Tag Archives: horticulture

Bank holiday blooms #gdnbloggers

I went to the allotment, thinking that I might be able to pull up the dead grass that has been lying around. That after yesterday, I might be able to continue, even if I did feel as though I had allotment ouchies all over the shop. Don’t get me wrong, it hurts and all over. It is however the sort of ouch you get from having exercised, and isn’t the flaming hot, cayenne pepper hot pain that comes from stress and anxiety. Off I went, and then I got distracted by the roses. Standing there and all pretty like.

 

I am very surprised by how strongly the roses have started off this year. In the space of ten days-perhaps less-I have collected three differently sized bouquets. I love my roses; they are low maintenance in my view, and yield a wonderful harvest without my having to fuss over them. I do feed them from time to time-when I remember-but otherwise, I then to coo over them, and enjoy them as cut flowers.

There have been many instances where I have described the beautiful zingy fresh lemon smell that wafts around the top part of the plot. That is probably the closest, human, verbose way of describing it, other than heavenly and ineffable. On the plot, there are thirty something rose bushes, making the one half resemble a rose garden. When the glads get going, there are is a riot of colour across the plot that breaks up the green. I feel that they are pretty, and whilst not edible, they have a wonderful aesthetic value as cut flowers. Each and every time that I take a bouquet home, I do wonder just how much they would have cost had I bought them. These are not diddy bouquets, and the roses are not the perfect Disn*y beauty and the beast sort. Some are dainty,  others are fuzzy, fluffy and sprawl all over.

Alas, the bank holiday ends; I got soaked through and need a cuppa. Several, I think. I was glad really, to  have had a good day on the plot yesterday. There is still stuff to do, grass to be cleared and seeds to be sown directly; will get to that all eventually. For now, I am going to get a cuppa, and try to choose which colouring book that I want to play with.

Roses First flush 2017 #gdnbloggers

All is not lost; the roses are coming!

 

I don’t meant the red and white ones on the standards of England, but the ones down the plot. These happen to be pink and red.

The month of May has finally decided to shape up and get warmer, and the blooms on the plot at starting to kick off. Roses and Gladioli are the plot favourites, and this is the first flush of the year. The gladioli are only just starting to peek through, and true to their name they appear blade like protruding through clay and raised beds. By now, I have usually sunk loads, and I might still do so. For now, I am over bowled and with the scent of lemons with a small clutch of roses sat on the kitchen window sill-I do most of my school work sat at the kitchen table so I do get to to enjoy it.

I was perhaps a bit over zealous, and have taken the first roses to come through. I will probably wait and let the next batch bloom and blow on the plot. When it is high summer-yes, I know it doesn’t happen often-there is a lovely, heady scent of zingy lemons that drifts around the plot. The blooms also produce bursts of colour that break up the green.

All really is not lost, and in the coming week I have lots of plot related stuff to do. With the bank holiday, the frost window in Birmingham closes so I will be endeavouring to sink tomatoes and squashes. There is also a shopping list, I really want to find some beans and spinach.

For now, happy Wednesday!

meandroses

 

Taking stock of April #gdnbloggers

As we near the mid point of April during Holy Week, we also get to Vaisakhi.  This is a harvest festival within Hinduism and within Sikhism, the start of  new year. For me, I guess this triggers  a process of reflection as to what I might experience with the coming growing season as everything starts to bloom and blossom with a new cycle. Vaisakhi and Holy week therefore both carry a sense of renewal, potential and also progress. Perhaps universe is shifting and changing as seeds are sown and nurtured and this is slightly tapping into unconscious ESP of some kind.

plotapril2017.jpg

The plot might look a bit stagnant, but there are plans. I have succumbed a little, and I am waiting for the green glass to wither away so that it might be taken up and away. There was just too much on the far side behind the grapevines to be dug out and by hand. We have had some sunshine and hopefully that will mean that grass killing stuff works. Once I have a canvas, I will be able to sow further seeds and plug them in eventually. I may even broadcast sow carrots and turnips, just to see what happens.

There are a few seedlings at home, the seed sowing mojo is still a bit sparse. Tomatoes, aubergine and chillies are being coddled on the window sill. On my list, there are squashes, runner beans and climbing french beans to be located and sown. I am mindful, that the beans and squashes-if they are quick off the mark-will grow like triffids, and will need to be looked after until the frost window closes in Birmingham at the end of May. Mum has already plugged in potatoes, and the weekly saag sowing will soon be underway. I should probably also look into sweetcorn!

