Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Forgot to add...
On allotment one I had a rogue alpine strawberry plant grow last year. I was going to weed it out, but never did get round to it, so it now has pride of place up amongst my flowers. I have been keeping an eye on it waiting for the perfect little strawbs to turn red, but they just weren't budging, so I picked one and popped it into my mouth. Soft, sugar sweet, a ZAP of pure strawberry flavour. Amazing. So I have a white alpine strawberry plant on the plot! I should save a couple of fruits and dry the seed and see if any off spring are white also.

Tuesday 25th September 2007 - Weather: bright but rain threatening
Today I had to meet Old Jack on the plot as we had a scrumping date over on the farm. Filled my carriers with plums, pears and crab apples. The owners are thrilled that we go and have a pick as none of the fruit is used in bulk and most of it falls to the ground and rots, which is such a shame. The crab apples will be transformed into chilli jelly, some of the plums will be turned into jam, the rest into plum gin and vodka and the pears will be eaten, frozen, bottled and given to the neighbours.

Once back on the plot I cleared the old pea and sweetpea area infront on the runner beans as this is the overwintering onion, leeks and garlic patch. The leeks that the site secretary gave me a few weeks ago are already in and settled and looking good. The area was dug, raked, dug and raked some more until I was left with something resembling a fine tilth. Then I planted my 75 white onions and 25 red onions. My mate Growmore sends me these from Yorkshire and the quality is outstanding, much better than I have ever received mail order. They are strong firm sets which seem to shrug of the dreaded white rot, giving me a great useable harvest in early summer. I also planted 2 bulbs of purple hard neck garlic, purchased from the Garlic Farm on the Isle of Wight. I have tried garlic from other mail order suppliers, and had rubbish harvests - the Garlic Farm were the best when I first used them, and I tried to be cheap, and paid the price. From now on I will stick with quality. I have saved 2 bulbs to break up and plant at home in a large trough. These should be white rot free and give me clean specimens for platting.

From there I did some harvesting. Still plenty on the plot and I picked a couple of cucumbers, a couple of crystal lemon cucumbers, courgettes, chard, turnips, radish, salad leaves and the bonus, a bowl of strawberries. There are lots of flowers and immature fruits still on the plants, but the nights are getting a lot colder now, so whether they will ripen, we will have to wait and see. I also picked the last raspberries from Jacks plot as he didn't want them. They went straight into the freezer as they turn mouldy so quickly this late in the season.

I did harvest a couple of the red sweetcorns, but they hadn't developed very big cobs. I don't know if it was due to the weather, or if they got checked when I planted them out, but they perfect, sweet, and beautiful.

Clearing time really. I still have a few spuds in the ground so I cleared the last of the kestrel and Maxine and I have a few pink fur apples to go. So, after an hour of digging, the rain started setting in, so I set off for home. I will be back next Friday for another farm rendevous and to clear the last of the spuds, pick all the apples I can reach and finish any digging I have left to do.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Saturday 15th September 2007
Danbury & Little Baddow Autumn Horticultural Show 2007

Finally show day arrived. The kids had worked very hard Friday night, daughter number one made a lovely fruit salad with peaches, kiwi, apples, melon, rapsberries, apples, blackberries, strawberries and alpine strawberries. She then made an edible necklace with a mix if little fruits and veggies. Son number one made a dinosaur from vegetables - a marrowsaurus.

We got up early to shoot to the allotment to decide what flowers to put into the annuals section and to try and pick some good apples. We decided that the 3 sunflowers were gorgeous and they would be winners, so we loaded the car and arrived at the school hall at around 10am. I showed:
5 culinary apples
3 beetroot
3 carrots
3 courgettes
1 outdoor grown cucumber
1 table top marrow
5 onions grown from sets
12 shallots
5 coloured potatoes
5 white potatoes
7 runner beans
3 beefsteak tomatoes
5 medium tomatoes
7 cherry tomatoes
any other root veg - turnips
any other veg - turks turban squash
top tray - collection of 3 types of veg
vase of annual flowers
recipe using plums (Mulled plum jelly)
jam made from soft fruit (Strawberry jam)
jam made from stone fruit (Greengage jam)
chutney (curried rhubarb chutney)

