Category Archives: Termly reports

Fruitful flaming June #Gdnbloggers

Has flaming June been hot enough for you?

The last week has seen a heatwave move across Blighty. With that, the levels of UV and Pollen have skyrocketed. For me personally, this has meant staying away from the plot as the grass pollen tends to assault my senses and render me sneezy with bogey overload. I can be stood there sneezing and on loop as soon as I get there. At one point, I was dragged away and by my mother whilst trying to find roses.

Today, the weather is distinctly cooler and I can actually stand up straight without having been kiboshed by pollen.

This morning, I have taken a walk down to the plot and tied tomatoes against canes. I have Roma and Marmande varieties sunk into raised beds, and do rather fancy finding some more. If I do manage to successfully cultivate anything on the plot this year, I would like it to be tomatoes; additional plants are on my shopping list for the weekend. A simple as job is and of staking tomatoes, I am glad I did. Over the last few months, going to the plot has been a challenge. For a whole host of different reasons, I  have rather lost my zing, and I could feel it all too much. I pottered on the plot this morning, I wandered around-like the proverbial cloud-and then decided that I wanted to see what fruit was growing. I had forgotten what it was like to wander around, pull out weeds, trample over blackberry bushes and just take in the scent of roses. I stood talking with a ‘lotment neighbour, and a gentle breeze carried the scent of zingy lemons towards as we spoke.

Last weekend, I was able to harvest a handful of raspberries to put into jelly-yes, fruit and jelly-along with some black and redcurrants. There were also some red, yellow and green hinonmaki gooseberries that had appeared.

There are gooseberries and raspberries on my plot and also Mama F’s, so I have picked a few of these to take home. I think I have got most of the gooseberries, having had a fight with the bushes; I had forgotten how vicious the damned things can be. Last year, I had made gooseberry and chilli jam. Prior to that, I had steeped some in Gin-now that was interesting-I have yet to work out what I will do this year. It is currently a toss up, between jam and Indian Amla Pickle.  It has been far too long since I played with my preserving pan; I need to find the moments, my mojo and a bit of fruit to do it with.

Mum has more raspberries than I; the pinks ones on my plot have never actually taken root and flourished, with the yellows being something of a saving grace when they do crop. A small harvest was made of raspberries and currants; mostly red as I am waiting on the black and white ones to ripen.

Seeing red and purple cherries did make me smile. This is by far the largest harvest that we have to date; I’ve picked those eight, with a few still left to ripen on the morello. The varieties that I have are stella and morello, and these were from Victoriana Nursery in Kent. So far, I have been lucky and not lost them the birds on the allotment.

Given how the weather has only just found it’s footing, the three plot grapevines are foliated and the some. Amongst all of the leaves are small clutches of baby grapes. I don’t remember having any grapes last year, so seeing the bunches is heartening. Not sure if they will make it to homebrew, but there is always grape jelly as an alternative.

 

As well as the fruit, there are the plot blooms. Roses are coming up lovely , and filling the floral trug with blooms is always nice. I am waiting for the glads to kick off; right now, they have risen blade-like from the dirt and are very green and leafy.  I cannot even begin to calculate how much the rose blooms might actually cost.  They are by no means perfect; they are au naturale, if you like; but they do smell and look lovely!

Plotting allotment progress #gdnbloggers

Just got back from the plot, and a good thing to as the heavens had decided to open. The allotment rent has been paid, and I have been handed a potato order form for next year. It is definitely autumn.

plottophalf.JPG

I spent the first part of the morning doing school work, there are always lessons to plan. Then I decided to go down to the plot and get my hands a little dirty; not to mention get attacked by sprawling brambles and their thorns. What you see above, is the top half of the allotment-from the blueberries onwards-and this year, this part has been largely unloved and cultivated. So much so, Mama F has been persuading me, as mum’s do, to do something about it.

I won’t lie, its all a bit intimidating.Over grown, full of grass in places; there are suppose to be six discretely formed beds where I can plant things. Three areas are home to both raspberry and strawberry, so tidying up is going to take some time and effort in negotiating around these. The first hour or so was spent battling brambles that edge the plot. Some but not all have been chopped back so that they are not overhanging or trailing into beds.  This the type of plot activity that I have purple gauntlets for, this and roses that now need pruning back. Without the gauntlets, I look like a scream queen from a slasher movie.

