Monday 25 October 2010

Autumn has definitely arrived...

...we had the first pumpkin soup of the year tonight. I was a bit heavy-handed with the fennel seeds but it tasted pretty good! There's enough left-overs for tea tomorrow too which is always a bonus.

Last night we had the first sprouts and also a few leaves of kale - yum! The weather was quite good yesterday too (makes a change) so I made a start on proper raised bed edging for the asparagus bed. The bed has been in place since we got the plot but I haven't looked after it very well and most of the crowns died in the first year as it was so dry. Three survived and were quite healthy-looking this summer (despite all the weeds), so can probably be harvested next year. Last year a fellow-allotmenteer gave me some replacements which I potted on, so this spring I'll plant them out. The bed had a lot of couch grass winding it's way in from the sides, so I'm hoping the proper edging will help prevent it happening again.

Well although it's been a long time since the last blog, I have been down the plot quite a lot - mainly harvesting - I think the biggest success this year was the cucumbers (outdoor ridge variety) which did amazingly well. I think they liked the horse poo. The sweetcorn was pretty good too, which again had horse poo to help it along.

I've made a start on clearing the beds though there's a lot more to go. The summer raspberry beds look much better after a spot of weeding and I've replaced the wire supports. There's still a few autumn raspberries slowly ripening, good for a nibble or two when working on the plot.

I still haven't put up the greenhouse though. The way things're going it may have to wait til spring!

Monday 23 August 2010

Mini haul from the back garden

Baby carrots & chard from the back garden. Plus pots, onions, garlic, courgettes & custard marrow from allotment all going in tonight's tasty curry :)

Sunday 22 August 2010


Wow, it's been a great year for blackberries. We've picked box after box and still more to come. So far we've had a tasty crumble, smoothies, topping for muesli, cake (thanks Phil!) and a large batch of blackberry syrup. Now, I got a bit distracted when making the syrup and it's more like jelly...oops. It does just about pour out of the bottle though (if you don't mind holding the bottle upside down for about 5 minutes). I left it on the hob for way too long and it thickened too much (my tip is do NOT watch a film whilst making this he hee!)

Another 3 tubs in the fridge today too. I think I might try making bramble jelly tomorrow....

Lots of other goodies coming from the plot - courgettes, chard, potatoes, beans, custards marrows (look like flying saucers), cucumbers....lots of tomatoes at home in the lean-to and sweet peppers on their way.

It was really windy here Friday and my bean wigwam at home started toppling over (my fault for letting it get top-heavy)....but we saved the runner beans by weighing it down with concrete slabs attached to the poles by old shoe laces. Not pretty but at least I didn't lose all me beans like last year!

I still have yet to put most of my leeks out as have to dig up the rest of the potatoes first. But hopefully this means I'll have missed the leek moth - apparently the second lot of eggs hatch around the end of July....we'll see!
Lou (with fingers crossed)

Friday 23 July 2010

Yesterday's harvest

Ah yes, summer is definitely here now. The first of the dwarf and purple climbing french beans. Still lacking in rain round these parts though.

Sunday 11 July 2010

Recent times....

Sage in flower

Lovely sunset

Amorosa potatoes. Very tasty and no scab

Perfect peas

Tuesday 29 June 2010

Broad bean soup...

..was enjoyed by us for tea tonight and nearly all the ingredients were home grown, yey! I got a recipe out of Andi Clevely's "From Welly to Belly' and adapted it a bit to fit what we had. So the home grown element was Onions (had to use 4 of my teeny onions to get a decent amount though), garlic, and loads of beans. We also put in a couple of potatoes to thicken it up a bit (could have used our own but still had a few from the organic stall on the market left) and a swirl of yoghurt. Very tasty. A handy tip from the recipe was to put in two (cleaned) bean pods for extra flavour (but remove before whizzing). it also suggested sieving the soup before serving but that was too faffy for me, so it had bits 'n all.