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It is only in the last few weeks that I have had a chance to stop, take a few moments and fully take stock of the tornadoes that have become the busy state of being that is life. Much of this has been self inflicted and working on writing projects whilst juggling work and training. Whilst the deadlines for writing have largely been self inflicted, there have been a few other things that were so far beyond my control there wasn’t an awful lot I could do but wait for the tornadoes to to settle. Now that there is a sense of calm and settling, I wanted to share the three affirmations that are above. I have no idea who wrote them, when or for what their motivations were; they are however three very powerful slips of paper.

The first-‘you are strong…’ I picked out of a box as I was getting to the end of prepping fragments for publication and the end of term was happening. Sheer grit and resolve were taking a battering, and this slip of paper put a spring into my step. The second-‘well done, beautiful’ I found just as  Fragments hit the air and term was changing and I was finding my feet, my plot and universe again. Number three, well that is from today. That heralds a great deal of movement in so many different spheres.

As I mentioned before, I have no idea who wrote them. But these have been powerful vibrations from the universe and whatever Powers That Be.

I am hoping that the third is relevant to every aspect of being, the plot included. The plot is after all, a huge part of me and brings more colour to my life than I could possibly say. I am looking forward to the roses blooming, the glads coming up. There will probably be a sunflower sowing at some point, I have rather missed those.  Then there is the preserving; it has been such a long time since I have made any preserves, I might have to revise the methods. With the plot very firmly back as part of my world after a lot of swirliness, I am looking forwards with lots of lessons learned.  I am also looking for a rest over the next couple of weeks.

Oh, and adventures.

I shall report back forthwith.

Back to the plot: The green one…#gdnbloggers

plotoctober

Oh, allotment, I have missed you. It has been a while, too long a while.

With the rain holding off, the sunshine out and time to take stock, I was always going to come back to you. A bit like me, you are a little fuzzy around the edges, worn out and need a bit of R&R.

I have found my trowel, my gauntlet gloves; I even have a vague plan as to how how we are going to get back together and make a success of things a again. 2016 was rubbish, yes. That was demoralising, but we all have a duff year. It just happened to be 2016.

There are seedlings; chillies, tomatoes and aubergines. The heated prop has done it’s job, and there is the window sill shuffle. Beyond the seedlings, there is a to-do list. There’s no garlic this year; we’ve missed the boat there.

I really need to review both seed boxes; some seeds are no longer viable and are therefore taking up space. I definitely need new seeds. But first, the raised beds need tidying up and I’ve spent a few hours pulling grass up and out. There is a plan, to put more raised beds on the half of the plot over the next year. Open ground and I are just not working; there is grass everywhere and the strawberries are staging some kind of revolution. The strawberries, I can dig up and plug back in.

Then there are the raspberries; the autumn fall gold are okay, starting to revive themselves. The other are having a moment and wondering what they are supposed to do.

Did I mention the storm damage? Poor poly, looking a little beleaguered and in need of new cover.

There is certainly a lot to take in, to do and get my head around. All of which will be done around the ‘real-life’ aspects of work and training. I will be making as much time as possible; the plot is a part of my life and I am re-claiming it.

One raised bed at a time, slowly but surely.

Come bring it, 2017. We’ve got growing to do.

Spicing up #Bluemonday #Gdnbloggers

Apparently it’s blue Monday; the one day of the year that is really quite miserable and not so nice to experience. I guess there will be many for whom, today is awful and there may not be much sunshine to light gloomy clouds. I am currently sat here, working on diploma work as School Work Sunday slides into Monday; but I did find something to take away the tinge of Monday blues.

fourchillies

“Punam, I saw some leaves in your box.”

Those were Mama F’s exact words this morning as I tumbled out of bed. (School work Sunday was really  quite intense, and topped off by the Sherlock Finale, I felt as though I had watched a penalty shoot out this morning. Yes, we do like Sherlock…cute, clever-one hell of  brain-and completely unobtainable. He makes a good book boyfriend!)

Having been told that there were leaves in my box, naturally I had to go find out what the deal was. I have fished them out and set them onto the window in food bags.  I am keeping a close eye on them, so that they don’t keel over. The danger lies in them becoming leggy with a lack of light. I think I have officially ruled out any yellow scotch bonnets appearing, as well as Nigel’s outdoor chilli.

Oh, there was a video! Hold on….

That was uploaded yesterday, onto the youtube channel, hopefully it will develop in the coming year.

Anyway. This blue monday business. If you are feeling blue, then I am sending you sunshine. I am also hoping, that someone might send you a text, make you a cuppa, or send you a smile and hug. You are not alone; even when the darkness feels heavy and as though it will not lift, there is always something. That something is you.

You are never alone.

 

Here.