The other activity involved digging. Trouble is, I don’t like digging. My mum does, and she will quite happily dig and give me a running commentary as to how many weeds she has pulled or how much grass there was in clumps all over the place. I did however try to have a go today. There was some clod smashing done and some of the heavy clay in one bed was turned over. I decided to dig and smash around a couple of dandelions. As much as I tried to lever them out with a fork, they are rather deep rooted, and are going to need a bit more welly than I had in the tank today. With the playlist on shuffle and earphones in my ears, the bed was half turned over whilst I decided to sing very, very loudly. (Adele’s one and only, for those who want to know. Though I am not averse to Bond theme’s or Maroon5 being belted out).

Then I got distracted.

fallgoldautumnbliss

A look over my shoulder told me that there were a handful of yellow and pink raspberries ready for the picking. These are fall gold and autumn bliss. I did pick them, and they were promptly eaten alongside the last falstaff apple that was hanging off the tree. Not bad when you need a sugar rush on the plot. As well as the last bits of soft fruit, there were also a few flowers left to pick as well.

lastblooms

It might be getting colder, darker, and even starting to rain, but I am hoping to sort out the plot and get it ready for the growing season. I’m not sure yet, as to whether I will be planting garlic soon; though this can be done right up to the end of November. The focus is making the plot manageable. With first half of the plot, this will be easier; raised beds can be tidied up and grass pulled out and away. The top half is going to be decidedly more labour intensive.

This growing season has felt different for one reason or another. Not only is there going to be plot preparation, but also some reflection on how this year wasn’t as good as previous years.  I know that part of it has been my own busy life, and there will increased efforts to potter on the ploy to get a better life/work/mental health balance.

I’m deliberately mentioning mental health again, as being on the plot today helped clear the cob webs that have been lingering. Simply walking away from done school work-and it was done, I would never walk away from a half planned lesson-picking up the purple gauntlets and going to the plot for a couple of hours was lovely. I was able to get some zen-like focus back. Though that might have also been down to the apple and raspberries. The rain was starting through, and it was time to go home.

 

The Autumn Term 2012

Can’t say that the Autumn term is my favourite, The days start of dark, and end dark, The window of light between these, is incredibly short. Making opportunities to play on the plot fewer and far between. Even more so, when the climate of Blighty plays havoc with your efforts to do something useful. The Autumn is however useful in taking stock, and planning for the future. With raised beds being built during the course of the summer, this will perhaps contribute to combating the challenging nature of the clay soil. Yes, it is full of nutrients. Its lovely for feeding crops. It is however, horribly frustrating. Prone to becoming a bog when faced with a deluge, and then drying out entirely in the dry weather. There has to be strategy implemented to thwart and prevent falling into pitfalls.

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Shallots, Onions, Garlic:

May have gone slightly overboard with these.

What we have:

  • Radar Onions
  • Electric Onions
  • Shallot Yellow moon
  • Shallot Red Gourmet
  • Shallot Griselle
  • Shakespeare Onions
  • Shallot Eschallote
  • Garlic Purple Wight
  • Garlic Bella Italiano
  • Garlic Sprint
  • Senshyu Onions

The reason for such a variety; is the success of last years over wintering crop. The sheer volume and quality of the garlic in particular, was encouragement to try again. Sowing and then harvesting was really quite simple. That said, the crop may have been lifted prematurely, even if there was rust starting to appear. I daresay that had it been left, the entire crop may have gone to ruin. Lifting them, and drying them for a few weeks, led to in excess of forty something bulbs of garlic. I’m at a loss now, remember exactly which varieties were sown. These all varied in the size, flavour and usability  There were a great many bulbs that had small cloves. Tiny, fiddly little cloves, that meant a whole bulb could be used for cooking, Other cloves, were fat, flavoursome and packed a punch when used. With the sheer number, a great deal were given away willingly to family and friends. The one comment that most people made, was that it tasted different! Nicer, that is, and the garlic also lasted longer than say the shop bought stuff. There were actually a few bulbs that did actually look as though they wouldn’t look out of place at a supermarket.