We've been very busy on the plot, making the most of the nice evenings (bit too hot recently during the day at the weekends) . JB has been doing a grand job of keeping the paths cut and weeding where needed.

I've taken up all the garlic as it had rust and a bit of leek moth damage and I wanted to use the space for a squash. The garlic has done better than I thought. The large cloves planted in the autumn had bulbed up nicely and the smaller ones planted in late winter (bought from the organic veg stall on the market) had grown into one giant clove each. They're all drying out in the lean-to and I'll probably save the giant cloves to plant again next year, which should then bulb up properly (this method produced the best bulbs for me this year).

We've also started to eat the very delicious peas. Mmmm so sweet. Best eaten straight off the plant. Just pop 'em in your mouth. The ones on the back garden are all swelling up first followed by some on the allotment (the ones at home seem to do better though, not sure why but could be that they don't get nibbled by the pea and bean weevil at home), Have got another two lots at different stages of growth (some only just germinated in loo rolls) to try and have a longer supply than the usual 'Yey peas! now they're gone'.

The strawberry plants which survived the winter (probably only about half in total) have been producing VERY tasty berries. A really intense flavour, probably because I don't really water them that much so the flavour doesn't get diluted. Also in the garden have a few wild strawberry plants spreading themselves around, which produce small, but incredibly flavoured fruits.

Red currants are nearly all ripe. Will have to start harvesting soon, though I remember last year they kept pretty well on the bush for quite a while. The black currants are just starting to ripen, as are the raspberries. Excitingly we have one apple growing on our 'new' tree (the tree we've had for over a year but only managed to plant out this winter). I've let it keep the one apple on, as it had a good root system so hopefully it won't be too much of a strain on the tree in this first proper year (You're meant to remove all fruit in the first year to help it establish). However, the tree down the other end, planted two winters ago hasn't got any fruit on - I think it's too far away from the other tree for pollination, so we'll need we need to get another apple tree between the two, to act as a stepping stone for the insects.

A lot more going on, but will save that for another time....and will take the camera to the plot too. A picture says a thousand words, as they say, and my typing seems to be getting worse so anything to help is great!

Friday 11 June 2010


...been doing a bit of online research into the leek moth / onion fly problem and found this really good blog.

I've definitely found the cocoons of the leek moth but I do suspect we have onion fly too. Interesting to learn via the blog (with posts starting in 2008, running through to this year) that the leek moth first only affected the south of England and has been moving north. I know a lot of Norwich plots which had it bad last year....

My squishing / removing of affected leaves seems to be working ok, though it's only been a few days. There are supposedly several generations per season of onion fly!

Tuesday 8 June 2010

Onion fly / leek moth remnants

The salvaged autumn onions and a couple of garlics (and big pile trimmings/squished larvae!)


*....please note, huge amount of sarcasm intended.
Not brilliant at all. We've been quite busy recently and haven't had much time to spend on the plot but I popped down on Monday eve before it got discover....those flaming leek moth or onion flies had decimated the autumn onions. Argh!

So instead of clearing the last of the spring greens in readiness for a courgette/bean wigwam combo I lifted all the autumn onions (which had bulbed up a bit but not much, so only teeny onions), and started going through their stems, squishing all the larvae. Then thought, oooh better check the rest of the aliumy things, to find they had also made a good start on the main onions and garlic too. My main onions had been looking super-healthy before but on closer inspection you could see the tell-tale signs of see-through patches of nibblings coming from within the stems, and on the worst affected, sort of onion 'dust', which is presumably the larvae poo. Sob! To attempt to salvage some of these I went through and broke off the affected stems and squished the larvae, in the hope that the remaining stems might be able to help the onions bulb up at least a bit before I take them all out. However, I've got a feeling that the oniony smell from the broken stems will just attract more flies or moths and will shortly be left with nothing. *BIG SIGH*

DEFINITELY getting some fleece/mesh before planting out the leeks.

Tuesday 1 June 2010

A week of firsts...

