Saturday, 26 January 2008

All in Order

Two days ago I finally made my orders for seeds, potatoes, onions and garlic that I want to grow this year. It has taken me a few weeks to decide on what to actually grow, the variety and quantity (I don't want to run out of earth space).

My final list was as follows:-

Runner bean White Lady
Sprouts Maximus
Courgette Defender
Cucumber Burpless Tasty Green
Leeks Bandit
Corn salad Cavalio
Land Cress
Peas Greensage
Pepper Gypsy
Perpetual spinach
Swede Magres
Salad leaves
Tomato Moneymaker
Tomato Super Marmande
Tomato Tamina

Ulster Sceptre - First Early
Charlotte - Second Early
Lady Balfour - Early Main
Cara - Late Main

Red Baron


I have some seeds left over from last year that I want to see if they germinate. They are:-

parsnip, beetroot, carrot, chilli, broccoli, cauliflower and garlic chives

Looking down my lists I wonder if I will have enough space to grow everything and now that the allotment is taking shape and the beds are now defined, part of me would like to have a bigger plot so that we can grow even more. However, I have been reading up on how to extend the growing seasons so I am going to give it a go and see if I can utilise the ground even more and have crops in all 4 seasons.

In the meantime I need to clear the greenhouse shelf so that I can get planting the seeds into trays early-mid February.

Meanwhile I wait for the postman.

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Made to Measure

On Monday this week I took my first trip to the allotment of the year. I was wondering what would greet me as I've not been there since new year's eve and we have had lots of rainfall since then. Although the ground was waterlogged in places, it was fairly easy to dig.

I started by getting the edging straight between the small amount of grass that will surround a little flower bed and the bed that will house the potatoes this year (bed no. 3). The fork glided into the earth and it was very easy to get a straight line. The grass was coming out in clumps and as it was full of bindweed and dandelions I must confess that I put it all into a sack and transported it down lock, stock and barrel to the bonfire site. I made 7 trips to the bonfire and on the way encountered a fox at the other end of the plot.

With the edging straight I turned my attention to digging where the potatoes will go this spring. I dug about one-sixth of the plot before it was time to leave and go home.

On Wednesday I was able to go to the allotment again and as there had been torrential rain on Tuesday, the potato plot was rather slippery in places. I made an edging line out of string and 2 skewers and have now got a nice straight line to divide off the potato bed from the 2 beds next door, one of which will house beans, peas, beetroot and chilli (bed no. 2) and the other will house broccoli, cauliflower, swede and courgette (bed no. 4). In between the beds will be a path made of bark chippings etc. of approx 18" width.

Each bed will be the width of 6 paving slabs so it is quite easy to mark out at the top, the thing is that the paving slabs at the bottom of the plot where it adoins next door's path are a totally different size, so you have to have a fairly "straight eye" and not be confused by the different slab sizes!

After all this measuring out I then started to dig the top of bed no. 1 which will house onions, garlic, leeks, carrots and parsnips. I managed to dig about one-tenth of this bed as it is much longer than the potatoes bed. I came across many worms and millipedes and some curious white round things which I guess must be eggs of some sort. They were quickly added to the bonfire plot as I didn't know what might hatch out in the future.

Now that the four main beds are basically marked out, it is a question of digging them over. Only bed no. 3 has not been dug since we took over the allotment and although it is quite compacted with us walking all over it last year, with all the rain that we have had it is not as difficult to dig as I thought.

However, there is still a lot of digging to do......................

Tuesday, 1 January 2008

Last Produce

Yesterday (New Year's Eve) I went to the allotment with my daughter to see if there were any potatoes left - there were still 1½ rows that had been "earthed up" and not dug. We wondered if the slugs and snails had had a really good Christmas dinner and whether they had left any potatoes for us to eat in the new year.

They have had quite a good dinner, but gladly have left us with at least 10lbs of the most delicious potatoes, which we had great delight in digging up. As the fork turned over yet another plant we were squealing with delight as we picked out potato after potato to add to the sack. We have enough potatoes for the next month or so, and then the cycle begins again as in a few days time I shall be doing my potato order for tubers to plant in the spring. Hopefully this year we will only have a few months of "non-home grown" spuds.

We also had a bonus when we were there - we found an onion (one white and one red) on each of the childrens plots, so we harvested those too and they are now drying in the greenhouse. On the subject of onions in the greenhouse we still have quite a few lbs left (especially of the red variety), which reminds me that I have discovered a marvellous receipe for using red onions. Here it is:-

Caramelised Red Onion Tart with Cheddar Cheese

2 red onions peeled and finely chopped
1 clove garlic peeled and finely chopped
1 handful of fresh (if possible) thyme
1 tbsp sugar
balsamic vinegar
shortcrust pastry
Cheddar cheese (grated)

Heat a small amount of olive oil and butter in a saucepan and add onions, garlic and thyme and cook for about 15 mins. Add the sugar to caramelise the onions and a splash of balsamic vinegar. Allow to cool a little. Make (or buy) pastry and place in fridge for 30 mins.

Roll out pastry after it has "rested" in the fridge and cut out discs. Place each disc of pastry into a bun tin and put in heaps of the onion mixture and flatten down a little. Sprinkle each tart with grated cheese and bake in oven gas mark 4 for 10 mins. Delicious!

We had these tarts as starters on Christmas Day and everyone enjoyed them immensely.

2007 was a great year for us as it was the year that my dream of an allotment was realised. We have had some trials (bindweed, rock solid earth, no rain, too much rain, potato blight, tomato blight), but it has been more than compensated for with the satisfaction of growing delicious crops to eat, being out in the fresh air and meeting new people. Am I glad that we started on this venture? You bet! See you in 2008 for more allotment stories - meanwhile I have a few fruit and vegetable catalogues to go through.......