All posts by horticultural 'Obbit

Chronicling the mis-adventures of a would be allotmenteer. Author of 'Playing with Plant pots: Tales from the Allotment' Available on Amazon in ebook and paperback http://amzn.to/1UvWUkb (paperback) http://amzn.to/1QRgVBZ (Ebook) Full buy links at www.horticulturalhobbit.com/books

Allotment wars: Battle field earth…heavy clay

Good old Aunty Beeb took her remit to educate, inform and entertain to a whole new level with this show last night. Out of curiosity, I was compelled to watch.

I am only in my second year of being an allotment holder, though I have been attempting to grow my own for a few years longer. That said, to date, I have had a very positive experience. There is nothing overt, that I can or would wish to complain about. I am very appreciative of the community that I belong to, despite the challenges that might be presented. Dodgy clay, occasional tutting and frowning not withstanding.

What allotment wars demonstrated-it’s on Iplayer somewhere-that the rosy ideal of allotmenteering is not the case. With shed break ins-swanky sheds, I hasten to add-a closed community attitude, and competitiveness that wouldn’t be out of place on a football field; such a documentary was best described as frightening.

Over the last few years, there has been increase in the demand for allotments. One could argue that this is product of the recent economic trouble. Perhaps it is, there may well be a correlation, between the economic down term and the turn towards GYO as produce becomes increasingly more expensive and people consider sustainability. The notion of having an allotment, is romantic. An activity, that during the war gave people the opportunity to contribute to the war effort, requires effort, commitment and some level of endurance. It also, perhaps mistakenly, has a reputation for being an old man’s game.

I am neither old, nor a man.

It still takes a bit of graft though.

The allotments featured, were pretty. I don’t doubt that effort and hardwork had been put into them. That was blatantly obvious. What took me by surprise, was the negativity, Yes, all right, the clue is in the title. But this begs the question. Why?

Why have such nastiness, a condescending attitude towards those that want to have a go, and most importantly, why pinch someone else’s veg?

The competition veg growing was amusing. The sheer work, shouldn’t be detracted from. That is commendable. I can’t get those sort of results. Good luck and well done, to those that want to, and do.  But stealing crops, by way of sabotage. That has to be despicable. The burning down of greenhouses, the weedkilling of tomatos. Pulling up of carrots. You couldn’t make this up, really. Perhaps Aunty Beeb did…who knows?

Then there was the spare boudoir, I mean the swanky shed. That’s lovely, it really is. But when it is broken into repeatedly, why have one? It was a nice shed, a well kept one. I had been debating the notion of having one. The Jury has been sent out again.

And the old boy network. Whilst there were two ladies, they were the only two. In addition, only one person who could be termed younger than the gentlemen of more mature years. The show demonstrated a very skewed representation of allotmenteering. For many, having an allotment is a positive experience. Some folks join gyms, others sow and harvest fruit and vegetables. You will always have horses for courses, that is the way life works. The show would have benefited from that, yes, I know it’s allotment wars. But why a war? That I really don’t understand. You’d think Allotmenteering had a seering dark underbelly that was once consigned to victorian social commentary a la Charles Dickens. It surely doesn’t!

May be, in the same vein as Freemasons, allotments need to open their gates; debunk and demystify their nature. Mud slinging, is probably not the best way. It’s fairly useful, mud. Just not in this case. What alarms me the most, is the programme. Bordering on sensationalist, tabloid, and gutter like, the montage of allotmenteering does it no justice whatsoever. Waiting lists have increased over the years, the quantity of plots does not meet the level of demand. With some sites, poorly run, others being tyrannical dictatorships, and attitudes within them being hard to encapsulate; a muddy and confused picture is what we have.

Aligning freemasons with Allotmeentering. What a scary thought!

Yours in anticipation

Horticultural Hobbit

January jeepers

You have seen the extent of the current weather and winter woes. Plot 2A  is currently under a foot of snow. There is not an awful lot I can do with that.

