Saturday, 28 December 2013

It's started!

First sowings of the new season....onions!
And 2 amaryllis bulbs given their first watering...
I visited the plot, not to work as everything is a bit too soggy, but to check everything is still where it ought to be after the high winds.  The only thing that happened is that the tub of canes had fallen over again, I left them till later till I can think of a better way of storing them.

But everything is looking remarkably well, wet but otherwise okay.  The daisies were flowering bravely in the cut flower bed,

and the snapdragons haven't given up yet...

 The peas which I sowed as green manure, chopped back and and then dug in, won't take the hint and are still struggling through among the garlic shoots.

Some plants just don't know when to give up.

Saturday, 21 December 2013

winter solstice

I haven't been to the plot since last Sunday!  I do miss it, although the weather helps to not miss it quite so much.  It isn't exactly warm, but its not freezing either, I think there has only been a couple of frosts this winter so far (or should I say autumn, as it is the first day of winter today, according to Google). There has been a fair bit of rain in the past day or so, and although the plot hasn't flooded yet, it is pretty squelchy at the bottom end around the raised beds.

I dug up some leeks and picked some kale for sunday dinner.

I have left a lot of the smaller apples on the tree for the birds and it looks as if they have been enjoying them now they are a lot sweeter.

They look like baubles on the Christmas tree.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Billie's turn came today

He was sliced down from pole to pole and half went in the oven to roast for soup...
and was then peeled, chopped, cooked with onion and spices and then blended into thick soup.

And the other half was peeled and chunked raw,

 then mixed with leeks from the garden, rice and smoked bacon  and microwaved into submission. Very nice it was too, well done Billie.  (There was more, but we ate it)

And meanwhile, I toasted the seeds with garlic salt and made a snack.  I wasn't blown away by the flavour I will admit, its the kind of thing that if you were stood by a bowlful at a party, you would eat them, but only until some bombay mix came along.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Thoughts on crop rotation

It was a no-weather day today.  It wasn't wet or dry, it wasn't sunny or dull, wasn't hot and wasn't cold. There was just nothing there. 

Managed to keep a fire going for over an hour! In fact, it was still going when I left, that's a first! I got rid of most of the raspberry roots except the very wet ones at the bottom of the tub.(I just wish I had taken my camera and my phone hadn't run out of juice.)  I also got rid of the old wicker chair which went up a treat once it got going.

I forked over the runner bean bed.  I can't decide whether to use the same bed again next year and start another bean trench, they did very well in that spot, or to use a different bed.  I suppose for garden hygene it is best to rotate everything as much as possible to reduce the chances of pests and diseases taking hold in one place.
I will consult my trusty and very dog-eared copy of Dig For Victory

And it tells me that I should be putting in my brassica where the legumes were.   Mmm...

But I have pretty much decided not to grow any brassica next year, and even if I was, it wouldn't be in that bed as there was club root there the winter before last.  So perhaps I could put cucurbits there instead, and rotate the rest.  The leaflet doesn't mention cucumbers or pumpkins, I don't think they were invented for growing outside in the 1940s has a useful article on crop rotation. Damn! just found out I have planted my winter onions in the wrong place! Oh well...

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Brr, its a bit windy...

The temperature has gone from 7C this morning to 3C this afternoon.
I was foolish enough to go to the plot today to dig up some leeks.  The minute I opened the door I was assaulted by weather, halfway there I'm wondering why haven't I attached the hood to my jacket?
Very windy and sunny alternating with squalls of rain this morning, this afternoon it is colder, not so windy but still pretty violent, with hailstones thrown into the mix.  Thrown down the back of my neck I might add.

However, Anne bravely trudges on through the snow....

and with frozen fingers....

and then two minutes later it is like this....

Across the region rivers have broken their banks, HGVs have been blown over on top of cars, trees uprooted, stations and bridges closed, but here on my little plot the sum total of devastation is my tub of canes has been blown over and the incinerator lid has blown off.
So far...  Don't laugh, be grateful.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

more soil improver

More soil improver put on today, three barrows on the celeriac plot. I owe the hut £1.

