Monday, 24 April 2017

Harvest Monday and Eves Hill Veg Co

For a lot of us here in the UK the weather's become quite cool, with frosts and even possibly snow in the next couple of days. I saw a graphic of the cold weather moving down the east side of the country, right over Norwich, yikes. So this afternoon I checked on the potatoes - I could earth up the maincrops to protect the little bit of leafy growth above soil level, but the earlies were too tall already, with a lot of growth poking out and not enough soil remaining to rake up and over them. So instead I put some low hoops over the two rows and draped over a sheet of enviromesh, making sure none of it drooped onto the plants, as that can encourage frost scorch too, especially if the material touching the plants is wet. I did something similar with the strawberries, which are in full flower now, so fingers crossed.
 
The other day I noticed one of my garlics had keeled over a bit, so I forked it up to see if anything was obviously wrong below soil level. I couldn't tell if there were the beginnings of white rot, it didn't look too bad, but I'll keep an eye on the others. We could still eat this garlic though, including the stem, which is soft at this stage.
I like seeing the beginnings of cloves forming
It went into this hotpot that Jan made, tasty
In the lean-to I've still got some lettuces growing and a bit of rocket
In the freezer there's still lots of berries. I used some up in a couple of blackberry cakes, having been inspired by Dave's (Our Happy Acres) pudding last week. I forgot to take a photo until they were nearly all gone, and in this part of the cake the berries had dropped to the bottom, so not showing off my baking skills very well...tasted nice though.
Out in the paved front yard I have some tubs of plants, including a bit of mint. The mint does quite well out there as the yard faces north so it keeps cool usually. I had this as a mint tea...just add hot water and leave to steep for a couple of minutes. You might be able to spot some tiny aphids, which I did (mostly) wash off first.
I've had an exciting delivery....books! I had a voucher for the Green Shopping website, where there's loads of cool things. As I've been reading online about no-dig methods for a while, I thought it would be good to have something physical to refer to. I foresee many happy hours of browsing these beauties. I don't like getting many new things / more possessions but these were a welcome exception. I've also got my eye on some copper tools but I think they'll have to wait for birthday and Christmas combined.
Out at Eves Hill, the spring bed prep continues. Here we removed half a bed of overwintered chard and sowed dwarf French beans, then topped with mulch. The bed next door has broad beans sown a couple of weeks ago. There was quite a bit of nice new growth on some of the chard, so the best bits went to the veg bags whilst the rest came to us volunteers, yummy. (Some of it went in that hot pot and we also made a lovely chard & sorrel soup, with sorrel from the farm too).

Spring-sown salads are getting planted out, with fleece protection

The many trays of seedlings are doing nicely, like these in the polytunnel
Kohl rabi in the polytunnel looks good too
As do these lettuces
The busy seed-sowing table

I should be heading out there this Wednesday and also Saturday, when the veg farm celebrates its first birthday (there will definitely be cake), what a lot has been achieved in a year!

 

I'm running a bit late tonight as there was a Norfolk Organic Group talk on the 'Secrets of the soil' this evening...lots of interesting info...my main takeaway thoughts are: protect and feed the soil (soil life), mulch mulch mulch (preferably with organic matter), disturb the soil (and soil life) as little as possible (this also ties in with no dig), healthy soil life = healthy plants. When we harvest plants we're removing nutrients etc from the system, so it's important to replace them with compost, whether that be well-rotted manure or homemade compost etc (and preferably applied as a mulch rather than digging in). I never have enough compost, sigh!

 

And on that note, I'll bid you goodnight. Thanks for reading, I'm linking in as usual with Harvest Monday kindly hosted by Dave at Our Happy Acres.

 

Monday, 17 April 2017

Harvest Monday - on repeat

So this week I've been picking lots more brassica flowers and chard. I also had a big bag of sorrel from Eves Hill Veg Co, as it was time to clear the whole overwintered crop. And as I lack any imagination I've had pretty much the same meal four times - all of the above, chopped and sautéed...
That's right, stick an egg in it, my usual (eggs from our friends' hens)
Jan was out three of those nights so she only had it once, I think she'd have been a bit fed up otherwise. As a slight variation, we had noodles one time too.
Lunches have included overwintered lettuce from the lean-to, here with home-fermented carrot and roasted beetroot humus (which Jan made).
Talking of the lean-to, there are five shelves of seedlings coming along. I hope they're OK over the next few nights, which are meant to be pretty cold.
The peas are looking alright too
Down on the allotment the red currants are already forming
And the two dwarf apple trees at the end of the plot are now in flower together, hooray (as long as they don't get ruined by frost). I've earthed-up the early potatoes which were peeking through, and covered some of my strawberries which are in flower, so if we do get a frost or two hopefully some will make it through.
My saskatoon bush is in full flower, it looks lovely (the swing is sadly not mine, it's in the garden next door)
Lots of tasty berries to come hopefully (they're a bit like blueberries).