OK, only two days rather than a week, and only two firsts, but hey who's counting!

Number 1: first broad beans picked and steamed yesterday. yum yum yum. Only five pods so far but so tasty. These were from beans I sowed in toilet roll tubes in an unheated greenhouse last autumn, which I ignored for too long and they got really leggy and so I was going to just compost them. Decided at the last minute to plant them out in the back garden and hooray, they've started cropping.

Number 2: A bad one this time....I noticed a couple of the garlic plants were looking a bit yellow and manky today, which on closer inspection revealed the larvae of either the onion fly or leek moth munching their way through the plants. Nooooo! I hastily squished all the larvae and had a good look at the other plants to check they weren't affected. So far so good but I'll need to read-up on the little blighters to see what can be done. I did the squishing over at the compost heap as didn't want the garlic smell to attract more flies/moths to the various onion and garlic patches (in an attempt to avoid the pests this year I've planted smaller blocks of onions and garlic in different beds, and left some weeds to grow up and confuse the flies/moths - the idea being they are less likely to land on a plant they're looking for and will move on, and if they do find them, not all the plants get got because they're not all in one place. Hopefully it might work a bit anyway.)

I will definitely be investing in some protective netting when the time comes to plant put the leeks though....

Tuesday 11 May 2010

Mr Frosty..., not the flavoured ice-crush-making machine from the 80s, but Jack Frost who has been paying us a visit.

I spent yesterday evening earthing up the potatoes and covering the strawberries (well the ones that are in flower, anyway) with old straw. There wasn't enough soil to earth up all the spuds as I hadn't left as much room between the rows of the earlies as I had for the main crops. Luckily I remembered my mum had given us some old net curtains so I covered up the remainder with them.

THEN I realised I shouldn't have put the curtains straight onto the potatoes as this wouldn't protect them so much, so took it all off again, bent some chickenwire over the rows and put the curtains back on, weighing them down with bits of wood. Phew!

After all that we didn't get frost in Norwich! But other parts of Norfolk did and some of my workmates said their potatoes had been damaged.

The next couple of nights are supposed to be frosty again, so I decided to leave the plants protected for a while longer. Hope it works! And I hope none of the other plants I've got outside are susceptible to frost. Potatoes and strawberries were all I could think of. All other tender plants are still in the lean-to, though I do need to start hardening them off, so they toughen up a bit before planting out. Exciting!

Monday 3 May 2010

Weathering the weather

Today really won't make it's mind up. Rain, sun, hail, rain, sun, hail (repeat til fade...).
Cool clouds though, moving real quickly It's pretty cold too, in between the sunny spells, as we're near the North Sea and that's where our weather today is coming from.

So far have decided against a trip to the plot 'cause we haven't got any proper shelter (sitting under the buddleia, under an umbrella doesn't really count) but according the the forecast the rain may stop soon. Hurrah!

In-between the showers I've been sorting out the spot for the bean wigwam in the back garden (we have a couple of little raised veg beds for growing salads etc). So, I dug out a pit and filled it with cardboard and newspaper plus some weeds (dandelion leaves, alkanet (member of borage family with lovely blue flowers and itchy, furry leaves which grows all over the garden) and other bits and bobs, plus some 'spent' compost (from last years tomato plant-pots, which had also just finished with a follow-on of salad leaves and coriander). The soil in our back garden is very shallow, only just over a spade deep, because there used to be terraced houses here, (which I think got bombed) and the foundations were never removed. I've been gradually improving the soil over the last couple of years and it's not too bad now, plus making the beds raised has helped.

As beans are particularly hungry, I might add some chicken manure pellets (we were given a massive tub last year) and will probably dig in a bit of home made compost when planting out the beans (sown yesterday in toilet roll tubes). The wigwam is made of hazel poles coppiced from a friend in the countryside a few years back. I think they're almost past-it though, but hope they last this year. Last year the wigwam fell over because I was being greedy and let the growth become really top heavy, rather than pinching out the tops of the plants. Most the of plants were ripped out of the ground having just been about to start producing. Sigh! The year before they grew up into our little laburnum tree and I was hoping they would do the same but I shouldn't have risked it. Nevermind. Try again this year.

