Sunday, 29 September 2013

Currant bushes ordered

Ordered from Blackmoor Nurseries today.

1 x Whitecurrant White Versailles - 2 Year Bush Bare Root (CULK) = £7.30
1 x Blackcurrant Ben Connan - 2 Year Bush Bare Root (CULB) = £7.30
1 x Loganberry Thornless L654 - 3 Litre Container (BERI) = £9.00
Subtotal: £23.60
Delivery (Best Way (Courier)): £8.00
VAT: £0.00
Total: £31.60

I will get that blackcurrant jam next year!

Elderberry Jelly

I made the elderberry jelly, that poor pillowcase is getting a hammering this season, it is looking like fx from CSI.  I might invest in a jelly bag if this goes on.
The jelly looks beautiful and it set like a dream.  I will admit to getting cold feet about the set of the jelly and I added some pectin with the sugar, as well as boiling the apple liquid down to half its volume.  But looking at it now, it probably would've been okay without and I had forgotten that there is a very simple and quick pectin test which I could have done instead.

There was a scum on the surface which was quite difficult to skim off.  I have since heard that sometimes putting the jelly through a sieve takes the scum off, or just adding a bit of butter clears it.  I will know for next time.  The only disappointment was that it wasn't my fave blackcurrant jelly, it looked like it but didn't taste like it. I would really like to make that sometime.  Although we now definitely DO NOT need any more jam!  I think we have enough to keep us in jam roly-poly till 2015!

I went to the Allotment trading hut this morning to get a new King's seed catalogue (the allotments association gets discounts) and got lured by a barrow load of manure and one of soil improver (as you do!)
The manure went on the strawberry bed, which seems reluctant to die back but no doubt will eventually.  The soil improver has gone into a dumpy bag until the hugelkultur bed is empty.

Saturday, 28 September 2013


The current plotplan

The cucumbers and the pumpkins are still producing but only just.
The butternuts and sweet dumplings are all out and most of the pumpkins.
The runners are growing fat pods for drying.
The sweet peas are drying seeds.
The winter onions are under fleece.
The two green bush courgettes and one tondo di piacenza are under a fleece tunnel to keep them going a bit longer. (the other round one wouldn't fit)
the wee hoose

Friday, 27 September 2013

....and Bobbie Butternut

Let me introduce you to Bobbie, Billie's younger,

but heavier brother (yes, I know they must be female because they have the seeds, but they look so macho)

Look at this family photo, you wouldn't believe they came from the same plant. They are both green and they are both squashes of some kind, but neither of them look much like the picture on the seed packet.  

I reckon their mother must've had a fling with the Incredible Hulk while Wilko wasn't looking.

I've just got to think of what to do with them now, that could be a whole lotta soup!

They are pretty much the heaviest thing I have grown, ever.

elderberry season

Fresh piles of wood chips have arrived outside the gates,  after pumping up the tyre again (still going down) I was off to get some for the paths.  I also put a couple of barrowsful on the gooseberry patch to keep the weeds down.  Looks very smart.

I picked a half bucketful of elderberries from the tree overhanging my plot, not the red ones, but the black ones higher up,  (These are the ones I couldn't reach)

which will go nicely with my friend Pat's surplus cooking apples,

to make some jelly.  I need more jam or jelly like I need a hole in the head but I can't resist the opportunity for free-ish foodstuffs.

That's a job for this evening in front of the telly.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Planting winter onions

Planting onion sets

Just the tips showing (mostly)

Fleeced to stop the birds from pulling the sets out

the runners getting big

the leeks are putting on weight
The blackberries are really plumptious this year.  I hadn't realised how poor last year's crop was (it was the first year I've grown them) until I saw this year's berries.
And at home in the garden, it is time for the outdoor tomatoes to go in the compost bin.

It is sad in a way, signifying the end of summer, but I'm always pleased to start tidying away the messy leaves and cutting down plants that have finished their jobs for the year.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

bit of a lull

I just found out that the pear tree's fruit doesn't ripen on the tree.  I think I might have heard this before, but the information hadn't sunk in.  So this pear (Loffelbirne), and there is only one, should be harvested late September/early October and then stored until December, when it will be ripe and succulent and should be cut in half and eaten with a teaspoon.  Watch this space!

