Monday 30 March 2015

Harvest Monday - greeny

Well, what a weekend of weather. Saturday was pretty rubbish and raining most of the day (though warm). But Sunday, whew! Really heavy rain, strong gusty winds, lightning, hail,, funnily enough decided not to head to the plot!

So my usual Sunday trip to the plot for doing and picking was thwarted. Being stuck at home I was tempted to start sowing more seeds but decided to hold off until next weekend (when I'll have 4 days off work for the Easter bank holiday)

So, in the lean-to (which does leak, but earlier in the day it wasn't raining too hard so I was dry for a while), I've got these two sweet pepper plants that survived the winter. I pruned them back the other weekend so thought I'd give them some fresh compost yesterday by lifting them out, brushing off some of the old compost and putting in some new stuff (from a bought bag, it was too rainy to try and get some of mine from the compost bins)

Also in the lean to, Here's my tub of oriental greens (mainly mizuna). I had it covered in bubble wrap for extra protection before it got too big.
And a couple of other tubs - the seeds were sown at the same time as the oriental greens (before Christmas) but have only just got going (corn salad). Even though they're under cover in the lean-to, over winter I give them extra protection. In the summer I'll have 2 tomato plants in each of the tubs.

Close up of corn salad. I sowed some peas in here too but they either haven't germinated or have been eaten by a naughty slug or snail.

The toms are still doing ok in there too, more are getting their second set of true leaves.

The rest of the potatoes are waiting to be planted out (I planted out the earlies last week). The ones at the front are Setanta, and the 4 at the back are anya (I swapped a few with a friend). The Setanta haven't chitted much but should be ok to go out when I get chance.
Inside the house I have some basil seeds that have germinated really quickly (in only a week). I've sown a green variety and purple variety.
They have been kept toasty warm under bubble wrap and near a radiator. I think I'll keep them under there for a while longer. I've put a little stick under the bubble wrap to raise the plastic off the seedlings. You can see my chilli and aubergine seedlings in the background too. I'm keeping them inside until they're a bit bigger, then I'll pot them on and put them in the lean to.
Earlier in the week I picked some lambs lettuce from the allotment, for sandwiches
And some mizuna for a noodle soup (added in just at the end so they keep their nice green colour). I picked a bit of chickweed too that was just growing as a weed in the same pot but decided after nibbling some that I don't like it. Which is a shame as there's a lot of it growing in the lean-to pots. I'm leaving it for now as it at least is nice to look at something growing rather than empty pots!
Some greens....a mixture of side shoots and tiny cabbages
And my first purple sprouting broccoli, yippee. It was pretty small but there's more growing. I was going to pick more yesterday but the darned weather scuppered that.

But I did get to the plot briefly in my lunch break today (it's in walking distance) and snipped some off with a pair of scissors I borrowed from the office! Plus some other bits of greenery and more corn salad (Not pictured). I didn't have any storm damage, phew, unlike some other Norwich allotment sites where greenhouses and sheds have been smashed in the winds and from falling branches. Some people have lost all their seedlings, such a shame.

So I count myself fortunate for not a bad little harvest from a wet March week, it's raining tonight too.

Linking in with Harvest Monday on Daphne's Dandelions


Monday 23 March 2015

Harvest Monday - an eclipse?

A mixed week here in Norwich.....for the solar eclipse we were meant to have a clear time but instead it was really cloudy. It got very cold because of the eclipse and on my way in to work that day I could see my breath, brrr. I work flexi-time and was heading in 'after' the eclipse but something caught my eye - The cloud had cleared a bit and I accidentally saw it as the moon was moving off. So that was pretty cool, I thought I wouldn't see it at all (I did look away very quickly to avoid eye damage, though!). No pics of it I'm afraid. Of course, later that morning Norwich was bathing in beautiful sunshine with not a cloud in the sky, hey ho!

And on to the veggies.....
I lifted four more leeks this week, This pic is from two of them. I like the mix of dark and light. The darker parts tend to be a bit tougher so I cook them a bit first before adding the light parts.
And this is some Nero kale side shoots that have grown after picking all the big leaves and nipping off the top of the plants.

My tomatoes have been growing a bit too quickly so I decided to pot them on (I.e. Choose the healthiest looking ones and pot them into something bigger, ditching the rest.