It gets dark too early nowadays, no time to do much.  I will have to start going in the morning more.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

more manure

Hauled three barrow loads of manure up the hill to the plot.

I spread two of them on the old strawberry bed which I have designated the new asparagus bed.  It needs to be quite deep and quite rich apparently. 
That bed is the raised bed that I first I sowed green manure in, it has been turned over and now has a couple of inches of manure, so it hopefully will be good enough to plant asparagus in the spring.

Most of the other load went on the end bed where the celeriac did so poorly, and where I have put the cardboard down and any organic matter I could find.  I then covered the whole bed with a piece of tarpaulin-type fabric which was on the plot when I took it over. I might put some of the half-rotted compost heap on, but I am not sure if I would not be wasting good compost as it is very wet and claggy.  It stayed quite damp even through the long dry spell of last summer. Maybe I should invest in some more planks to raise the bed properly. I will have to put an order in with the trading hut

Picked the two remaining red cabbages (the rest rotted in the wet)because I wanted to cover that section.  When I stripped off the manky outer leaves, they are small but have nice, firm hearts.

I also dolloped a couple of shovelfulls of manure on the rhubarb.

Saturday, 30 November 2013

onions not storing well

A lot of my onions are going mouldy around the tops, particularly the Bedfordshire Champion which grew so well. It is quite disappointing.

I have heard that insufficient drying before storage can cause this, so I wonder if in future It would be better to store them in the attic, where it is a lot drier, rather than in the garage, where it is colder and probably damper.

To try and save as much as I can I have sliced and dehydrated all the good bits of the mouldy ones

 And I will be moving the remainder up to the attic.

I picked some of the biggest apples and I will freeze some and dry some and put some in the loft. (I just hope we don't get anybody coming to sleep over anytime soon)

Friday, 22 November 2013

jonagolds ripe, last Moorbank visit.

Lots and lots of rain over the last couple of days so the plot was pretty squishy.  I haven't been for almost a week, but everything seems to have managed to struggle through okay.

The red apples Jonagold are ripe at last but the pippin-type ones are still reluctant to part from their twigs.

It was my last day at Moorbank Botanic Garden.  The volunteers are not allowed on site after the end of this month.  The Freemen say they will continue to maintain the garden but feel they do not need any help from outsiders.  There was no point in doing any weeding as everything was far too wet.  So we were tidying the greenhouses after lots of plants have been dug up to go to various botanic gardens across the country.  Many of the remaining plants have been cut back hard to help get them through the winter and possible irregularities in climate and watering.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

We ate Bobbie

We ate Bobbie this week and very nice he was too...

I cut him in half, lengthways (not without a struggle, pretty tough skin!) and roasted him cut sides down in a bit of water, for an hour. It was so big it was only part cooked, but that was okay.  I hollowed out one half and used the hairy bikers stuffed marrow recipe, one half was enough for dinner for the three of us.
[Incidentally, I think Bobbie must have been crossed with a spaghetti squash because the cooked flesh had a definite tendency to shred in the same way and I know there are a few green spaghetti squash varieties.]
The other half was made into a huge pan of very tasty soup.  I added some curry powder as usual, but because there was so much flesh the flavour seemed to get lost, so I added a teaspoonful of curry paste and it worked very well. There was just enough to give it the flavour of curry without the heat (we are a bit chilli allergic in our house).

This is the squashes we have left so far
Left to right; Billie Butternut, Spaghetti Sal and the Sweet Dumpling crew.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

pallet travels

The crabapple tree around the corner

It was a lovely clear, cold, bright day as you can see by the above, too nice to spoil with a smoky fire.

