Promises Promises: Buds to bloom and burst

It is the day after the night before, as Storm Katie ran amok around the British Isles. Mum and I headed down to the plot to see if there was any damage. The poly tunnel and walk in green house are still standing strong. My biggest concerns are always the grapevines and the fruit trees. Somewhat mindful of the potential inclement weather, I had staked the thin wiry trees to give them a bit of a fighting chance. There are puddles on the plot, on the lower part at least. This always happens, and the continuing plan is to raise that part of the plot.It is for that very reason that I have raised beds to help overcome the soggy soil.

Having checked for major disturbances, the first thought I had was about the Peach tree. A A variety called darling, this is a  very new tree to the allotment. Over the last week or so, I have been watching a small cluster of pink fuzz. The rest of the tree is forming buds, but this cluster is obvious because of its brightness against the bark. I have been checking almost daily, to see if the pinkness has burst. I’m not too sure if it is cluster of leaves or an actual blossom. This is a lot closer to success than my previous experience with a peach rochester tree, that didn’t do an awful lot at all. Hence the excitement of this tree actually doing something.

peachdarling.JPG

Concorde Pear also seems to be kicking off. Last year, we had all of two pears. I am not complaining about that, I am very glad for those two pears. They ended up on a chutney. For now the blossom isn’t actually very pretty, it’s fuzzy, spiky and awkward looking. My only concern is that we have a horrible frost and these will get obliterated as they have in the past.

pearconcorde

Last year the Moor Park Apricot formed maybe less than half a dozen leaves. (No that is not the rest of my plot, nothing to do with me.) A year later, there are more green buds forming, and that means potentially more leaves. This, like having a peach tree, was an impulsive experiment. The growing season is still young, so this like the other trees will be monitored and observed closely.

moorparkapricot.JPG

These are Darrow, blue jay and blue crop blueberries. I like my blueberries, least of all because they produced a surprise crop last year. Two out of the three have been there for a year, the third is a recent acquisition. I am comforted by the number of buds though, a good sign. Blueberry gin may well happen again.

blueberries.JPG

Spot of Easter minted/fenugreek lamb

Traditionally, we have had a lamb roast dinner on Easter Sunday. The trend was bucked a little this year, as lamb in question was curried.

You can see the youtube version here.

The home grown element is the dried mint from the allotment. There was an abundance last year, and mum dried it so that she could use it in her kitchen. The fenugreek might be shop bought-we’ve finally run out of the home grown stuff, but plans are afoot to sow and grow more this year-but the mint is the genuine article. There a whole host of different varieties that Mum has collected, so that jar contains several different ones.

And here is Part two of the recipe.

Lamb does take time to cook, and everyone does have their own preferences. Slow cooking tenderises the otherwise quite tough meat and allows the flavours to become deeper.

 

 

Spud sinking and plot pottering

It’s not raining! It’s Good Friday, and it’s not raining. Yet.

There is rain scheduled, it is after a bank holiday. Before it arrives, I have taken this opportunity to wander down the plot, sink potatoes and check on the fruit trees.

First with the potatoes though:

You can see the youtube version here.

Kestrel and Lady Balfour potatoes have been sunk into raised beds. I still have to sink pink fir apple, once I have filled the other beds with ‘orse poop. I put the seed potatoes into raised beds as there is better drainage, less resistance for the forming tubers and previous experience has meant a big, quite successful crop. I’m not sure yet if there will be any international kidney this year on the plot.

There was also the opportunity to look at the young fruit trees that are planted on the plot. With the site being windy, they could do with some bracing support so that they don’t keel over. I did quick count, and found that I had quite a few fruit trees, I guess I don’t need to buy any more! In the picture above, you see the morello cherry tree. This one, along with the sylvia, moor park apricot, darling peach, pear du comice, czar  and victoria plum were all tied to a stake sunk beside them.

