Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Sunday 27th August 2006 - Seed extravaganza!

This is just to post a list of seeds I managed to buy for 20pence a packet in Wyvales on Sunday. I had heard a rumour through the folks on the allotments for all website, so took myself down there with the family to investigate. Bargains galore!

Sweet pepper - Jumbo
Sweet pepper - Big Banana
Chilli pepper - Prairie Fire
Chilli pepper - Joes Long
Chilli pepper - Hot Tepin
Swiss Chard - Bright lights
Climbing bean - Goldfield
Tomato - Supersweet (x2)
Tomato - Gardener's Delight
Tomato - Gartenperle
Tomato - Marmande
Parsnip - Lancer
Parsnip - Javelin
Parsnip - Tender & True (x2)
Herbs - Sorrel
Herbs - sweet basil (x2)
Pea - Jaguar
Marrow - Tiger Cross
Broccoli - Autumn spear
Broccoli - Summer purple sprouting
Lettuce - Clarion
Lettuce - Salad bowl (x2)
Lettuce (organic) - Ice King
Lettuce - Iceberg set
Chinese cabbage - One Kilo
Radicchio - Versuvio
Brussels Sprouts - Red Delicious
Brussels Sprouts - Bedford Fillbasket
Brussels Spouts - Falstaff
Cucumber - Prima Top
Carrot - Purple Dragon
Carrot - Healthmaster (x3)
Mangetout - Oregon sugar pod
Onion - Bunton's showstopper
Onion - Brown Pickling
Courgette (organic) - Dundoo
Courgette - Parthenon
Courgette - Defender
Kohl Rabi - Logo (x2)
Pumpkin - Hundredweight (x3)
Leek - Musselburgh (x3)
Cauliflower - All the year round
Cauliflower (organic) - Goodman
Calabrese - Hydra
Calabrese - Autumn spear
Swede - Brora
Swede - Angela
Aubergine - Moneymaker
Aubergine - baby rosanna
Spinach - Scenic
Celeriac - Monarch

Not a bad list huh! This should keep us very well stocked on the allotment next year!

Monday, August 28, 2006

Friday 25th August 2006 - Weather: bright and breezy

A flying visit today as mum is over and was babysitting whilst I took the chance to pop to the plot to have a little pick. All of that lovely rain means the waterbutts are all full, but it also means the weeds have gone CRAZY! I couldn't believe it. The bindweed is the biggest thug of all and has been quietly making itself at home in the pumpkin patch. But I shall not worry - the urchins go back to school in just over a week, and then I will be able to spend as much time as I can over there getting rid of it all.

As I am in the pumpkin patch I can report that things are looking good. Not as many squashes as last year, but still plenty! Picked another bucket full of cucumbers, and the courgettes have started again thanks to the rainfall. I have several crown prince and a grey one whose name escapes me. Plus the swan gourds have grown to huge proportions! I shall take my camera next visit. There is a turks turban and a couple of others, so enough for us. The runner beans that run along the middle of this plot are in full bloom again, once again thanks to that rain, so it looks like we will get a nice late bonus harvest from them. Also the late peas I sowed have had a growth spurt, but I don't know if they will come to anything as they suffered such a check in growth because of the drought. Some flowered when they weren't even an inch tall. I shall monitor them and if they just sit there doing nothing, when I clear the squashes, I will just dig them in. The leeks have started to bulk up and I am saving loo roll inners to experiment with blanching the leeks. I know it has worked for others. The last major thing on this plot are the toms, and wow they are fab! Picked a lovely trug full, but they are slow to ripen. Picked the first beefsteak - Omar Lebanese. These are fab beefies, although incredibly ugly!

Over on the main plot things are really slowing down now. The second batch of sweetcorn has all but finished so I can start oiking them out. However, the good thing is the black and white radish and the mixed lettuce leaf that I sowed last visit are all up already!

I really do need to spend some quality time on the plot pulling up what has finished and raking the rough ground down. I am tempted to sow even more seeds in September as I reakon most quick to mature things like salads will do the business long before the weather turns.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Saturday 18th August 2006 - Weather: Sunny but breezy

An early start once again and I was on the plot before 8am (had to pop to Asdas (ggrr) first). Only had a couple of hours spare, so the first job was picking. Eight lemon cucumbers - that rain did the squashes to power of good! A handful of french beans, dozens of cherry toms - both yellow and red, couple of flying saucers (oh okay, pattypan squashes) and a bowl full of blackberries. Checked the waterbuts, and they are all full which is very satisfying. Last job was to dig and rake the old carrot bed. It dug beautifully, again thanks to the rain and I was able to rake it down to a very fine tilth. I sowed a row of white mooli winter radish, a row of black long winter radish (both great in stir fries and salads), a row of redball beetroot, a row of winter lettuce and a row of mixed leaf salad. I don't have any fleece now as it was all on it's last legs so it ended up on the compost heap - so before the weather gets nippy, I will get some so I can protect these as necessary. I still have red and green kale to plant and late French beans to get in. Also want to sow more spring onions and regular salad radish. Am contemplating sowing a couple of rows of carrots under fleece to see if I can harvest a crop for Christmas dinner. Now the weather is cooling, I am hoping that they would get away quickly before the weather really turns.