At the moment, there are various seeds sat on window sills. In the propagator, are chilli seeds. In the last week or so, a few have peeped out of the dirt. Only to keel over again, once on the window sill. A combination of poor light, and reduced heat is most likely what has caused them to keel over. I daresay that I will be sowing seeds again, as not many have yet removed their head from the dirt. Beetroot is germinating, cylindra and bonel were sown into modules about a week ago. As was self blanching celary, but this is yet to show it’s face

I have sown some cauliflowers, three different varieties. Mayflower, purple cape and All year around caulis have been sown and are sat covered on a window sill. I tried once upon a time to sow these, but didn’t know enough about their propogation. Fingers crosses this time. I will be intrigued to see whether or not they come off. For many, cauliflowers are a staple. What will be amusing, is if the purple ones come off. Yes, I am aware of the need for environmesh. I remember sowing Kohl Rabi and having an infestation of white fly thingies.

That will mean, that at some point; Cabbages will be sown. I’ve had very limited success with cabbages in the past. They’ve been eaten by slugs and snails despite blue pills, collars, ceramic tile bits and beer traps. I am convinced, that the hobbitland slugs are particular about the types of beer that one attempts to dose them with.

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Well, If I’m not going out there, I’m not going to the plot….

The home wendy house is at least standing, compared to the one on the plot.

The seed stashers are bulging, with lots and lots to sow. With the snow, that is not going to be easy. Let’s hope it clears, and soon….

yours in anticipation,

Horticultural Hobbit

White Stuff landeth

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Somewhere under all that is my plot. The white stuff has been falling for a few days more. We are expecting further snow over the next few days

I made a quick dash down there, a very brief stop. Walking down there, the snow was easily up to my ankles. Blighty is expecting about a foot of snow to fall. It was bad enough that we had seen that much rain.

The plan had been to get some compost to start filling the raised beds. For the moment, there is manure to part fill them. We shall have to see!

Yours in anticipation,

Horticultural Hobbit

“Roses have thorns and silver fountains mud”

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“Roses have thorns and silver fountains mud”

Planted out the following roses:
2 xRosa garden princess
2 xRosa dame de coeur
2 xRosa Joro
2xRosa queen of England

These eight roses are purchased not from a poundshop, but the one where you get a penny change from a pound. The ones listed below are from the poundshop.

3 x Red Beauty Roses
1 x Pink Rosa
1 x Kronenbourg rose

In addition there is one each of Blue Moon Christian Dior, Harry Wheatcroft, Silver Jubilee, Dutch Gold, Pascalli, Peace, Lovers Meeting, Double Delight and Ruby Wedding. These are the slightly posher roses, and have been in the ground since the autumn. They are significantly bigger than the cheaper more recently acquired roses. Perhaps as the earlier ones are the product of a sturdier producer.

I never intended having so many roses on the plot. In the first instance, it was a whim, a case of why not. They are pretty. Perhaps they’d form a nice enclosure, and be a barrier against the wind. Then I remembered that certain value shops, have roses in at some point in the year. I had seen them, not thought much of them. There are even a couple in pop’s back garden.

Something of an interesting hypothesis test can be carried out. Whether or not the posh roses can be compared with the ones that are less so. Will certainly have to look at what these varieties need in terms of care. There are many who believe that Rose management is both an art and a science.

For the moment, as snow threatens to descend upon the plot; I have plugged in and will see what happens.

Monday, that’s when Blighty will have snow. Brace yourselves.

Yours in anticipation,

Horticultural Hobbit

Chilli and Pepper adventure 2013

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Last year, I was all very conscientious. By New Year’s Day, I had sown both chillies and tomatoes. The latter, died, as they were sown a bit too early. I had to resow. With the chillies, I was able to get them to the stage where they formed a second pair of true leaves. I had potted them on just after they had gone past their baby seed leaves. Then, I had also sown them in yogurt pots.

This year, the varieties are the same. You can see what I have sown in one of the images. A different variable is that they are being sow into those paper pots that were made. Dampened, they go into the heated prop.

Chilies are not something that I feel are straight forwards. I find them challenging, in that they don’t always germinate. Some chillies have a different ‘cracking’ point in comparison to others. Then you need to have heat to make sure that they are loved. Whilst I say chillies, I’m including peppers in that. There a number of sweet peppers, in addition to the one bell pepper.

To think that it all started way back when, with these things.

I was rather disappointed with what happened last year. These will be taking up window sills in the classroom hopefully, and not be seeing the Wendy house. All being well, they will be joined by tomatoes in a few weeks. If the seeds were sown now, I do think they would keel over.