Yes, shallots have been sunk again. This is despite the numbers that were lost. Unfortunately, in not perhaps weeding the bed as diligently as I could have, this led to many shallots being swamped and squeezed out. The rain and freak weather also caused the clay to eat a great deal. That said, when onions were harvested, some of the larger shallots may also have been lifted!

The onions, well, they were okay. Lifted a tad early, as there was horrible weather conditions heralded. Yet, consumed, and enjoyed. A lesson to be learned here, is to perhaps leave them in the ground later still. To also weed the bed, feed and keep a closer eye on them. The red electric onions last year, were smaller, but still nice to eat. A repeated contender this year, perhaps they will fare better.

Tulips, Roses: There are a number of different tulip varieties, as well spring flowering bulbs that have been planted. There were a few different varieties that were sunk last year, and despite the wonderfully adverse weather conditions; they mostly survived! The experiment is being repeated this year, and spring flowering bulbs have been sunk everywhere. With last year being very experimental, just to see if anything grew; this year most of the borders have bulbs positioned there. There is actually a colour scheme, with red, white and blue winter pansies and primroses being planted. However, and this is altogether depressing. Many of these have been eaten by those devilish of creatures, slugs. So one is not entirely hopeful about any of these actually coming off. In addition, at the moment; it rains most days. Last year, the autumn and winter was relatively dry.The heavy hobbit land clay didn’t get so boggy. This year, it does seem to be excruciatingly wet. One’s red wellies are caked when pottering around. Suggesting, that whilst things may be sunk; the clay may get so boggy as to eat them all whole.

Roses, are always very pretty. What do we have:

  • Blue Moon
  • Christian Dior
  • Harry Wheatcroft
  • Silver Jubilee
  • Dutch Gold
  • Pascalli
  • Peace
  • Lovers meeting
  • Double Delight
  • Ruby wedding

These form a dog leg enclosure on the far side of the plot. The one concern about these, again; is that the clay will eat them. In some vain effort, these have been mulched and will need supervision over the coming season.

Leaf Mold

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Last year, there was only one solitary builders bag that was filled to the brim with Leaf Mold. This year, there are four! The leaf mold that was garnered from last year has been used to fill a few of the raised beds. For next year, the plan is as follows. Four builders bags have been filled with leaves. In addition, all 12-yes, 12-raised beds have also been filled with leaves. With in excess of 13 bags being filled and dragged down to the plot on a weekly basis, there are a lot of leaves! At least with the raised beds being filled at this point with leaves, as this all cooks down; next year a priority will be to top with compost. I appreciate that for certain crops, that may not necessarily be a good thing.

Weedkiller and newspaper mulch:

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Oh, the woe of British Summer! Whilst we all partied, with the Jubilee, the Olympics and the washout that was the Euro’s. The elements set about doing their worst. This has to be the worst year for being a new allotmenteer. The above image is a testament to what happens, when the weather goes wild, and you fail to get a grip on the weeds. Growing like triffids, the weeds rendered the site a far cry from when it a clear plot last November. The full 88 sqm metres was entirely covered. Demoralised and fairly despondent feeling, there had to be a plan. Or at least half plan. Simple. Weedkiller. There was no way, no how, that I would have been able to clear the plot quickly, efficiently and effectively, Whilst many would shake their heads, tut in disdain and choose not to use chemicals. I did not see any other way. It would allow me to have a blank canvas again and within a relatively short time. So, with a short dry window, the job was done. Weedkiller was applied, the weeds taken up. The next stage, was then to think about the naked exposed soil. This is where stockpiling newspaper paid off. The entire half plot was covered with newspaper. The newspaper was then weighted down with dead yellowing weeds. Of course it rained a fair bit, so that also weighed the paper down.

Grapevines

  • Boskoop Glory
  • Madeleine Sylvaner

These are red and white respectively. It will be interesting to see whether these will come off!

Fruity frivolity:

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There are three cordon fruit trees on the plot. Victoria plum, falstaff apple and concorde pear, The pear, this year failed to produce anything. The apple and plum did all right for the first year! Whilst it was hardly a bounty, the above crop was certainly better than nothing for a first year. Again, harvested early through ignorance. So very, very, very tart! Satisfying nonetheless to see the trees crop in their first year when this is not ordinarily the case.

