seeds sown for late summer planting, and the first to rear their beautiful heads are the coloured kales. These are curly red and green kales meant for our Christmas dinner. Nothing like wishing the summer away!