....my big delivery of seeds came on Thursday but as we (and the neighbours) were out, I re-arranged delivery for Saturday with Royal Mail......nothing turned up.....decided to give them an extra day....Monday- nothing turned up. Rang RM and their records show it was successfully delivered to our house on Saturday! Yeh maybe in a parallel universe, but certainly not in this one!
So now have to go through the hassle of finding out what's happened to it. Customer Services haven't contacted me to say whether they've found it or not....RUBBISH!!!
I have made my main seed order, through the organic gardening catalogue www.organicgardeningcatalogue.com ....it was rather a lot of money so I shan't reveal how much it was but a lot of the seeds will last more than one year (that's what I tell myself anyway). Plus I bought a couple of 'starter' seed mixes for two of my brothers, who have recently started growing some of their own food. I'm a member of Garden Organic, so you get 10% of your order, which is a bonus.
The weather has been nasty here, as with most of the country, but as the soil is so sandy, it's still workable even after heavy rain. I got in a couple of hours yesterday, between showers, continuing to clear the area for the apple tree and moving carpet around to the most needy areas.
I've noticed that there a lot of little seedlings popping up all over the plot, plus a carpet of green has appeared on my neighbours plot too. On closer inspection they seem to be poppy seedlings which have more than likely come from all the poppies we let seed this year....oops! Well, they're easy to hoe out and the poppies were beautiful, so worth the extra hoeing I think! Not sure that my allotment neighbour will agree......
I was raking up some leaves on the plot and JB said 'what's that?' and out jumped a huge frog. Yippee! A very welcome visitor to the allotment. I moved him (or her) to a safe area of the plot, under the buddliea, near a log pile and the little pond I put in last year. It was really strong, pushing it's way out of my closed hands...JB stroked it's head when it peaked out between my fingers.
Well, am being a bit poor at the blogging at the moment, so apologies. We have been popping down every now and then (mainly to pick things and do a bit of weeding) but haven't had much chance to get really stuck in to anything....the weather this weekend didn't help. Plus I keep forgetting to take the camera...
Today the weather was really nice, so I decided to use up a bit of lieu time I'd built up and take the afternoon off to spend it on the plot. I stayed as long as possible, until it was too dark to see very much (actually used the light from my mob screen so that I could see what I was picking! (rainbow chard!)
I've been breaking/cutting up pallets to make edges for the beds, which look pretty smart once they're in. Still lots more of that to go though and I will take some pics soon. I was going to put some of the edging in this afternoon but then couldn't decide on exactly what I was going to do with one of the beds so made a decision to put off decision making til another day, and instead did some weeding/digging! I cleared quite a big area, in preparation for planting out a small apple tree. The area seems to have been an old turf mound-come-rubbish dump, so is a weird mixture of lovely topsoil, with bits of rubbish (old carriers bags/tin cans/crisp packets/bits of metal etc). I'll level it all out once I've dug out all the bramble/couch grass/rubbish. We're also planning to have a bit of a wildflower area here and maybe plant a rosemary/lavender hedge (and make a bench to sit and enjoy all the lovely aromas and colours).
If the weather's nice again some time this week, I think I might use some more lieu time to have a bonfire for all those brambles. It's a pretty big heap and I want to have one before the weekend as local youths tend to get in to the allotments at this time of year to set off fireworks - don't want them setting light to my heap and having all the fun. Also need to check for hedgehogs of course!
Well, it's that time of year when everything's winding down...or is it? So I have some big plans for this autumn/winter: apple tree to plant out (clear space first), collect lots of leaves for making leaf mould, clear more of the plot, dig a new bed, make more raised beds (starting collecting pallets for this), make a bench and cold frame.
Hmmm seems like quite a lot actually! Maybe will slim down the plans somewhat.
The autumn onions sets are in and have started sprouting. I've put them in where the corn/dwarf beans were and have covered them with old net curtains in case there are any onion flies or other nasties around still. So far so good. Will plant out some garlic too but need to make the raised bed first.
Okay, so it's not your traditional allotment competition-size parsnip - no metre long parsnip chips for us - but still we were pretty impressed with it! There's always that element of mystery when pulling out roots - will it be a whopper or a mini-me of its true self, or will there be anything at all!
Luckily in this case it was pretty decent sized and made a lovely parnsip and potato mash, drizzled with olive oil and nicely seasoned!
Happy tomatoes. The large ones are a heritage variety (Cherokee Purple). We bought the plant from Homebase of all places for 99p earlier in the year. They were very tasty and I might try and buy some seed for next year.
Yes, it's worse than I thought, there's no saving the poor leeks. I have neglected them and this is the comeuppance!
