Sunday, 14 December 2008

Onions and Shallots

Although we still have 2 more of the raised beds to finish off, we decided it was about time to plant the onions and shallots. Planted up 2 of the smaller beds and half the big L-shape bed with about 30 (2 rows) of 'Eschallotes Grise' - a new variety we're trying this year, several rows of 'Yellow Moon' shallots and 'Red Cross' onions. Oh and there was also a variety of white onion that I've forgotten the name of just now. To finish it off and make sure the birds don't pull them up - MJC covered the planted up beds with netting.
However that's only about 3/4 of the onions that we ordered and I've still to plant out the garlic (4 heads). I've decided though to plant the garlic in small pots first, so that they don't get too waterlogged over winter and then transplant them into the new beds in early spring. Just hope I've got enough pots!!

Chilly & frosty

The last few weekends we've been up at the allotment it's been really frosty. It makes the usually soggy looking vegetation magical with their sparkling jewel-like, frosted droplets frozen to the leaves. The brassicas are looking especially bling...

The Globe artichokes... And the fennel too...

Saturday, 13 December 2008

Been a Long Time

Now that it's dark by 4pm the only time we manage to make it to the allotment is at the weekend but recently i.e. the last month we've been a whirl of activity building new raised beds in Plot 86. This was where the potatoes and courgettes were this "summer" just gone.
So this was how we started out about 2 months ago by measuring and digging out paths. It was a particularly spectacular autumn day as there was showers followed by amazing double and even triple rainbows.
Then finally 3 weeks ago we went to the timber mill to buy all the planks which we got cut to size. The first completed bed was honoured with its own photo.

And this was the end result after the first day constructing the beds. I measured and cut some weed suppressant fabric on the second day to cover the paths - well got to do these things properly! Then last weekend we had to bail out one of the paths for about an hour before we could started on putting down wood chips to cover the fabric.

The (almost) finished beds have an Escher like quality when you look at them. Although that's a nice way of saying they're not the straightest, parallel, right-angled constructions. However the sides are all completely level with one least we got that accurate. I just think that no one will notice when they full to bursting with tasty veg.

Monday, 20 October 2008

One thing in common... these 3 potted delights are the Bramley apples from my tree (still a whole treeful to deal with!!).
From left to right - bramble & apple jelly, spiced apple jelly and green tomato chutney. The chutney is a Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall River Cottage recipe and the jellies are from this great little book (very retro!) that my sister found in amongst my mum's cookbooks and thought I'd like it - cheers M!! I adapted the apple jelly recipe with the addition of a few spices and making up the sugar content with muscovado (hence the dark colour) but it tastes delish! Will be making lots more of this to keep me in toast accompaniments over winter...
(Note: will post the recipe soon)

Needs more work!

Was the official verdict of Plot 86 from the 2nd inspection of the colony's plots this year. Fortunately Plot 85a passed even with very weedy paths. Just hope I don't get another snotty letter from the council...
And more work was just what this plot will be getting over the next few weeks. I started on it last weekend by clearing away all the sweetcorn and squash plants. This weekend I finally decided to uproot the courgettes, as it's unlikely that I'll get any more fruit and started setting out the new raised beds and planning what will go where.
Most of this part of the plot was where the potatoes were. It's a good crop to break up the soil as it had been left to go feral for a couple of years before we took it on last year. From right to left - apple tree just peeping into the shot, weedy area where some of the squashes were and now is a heap of stuff waiting to be burned, ex-sweetcorn and courgette area, main ex-potato beds, some leeks planted this year and then a carpeted area (of the same size again) which we've yet to touch (possibly next year's potato patch or chicken area??).
Looking from the top of this area down the plot, this new bed is going to be devoted to growing flowers - with sweet peas providing a seasonal windbreak as the colony is not that sheltered. There will be a similar sized bed on the other side where I want to grow some vine type courgettes and maybe try and train some winter squash to grow upwards rather than along the ground...
The rest of the area will be this year's onion, garlic and shallot beds as they will benefit from all the goodness the manure has left in the soil after the potatoes.

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness

Once I'm used to the change in season I love Autumn. Although it takes longer to get used to the shortening days. After all the clearing, digging and weeding, I stood back to admire my handiwork and noticed that the setting sun was giving everything a lovely golden hue. It was one of those moments where you feel completely contented for a few minutes.....

Squash harvest

This is our total harvest (plus one other eaten before this photo) of squashes from 7 plants. Sadly the other 5 plants perished in the hands of the dratted slugs (slugs don't have hands do they?).
Particularly pleased with the Thelma Saunders Sweet Potato Squash as it was really prolific. We had 2 of the smaller ones in a roasted squash risotto.

Goodbye summer, hello autumn

Spent a thoroughly productive afternoon on Sunday clearing away the finished summer veg plants and planning what was going to go where for next year.
So I started out with this....
Loooked a bit better with all the sweetcorn and squash plants gone....
Then weeded, raked and sowed some more Phacealia, as I think this is where the peas may go next year.

Sunday, 28 September 2008

Green manure

In the glorious warm sunshine on Saturday I weeded one of the ex-onion beds that hadn't been re-planted with anything and sowed a green manure - Phaeceila 'something'.
It has really cool shaped seeds (if you can see in the photo above). Shame my camera can't take a better close up.

