Category Archives: cabbages and brassicas

2015; Bollywood Gardener and beyond

As a year of two halves, 2015 has been somewhat interesting but different. The first half of the year involved having the best of intentions. Seeds were sown, I had half a plan as to what I wanted to achieve. No different to what I might have done in previous years, I was going to use all my knowledge and experience to make  things better, bigger and more efficient. Then came July, 2015 became incredibly busy and in the tail end; I am only just recovering from a very hectic six months.

Let’s take the first six months, where by the growing season is starting. Plans are afoot, the world is full of promise. We are hoping to have a good year.

Tomatoes, chillies and aubergine were the focus of the first three months. Makings sure that the seeds were sown, that these germinated and the plants pampered. Pampered, as so many valuable lessons had been learned as to how they might be successful. It was touch and go for a while in the early stages. Half baked chillies and tomatoes can be a very scaring and intimidating experience, when you let them be in a hot room or poly tunnel. There were even aphids and bugs that needed to be dealt with.

In July, I hosted a workshop during the annual conference of the Association of teachers of Psychology. I spoke about horticulture and mental health, the benefits that teachers might gain for both themselves and their students. I had asked my Psychology colleagues to sow sunflowers in the Spring and also encouraged conference delegates to do the same in giving them seeds that were kindly donated by the information point. It was also at this point, that I finished the Level 3 Certificate in Counselling studies.

Then came the summer, with lots and lots of growing!

No one year will be the same as the preceding or following. Yet this year felt different. There was just something palpably different that made growing more of a challenge ad something beyond me being busy with work and studies. Last year, I remember being ankle deep in tomatoes, green ones; but there were lots of them. This year,I had a foliage, and not a lot of fruits. Positioned in the poly tunnel, the crop was meant to do well. Even the chillies appeared to have struggled this year. Whilst the poly tunnel seemed to have been filled with triffids, there was a muted level of success. Aubergines did themselves no favours once again. I must say every year that I will not sow them. I finally have proof that I might be better off without them. Lovely plants, the occasional flower; but diddly squat fruit even if the poly tunnel was a bit damp and sweaty.

And note the gadget! The apple one. Having acquired all of those apples from a plot neighbour (they were not scrumped, I had consent!) that was an investment and a half. Saved me hours. The home brew kit is still waiting in the wings. untested this year, maybe it will be used in the growing seasons to come. There were a number of pickles and preserves. The preserving pan was rather busy this year, even though the produce was a bit hit and miss.

With the plot ticking along, and the blog growing. Something else also happened. I had been lucky enough to write guest blog posts for WRG, via the fabulous Michael Perry. This was and still is one of the most valuable writing experiences that I have ever had. This actually triggered something more complex and more challenging than I first realised. Over the summer, the winner of the Big Allotment Challenge Rob Smith had written a short book.  One of my fellow counselling students, L.A.Cotton, had also burst onto the young adult contemporary genre (She’s epic, tell her I sent you) with phenomenal success.

These three things combined spurred me to be courageous and write something myself. June and July were turning points, and I remembered sending a message to both my sisters; saying that I wanted to write an ebook, and I would try and get it out by Christmas. That was it, I was going to do it.

Having written as mentioned previously, the guest blogs for WRG , one of them was about the Indian Inspiration on the plot. I think Michael Perry used the words ‘Bollywood Gardener’ or something similar, and I adopted the hashtag! This inadvertently became the start of the book. I wrote in a way I can only describe as feverish. I have the same frame of mind when writing the blogs, to be honest; and it’s part of the blog life. The book however was different in that this was thousands of words and trying to bring the assorted elements of the blog together. There was a lot of things that I wanted to include in my budget of 25, 000 words. I had a notebook-my blog book actually, the one that I take to the plot-and a pen. Scribbling ensued, and it’s hard to read my writing anyway. So when it’s all in very hurried, that doesn’t help with typing.

What I ended up with was ‘Playing with Plant Pots: Tales from the allotment’. Plus it was well before Christmas!

 

With a bright yellow front cover, you cannot miss it!

I am going to be naturally very biased, and say that I like my book. However, that is genuine. I like to share it, because I do honestly believe in my book. You might, for example, have writers out there, who will promote their books; but not necessarily believe in their own work. You know if you don’t blow your own trumpet, it’s difficult to get others to do the same.

Standing in the kitchen, leafing through my own book was rather surreal. My name was on a book, that I had crafted. Then there was the few hours that it was at number one. A fellow independent writer informed me of that happening, and that made my day, I tell you! I am determined to get back to the slot.

Then there was the swag. The merchandise. Again, this sounds likes trumpeting! Petal, the horticultural Obbit, has always been the online avatar of the blog. A registered trademark, she’s face (other than mine!) of the blog and social media presence.

 

As you will have read, this year may have been different to others; but it has not been quiet. So much has gone one, it’s no wonder that the tail end of the year is slower and more reflective. If it had all been plain sailing, there would have been very little learned, very little documented in the blog, and very little left to reflect upon.

For now, my only plan is try and sow chillies at some point, and plant my fruit trees when they arrive. I haven’t really thought about anyhing beyond that.

I thank you, for having accompanied me on the 2015 journey; and look forward to the one starting in the new year.