I might also do my courgette/bean combination in the back garden. This worked really well on the allotment last year (courgette plant grown in the middle of the wigwam, which shades out the weeds). The back garden is quite shady though, even though it's south facing, due to the large Holm Oak in the alley behind. Well, it's worth a go anyway.

Wow, I think it hasn't rained for about 15 minutes now. Time for a trip out I think. Actually the only reason i put on the computer was to look up rocket pesto recipes (had to clear away a load of rocket to make way for the wigwam). The rocket was sown last year and had come through the winter quite well, but as the leaves had gotten a bit tough I reckon they'll be best made into a pesto rather than just have in sandwiches. There was also some lettuce which had survived the winter, being protected by the rocket and some self sown chick weed. So we had the lettuce in veggie sausage sandwiches, with home made (well, machine-made) bread and last years marrow & ginger chutney. Not bad eh!

Tuesday 20 April 2010

For Peat's sake...

I was reading the latest Plantlife members mag and noticed that 2010 is meant to be the year that the UK government target for 90% of the total horticultural market to be peat-free is met. Just how likely is this? Apparently in 2007 it was only 54%.

There are so many reasons why we shouldn't be digging up peat. The price of providing gardeners with a light, moisture retentive substance includes: destruction of an incredibly rare habitat along with all the associated plant and animal species, plus peat bogs act as a really important carbon sink (i.e. they store up masses of carbon dioxide. When the peat is dug up the carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere, which contributes to climate change). It's the equivalent of burning fossil fuels.

So what can we do to help? Only buy peat-free compost. Check the labelling very carefully. This includes any potted plants, as a lot of nurseries are still growing with peat-based media.

I could've kicked myself recently. We went to the local garden centre (Nottcutts) to pick up a couple of bags of my usual favourite, New Horizon recycled compost. They didn't have any (not even a space for it) but they did have a different brand made from composted bark, labelled peat-free. Previous composted bark compost I've bought has been a bit rubbish, and as there was no sample available, I made a little hole in a sack to see what it was like. As expected it was really big chunks, not suitable for seed sowing etc. But, lo and behold, there was an organic compost which, when making a little hole, was brilliantly light etc, so we bought a couple of bags. Too late, it dawned on me that this was probably full of peat (which is of course 'organic'!), despite it not saying it had peat in it. In fact it didn't say what was in it at all, other than it was from 'organic sources'. It certainly did not say 'peat free'.

So my lesson has been learned....don't fall for misleading labelling. On searching the web I've found another garden centre nearby that does sell my New Horizon compost. I will be emailing Nottcutts to ask them to stock New Horizon again too and point out the dodgy labelling of the 'organic' compost.

I think we all have a responsibility to buy peat free (even better if you don't need to buy compost at all and can produce all you need yourself.) It's not good enough to say that the alternative composts don't perform as well as peat-based ones. The environmental price of buying peat-based is too high.

Lecture over. And excuse the bad peat pun in the title, I'm sure it has been much-used elsewhere.

PS had first of the spring greens tonight. Yum.

Saturday 17 April 2010

It's all happening...

.....early potatoes have peeped through the soil (earthed up today in case of frost), red currant and black currants are in flower, first carrot seedlings are up, PSB (purple sprouting broccoli....not Pet Shop Boys) has had second crop, all the main potatoes are in, all the onions are in, broad beans are up (though getting nibbled by the pea and bean weevils), radishes are up and starting to swell, lettuces have germinated, peas starting to come through..the list goes on

And yet there is still so much more to do (sense of panic anyone?). Things still to sow include; sweetcorn, courgette, PSB and other cabbagey things, pumpkins and other squashes, runner beans, french beans, beetroot, khol rabi, basil, cucumber and rainbow chard of course...the list goes on

...and a greenhouse to put up of course.