With the exception of the Czar plum tree, all of the trees appear to be waking up and have buds forms on their boughs. I am not too sure about the Czar, as it has always been a little bit of a miserable looking tree.  The plot most certainly has it’s own little micro-cosm that doesn’t fit in with the rest of the site; i think the peach is the only that is sending out pink fuzzy buds. Have been watching it closely and willing the bud to burst.

@MarshallsSeeds Heritage Garlic update

There is allegedly some rather nasty weather forecast for the Easter weekend. However, Good Friday has so far presented itself as being fair. There has been pottering around done today, but I have also  been double checking the heritage garlic provided by Marshalls.

You can also find the youtube version here.

The varieties are as follows:

  • Garlic Bohemian Rose
  • Mikulov
  • Red Duke

With the drier weather, the garlic appears to be doing well. It has most certainly taken root and the foliage is rather lush and green. It does have some level of resilience and should survive well. It will be really nice to see how this crop progresses and to have a good crop of garlic in the summer. I will most likely give it a feed in the coming months, and will have to ensure that the ground around the garlic remains weed free.

 

Checking in with the Chillies

As the Easter Weekend draws near, I thought I should check on the chillies.

chillieselection
Hungarian Hot wax, purple haze, devil’s rib and orange habanero

The weather over the last week has been somewhat up and down. There have been says of glorious sunshine and days that like today, have been grey and miserable. The chillies, along with the tomatoes, have been enjoying the sunnier days whilst sat in Dad’s sun trap. However, there have a few nights where frost has been scheduled and they have covered over with a layer of horticultural fleece to protect them from a premature demise.

There a number of different varieties that I am playing with this year:

  • Jalepeno
  • Purple Haze
  • Patio Sizzle
  • Prairie Fire
  • Devil’s Rib
  • Coffee Bean
  • Hungarian Hot Wax
  • Orange Habanero

As you can see, there is quite a spectrum in terms of heat. It is the first year of sowing for devil’s rib and coffee bean, but all the others have been experimented with before. The hope is that these will be just a fruitful as their predecessors.

Purple haze is the only cayenne variety on the plot, and at the moment has seed leaves that have a really nice purple tinge to them. There are a few habaneros, some which like the coffee bean variety are somewhat slower growing. I have found that the hotter the chilli, the more difficult it is to get it to germinate in the first instance and that these are slower growing compared to say a cayenne.

Coffee bean, like prairie fire and sparkler, is a variety that produces fairly small compact plants. This should help with organising the poly tunnel as smaller pots can used. I say small, but I am probably going to use morrisons flower pots as per usual. They are really quite useful for chillies.

One thing that I do hope for, is that these will all catch up to where they should be. Sown later than usual, the plants  are developmentally behind where they might be. I would have expected the milder varieties to be a little more leafier. The combination of later sowing and not enough heat and light is probably the reason why the plants are still not so leafy.

Girding up the Grapevines

Oh, it was cold down the plot today. The sun hung around this morning, and then clocked off at lunch time. There was however a job to do today.

The youtube version can be found here.

An allotment neighbour had kindly donated some random pieces of wood that she wanted to be rid of. So in the spirit of recycling, I have used it to sort out the grapevines. The three grapevines, boskoop glory and madeline Sylvaner, were in danger of falling over.I have spent months listening to my mum telling me to sort them out. Today, armed with a pair of pliers, heavy duty wire and a wooden mallet, I got around to it. There was only one plan. To stop the vines from keeling over.

In the cold.

The donated bits of wood were sunk into the clay with the mallet, and positioned next to the already existing cane fretwork. This was only ever a temporary measure, but it has worked really well. So rather than take the framework away, I am just cobbling things onto the framework to make it work better. The canes are robust enough, when the vines are skeletal and not very leafy. However, when the foliage comes through, the vines become top heavy. A problem, when the canes aren’t robust enough, and start to keel over in a brisk wind. I have been to the plot a few times after the gales have whipped around the plot, and prayed that the vines hadn’t been pulled up and over.

