Sunday, October 18, 2009

Thursday 15th October 2009 - weather: gorgeous autumn day

I arrived at the allotment at around 11am today as I take a friend into the next village to meet up with a bunch of our chums for morning coffee, then I help her run a few errands, so a bit of a late start. As I parked in the lane and got out of the car, a pheasant hopped out of the hedgerow and strolled along the lane, in no rush at all. Then, out of the corner of my eye I saw a movement, and when I looked round, a muntjac deer was standing their chewing away at young shoots. He looked at me, I looked at him, the morning, autumn sun shining down on the common. After a minute or so, he wandered off, as did I. I know the deer are a pest on our site, but I love seeing them that I can forgive them.

Anyhow, first order of the day, picking the last of the toms and getting the plants oiked out. Filled a trug with green tomatoes and a few red ones. I have plenty for making chutney, but for now, they are in trays in the conservatory with a few ripe ones just to see if any fancy colouring up.

I dug the tomato bed over and weeded it through, then covered it with a thick layer of rotted stable manure that the farm at the end of our plot dumps over the hedge for us. This will break down over the winter, and I will fork it in during spring before replanting toms there in 2010. I have been thrilled with how the toms have done this year. No real blight at all. I have picked pounds and pounds and pounds of them and have gallons of pulp frozen for use over the coming winter. I still have a huge basin full in the fridge, and as I mentioned, plenty of green and slightly orange ones in the conservatory.

After that, for a break from digging, I picked a sack full of apples. They have done brilliantly this year, and some are huge, bigger than my fist, proper 2 handed eating apples. Very crisp, slightly sharp, delicious. Don't ask me the variety...I did know, and way back when on my blog, I have probably told you, but now I can't remember. One of the old boys on the plot told me once - when I next see him I shall ask him again and make a note.

Now back over to plot number 2 and I carried on weeding and digging at the top end when I planted all the seeds this year. In the ground, I still have carrots, parsnips, beetroot and spring onions. After I had tidied up this area, I sowed a row of sweetpeas in number one sons raised bed - seeds that Old Jack had given me. I will sow more at home in trays.

I had a general clear up, putting all the old bamboos in the shed, and gathering all the empty bottles that go on the tops of the bamboos and bagging them in the shed. The plot is still very productive, there is still masses of fruit on the apple trees, plenty of roots to harvest, and the greens look fab. I have 4 caulis!! Whether they will come to anything, time will tell, but I have some lovely savoy cabbages, sprouts, red cabbage and brocolli.

Hopefully I will get back on Monday for a few hours to carry on the winter tidy.

As a final P.S. , I thought you might like to see what is growing in my conservatory at the moment. I have grown this pineapple plant just from a cut top of a supermarket fruit a few years back. This is the second time I have successfully had one fruit for me and, fingers crossed, it will be ripe by Christmas.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Thursday 8th October 2009 - weather: clear blue sky

A flying, after school visit with number one son. Old Jack had kindly rotovated a large section on plot number 2, so son and I raked it to smooth it over, and then went about planting about 250 Japanese onion sets. I brought red and white so we planted them alternately. Should look pretty. We then planted 8 Webbs Wonder lettuce and 8 Iceburg lettuce. I might throw some fleece over them next visit, just to keep them a touch more cosy.

I picked a dozen or 2 ripe toms, and the same again that were just turning orange. I really think that is it, so on the next visit, when I hope (fingers crossed) to have more time, I will pick all the green ones and pull up the plants. I won't compost them as finally blight has moved in, so they will go on the rubbish heap.

Carrots, parsnips, beetroot and spring onions are still growing great guns, and we pulled a lovely thick bunch of large carrots. This rain should really give them a boost. The greens are also looking good, and there are a couple of caulis. Whether they will come to anything or not, we will have to wait and see - I try constantly to grow caulis, and am yet to grow a proper, decent sized, tight headed one. Fingers crossed this rain came at the right time.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Sunday 27th September 2009 - weather: not a cloud in the sky - GORGEOUS!