These didn't cut the mustard and ended up in the compost. They were either too small, too tall or too wiggly.
Here's the toms in their new homes for the next few weeks. I still have too many but will probably lose some due to neglect!
I've taken a bit of a gamble and put them out in the lean-to, because I think they would get too leggy if I kept them inside any longer, stretching to get to the light. Being colder outside it should slow them a bit aswell. I'll keep an eye on the overnight temps and if it's looking too cold I'll bring them in. I've surrounded them with bubble wrap around the trays as a bit of extra protection and put some bubble wrap against the window as the glass gets cold. Last night it was meant to be 4 degrees but this morning I saw frost in the cars out the front (North facing). The toms were fine, phew.
I've seen a few bees around but no more butterflies. I spotted one bee going into a soil bank that I've left on purpose for them, so it was good to see it being used, bzzzz. A blackbird keeps singing out the back at home at 4am. Such a beautiful song but the ear-plugs need to go in at that time of the morning!
Sunday I decided to use up my last squash, as I'd noticed a couple of spots forming.they didn't go very deep fortunately. It was rock hard and difficult to cut through but worth the effort...a really good flavour. But a bit sad there'll be no more for quite a long time.
I made a chickpea and squash curry, enough to last us two days
And picked a few bits of perpetual spinach and chard to add in too

That's me for the week. Oh I put in my early potatoes yesterday (variety Colleen, that always makes me think of Dolly Parton's Jolene). I'll try and get my mains in next weekend.

Linking in with Harvest Monday on Daphne's Dandelions


Monday 16 March 2015

Harvest Monday - leaking leeks

We had guests this weekend so I didn't get a proper allotment session (had a very nice weekend though despite this, ho ho), but I did have a very quick trip to the plot to take down a bag of manure (still in my front yard) and dig up some leeks. It's only 10 mins walk away after all.

I was pleased with these 3 leeks and put them in a carrier to take home. Nearing home I thought 'these leeks feel a bit light' but continued on my way. On getting in the house, taking shoes, coat off etc I spotted some leek roots peeping out the bottom of the bag and on closer inspection there was a large hole, perfect for a leek (or two) to slip out. Sigh! So I quickly headed back out to retrace my steps and try to recover my missing leeks. I could see a lump on the pavement a long way down and, yes! It was one of my leeks. Hurrah. But no sign of the other so I continued all the way back to the allotment and *drum roll*'ll be pleased to hear I found my other leek on the main path, phew! So my quick trip turned into a bit of a pallava but ok in the end.

Here they are, nice looking specimens. I think I'll use them tomorrow in a giant potato / parsnip mash for freezing.

I also picked a bit of corn salad

And earlier in the week picked some of my oriental greens from the lean-to for a noodle soup

A quick update on my toms - they're doing ok, the true leaves are forming well. The chillis and aubergines have started germinating but not the sweet peppers

A pic from the other end. You can see the six empty pepper modules

I was going to try sowing some more sweet peppers, doing a pre-soak as recommended by Margaret but discovered I've run out of seeds, so instead have snipped off these 6 modules, given them more of a soak from below and put them in their own bag. Fingers crossed.

And finally, unfortunately these were not my eggs (no chickens myself but maybe one day) but from the organic veg stall in the market. And what's unusual with them? Three double yolks in a row! They were yummy too.

Linking in with Harvest Monday on Daphne's Dandelions


Monday 9 March 2015

Harvest Monday - a giant parsnip

It's warmed up this week and on Saturday I went to collect some really well-rotted horse poo from a farm owned by the dad of a friend of a friend, (with said friend). It was nice being out in the countryside, with skylarks and yellowhammers singing (the first yellowhammer I've heard for a while, with its 'little bit of bread and no cheeeeese' characteristic song).

I don't have a car anymore so we went in my friend's and filled up 10 bags (5 each). We dropped off hers first (she has an allotment on a different site to me) and then went to drop off mine. It had been a lovely morning so far but all went awry when we realised the housing estate next to the allotments was cordoned off by police and there were police cars and ambulances blocking the area, including the allotments. My friend did a skilful turn around in the narrow road and we instead dropped the bags off in my front garden (where they still sit). A police helicopter was overhead for quite a while too. I found out later that there had been a serious incident. I won't go into detail but this kind of thing is fortunately unusual in Norwich and they caught the person responsible that afternoon.

So I'll have to take the horse poo bags down to the plot one by one on my little trolley, which can take a surprising amount of weight. I'll also keep one of the bags at home and use it on my tomatoes. There's still a huge muck heap left so we'll probably go back another time. I'll use this lot for the potatoes and the next lot for squashes.