There was a lot of cobbling with the grapevines. Using curtain hooks, heavy duty green gardening wire had been stretched across the wooden posts and now works around the canes. Vines have snaked around the canes already, and quite successfully as they’ve become established; another reason why I am loath to remove the canes. I am hoping that the vines will continue to trellis around the wires and that these will offer a little bit more robust support.

 

 

Sowing Psychology Sunflowers 2015

sunflowersseeds

It is that time of year again. I have sown sunflowers. Sunflowers are really simple to sow and grow, and offer bright splashes of colour when the growing season is in full spring. For the last few years I have been supporting the The Big Sunflower Project and also trying to get fellow educators involved in sowing sunflowers as stress busting activity.

As an exercise in mindfulness, sowing seeds, watching them grown, is something really important for me. I have experienced the positive and psychological effects of pottering around the plot, so spreading the word is something that I will always do. Sowing sunflowers is just the thing! This year I am sowing seeds that were saved from one of last years sunflowers. I remember to this day, mum decapitating it and waving it at me so that it could dried.

The youtube version can be found here.

Sunflowers will grow quickly if they have optimum growing conditions. It is a little cold right now, the sun does seem to have disappeared for a bit. This may slow down seed germination, but I am as hopeful as ever. Sunflowers are also really good for wildlife when they have come to the end of their life; birds will eat the seeds and small insects will live in the stems that I tend to leave until Spring.

You can find out here about last year’s post about sowing Psychology Sunflowers.

Sowing Seeds on a Saturday

Today is the first day of my Easter Holidays, and that means starting to think about what is to do on the allotment. In particular, inside the polytunnel.

The youtube version can be found here.

Whilst I have tried plants and potatoes in the poly tunnel, this is the first for seeds. I have scattered an assortment of radishes, beetroot and different types of lettuces. There were all year round butter head lettuces, as red yugoslavian, lollo rosso, little gem and one called rouge D’Hiver. With radishes, we have a mixture. In terms of beetroot we have have the usual boltardy and Chioggia.

It was very cold in there! Less warmer than it was the other day when the shelving was built.

 

I hid in the poly tunnel, whilst Mum did some digging outside. Whilst it was cold, the plot has started to dry out a little bit more. I think the worse thing that might happen in terms of the weather might be a deluge of April showers. No news yet on the beans sown the other day, I suspect the poly tunnel needs to be a little warmer.

 

Building and beans

I went down to the plot today! I wasn’t booked to be anywhere, I could have a lie in, and then I was able to go do things on the plot. The last few months, in fact since the start of the academic year, have been rather busy. Between school work and volunteering, there has been a lot going on. So much so, there have been times where going to the plot has been somewhat challenging. I am for making time, and there have been instances where it has just been a quick visit to make sure things are still standing.

Also, it hasn’t rained today. Yet!

The sun is out, it has just nipped behind a cloud, as I type; but it is out. Has lent itself to being used appropriately. I am hoping that my gardening mojo will return as the seasons change and the growing season kicks off proper.

Today, was about tidying up the poly tunnel. Not a lot has happened in there since the summer, I didn’t plant anything in there; though I probably should have. I have had it a couple of years now, and I am still trying to work out how to use it properly. In I went, and tidied up and away the assortment of grassy weeds that had taken up residence. I also passed a hoe around to break up and aerate the soil. A green film had appeared across the soil and needed to be scuffed away. A couple of days ago, I had removed the rather mottled and decaying pots of chillies, there may be a couple more in the smaller greenhouse actually. Free of both weeds and pots, the poly tunnel started to look a bit serviceable again. To make it even more so, I had some shelving to build.

shelving

It does look a little wonky, yes, the ground isn’t particularly level inside and I’m not investing in industrial strength shelving. There is going to be a point where I run out of space at home in terms of window sills. I do have the four tier blowaway and the walk in greenhouse as well to help ease congestion. Thing is, any seedlings sown need to  be mature enough and hardened off before they exist the house. As wonky as it looks, the shelving is okay. Was simple enough to build, it didn’t require any tools; and I have secured the shelves themselves to the frame by tying wool. It is most likely that as the tomatoes and chillies at home get bigger, they will find themselves on these shelves. It won’t be long before I need the window sills at home for squashes.