Hope is a chilli seedling #gdnbloggers

chilliseedling120117.JPG

It is the very early days of January, and as I type snow is falling but landing as slush. In spite of this, seedcases are cracking and the unfurling of seed leaves is being observed as we have germination.

Possibly as I moved the heated prop from one side of the house to the other.

There had been some hand wringing as a week on from initial sowing, not a lot was happening. I double checked the prop, made wet those pellets that were drying out and moved the whole thing.

Expectantly, I have be checking the prop regularly to see results. It was only this morning that I saw the seedling above. I was aware that seedcases had cracked and in most cases; the heated prop is rather full. This is probably not helping things heat up quickly.

But there is a tiny, delicate looking cayenne seedling that has made it’s way into the world. What we do next, is to give it another day or so and then it will be fished out and kept somewhere warm and light. Else it will shrivel up and it really will be Goodnight, Vienna. In the absence of grow lights, I will be having a good think as to where this might be and hoping that I am able to protect this and any other seedling that might appear from cold temperatures. This occur even indoors, when seedlings are kept near a window. They get light and warmth during the day, but the windows still radiate cold when the night falls.

As delicate and dainty as this seedling might look, this seedling represents a new start. A new start on plot, with the hope that things will be productive this year with last year being something of a grey spell. I will keep an eye on the heated prop, hopefully there will be a few more to keep this one company.

 

To talk tomatoes #gdnbloggers

It’s okay, I am not thinking about sowing them; it is still too early, and I am inclined to wait at least another four weeks before I start sorting out runners and riders. Even then, I will be thinking about tomatoes and their sixth cousin, the aubergine. For now, I am thinking and reflecting on what might be whilst taking stock of what has already been experienced on the plot.

In 20 16, thirty two plants made it passed the initial seed and germination stage. Think these were sown in late february-most likely started off in the heated prop-as by March, the seedlings had already sent out their baby seed leaves and were about to send out their frilly first true leaves. These were then pampered and kept safe at home on a window sill so that the might establish and be sufficiently robust enough to be planted out. As you can see, we had a fair bit of fruit. Trouble is, very few turned red on the vine. In addition, there were fairly early blight warnings that led to plants being stripped of fruit and cast aside before it struck. Blight struck tomatoes are not particularly pleasant to look at; a putrid shade of puce and stomach turning. This has meant that much of the crop is ripened at home, somewhere warm and light. Ripening does happen eventually, it just takes some time to get going.

You’d think a red tomato was a red tomato. On the contrary, there are  many different varieties, each with their own unique qualities that determine productivity, attractiveness to the taste buds and what you might eventually do with the end product. Not all tomatoes are red, and I have sown and grown some rather nice yellow ones as well. Also, you get the odd ugly one that is really quite amusing. Doesn’t look particularly attractive, but that does nothing to hamper the taste. Food becomes that more interesting when it’s not perfect, but beautifully ugly. You can still eat it after all, there is no supermarket or political mandate as to how your fruit and veg might look. Wonky, uglu fruit and veg is something to shout about and not to be dismissed. (Trust me, I once wondered why I had curly beans; turns out they were never straight to begin with.)

The very first variety that ever tried was a cherry tomato called ‘Minibel’ and that was a fairly simple, straight forward introduction to growing tomatoes. Since then, I have decided to experiment and sown quite a few different varieties. Such as:

  • Latah
  • Money maker
  • Gardeners delight
  • Cream sausage
  • Tigerella
  • Marmade
  • Aisla Craig
  • black cherry
  • Yellow Stuffer
  • Brandywine
  • Shirley.

And those are the ones that I can remember, there is probably a list somewhere. These have been used in salads, Indian dishes; I even made a sage and tomato soup that was rather nice. I am still a little curious about beefsteak varieties though; I rather like marmande with it’s tendency to be sizeable with rather intriguing green shoulders. Brandywine tomatoes are something that I might look into a little further; these take time and with mega-bloom like flowers the development of fruit is somewhat delayed; that or I like something of a quick response when it comes to tomatoes. I have definitely noted the lower yield with these as well; it is much lower than other varieties and I suspect this is why I haven’t made many sowings in recent years.

It would be entirely odd to not have tomatoes on the allotment. I tend to transplant them into raised beds, occasionally they might get plugged into the open ground. I do find however, that productivity is somewhat hampered with the clay, so raised beds are a safer, more equitable bet. I did try transplanting into the poly tunnel; alas, that was a learning curve. We had triffids, yes, but not many tomato fruit. So back we went outside with all subsequent tomato growing.

