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'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.


Monday 20 March 2017

Harvest Monday - freezer treats and a polytunnel

For breakfast every morning we both have muesli topped with yogurt and a fruit concoction (usually a mix of apples, berries, currants from the allotment). This week though, we discovered several tubs of strawberries in the freezer...yummy. I've still got other frozen berries to mix together too, so there should be plenty to keep us going until the fresh ones come along.
Out on the plot I've been picking self sown chard...
Purple sprouting broccoli and Brussels sprouts shoots....
And the last curly kale, which I've cleared from a bed I want to use soon. There's also been a few Nero kale sideshoots from the plants I snipped the tops off recently...
In the lean-to at home I've picked a bit more lettuce and some more pea shoots, a lovely fresh taste.
We used up some of the goodies in a stir fry. I also really like the purple sprouting broccoli just lightly steamed to soften it a bit, a gorgeous flavour.
Out at Eves Hill Veg Co not-for-profit farm the polytunnel frame was up, and beds inside it prepped. Time for the cover...
With multiple pairs of hands, ladders and some teamwork we got the cover right the way over, hooray
The trenches get filled in a bit with soil to weigh the plastic down, and then plastic is pulled to get a tight fit over the frame
The doorways get cut out and then the plastic is pleated and secured in place with batons on the inside of the doorframes. This sounds easy but the pleating was tricky - luckily one of the other volunteers was really good at it.
Looks pretty good

The polycover team

And here's what's happening in the original, smaller polytunnel...salads coming on very nicely. The sorrel is particularly tasty, a really intense flavour.

Ah yes, I definitely have poly-tunnel envy...maybe one day eh. On the allotment I've planted out my main onion sets (variety Sturon) and have still to do the red onions (Red Baron). I'll also shortly plant out my early potatoes, sow some spring broad beans and parsnips. The summer raspberry canes have been tied in and now I need to mulch around all the fruit bushes with compost. Plus it's not long until the peak sowing month...April...eep.


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


Monday 13 March 2017

Harvest Monday - "lean-to" harvests

Ages ago (sometime late summer / early autumn) I sowed winter lettuces in modules and then planted them out into the compost / pots that some of my tomatoes has been grown in last summer. The lettuces grew ok to begin with but then aphids started to get active (it was quite a mild winter). As a result, I lost quite a lot, but a few straggly plants limped-on through, and finally now finally put on enough decent growth for a picking. I'm not surprised the aphids liked them, they're quite soft leaves.
More recently (maybe three weeks ago?) I sowed a few peas in a couple of the other pots. I'd saved the pea seeds from my own plants and wasn't sure if they'd germinate but lo and behold....
I picked just a few shoots to begin with, which should encourage more to form. After a couple of pickings I'll let them grow on to produce early peas. I wish I'd sown them a bit thicker really so maybe I'll add a few in the gaps.
My tomato seedlings are forming their first true leaves, and the peppers have starting coming through far so good.
On the allotment I've harvested a bit more purple sprouting broccoli, cabbage side shoots, chard and Brussels sprouts shoots, and of course corn salad. I made a lovely mixed salad with red cabbage, toasted pumpkin and sunflower seeds, diced fermented carrots (homemade), cider vinegar (homemade), and corn salad (homegrown). It looked and tasted lovely and I thought I'd taken a photo but sadly not, never mind.
In the kitchen we've finally put up the shelves made from pallets I salvaged. I cut them to length, planed, sanded, treated with raw linseed oil (three coats) over the course of many months (erm, years). Jan helped put them up plus drilled all the holes in the wall, for some reason I have a real problem drilling into walls. We went for industrial looking brackets for a few reasons including that they're way cheaper than fancy ones (under £4 each).
It'll keep the worktop a bit clearer, (with room for more fermenting experiments). There's just enough wood to make matching ones the other side of the cooker...I wonder how long that will take. You can see the fermented carrots in the bottom left (they're now in the fridge).