The next thing to do was to actually sow something. I am still a little behind, or at least it feels like I am. I am still meaning to sow sunflowers, but today was all about beans.

 

In particular climbing French beans and running beans. Beans have been one of the most successful and abundant crops on the plot. I have stayed with the varieties that we have sown and grown in the past. These are:

  • Scarlet emperor
  • Painted lady
  • Borlotto beans
  • Cobra
  • Blue lake

As you can see, the whole tray of modules is full. Yes, that is an awful lot of beans. They do all get used, either fresh or are frozen for use in cooking. When frozen, they do keep well. I don’t actually recall Mum ever blanching them. The crop tends to be washed and diced, before ending up in the freezer until needed. I quite like the climbing french beans, and I would not have been forgiven had I not sown runner beans. Mum asked a couple of weeks ago-she made eyes at me and everything-about when I would be sowing runner beans.

Incidently, it is very hard not to type runner beans….

She is not a big fan of the interestingly coloured borlotto beans,  but I wasn’t going to let them escape the plot. I quite like them, they look really quite nice peeking out through the foliage on the canes. They are pretty much used in the same way as runner beans in the kitchen, so the appearance gets glossed over. Once curried in a pan, you can’t really tell the difference in the appearance. Turmeric will do that to a dish.

In other news, I am working on the next GYO/Plot book. It was a thought that crossed my mind, and stayed there. There is a vague plan, of what might be in it; I will need to reflect further on the fine details. But there will be recipes in there, that much I do know!

Not sure when it will be done, but I will get it sorted soon. This means working on book two and three most likely at the same time over course of the year.

 

Windowsill Wednesday #gdnbloggers

March comes in like a lion, and leaves like a lamb. That is meant to the seasonal adage. There is most certainly roaring, as the weather displays it’s mood with rain, slush and sleet. You would not think that this was the start of Spring. With the inclement weather making it difficult to go play on the plot, all reflections are contained within four walls of home. In particular, reflecting on the window sills.

Despite being a little behind, the window sills are starting to fill up. Chillies and tomatoes now occupy the available space, and will need to be carefully observed as they start to grow. They all look very delicate and spindly. largely due the fact that it is still very cold and I don’t use grow lights. I never have, though the hardened chilli might do; grow lights have never been on my agenda. Maybe when I have my own castle and have won the lottery, I might invest in some.

There is still a lot to think about, so early on in the season. I have a long list of things to consider. I need to find some ‘orse poop so that I can sink all the seed potatoes that are currently waiting in the wings. With Easter being early, the planting of the seeds will scheduled in line with a break from school. Previously, I have spent the odd Good Friday and Easter Monday digging trenches for potatoes or building bean frames. No trenches on the plot, by way of learning and experiencing different things; and the beans go into wig-wam structures. All of the spuds are likely to go into raised beds that will be filled with ‘orse poop. ‘Orse poop that has decayed well, and isn’t steaming fresh as this can kill things dead and that’s not quite what we want.

This years Psychology Sunflower challenge will be kicked off as well. (You can find last years blog posts about that in the archive). As April swings in, one will need to consider squashes, runner beans and climbing French beans; and sow these into pellets. This will mean window sill shuffles and making sure that the four tier blowaway in the garden is in a fit state. It’s actually looking a bit battered and weather beaten, and the cover might have disintegrated in patches in addition to the zip on the one side having lost it’s teeth. Happens to all of the covers!  Sowing of the beans may take a while, even though in the past they have been sown around St.Patrick’s Day. We had a nice crop last year, though mum did pull faces at the Borlotti beans. I quite like them, and will probably sown a few seeds sneakily on the side. She won’t know til they vine!

Happy Wednesday folks!