So, aside from the frost risk, things are going ok at the moment...lots of couch-grass weeding still ongoing though, in preparation for all those seedlings which'll need to go out in the next few weeks.

 

Thanks for reading...I'm linking in with Harvest Monday, kindly hosted by Dave at Our Happy Acres

 

Monday, 10 April 2017

Harvest Monday - sunshine! And Eves Hill Veg Co update

We've had some incredible weather this week, sometimes even too hot to be out on the plot. Jan's been helping a bit more too...still lots to do but progress is being made. With the longer days, I've been tending to go down late afternoon for a couple of hours or so, after finishing work.
 
The overwintered chard plants that self seeded last year have been putting on lots of new growth - I might even have a big harvest session then freeze some, because I need to be clearing the beds where they're growing.
I picked a load of brassica flowers too - it's not just purple sprouting broccoli that are tasty - here are red cabbage, self-sown white cabbage, kale and Brussels sprout flowers and a few psb shoots. Ahem, we had these as a side dish to chip shop chips, so kind of healthy?
A previous PSB harvest, topped with poached eggs...
We had some of the chard with leek, plus broad beans from the freezer (and mushrooms) - a tasty quick meal. Tonight we had chard with another quick meal 'posh baked beans' - which I've mentioned in the past - basically a tin of baked beans with added veggies. Nice and easy.
Broad beans, chard and leek
Out in the lean-to, the tomato plants are fairing well. The older leaves have gone a bit pale (cold?) but the new growth looks healthy.
I've potted-on the peppers this week, they look good in their larger pots. We also had a big seed sowing session, sat out in the garden, for sweetcorn (into loo roll tubes), cucumbers, brassicas, lettuces and leeks. Still a few more to sow but that's the bulk of the April seeds done. I'd already sown the squashes and basil (which has just started germinating today).
Pepper seedlings
Down on the plot there are some lovely flowers around, including the Autumn-sown broad beans (super Aqua dulce)...
Rosemary...
Apples nearly out (red currants in the background)...
Blackcurrants...
So delicate...
I actually have a few plum flowers this year as well, so fingers crossed for some fruit. It looks like a good year for gooseberries too.
 
On Wednesday I volunteered at Eves Hill Veg Co again, there was a good group of us so we covered a wide range of jobs, including sowing big ol' trays of various seeds (I did some leeks), weeding, direct-sowing outside, managing the wildflower areas, planting out lettuces and so on. I had a go with the wheel hoe, to clear the paths, quite satisfying though difficult on the really overgrown paths.
 
The older polytunnel full of salad and seeds (polytunnel still a bit wonky after damage from storm Doris)
I found one of the trays I'd previously sown - doing ok, phew
The new, big polytunnel is holding up well (still needs its doors at some point)
More seedlings inside
And some lettuce catch crops before the tomatoes go in later (kohl rabi in the background)
If I'm not working this Wednesday I'll head up there to see how it's all going - a lot can happen in a week, especially with three new trainees getting stuck in - good on them.
 
Thanks for making it this far down the page, I'm linking in with Harvest Monday, kindly hosted by Dave at Our Happy Acres

 

Monday, 3 April 2017

Harvest Monday - peas sir, can I have some more?

We're enjoying the pea shoots that I have growing in tubs in the lean-to. The plants are beginning to get quite big so I think I'll leave them to grow-on and hopefully produce some early peas. I've stuck some old buddliea sticks into the pots for the pea tendrils to curl around. I've also picked a bit of overwintered lettuce and rocket from the lean-to, which escaped the ravages of the aphids.
On the allotment, I'm continuing to harvest purple sprouting broccoli and colourful chard (the chard is all self-seeded).
The stems make a lovely addition to a meal, in this instance, to a few leeks from the plot. I noticed a couple of leeks had started to bolt, so have left them to flower (good for the insects) and harvested the rest. There's still several in the fridge, so we need to think of some leeky dishes. Anyone got a favourite recipe?
Jan has been helping out on the plot recently, so with her extra pair of hands it feels like we're getting somewhere. She's not normally around for seed sowing, but this weekend she got chance to help with sowing broad beans, parsnips and radishes, which was nice.
 
I went with a friend to collect some lovely well-rotted horse manure this week, and we got a few bagfuls each (she has an allotment on a different site), before worrying that the car might get stuck if we loaded it too much. I'm using mine up quite quickly though, we could do with a truckload. I've finally got round to (start) mulching my fruit trees and bushes. I've given the apple trees some manure but am using my own compost for the rest. The plum tree is getting quite a few flowers so we might actually have some fruit on it this year. I'm using the rest of the manure for potatoes and squashes, plus will bring a bag home to add to my tomato compost mix (home-made compost, manure and some peat-free bought compost).
 