It feels good to get those shelves up, and I'll feel less guilty about spending time on the allotment instead of the house, hehe. Talking of the allotment, I've hand-hoed between the garlics and have been clearing a bed for onion sets (sturon) which I'll hopefully plant out this week, scattering with chicken-poo pellets. It's where I had my late potatoes (so was manured last year) and then had some of the corn salad growing (plus couch grass had crept in from the edges a bit). I've got some Red Baron onions too that I'll put in another bed.


I'm heading out to Eves Hill Veg Co again on weds, when we're going to try and put the cover on the big polytunnel...should be interesting. I went last week but didn't take any pics....mainly sowing seeds in big modular trays which was fun as I hadn't sown on that scale before.


In wildlife news I saw my first Brimstone Butterfly of the year today, out in the countryside at the garden I was working in, very nice, and it was a lovely sunny day. With queen bumble bees buzzing around and birds carrying twigs in their beaks, spring is definitely on the way.


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


Monday 6 March 2017

Harvest Monday (umm, and some robots)

Recently I've been picking a few sprigs of purple sprouting broccoli (PSB) every now and then, growing from a plant I've had going for a couple of years. I didn't need the spot where it was growing, so left it to do the do....actually I might have moved it to this position at some point, I can't quite remember. Anyway, it's now putting out more shoots so I got a reasonable picking. It's a bit ahead of the PSB plants I sowed in spring last year, which are just starting to form a central head, which once picked, will start producing side shoots too.
It's no surprise that I've picked more corn salad
It doesn't look so appetising when they all get dumped in the bowl for washing!
But after a rinse and pinching off of the lower leaves, I can't wait to get stuck in. I need to start clearing some of the beds which have corn salad growing in (to plant-out onion sets etc) but luckily there's plenty all over the place.
Some slightly unusual 'greens' were the side shoots growing from the stem of the cabbage plant I harvested last week. I try and leave leafy plants in the ground as long as possible after harvesting the main crop, as they quite often give a second or third smaller harvest.
We had these tonight, chopped up with some leftover homemade potato wedges, and scrambled egg. One of the potatoes was actually from the allotment - Jan was helping me the other day, weeding around the leeks, when she rooted out a massive potato that I'd missed (my early potatoes were grown here, before the leeks). It's funny how you always miss some, despite trying to be thorough.
As a non-edible harvest, I pollarded the buddliea in the front garden, which produces lots of long, straight stems each year. Trimming off all the leaves and side-branches from each stem makes a handy source of support sticks. I was going to take an 'after' photo but it started raining heavily. This is in the back garden where I trimmed them all, after passing them over the back fence (we have no gate). Luckily no one was walking down the alley whilst I passed them over the fence -it looked like I was dumping them!
My tomato seedlings started to germinate just six days after sowing, and have come on even more since this pic a few days ago. The aubergines have peeped out today too, but the peppers are no show yet (they normally take longer than the rest).
On a completely unrelated topic, Jan and I had a day out in London last week, which was our Christmas present to each other (rather than just getting more 'things'). We went to the Science Museum to see the Robots exhibition (two for one tickets as we travelled by train). It was awesome, taking you through the early history from clockwork through to state of the art models. Here are just a few of the (too) many photos I took....
Very early 'false' limbs
Influencing popular culture
Replica of Maria from the film Metropolis
An actual T-800 from Terminator: Salvation
Early robot - reminiscent of the Tin Man
Apparently it's very difficult to mimic human walking ability
This robot was looking at me, eep
And for any fans of the TV show 'Humans', here's Gemma Chan's robot head, scarily realistic

There were lots of interactive features too, so loads for everyone to do and enjoy, even if not a self-confessed sci-fi geek like me. We also went to Adventures in Moominland at the South Bank Centre, a whizz around the National Portrait Gallery and walked about 11 miles, via Trafalgar Square, Buckingham Palace, Houses of Parliament and along the south bank to Tower Bridge. Phew, what a day.


So that's a bit (a lot) of a diversion off-topic but thought I'd share anyway! Thanks for getting through this far, I'm linking in as usual with Harvest Monday hosted by Dave at Our Happy Acres.