So what will tomorrow bring? Mulching, mulching, and more mulching. It's dry as a bone out there and the soil has capped and all those eager little seedlings won't be able to break their way through, so mulching it is. Hmmm, mulch...that's a funny word. Ahem, anyway....mulching and seeding sowing, that's what tomorrow will bring (weather pending).

Wednesday 7 April 2010


...purple sprouting broccoli. Our first harvest today. Was it worth waiting nearly a year (sown May 2009). Oh yes! So tasty, lightly steamed with poached egg on toast (home-made bread too). Just need to get us some chooks to complete the picture.

Wednesday 24 March 2010

Most upsetting favourite fork broke today. I'd popped down the plot after work to do a bit of clearing (in readiness for potatoes) and was trying to loosen up some well-established bramble roots, when there was a nasty crack and the handle shaft snapped at the point where it goes in the metal bit. *Sigh* I knew it was coming though, it started to crack a couple of weeks ago when I was moving a rose plant.

I s'pose that's what you get for leaving your tools under a bit of plastic on the plot. But my excuse is that we haven't got a shed and we do have to leave some of the bigger tools down there as it's a long way to carry them all down each time.

Then the tines of my other fork started to bend! Thems some tough brambles!

Might have to pay a visit to a carboot sale to pick up some 'new' tools.

Sunday 14 March 2010



Preparing the ground for the saskatoon

Tiny Saskatoon!

In goes Mr. Saskatoon!

The saskatoon in situ

Thursday 11 March 2010

Another exciting thing happened

Yesterday my little Saskatoon plant arrived. *Hmmm what's a saskatoon?* I hear you ask.
Well I only heard about them recently, via the magazine Grow It, (was given a subscription for Christmas). They're from Canada and are a bit like a blueberry but not as fussy, and grow into a big bush. I ordered a single 1 year old bare rooted plant to give them a go. (from This chap John Stoa has been trialling growing them up in Scotland and has had good results.

As it was bare-rooted it really needed to be planted out straight away so we nipped over the plot at lunchtime. JB has the photos.....

Sunday 7 March 2010

A day of dismantling

It was a lovely sunny day here today, though freezing in the shade. My friend Liz and I headed out to look at the greenhouse over the other side of the city (the greenhouse belonged to someone she knows at work and wanted to get rid of it cause of their little kiddies running around in the garden).

It all looked good, there were a few panes broken but nothing too serious, so we set to work taking it apart. I didn't have a clue how to get started but luckily she's pretty clued up on these types of things so we got on quite well. The panes of glass came out first, quite easily really though there were more than you expect. We were careful to keep hold of all the springy clasps and things which holds the glass in place (a few times it involved scrabbling around in the grass after they'd sprung off in all directions!)

So, on to the frame. This was a lot more tricky trying to work out which bits to take out first so we basically just went for it. At one point I was holding up the roof supports to stop the whole lot collapsing on us! Some of the bolts were pretty stiff and some snapped too so will need to find some replacements.

A couple of hours later and her estate car was full of almost a whole greenhouse! All was going to plan (apart from being a tad cold) so we made our way to the allotment back over the other side of the city. Brrrm Brrrrm Brrrmm....SMASH! Yep, although we thought the panes were nice and secure, after a few minutes of driving there was the unwelcome sound of breaking glass and we pulled over to see what the damage was. A bit of adjustment and extra padding was all that was needed and after a stop off at my place for a well deserved fry-up lunch we carted it all on to the plot. A quick trip back to pick up the last couple of bits (the door and part of the roof frame which didn't fit first time round) and now all that we need to do is level the ground, get some slabs, put it back together again. Easy peasy (ha hah). And of course there's nothing else to be getting on with on the plot either HAHAHAHahahahaha *sound of manic crazy laughing*)

Oh I did take some photos but they are trapped on my phone at the moment.

