Tuesday, June 30, 2009
I had a look at the terrific growth of all the crops – especially the squash plants which are all sending a leading shoot out towards the ends of the beds – & saw the pea pods all swelling nicely.
I picked PEAS (newick & stephens), BROAD BEANS (barry plot 19) & dug another POTATO (dunluce).
Retired Maureen arrived & we set to on her redcurrant bushes – terrific yields on these – & we had a smashing time under the netting chatting on this & that.
We called it a day when Maureen announced it was time to go home for a Pimms, & so I have masses of jewel-like redcurrants (weighed later at 14lb!), & I sent her on her way with a bag of a couple of dozen peas, which didn’t seem like an even swap to me, but there you go.
It took quite a bit of juggling to get everything loaded on the bike & a cautious cycle ride home. It was only when I was coasting down the drive that I realised that I’d forgotten to pick any sweetpeas – so a double bunch next time, I think.
Monday, June 29, 2009
Thunder rumbled ominously & we picked half a bucket each before having to retire to the shelter of her car as the rain came down.
We chatted for half an hour without let up, & she kindly offered to run me home – it still coming down cats & dogs. I wheeled the bike up to the cover of the polytunnel, & by then soaked through*, I gratefully accepted the lift.
Of course five minutes after getting home, the sky cleared…
*that's not hair-a-bit-damp, wish-I-had-a-brolly soaked through, this was wring-out-your-clothes, dunked-in-a-pond soaked through.
Sunday, June 28, 2009
I could find very little on line about the variety, but they were offered out by the HSL a couple of years ago, so I dug out the catalogue, which says this about them:
“Originating in Yorkshire this variety looks like a pea but has a flavour similar to runner beans. This tall (2m) vigorous variety produces bi-colour purple & maroon flowers followed by purple pods”
Well then – I made sure that I picked a couple of dozen when I cycled to the Hill this evening, & cooked them for about 5 minutes for tea. They redeemed themselves once on the plate – although they did have a greenish-grey colour on the plate (as noted in a comment by Matron), they tasted pretty damn fine – but nothing like runner beans as far as I could tell.
I also picked some BROAD BEANS (barry plot 19) & some sweet peas before wandering down to the bottom of the plot – rhubarb Brian is on holiday for a couple of weeks, & invited me to help myself to the enormous quantity of tayberries that are just coming ripe. Hurrah!
It was the work of a minute to fill a large freezer bag – & they are in the fridge whilst I ponder jam making…
Saturday, June 27, 2009
I picked a couple of plump pods & undertook an impromptu taste test.
Although the peas tick all the boxes (including vigorous growth, loads of pods, attractive plant), I’m afraid it falls down on the most important factor – taste. I ate the peas from another pod in order to make sure I’d got it right – but no, the peas are just not good for fresh eating – they are not particularly sweet, & they are mealy & dry.
So – a disappointment there, BUT they may well be good for mushy peas (like the purple podded lancashire lad peas following on) so I although they are not what I thought, I am not downcast!
I pinched out & tied up the TOMATOES – & saw that I have flowers on almost all of the plants & even a baby tomato on one or two. Hurrah!
The plot’s in full swing now – I have plenty of eating PEAS (newick) to pick along with SWISS CHARD (bright lights), BROAD BEANS (barry plot 19) – enough to give to my neighbours & to blanch & freeze a portion – & I picked the first of the BROAD BEANS (crimson flowered) too, & had these green jewels for tea with the peas & POTATOES (dunluce).
The weeds have all leapt ahead too, but that’s a job for another day.
Friday, June 26, 2009
This is a picture of a bucket which happened to be outside this afternoon & this photo was taken at tea time - the water level inside the bucket was just under 5".
Well at least I didn’t have to go and water the tomatoes!
Thursday, June 25, 2009
On the advice of Reg-next-plot, I forked up the shallots, & as I did so my eyes strayed to my potatoes-in-a-growbag – it looks alright to me, I must say. Mind you, wandering around the site later there are bags others with more top growth, but that doesn’t mean they have more spuds in there, no siree!