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Yours in anticipation,

Horticultural Hobbit

Summer sights early July

Summer Sights Early July

Everything was where it should be, and things were starting to look pretty. Plants were and are flowering, filled with a promising potential harvest. Scarlet emperor beans have started to cascade with reddy orange flowers from the bottom upwards. Lessons from last year have been learned, the use of seven foot long canes means that a nice wigwam of leaves and flowers is really quite pretty. Baby beans are now being harvested every few days, and the smell as they are cut up is really quite nice.

With the scarlet emperor beans, are those wonderfully curly ones that are the product of the tendergreen dwarf french bean. At first, I was was somewhat alarmed. All the beans that I have ever known had been straight. That was just the way that they came! And how my illusions were shatttered. A beautiful almost puce green with a mottled purple speckling.

The onions seem to be minding their own beeswax as they push up the dirt contentedly. Some of the foliage has started to go whispy and raffia like. There were a handful of bolted onions, mainly red, actually, that formed a would be purple flower. The bud was pinched off, and out came the onion. Have only had one white bolt so far. These are effectively like spring onions. Chopped up and put on cheese on toast, are really quite nice!

Courgetttes are having fun. Are at the moment quite regular, and producing about two courgettes a week. Regular feeding with tomato feed seems to be doing some good.

Moody Auberginee.

It was bad enough that it got attacked with green aphids. But no, this is thing is taking it’s time. One single flower bloomed, for all of thirty seconds. A nice purple colour it was, before it withered away.

I think Kevin the Aubergine is just being oppositional and defiant. Will turn up in his own good time.

Triffid like Butternut Squash sits alongside Ghost rider pumpkin. 

Gladys the butternut is certainly very leafy, There were at one point lots of male flowers, These were edged out by female flowers. Currently there are three female flowers, and whilst there are boy flowers, both tend to open when they feel like it. The buds behind the girl flowers are large, and the flowers open. However, there are hardly any bees around and the boy flowers are remaining closed. Stroppy things. One fruit did go a lovely bright yellow, however, it became a three course dinner for slugs and snails. Thus unviable. Bruno the Ghost rider pumpkin, has leaves as big as dinner plates and requires almost daily watering. There appears to be one bud, so watch this space.

Standing on the touch line, to sow or not to sow:

Have been watching the garden grow, and wanted to see what else could be sown. Sow and have something nice at the end. So have chanced upon sewing some lettuce and cabbage. A little late, but with a potential pay off. Have planted in cells, so that they get a flying chance. Declaring war on slugs and snails, I will not surrender.

Problems and pests:

Green aphids are first on Aubergine and then Black bean aphids turn up on the runners. Have invvested in Slug Stoppa tape for slugs and snails. At the moment, there seems to have been a reduction in the amount of lacey looking leaves. Shall have to monutor the situation. Diluted fairy liquid as a way to get rid of the aphids, did appear to work. It is however a regular thing, and I have been lax enough not to be doing that. Did a quick check, and the aphids had reduced a little.

That’s all I can think of at the moment.

Yours in Anticipation

Horticultural Hobbit

End of Summer term report

There have been Fruitful Beans, tender green and scarlet emperor, as well as courgettes. Beans are harvested on a regular basis. It does however take a while to produce enough for a family sized dish. With the tendergreen, the more frequently you harvest, the more there is produced by the way of replenishment. It is safe to say, that beans are not found of too much heat. They seem to go all sulky when it is too hot.

==Dead aubergine and dead peas == What a drama with the moody aubergine! All seemed to be well. Was producing flowers, leaves were lovely and green. Then wham! Shrivelled up, went yellow. Had thought that the warm weather would do it good, since they do like the warm apparently. But nothing. Kevin the Aubergine, ceased to exist and was an ex-aubergine. This years peas didn’t seem to want to do anything either. Also became mottled and just a bit yucky really. It was the aubergine that was depressing though.

Miserable aubergine

==Aubergine analogue study for next year == Diamond, Dancer, Stiato di Napoli, tondo di Piacenza

Yes, for next year, I want to actually produce something! Have been looking for aubergines that might do well in Blighty. Diamond is meant to be used to Ukrainian summers. So I’ve stumbled across this possible candidate amongst some other candidates. I intend to sew at least one or two of each of these alongside the astia that has so far done very well so far.

