Tuesday 24 April 2018

Harvest Monday - false security and an allotment update

It's been unusually sunny and hot here the last few days, easily lulling us into a false sense of security. The good thing is it's brought on the growth of things like tomato and pepper plants which really hadn't been enjoying the cold, dull weather. And luckily none of my little brassica seedlings got frazzled in the greenhouse, which did happen one year. Quite a few things need potting on now, so I should get on with that before they become too leggy. Ooh, and I noticed today that the first cucumber and winter squash seedlings are emerging. 

Down at the allotment I've been getting the beds ready for this year's plantings. This meant harvesting the remainder of the leeks, though I did leave a few little ones to go to flower, because they look pretty and the insects like them too. 

I've also made another harvest of purple sprouting broccoli, this was about half.
And the self seeded chard is putting on some lovely fresh growth, before it begins to bolt...so I should really go round harvesting as much of this as possible. 
The broad beans I sowed in Autumn made it through the recent cold weather, phew. They're quite hardy but showed a big of damage  (blackened leaves) after several freezing days (interestingly, the snow didn't cause any damage, it was the extreme cold later that did). They've all been nibbled by weevils (which create little scallops all round the leaf edges) but it never seems to bother the plants too much. I love the flowers, that white and black is stunning.
At home we're eking out the last of the rocket in the lean-to greenhouse. Not many harvests left now. Excitingly our local organic greengrocers has Isle Of White tomatoes in - the tomato company uses waste products to generate heat for their grow-houses, plus they have a warm micro climate down there, which means very early tomatoes - it feels like a real treat.

Here's a quick look round the allotment. I mowed the grass paths the other day, so it looks quite neat (I have one of those push-mowers, which are great if the grass isn't too long to begin with). Also, you can't see the edges of the plot, or around the main fruit bushes, which all need mulching. But on the whole I'm quite pleased. No doubt the grass will need cutting again the next time I go down though....so I'm trying to get rid of some of the smaller grass paths by mulching with cardboard, to save maintenance in the future.

Standing near the entrance looking down length. One of my dwarf apple trees in the foreground. Shed to the right (out of shot). Bags of manure ready to spread on the beds (I went with a friend to collect manure the other day...very well-rotted, I could do with a trailer-ful!)

About two-thirds down...the neat bit. I've started mulching the summer raspberries on the left. In the foreground is self sown chard which I'll crop and remove when it's time to put the new plants in. Oh and I left a few plants of corn salad to go to flower and seed.

These three beds are potatoes. The two outer ones have manure added on top (ideally this would've been done earlier) the middle bed had manure last year for squash plants, and as I don't have loads of manure I'm prioritising where it goes. I'm also going to try not earthing-up the potatoes (which disturbs the soil) and instead try and find enough mulch material...will see how this goes but may end up earthing-up after all.
The fruit bushes (far end and edge of plot, behind me) are all full of flowers, it looks like another good year for them, I'll try and get some piccies next time. The plum tree next to the shed seems to have responded well to the pruning I gave it last summer so I'm looking forward to plums as well, mmm.

I'm linking in with Harvest Monday kindly hosted by Dave at Our Happy Acres
Dave at Our Happy Acres

Tuesday 17 April 2018

Harvest Monday - PSB at last! And winter salads finishing

There's a lot of green this week, it's quite surprising. The winter salads are all starting to go to flower so it's time to pick most of them in bulk and let some go to seed.

Corn salad sows itself all over my allotment plot so there's masses to pick at the moment. The stems have started to elongate as it heads towards flowering. But the stems are still nice and soft, and I find it also makes them easier to harvest, as the upper leaves have less soil-splash on them. I cut the whole plant off just above soil level (to leave the roots in the ground to compost) and then simply cut off all the top leaves in one go. 

The winter purslane I sowed in August and planted out early autumn didn't do amazingly well on the allotment (but was excellent undercover in the lean-to greenhouse at home). It was time to clear the allotment plants and get a small harvest. With all the rain we've been having, there were plenty of tiny slugs at the base of the plants, so it was good to clear these onto the compost heap too. I've also cleared all the purslane from the lean-to because aphids had started to run-riot. Out on the plot the other day I did notice ladybirds becoming active so I'll have to coerce some home to munch on the aphids.
After getting severely munched by pigeons during the snowy weather (the mesh had come off), my purple sprouting broccoli has finally made a comeback, yes! It's funny because I've recently sowed this year's PSB which has germinated nicely. I think it's worth a year's wait to get this tasty harvest though. 
I harvested an even larger load of corn salad on Sunday. That'll probably be the last that I pick and the rest will go to flower. They have beautiful tiny white flowers. This all went into a big batch of pesto (with cashews).
And there was a second harvest of PSB as well.
We got the train up to Cromer on the north Norfolk Coast yesterday, and did a lovely circular walk. Right near the start of the walk, past an area of woodland, the wild garlic (ramsons) was looking delicious so we picked a few leaves (as far from the path as possible to avoid potential dog wee!)