So I tried squishing all the onion fly larvae / maggots and thought I was doing pretty well but decided to dig a couple up to see how far the maggots bore into the stem. Unfortunately it's a long way and at most there's only a couple of inches of stem unaffected. Plus there's no way of getting all the maggots out without pulling up the whole leek.
So my next plan is to pull all the leeks up and just salvage the bits which haven't been munched, squishing all the maggots along the way. This will take a long time though as I did a few tonight and it's slow going, making sure you've got all the nasty maggots. I guess most people burn them.
Hey ho - next year I will probably get some netting, which is apparently the only prevention. It seems as though everyone on my site has got the same problem though - one guy even worse than mine - I don't think he'll get anything.
A friend with a plot on another site in the city has succumbed to leek moth. However a couple of people at work who live out in the countryside a bit haven't had any problems.
.......have discovered that ALL my leeks are riddled with onion fly larvae. How did I not notice sooner? Didn't get onion fly last year so didn't look out for it. SOB!!
The onion fly larvae (i.e. maggots) bore their way through the leeks and there can be loads of them all in one leek. I read-up on the little nasties last night and the advice is to dig all the leeks up and destroy them. However! Seeing as they are in literally all my leeks, I've decided to pick through them all and squish all the larvae in a last-ditch attempt to rescue the poor things. I'm not sure if this will work but it's worth a go I think. I spent quite a while yesterday squishing the little bleeders and found more today, so am not holding my breath they'll survive!!
To cheer myself up I thought I'd see how the parsnips have done and dug a couple up - yippee they are really good and made a celebratory roast - roast parsnips (obviously), potatoes, courgette and beetroot. Very tasty.
So here's the recipe I obtained last year (can't remember where from) and can recommend it completely. For a bit of extra kick, add in more ginger (I'm pretty liberal with it myself). As said before it's really lovely mixed in with porridge....mmmmm. If you want something more spreadable, chop up everything quite small.
1 3/4 kg marrow (peeled, seeded and cubed)
1 1/2 kg sugar (I use demarera)
225g dried apricots (chopped)
2 level tablespoons ground ginger
4 lemons (juice of) - I use the bottled juice and guess how much
*Layer the marrow cubes and sugar in a large non-metallic bowl. Cover with a clean tea towel and leave to stand for 2-3 hours
*Put the marrow and juices in a large preserving pan with the apricots and ginger
*Slowly bring to the boil, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar
*Add the lemon juice and reduce the heat
*Simmer for 1-1.5 hours until the marrow is translucent and the syrup is thick
*Pack into warm sterlised jars and seal
Well, the past few weeks have whizzed by again. Still not had time to do a decent days work at the plot but have spent lots of time picking things and making chutney and jam, which is what it's all about really! Had the last of our sweetcorn today - our best year so far, definitely thanks to having manure I reckon.
Have dug up the first two rows of the main crop potatoes and sorted them into 'use first' (like the ones I inevitably speared with the fork) and 'keepers' (ones which have no scab or any other blemishes etc). I've doubled up paper shopping bags to act as potato sacks. This has worked in previous years and the tatties have kept well, in the shed. We have some right whopper pots (variety Cara), They're really tasty but have a tendency to over cook easily.
I thought we might have had blight but the discolouring of the leaves started off yellow rather than brown so it was probably (hopefully) just the plants reaching the end of their life! I cut off all the tops just in case. I have one more row to dig up and decided to leave them in the ground a bit longer as it's meant to toughen the skins up for better storage.
Today we used our first ready pumpkin to make this lovely soup: Just peeking in the background is a jar of rather tasty marrow, apricot and ginger jam, which I made a batch of last weekend. I made it last year too and it's right nice on toast, or mixed in with porridge (mmmm I'm looking forward to those cold mornings already!). Anyone want the recipe?
Here's a pic of the other squashes collected today:
Am desperate to sow some oriental greens (have not grown these before). Just need a bit of time to weed where these squashes were growing and pop them in. This weekend?
....we have been allotmenting a fair bit the past couple of weeks (when the weather has allowed - generally it's either too rainy or too sunny...can't strike a happy medium!), again we've been grass cutting/weeding round the edges as well as harvesting quite a lot (dwarf beans-a-plenty, courgettes, a few carrots, lots of lettuce - JB particularly likes the little gem which I've grown us for the first time this year, and so on.
However, most excitingly......dah dah dah dah dah DAH (*drum roll*) we had our first tomatoes (cherries) and SWEETCORN!!! Yummy yum yum it was really good and the plants have done way better this year so quite a few more cobs to come. I think they have liked the manure plus being under-planted with dwarf french beans (not a weed in sight as the beans have shaded them all out).
