I’ve seen allotment neighbors lose theirs to frosts. Luckily, I’d only just sown mine. In fact, I’ve also sown Blue Lake Climbing french beans too. Just waiting for those to come through.
The last I’d wrote, I had dug over raised beds. I’ve since broadcast sown lots of spinach, chard, carrots and even some lettuce. Trying to keep on top of regular watering, so that these might germinate. The weather is wonderfully warm at the moment. This does does mean that such seeds may not come off; they like cooler seasons. But keeping the soil cool might just work.
There is more weed clearing required on the soft fruit quadrant where the raspberries and currants run rampant. This is where I will be focusing, to get rid of what is years and years of weeds, before digging over. The plan is to then sow bee friendly blooms.
There is quite a stash of fruit in the freezer, waiting to be used up. For the most part, I plan to jam or jelly. However, over the last few weeks I have been harvesting raspberries every other day and stowing them away. The plan had been to be jam them. However, when it was announced that work would be hosting a Macmillan coffee morning, and that colleagues were invited to bake, I thought about what I might do to support the event. I was racking my brain for a while. It is not usual for me to experiment, make a bake and inflict in on my colleagues.
There have been crumbles and cakes made using allotment produce that have shared in the work kitchen. Depending on what it is, the bake doesn’t last long. The quickest to go and recently was a bakewell containing some home made jam. I remember putting it down, and coming back one hour later.
A handful of crumbs was all that was left behind. I have never seen a pudding move so fast, and stood there a little perplexed as to how and why.
I quite enjoy baking, I find it quite therapeutic; in most cases, I make a bake for home, and a second is taken to work. That doesn’t mean I’m a proper baker, I enjoy making mistakes and things, rather than showstoppers.
So with Macmillan Coffee morning 2017, it seemed quite straight forward to volunteer something. I just couldn’t think of what I might make.
Only, for youngest sister to look at me, and say cheesecake. “Make that cheesecake,” she said, “The baked one, you’ve not made on in a while. That was nice.”
If in doubt, ask your sister.
I haven’t made the baked cheesecake in a while, no, and it was nice. I think I have made a couple previously; one was with blueberries, another with strawberries, all the fruit was from the shop.
Now I have my own fruit; blueberries have come and gone, strawberries are not my thing, those raspberries have now got an opportunity to actualise their potential. They are going into Ms.Farmah’s baked raspberry cheesecake. I just need to find some white chocolate to go with it.
There is another reason why I wanted to support the event. Regular readers will be aware that two years ago, as a family we experienced the loss of my Maternal grandfather. Without the support of palliative care staff, his final days may have been even more difficult. Plus. he rather liked my allotment, and one of my fondest memories is Nana visiting. He would then ask what I had growing and what I planned to do with it all. So when I said my last goodbyes to him, I may have sent him off with a packet of sunflower and cabbage seeds. it seemed the right thing to do at the time.
So this year’s raspberries are not just raspberries. I have just harvested what might be the last batch to freeze.
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.
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.
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.
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 clay is very heavy and sticky, making any meaningful work really very difficult. I had a quick check of the trees that were recently planted. Some of these have started to send out buds, which is quite promising. There was even some buds on the one remaining raspberry cane. This was heartening as the raspberries were today being replaced with another cohort.
Sprawling across two beds are masses and masses of strawberry runners. I am not sure of the exact variety, but they really have tried to make a break for it and escape their bed. The heritage garlic is a little under water and this is always my worry when planting it into open grown. However, I am told that it is fairly robust, so hopefully it will be okay.
The plot has been busy. Very busy. With autumn, we have the opportunity to take stock of what has happened. It’s not necessarily an end of year review, that is reserved for New’s Eve. No, this is a case of reflecting on the journey that has taken place over the last ten months,
A journey, that started two days after Boxing day-i think-with the sowing of chilli seeds. That for me, was the start.
As I come to pay my rent for the next year, I really must do that soon, I have a wealth of learning experiences going into what is my fourth year on the plot. It is with this milestone that I can see just how far I have come. Particularly with the grapevines. These take on average between three to five years to become established, and here we have our first ever harvest this year. The thin wiry twigs that were planted years ago, have become strong and fruitful. They do need extra support now, what was a temporary frame back then, now requires significant bolstering.