With lots of puffs and pants and several little rests, I managed to "roll" a pallet from the bottom of the allotment site to the top.  It is now installed as the end wall of a triple compost bin and I have removed that annoying "dalek" which fell apart at the slightest touch.  Its sides will make fronts and covers for the bins when they fill up.

We are looking all tidy 

Turned over the old onion bed that I sowed the peas in.  That is three beds with green manure turned in to let the winter frosts get at it. Just the runner bean bed left to do.


Saturday, 9 November 2013

a lovely autumn afternoon

No, there hasn't been a tornado during the night, it is just the runner bean bed denuded of runner beans and frame, the bin lying on its side is only there for atmosphere.(Not true, it is really keeping 2 of my prize bags of mpc dryish inside, I wasn't strong enough to put it back upright once they were in)

 The lasagne bed. It will have another layer eventually, or I will cover it with a sheet over winter, whichever is the sooner.

  The apples are looking good, a kind of pippin I think, but they are still clinging on.  It is worth while waiting till they are properly ripe though, as the difference in flavour in the last few days is amazing. I've been on this plot for three summers now and this is the best crop of apples so far, not in quantity but in flavour and size.

The tomatilloes are finished, and as you might guess by the fruits lying around, I didn't like them all that much, but it was an interesting trial. They produced well, didn't need a greenhouse, and if you like salsa verde it is probably worth growing them.

I was busy, head down, scraping weedlings off the astroturf and looked up to see this...

 Time to go home...

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Bean frame down, celeriac up

Dug up the celeriac, and a sorry crew they are too...
Let's hope they are as flavour packed as last year's, to make up for their lack of size.

The bed where the celeriac was is very wet and really would be a candidate for a raised bed, but I have no planks so it will have to wait.  I weeded the bed as best I could in the mud, put some big pieces of cardboard on the top, then piled all the old beanstalks and cosmos stalks on the top to make a lasagne type bed.  I'm trying to build up the soil level a bit to lift it out of the mire.

I took the runner bean frame down, and I seem to have an awful lot of canes all of a sudden, so I had to find a home for them to overwinter in.

Had another mini bonfire, but it went out.  I just haven't got the hang of this bonfire business.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Bonfire time

 Oh, joy! It's kippering time!
 I got rid of lots of twiggy stuff from around the plot in the fire, still more to go but the fire went out before I was finished.  It was getting cold anyway.

There was a sharp frost again last night and it has taken its toll on the remaining plants.  The runners are ready to take down now and I will have to dig up the celeriac and beetroot in the next few days.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

First frost

Yesterday, I picked most of the remaining runner beans.  I saved the longest, fullest, straightest pods and they are ripening in the greenhouse.  I will use them for seed next year.  The rest were shelled and we have steamed and eaten most of them already and some went into the soup.

I have ordered some Czar butter beans, for next year.

Very cold this morning, a low of 3C last night, but from the look of the nasturtiums there was a light frost at the plot last night, their leaves have gone very droopy.

The autumn skip is here so I spent some time trying

Thursday, 31 October 2013

But Bobbie is not for turning...

And I think Billie has got taller, which I am surprised at as I didn't think they would continue to grow once cut off the parent plant. Just thought...perhaps Bobbie has shrunk instead.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

gluebands, winter onions and potatoes

It is starting to get a bit colder now, it got down to 5C last night, but it is quite pleasant today, sunny, bright and quite breezy.

I put some glue bands on the apple trees.  Dear me! what a mess I was in!  I had to wait until some dust had stuck to the glue on my hands before I could take pictures!

I saw that there was a few weeds under the fleece over the winter onions, so I lifted it off and found that quite a few onion sets had been pulled out of their places.  That is what the fleece was there to stop!  I don't think that birds could get under the fleece so it must be mice, but the onion sets didn't look nibbled, just moved.  Its a mystery. So I left off the fleece as it didn't seem to be making a difference.

But they are looking quite healthy so far, apart from the tops being bent over by the fleece.