Well, it took some convincing, but today I managed to talk the old man into coming to the allotment with me to help clear the last of the spuds. You see, I have fluttered my eyelids at Old Jack, and he has offered to rotovate the plot wherever I need it. Now in the past, I haven't been a huge fan of rotovating allotments, unless you can guarantee they are weed free, or else you could end up making a slightly weedy plot into a weed plantation, however, time is always against me, and we are on rough, London clay, stoney ground, and I just struggle to get a fine tilth on which to sow seeds. Jack on the other hand as the most beautiful fine ground and gets an amazing show whenever he chucks seeds into the ground. So, the area I want doing is the spud bed, and since we had a drop of rain last week, it seemed a perfect time to get them clear. It was hard going, lots of bind weed to get out, but after a couple of hours work, half of allotment number 2 is completely clear and ready for Jack and his machine.

I have been up for a few flying visits, mainly to pick. I have been able to pick strawberries, which seems odd, but there are loads of fruit on about 8 plants, and providing the days are sunny, they are ripening. God they are sweet and umptuous, I can't begin to tell you. I have also been picking masses and masses of toms. Sometimes 20Ib in one visit. I should have weighed all of my tom crops, but as usual, my normal excuse....time. However, I would say in the region of 60Ib of toms, and still the plants are covered. But, with the days shortening, and the nights getting cooler, I have decided that I will pretty much pick all the toms that are a good size on my next visit, but that isn't until after next week as I am flat out at work, so I could be pleasantly suprised, especially if this warm sun sticks around.

I have decided to stop working Fridays, well, as much as possible, and this will be my allotment day. Sometimes, I will have no choice, and sometimes, I won't need to go to the plot during the winter, but I think if I get into the habit now, then by the spring, when I need to spend more time on the plot, my diary will already be sorted and it won't be a problem.

Finally, a couple of weeks ago, we had the village show. I did well and got 9 firsts, a spattering of seconds and a few thirds. Thrilled to bits with my red cabbages as I have never had a great deal of success growing brassicas but this year, they are doing great!

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Friday 5th September 2009 - weather: windy and overcast

In memory of our darling Jonny Young who died a week ago - 28/8/09
Went to the allotment today as the children are back at school and I haven't really had much allotment time over the holidays.
Plenty to do but the ground is so hard. I managed to dig a row and a half of potatoes up, but I gave up in the end. If we don't get some ground drenching rain soon, I will have to hire a jack hammer to break the ground up!
I then harvested another full basket of mixed tomatoes. I spotted the first signs of blight, but only on the odd leaf, so to be honest, it is so late now in the season, I am not going to worry. Next visit I will start stripping the leaves from the plants just leaving the fruits exposed to see if they will ripen off. Again, a mix of black cherry, roma, gardeners delight, great white, ferline, santa, cherokee purple, sungold, and a few others. I have been really pleased with the toms this year.
From there to the fruit cage. It was time to tackle the old fruiting raspberry canes and have a general cut back and tidy. Cutting down the old canes doesn't take long but I got stung and scratched to buggery. I still need to get in there and weed around the redcurrant bush as it has a lot of long grass growing around it. Plenty of new raspberry canes for next year, and the gooseberry bushes are thickening up. I did take a few goosegog cuttings and stuck the stems in the ground - well, I have nothing to loose.
I next started to dig up the pink fir apple and Anya spuds that I didn't dig up last year - tut tut. Masses of spuds as you can imagine. The Anya are rather small, but the PFA are great and so yummy as wedges and chips. I only made a start as I was also cutting back the currant bush hedge and apple trees that have grown into the area over the last year. I will dig the rest of the spuds next visit.
Finally I had a sort through the squashes. I gathered 8 sweet dumpling squash and a marrow. I cut back a lot of the foliage from the other marrow plant but didn't pick the fruits yet as we want those for the village show next week. I have one butternut squash, and no pumpkins which is very dissapointing as there were 2, but the slugs tucked in.
I generally just pottered and picked. As you can tell, I couldn't really get myself launched into any job completely, but spending the day on the allotment did help me loose myself a bit. Back on Monday to try and finish a couple of jobs.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Thursday 27th August 2009 - weather: warm but breezy