I had a few hours on the plot yesterday and got carried away doing none of the things on my list. I did move my leaf mould pile nearer to the edge of my plot so that it's less in the way, as and when I clear that part. My two robin friends came to say hello and when my back was turned, they decided to get active - I'd put a small stack of pots on their side, on top of a bag of leaf mould that I'm going to use soon. Over the next half hour they started filling it up with leaves! Ok, so whilst this was really sweet, it was a terrible place for a nest, completely open and at the mercy of the local cats. So I moved it a couple of feet away, wedging it into the low branches of my buddliea, facing away from the prevailing wind, and cut a load of brambles and stuck them all around it as some protection. The robins were a bit confused and one kept going back to the place the pot had been but they were also hopping around where I'd moved it to so I hope they realise what had happened. I don't know how long it might take for them to lay eggs but I'll have a very careful peep next time I'm down.

In other naturey news, I saw my first butterfly of the year (a small tortoiseshell) and also sadly the remains of a dead fox in the undergrowth at the end of my plot. I hope it died of natural causes. I left it untouched as other beasties will make use of it and I'm not doing anything with that space this year.

It started to rain and I realised I hadn't picked any harvests yet so I did a quick whip round - the parsnips had started shooting again(after losing their leaves over winter). This means they start to get woody, so I dug them all up. This included two huge specimens! A nice surprise. Here's one of them, that got roasted with some potatoes.

I picked a whole load of greens too - most of my Nero kale, so that it will produce some tender side shoots from the remaining stalks this spring. I also picked my last tiny cabbages as I'll be planting out early potatoes in the patch soon, after weeding and adding horse poo. I picked some curly kale too. Didn't get any photos of all of them but here's the Nero, not a bad crop.
I meant to pick some more corn salad but forgot in the rush.
Oh and here's how my tom seedlings are getting on (pic from yesterday morning), they're starting to get their true leaves. And one of the chillis had germinated too.

My potatoes in storage have started to shoot so Friday night I made a big pan of mashed potato and mixed it up with some fried onion and garlic and froze in portions. I still have a huge bag of potatoes though, so this week I really need to get mashing!

So a bit of a wierd weekend and sorry for rambling on!

Linking in with Harvest Monday on Daphne's Dandelions


Monday 2 March 2015

Harvest Monday - bit of a fail? And a seed swap

Not much to report on the harvest front this week - I haven't been down the plot to pick anything as I had a busy weekend. So I thought I'd share this harvest fail instead!

Last year I grew gherkins for the first time and they were REALLY prolific. I wanted to try a couple of different ways of preserving them, and one was the natural fermentation method. You basically mix up a brine solution to a specified ratio (that I don't remember right now) and pour it over your gherkins/ chopped onions/ spices etc that you've packed into a jar. Then you cover the jars with a cloth or similar, so that the pressure doesn't build up, and let the natural bacteria on the veggies develop and ferment for a few days, skimming off any white froth from the surface. When it gets to your required sour flavour, you seal it and keep in a cool place (to stop the fermentation continuing).

I made loads of jars of these and they took up the whole bottom shelf in the fridge. Now, as far as I was aware I was making these all in the same way. But, left to their own devices in the fridge, some developed a really thick white gloopiness on top, and those batches are inedible.

Here's a good jar (left) and a bad one (right) - see the thick white gloop on top

I've had to compost several jars because of this. Anyone know what might have happened? Should I have just kept more of an eye on them in the fridge and started scooping off the scum as it grew?

Hmm, I dunno, but I'll try again this method again this year too.

On to more positive things, my tomatoes are continuing to germinate. They're getting a little bit leggy but when I come to pot them on, I'll plant them deep, so that the stem is covered (toms grow roots from the stem when it's been buried, so it's not a problem at the moment)

Another thing to watch out for when growing on a windowsill is that they lean to one side to reach towards the light. You can keep turning them round each day to even them up but they can get leggy this way too. For some reason this year I haven't had to so far. It might be because I've made them a bubble wrap wig wam that seems to diffuse the light more evenly. I'm just using a pencil to keep the bubble wrap off the seedlings, acting like a tent pole. Also I've put a white bag beside them to reflect the light more evenly can use anything reflective like tin foil etc. or even a white piece of paper would do I guess.


The peppers haven't come up yet but they need more warmth than toms to germinate, so if they haven't come up soon I'll probably take them out into their own little protected area.

And on Sunday, Norwich had its first big seed swap event ever! (In one of our dozens of flint medieval churches that have been put over to community use. Honestly,you would not believe how many of these lovely churches we have in Norwich. This is one of four on one street!)

I went quite late in the day so it had quietened down a bit but I heard that it had been really successful, which is great. You could take along seeds to swap or just make a donation if you wanted seeds but didn't have any to swap. There were stalls there too, like a couple of the local allotment associations. I didn't actually swap any seeds or take any as I'm pretty full on the seed quota for this year but wanted to show some support for the event. (The day before I had also bought a magazine that had 11 free packs of seeds on it!!).

Linking in with Harvest Monday on Daphne's Dandelions.