We had a few leaves last night, mixed in with the corn salad pesto, and with extra toasted walnuts on top. I meant to steam some PSB too but forgot, so may have that with poached egg tonight.

We've been trying to get a few walks in recently because we're having a couple of days walking with Jan's mum at the end of the month and need to get our walking-legs in shape. Yesterday's walk via Felbrigg Hall (National Trust) was really lovely and really felt like an escape from our usual day-to-day activities.
Jan's fancy photo of the hall.

We did a bit of geocaching too, which was fun. There was a cache hidden at the base of this incredible beech tree.

And I found a new home for us. Maybe it's a bit draughty. 
At home, I've been gradually getting through the seed sowing. Most things are done now and germination is on the whole ok, phew, though I've still got beetroot to go. Then there'll be some things to sow a second crop of later, plus direct sow beans etc straight into the garden and allotment in May and June. My tomatoes are about half the size they were at the same time last year, the light has been so poor. But flowers are starting to appear on my Autumn-sown broad beans and on the fruit trees. Looks like I might get some plums this year, mmm.

Thanks for reading and sorry for being a bit sporadic with posts recently...life seems particularly busy at the moment! I'm linking in with
Harvest Monday, kindly hosted by Dave at Our Happy Acres.

Monday 2 April 2018

Harvest Monday - rain, rain go away...

Wow it's so rainy here at the moment. I had an allotment session yesterday before the deluge started in earnest, managing to plant out my onion sets (variety Sturon) and 2nd early potatoes, variety Orla. This is a new variety for me as the catalogue had run out of my usual. I'm also trying a new maincrop, which I'll plant whenever the rain decides to stop. Over the last couple of weeks I've been harvesting loads of leeks (but didn't get any pics) and cleared them all from one bed, in readiness for the maincrop potatoes.

In the lean-to greenhouse at home I cut all the winter purslane leaves from one pot, to encourage some fresh growth from below. It's quite an easy way of harvesting too, grabbing a handful and cutting through the lot, rather than picking off individual leaves. These mainly went into a pesto, made with toasted cashews plus some rocket leaves from Eves Hill Veg Co where I volunteer, as these particular rocket plants had started to bolt. They still had a nice soft texture though. Some rocket from the lean-to here at home went on top of a potato-pizza that Jan made...that was a goood pizza.

I've also continued to harvest corn salad / lambs lettuce from the allotment. I meant to get some more yesterday but forgot, making a quick getaway from the cold rain. 

A few days ago it was actually sunny, which handily coincided with a free day for me, so I had a good session sowing broad bean seeds - I dib the holes first and then go along popping one seed in each hole, then use a rake to gently cover the rows. Before I dibbed the holes, I also raked the whole bed, to kill off any weed seeds germinating in or just below the soil surface. The dibber is actually just the handle of an old fork which snapped a few years back.

After sowing the beans, I then made two seed drills inbetween the three bean rows, for parsnips with radishes. I've used this method before - the radishes grow quickly, and are then harvested whilst the slow parsnips germinate. The broad beans do their thing too and are cleared (leaving the roots in the soil to feed the parsnips) before the parsnips really need to get going. It usually works except last year I had zero parsnips germinate, which may have been a dodgy pack, even though it was fresh seed. I water along the seed drill first, then sow the seeds. It was useful for the papery parsnip seeds to stick to the wet soil, as it was a bit windy and they tend to get blown around otherwise. I expect the ones which got blown away will germinate and grow better than the ones I properly sowed!

I'm still volunteering at Eves Hill Veg Co (community market garden) most Wednesday's, there's a good crew of us at the moment. Last Saturday was also the monthly open day, where a wider group of people tend to come along and help / have a look around. It was particularly special this week as two heavy horses were on site to help shallow-plough the field-scale beds. Whilst the aim of the market garden is to try and disturb the soil as little as possible, it's quite difficult to prepare the long beds otherwise. I think everyone enjoyed seeing the working horses too, there's a real skill in handling them. These two particular horses are usually helping to remove logs felled within woodland, so they did really well getting the hang of it quite quickly.

Oh I forgot, I've also potted-on all my tomatoes, peppers and aubergines. They're now in the lean-to greenhouse where the light is much better than indoors. I've protected them from the worst of the cold with bubble wrap on the shelf and along the adjacent windows. I'll probably sow some more things this week, (it is April after all, I think, ha). But most of the seed sowing will start later in April / May.

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