As is the way with the children off school, today was a flying visit to the allotment to pick tomatoes and to check if they had succumbed to blight. Well, I am very proud to say, no blight and lots and lots of toms! We picked Roma, Cherokee Purple, Black Cherry, Santa, Gardeners Delight, Great White, Striped Stuffer, Beefsteak and load of red 'regular' toms, whose name had rubbed off the labels!

The Cherokee Purple and the Great White weighed in between 8 and 10 ounces each with is excellent. Fingers crossed the blight continues to stay away as there are hundreds and hundreds of toms still to ripen.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Saturday 8th August 2009 - weather: lovely!

Only a flying visit to pick and check on progress. Glad to say the oriental greens I sowed last weekend are already starting to poke through, I must sow more to fill in all the gaps else where on the plot. Picked more cute cucumbers, carrots, courgettes, runner beans, picked sweet peas and gladioli and picked my very first 3 tomatoes of the year. Only little plums, but toms nevertheless. I also gathered a handful of white alpine strawberries, a couple of stray red strawbs and a few loganberries from a derelict plot.

I will be making a few impromptu visits over the coming week as there are council workers setting to work on the stream. There is currently a small ford over the lane but as the road is an unmade one, over the years it has become deep and quite a hazard and the stream no longer really flows but floods the road. The council are going to re-dig the ford and move down the stream onto the allotment site to clear as far as they can to try and get a flow going again. Next weekend, a group of us are going to spend the weekend clearning the rest of the stream down to the farm to try and clear it's path, and possibly sink a couple of bins in to act as wells as we have no piped water on our site. I am sure I will have plenty of pictures of the event.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Sunday 2nd August 2009 - weather: bright and breezy

In memory of Gerald Overton who leapt from this mortal coil 9 years ago today

Can you believe it, I actually got away with another day on the allotment, and the weather was grand. Upon arrival, at 10am, my new lottie neighbour, Hillary, was already there with her team of helpers erecting her new shed. I carried on weeding from the strawberry bed up to the end. Whilst weeding the strawbs, mostly mares tail, I found one huge red strawb, which fell straight from the plant and into my mouth! No idea how that happened. The plants are all looking good and there are masses of runners so I should be able to double my stock next year. I weeded around my young leek plants and they have really come on in the few weeks they have been in the ground. Amazing what a bit of rain can do.

Noon and the family arrived. I left Mark in charge of strimming and cutting the paths and he did an amazing job. He cut all of my paths, strimmed all around the shed, the nettles around my neighbours path, around the derelict shed by the stream, well, everywhere where nettles and brambles were growing. By the time he had finished, our end of the site looked very neat and tidy indeed. Whilst he was strimming and the children were having alsorts of adventures in the stream, I started weeding the top end of plot number 2. Mark dug the spuds for me (he didn't dig the PFA that I mentioned he might yesterday, we just didn't have the time) that were planted by the fig tree and turned the ground over leaving young James to rake it level for me. I weeded down towards the tomato house. This area was my seed sowing area and I have to say, germination has been very erratic. I don't know if this is due to duff seed, wildlife interferring or the weather, but I do have 3 rows of young beetroot, half a row of parnsips, several thick rows of carrots, a row of young lettuce and a row of spring onions. I plan to buy brand new seed of everything next spring so fingers crossed for a better rate of germination.
As the children started to get bored, I asked them if they would like to pick my blackcurrants, and sure enough they filled 2 punnets for me. I could probably fill another 2 next visit, but I still have the redcurrants and jostaberries to pick. The birds don't eat the black currants for some reason, so they aren't netted and are weighed down with very ripe fruit. James had sown some carrots back in the spring and he wanted to see if they were ready and he pulled a lovely handful which will be sugar sweet for their tea.