Overall, after the fabulous week of rain we have had, everything has really perked up. There are fresh flowers on the runnerbeans and squashes, my late 3rd sowing of sweetcorn is now standing over 4 foot tall and has flowers and the greens are looking lush and turgid.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Saturday 12th August 2006 - Weather: wet and windy at 7am!

Well, set the alarm for 6.30am and by 6.45am my flask was made and I was all kitted up for a couple of hours work on the plot. I knew it had been raining in the night, but when I looked first thing, it had stopped. So, opened the front door...and it was coming down in sheets! GGRR. Okay, quick re-think. Found my raincoat, grabbed a hat and headed off for the plot anyhow. By the time I arrived it had stopped raining and the horizon looked bright. Now, really, honestly, I am not complaining about the rainfall. No siree! My allotment is now so dry that I decided to dig the spuds whose foliage had long died down, and the ground was dry as deep as I could dig! In places, the soil was dust like. Even after the rain we had, enough to half fill my water butts, the ground was bone dry after just a couple of centimeters as you can see (hopefully) in this photos. The ground on the left was untouched, the ground on the right had my valour spuds dug out. So very dry. So spuds - I dug valour, sante, desiree and lady christl. Valour was very disappointing. Very low yield of small spuds, but no damage, and we had them with out Sunday salad today, and they were very tasty. However, I don't know if I will bother with those again. The others were all excellent - good yeild, no damage, pest or disease and some whopping big tatties! Can't yet comment on flavour.

After all that digging, I was exhausted so did some light picking for a while. Picked a couple of handfulls of runner beans, couple of cucumbers, a few tomatos, and my first dozen corn on the cobs! Very pleased with my corn plantation after last years complete failure. These were sown in pots by the children and planted out in late spring. They have really grown tall and each plant has at least 2 cobs, some have 3 and I spotted at least 3 canes with 4 cobs! Plenty for the freezer. The minipops have also been a great success as daughter number one doesn't like big corns, only babycorns, so they are a must for next year.

It looks as though we will harvest around 8 melons - cantaloupes I think. And there are at least 3 watermelons, which will have loved this rainfall.

The cardoon and sunflowers are in competition who can get the tallest. I am thinking about taking some of the cardoon home in the autumn for the garden as it is so spectacular.

Saw Old Jack, he was over picking runners for his Sunday roast. He told me that a couple of people had given up their plots as they didn't have the time. I am sure they will be snapped up as there are 8 people on the waiting list. As one of the plots is next to mine, I hope it will be used as the weeds are slowely but surely heading my way!

That was it - step daughter needed collecting and son had a party, so I was home by 11am, just as the rain came in again. Looks like the forecast for this coming week is wet and windy. Glad of the wet, not so keen on the wind.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Thursday 10th August 2006 - Weather: overcast and breezy

Well, back from our two weeks holiday in France and of course, things are looking pretty rough on the plot. We did pop up to see how things had faired on Sunday 6th and picked a lot of cucumbers, courgettes, runnerbeans and frenchbeans. The beans had all gone over and were very fat, which should have been disappointing, however, I podded the beans when I got home and they were glorious. I cooked one batch up and made a delicious cassoulet, I also made a tasty mixed beans salad, and the rest will be going into a mexican style bean salad for the weekened. The sad thing is, all of my lovely lettuce have run to seed, and any seedlings that were up and growing, are gone. It does make me incredibly sad and I hate to see areas of the allotment bare. However, I really must accept that this is the way with my plot - not having access to water on tap is a real issue, and even with several waterbutts, keeping the plot properly watered is really impossible. If seedlings come through, followed by a hot day, they frazzle clean off. I am going to try to grow more, earlier in the year, then sow and plant nothing in July and August, then start things off either at home where I can look after them for planting in September, and try sowing again in September. I have always sown something late in the year, like chinese greens, and fast growers like radish, but I am going to try more - after all, we don't get frosts until after Christmas, so with the help of fleece and cloches, I should be able to keep things going.

However, this evening was a flying visit really, just to see if anything needed picking. Came home with a couple of small white cucumbers, a lovely pattypan, a handful of runners, 2 mini corns, a goodly batch of tomatos, who really are thriving with no water at all, and some pink fir apples and valour spuds, which were only really dug as a test to see how things were underground. Dry, that is how things are underground!!

Anyhow, my question for today is, why is it I can be at the allotment all day, and be alone, and not get spooked or worried, and yet I pop up in the evening, and even though it is still daylight, every rustle of leaves, every movement spooks me? Of course, to make matters worse, whilst I was digging the spuds I caught movement out of the corner of my eye. I looked up and two sexy young foxes were looking at me from 2 plots along. I reakon they were last summer cubs - or maybe early this year as they were small and incredibly lean. Also they weren't really ginger, more blonde! Very very shy because as soon as I stood up they darted back, and as I said hello, they fled into the undergrowth. Oh well, good to know they are around as it will certainly help with the vole, mouse and rat population!

So, nothing to report - the plot looks sad, barren and dry - but then so does everyone elses so it isn't just me. On the upside, I am going to have a HUGE crop of toms, I will harvest at least 4 melons, there are some squashes, although the weather has taken it's toll on them, and the spuds, although small, seem to be plentiful and without damage. I plan to get up at the crack of dawn on Saturday and get down there to start clearing and tidying and getting ready for the rain that apparently Essex is going to get on Saturday. Keep your fingers and toes crossed for me that we have good, constant, wet drizzle for the whole weekend!!