Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Orange Squash

This year I have grown some squash plants for the first time. My neighbour above me gave me the seeds when he kindly rotivated my plot. They were planted in a line along the edge of the path and next to the potatoes. My neighbour even planted them for me, spacing them about 12" apart, and the idea is that they grow up and over the potatoes, thus using the space to its full potential.

They were quite slow growing at first and I lost most of them to the ever-present slugs and snails, but 2 plants survived and I have been nurturing them throughout the summer and autumn with the idea of having one of them at Christmas.

Well, here it is...

I used it in a very simple recipe, and it tasted delicious.

Peel and chop the squash and place on a baking tray, drizzle with olive oil and roast for about 30 mins until it is nicely glazed. 10 mins before the squash is ready, chop up 1 red onion and add to the baking tray.

Meanwhile, cook some rice, drain it and place in bowl together with the roasted squash and onion. Add a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, and you're done. Easy isn't it?

There were so many seeds inside the first squash that I have done an experiment. I have washed and dried most of the seeds and I shall plant them in the early spring in individual pots and see what happens. Will keep you posted as to their (hopeful) success!!

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Leaf it at that

Last year my mum gave me half a dozen bags full of leaves that she had collected from her garden. I have left these rotting away in their bags in the hope that it will make nice leaf mould to spread on the raspberry bed this winter.

To be honest I had completely forgotten about these bags until yesterday and to my surprise inside all the bags is the most lovely rich moist leaf mould that I have ever been able to achieve. Normally it is just a horrible sludge and is a bit smelly.

The raspberry bed has been weeded and it now has a 3" thick coat of leaf mould to see it through the winter. This will nourish the ground and give the raspberries a good start for (hopefully) a bumper crop next year.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Chilli Success

This is the first year that we have grown chillies from seed successfully. In the past we only managed to get one or two plants with some sad looking chillies on them, but this year we have had a lot of success.

I think the trick is to start them off as early as you can so they have as long a growing season as possible, and if you have a sunny summer (!) then so much the better. We grew various varieties, Pinocchio's Nose, Cherry Bomb, Heatwave and Hungarian. They were started off in January and nurtured in the greenhouse until May when they were hardened off for about 2 weeks before planting out in the allotment. For extra protection against the wind, we stapled some plastic sheeting onto bean poles and secured them in the ground. It seems to have done the trick because as you can see from the photo we have had a good harvest from just 4 plants, and there are more chillies yet to pick.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

One Potato, Two Potato...Seven Potato, MORE

On 13th July I posted a blog (with photo) about the Desiree potatoes that I planted with the help of my neighbour above me at the allotment.

When I went to dig up the potatoes yesterday I had such a lovely surprise. There are masses of them from each potato plant. They are so easy to dig up and my son and I managed to fill 2 crates full very quickly. Here's a photo of them.

We were getting so many potatoes per plant that we only dug up about one-third of the crop and have left the rest of them in the ground until they are needed. This evening we had some of them mashed for supper and they taste absolutely delicious - definitely repeating that order for next year.

Leek at That

Thought I'd show a photo of my son holding the first leek of this season that we have lifted. It is huge! Smells gorgeous too. There are plenty more (about 50) waiting to be lifted when they are ready, so this year's crop is a bumper one. Good job I have lots of receipes using leeks.

Monday, 10 August 2009

Summer Fayre

The allotment is teaming with fruit and vegetables. The runner beans are producing at least 80-100 beans every few days and almost seem to grow before your eyes, the peas are so sweet that when the children pick them they always seem to make their way into their mouths instead of the basket!

The courgettes are growing rapidly and seem to mature in a matter of days, and the cucumbers are so sweet and crisp. The tomatoes have at least 6-7 fruits per truss and are ripening nicely - not much sign of blight this year thank goodness.

The red and white onions have been more successful than last year, the shallots have been picked and are ready to be made into pickle. The garlic is ready to be lifted and then dried off, it hasn't produced as much as I thought it would and the cloves are relatively small, but they smell very strong and size isn't everything!

Each time I go to the allotment (every few days at this time of year) I stagger up the hill to the car with 1 or 2 crates full of home grown produce that I have picked that day, and I always get a wonderful feeling of great satisfaction that all this has come from a few packets of seed (and a bit of hard work as well of course).

Monday, 20 July 2009

Earth to Earth

Thought I would show a photo of one my kitchen composting bins. It is full of homegrown veg that I have just peeled/chopped/shelled. There are courgette ends, pea pods, cucumber ends, runner bean ends and parts of potatoes that got a bit "sunburnt".

These will all be taken back to the allotment next time I go and chucked onto the compost heap to rot down and then be put back into the earth, so it's like a continuous cycle. Now that's what I call real "recycling".

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

A Courgette or Two

Courgettes always seem to do well on my plot. We've had the allotment for 3 years now (doesn't seem that long) and each year the courgettes have been prolific. This year they are as good as ever and we have had 3 pickings already.

