Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Tuesday 31st October 2006 - Weather: blustery and decidedly chilly!


You may have been wondering where I have been hiding for the last few weeks? We lost our broadband connection due to Garner Digital going bust, and we had to wait 10 days for the new company to switch us over and for BT to switch us on! However, I am back with avengance and managed to get to the allotment for a couple of hours this afternoon.

There isn't much really growing now - even the weeds have started to slow down. So, job number one, planting the 200 odd Radar onion sets that the lovely Growmore sent me after Marshalls completely let me down. They are planted on plot number 2 at the end away from the stream. I have divided the top section of this plot in half, the right half has the leeks and garlics, which I am pleased to say are poking through, and the left section has the onions. Looks very neat! I used some old straw to mulch up the leeks a couple of weeks ago to help with blanching becuase I plant very closely to make the most of the room and don't have the surrounding soil available for earthing up. Mulching with straw, grass cuttings, or my most recent mulch material, shredded bills creates lovely long, CLEAN white stems. I dug one up just to see how they were blanching and as you can see, they are looking very good indeed!
With a chilly weekend forecast I wanted to bring in the last of the tomatos and courgettes and managed a tray of toms, 3 courgettes and 1 cucumber. If we escape the cold I reakon the courgettes will just keep going! The beans however have finished. They are lovely and green and lush looking, but there isn't a flower or bean in sight, so next visit, they will be cleared.
I have grown black and white moolis this year for a winter veg - the whites although patchy germination, they produce big roots. The blacks have huge top growth and thick germination but smaller roots in the same space of growing time.
Still growing/just growing:
Leeks - autumn giant and musselburough
garlics - purple wight and elephant
onions - radar
courgettes - white volunteer, black beauty, 2 yellows and 1 green with no labels
cucumber - lemon
chard - bright lights
kale - red russian, green curly, cavalo nero
brussel sprouts - red bull, green variety
cabbage - savoy, pointy and round with no labels
purple sprouting brocolli
9 star perrenial brocolli
moolis - white and black
beetroot - detroit, boltardy
celeriac - alabaster
french beans under cloches - currently in flower!
radish - salad rainbow
globe artichokes
parsnips - gladiator (I think)
selection of fruit and 2 thick rows of daffodils for cutting.
Not a bad selection for this time of year I feel.
Anyhow, just started to think about packing up when I spotted Old Jack looking for me. He asked me if I fancied going scrumping in the woods with him!! Well, I told him I'm not that sort of girl, which he thought was very funny, so off we went into the undergrowth. Alongside our allotment is a farm and they have a couple of huge ornamental lakes around which are orchards. The pear orchard, a mix of Commice and Conference pears, are still full of fruit and the farm didn't want anymore so they were being left to the birds. The farm owner told Jack to help himself and spread the word to the other allotmenteers. Well, an hour of giggling and pear picking later and I came away with 2 big carriers packed full of fruit, all perfect and fabulous looking! I spent some very nervous minutes whilst with Jack because he decided to climb up an old wooden step ladder, an old, rotten step ladder, and then leeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeean across trees to get that last big pear! My heart skipped several beats as I was trying to work out how to explain to the 999 operator where on earth we were! He is a funny old soul, full of stories and jokes and he such a generous man. As he left he told me to help myself to all of his beetroots that he had piled up as he had enough for him and he didn't want any more. 'Shame I hadn't been on the plot in the morning', he told me, he filled a 2 litre icecream tub with rasberries!!!!
I will go back later in the week for a full day just to finish off really. A bit of weeding - might try and clear under the apple trees, and also have a tidy up in the shed. Then to be honest, other than to pop down and pick, very little will be happening. Gives me plenty of time to plan though - and I want to try to start a few things of very early in the greenhouse to try and steal a march on spring!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Monday 9th October 2006 - Weather: started overcast and damp but brightened into a lovely afternoon!


Today was plot number two's day. Having not been to the plot for much more than harvesting over the last couple of weeks, and after all of the lovely rain, and warm spells, things have started to turn into a tropical rainforrest, so, boots on, gloves on, digging head on! I re-edged the plot as I went along which I do by slicing down and turning the slab of earth into the plot - this leaves a ditch around the plot which prevents the couch grass from the paths creeping in. I oiked out most of the squashes - the last stragglers were brought home last week and dug over that half of the plot. In this portion I already have some pruple sprouting broc and some red and green curly kale. This will be my brassica section for this coming season. There are still four courgette plants insitu - 2 yellow, 1 green and 1 white volunteer. I don't know how much fruit they will produce, but they all have baby fruits at the moment so I will leave them until the weather takes it's toll. I also have the lemon cucumber still under the cold frame, although it is beginging to look rather sickly (yippee!!). Once again, picked nearly a dozen cucumbers. I think this monster holds the world record for cucumber production! A very satisfying mornings work - I love the look of a freshly 'fluffed' allotment!