Another more concrete example, was the spuds. I have stopped counting now as to how many pounds or kilos, for that matter, that have been harvested. I feel as though I have broken something of duck. Learned a technique if you like, how to best plant, picked out appropriate varieties to gain a healthy and abundant crop. I am sure that I will be seeing Pink Fir Apple in my sleep. They have most likely been put into every dish imaginable by Mum. Yesterday, I found one in Punjabi Khadi.
For the inside the poly tunnel, I am a little perplexed. There were tomato plants galore in there, with chillies and aubergines. The chillies, did okay; lessons were implemented. All were planted into pots, we had a none too bad crop of chillies. Aubergines, have reiterated their point as being a pointless exercise for me. I need to consider whether growing a seed, is equitable with rescuing plants from the garden center.
Eighteen tomato plants were sunk into the ground of the poly. They grew, they grew into six foot tall triffids that were defoliated from time to time. All they grew, was leaves. Maybe the occasional tomato. At a point where I might ordinarily be drowning in green tomatoes; there were none to be had. I was in a different time zone, when Mum found a single, solitary red one. She sent me a picture, to contain her surprise. The questions that arise here, are two fold. Was it the selected varieties, or was the weather just generally a bit unaccommodating? I am going to say it was a reflection of both. Some of the varieties were the slower maturing ones, and I do think that the poorer weather-in comparison to last year-simply never gave them a fighting chance. Even the roses, suffered; but the gladioli kept going.
Soft fruit was a bit hit and miss. Strawberries, took flight, and we had enough to watch Wimbledon by. The runners are now running amok. Raspberries, well, the pink ones did precious little. With the autumn raspberries a bit confused and cropping quite well. Blueberries were a revelation, and for their first year did well. Didn’t scrump as many plums this year-I do actually scrump with consent-so there was a lot less plum jam and jelly made. But lots of courgettes and marrows lead to a relatively less busy preserving pan. For the first time ever, we had ice cream made using plot produce. Something that I highly recommend, even I don’t really like strawberries.
With October starting, I have my seed garlic ordered; and will be trying to shoe horn time in between now and late November to get it sunk. I don’t tend to sow over wintering broad beans anymore. Beyond that, the major autumn winter task is to remove the dead plants and start clearing away. All the dead plants will most likely be composted where they are are, and covered with leaves and other organic material. Creates compost, helps improve the soil, and I am filling the raised beds til they are needed again in Spring.
Whilst everything on the plot is an achievement. There was something else. I wrote this.
‘Playing with plant pots: Tales from the allotment’
To find out more about it, you’re just gonna have to get it.
This can feel like a very depressing, dark and dank time of year. Especially when you have see the bright, blooming and bountiful delights of colour, crop and your own creativity. It then become difficult to see the light, more positive side of things. Autumn and winter can be time of reflection, taking stock and making decisions as to how you would like to proceed. That is certainly the route that I will be taking. Tackling the plot bit by bit, setting lists to work through. It has taken six years to get to this point, so there is little point in hurrying.
I really need to go check the inside of my seedboxes.
There are a number of different raspberry varieties that are on the plot. We have:
Most are part of the all season collection that were planted last year. However, the autumn bliss, polka and fall gold are the varieties that specifically fruit as the autumn draws in. The all season collection was sunk last year, with the autumn bliss and polka varieties sunk last summer. The autumn bliss were the surprise quick croppers in autumn, having been rescued from a garden centre, and the polka were actually kindly donated by a friend and colleague. The autumn bliss canes were cut down as suggested, so we shall see how these develop.
Pottering around today, I was looking to see if there was any sign of life in the large number of raspberry canes. Lo and Behold, the fall gold are showing green buds. This is somewhat surprising as the canes were only sunk recently. In comparison, the earlier planted canes of the all season collection are somewhat behind. They have rooted, there is resistance if you try and tug at the canes. However, the buds are only just forming at the knobbly bits of the canes.
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
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.
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.