When I arrive at the plot I always take a walk around to see how things are doing and what needs to be picked at the end of my days work. It almost seems as if some of the courgettes grow about 1" from when I arrive to when I leave. I always try to pick them when they are about 8" long as any longer than that and they begin to look like marrows and are then better for stuffing with mushrooms, peppers and stilton cheese.

I have 6 plants this year and find that this is just about the right number as the more you pick the courgettes the more they seem to grow. Unfortunately the season for courgettes is rather short, and as I love to eat them so much I must find ways of extending the growing season and then we can enjoy them for even longer.

Friday, 12 June 2009

Red is the Colour

The strawberries are doing well. They seem to like their new spot and have thrived in the recent hot and sunny weather that we've had. I netted both rows about a month ago to protect the swelling fruits from inquisitive and hungry birds.

We have had 3 pickings from the plants so far with loads more strawberries waiting to fully ripen to a glorious red colour. My daughter loves to pick them and eat them straightaway - lovely and warm from the sunshine. Once you've tasted a freshly picked strawberry you don't want to go back to the tasteless supermarket variety. They are so easy to grow and the effort is well worth the result at the end. Here's a photo to get your mouth watering!

I picked approx 1lb of strawberries and added 1lb of raspberries (not my own I'm afraid) and made my favourite jam. The receipe is really easy:-
Cover the strawberries with ½lb sugar and leave for an hour or so until the juices have started to flow. Add the raspberries and boil until you have a nice thick mixture (about½ hour), test for setting and bottle in the usual way.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

The Onion Family

The garlic I planted in the autumn last year was harvested this week, and although I have never grown garlic at the allotment before I am very pleased with the crop. Most of the cloves have swollen into fat bulbs which now need to be dried off for a few weeks.

The shallots have been harvested too and also need now to be dried off for a few weeks, and during that time I shall decide what to make with them. Last year I used them by making some pickle with Bramley apples that a friend gave me, but this year I want to make something different. Hopefully in the next few weeks I shall have a chance to look at some receipes.

With the garlic and shallots now gone from the plot, it was time to plant the first batch of leeks above the bed that had been vacated. I planted about 30 of them by making a very deep narrow hole with a bean stick and planting the leek plant very deeply and then watering in thoroughly. I used this method last year and we had some excellent leeks, so hopefully that will be repeated this year and we can have them right up until Christmas and maybe even beyond.

I have another batch of leeks to go in in a week or so's time so that I can have a more continuous supply of them and not an enormous glut (well that's that plan anyway).

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

One Potato, Two Potato

I am very pleased to say that all the potatoes "Swift", "Charlotte" and "Desiree" have all been planted at the allotment and are already showing their green leaves. The "Swift" variety which are first earlies should be ready by the end of May/beginning of June. I chose this variety just in case we get another bout of blight as we did last year, and they should be dug up and off site if we are unlucky again.

The "Charlotte" and "Desiree" varieties have been planted in a different way this year. Instead of digging deep holes and popping the potatoes in, we made a big trench, cut the potatoes in half making sure that there were "eyes" on each potato and placed them cut side down on the earth with some slug repellent and some growmore fertiliser in the trench. They were then covered up and well watered.

I have never planted potatoes in this way but my neighbour above me at the allotment (who incidentally rotivated the plot for me) helped us plant them and his potatoes always seem to do really well. We shall see what happens with this new way of planting and how successful it is.

Here is a picture of of the "Desiree" potatoes before they were planted.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

The Earth Moved

The man above me at the allotment has his own rotivator and very kindly agreed to rotivate all the unplanted earth on our patch. We have been methodically digging the plot throughout the winter to try and break up the big clods of earth a bit. When most of that had been done (apart from a patch of grass on the newly acquired bit) it was ready to be rotivated.

When we took over the plot we were adamant that we would not rotivate as it would slice existing weeds into many parts and thus they would be greatly multiplied. However, as the weeds are an on-going problem and will never go away, we decided that it would be a good idea to rotivate once and get the ground broken up nicely into a more crumbly mixture instead of great heavy clods.

Before it was rotivated I spread lots of barrow-loads of compost and manure onto the surface so that it would be incorporated into the earth as it was turned.

Now the greater part of the plot has been rotivated and it looked so different that I almost didn't recognise it and walked past it! When digging my fork goes in as easily as a knife through butter to a depth of about 8-10" .

My first job after the ground was rotivated was to move the existing strawberry plants (apparantly they like to be moved every 3 years) to a different part of the plot. Within half an hour 11 plants (I used to have 8) were dug up and re-planted with not all that much effort. I noticed that one of them was already in flower with a little bump in the middle.