By the time I finally reached the tom house, the children were bored and it was 4pm, so they cleared up and left leaving me all alone. It was lovely having the whole family there with me, the kids of day I always imagine having on the plot, Mark getting all of those manly jobs done, the kids having fun and adventures and me pottering with my veggies.

Next big job, into the tomato house. There are masses, and masses of toms, all shapes and sizes. I have Roma, and Gardeners Delights, and White Beauty and beefsteaks and cherries and plums and Tigerella and loads and loads. It took me ages to tie them up properly and cut back some of the foliage and stop some of the plants so the fruit will ripen. None had even the slightest hint of colour so I am hoping now I have tidied them up, the sun and air can get in better and they might start to colour up before the blight strikes. Mind you, talking of blight, I did give them a really good spray before moving on to my next job. I HATE spraying, but I have lost all of my toms for the last few years and it isn't going to happen again.

As time was moving on, I thought I should do a bit of planting and got in my crystal apple cucumber plants and a wigwam of late runner beans. I also sewed a row of white Pak Choi, red Pak Choi, Mizuna, spring onions and mixed oriental salad leaves. I fleeced the oriental greens to try and stop the flea beetle from attacking them before they get a chance to get established.

From there, I was toying with the idea of going home, but after a phone call from HQ, I decided to stay for another hour and weeded all along my runner beans picking a few as I went, around my minipop sweetcorn and made a start weeding through the regular sweetcorn.

By now it was nearly 7pm, so I took my aching body home for some tea. I am hoping to get back to the allotment for an hour or 2 with the kids in the week so I can finish of weeding around the corn and sew some kohl rabi, spring onions, lettuce and spinach.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Saturday 1st August 2009 - weather: overcast but dry

Well, after a visit in the week to pick, I was somewhat ashamed of the weedy situation on both of my allotments. The weeds so outgrow the veggies - GGRR. So, as we had a weekend free, I decided that I would get to the plot both days. So, Saturday is visit number one.

I started at the shed end of plot number one and picked a lovely couple of handfuls of sweetpeas and deadheaded like mad to try and keep the display going for as long as possible. Actually, I wasn't expecting a great deal when I planted the 2 wigwams as they are in the dappled shade of the willow tree that overhangs my shed. This is the dampest, shadiest part of both of my allotments, and some plants thrive, others hate it, but the sweetpeas are going great guns. I may well do the same again next year as the scent down by my shed was so strong, a delight.

Next to the sweetpeas are my Jerusalem (F)artichokes which were a gift from a dear friend just a couple of weeks before she died. They have formed a massive clump this year so will need seriously thinning out and I shan't plant as many next spring.

I then moved to the next bed where I had the remainders of my red onions, a few lettuce and a sprinkling of volunteer spuds. The red onions were a reasonable success - 50% were a really good size, a few had a touch of white rot, and the rest were smaller, but still perfectly acceptable.

This has been a really good year for my onions, but a rotten one for my garlic. At the end of this bed is my rhubarb. Again, a good year for my bubby, but I think that is because it has been cool and damp. I took a good pick though, taking about 50% of the stems, and that will be it now, I shan't take any more this year. Over the winter, I heap some lovely manure all around the crowns which keeps them cosy, and feeds them up for next year.

From there, I hopped into the brassica cage. Now, I may have said it before, but I will say it again, I have never grown such good brassicas. I don't know if this is down to the weed supressing membrane I put down before planting, or just the weather, but they are getting huge. I already have the startings of brussel sprouts, the savoy and red cabbages are getting nice firm heads and the purple sprouting is reaching for the stars. I shall have to stake some of the plants up as they are getting so big.

