Thursday, October 16, 2008

Thursday 16th October 2008 - weather: clear blue skies but breezy
Back again, what joy! Everything was still exactly as I had left it, no magic gnome had arrived in the night and finished all the digging for me, so with fork in hand, I carried on. I completely dug the tomato growing tunnel, watered it as it has a corregated plastic roof so it stays quite dry, then sowed some mustard seed. I know it is rather late in the season, but as it stays so mild for so long I thought I would chuck some in. It didn't cost me anything and the soil in the tom tunnel is getting quite fine so this should help beef it up.

I took down all the bean poles then. A sad job. I always think and allotment doesn't look like an allotment if it doesn't have bean poles up. However, they were all cleared away and stashed in the shed. I then spent 15 minutes just tidying up in the shed, just as a break from digging. I have patched the hole in the window, but have left a bit open to see if the wrens come back again in the spring and nest again on my old rake.

As you can see my lovely cosmos are still flowering their little hearts out and have been all summer long. These self seed at will and I leave them to it.

Back to digging. Backbreaking work, but the ground does look so lovely when it is dug. In the 6 hours there I still didn't get the entire back end of plot 2 dug, but I am over three quarters of the way there. What I did get dug and cleared had mustard sown and raked in, and then, as if by magic, it rained for about 10 minutes, so all the seed was well settled in and ready to grow. I shall let it get to about 6 inches tall, then dig it in.
Still to dig and clear
After digging and sowing mustard

In my various breaks from the boredom of digging I tidied my rhubarb bed, then mulched it with a layer of manure, I cut down the massive stems from the jerusalem artichokes as they were starting to flop in the wind, I started cutting down the old raspberry canes in the fruit cage, I pruned back all of the currant plants, I dug a handful of lovely carrots, pulled a lettuce, picked the last 2 cucumbers and filled a carrier with the last Red Duke of York spuds, another I must remember not to grow next year as they were slug fodder. So no to Epicure and Red Duke of York and Picasso I think.

Jobs to be getting on with when I next get back will be to carry on digging, cut back the gladioli and mulch them with some manure, continue cutting back raspberry canes, make a clamp for the beetroots as I have so many still on the plot and to sow some sweetpeas - a bit of an experiment as I have never sown directly before but Old Jack does every year and he has a lovely show of sweetpeas very early in the year.
Here are a couple of pictures of my weeded brassica bed. I don't have masses of luck with brassicas, don't know why, but these are looking okay and I should have a lovely harvest of sprouts in November and December.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Wedensday 15th October 2008 - weather: damp and dreary

Cor, Autumn is really upon us. Leaves everywhere, the air is damp and the crops are starting to look shabby. I have pure luxury, 2 days off work to spend on the allotment, and I was going come rain or shine. Glad to say the rain was only very fine so I worked through.

Today was a case of start at the begining and work my way through, so I headed straight into the brassica netting to sort out the various greens and get them weeded and staked as necessary. The wind had really blown a lot of things down and also blown the netting down in places, so as I weeded I was able to get the structure sound again. I know that it is only for a short while, but when these plants have been in the ground for months and months, I am not about to neglect them just before they crop. I have about 12 red cabbage plants that went in during the spring...I'm sure they should be ready by now, but they aren't. I really don't have much luck with cabbages and I have no idea what I am doing wrong. The purple sprouting broc is reaching for the stars - hope that starts to produce soon. And glad to report that my Brussel Sprouts 'Brilliant' have plenty of little buttons all the way up the stems, so there should be plenty for Christmas and beyond.

Old Jack, love him, had left me a dozen winter hardy lettuce plants to put in, which I did in the gaps between sprout plants, and there is a nice row of young rainbow chard plants that are begining to bulk up. Also cavalo nero kale is putting on lots of new growth, so as the summer crops go over, there are some lovely winter ones to come.

I started clearing the tomato area where there is a blanket of foxglove plants. They must have been in the compost I put down in the spring. I don't mind as they pull out easily and they go on the compost heap. I am planning to leave a patch of them around the scarecrow as I do want to grow more flowers on the plot. I am expecting sunflowers to pop up everywhere also as the birds, or maybe meeces, have completely scoffed the heads of the sunflowers and there are seeds scattered everywhere. I will dig them up, and if they grow, bonus!

During the course of the day I trudged to the manure pile and filled my compost heap with a mix of weeds of poo. The farmer the other side of the allotment boundary has started dumping the manure over the hedge for us - excellent and free for all. Most people are putting it straight down onto their plots, but in my opinion it should be heaped up for a while as it is so fresh it is steaming hot and stinks of horse wee. I will leave mine on the compost heap until the spring and I will use it when I plant out my spuds etc. I may use some fresh stuff around my apple trees, but keep it away from the trunks.

Back to the plot again tomorrow and I hope to finish plot number 2. I have the beans to pull down and the old squash/sweetcorn area to dig over and weed. That area is going to be my seed sowing area next spring, so carrots, parsnips, salads etc, so I won't be putting any manure on it. I do however have a nice big pile of 9 month old compost which I will be putting over it just to beef it up. I also have a couple of jars of mustard seed which lovely old Jack has given me, so I hope to get that sown tomorrow so it can get growing before the weather gets too cold.