Regarding the weeds, it was easy to pull out the chopped up roots as the earth was falling off them. I can't wait to do more planting, as for me it's so satisfying to plant seeds, or plants that I have started off at home as seeds and then potted on, knowing that in due course they will grow and be harvested. The miracle of growth never ceases to amaze me and raise my spirits.

Now, what shall I plant next?

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

From Loch Ness to Chester

When I bought the Bramley apple tree last September it came with two 2-year old blackberry bushes called "Loch Ness" and "Chester". They have been growing very happily in their pots over the winter, but now that spring has arrived they have started to sprout, so they need to be planted.

At the top of the new part of the allotment we have constructed a fruit support in an "L-shape". It is made up of 4 metal poles with 3 rows of wire between each pole for the blackberries to climb up.

I dug 2 big holes and partly filled them with compost and then placed a blackberry bush into each hole. I then back-filled with a mixture of earth and compost and then gave the bushes a thorough watering. They look very happy in their new position and it certainly gives some permanent structure to the top of the plot. As blackberries are one of my favourite fruits I am hoping that we will at least get some this year to team up with the other fruit that has already been planted. I still have some redcurrant bushes to plant, but will leave that for another day.

Monday, 23 March 2009

Raising the Stakes

We've made it - our first raised bed. It measures 5.5 ft square and is made out of sturdy wood that I retrieved from my friend's skip last year when she had a loft conversion. The boards are perfect because they are 6" wide so give a lovely deep bed. We placed 4 stakes (one in each corner) and then one in the middle of each board so that it is firmly set in place. We have raised the level around the rhubarb and filled it with the free compost that is sometimes available at the entrance to the allotment site.

In due course when the weather gets a bit warmer I will plant some comfrey seeds around the edge - Joe Swift from Gardeners' World says that every allotment plot needs to have some comfrey as it is a great compost activator and will attract loads of bees to its flowers.

In the meantime the rhubarb is sitting happily in the midst of its new home and we shall await the fruits of our labours. One raised bed down, about half a dozen more to go.

Sunday, 15 March 2009

P is for Pea

Last week I planted my first row of peas this year. They are an early variety called "Douce Provence". and I planted about 20 of them all in one row. My intention is to sow one row every 2-3 weeks so that we have a succession of peas in the early summer.

Last year when we grew peas most of them never even made it home as we were eating them straight off the plant as we were picking them. This year I am hoping for more peas so that some of them at least will make the journey from allotment to home to plate. Let's see what happens!!

Saturday, 7 March 2009

Mucking About

Over the past few weeks, most of the time when I have arrived at the allotment gates I have been greeted with a very "earthy country" smell. We have been blessed with many loads of manure and compost (all free!) being delivered on an almost weekly basis. The trick is to work out when (or ask a friend) when the next delivery will be and then turn up on that day and be prepared to do a lot of shovelling.

I have been able to co-incide my day off with a delivery on about 3 occasions and have been truly rewarded with some of the "golden stuff". It is very hard work to shovel the muck into the wheelbarrow and then wheel it down the hill and shovel it again onto the earth, but it is worth it. I have been able to give the raspberries a good thick mulch of about 3-4" along the row which is about 6m long. That must have taken at least 10 barrowloads for a start.

I have then turned my attention to the bed which I have designated purely for flowers (perennials and cut flowers). I marked off the edges and now have a lovely bed as I arrive at my plot. The flower bed is next to an "L-shaped" section of grass which is lovely to sit on in the summer. The flower bed has been edged and then filled with about a dozen barrowloads of compost and raked over. Along the back edge I have planted echinacea, iris, gladioli and dahlia. Waiting in the wings I have a yellow rose bush, buddlia some spreading geranuims, campanulas and gypsophelia. I am hoping that with the flower bed at one end of the plot and a hedge of lavender (half planted) at the other end that it will attract many beneficial insects who will do their work in between.

Meanwhile I think there is another delivery on Monday, so will be there weather permitting. No problem of where to put the next load of muck - the onion bed and around the newly planted Bramley apple tree.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Taking Orders

The weather the past few weeks here has been cold, wet, snowy, dark - you name it, we've had it - and I have not fancied going to the allotment. There is nothing to harvest at the moment except the leeks and sprouts and they don't mind being in the ground in this weather and can be picked up until April.

I have taken the opportunity of doing my ordering of seeds and sets. I have decided this year to grow potatoes "Swift" - a very early variety (because I can't wait to stop buying potatoes), "Charlotte" - a lovely popular salad variety, and "Desiree" -a popular maincrop which is fairly blight resistant. I have decided to grow white onion "Sturon" again as it has been very successful for the past 2 years and red onion "Hyred" which is a new one.

I also have ordered courgettes, cucumber, sweetcorn, beetroot and peas, and together with the beans, leeks, sprouts, parsnips and swede that I have left over from last year, I think that is enough to be going on with.

Now I have to wait for the slightly warmer weather to actually start planting the seeds, but in the meantime there is the small matter of some digging to be done!