As mentioned above, there are no plans to sow any tomatoes yet. The heated prop is currently full, and I am going to wait a short while. This allows me to have a look at the tomato seeds and see which ones are going to be sown. Marmade may well feature, but I also fancy trying Roma VF alongside.  I have not sown and grown this variety before, and a request was made by a sibling that we could try a plum variety.

We can talk tomatoes, but we’re not sowing them just yet.

Hello 2017! #Gdnbloggers

Hello, 2017, it is nice to meet you. I’ve been waiting for you to arrive with the hope that I might reclaim my allotmenteering mojo and once more feel the fresh dirt beneath my finger nails. With keen anticipation and lots of hope, I decided to sow chillies today. It is still far too early to sow other things, yet the sowing of chillies heralds a new start and a new growing season. Truth be told, I have very few plans beyond this session of sowing. My seedbox needs an overhaul, I don’t think I have bought seeds ‘properly’ and for a while. I will be looking through the seed box, to see what I can dispatch by way of being too old to be viable and what it is that I might bolster my seed box with. Naturally, this means searching through pages of seed catalogues. I do have a stash, Mum rather like to coo over the pictures and window shop. This years tomato and aubergines are the next to be considered, with Roma VF tomatoes like to fill out the line up in another thinned out parade.

But anyway, New Year!

chilliestosow

I had a rifle through the seed box, to see what chillies I might like to grow. I have grown lots of different varieties over the years; some have been really successful, others less so. This year, I have rather scaled back the varieties. There  are still five varieties being sown, but I am choosing not to go over board and complicate things when I want to keep things straightforward and productive.

You can also view the video here.

(Is that video any good? I did try to make myself look a little more presentable…)

The varieties sown are:

  • Jalapeno
  • Scotch bonnet yellow
  • Purple Haze
  • Cayenne Chilli
  • Nigel’s Outdoor chilli.

As you can see, the list is shorter-much-shorter than it has has been in previous years. However, I have sown at least nine of each variety, and there is always a bit of a steep incline as to which ones actually germinate. It is still very early, and I don’t use grow lights to accelerate plant growth. This lends itself to a fair bit of risk, and the possibility that the seeds will rot, germinate get leggy and then keel over. The seeds were sown into moist jiffy pellets, which in turn are now in the heated propagator. When the seedcase has cracked, the seedling germinated, I will then fish out and pamper the little darling with the aim that it doesn’t keel over and cease to exist. You’d be surprised how well looked after these things become.

Sowing chillies was only part of the plan today; the other thing on the to-do list involves racking and bottling home brew. Last year, much of the plot’s soft fruit found itself being fermented and shoved into demi-johns. Today, blackberry wine is to be racked, as well as another batch of blackberry being bottled (and likely stowed away to see if it does get better) and I think Rhubarb and gooseberry is to be bottled as well; in the case of the latter, we will see just how tart it is.

 

Incidentally, remember all those strawberries that we harvested last year? Don’t suppose you can spot them in this photo?

strawberry-wine

And the book got finished too….It is all handwritten, so that is the first phase.

Preserving without a pan #gdnbloggers

For me, preserving plot produce without a pan, can only mean one thing. Homebrew. Over the last year or so, whilst the growing season has been a little hit and miss, I have been able to experiment beyond jams, jellies and chutneys.

Today’s experiment, involved blackberries that were foraged from the plot sometime ago.

There have been a number of experiments and with assorted plot produce.

experiments

I did double check, and the variety that we have are:

 

  • Rhubarb and currant
  • Blackberry and plum
  • Rhubarb, strawberry, currant and gooseberry
  • Apple
  • Strawberry

There isn’t actually a lot of sediment or lees in the bottles, so I will keep an eye on them and see when each one can be decanted into bottles.

Yes, make and drink responsibly, folks. Believe it or not, I do tend to have adult supervision 😉

Mooli Pod mention

moolipods.JPG

When you have radishes that bolt, you get seed pods. Or Moongreh as they are known in our house. Moongreh, or Mooli pods as I call them, could also be dried and you might want to save the seeds for next year. You could also eat them.

Eating them is fun, and one of the most vivid memories from my childhood. In the back garden, my paternal grandmother would occasionally sow mooli-that’s the other name for Japanese radish-however, these would bolt given the rather erratic nature of British Summer. When they would bolt, you would get a flush of white flowers that would dry off and leave behind these short fat, sometimes pointy seedpods. Seeds pods, that a child could snap off as they played and munch on quite happily whilst giggling at their peppery flavour.

And boy are they peppery. Just like a radish, each bite is a burst that does rather blow away the cobwebs.

You can munch on them, straight from the plant; you can also curry them. Crushed mooli pods combined with potatoes are actually quite nice!