We left the hall and went off to do our chores, heading back there at around 3.30 for prize giving at 4.15. I wasn't expection to do great as I hadn't had lots of time over the summer to molycoddle my veggies, what with the hernia op and going away on our hols. Also the toms had some blight, and I had trouble matching veggies - for example, I had 2 smashing big beetroots, but the rest were all small like golfballs, same problem with the carrots. All the whoppers were slightly twisted or had green shoulders, so we went with the smaller ones that we could match.

I left the inlaws and hubby to look at my veggies whilst I went with the children to see how they did. They were very proud as son took a first for his Marrowsaurus and daughter took seconds for her fruit salad and necklace. By now the inlaws and hubby were very excited as I had managed to take a few firsts myself. In fact, I took 7 firsts, 7 seconds, 4 thirds and my greengage jam was highly commended. My top tray came second and I won a £5 gift voucher for DT Browns. I took the most points in the show to won the prestigious RHS Banksian Medal and the Dawson Challenge Cup. I was thrilled and the chairman of the society made a point of telling everyone how tough it is on our allotment because there is no water, we have to save what we can, or lug water from home. He went on to tell the audience that I work the plot on my own, as well as working, and being chief mum and head bottle washer. Gush Gush.

The next show is in the spring and is usually only flowers. Wonder if I have time to plant more daff bulbs as it is the daffodil society in the spring,

Now my photos of my winning entries.



Friday, September 07, 2007

Friday 7th August - Weather: hot, sunny outbreaks, humid then overcast!

Well, it's official, the urchins are back at school and at last I have spent some SERIOUS time on the allotment. I have been Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, but didn't think you would want a day by day/blow by blow account, so I am keeping it all to today.

The weather has been so warm, great for ripening the toms but not so great for the young seedlings and plants that could do with a good downpour to help them along. I don't imagine this warm snap will last for long, after all, this is the UK!

Wednesdays main job was to sort out the poor toms. Blight was in amongst the plants, but not all, and even those that were blighty, weren't blighty all over, so good hygene was called for. All the plants that were undercover were fine, no blight, so I just tidied those up, took the tops out now so the plants can concentrate on the fruits that are already big and beautiful and tied them in. The blighty ones, mostly yellow berry and sungold were cut back to where the blight stopped and the clean tissue began. I removed about three quarters of the foliage and any blighty fruits on the vines. I tied them up and took the growing points out. I don't know if the fruits will ripen, but I am buggered if I am going to pull up good plants with lots of toms on. If only a quarter of them ripen then it was a worthwhile exercise. A couple of plants came completely out, several plum toms and a beefsteak, but all the fruits were removed and bagged seperately so I can use the blighty ones quickly, cut off the yuck and cook down the remainder, the green ones with no signs of blight will be cooked down and made into Green Tomato Mango Chutney, and the ripe ones with no sign of blight. I will keep an eye on the ripe fruit and as soon as it shows any signs of blight, I will oik them out.

This should have only taken a couple of hours, but of course, the lovely Jack called me and he was picking his Autumn Bliss raspberries....for me! We ended up chatting and picking and eating for the best part of an hour, but he is worth his weight in gold and in a couple of weeks we go over to the farm and into their orchard to scrump pears (with the farmers permission of course) and he has a dozen winter lettuce seedlings for me when they get a little bigger. (The blackberries I picked from the school playing fields. The mums all think I am slightly eccentric, they can't understand what I do with blackberries!) This is an edit, just to say that this evening I bottled the blackberries in lovely, pretty kilner jars - the cooker method. We had some a couple of weeks ago that I bottled last year and they were nectar!

In the afternoon I started to clear where the sweetpeas were and started to dig this area over. There is a row of dwarf french beans there and I am letting them dry on the plants to give me a jar of dried beans to use over winter. We had so many beans that once the runners started I stopped picking, so already some are drying out. Once they are dry on the plants, and before the weather starts getting to wet and cold, I will pull them all up and lay the pods out on newspaper somewhere cool and dry for a week or so to make absolutely sure they are dry, then I will shell them all and jar them for the winter.

