Monday, 9 July 2012

It's all gone a little crazy

Ok, so my blogging attempts are about as frequent as my diary keeping when I was a teenager.

I've been popping down to the lottie whenever rain/time has permitted, mainly to water the tomatoes and aubergines in the greenhouse if it's raining, or to weed and plant stuff if it's not( I won't say if it's dry, as the plot is water logged and any digging is accompanied by squelches as the fork is moved around in the soil).

 Some of the vegetables are growing much more rapidly than I expected. Psb for example, I planted this in early May, it's now flowering - 6 months before it's supposed to. Not that I'm complaining cos I love the stuff and would have spent 6 months looking longingly at it waiting for the flower buds to appear.

Similarly, but only 3 months early, is the swede that I planted at the same time as the psb. Now, many people at the lottie have said that swede won't grow there, but I took a tip from someone who successfully grew them last year and started them on in pots. I have been watching them closely, as I do with the veg that I particularly love. The foliage was particularly luxuriant, and about a month ago I noticed the first signs of the purple shoulders emerging through the soil. Yesterday I gave in and dug one up. It was about the size of a ...swede...I can't think of anything of the same size, a ball that elderly folk bowl with outside in greens, is about it. We had it mashed with butter and a little black pepper. YUM, YUM, YUM.

You can see it in the above photo, along with some carrots, a little gem & onions. There are also a handful of baby beet, which I am going to turn into a tarte tatin a la HFW in  hisVeg Everyday cook book.

There is also the start of what might be (hopefully) a bumper crop of broad beans. We've already had a few from them but now they seem to be starting in earnest. Here's what I picked yesterday. I've been dying to try out the broad bean bruschetta from the same book.

Finally, a view of more or less the whole plot to compare last year with:
July 2012

Damn, just realised I don't have any photos of last July stored on the laptop I'm writing this on. Needless to say it didn't look like this!

Thursday, 3 May 2012

It's stopped raining...for now

It's been a while since I've written anything, not because I haven't been to the lottie but mainly because I haven't remembered to take my camera.

April, needless to say, has been the wettest so far and the persistent nature of the rain meant that allotment trips were mainly confined to watering the seedlings in the greenhouse and checking that everything was alright, no vandals etc. I awoke on 2nd May with the sun shining, no rain and it was my day off. With the greenhouse rapidly becoming a jungle I decided that this was the day for planting out. I started at 10.30am and didn't finish till 4.30pm. Phew!

 I know you're supposed to harden off seedlings before planting outside but they'll be producing crops if I delayed planting any longer. So the day started with about 60 pots of assorted seedlings and ended with 2 more rows of peas and mangetout and 7 rows of a variety of different brassicas.

Swede- Best of All
Pea - Kelvdon Wonder & Mangetout Oregon Sugar Pod
Cauliflower - All the Year Round
Sprouts and PSB
Peas & Mangetout

Red Cabbage

The ground was very boggy especially where I had dug it earlier in the year and hadn't compacted it and I lost my boot a couple of times and ended up with soggy socks as the boot was left behind such was the suction of the quagmire and the hole left by my boot soon filled with water. The plot has alot of clay under the top soil - there used to be clay pits in this part of town during the 19th century and before - so the ground is very wet indeed. Maybe I should be growing rice.

Friday, 16 March 2012

Feeling Fruity

I had a few days leave this week so I spent it on the lottie planting fruit bushes. I had dug up some raspberries from my garden - they didn't do very well there. My brother gave me one which he suspects may be a golden variety and a fellow allotmenteer, who was giving up her plot, gave me permission to dig up hers. All in all about 30 plants altogether - it's a good job we both love raspberries. I had been mulling over how to construct a cheap fruit cage. Searching on line showed them to be very expensive to buy and what with timber being quite pricey I had a walk around the site to see what others were doing to protect their fruit. I saw one plot had a simple cane, tennis ball and netting affair - genius. Tennis balls £1 for 4 in Poundland, I had already bought 8ft canes last year and 4m x 20m netting for about £36 from ebay (it is my birthday in March and I asked for money to buy allotment stuff). I'm pretty impressed, even if I do say so myself.
I joined the netting in the middle with twine and likewise secured it in the corners to stop the surplus netting tripping me up.
I also planted a couple of  very small blueberry bushes, that I also bought from Poundland.
In the foreground you can see the ph meter - just checking the the mixture of manure and ericacious compost was acid enough. Under the netting to the right are currant bushes; black, white and red. Also a few strawberries donated by my mum. I hoping to have a few more stawberries soon as a free gift from subscribing to Grow Your Own magazine - another birthday present, thanks Dad.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Too wet to dig

Lately I've been at work during days when the sun has shone, but when it comes to my day off it's foggy and too wet for me to do any clearing/digging on the lottie. Last Monday was such a day.

 I went down to see if it really was as wet as I thought and I left 10 mins later with a carrier bag full of curly kale and boots that were 3 inches taller from mud sticking to the soles. So after spending every spare moment of the last 7 months on the lottie, I was at a loss - how was I going to spend my free afternoon? Doing housework? Nah! Making a gardening apron, from a couple of pairs of jeans. Yes!