I'm also quite proud of my wigwam set-ups, with a courgette planted in the middle, 4 poles (buddleia cut-offs) with runner and purple french beans winding their way up, and finally, to make best use of the space, rows of lettuce planted in a square at the base of the wig wam. Might be easier to see what i mean with a photo.
Hopefully if the weather's good we'll get down there after work tomorrow and will then report back with some pics. I have feeling we'll be needing to find some runner/french bean chutney recipes soon.
(PS This is Lou, I accidentally logged on as JB aka Ms Idler)
Well, we've been super busy recently and haven't had much time for allotmenting apart from picking all the things that're ready (courgettes, dwarf french beans, runner beans and purple climbing french beans...bean-tastic!, masses of lettuce, peas, beetroot. pounds and pounds of red and black currants, raspberries and more..phew!)
Hope to spend some time up there on Sunday...so much weeding and grass cutting to do!
We now have many jars of redcurrant jelly (with a hint of cinnamon). Really easy recipe from Deila Smith's website originally I think. Basically, equivalant amount of berries and sugar, cook the berries first, add the sugar and disolve, (at this point I also added in cinnamon) then boil for 8-10 mins .....except I forgot the boiling bit and hence they are a bit runny but I have decided to call it redcurrant syrup ;o)
....now total 12lbs! With still more to pick.
Started on the blackcurrants too - 4.5lbs, having only picked about a quarter so far. Our little freezer is almost full. Will have to start on the jam/jelly making soon.....mmmm
Yay we had a good afternoon down at the plot on Sunday and got stuck in to some serious weeding (though of course there's still lots more to do) and also....harvesting! The autumn onions were just about ready and had started going a little bit mouldy on their bums so Sunday was the day for them to come out. Same goes for the garlic. Plus we need the room to put other stuff in. Don't think either of them will keep very well but am drying them out as much as possible in the lean-to at home.
Here is our stash from Sunday. In the back garden we've also got some peas that are ready (sooooo tasty) and a few raspberries and wild strawberries, on top of masses of lettuce (not literally of course). Potatoes, broad beans, onions, garlic, strawbs, beetroot, carrots and a couple of radishes. Oh and I nearly forgot we also picked over 5lbs of red currants, with loads more still to pick.
Our main onion crop (Jetset)
Our first teeny courgette (Nero) of the year (this is one of those I accidentally planted instead of a pumpkin. Seems to like it in the compost heap)
Sweetcorn - varied success, some doing better than others. Undersown with dwarf french beans.
PS - whoop I have my own log in so now you know if it's me or JB (Ms Idler)
Just a quick post to flag up a great new website designed to help people share land for growing your own - http://landshare.channel4.com/ - offer part of your plot for a share if you can't manage it all, or sign up to find land or as a helper if you just want to get stuck in.
We've been away on holiday for a week in Dorset, and came back to a rather weed-infested plot at the weekend. Luckily we timed it so that nothing was over whilst we were away and the strawberries, red currants, potatoes, onions and garlic are ready for eating! We'll post some photos shortly...
We thought we'd take a chance and dig up some potatoes to see how they were doing. They'd flowered and were looking ready, and so out came the fork...
Luckily all wasn't in vain - there were a few decent sized potatoes and some wee 'uns also:
But, the ultimate test has to be how they taste, and it's fair to say that these were the most delicious, melt-in-the-mouth potatoes we've both ever tasted! They were earlies - Colleen variety - make sure you buy them next year!
Simply boil in a little bit of water with a few sprigs of mint, drain, add a little pepper and a knob of butter, and enjoy!
...have possibly planted out four courgettes instead of two courgettes and 2 pumpkins. The pumpkins were meant to go in the non-active compost heaps. Will have to have a really close look at the plants to check (labeling had gone awry) and possibly swap some over before they get too settled. Oopsie!
Alas, no time spent at the plot this weekend due to a fantastically fun trip to see friends in Sheffield, but managed to finish work a bit early today to get down there.....earthed up the potatoes, cut back some brambles a bit and did some weeding.......not enough, but it's a start!
Autumn onions in the front, which are starting to bulb-up a bit, yippee! With some early potatoes behind.
Sweetcorn - mixed success, some are doing ok but 3 have pretty much died off so today stuck some seeds in the ground as a last ditch attempt! On Thurs sowed some dwarf french beans in between the corn. Not sure how long they'll take to germinate.
Broad beans - look closely and you'll actually see some bean pods! And little lettuces too.
Wildflower area (this is borage) but has quite a few other species too. Help look after the bees!
Poorly peas....the ones at home on loo rolls have started germinating though.