A friend was back in Norwich for the weekend, so on Saturday we headed out in his car to Redgrave and Lopham Fen on the Norfolk / Suffolk border, in the Waveney Valley. None of us had been round it properly before, so it was a real treat to explore such a lovely area, especially as the forecast showers passed us by. The reserve is a mixture of wetland and woodland habitats with lots of variety of wildlife too. Highlights included three marsh harriers gliding around together, chiff chaffs all over the shop, and some gorgeous blackcaps singing away. Enjoying a seat (and the view) outside the education centre, we were also treated to two marsh-tits on the bird feeders. There were some lovely spring flowers out too, including a mystery low-growing plant in the woodlandy areas which I initially thought was wood anemone pre-flowering, but on closer inspection it had small green-ish flowers on five faces....after some head scratching and looking through several books on our return home I found it... 'Town Hall Clock'....very aptly named as the flowers resemble town hall clock faces, nice. I didn't get a photo but you can see it on the Wildflower Finder website.
 
My photos don't really do these kind of views any justice but you get the idea. We'll definitely be returning at some point but as its not very easy to get to from Norwich without a car it might have to wait a while. They sell by-products from the habitat management works and I was tempted by the 'four bags of wood chip for £10'. Darn, I should've bought them. There was also a basket weaving class in the education centre that looked fun.

So after that digression, thanks for reading this week. I'll be continuing with prepping the plot for veggies (my main-crop potatoes need to go out next) and am also reducing slug hidey places (for example, as I'm trying to be 'no-dig' as much as possible, with the manure, I'm spreading it on the soil surface then whacking it with the back of a fork to break it up into small pieces - in the past I've found slugs hiding under big clods, after gorging themselves on my squash plants).

 

On that happy note, I hope you have a good week! I'm linking in with Harvest Monday kindly hosted by Dave at Our Happy Acres.

 

Monday, 27 March 2017

Harvest Monday and surprising chilli plants

I've actually harvested a fair bit over the last few days but just haven't got any photos....you'll have to trust me. We had some very tasty purple sprouting broccoli, steamed and eaten along with one of my favourites - simply a poached egg on top. Lots of other 'greens' - chard, shoots from Brussels sprouts plants, and even some red cabbage leaves - the plants hadn't produced hearts, but when they started to bolt, they put out some lovely tender leaves, so better than nothing. The corn salad is starting to bolt as well, so not too many harvests left from that as it becomes bitter. We've also moved onto another tub of strawberries from the freezer, mmm. I did manage a photo of a stir fry that Jan made tonight with some of the greens:
I potted-on my tomato seedlings, pinching-out the weakest looking ones as I went along. They'd got a bit leggy because I'd been away a few days, but I've planted them quite deep in the pots and will plant even deeper when they go in their final pots too. They'll grow roots from the stem, so will get even stronger hopefully. I need to end up with about 20 plants eventually, so if they all do well I'll have a few spares to pass on to friends. My mum was visiting and was upset to see me composting the rejects...unfortunately they'd get squashed on the coach if she tried to take them home! It is a bit sad to see them shrivel up - they probably had the potential to produce reasonable crops.
 
I've put the non-rejects outside in the lean-to greenhouse, with a double layer of bubble wrap against the window and underneath the trays, to protect from the worst of the cold. The bubble wrap also reflects light quite well, so hopefully will help them to grow evenly.
I have two lipstick chilli pepper plants which I grew in the lean-to last year from seed, but brought inside in autumn...mainly to add a bit of colour over the winter months. We don't eat too many chillis, so the fruits have stayed on the plants, drying-out a little but still looking ok. However, the interesting thing is the new growth that both plants put on, on the side facing the window, and which both plants now even have flowers on. It'll be interesting to see if they set fruit....I doubt whether the compost has much oomph left in it. I may top-up the compost to give them a better chance.
We had a nice sunny walk around the city yesterday with my mum, there were loads of magnolia trees in bloom all around the Cathedral Quarter.
The peregrines which nest on a special platform on the cathedral spire have laid 4 eggs as of today. You can just make out the platform about halfway up the right hand side of the spire.

A walk around this part of the city is always a treat and we 'tried out' several benches in the area - they were working fine, you'll be pleased to know.

 

Down on the plot I'm continuing to prepare beds for spring sowings (broad beans, parsnips, potatoes). My red onion sets have started shooting, so I need to get them in quick smart. Plus I still haven't mulched my fruit bushes yet. But this week I'll hopefully be heading out to get some lovely well-rotted horse manure...excellent.

 

Thanks for reading, I'm linking in as usual with Harvest Monday, kindly hosted by Dave at Our Happy Acres.