Over the course of the summer I'd found that the pockets of my jeans were often too small and too few to hold everything I wanted them to hold eg twine, secateurs, penknife, seed packets etc. I'd bought my brother one for his birthday recently and I nearly kept it for myself it looked so useful. But being a handy kinda gal I decided I would have a go at making one for (practically) nothing. My daughter had left behind a couple of pairs of jeans when she first went to uni. Having graduated earlier this year I guessed that she didn't want them anymore, and she's not here to argue. So rather than recycling them I decided to upcycle them.

From this:
To this:

 First I used a leg to make a rectangular piece to form the apron bit. Then, just visible in the photo above, I used the front of one pair of jeans, having cut out the zip, studs and belt loops to make it easier to sew, and attached this.  I used the back pocket section to make a large pocket and positioned this slightly lower than the first set of pockets. I had to even up the central seam on this bit to make it lie straight as this has a curve. I used one of the remaining legs to make a waistband and sewed the front of the apron to it. A final set of pockets was made from the bottom of two legs. This was sewn onto the back of the waistband.
 I used a plastic clip for a fastener - 75p from the haberdashery stall on the local market - it was the only thing I bought.
 The back pockets from a pair make a huge pocket with 2 small pockets.

 The result? A 7 pocket apron. Cost? 75p for a clip fastener, a few yards of thread, two pairs of old jeans and a bit of electricity for the sewing machine. Now that's what I call economy.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

I have a shed!

Had a week off work this week so spent most of it at the allotment...where else? It was too muddy to clear any more weeds, but thankfully not for putting up the shed.

I didn't want to spend £150+ buying a shed, but need somewhere to store bits and pieces, sit and have a cuppa, shelter from the rain and (most importantly) have a pee in private.

Fortunately, I was able to scavenge wood from work that would have been skipped as we had nowhere to store it. It started life as an art installation by artist Natalie Gale called Purpresture, which is a medieval word for a dwelling in a wood.

As you can see, lots of ply 10mm thick and in handy 8ft x 4ft sheets, this was transformed by my wonderful OH in to the fantastic shed pictured below.

A final coat of shed preserver and it's finished. Not exactly a dwelling, but a brilliant shelter and store - can't wait to start filling it up.
 Maybe it'll win the Turner Prize...

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Things I've learnt this year.

How long have you got? I'll stick to things I've learnt on the allotment to save time.
  1. Don't sow too many courgette seeds. All of them will germinate and then, being the type of person who hates waste, there will be far too many plants and in turn far too many courgettes. You can have too much of a good thing and you'll discover just how many things can be made with courgettes.
  2. Before protecting brassicas with fine netting, check that cabbage white butterflies haven't already laid their eggs. Otherwise 3 weeks later when you check for weeds underneath the nets you will be faced with cabbage lace.
  3. Remember that rabbits do eat anything that isn't protected including onions and leeks.
  4. Planting French marigolds to deter carrot fly doesn't work if you sow the seeds at the same time as the carrot seeds.
  5. Watch out for the stubs of shrubs that haven't been uprooted yet. They lie in wait and trip you up, especially when you've got a sharp pruning knife in your hand.
  6. Using black plastic for paths is ok, just remember that they become slippery death traps when it has been raining. 
  7. When using liquid comfrey fertiliser, make sure you don't spill it on yourself. The fragrance will  make everyone around you run away covering their noses and will burn itself into your nostrils, so you smell it all day even when you've showered and changed your clothes .
  8. 5 ridge cucumber plants is too many for feeding 2 people.
  9. Shallot sets that are left in the boot of your car will remain usable up to the point that you want to plant them, then they will become soft and squishy, and you'll discover where that horrible smell is coming from.
  10. Tomatoes will not ripen if you leave them hanging from the back of the kitchen chair for three weeks. Instead you'll be faced with the 'What's this puddle of liquid under the chair?' mystery.
  11. And finally, allotmenteering is great fun, you meet great people, get lots of exercise and get to eat the results of your labours.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Pining away

After...(you can see the before in the previous post)

 I'm not sure what these trees were, Leylandii perhaps or some kind of pine, but they have the same  properties of growing very quickly, sucking all the nutrients and water out of the ground and blocking light from the neighbouring area. Anyway, they have been skulking in the far corner of the plot, lurking and looming and continuing to grow. But they had pigeons nesting in them, so nothing could be done about them till the breeding season was over as lots of fellow allotmenteers kept reminding me.

I have planned to make this area my fruit growing area, with space for a shed there too. The story of my shed will be the topic of a future post. Needless to say the shed is in pieces under the carport, blocking the drive and garage and generally getting in the way for the past month. So it was suggested that I pull my finger out and level a 9ft x 5ft patch for the base to go on. This meant getting rid of the conifers first. Thankfully I have wonderful allotment neighbours who have a chainsaw so the offending trees were soon no more as of Sunday afternoon.

Today is my day off work, so I've spent the day trimming off the branches and making a neat stack of trunks, which will be used for bean poles. fruit cage supports and failing that home to mini beasts. Once that was done I started to clear and level off the bit for the shed base.

We will get the slabs for the base tomorrow and hopefully the shed will be up by the weekend.

Phew, I'm aching a bit now. But it was wonderful being out in the fresh air, autumn sun shining and being serenaded by a robin who was after the bugs I'd excavated. Isn't nature wonderful?