I picked PEAS (hsl newick) & BROAD BEANS (barry plot 19), STRAWBERRIES & a few RASPBERRIES, then dug up another POTATO (dunluce). I was delighted to see the first of the FRENCH BEANS (early warwick) not just in flower, but a couple of baby beans forming.
Then I had a brainwave – because the gooseberries that I had from cheery Brian & Pauline didn’t quite weigh enough for the batch of wine I have planned, I had thought to buy a punnet of gooseberries (£1.99 in Sainsbury’s!!) to make up the shortfall.
However, I pulled three stout sticks of rhubarb to add in instead – the rhubarb won’t be as sweet as that pulled earlier in the year, but I’m hoping that the sharpness will blend in well with the gooseberries.
I'm looking forward to tasting the results!
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
David-other-half was there, confined entirely to his shed, hammering. Given that all I could hear was an intermittent & loud banging sound, & that I didn’t actually see him at all, it did cross my mind that he might be trapped in the shed trying to attract my attention, but thought it unlikely, so I didn’t go & investigate further. If he is still there tomorrow, I’ll go & let him out.
Reg-next-plot was in full-on spray mode – a vat of liquid, pump action spray wand to hand, goggles, the lot – all of which was to combat pea & bean moth, he said.
Once he emerged, we got chatting about when to harvest shallots – he’s lifted his already & left them to dry on the surface – & the 3-potatoes-in-a-growbag competition that he’s organised for the both the allotment holders & Social Club members.
He scoffed at those people who think they are doing really well as they have enormous green growth, overwhelming the growbag saying, “it’s what’s underneath the soil that counts!”, to which I heartily agreed & showed him my modest potato growbag.
He stared seriously for a long moment at my growbag, & eventually filled the ensuing silence with “ah, well, it’s only a bit of fun, isn’t it?”
Hardly a vote of confidence, but at least the beans & peas tasted good!
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
First of all I received a parcel in the post containing three good sized comfrey roots & leaves from Bilbo – a white flowered native comfrey, which doesn’t grow either as tall, or as voraciously as the blue flowered comfrey I’ve been used to seeing.
The roots had a good number of familiar pointed oval hairy leaves, & I potted them up straight away into terracotta pots with good drainage gravel, multipurpose compost & gave them a good watering to settle the roots & put them in a shady nook – although they have flopped in an alarming manner this evening, I have the courage of my convictions & I’m sure that they will perk up in their new surroundings some 300 miles south of their home.
Then I had a phone call from cheery Brian & Pauline asking if I would still like some gooseberries for making wine. “We’ll leave three big punnets for you in the mini greenhouse if you would like them – we’ve got loads already.” And when I went to collect them they were ready picked & in punnets.
Having a look at my flowering sweetpeas, I saw retired Maureen for a chat who said in the course of conversation “you don’t know anyone who would like some redcurrants, do you? There really is only so much redcurrant jelly you can make, & there are loads – the one thing that has come really good so far this year.”
Well, thinking how lovely last year's redcurrant wine was, I didn’t need asking twice, & offered her some wine when its made, & gave her some of the sweetpeas I was just cutting as a thank you.
Monday, June 22, 2009
You would think that with all this marvellous fresh-as-it-can-be veg, I would be a bright eyed healthy whippersnapper ready for some sort of Olympic call up.
This is not true, however, because although I am eating remarkably well, I am also eating remarkably well – fresh young veg & lots of it, generally with a knob of butter – & in order to continue to do so without becoming overly rotund, I have shaken out the hi-vis jacket, blown the cobwebs off the bike & I went to the Hill on two wheels this evening.
Not that there was an awful lot that I wanted to do when I got there, beyond vague thoughts of watering the tomatoes & picking some broad beans for tea.
As I was getting my breath back, David-other-half rolled up, “oh, you've cycled here tonight,” he noted as he walked past me to the back of the plot & busied himself with the hoe.
I was looking at the onions when Jason (behind retired Maureen) came along, “oh, you've cycled here tonight,” he remarked as he strode by with watering can & tomato feed. Not sure if they saw the bike or my strangely puce face.