The apples are looking good, but still not ripe yet.  I tried a James Grieve that was a bit battered looking and it was nice, but a bit tart and the seeds were pale instead of dark brown, so a few more days/weeks perhaps.

Not much going on at the plot.  The runners are getting too big to pick now, some of them you could use as cricket bats! Cucumbers are getting fewer and smaller.

I'm thinking I might put the cloche over the courgettes to keep them going a little longer.

I want to turn the compost heap but the wasps' nest is still pretty active so that is still a no-go area.

Monday, 23 September 2013

Billie Butternut.....

How about that bad boy!

Picked it at last, I've been dying to for ages.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

spaghetti squash

The weather has turned warm again, a high of 22C today and a low of 14C last night.

The runner beans are still growing and looking good, I've never known them look so good, so late in the season. But I'm leaving a lot of them on to get big, so I suppose that will slow the growth down.

Only one cucumber today.

I picked the two spaghetti squash, the foliage is dying back and the squashes haven't changed in size for weeks, so I think they are as ready as they will ever be.

They were a ton weight to carry home.

I raked over the old broad bean bed and sprinkled on some onion fertilizer.  I will plant the onion sets next week if it stays fine.
I've pulled the soil away from the sides to create a mini raised bed within the borders.  This is a labour-saving device; it gives me somewhere to leave the lumpy soil instead of trying to break every bit up, nothing much gets planted right up to the edge anyway, and hopefully it will lessen the rotting of the side boards if they aren't kept so damp all winter.  That's the theory, anyway.

The marrowfat peas I scattered a couple of weeks ago are sprouting nicely.

But something has eaten most of my cabbage seedlings, despite the slug pellets.
I would show you a picture but it would be just another picture of soil. Cabbage....Gone!

Just for the sake of closure, here is a picture of the first celery experiment flowering nicely.  No long stalks for the making of soup.  I'm going to leave it in to see what happens next.

The feathery leaves behind and to the side are the second sowing of fennel...too small for the time of year so I don't think they will come to anything.

Thursday, 19 September 2013


I was sorting out the best garlic cloves for planting and I naturally went for the largest bulbs. (Apparently you choose the largest garlic cloves for growing, but when it comes to onion sets, you choose the smallest. There is an explanation for this, but I can't remember what it is.)  The biggest bulbs had the biggest cloves around the outside and smaller ones in a row around the middle next to the stalk.
But I was surprised to find that some of the small bulbs had just as large cloves as the big ones, but they only had one circle of cloves around the stalk. So it ended up that I had more than enough.
I put the small ones in to be used for cooking and planted up the others in modules
I think I might be being a bit impatient and am putting them in too soon, but I have plenty left and could put some more in later in October.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

seed beans

Cold, wet and windy, alternating with hot, dry and windy today...typical English weather, in fact, so I didn't go to the plot.  Nothing much to do and no watering needed.  I stayed at home, sat in the greenhouse and shelled beans.

Red Epicure

Not a time to decide you don't like broad beans after all.

wasp's nest

The wasp's nest in the hedge
If you have a spare minute and 40, with nothing much to do....enjoy!

 butternut getting brighter

squashes getting browner.

Monday, 16 September 2013


Well, back to earth after my moment of fame....3 firsts and a third! Eee! would you credit it?

The current high winds and rain have properly done for the sweet peas, the wigwam has a serious list today and the flowers are fading badly. I'm leaving them to go to seed to use for next year.

Everything is starting to die back, the leaves on the squashes are turning yellow and going a bit droopy.

The tide of cucumber has begun to ebb at last, only three ready to pick this week-end.

I have picked about 20 tomatilloes with the idea of crystallising slices of them and then covering them in dark chocolate.  If successful they might make an interesting gift at Christmas. I'll have to try it out first of course, and the snag is that there might be no tomatilloes left by the time I test them out, they take four days to make.
Update: They crystallised okay, but lost all their limeyness and didn't taste of anything except sugar, so I didn't bother with the chocolate coating - it would have been a waste of good chocolate.

I'm also planning to use up some of the surplus cucumbers by making some cucumber pickle, yes, some more cucumber pickle.  A different recipe this time, bread and butter pickle.  We haven't used the last lot yet, but I'm sure we will eventually.