I weeded up to the fruit cage, clearing around the late caulis and white sprouting broc that Jack gave me. I also have a couple of rows of Tom Thumb lettuce in the brassica cage which are starting to get a bit blousy, but they are fine, plus a late row of peas which I took a chance on, and they have a flowers already so we may have some peas in late August/September.
Into the fruit cage and I filled a box with raspberries. I am toying with the idea of making raspberry jelly this year rather than jam as everyone moans about the pips. I don't mind it personally, but as I have never made it before, I think I will give it a go. There are still the red and black currants to pick and the Jostaberries, and I will pick them tomorrow and then cut down all of the old raspberry canes and get that area cleared. A few canes have poked up outside of the cage and I don't want them, but my allotment neighbour was over today and she would love them and has given me a bundle of leek plants for the plot, and 2 lovely courgettes for my neighbour.

The otherside of the fruit cage is very sunny, usually, when we have sun, but today it was cool. I have 2 rows of spuds here, charlotte and pink fur apple, but they are all from last year. I was very naughty last year and never had the time to dig them, so just left them. Well of course, this year, up they all came, so if the family come to the plot tomorrow, I may get hubby to dig them. I know if it is early for both varieties, but I want them out so the area can be cleared as there are a lot of thistles, and I have some huge pieces of cardboard which I want to put down on the ground under the apple trees to keep the weeds down, and at the moment, I can't get in there because of the spuds and weeds.

Next to these spuds are my squashes. I have grown a few more this year, but not masses. I have a couple of pumpkins plants, 3 green courgettes, 1 yellow courgette, a marrow, a butternut squash, a turks turban type, and a couple of cucumber plants. These are all cropping well, in full flower, and the fruits are swelling faster than we can eat them thanks to the rain.

I also have the worlds cutest cucumber plant ever growing.
I was sent seed from my friend in the US and I think they were called Watermelon cucumbers. Well, I planted these small seeds and then dutifully planted out the small vines, and watched the tiny flowers form, and wondered what on earth these cucumbers would be like on such a tiny plant. Well, today, I picked nearly 30 cucumbers! Aren't they just the sweetest things ever?! They taste like watermelon, but the bit of the melon where you bit a little to close to the skin, the whiter flesh if you know what I mean, and then, like cucumber. I shall definately save a couple so I have sow some for next year - such a novelty - great with a bowl of olives.

The weather was closing in now, but I did manage to take up the net that was covering the old pea plants and the purple queen french beans. They have been cropping very well, and so much earlier than my runners. The peas didn't do so great, but the rotten muntjac kept eating them so they really struggled to get going. We have had a couple of meals from them though, so not a total flop.

So, tomorrow I will weed the strawberry bed and the leeks and then it is over onto plot number 2. Lots of spuds and seedlings to weed. Eeek.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Wednesday 29th July 2009 - weather: bloody awful again!


I guess I need to apologise for not posting recently but as usual, life has been a blur, so I thought it was about time I did a bit of a catch up/update post to cover recent allotment events.

Firstly, on Saturday 11th July it was the Danbury and Little Baddow Horticultural Society Show. The program offered a host of showing possibilites, cookery, flowers, floral art, fruit, vegetables, hanging baskets and patio pots and a childrens section. Originally, I had decided not to enter this show due mainly to sheer lack of time. With the school summer hols approaching, and the children having so many social events, and my work really picking up, time was tight. However, when I suggested to the family that perhaps we would miss this one, they all begged, and pleaded, so the creative madness began. I visited the allotment to have a picking and came home with a marvelous bounty of fruit and veg, and the children were very creative. Following is a collection of photos showing the entries and their prizes.

Since the show, I have been visiting the allotment, but most visits have been short and sweet and mostly for picking. I have picked buckets full of my lovely Glen Ample raspberries, armfuls of rhubarb, some of which has been frozen, the rest has been made into my legendary curried rhuabrb chutney, lovely purple queen french beans, courgettes the size of thick fingers, or small marrows and much more. All being well, I plan to pop to the allotment tomorrow for a pick, so I will post a host of photos of harvests and how things are shaping up then.