Tag Archives: blue lake

Unseasonable, but to sow anyway

This rather erratic weather does nothing to improve an already low level of allotmenteering mojo. Already feeling as though I am behind, hearing the hail come down as you return from the allotment  is not exactly encouraging or inspiring. Today was pencilled in as the opportunity to take stock and sow an assortment of seeds. With the frost window in Birmingham open til the end of May, I made the decision to sow squashes. These grow quickly, require potting on if they become too large to soon and will eventually need hardening off before being plugged into the raised beds on the plot.

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The squashes that have been sown are largely summer squashes. We have traditional green courgettes and a marrow, as well as patty pan, yellow scallop, a round variety and another that is white a green but also a space ship sort. The seeds have been sown into pellets, and will sit inside to germinate. What I have yet to sow are winter squashes such as pumpkins and butternut squashes. I am likely to either cheat or sow the seeds in the coming week or so. There are seeds saved from a couple of winter squashes that I will look into sowing again. There has always been a pumpkin on the plot, the plot would not be the same without a bruno.  Whilst I am not a big fan of marrows, my mum is; so that is why I have sown some. I am likely to share the seeds sown with her, so they aren’t all for me!

Squashes have generally been quite straight forward. Sowing and growing Cucumbers on the other hand, has been somewhat of a challenge for.In the past, I have sown quite a few, but slowly, one by one, by April they will have keeled over in a cold snap. April has so far been fairly horrible in terms of weather, so I am somewhat glad to have made a late decision to sow cucumber seeds. Swing is a new variety, have not sown that before. Whereas I have previously sown marketmore and crystal lemon. The latter have cropped, and produce a lovely round and yellow fruit that does actually have a lemony taste to it.

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The previous sowing  of beans was something of a disaster. I think it was just too cold and damp in the poly tunnel; so I making a second sowing and keeping at home. The hope that this will encourage a better level of germination, seedlings will be more robust and once hardened off, these can be planted out on the the plot. The varieties sown are scarlet emperor runner bean; a favourite and previously a very good cropper. The climbing french bean variety is blue lake, and this has also been very abundant.

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Sowing seeds is always somewhat therapeutic. I’ve now ran out of pellets, so the beans and cucumbers are being sunk into soil proper. I did give the compost a brief window to warm up, and then it was moisten with warm water. Otherwise there is an increased chance of rotting if everything is very cold and damp.

You can see the youtube version here.

There are a whole host of different seedlings that now require observation. The observation does happen to be carried out by mum, and is communicated to me along the lines of “Punam, shall I water your tomatoes, they look a bit sad.” Half of the time, she is right, but I do try and make sure that they aren’t over water. The tomatoes and chillies are actually still under fleece during the night time for now. There have been a few nights were where the temperatures were significantly under 10 degrees celsius. So I have been a little wary in leaving the seedlings exposed.

You can see the youtube version here.

tomatoflowering

When I hear the words “Punam, your tomatoes look a bit sad” I do tend to check, and see what Mum is suggesting. There are some varieties, such as ‘Cream Sausage’ that do look a little bit sad as they are quite feathery in appearance. These, I can look at double check that they are still with us. What you don’t expect, quite so soon, is a flower.  A bright yellow one at that. The label appears to have disappeared for the one in the picture, so I can’t determine what variety it is. The plant doesn’t look unhappy, but sending out a flower means that it is either too happy, or a bit stressed out. I will keep a closer eye on the plants and make a decision as to what to do next. It is most likely that it requires potting on, but I am going to hold fire with that for now. The plan is to plant the tomatoes in the open ground of the allotment. Last years experiment of having them all in the poly tunnel wasn’t very successful; and by and large, all the previous success has come from tomatoes being outside. Plants will need hardening off, and I hope that can be done in the coming month or so.

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.

 

#NABLOPOMO Beans bonanaza

Beans. We had a few.

In the freezer, we have enough beans to keep us going a for a while. That’s a lot of curried beans between now and the start of next summer.

There was scarlet emperor running beans as well as the painted lady variety. The former being something of an allotment staple. Formed at least four out of the six wig wams that were on the plot. The other wig wams were a combination of blue lake and cobra climbing french beans as well as borlotti beans. These were what mum described as being the funny coloured bean.

The beans were sown in two batches. The first batch were sown to get the growing season started, and I somewhat ignored and underestimated their eventual yield. A couple of wig wams would probably have been sufficient, but that would have meant choosing one variety over another. A somewhat difficult choice. We like both climbing french beans and runner beans, so the scarlet emperor variety are always going to be sown. The difficulty lies in choosing between blue lake and cobra.