I turned over the two phacelia beds, and the soil in the lasagne type bed (old strawberry) is lovely and crumbly, with lots of worms.  Unfortunately it also has lots of weeds from the home-made compost. 
The soil in the other one, the old onion bed, was a lot more solid.  I left the soil in big lumps for the frost to get at, that is the theory anyway.  It usually means the lumps have to broken up with the flat of the spade in the spring.

I planted the pot-grown loganberry, but forgot to learn the planting instructions. I think I can recall that I have to cut everything down to 9 inches, but before I do this I had better check, as I can't put it back if my memory is faulty.

Pulled some more leeks for soup and a potato and leek frittata for dinner. 

I'm using shop-bought potatoes though, I have just finished the last home-grown "kestrel" potatoes. I have ordered my next year's potatoes, maincrop "Desiree" and early "Lady Christl".  I liked the Kestrel as a new potato, just scrubbed and microwaved, but as it got older it didn't mash very well and was quite a dry potato when baked or roasted.  Desiree is supposed to be a good all-rounder and Lady Christl is defo the fashionable choice, supposed to have a lovely flavour.  We'll see!

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

For Billie's fans

The latest portrait.

Monday, 28 October 2013

currant bushes planted

I got to the plot late this afternoon, I forgot that the clocks had gone back yesterday, and boy! Did it get dark quickly!

I managed to scrape up the last two barrows of soil improver (got covered in mud as usual) and spread it on the old sweet pea bed, which is where I'm putting the currant bushes. I dug out the existing redcurrant because I want to build up the level of soil a bit more and it was sitting a bit low down in the so-called raised bed.

I then replanted it with suitable soil preparation, and also the white and the blackcurrant that I heeled in only yesterday.  If I had known I would get back to it so soon I needn't have bothered. But, hey! it was good experience for me.

So there they are..the red, the white and the blue.  It was getting dark by the time I was finished and that was only 5.00pm.   

I was going to pick some beans too, but it got too spooky so I came home.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

bushes heeled in

My turn to help out in the trading hut this morning and the weather was a bit wet this afternoon so I haven't had time to plant the bushes properly.  So I heeled them in and they should be happy enough until I can do a proper job.

Gales are forecast so I hope they don't get blown about too much.

Friday, 25 October 2013

fruit bushes

It was a horrible morning, it has been raining and windy and the lights have been on in the house all morning, but one bright fruit bushes from Blackmoor Nurseries were delivered.  Yey!

1 whitecurrant, 1 blackcurrant (along with the redcurrant I already have, I am going to be very patriotic) and a loganberry in a pot.

And the sun has come out!

Tuesday, 22 October 2013


Very mild and damp today, 16C.

Currently in wasp observing mode, and I spotted a new one today.  (I have been swotting up on the camera manual, so I thought I would test out a different setting.)
I don't know what kind of wasp it is, not a Common Wasp as in the nest, but it definitely looks like a wasp rather than a hoverfly.

However, enough of my nascent entymology skills, the business of the day was to push two barrow loads of soil improver up the hill to the plot, and spread it on the weeded squash bed.
That done I was a bit pooped, so after a bit of weeding and wasp watching it was time to go.  The way home is looking very autumnal.

I was in the kitchen this afternoon slicing apples (Ribston pippins donated by MGG) for the dehydrator.  I dip them in lemon juice to keep them white and into the dryer they go for about 8 hours.

I dried some overnight last night and they are luscious, very moreish.  Too moreish... an hour peeling and slicing, 8 hours in the dryer and I can scoff them all in five minutes!
I also made some lazy garlic with the cloves left after planting out the biggest ones for next year.

It is simply garlic, chopped, into a clean jar and covered with wine vinegar. It is supposed to be white wine vinegar, but in this case, I'm guessing it was rose wine vinegar.  The trouble with shopping at my corner medina store is I often can't understand the writing on the label.  It said turkel, had a picture of grapes, and the contents were a sort of pinkish colour, so I am concluding it is rose wine vinegar. I hope!