It would be lovely to get a nice crop of cayenne and bells. A handful were produced in the first year of hobbitry, but none since. Diddly bells have been produced but nothing big.

Here’s to this years chilli adventure,

Yours in anticipation,

Horticultural Hobbit

Paper pots, preparation and potage

Buying pots, can be expensive, You then have to store them as well, when you are not using them. This is the same with yoghurt pots, they have to be retrieved from Pop’s shed. The notion of paper pots, is therefore a little interesting. As cutesy wutsey, as they may seem. They are arguably easy to make-even if Mama H does take it off you and do it properly-I did spend some time making them once she had given me proper instruction!

I had ordered the paper pot maker some time ago, on a whim really, after some positive feedback. Only now, with the New Year and the New growing season, have I given the device any thought. Reaching for an old newspaper, I went about testing it. As you see above, Mama H sought to test it before me. There are somethings that only mothers can do, testing new toys is definitely one of them.

She was kind enough to sort out a few, and instruct me on then. I was then left to my own devices, whereby I fashioned a fair few pots from the leaves of the newspaper that remained. A most therapeutic and somewhat addictive. There was a feeling of being bereft once the paper had run out. All in good time, I’m sure I will soon enough have more paper than is required.

It has been a hypothesis for some time, to have on plot 2a. The issue at hand, is whether or not they would survive. Purchased today, all rescue mind:

  • Chives
  • Thyme Doone Valley
  • Lavender Munstead
  • Russian and French Tarragon
  • Common and Golden Sage
  • Rosemary
  • Oregano

And last but not least, Victoria Rhurbarb. Bit of a bargain, at 75 pence, and therefore a bit of an impulse.

These are now all stored for safety in the four tier blowaway in the garden, before they are planted on the plot. I have no idea where I shall put them. Only that there will be some for herb enclave. My fear is that they will be eaten by not only the clay but also the inclement weather. The herbs are hardy, but this plot takes no prisoners and is likely to eat them if they are not tempered.

We shall see, if they work.

Yours in anticipation

Horticultural Hobbit

Purchases and Puddles: Hello 2013

Having not paid a visit to the plot for the duration of the festivities, today I ventured down. Not before, though, purchases had been made on the behalf of Santa Clause.

Purchased today from Poundland

3 x Red Beauty Roses

1 x Pink Rosa

1 x Kronenbourg rose

2 x Blueberry

2 x Red Currant

I had been wanting to get the roses, I kicked myself last year having missed them. That, and I have now cottoned onto the bargains that certain pound and ninety nine pence places present. There are opponents and proponents of this approach, there will always be naysayers. I would like to find out and explore. In addition to this, I know of a certain value supermarkets that are renowned for their GYO offers.

If it goes pear shaped, it will go pear shaped.  There was also the eight Raspberry canes that were being planted out. These are a continuity collection, in that these are meant to crop from Summer through to Autumn. I bought sixteen, and shared these with Aunty Tish who is planting these on her plot. She had given me a redcurrant last year. I may well have killed it by not planting it properly and then pulling it out as it looked brown and stick-y.

Brown and sticky, is what everything looks like, to be honest. The roses were covered in a thick layer of green wax. I had read about this, and perhaps need to look into that. It will be interesting to see how these roses, each costing a pound each will fare with the other roses. The other roses, are Hybrid Tea Roses and were purchased as the ten items were in a collection that was marked as being half price. So how will a rose costing a pound, fare against a rose that was meant be four times that (The roses were £2.10 each when I found them).

And the puddles. There are still puddles, and puddles of standing water. Slightly wiffy, standing water, I might add. The plot is best described as wonky, entirely uneven and all over the shop at that.

Onions, shallots and garlic have made some progress. There are certainly more garlic shoots than there are any other allieums. I was pleasantly surprised, but the garlic shoots standing proudly and like sentries. That is a sight, that perhaps I had not anticipated. So very, very nice to see. There are may be two, broad bean shoots. These would be the claudia aquadulce. Not surprised by that, though one was very nibbled looking. There are shallots present, and they are sending up shoots. Again, not many, but it is happening.  I had to return a few onion sets to the ground as they were pulled up; most likely by birdies. A couple of sets were littered around, having been snacked on by them horrible creatures that are squirrels.