Aim: to germinate and propagate an aubergine plant in turn producing a crop.

Hypothesis: aurbergine plant can be germinated and propagated to produce at least one aubergine during or after the growing season. Initial germinate and propagation: Window sill or four tiered greenhouse (to be decided at a later date)

Onions and Shallots

Jamies crate

Onions and shallots were pulled up this month. There was a generic will be ready in july as growing instructions. So a risk was taken. Most of the tops had fallen over, and were becoming straw like. There was one big fat onion! That was enough satisfaction in itself. What I hadn’t realised, or clocked onto rather, was that in putting the onions into containers, that was effectively square foot gardening. Didn’t realise that til today! There were of course, a few that had bolted, a few that were quite small. But many of them were a nice size. Have so far been very nice with cheese on toast and in salads. The shallots were unbelievable! Most had split. The key thing was the smell, a proper oniony smell. So much so, I am looking into over wintering onions so as to keep going.

Radish experiment

An experiment is underway. Some value for money white icicle radishes compared to some freebie red fleshed radishes. At the moment, both have seedlings. The white ones are somewhat leafier. The key is to keep watering, else everything quite literally goes to pot.

==Planted == T he following have been sown since I couldn’t resist the urge to sow. I was rather depressed at the sight of empty containers.

Turnip snowball: Sown post Peas that didn’t take off.

Greyhound Cabbage and Butterhead Lettuce: These are currently in the greenhouse being kept safe. There is no reason why they shouldn’t come out with the cool weather.

Carrots Ideal Mini vegetable

Proposed planting:

Spring Hero Cabbage

Mayflower Cauliflower

Over wintering Onions and Shallot

With April, come the showers

With April, come the showers.

With the country in the throes of a drought, you’d think that April showers were something of a God send. Finally, the arid earth of the hobbitland allotment would be quenched. The easter weekend passed with the lotment being left to it’s own devices; I was elsewhere, but it was most definitely at the fore of mind. The plan had been to use Easter Monday to sink potatos. Alas, the April showers suggested other things ought to be done.

It was grim this morning, when the curtains were twitched. The heavens had opened, there was a lot of precipitation. We were being rained upon, from a great height. The precipitation had put paid to the potatos. Sat with their chits a-twitching are the Maris Pipers from the tattieman. Along side them, six or so King Edwards. I have resisted, in buying more. Especially as there are space constraints, and I have never grown potatos before. I have been meaning to also look into Christmas potatoes. That will have to be a summer job.

In the last few weeks, a number of valuable lessons have been learned.

The cold kills, for one.

Even more brutally, when things are sown early.

One would have thought that the four tier blowaway was a fairly safe place. However, since it is unheated, that doesn’t necessarily mean a thing. Today, there was a close inspection of the beans and peas that were sown at the start of March. With the exception f the Cascadia sugarsnap, a few of the borlotto fire tongue bean, there were a few that were decimated. White lady, and the suttons prizewinner, had all but keeled over. Gone black in places. I have actually made a second sowing of runners, as there is now a frame built to accommodate them. Built today, in the spitting rain. Slightly wonky, but serviceable.

I hasten to add, that the legumes are all very experimental. I have yet to get my head around sowing them properly. There have already been lotment transplantings of shiraz mange tout and also Bijou mangetout. The aquadulce broadies have recently started to flower, since we have had a lot of mild weather. I will be double checking these, they are very small!

Standing sentry on the plot is the garlic and onion crop. Mulched at the base, I do hope that will help with watering. I was getting rather annoyed in having to water so frequently with the unseasonably warm weather. Now, there is a wonderful alpine and allieum smell from that bed. A bed that may see a few decapitated shallots and onions, as weeding before the mulch was a monstrous job.

Before Christmas, I had sown a great number of blooms. Hyacinths, tulips, anemones. The anemones, are as good as gone. I’ve not seen a single one push through and bloom. I assume they have all rotted down in the clay. What has come through, are the hyacinths and tulips. Lots of pretty pinks and purples. A nice splash of spring colour. The plan is to now add some summer colour too. Marigolds have been sown, as well as poppies and are sat in the 4TB as babies. These will be then transplanted when the time comes. In adition, there are some summer flowering bulbs that will be put in once the late may frosts have gone. By which time the squashes and things should be ready.