The onions have started to flop over, so I can start to lift these, then put them in the mini greenhouse at home to dry out properly – a job for the weekend when I have the car with me, perhaps – unless I want to look like a French onion seller cycling home.
I picked the BROAD BEANS (barry plot 19), three sweetpeas to add to the vase at home & watered the peas, then cycled back - it’s downhill home!
Sunday, June 21, 2009
The longest day today, & a cooler one too – I waited until later to see if it would rain, but none was forthcoming so I went to the Hill in order to pick something for tea, & to water the tomatoes.
I went via mums where I planted out some salmon flowered peas (courtesy of Flummery at Veg Heaven) & some runner beans in her little veg patch, with strict instructions to leave a few pods on the peas to save for next year.
At the Hill I watered the squash, tomatoes & beans then picked the first of the PEAS (hsl newick) – which I just managed to resist eating there & then – some SWISS CHARD (bright lights) & BROAD BEANS (barry plot 19).
Home for a late tea with all of the above cooked with the potatoes (dunluce) that I dug the other day & a couple of fabulously succulent Welsh lamb chops, then come bedtime when it was still bright in the sky, the cats reacted exactly as I did as a child when called in to go to bed when it was still light – very sulkily indeed.
Saturday, June 20, 2009
Firstly, I wanted to put some feed onto the legume & misc. beds, so I went to the shed & bought enough fish, blood & bone to cover – a grand investment of £1 for 2kg.
Once this was raked in – whilst having a chat to Retired Maureen – I planted out the last batch of BROAD BEANS (witkeim manita), as well as climbing FRENCH BEANS (barlotti) & DWARF FRENCH BEANS (talisman) then back to the miscellaneous bed to plant out half a dozen each of LETTUCE (mini green & little gem) & to sow a row of RADISH (french breakfast 3).
Whilst popping a few weeds on the top of the compost bin, I wondered how the other bin is getting on (currently 'cooking'), so I took the lid off & had a poke around with the fork.
Although the edges are looking unrotted, the middle is looking almost ready. I stirred it up as best I could, added a huge bucket of comfrey cut from retired Maureen's out-of-control plant then a big bucket of rotting manure from the skip – dug from down in the middle where it is steaming & too hot to touch, then I re-covered the bin.
This just left the nice bit of harvesting – I dug up the first POTATOES (dunluce), then picked some BROAD BEANS (barry plot 19), RADISH (french breakfast 3), LETTUCE (hsl stoke), a few STRAWBERRIES & a couple of RASPBERRIES, which tasted very good indeed.
That just left the first of the sweet peas to cut & a wander down to the bottom to see how Rhubarb Brian & John Badger were getting on. All in all, a very satisfactory couple of hours work – albeit spread over a good deal of the day…
Friday, June 19, 2009
I'd never heard of achocha before I was offered some seeds by Flummery at Veg Heaven - but here is what the Real Seeds website says about it:
Achocha is an unusual vegetable from South America that is remarkably easy to grow. It is impressively productive, easy to grow, & can be used raw in salads when small a bit like a cucumber. But the best thing is that they really taste just like sweet green peppers when fried.
Well, that sounds good enough to me, & after a false start when the slugs scoffed the first couple of seedlings in the mini greenhouse, the second pair are romping away at home in a pot.
The sticks in the photo are to keep a larger pest at bay in feline form - if not mine, those of next door, all of whom are adorable but do test the patience occasionally...
Thursday, June 18, 2009
As I finished that job, Rhubarb Brian reversed up the track having finished whatever it was that he was up to towards the bottom – it seemed to involve a great deal of sawing – & stopped to ask “is it normal for the runner beans to have flowers starting? They aren’t very tall.” I put his mind at rest there – as I’m sure that’s quite alright – then we had a quick chat about watering in the greenhouse, & off he went.
I weeded the peas (bed c2), dug another POTATO (lady cristl), & picked the first of the BROAD BEANS (barry plot 19) – the pods are about 6” long with the beans inside a little larger than peas – & finished by picking a portion of SWISS CHARD (bright lights).
I was about to head home when cheery Brian & Pauline arrived – they had me in stitches telling me all about their frantic preparations for a family 'do' this weekend, & how events have conspired against them in their effort to get everything done on time.