Next into the tomato section. I pulled up all of the tomatos that were in the open last week, but there was still a lot of debris and canes around, so I gave that area a really good tidy and carefully forked it over - why carefully, well I have 100 daffodil bulbs planted in that area and I didn't want to dig them up. Then into the tomato tunnel. A couple of plants quite obviously had blight, so they came out and onto the rubbish, and a couple had no fruits left, so they came out. This has left about 8 plants still with fruits. As they are undercover, I am hopeful that the fruits will start to ripen a little. I will bring them all home in the next couple of weeks, but if they can ripen on the vine, so much the better! As it was I filled my trug with blighted toms, windfalls and ripe ones. Picked a large handful of runner beans again - they really have started producing amazing long tender beans. Fingers crossed they will keep going. Next year I will grow the toms where my runner beans are, and my beans where my toms were to give the ground a rest. I also plan to put down a monster pile of manure along both sides of the tomato house, and inside to give everything a really good start next year.

At the end of plot number 2 are my Autumn Giant Leeks, and they are really begining to bulk bip now. I weeded around them and then used to last of this years straw bale to mulch between them. The plan is the straw will help with the blanching, and can be dug into the ground in the spring to help with the soil structure and moisture retention. I have a couple of sacks of partly rotted leaf mould at home and I am also going to use that to 'earth up' my leeks. This section of plot number 2 will be my onion and garlic section, if Marshalls ever bother to send me my sets!

Chuffed with plot number 2 - looks tidy and weed free, and still in production, which is very satisfying at this time of year.

Had a quick flick over plot number one, but that is a job for later in the week/next week. I did take the second half of my cold frame over from plot number 2 to plot number 1 and have placed it over my newly growing French Beans. These are dwarf frenchies that we brought in France - a late sowing I know, but I am really hoping that with the protection of the cold frame, they will produce a desirable crop in November/December. French Beans are perfect flowers and do not need bugs to do the pollinating, so as long as they are warm enough, they should produce beans.

The sweetcorn have all finished now so I need to clear those out and dig over that area. The great thing I spotted is the cardoon, which I feared had died after the long dry summer, is in growth again - at least 4 new shoots at the base, so they will get a good mulch as I clear to help them along. I have found a local smallholding who sells bales of straw quite cheaply, so I may pick one up to snuggle my cardoon and globe artichokes.

Picked an amazing cabbage - I will photograph it tomorrow. No idea what type but it is a conical boy. Also picked some white romanesco brocolli so tomorrow night we are on roast chicken with all the trimmings.

A couple of people have given up their allotments so I am expecting to see a few new faces next year. Most importantly for me, I will have a new neighbour, a retiring headmistress. Fingers crossed she spends more time working her plot than my previous neighbours who have left me with an amazing crop of groundsel!

Oh, and another rant! Those Chapmans have cut a lot out of the old bramley apple tree which hung over one of their plots - and it was full of mistltoe! There is only 2 or 3 tiny pieces left growing in the tree now - the rest is piled up ready for a bonfire! GGRR. I wish wish wish I could get the darn stuff to grow in one of my apple trees. I have lost count of how many berries I have squished and wedged in the bark and nooks and crannies of my trees!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Tuesday 3rd October 2006 - Frustrated of Essex!

All around me people are planting their overwintering onion sets and their garlic, but oh no, no not me, and why I hear you cry? Because I ordered them back in the summer from Marshalls and trusted they would arrive when ready. Yesterday I telephoned Marshalls to ask when I could expect them, and I was informed they were posted to me on the 21st September and I should have had them by now. As I clearly hadn't it was my responsibility to go to the postoffice and insist they look through their undelivered parcels to see if they had my onions! I did mention to the young lady that perhaps the postoffice would have hundreds of parcels and mine would hardly stand out.....she informed me that they wouldn't have hundreds of parcels with onion sets in!! Anyhow, if the postoffice didn't have them, I was to telephone again and they would see what they could do. By now, I was getting rather cross. I asked if they would take responsibility for my £22.00 plus P&P parcel, and she said, they would see what they could do!! As expected, no joy at the postoffice, so I called Marshalls again and explained the situation, and after a brief pause whilst she 'checked' she confirmed they would send me a replacement parcel immediately. Not very impressed I have to say. I think I will resist mail order next year and buy my onions, garlics and spuds from DIY stores and garden centres! At least then it will be my responsibility to purchase decent goods and get them home in one piece rather than trust a mail order service, and the less than impressive Royal Mail system.

Rant and grumble over now.