I did take pics, but have left my camera downstairs, so I will do lots of pics tomorrow. Now I am pooped and off to bed.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Monday 22nd September 2008 - weather: overcast and nippy.

Managed to get to the allotment today after work for a couple of hours to begin my latest plan. I did a large landscape job back in the spring and had to order masses and masses of weed supressing membrane. Due to my careful cutting I was left with quite a large amount, so I have decided to use it on the allotment - surely it makes sense? As time is very tight for me now that I am working almost full time, I figure that I could use it where I plant brassicas and squashes so I don't have to worry about weeding those half sections of allotment. I am sure there are problems doing this, but at the moment, I can only see it as a win win situation. So, today I dug up a row of Picasso spuds, lovely huge spuds by riddled with slug holes so I won't bother with them next year, raked the ground level, scattered with lime granules and laid the fabric down. I dug a small trench the width of the plot and put the edge of the fabric in and backfilled the whole. I pressed this down with my heel. I unrolled the fabric and did the same at the other side. Along the edges I have used pegs with pin it to the ground. I then planted 10 Spring Cabbage Hungry Gap plants, 10 curley kale plants and 5 calabrese plants - the other 5 were snapped so I will be phoning DT Browns tomorrow to see what they have to say. I scrabbled around for some netting and managed to cover the area, in a way, just hope the slugs lay off as I had no pellets.

I then planted a row of Jermor shallots and a row of Solent white garlic. The onions I planted a couple of weeks ago are already poking their noses through. This is the earliest I have ever planted onions so I am hoping for a good size crop come next late spring. I may try to get some more, but our local nursery doesn't do Japanese onions and I refuse to pay P&P mail order so I will keep my eyes peeled on my travels and see if I can pick some up elsewhere.

No pics today, forgot the camera, but we are off to see the bank manager tomorrow about our mortgage, and after that I will need some chilling time, so I will be back on the plot to take my aggression out on the weeds and hopefully I will have remembered my camera!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Saturday 13th September 2008

Danbury and Little Baddow Autumn Horticultural Show

Yes, of course, I entered which meant me getting up at some unearthly hour Saturday morning, shooting to the allotment and gathering lashings of crops, then darting home to get them washed and sorted. Did shockingly well taking 14 firsts in all, but this was for veggies, photographs and cooking. Also brought home 3 trophies and one plate, and daughter number one won a trophey for most aggregate points in the under 9 section. Anyhow, here are some pics from the day.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Post holiday allotment bounty

Forgot to post all the photos of the goodies we picked when we first got home from our holiday a week ago.

Saturday 16th & Sunday 17th August 2008 - Weather: bright and breezy

Well, after our 2 weeks in the very sunny South of France, the allotment was resembling a tropical rainforrest, so I had permission from jim in doors to spend the weekend whipping things back into shape. The forescast was looking awful so I planned to get up there first thing Saturday morning and get as much done as possible before the forecasted rain came in. Well, glad to say, it didn't arrive until nightfall.

So, basically my day was filled with weeding. I started at the top end of plot number one. The gladioli that I planted a couple of years ago really look amazing this year. I have already taken mum a bunch of about 8 and I was able to pick a further 10 for me, and there are about another 6 to take to mum this coming weekend. I must must must plant more bulbs and flowers for cutting. Speaking of flowers, alongside the glads are a row of dahlias which I started from seed this spring. They are lovely, so bright. I don't plan to dig up the young tubers but mulch them well with rotted manure in the winter after the first frosts and then see if they came back bigger and better next year. I have some in the garden that I just forget about and they are improving all the time. As I worked along I rediscovered a lovely row of carrots, spinach and celeric. They all breathed a huge sigh of relief when they could see the sky again. I also spotted half a row of corriander which I had sown alongside the carrots and promptly forgotten all about. Hopefully as it is later in the year, this won't bolt toooo rapidly and I will be able to enjoy the leaves.

I tidied up around Mr Cardoon, who is huge and gave him a really good mulch of my home made compost. Hopefully he will be okay, he always looks so tatty at this time of year. I guess he has put all of his energy into producing 10 foot flowers. I moved on to the globe artichokes, who were litterally being choked by the creeping buttercup that my allotment seems to be blighted with at the moment. I really got in and was able to dig it all out. Plenty of young shoots I spied, so these also got a couple of barrows full of compost around them.

