Friday, 31 July 2015

3rd blog in a week!

Where has the month gone? It's been a busy month here and plots 45 and 47 are finally getting the TLC they deserve.

Before getting into the weekly events I wanted to share these pictures. Firstly our crystal cucumbers which are full of fruit and flowers.

Additionally the gherkins and cucamelons are also happy and full of flowers and fruit.


So what have we been up to this week?

The bed towards the back of 47 was dug over last weekend and since then it has rained every time I got my scruffs on ready to go the plot. Not helped by the stinking cold that's been brewing for the past week. (Yes I know picking in the rain was not the smartest move there but so worth it.)

All those plants that have been in desperate need of transplanting have finally gone in. I know they are late but hey better late than never.

We've tried to do a bit of companion planting. We've planted across the short distance of the bed. In the middle are our leeks and next to them are our carrots. Next to the carrots are our purple sprouts and a couple feet away from them are our dwarf patio tomatoes. Mr P and KP spent ages untangling roots and digging holes for leeks ;)


On the other side of the leeks are our parsnips. We started them germinating in a tub between two damp pieces of kitchen roll. This is a tip picked up from another blog and I am very sorry but I can't recall who posted it. Feel free to blow your own trumpet and comment and post the link in the comments. It worked very well on plot 45 and every single parsnip came up! The ones that went in yesterday had quite a bit of greenery on them as they had been sat in the tub so long. Mark spent time taking great care to ensure none of the roots were disturbed as he separated them and planted them. These really should have gone in months ago but as we eat a lot of parsnips and have dug them up before in to February before we thought we would try. If they succeed fantastic, if not we have to ration the ones on 45.

To the other side of the parsnips are spring onions. These are only a couple weeks of being ready and were growing well in the seed tray but why grow in a container when you have such a large space to fill?

In the corner away from everything we have planted sweetcorn. They are tall and stringy and it is very late, however I'm a firm believer in giving a plant a chance. Also topped with some good organic nettle stew they will thrive very quickly.

I found some sweet peas that had been missed so have planted them around the empty poles near the gherkins. The plants measured between 6 inches and 18 inches.

We also moved our Beef tomato outside as it seemed to be struggling in the greenhouse.

The finished bed.


Completed by a scattering of chicken pellets (some were dug through before planting) and a net over the sprouts and carrots to keep anything off wanting to have a munch.

Finally we have been given two red gooseberry bushes. They will make good additions to the fruit cage.

Next blog? Jams and sorbet.

Thanks for reading. Have a good weekend.

Monday, 27 July 2015

'We're picking in the rain'

After letting the mange tout and peas go over last week I am on a mission to use as much of our produce as possible. Great principle, only down side is it now means planning meals in advance and harvesting veg when you need them, no matter what the weather conditions are!!!

Yesterday's planned meal was Sunday dinner. Some of the shallots dug up the other week were past their best and needed eating sooner rather than later so great lets make a caramelised shallot tarte tatin. We have an abundance of potatoes and knowing from past experience Charlotte potatoes with skins left on make fantastic roasties. Finish off with some roast chicken breasts for the Little Ps who can't eat the tart. (we cater for wheat intolerance and a milk intolerance oh and my egg allergy. Eating out can get interesting!

Is there anything else can we use from the plot? Yes of course there is!! At the plot we had mange tout and purple French beans. Oh and not forgetting all those lovely raspberries and loganberries, they will make a lovely sorbet for pudding. Only down side? It was raining :-(

Now a sensible person might say oh well, we'll have them tomorrow, however it's pizza on the menu for tomorrow and last time I checked mange tout doesn't really go with pizza, (feel free to tell me otherwise!) So off to the plot we went in the rain.

Unsurprisingly we were the only crazy people at the plots when we got there. (At the plot or lost the plot, jury's still out on that one!!)

At the plot we set to picking fruit. It was easy work as the rain had softened the berries and they came away with a light touch. Glad we picked them otherwise it would have been another crop wasted.

We sent KP to gather the blueberries for Monday's breakfast pancakes. She came back to us with half a tub of large blackcurrants! There were not enough to do anything with them, so we went back and picked some more. We chose the larger fruits and when we got home found we had enough to make a couple of jars of jam.

Lesson of the weekend, the difference between a blackcurrant and a blueberry. And yes Mr P did decide to go to the allotment in the rain without a coat. Luckily it had eased slightly by the time we left the fruit cage.

Whilst picking the blackcurrants we came across our whitecurrant bush full of fruits ready to pick. General consensus make a nice addition to the sorbet. 

Luckily picking the mange tout and french beans were uneventful. We even found our first courgette.