Pauline concluded “…honestly, I was at my wits end – I was standing in Sainsbury’s staring at all these empty shelves where the cat food should be & I said to the assistant ‘well, I hope that you’re going to come round & explain to my cat why she’s got no food to eat, because I’m bloody well not going to!’”
I was chuckling all the way home.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
However when I turned the packet over & saw the price - and being somewhat conservative in the purse department - I put it back on the rack & decided revert to plan A which is to ask if anyone on the seed swap has any spare.
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Retired Maureen arrived & confirmed that it was camomile seeds she is after & not the plants, which I shall try & sort out for her. Although her comfrey isn't the non-spreading kind I am after, I have been very kindly offered a couple of root cuttings from Bilbo from her native white flowered comfrey which I will be delighted to have - an unusual & native plant hits all the right buttons here.
Then I picked a handful of delicious strawberries to take home for tea.
Monday, June 15, 2009
I don’t know why she wants so many (camomile tea, I suppose) & I don’t have any seed, but if I ask on the GYO grapevine seed swap, I may find someone who has some that I can swap for some of my spare seed.
I asked her about her huge comfrey plant – comfrey is supposed to make a brilliant veg feed, & the bees love the flowers, but unless you have the sterile variety (boking 14), it spreads like there is no tomorrow. If it was boking 14, I would have asked her for a cutting, but she shook her head & admitted “it’s lovely, but it is rather a nuisance, I’m afraid.”
So that’s out, but I might just ask her if I can have enough leaves to stuff into an old milk carton, which will break down to give a concentrated feed. A fair trade for the seeds, I think!
Sunday, June 14, 2009
I’m really pleased with how this looks now, so I patted myself on the back & planted out some RUNNER BEANS (reg next plot) & CLIMBING FRENCH BEANS (barlotti jody).
Not so impressive were the SPRING ONION (white lisbon), ONION (hi keeper) & SHALLOT (banana) seedlings, the planting out of which I have totally overlooked for some reason. I found room for all in the roots beds, once I’d given these a good weeding – a job rather overdue – & I’ll have to wait to see if they come to anything.
Rhubarb Brian came by to see what I was up to. “I’ve built a cold frame this morning”, he beamed. I did rather wonder what he was planning to put in it at this time of year – you’d cook anything in there at the moment, I would have thought.
We talk about the other plotholders down at the bottom end (dubbed ‘the Badger Sett’, as returning allotmenteer Christine told me later – groan!), & the Show in August before he left me to my weeding. Christine came by with a handful of sweetpeas & a dreadful cold, so she couldn’t appreciate the wonderful scent. She admired the PEAS (stevens) – there are dozens of purple pods on them all ready to fill out.
Another small job that I’ve meaning to get round to is to look up which of the various tomato varieties are cordon (& therefore need the sideshoots pinching out) & which are bush (which can be left to their own devices). Armed with a note of which is which along with a marker pen, I marked the appropriate cane-toppers with B for bush with a marker pen for future ref.
With the seedlings watered in I dug up a second POTATO (lady crystl) plant – this one has enough for three meals, the last one had enough for two – & some rhubarb for my next-door neighbours, & a few RADISH (french breakfast 3) for tea.
Before heading off I had a wander down to the bottom end – Rhubarb Brian showed me the cold frame whilst Mrs Brian picked gooseberries (not a hint of mildew, I couldn’t help noticing!). I also had a look round Christine’s then on to the bottom & John Badger’s plot, where I ran into this rather handsome fellow…
Saturday, June 13, 2009
First up was the return visit to Eva & Sue’s allotments – only about a mile from the Hill – & what an inspiration that was! They have neighbouring full plots – the site is split & their section has about 20 full plots gently sloping down to an access track, with the whole site enclosed by the adjacent gardens.
They made me so welcome & showed me round their impressive plots (Eva had mentioned previously that she’d won best plot last year, & I can see why). They both have a mix of herbs, fruit, veg & flowers, (Eva’s strawberries of particular note, along with Sue’s wonderful herb bed & perennial border), & they use companion planting, netting & weed fabric to good effect.