As I worked down towards the apple trees I stopped for a chat with old Jack, who has been diagnosed as borderline diabetic, so he is taking things easy and watching what he eats. He has chosen to give up one of his three allotments at the end of the year. He gave me a huge bundle of lovely big spring onions. The Laurette, the site secretary popped over to say hi. She is midway through a course of radiotherapy, but she looked great and complimented my monster cardoon. She has a bundle of young leek plants for me next week which is great. She also lets me use her mains water to fill up my waterbutts which is very handy. Then Joe, or is it John with the new shed arrived. Boy is he brown, but then he has just had 2 weeks in Turkey. He gave me a bag of cooking apples. Finally the Chapmans arrived and promptly lit a fire, only to be shouted at by one of the site neighbours, so they put it out again. We had a gossip about family and the school holidays and then my family all arrived.
Mark tidied the shed for me and found the wrens nest perched up on a rake which was propped up in the rafters whilst the kids played in the stream. I did some picking at this point as I know the families interest in the allotment diminishes very rapidly. I did weed almost to the apple trees though, which I was really pleased with.

During my weeding and digging I unearthed a bucket full of volunteer spuds - not ideal to leave them growing, I know, but a nice suprise as I dug up some pink fur apple, edsell blue, some very red skinned spuds, possibly red duke of york, and some white ones with red eyes, maybe kestrell. I also picked some sweetcorn, babycorn and salad.

Then Sunday came, again the forecast was supposed to be rubbish, but when I got out of bed, the sky was blue, so at about 11am I poodled off to the allotment again. I mananged to complete the weeding of allotment number one, unearthing 2 rows of lovely young leeks, purple beans and beetroot! Honestly, those weeds have a lot to answer for. I also turned my compost heap now one side was empty, and as I turned I discovered that half of the full side was already well rotted and looking lovely, so I have started heaping that about.

I dug up the remainder of the Kestrel spuds and raked the area over. I then chucked about 6 barrows of compost of the top and raked it level. I will leave the worms to do the digging in for me. This will be my onion bed as I have ordered 2 types of Japanese onions, shallots and garlic and they should arrive in September.

Finally had one last pick, sweetcorn, beans by the bucketfull, a few toms which have escaped the blight and a cucumber. Hope to get back to the plot with the kids in the week to sow some oriental greens and radish which can stand the winter. Also must get some green manure for the bare patches.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Monday 21st July 2008 - weather: hot and breezy

Today was a picking visit and there was plenty to pick. I had also purchased a tray of onions to plant out so I needed to oik out the broadbeans and plant the hunions. I didn't actually dig the plants up but cut them at ground level so they can release that all precious nitrogen back into the soil. This does often mean that the plants reshoot and I have been known to get a bonus crop of young beans in a month or so's time. I also filled my trug with the first French Beans of the season, a lovely amount, a variety I brought in France last year, a long slender pod with darker blotches. Of course I cannot remember the name. The onions all went in and filled the old broadie bed. Hopefully they will grown and provide me with a few decent bulbs as the overwintering onions didn't do so well this year thanks to the dreaded white rot.

From here I went over to plot number one and picked the peas. Of course, can't remember the variety but they are one of the leafless varieties, all tendrills and pods. Easy to spot the pods but boy do they get tangled up with all of those tendrils. Anyhow, whatever the variety is, it's a winner as it has produced loads of lovely long pods packed with up to 10 peas in each one. These were shucked and in the freezer within a couple of hours of picking, sweet as the moment and all that.

Then into the fruit cage I ventured. The raspberries are still covered in fruits at all different levels or ripening, but I suspect there will be only one or two more decent picks before the fruits start to become thin on the ground. I stripped the red gooseberrys as they were all sweet and juicy and picked the blackcurrants from one of the bushes. This one is different from all the others, much larger currants and already ripe. The others dotted around both of my allotments are still very sharp and would probably benefit from another 2 or 3 weeks of sun and rain before I pick them. Next visit I will strip the redcurrants as they are pretty much ready now.

Picked a couple of little gems - might try that recipe where you braise the little gems with peas. Never had it before....should give it a go really. Also pulled 4 spring onions. Never had any luck with these, but this is going to be their year on my allotment as I have several rows and they are all looking amazing.

All in all, both plots are looking in good shape. Plot number 2 could do with a weed in the sweetcorn/squash area, but the weeds won't do much harm now the other plants are romping away. I also need to take the netting off my strawbs and get in there and give them a serious weed. I also want to tidy up around the globe artichokes as weeds have crept in there and because they are permanent, I don't tend to bother much with them.

Hope to get back later in the week for a couple of hours.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Saturday 12th July 2008 - Weather: damp and humid

Danbury and Little Baddow Horticultural Show - Summer 2008

My entries plus awards.

Vase of mixed perennial flowers - between 5 and 10 stems - Top Vase award, 2nd prize, £5 gift voucher.

Peas - first prize

Raspberries - first prize

Vase of 3 sweetpea blooms - second prize

Bowl of annual flowers - first prize

A summer minature - a display smaller than 4 inches - second prize

Broad beans, 9 - third prize. Compared to others, my pods were smaller and not as uniform.

Gooseberries - third prize. Mine were the only red fruits and they weren't as large and ripe as the other winners.

Any other fruit - Josterberries - second prize

Rhubarb, 3 stems - third prize

Potatoes, 5 (International Kidney) - first prize

Lettuce - cos type (little gem) first prize

Any recipe with strawberries - strawberry roulade - first prize and highest award in homeware section - silver trophy

The childrens entries