Wow, what a difference. Cutting the paths whilst I worked and re-edging the plot makes such a difference and plot number 2 was really looking great by the time I left.

Thursday was brassica day. The cabbages and sprouts were in a jungle of chickweed, creeping this and stinging that, so I pulled off all the netting and got down in amongst the cabbages. Straight forward weeding was all that was required, but it did give me the chance to squish over 10 slugs and crush about the same number of snails. The purple sprouts, falstaff I think, already have baby sprouts so they will definately be ready for Christmas dinner. The green ones, I can't remember their name, do have sprouts, but they are tiny so I think they will feed us in the new year. I picked a handful of brocolli which daughter number one normally scoffs and admired my lovely savoy cabbages. They look so amazing. I must make sure I grow more of them next year. Once again the cauliflowers were rubbish - really don't know why I bother, so out they came, and I planted a row of Asparagus Kale that I got from a seed swap on A4All. Lovely strong little plants, should give us some kale for Christmas and then into the spring. There is room for the other greens that I have at home, I just have to remember to take them up there.

After I renetted the brassicas I moved over to the side where I have a couple of unusual sweetcorns growing, given to me by a lovely friend I met through A4All. Once variety is rainbow corn and one is red inca. The rainbow is doing amazingly well and there are 2 or 3 cobs on each plant and some of the plants are over 6 foot tall. The red isn't so tall, but each plant has at least 1 cob on it so I am chuffed. Because I received the seed a little late in the season, I didn't sow the entire packet meaning I can do the rest next spring. Wondering now if I can save one cob from each plant to get more seed for next year. I weeded around the corns and the sunflower patch and in amongst the corns and weeds I had a row of carrots - Paris Market, a row of Kohl Rabi and a row of Curly Kale. Well, half rows really, and they were rediscovered, growing for victory. I pulled one of the carrots just to see, and I ended up pulling the lot because they were just beautiful. For me, this has been the best year ever for carrots. No fly at all, perfect clean roots, very little greening at the neck, sweet and tender and just perfect. The kohl rabi, although nice little plants, were still very little thanks mainly to the shade. However, they are now out in the open, so of course the pigeons will eat them, but if they don't spot them, then after a couple of downpours of rain, we should start having golf ball sized rabis to cook with out turnips.

At the end of Thursday, plot number 2 looked perfect. I still have some digging to do where the sweetpeas were - I only got half way across the plot, but that isn't an urgent job and I can do a little of that every visit. It is my onion bed, so will become urgent once my garlic arrives - order from the garlic farm on the Isle of Wight, and my Japanese hunions arrive, courtesy of the lovely Jim on A4All who sends me lovely sets which thrive on my plot and hardly any succumbe to white rot....why, we don't know, good quality Yorkshire sets he tells me.

Friday - today. Well, I am aching all over because today was spud digging day. I have left this job so late, but my hernia operation prevented me from doing any heavy hard digging, so we have just dug a few plants as and when we needed potatoes. Well, now I want them up because I want some for the village show next weekend, and because I know some plants had blight and I want to get the tubers out before any blighty ones spread, and because I know I have the entire population of slugs living on my allotment who will enjoy spuds for breakfast, dinner and tea if I leave them in too much longer.

First up, Pink Fur Apple. A lovely salad type spud, knobbly and bobbly and a pain to peel, so don't! Give them a wash, toss them in olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt and roast. YUMYUM PIGS BUM! A good harvest considering my potato plants do not get any extra water, only that which mother nature provides. The wet early summer has meant the tubers are huge, just not many per plant, but I expect pound for pound, we have done miles better this year than ever before. Maxine next, a delightful red lady, again, HUGE tubers, but some slug damage. Not too bad though.