Happy new year!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Caging cabbages once more

One of the plot neighbours kindly gave us some cabbages today. Naturally, we had to sink them, and this became Ma’s project. She had already moved around some self seeded kale, so these went it with that. Didn’t lime them, or pop cabbage collars, so fingers crossed they will be okay. They were however netted over, to stop flying foes.

Gobi roti anyone? Surprise Cauli harvest

I don’t remember sinking cauliflower plugs, but I must have done. Was pottering around, having sunk gladoli, and saw the white curds of a cauliflower. Naturally, I had to tell my mum about it and she was the other side of the plot pulling up weeds. She then decided to harvest it, and ear marked it for her to have it in her stuffed chappatis tomorrow. It’s not huge, just a little bigger than my hands. But the curds are okay, tightly packed together. There were a lot of leaves, and these were chopped away. Not bad, and hopefully we will be plugging in more cauliflowers at some point.

#NABLOPOMO: Cabbage Cage harvest

Since I have been away from the plot this weekend, Ma has been digging over the cabbage patch. It was slightly full of weeds, that Ma was a little affronted by, and also about to keel over. So, sending me the occasional match report, Ma took the cabbage cage on. And she did what is a cracking job. The weeds are gone. I should probably water the contents of the cage though, it does look a bit depressed.

Pottering on the plot 24/01/15

After a very long time, I wandered down to the plot today. Courtesy of my mum’s sister, I had manage to filch some strawberry runners. Probably not the best time of the year to uproot them, but I do have a plan for these things. There are three beds of raspberry canes that I planted last year. These are upright canes, that as of yet, still look a bit brown and sticky. Have yet to start sending off green shoots. I am told that these are two years old, so I would hotly expect some raspberry fruit at some point in the growing season. I forget now which variety is where. But the varieties are

  • tulameen
  • Malling jewel
  • Glen Cova

The earth around the canes is very bare. This only means that this is vacant space for weeds and other such nasties. In order to reduce this amount, I have slotted into the filched strawberry runners. Might even see if I can find some more. But these will hopefully send out more runners and the space on the beds will be maximised with soft fruit. Whilst I have grown strawberries before, and I have autumn bliss raspberries, I’ve never considered cultivating them both with this technique before.

Pottered around, heeling in the  rochester peach tree that had become a little lopsided with the buffeting wind. This is tree that started off life as a variety in Canada. I would love to have fruit from there, would be rather novel having home grown peaches in Birmingham. Not many buds have formed yet on any of the trees, sadly. The Braeburn apple tree may have a couple of buds that are still tightly closed. Otherwise, the fruit trees are looking rather scary and skeletal. Last year, the falstaff apple tree did provide about half a dozen apples. We also have a worcester pearmain, and syvia cherry tree, along side the victoria plum and concorde pears. The victoria plum fruited once, the pear tree has yet to fruit at all. My main concern about these trees is the frost once they get their blossom. I cover them, mum would rather I didn’t. She is rather vocal about that, and reckons that is the way to kill off the flowers.I am not prepared to argue, but should probably re-consider and be resilient and keep them covered.

Had a quick look under the cabbge netting. It’s all very green and leafy under there. Spotted some brocolli, but not an awful lot. And there are the tiniest of cabbages too. Think it’s time to whip out the blue pellets of doom. Whilst there is a crop in there, the slugs and snails are already snacking on what should be mine.

#NaBloPoMo: Decanting Day 2: Rhubarb’d Vodka

During the summer, I had harvested some rhubarb. This was then placed into a clip top jar, with cloves, ginger, sugar and vodka. This has been in the airing cupboard for approximately three months. I say approximately, as it had about another ten days to go for that exact term. Shaken at the outset, the concoction has then been left to it’s own devices.

Unlike the cordial that I had made, it actually looks orange. A lighter shade of irn bru, not at all pink as was expected. I had also expected a bit more liquid. There is exactly 70 Cl-ish there of vodka. Those bottles are 500 ml sized.. Unlike soft fruit, Rhubard doesn’t actually release it’s own juices. The boozy soaked rhubarb is now put aside for a boozy pudding.

Final cauli collection

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These are the last caulis to be collected for this year. These were grown in raised beds, with lime added on planting, beneath a cover of debris netting. Most of them have been okay. Half, though, were blown and eaten by pestilence. I forget not what variety these were, but I do remember them being an F1 variety.

Some of the flower heads have been quite big with nice healthy looking curds. Others have been small. I guess putting them in 3×3 formation might need looking at. Using netting certainly helps. Without netting, it’s highly unlikely you would get a crop. I would also place stock in using plugs. My seedlings never survive the slugs.

Caging cabbages

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It’s not that the cabbages are wild rampant beasts. They are quite slow and docile creatures really. They do need some structural support though.

Today about 30 plug plants were plugged in. These were Duncan and sennen cabbages, as well as claret brocolli, and dwarf Curly kale. Each plug was plugged into a small hole with some lime. I had already scattered chicken poop pellets across the bed.

Watered, there was some scattering of blue pellets of doom. Then came the cage itself. A structure made of bamboo canes, lots of them, lashed together. With yogurt pots perched on top to support the netting. Netting was then draped across the top and secured with heavy bricks. Also had to reinforce the structural integrity of the cage built previously. Whilst a few gave succumbed to slimers. Most are doing well. There are however lots of weeds in there that will have to be hoed out. Thinking about removing the make shift fleece and adding netting across now that we have a supply. My only fear is weather damage. Heavy snow or rain could finish the lot.