Post holiday bellies and leftovers

It's all very nice being on holiday and going out for dinner every night and eating lovely food but the great thing about being home is cooking in your own kitchen.
The 'ripe' tomatoes (or un-blighted parts of) were simmered with garlic, onions, anchovies and a few glugs of olive oil to become a pasta sauce base for a future quick dinner.
I thinned out the fennel and used the tender 'micro' ?!? plants in a creamy, mustardy, left-over-roast-chicken and almond bake creation with rice.
Some more of the ripe tomatoes, leftover roast chook with various other home grown veggies went into a curry (sadly the chickpeas are tinned).And then this wee beautie today went into a pork pot roast with some rescued windfallen bramleys...yum yum!
I think they look like trees when cut in half.

Friday, 19 September 2008

The Verdict

Whilst not a total disaster the plots haven't quite escaped the blight and the slugs whilst we've been away but then given what we heard about the continuous, torrential rain, that can only be expected.
Rescued the tomatoes off the bedraggled looking plants and sorted into 2 piles - blighted and not-yet-blighted. Looks like a bumper year for green tomato chutney! The tomato plants at home are still blight-free still so I'm hopeful of some proper ripe tomatoes to eat.
Although very mildewed the winter squash have been very productive and there are a lot of fruits of almost harvestable size. I'm particularly impressed with the 'Thelma Saunders' Sweet Potato squash from as it's been prolific! And in the photo above you can see that there is new fresh growth on the courgettes but I think this might be their last encore of the season.The slugs have been quite well behaved for slugs...but they've removed any trace of what should have been my get-them-in-quick late sowing of dwarf french beans (you can just see a couple of seedlings hanging on in the bottom left), desecrated the pak choi seedlings again... and they've started attacking the red cabbage although they're of a decent size to withstand a fair amount of munching.
And the best homecoming 'present' was eating these 2 lovely specimens...
At least the dismal weather stopped them from ripening too fast whilst we were away and means we can eat all the rest (another 10) yeay!!

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Whilst I've been mostly...

...doing this for the last 2 weeks on a very small Greek island, the plots have been left to their own devices with the occasional visit from our friends T&I and S&A.

We got back yesterday evening and as it was dark by the time we unpacked I'm having to wait until after work today to see what the verdict is.

Will the dreaded blight have decimated all the plentiful green tomatoes and left a soggy mush instead?
Will I have to lug home several huge 'marrows'?
Will I be rewarded with lots of ripe sweetcorn to harvest?
Will I have been spared a slug onslaught in my absence?

Let's hope the answers to the above are no, no, yes and yes (in that order).

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

2nd Chance

After a bit of a lull in production the courgettes have perked up and have started setting fruit again.
Which is a relief as I hadn't got fed up with courgettes yet. I've also given them a bit of assistance and did some fertilisation as there seems to be an absence of bees around at the moment. Let's hope they're still going strong after we get back from our hoilday...

Last of the Broad Beans

...went into a very delicious risotto.

On the Turn?

Finally not one but TWO tomatoes are turning red.....yeay!

Trouble is the plants look like they're showing the first signs of the dreaded blight....booooo! Will have to keep a close eye on them.

The Odd Squad

Whilst digging up the Pink Fir Apples we uncovered quite a few strangely shaped specimens.
Funny looking aren't they?!?

Early Morning Dig

I was up with the birds this morning to gather the potatoes we dug up on Monday. What a great way to start the day!!
We've dug up most of the potatoes except the last row of Pink Fir Apples that went in a couple of weeks later than the others.
This barrowfull is large and medium sized Cara potatoes plus we've also got a large yellow trug of assorted sizes. There are still a lot of the pink-skinned potatoes left to eat (can't figure out what variety it yes I've lost the label for them) and we dug up a small bucket of earlier-planted PFA.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Beautiful Borlotti

I love the fact that vegetables can be pleasing to the eye as well as tasty.
These beauties (from a much larger haul) were picked the other night as I'm hoping to get another few out of the plants before the weather turns. I love the bright pink and cream splodged pods and the beans inside are just as pretty if a little more subtle.
Once I have enough - 2 handfuls so far - I'm going to make Pasta e Fagioli, a rather hearty bean and pasta soup, which my Nonna made with fresh borlotti in the height of summer. She always gave my sister and I the job of shelling the beans.

Friday, 22 August 2008

I've been mostly...weeding

and weeding and weeding...but beginning to see the results of our hard work.

The brassicas so far have survived any cabbage white butterfly/catepillar attacks because they were netted right after they were planted out. However in the meantime weeds have grown up around them and with that extra cover the slugs have advanced to attack them on the lengthening soggy nights....So on Wednesday night we took the netting off the PSB, Romanescu cauliflowers and the red cabbages in order to have a good weed around them and put down a warning dose of slug pellets.
Last night I gave the French beans and Borlotti the same treatment as they've been a bit slug battered too and I started on weeding around the courgettes as they're looking a bit powdery mildewy and could do with a bit more airflow around them.
But it's not just the weeds that are putting in late summer growth spurts. The winter squash are bulking up nicely (you can see how they've dwarfed the bricks I'd placed them on) and with lots more fruit setting I'm looking forward to a bountiful harvest.

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Plan B

When growing your own veggies and fruit you've always got to have a Plan B if things don't go as planned. For example the onions that didn't grow were the perfect size for pickling.
So with the several marrows that we came back to after being away for a couple of weeks I made chocolate and courgette cake (no pics as it was eaten very quickly...yum yum!) and Marrow, Ginger and Cardamon preserve (from Jane Grigson's Vegetables cook book).
Makes the common ol' marrow quite an exotic preserve to spread on your toast...