Leeks, there were a few. I think Aunty Tish had given me 22 babies. I couldn’t put a figure on the number that I saw. Only that there were a few,standing up right and paying attention, amongst the rather moody and muddy looking strawberry runners.

Bulbs. There are some. Sprouting in a border. It was a blink and you missed it moment; but I assure you. They were there. I must have planted hundred in the early autumn. Not many at all, have started to sprout. That may well be because it is still early, and spring bulbs have some time yet to make themselves known. Or, they too have become a casualty of the deluge. It is difficult to make any absolute comment based on the observation of the plot at the moment.

A moment of bah humbag, the headline news this evening that Blighty is going to suffer further extreme weather.  Honestly, tch.

 

Yours in Anticipation,

Horticultural Hobbit

Sow the Seeds of Potential, Happy New Year from Hobbitland

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Without a shadow of a doubt, this year has been shocking. Dire weather, has robbed many of us of a decent crop and enjoyable growing season. It would be easy now, to throw the trowel in. Yes, trowel. But then perhaps, we won’t have learned anything. There is no man, woman, or gerbil for that matter, who can tame the elements. I firmly believe, that whilst weather conditions can be challenging, their effects devastating, there is always a way of making things happen in the horticultural sense. 

Plot 2a has spent more time wet and windy, that it has cultivated and cropping. Though, there was a hearty crop of weeds and slugs, these are not the sort of crop I envisaged. You can’t eat slugs, for a start. I mean, would you want to? It may all have been a wet wash. And I may have nearly gone bottom over top some times in the clay. But the potential still stands.

 

The seed stashers are sat on the side. Yogurt pots have been retrieved from Dad’s shed. All in eager anticipation. Each and every seed is a pocket of potential; and all seeds want to grow. All seeds can come off….all right, parsnips would argue the toss. But you know what I mean!

 

Seed potatos have been ordered. Though that won’t stop me from going to the Potato Day at Ryton. I went last year, and bought a hand full of King Edward Potatos.They all got rained on and eaten by slugs and the clay, but they were sunk.

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Spring garlic and onions have also been ordered. I want some more of these, and I don’t think those planted in October will have survived the winter deluge. So I am adopting a Robert the Bruce and Spidey approach. Trying again. Simples.

 

Wishing The Dirty Shovel club, the very best for 2013.

 

Horticultural Hobbit

 

 

 

 

Gotta a glut? Mama H recipe

Ma hobbit’s koftas

If you find you gave a glut of peas, cabbages and don’t know what to do with the leaves of a cauliflower. Here’s an idea. Kofta’s are basically a veggie version of a meatball.

For the kofta’s:
Peas, cabbages, cauli leaves and caulis themselves; shredded grated, slithers. a
Gram flour
Corn flour if you want crunchy koftas

For the sauce:

Onions
Garlic
ginger
Cumin
Chopped tomatoes: fresh or tinned, up to you. Ma uses tinned. One and a half tins generally
Bollywood masala tin: garam masala, cayenne, salt.
Peas and potatoes if you want
Dash of worcestershire sauce and an oxo cube. Mixed herbs will do the job too.

Chillies if you fancy

Making koftas:
Mix your kofta material with gram flour and water. You want a sludgy mix, sticky but not sloppy. You can make the mix more solid with additional gram flour. Should look a lot like chunky *humous. Add salt, pepper, cayenne for taste. Not too much salt. Else you’ll end up with slushing was that won’t hold it’s own. If you want a bit of tang and crunch, add black salt and some crushed up *cooked chickpeas.

Roll into bitesize balls. Roll in cornflour. You don’t have to, but it does keep them together. Dare you to try it with breadcrumbs and an egg wash…

Fry these off and they should go golden like scotch eggs. Leave aside till later.

The sauce:
Fry off the garlic, ginger, cumin, onions till golden and mushy and paste like. Should have blitzed these too in a blender. Add tomatoes, with the contents of of spice box and chillies. Don’t forget your Worcestershire sauce and mixed herbs. If you are adding spuds and peas do so now. Watch your spuds, to cook through properly. Shouldn’t end up mushy at the end. Add liquid, with oxo cube. You should now be looking at a broth. Let this simmer, infuse for a good half hour forty minutes. Must no go dry.

Go fetch your koftas.

Drop your koftas in. With any luck, they won’t fall apart and go mushy.

Ta-da! You have summat to eat.