They both have accessible beds & wide paths – Sue with some paved & stoned, Eva with grass & both with a distinct lack of weeds, I noticed. We had a wander round the site & the girls told me the stories behind the other plots.
I mentioned that I’d had the first of the new potatoes, & Eva said “oh! We are looking forward to digging up the new potatoes next weekend for midsummer – we have them boiled with dill, not mint, & served with herring & schnapps.” Eva is Swedish, & over coffee from flasks & delicious Swedish cake, she told us of their other festivals & traditions – most of which seem to be a thinly veiled excuse for dancing & drinking schnapps, I must say.
All of which gave me a great deal of food for thought as thanked the girls, waved cheerio & went back to the Hill to plant out some LEEKS in the potato bed, & to tackle the front of the plot.
This has been an area wanting attention since I realised that although the six paving slabs afforded excellent access that side of the bed by the road, they didn’t extend far enough towards neighbour Ted’s plot – walking down the path at that side to the front involved a rather larger step than is comfortable.
I forked up all the daffodil & tulip bulbs which would otherwise be in the way of the slabs’ new positions the shuffled them along a bit.
I picked & ate three ripe strawberries then headed home for tea – with new potatoes cooked Swedish style with dill, a fabulous success!
Friday, June 12, 2009
Thursday, June 11, 2009
As I was doing this, Julie (2nd best plot) & son K came down to say hello – she had a handful of sweetpeas, & K trailed behind with some cut foxgloves nearly the same height as him.
He was remarkably patient as we chatted about the pinching-out-beans plan. “I’ve never heard of pinching out beans at 2’ & 4’, either” she admitted, “but it does sound like a good idea, I must say”
I planted out FRENCH BEANS (blauhilde & cherokee trail of tears), & then turned to the side of the plot by neighbour Ted. I pulled up the remaining kale plants – I’d left them to flower for the bees, but they are more or less over now – then I cut down all but the biggest of the flowers from the remaining few parsnip that have run to seed – I’ll try to save this for next year.
With this area clearer, I could continue to lay some weed suppressant & bark chip to make the pathway rather smarter.
I picked some radishes then headed home where I potted the sweet peppers on to their final pots, & sowed some DWARF FRENCH BEANS (delinel & tendergreen) before enjoying the magnificent taste of the first of this year’s new potatoes. Delicious!
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Of course, the slight unease is that I haven’t actually seen this promoted in any of the books I have read & it hasn’t been mentioned on the GYO Grapevine forum.
I think that it will work (& not e.g. kill the bean plant off!) because if the leading growing tip on the beans is damaged – from wind damage, as has happened with some of my plants, or slugs, say – then a couple of other growing tips start from the next leaf junction down.
I’m only thinking of limiting the plants to 6’ rather than 8’ or so, not to make bonsai bean plants, & I think that the implication of a more orderly row of slightly shorter, stouter plants is that you need fewer of them for more or less the same yield – although I’m not too sure on that one.
It will certainly stop driving me crackers in September with all the foliage flapping about at the top of the poles where I can’t quite reach to pick the beans anyway.
Not sure of a downside to this yet – something tells me that there must be one, or we’d all be pinching out climbing beans at 2’ & 4’ to make a 6’ neat bean plant…
Tuesday, June 09, 2009
I picked a few RADISH (French breakfast 3) to go with the lettuce, then decided to have a furtle around the early POTATOES (lady cristl) where I was delighted to find a few reasonable size tubers – first of the new potatoes, hurrah!
I saw Rhubarb Man (who I discover is called Brian) down on his plot, & he stopped by for a chat when he came up for some manure from the skip. He asked my opinion on compost bins & muck spreading, & then gave me a particularly good tip.
We were standing by the bean frame & he said, “a couple of my gardening books recommend pinching the growing tips of climbing beans out at 2’ tall, then again at 4’ tall, but I can’t find this in any of my other books, or gardening magazines – what do you think?”
I think it is a bloody good idea.
I have noticed that when you stop the beans at the top of the bean poles, they (a) keep on growing, elongating the main stem, & (b) sprout new growth for the highest leaf nodes, which totally defeats the object of pinching them out, however I have never thought to put two & two together, and to pinch them out lower, making bushier beans with their productive bits all happening at a reasonable & accessible height.
