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.