The borlotto beans were rather cool, if only for ma thinking they were a bit cute. I would like to look at purple climbing frenc bean if they exist. I know that they exist in the dwarf variety, but have yet to find a climbing variety.

And chutney. Runner bean chutney is meant to be nice.

Might try it.

Plot Plunder, winding down

“Oh, Punam, I went to the Plot, your grapes were flat again. Tomorrow we need to fix them.”

“Right, okay.”

“Oh, Punam, we didn’t see these. All of these marrows. We must have missed them.”

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And so started the conversation, and I suggested we take a walk and see what the deal was with the plot. This week has seen a return to work, and teaching has started. I was in something of a daze yesterday at six in the evening, having finished teaching; so a walk this afternoon was scheduled as being necessary after a day of training. I am hoping to do some volunteer work in the coming year, so a large proportion of my day had already been spoken for.

“Mum, there’s seven of them?”

That means chutney at some point this week.

We took a walk, and removed the last of the patty pan, sunburst courgettes. There are a few other yellow courgettes remaining; and soon they will slow down. Once all of the squashes have started to die a death; the aim is to take up the plants and compost them back into the ground. I know that I shouldn’t plant more plants than necessary, it is however difficult to not comply when your mum wants more than one plant. Yet we both get fed up of seeing frequently appearing squashes by this time of the year.

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The climbing and runner beans are also starting to slow down. The last of them-she says-are now waiting to be chopped up and frozen.I had forgotten just how much you end up with, if you sow quite a few plants. We have had a combination of blue lake and cobra climbing french beans, as well as borlotto beans, scarlet emperor and painted lady runner beans. These had been sown in two batches, as I had been convinced that the one tray simply wouldn’t be enough. I think mum is quietly fed up now of chopping and freezing them. She is still to get used to the colour of the borlotto beans, I think they add character to the wig wams.

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It has been a while since we have successful cropping of a butternut squash on the plot. The very first one was called Gladys, and this one would be gladys mark three. After all, even the ghost rider pumpkins are always called Bruno. I cannot remember now whether this is waltham or hunter. It is butternut squash nonetheless. There have been yellow butternut squash type thing harvested during the summer, more spherical in shape. Not too sure as to what will be done this with yet, but I am sure that it will be put to some good use.

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Newly arrived today is the box of over wintering garlic that will be waiting to be sunk. I think the latest that I have ever planted is the end of November, so I am aiming to do sow sooner than that. This will mean clearing raised beds of the assorted plants before plugging in. I don’t plan to sink into open ground as the heavy clay tends eat the cloves and I also find it harder to monitor weeds.

Plot Productivity Part three-Early August

We are well into squash season, so have had three marrows in ten days. This morning, ma refused point blank to cook another one. I don’t blame her. There is only so much curried marrow you can eat or freeze. Courgettes are also making a surge. There are yellow ones starting to get bigger.

The climbing french beans have kicked in, and the scarlet emperor runner beans are starting to form pods. Ma missed them whilst she was digging, so I have harvested quite a handful. The chillies are ticking over, but the super special are the superhots. What you see are orange habaneros, I also have pumpkin habaneros fruiting. Unripe chillies and things are being sent to the window sill for ripening.

Preserving and progress

Rain has stopped play today, it’s grey and grim outside. The perfect opportunity to take stock of what is happening on the plot. Means I can update you on the blog, also work on another creative project. A project that builds on the blog actually, none too dissimilar and to be made public later on this year. Let’s just that whilst the blog is updated as and when I have something to share; the creative project is something of a summative assessment of all plot based learning experiences. That is a story for another day though.

So what has been happening this week?

The chillies are cropping weekly, and with the hungarian hot wax chillies loitering on the window sill I wanted to use the constructively. Mum’s been using them in her kitchen as per usual. They’ve gone into assorted Indian dishes, and even the odd fenugreek stuffed chappati. That is after all what they were grown for. The same goes for the harvested garlic crop.

The plums in the pan aren’t mine, not sure where they are from. I fancied making a jelly, and this is somewhat popular amongst friends and colleagues. I was rather traumatised emptying the jelly bag of the purple pulp; it didn’t look particularly nice. It looked as though it belonged on a medical ward. The juice for the jelly was a wonderful claret colour, and that meant wiping down all the surfaces onto which it dripped.

Chillies and garlic also went into a chutney, and I even did an experiment. I found a recipe for piccalilli and have tried this for the first time. I think its a bit mellow and probably needs more a kick; however it awaits taste testers.

Courgettes have started to crop; no thanks to the confused weather. There are other squashes and crops starting to come through too.