On to dinner.

There are several recipes online for shallot tarte tatin. I followed one from BBC good food:

I don't have an ovenproof frying pan so I used a regular dish to layer the tart. I then got Mr P to flip it when it was ready, definitely not a one handed job.

It was finished off with chunks of goats cheese and then put back in the oven after it had been switched off to melt the cheese a little bit.

Served with new potatoes, roasties, honey glazed carrots and parsnips and steamed veg including the mange tout and beans. Comfort food for a cold, wet day. Shame we ran out of time to make the sorbet but it will be a nice pudding after the pizza ;)

Thanks for reading. Hope you've had a good weekend too. :)

Friday, 24 July 2015

3 peas in a pod

Rainy day, Little P's playing at a friend's house, time to blog!

Start of the summer holidays and so far I have only managed to grab a couple of hours at the allotment. I have however been very good and spent an afternoon in school moving and rearranging cupboards. Definitely time for some quality time at the lottie.

Everything is flourishing and I am drafting in the little Ps to help harvest the produce over the summer. Obviously it's their favourite jobs, 'one for home and two for me' comes to mind. Fresh air, exercise and a large chunk of their 5 a day, can't complain.

Anyway onto the plot.

45 has had most of the attention over the past couple weeks so time for 47 to receive some tlc.

I had to start with these pictures of the flowers on 47. You can see why we fell in love with the plot. The flowers are making a beautiful addition to our home and are brightening up every free space.

The Day Lillies are opening and it is a pleasure to walk through 'the jungle' as the little Ps have called them.

I took a cutting from the lilies to see if they would bloom in a vase.

Apparently they do ;)

The rose is in full bloom and I need to have discussions with the new owner of 48a to see if I can train it back across between the 2 plots. If not, tidy it for now and cut back with new trellis in the winter.

Behind the flower beds lies a mass of fat hen and herbs. I'm tempted to try the fat hen in a curry instead of spinach. Beyond the herbs lies a tangle of loganberries, raspberries and blackberries with masses of fruit ready for picking. (Obviously blackberries aren't ready yet but again we have masses forming.)

The gherkin and cucamelon beds are also becoming over run with weeds so that was my starting point. I found it quite fiddly weeding around the cucamelons as they need tying up again so instead have wrapped themselves around the weeds surrounding them and the result is a tangled mess of greenery. Not an easy sorting one handed. Best leave that bit for Mr P ;)

The gherkin plants that survived the slug attacks are starting to fruit as are the cucamelons so obviously not that unhappy with the invasion of weeds.

However what is worrying me is what appears to be rust on the weeds in this bed!

As we are only permitted to have fires between November and March, I have bagged them for disposal at home. Hopefully the plants won't be affected!

So other than eating peas what were the Little Ps doing whilst this was going on?

Bob topped the Charlotte potatoes and pink fir and with JJ dug up our first crop.

These were very tasty last night boiled with a touch of butter. Think I'm going to make potato salad again.

JJ helped me to take the chard out. It took some time taking the roots out without disturbing the rest of the bed. This is the smaller plant.

Mr P took this photo a couple of weeks ago, as you can see the largest chard is as big as me. Time to come out. 

The bed the chard came out of had a good sort out. It was topped up with compost and the radish and spinach spread out. 

Peas were picked....

.....and CP found some pods that  had split so decided to replant them. Never know might be lucky enough to get a second crop September/October time. Clever cookie knew to cover them up to stop the pigeons.

Purple French beans are forming. Not quite enough for a meal but give it a week.

The fruits of the Little P's hard work. Most of the produce had gone over but will harvest the seed for next year.

What amazes me is looking back through my previous posts how much more the Little Ps are able to do now and the skills and knowledge that they are accruing. Last year I would never have trusted Bob with the secateurs and JJ has her own tools. KP has taken on a bed (although has not been here long enough to plant it) and CP can carry the small watering can when it is full. They won't be little Ps for long!

So what's next?

 The loganberries and raspberries need picking and using, little project for the Little Ps to research over the summer.

Wine needs to be moved on to the next stage.

Oh and keeping on top of the weeds and watering, although looking at the forecast for the week ahead, watering is not going to be such an issue until nearer the weekend.

Thanks for reading

Friday, 17 July 2015

That's shallot!!

Yeah I know the titles get cheesier but so hard not to!!?

Today is the penultimate day of the school year here and quite frankly I am looking forward to having no excuse for not getting to the plots everyday. The paperwork has been laid to rest for a couple of weeks, although I can't leave it all Summer as it needs to be ready for the start of September. (Apologies typical workaholic teacher)

So here's the weekly, nearly 2 weekly round up!