By now, 3 rows in, I am flagging. My allotment neighbour and site secretary was over hacking back her Jerusalem Artichoke forrest and she offered my about 40 leek plantlets. I grabbed them becuase I was all behind with my leeks, blaming the old hernia again, and although I had been sent some from an A4All member, the post office had been so slow in getting them to me, over half were rotten. I do have some in the greenhouse, but they are like blades of grass at the moment. These were like thin knitting needles, and I planted them over on plot 2 in the section I had dug and raked. Lovely to see vacant ground growing again. There are more leeklets for me if I want them, but I ran out of room.

After lunch I picked a bag full of apples, a handful of minipop sweetcorn for daughter number 2, and Jack told me he had strawberries ripe again, so I had a looksie at mine, and what do you know, a bowl full of ripe strabs and masses of developing fruit! Amazing, sometimes I love this global warming. If this warm spell hangs around for a week, I reakon I will be picking another decent sized bowl full next weekend.

Time was marching on and I was feeling the strain from digging all those spuds, so I went and picked runner beans and tidied up my globe artichoke plants. They have baby flowers coming - I had a couple last week, and there at least 3 flowers coming again, not big main buds, but lovely tender baby buds, so I shall enjoy them, probably next weekend with my strawberries! All I need now is for the asparagus to think it is spring again and I will be eating like a king!! I took the time to look at my other veggies, mostly those growing beneath the ground. The turnips really need pulling as they are getting so big - tennis balls now, but I want three beauties for the village show next week, so they can stay put until next Thursday. The same with the beetroot. This has been such a good year for me and root veg. In fact most veggies have done really well. The only thing I would say was a bit poor were the peas. We had plenty, but not enough to freeze this year. The Alderman really didn't perform well. I shall continue to grow them though as they are an exceptionally good pea, and this has been an exceptionally odd growing year.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Sunday 2nd September 2007 - Weather: humid and overcast

I didn't get to the allotment today but I have been spending the last week in my own garden which has been great!
On day one I emptied the shed, sorted it, refilled it, neatly and in a sorted order of course. It was then painted, Somerset Green, and had trellis attached to it to support the grapevine that grew from within the bowels of my compost heap! I dug up half the garden strawberry patch, re-edged and turfed the 'blank' area, giving the urchins more play space. I tidied the greenhouse and made the working area of the garden look neat and tidy, tidy and neat.
On day two I sorted out the urchins play house and gave that a coat of paint, Somerset Green. I removed a small flower bed on the playhouse side of the kids play area and turfed that, making even more room for their little tootsies. I now went about raking and cutting and cutting and raking the woodland garden. I hadn't gotten around to cutting back the aqueligias, so the foliage had a nice dose of mildew and the flower stems were dry and brittle and seeds had been shed far and wide. Amongst all the jumble, the ferns burst forth looking stunning. I think I need to get three more as there are 3 obvious gaps in the woodland.
On day three I continued cleaning the top end of the garden, the area around the back of the greenhouse and around the pond. Painted the new trellis, Somerset Green, to be attached to the ballistrading along the front of the deck. Good job I like Zummerzet!
Missed a day, yesterday, but today, day four, Hubby took all the rubbish I had accumulated from the shed, greenhouse and garden, to the dump. I am being quite rutheless with a lot of the shrubs and trees and giving them a serious hair doo. I have removed a third of the hazel as it is yet to flower and go nutty, have also removed any forward facing branches on the medlar tree as I am attempting to grow it as a loose fan to provide privacy in the garden from the neighbours and the houses that are in the distance. I also cut several drooping stems out of the Leycestaria (pheasant berry) and as the stems are merely hollow tubes, I have cut them into 8 inch pieces and am going to tie them altogether and poke them somewhere safe to act as a ladybird/bug house for the winter. I have done this before and we have had small bees using the stems, so I know it works.

This evening I cooked down a box full of mixed apples and intend to make chilli jelly and garlic and apple jelly. I also made a pan full of Marrow and Ginger jam, a real favourite for us and a good way to use oversized courgettes, which I imagine there will be lots of on the plot when I get up there on Wednesday, when, wait for it, the urchins go back to school!