I pinched out the tops of any climbing beans which had made it up the poles to 2’, & will do the same again in a few weeks time at 4'. Rhubarb Brian watched me do this, & then with an appraising eye at the bean frame said “you’ve got rather a lot of beans there, haven’t you.”
I sent him on his way with a plump green lettuce, with the nagging feeling that he may very well be right, & I mulled this over as I drove home with raindrops starting to fall on the windscreen…
Monday, June 08, 2009
Jason (behind retired Maureen) was delivering letters to each plot setting out the rules with regard to hosepipe use – i.e. not allowed except for the filling of water butts.
The Council want us to cut our water use (ultimate sanction, being chucked off the plot), & we discussed this, growing methods to counter restricted water supply, then traditional allotment use, increasing allotment popularity (the reasons for & the consequences of), changing attitudes of society to environmental issues & implications for farmers, town planning & food import. Then we had a gossip.
I picked some RADISH (French breakfast 3) & I couldn’t resist picking half a dozen broad beans for eating whole with my tea tonight.
And tonight it has started to rain again…
Sunday, June 07, 2009
As I pondered the potatoes (some have flowers, so I’ll be eating new potatoes soon!), cheery Brian & Pauline came by, & gave me a good tip with regard to storing radish (in an airtight container/plastic bag in the fridge) so that they don’t go soft, & they also said not to pick lettuce or radish when wet as they would more than likely go mildewy in the fridge.
“As it’s so wet, we can’t pick the radish, & they have come ready at once – please go & pick some if you are here in the week!” they invited, “but something’s eaten all our peas, so we’ll have to sow more.”
Being somewhat of an expert in pigeon-damaged peas, I showed them mine which I thought were ruined but Reg-next-plot said to leave them as they would grow back, which they are now starting to do. “Oh! Maybe ours will be alright too!” beamed Pauline, & off they went.
I had a good look to see whether any of the PEAS (hsl newick) or BROAD BEANS (barry plot 19) were ready for picking – which they are not quite - however the SWISS CHARD (bright lights) looked as if it would stand me pinching a couple of leaves of each plant, & I took that home for tea instead.
Saturday, June 06, 2009
Friday, June 05, 2009
Thursday, June 04, 2009
I was surprised to see novice neighbour Jody, he'd made good progress weeding the front bed where he'll be putting his brassicas, and it looks super - he was also planting out some healthy looking squash & courgettes.
Yet another inspection of the PEAS (hsl newark) & BROAD BEANS (barry plot19) - I'm willing them on! The pods are there, and growing fast - just not fast enough!
Wednesday, June 03, 2009
Back home, I planted the remaining tomatoes out in buckets, & very smart they look too.
And in order that they stay looking good, I popped some fleece over the bare earth in the buckets in order to stop the cats thinking they have been provided with new deluxe facilities, although they may feel that the fleece makes a comfortable bed – I’ll have to keep my eye on them, I think!
Tuesday, June 02, 2009
The plan here is to minimise the risk of blight in the tomatoes later in the summer – if the Hill gets hit, I have a back up. Of course it will also give me a comparison between pot & ground sown tomatoes in terms of growth & yield.
I’ve dithered as to what to plant the tomatoes out in – & settled on 10 litre buckets from Wilko, which I bought for 99p each, which was much cheaper than the equivalent size plant pot, & they do look rather smart.
With more compost bought, holes drilled in the buckets for drainage, & empty pop bottles at the ready for watering into, the only thing which stopped me planting all six out this evening was the rapidly falling light…
Monday, June 01, 2009
I also took along the sweetcorn seedlings to plant out – nestled snugly in a block, four by four, which will help pollination of the cobs in due course.
With the second sowing of RADISH (french breakfast 3) still not ready to pick – thus leaving a gap in my salads at the moment – I sowed a third row in order to try to avoid another gap when the second lot are finished.
Before heading off home I picked a leaf off each of the biggest of the SWISS CHARD (bright lights) which made tonight’s salad go with a zing – radish or no radish!