Sunday 28 February 2010


We've been offered a second hand greenhouse!!!!!! Aluminium with a few panes of glass missing. Whoop!
This has come out of the blue so have not planned at all.... Space not cleared on the plot so will have to stash until we're ready. Hopefully might pick it up next weekend. Yip! Also, am not sure whether we'll need to sort out a base for the frame to sit on...An allotment neighbour has got a greenhouse so will investigate what they've done. I'm hoping to get away with not having a base as that'll be extra work on top of all the other stuff that needs sorting.

On another note, it has been absolutely miserable here today so have been confined indoors. Sowed a few more seeds - celeriac, sweet pepper, Brussels, leeks. Last year the leeks I sowed in Feb didn't germinate so will be pleased if they work this year.

The toms sown a couple of weeks back have started germinating though. Have got these indoors on table top nearish a radiator for a bit of extra heat. Fingers crossed for the rest of my little seeds.

Monday 15 February 2010


Another month has gone by...huh! Takes you by surprise.
Anyhoo, still the same here in Norwich..snow...frost....occasional sunny day (which never coincides with a free day of course). However, I've managed to get a bit of work done... we've got really light soil so can be worked quite soon after wet times. I've been getting on with making raised beds out of pallets, making a 'U' shape, with each bit of the 'U' being the width of a pallet, so the middle of the bed can be reached easily without being tempted to tread on the soil. I'll take some pictures soon.

Am quite pleased with how they're turning out...there's a bit of work involved with breaking the pallets apart and lugging them down to the plot (using the framework of a grannies-style shopping trolley to transport them!).

I also took the opportunity this weekend to start sowing seeds indoors - tomatoes, peppers and aubergine. And tonight have sown broad beans in toilet roll tubes (so they can be planted straight out). I also planted out some of my main crop onion sets into cut down toilet roll tubes. I wasn't going to bother with this but some of them have already started sprouting so I don't want to waste them. These will sit in our unheated lean-to but the toms etc are indoors.

I was quite sneaky and took a spur of the moment half days leave this afternoon to make the most of a dry day. I wanted to get on with making the raised beds (these need to be completed asap cause I need to sow parsnip seeds soon and more garlics). Then lo and behold, tonight it's snowing! Looks like it was a good decision...hope everyone else out there is faring well and hope for better weather this weekend!

Wednesday 6 January 2010

January already?

Wow, it's been a month since we last blogged...the last few weeks sure have passed quickly.

Like most of the country, we have snow in Norfolk at the moment, and have done for the past couple of weeks, so it's pretty limited on the allotment front at the moment. HOWEVER, our seed potatoes arrived just before Christmas...I should have taken them out of the box as soon as they arrived but left it for over a week, and on peeking in the box, found they had already started sprouting...and not the right kind of sprouts either - they are pale and stubby, rather than the dark green more leafy type shoots which are needed. This has happened because they have sprouted in the dark rather than the light. I've now moved them into the lean-to, in cut-down cardboard boxes to make open 'trays' and put them out of direct light, plus broken off some of the bigger shoots. Hopefully some of the green shoots will start to develop soon. I know it seems quite early to start chitting but I began at about the same time last year and things turned out ok (it's so cold in the lean-to they don't chit too quickly).

Also, rather excitingly, last week we visited a friend who has a horse and collected lots of lovely well-matured manure. Mmmmmm. JB was worried it would smell the car out but I was pleased to be proved right that nicely matured manure doesn't actually smell! Access at the allotment is a bit poor, so I had a 'fun' time trying to reverse around a tight corner onto the site so we didn't have to move the bags too far. Just about made it on the second attempt and didn't skid on the slope, hurrah! Was a tad embarrassing as two kids were watching the whole time. It was easier to reverse in than reverse out though.

This is the allotment before Christmas: The tracks on the path are fox and cat :o)

These are the autumn onions, hope they're alright under there!