As the title suggests our biggest success story since my last post is our shallots. We started off with 12 individual bulbs and have ended up with a draining board full! We lost some early on to rabbits however the crop more than makes up for those that Bugs Bunny's relatives pinched.

We've started cutting our flowers from the cut flowerbed. Decorated the fireplace, window sill, mantle piece and table with these beauties.

Having so many strawberries we were in a quandary as of how to best use them. Unfortunately quite a few have rotted on the plants as we could not pick them fast enough, however the remainder has been put to good use. We have started brewing our own strawberry wine :)

We have an abundance of peas and mange tout and CP has impressed her teacher by picking her own snack this week.

Our Lautrec garlic is ready and has been ready for a couple of weeks. We have rescued it in time and it is drying. The plan is to hold on to 1 bulb of each of the varieties grown to plant again this Autumn.

Cecelia has been removed for now and the area given a thorough weeding allowing everything to get going properly.

Our Avalon patio squash is training itself along the side of the greenhouse.

Our cucumbers are flowering and we have fruit forming on all three plants. We have one 'normal cucumber as JJ calls them and two crystal cucumbers.

The Turks Turban are flowering.

Our Tom-tato in the greenhouse is fruiting and the little P's are all fighting over who gets the first ripe tomatoes.

Despite what looks like potato blight the Charlotte potatoes are doing well and I am starting to dig them up a couple of plants at a time. 

The disaster of the week is that our Kohl Rabi have split! As you can see from the picture I found a big slug munching on the middle. Very frustrating to say the least!

So what's next? 

Plot 45: 
Cecil needs a good weeding and we have cabbages ready to harvest.
The chard in the salad bed is as tall as me! It is also collapsing under its own weight. Time for trim.
There's the usual weeding etc. I have a butternut and a further Turks turban to plant.

Plot 47:
Plant the remainder of the plants sitting and waiting in the greenhouse.
Pick the loganberries and find an interesting recipe ;)

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Blight or magnesium deficiency?

I've been growing potatoes for a while at home and last year in plot 45 and until now have been incredibly fortunate not to have had any problems. This year however I think we might have something to worry about.

During my evening watering I came across this plant not looking too happy. I noticed it was wilting before the weekend but had Bob watering them with the instruction to tell me if anything looked different. Obviously missed this one.

Is this the dreaded blight? I have 5 rows planted but only 1 plant is affected. I've not grown potatoes where this particular plant is before and we found no stray tubers when we took on the plot 2 years ago. Can anyone advise please?

Thanks for reading.

Monday, 6 July 2015

We're into the last few of weeks of term so unsurprisingly last week was yet another manic week. Saying that, we've managed to get a few bits done at the plot and everything is flourishing with the arrival of summer.

Yesterday I was the first one on site!! Definitely a first for a Sunday morning ;) My reward was a breakfast of strawberries, raspberries and loganberries. Although they do taste a lot better when you haven't just brushed your teeth!

We are picking around a kilo of strawberries a day. I had to share this photo, a regular strawberry and one from the plot. All very sweet and juicy. I have found an interesting recipe for strawberry wine so if Mark is up for it we could get the home brew kit out again ;)

Our broad beans have fallen victim to black fly again and were starting to show signs of rust so I have had to remove them :( The bed has had a thorough digging over and all seeds discarded, we will have to start again in the Autumn and I already have a spot in mind :)

With a bed going spare it was time to rummage in the greenhouse and I came across some very pot bound tomatoes in desperate need of re-homing. They were ready to go out a month ago but with the inconsistent weather I decided to wait a while longer.

We have four different varieties, but I'm not entirely sure what two are called as we were given leftovers by a friend. The two I do know are hundreds and thousands and striped. We grew striped last year and these are the remainder of our seeds. I will make a point of collecting more seeds ready for next year.

I removed several of our marigolds from the flower bed and have companion planted them with the tomatoes to ward off any unwanted nasties. Mark erected wigwams around the tomatoes last year to support them, they're ready and waiting for when the tomatoes take off.

So what to do with the gaps in the flowerbed? Last year I collected seeds from our Gazania plants and have grown our own this year. With vibrant red and yellow flowers, they should be a colourful alternative.

So what's the plan for this week?

Maintenance is the agenda of the week. With only 2 weeks left until the end of term and having loose ends to tie up at work, time is precious.

Weeds are creeping back and 47 is looking untidy so that will be the focus for the next few days.

There's still plants left in the greenhouse to transplant although not all of them will go outside, some just need bigger pots.

I have to be realistic, after all I am a one armed bandit and not superwoman ;)

Thanks for reading. Have a good week:)