The squashes and things, that whilst sown; the first batch of babies keeled over when being moved from the heated propagator to the wendy house. This was despite being covered in fleece. Second resowings have been made, and more care will be taken of these. The aubergines, for the moment, seem to be okay. However, with the growing season still in it’s infancy, everything is still woefully precarious.

I don’t want to see another baby onion. There are easily a couple of hundred, dotted around the plot. And shallots. There is a fair few there. From observation, I can see that the over wintering one’s are okay. In fact, most of the overwintering garlic, shallots and onions has got foliage. Only a few of the recent sowings of onion and shallots have. The recently planted garlic, is probably a write off. Nothing is happening there at all.

Chillies, are biding their time as per usual. Less than half the class of thirty has germinated, but this the umpteenth sowing due to cold killing them. I think we are on twelve babies, with two sweet peppers only just starting to germinate. I have had more success with these in the unheated propagator compared to the heated one.

Sprouts have been sown in the wendy house, some purple sprouting autumnal broccoli. As well as lettuce. Some bubbles and Claremont. The cabbages will need potting on, some are quite big. Not quite to the six leave stage yet, though.

Parsnips are sown, but nothing appears to have germinated. Thought it is hard to distinguish between a weed and a parsnip baby. Carrots are germinating beneath a fleece. A fleece that needs to become a cloch type thing soon. There are baby turnips also. The cabbage bed has been dug over, I just need to stamp on it now before i transplant. Though I will also need to sink slug traps. Tomatos are splint into two groups. Those that are growing, look lovely, are very much tomato plants. And those that are taking their time, and will be tomato plants but haven’t got thereyet.

Stay tuned, and thank you in anticipation

Horticultural_Hobbit

Autumn and allotment Sept 2011

With autumn, comes an allotment

The Gods of Horticulture in tandem with Saint Fiacre, have come good. One has a patch of hobbitland to call one’s own. About a week ago, I got that call from the allotment secretary. The half plot was mine, if I still wanted it.

At the end of week one

And I did!

The whole plot, only half is mine.

Eight by eleven metres, the half plot was over run. Not nearly as bad however, as the other plots that I had a choice from. There were two others, where the weeds were twice my height. Perhaps not then, the best to tackle. My plot, is the last but one. And at half the expected price due to just how neglected it was. I was fortunate, in that the ‘llotment secretary was one of the previous owners, and had also sprayed weedkiller that created a carpet of dead grass. Beneath it, the soil is clay. In the first half an hour that I was there, there were a few folks who did that sharp inhalation of breath usually associated with car mechanics. What ensued, was me digging up my log book and Ma saying she wanted the whole the thing. Not on my nelly. The spat lasted the whole weekend, and was not particularly amusing. But I had the key, the ‘lottment rules and time.

The start of week 2

Only today, have I found out the aspect. There are many who would feel that is useful. Standing at the front corner. I was standing 158 degree south. North was on my left shoulder, South diagonally opposite. To the more hard core, that makes perfect sense.

There is a plan. I have had it for what it feels an age.

The plan!

It is not set in stone, very few ever are. So this may well change. What I will have to do, is make sure that the soil is made lighter. There are plans afoot to form a leaf mold and also to have a compost bin. I did toy with the idea of a wormery, but then I took a look at the cost. That and I spent most of today apologising to every wiggly woo that chanced upon whilst digging. They are after al the good guys, to whom it pays to be nice.

At the moment, I am trying to pace myself. Being only too aware, that whilst this requires hard work, in the long run there will be dividends. It will be all to easy to pelt at the plot, when like all good things it is nice to have a process. I was very encouraged to see that there were butternuts on the plots. Poor Gladys was our summer drama queen. Seeing the cropped product made me feel that much better. That butternuts can be grown, and in hobbit land. There are also pumpkins, a lot like Bruno the ghost rider. I must have been doing something right at home.

Allotments in themselves, are a community. Seeing different people come and go, is really quite nice. And here I am, starting out.