The surplus beans are going to be left to dry on the vine, so I can use them for soups and stews or as seeds.

Something is chewing the kale, it looks like caterpillars but I can't see any, but there was some tiny snails.  I wonder if they are the culprits.  Surprisingly, the kale outside the netting is looking better than that inside.

From all this rivettingly interesting information, it can be gathered that things in the garden are winding down for the autumn and there is not a lot to do.

Celery experiment latest: I have left one pot in the greenhouse, one pot in the cold frame, another is in the brassica tunnel and the other is beside the celeriac, unprotected. I don't think they will over winter, but we will see.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Show time!

Plant stall

Beverley, selling well on the plant stall.

Cynthia and Sue selling raffle tickets, How Sue!

The Comfrey Project display stand
The Comfrey Project had many different vegetables on display, reflecting the many different cultures which grew them.
Quiet on the bookstall
Waiting for the rush to start...
BBQ and cakes, mmmm

Moorside's awards table

The artists' stall

It was good weather for  mid-September, it could have been warmer and sunnier, but at least it didn't rain and wasn't windy.

Plenty of people turned up to buy, and to look, and to enter their best vegetables and flowers into the show.  There was a trail for the children around the plots, with various points of interest (e.g. climbing beans or butterfly garden) signposted, and the plant stall had a good stock of vegetable and flower plants for sale.  Delicious burgers (accompanied by fresh sliced tomatoes supplied by moi from the annexed greenhouse) were for sale at the barbecue and some yummy cakes on the refreshments.  You could buy a jar of chutney, or an original watercolour by our resident artist, or some raffle tickets to win a Hornby train set.

But all this pales into insignificance when it came to The Show!

I'm dead chuffed, I won three first prizes and one third, admittedly the number of entries was quite low, but I am still pleased.

My carrots were much smaller than the competition's, but being clean and all a similar size seemed to make the difference.

 Again, my runner beans were smaller than the others but clean.

The raspberry jelly must've tasted okay, I don't know I haven't tasted it yet, but it was certainly nice and clear.

 I reckon my onions would have done better it I had tied some string around the tops, but I couldn't get the string to stay on.  I'll have to get some proper raffia for next time or take some string-tying lessons.

sweet dumpling winter squash.
The sweet dumpling was completely overshadowed by huge pumpkins.
It has been a good year for the squash and cucurbit family.

As an added bonus I won four bags of compost in the raffle!  I never win raffles!  And to top it all, when I got home and signed into my email, I had won £10 on the Thunderball!  Yay!

A very winning day in all respects.We didn't make huge amounts of money, but that was never the purpose of the day. It was a coming together day for old stagers and new joiners and a great way of getting to know your fellow plot-holders.

Show day tomorrow.

 The blackberries are starting to ripen, and there are some real whoppers.

 I picked a punnetful.  But they aren't going into the show, they are in the freezer already until I get enough to make jam, or get some cookers to make a crumble.

It's the allotment show tomorrow and as I am helping on the plant stall, I have to be there anyway so I thought I would enter a few items in the show to join in the fun.  So today I was down at the plot selecting the straightest runner beans.  I had a lot to choose from this year for the first time.  I usually don't have enough at this time of year to be able to choose 6 similar beans.

 Below are the chosen few, but I'll keep the others as back-up in case of disasters.  They are in a damp tea towel in the bottom of the fridge, keeping straight until tomorrow.

I also rummaged around the carrot box and pulled (gently) a good lot of carrots.   None of these are the same size as the other, so they are as identical as I can get them.

Nice looking though, even though I says it myself.  The three favourites are the ones facing the other way in the foreground.

The onions won't win any prizes, as there is something wrong with all of them. It hasn't been a very good year for my onions, but the red ones have, strangely, done better in the looks department than the white ones. Two batches of three to choose from, the decision will be made in the morning. I have yet to find the string and some rings to stand them on.

I can't decide which to put in as an Any Other Vegetable, the sweet dumpling, or the mini-pumpkin or take the big step of cutting one or both of the butternuts.  I don't really think I will cut the bns yet as I want to see them through to the end and I'm told the flavour is better if they are allowed to ripen fully and the skin harden on the plant.

Oh, and a jar of raspberry jelly.