The ghost rider pumpkin is starting to sprawl out with its dinner plate sized leaves. Spotted a few babies, that may or may not have been pollinated. With the scarlet emperor beans in full flower, the climbing french beans have started to form gangly pods.

plant out day: Squashes and beans

With the end of May, being the closing of our frost window; today was plant out day. This was the result of plants being hardened off over the last week or so in quiet anticipation. Plus the plants were starting to get a bit too big to be stashed in the 4TB.

First thing first, three of the metre square beds had to be filled up, these were filled with well decayed farmyard manure. Then, sixteen squash plants, yes, sixteen, have been sunk. There’s half and half split, with some being plugged into raised beds, with the others being plugged into open ground. These were the seeds sown the second time around as the first batch had become cold and damp. Compared to what squashes have looked like at the same time in previous years, they are a bit smaller. I haven’t managed to sow and germinate pumpkins or butternut squashes, so this may be a jet episode.

Next came the beans. We had about thirty plants. These were the traditional scarlet emperor runner bean, as well as cobra and blue lake french climbing bean. All of these three varieties have in the past been very productive. I have another tray sat on the window sill germinating, so I may need to make some more wig wams at somepoint.

Beans

beans

The runner beans and climbing beans have germinated and shot up. I think I might need to harden them off in the coming week. This means having to build a frame at somepoint as well. Debating at this moment, whether I would like to sow more. I have scarlet emperor, cobra and blue lake in the picture, and about dozen plants each. They are very productive, when they get going, that is what I do know.

Sowing beans

beans

Mum has been telling me for some times to sowing ‘running beans’ so that was happened today. A batch was sown previously, but as the seeds were too cold and wet; these have more or less rotted away to pulp. A fresh batch has been sown, and placed onto a warm and well lit window sill. These are

  • Cobra Climbing French beans
  • Blue Lake Climbing French Beans
  • Scarlet Emperor runner beans

I have sown all three of these previously and with fair success, so I am sowing them again this year. I think we have only just finished the last of last summers runner bean crop.

I have observed that the Climbing French Beans are far more productive then the dwarf varieties. The dwarf varieties, in my experience, get munched on by slimers. They eat the crop, before you do. I have sown these today, which means I will have to construct the supporting structures for them to grow up. In the past, I have use two types of structure. Climbing french and runner beans, have been grown up either wig wams, or criss-cross frames. The wig wams are meant to be space saving. I can see how the criss cross frames might take up more space. All being well, these will germinate, the seeds won’t get too damp and rot away.

One thing that is certain, is that once you have grown your own climbing french beans, you will see supermarket produce in a different way. Especially, when they don’t grow straight, but curly as the dwarf beans do.  They all crop abundantly, when you have the appropriate conditions for them to grow productively.

Bathed in sunlight

Woke up early-for a Saturday-with the prime mission being to sink Gladiolus. The box of which, was nearly as big as me, there were certainly a couple of hundred them. Yes, I know that’s a lot, so a few were given away to plot neighbours. Have opted for a mix of colours, but there were some purple ones in there as I specifically wanted these. There were also some giant gladiolus too. It was nice to see that some of the corns sunk last year, are sending up shoots for this year. Last years crop was something of a fluke, so am hoping this year will be just as good.

This took up a great deal of time, though there were moments where I did get slightly bored and had to focus on something else for a few moments. This meant digging up docks that had somewhat pervaded the shallot bed. Pulling out and bashing clumps, whilst trying not to decapitate the purple stemmed shallots that actually looked  a bit on the small side.

The sinking of the gladiolus didn’t take too long, provided that there were these momentary pit stops with other tasks. Even fed the roses today. Have never done this before, usually just leave them to it. However, now that the ones on the plot are fairly established, thought it was worth a shot.

Then I caught side of the tomatoes. Dare I sink these? Well, at home there were the climbing french beans and the squashes. Ma wanted her window sill back, so the squashes have come out. They’ve had a day or two in the sun, not exactly hardened off, but the weather is relatively mild at the moment. This is way earlier than I have ever thrown them out. And once more, not in raised beds. Blue pellets of doom have been scattered, along with experimental cabbage collars to even more preventative. I don’t hold out much hope here.

The climbing french beans had to be sunk. Cobra and blue lake, were sunk with a bulb planter; whilst clinging to their paper pots. The running beans, are somewhat pitiful looking. Enorma, has failed me once again. There are some additional sowings of scarlet emperor somewhere, that will be planted out at some point.

I had to go, before the sun got to my head. Plus I was hungry by two, and had been floating around a very long time.