Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Return of the Borlotti bean

I am pleased to report that the Borlotti beans which the children planted at the allotment are doing really well.
It was a bit of a high risk strategy, since they were beans which I saved from 2013. I sowed some of them last year, but they were all eaten by some mysterious critter. I handed over all of the remaining beans to Year 5 during their class visit, and kept my fingers crossed.
So far they are doing really well. So who knows - maybe we'll have another crop this year? Keep those fingers crossed.

Year 5 Allotment Assembly

Better late than never, here is a photo of my lovely gifts from Years 5 and 6 to thank me for their visit to the allotment.
The week after the visit was the occasion of the Year 5 class assembly, which they developed around the theme of allotments and growing food.
Hayley and I were greeted at the door and ushered to named VIP seats. At the end of the very impressive assembly, we were presented with copies of a selection of poems and memoirs that the children had written, a thank you card and a beautiful bunch of flowers - all totally unexpected.
The flowers are in pride of place on the table, and the children's work is safely in my memory box.

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Years 5 & 6 visit the allotments

Today's visit by Years 5 & 6 has been fun, and busy. Some went to Hayley Sansom's plots, and the rest stayed with me. They did a variety of things including preparing and sowing a seed bed, making a bird scarer and harvesting garlic.
Fran also came down for a while and was happy for the children to ask questions and have a chat. Geoff came down too, which was lovely.
The photo shows the garlic crop assembled to dry in the sun at home. Five varieties harvested this morning: Early Purple, Lautrec Wight, Solent Wight, Red Something-or-other which has rubbed off the label, and Provence Wight. Of these, Provence Wight is by far the largest with Early Purple coming a respectable second. Red Whatsit is pretty good too.
I was too busy to take photos at the plot this morning, but plenty were taken by the teachers and their assistants. I'm expecting that they will be uploaded onto the class website so will keep an eye out for them there

Monday, 15 June 2015

Preparing for Years 5 & 6

I've spent a lovely two hours this morning weeding, sowing seeds, and making plans for a visit from Claypole school Years 5 and 6 on Thursday. The soil is beautiful following really heavy rain at the weekend, and very easy to dig. So I have marked out two seedbeds for the children to prepare, and identified a range of seeds for them to plant.
Let the fun begin!

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Cucina Povera

Cucina Povera reaches new heights with the discovery of a use, at last, for broad bean pods.
I picked the first of this year's crop last night. After shelling them, I was about to sling the pods into the compost when I thought: "There must be something I can do with these".
Happily, t'internet being what it is, a spot of googling quickly identified someone else who had the same thought, and came up with the inspired idea of coating them in a quick batter and deep frying them. In my case the coating was gram flour with black onion seeds and cumin seeds. Absolutely gorgeous.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

The Spring Challenge

Well, that's it. I've completed a final weeding and hoeing of the allotment before the inevitable explosion of weeds while we are away. This is the Spring challenge: warm and wet weather is absolutely perfect for the weeds. Turn your back for a couple of days and they really take hold.
It's been a joy this morning. It is the perfect time for hoeing: a warm bright sunny morning 36 hours or so after heavy rain.
I was delighted to see that not only have my super-early tomatoes survived this week's hailstorms, but the Latah variety are even sporting their first flowers. They are looking very promising so far.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Holiday countdown

Well, that's the garden ready for us to go away on holiday. The hosta and passion flower are planted out; the coriander is harvested and frozen; and the third and final sowing of broad beans has been moved into a larger pot. They were destined for the raised beds, or the allotment. But the beds are full, and I remembered that the rabbits at the allotment have rather a fondness for beans.
I had hoped for an empty greenhouse by the time we went away, but the basil put paid to that idea. It was probably a bit ambitious to have basil planted outside by the end of May. So now three small pots of basil seedlings have been transplanted into masses of larger pots, and the greenhouse smells of summer.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Tomato: “Legend Bush”

I have completed planting out the tomatoes which I will grow at the allotment this year. Last to go in were Tomato "Legend Bush" - a modern heavy-yielding and early-fruiting variety reputed to have a good flavour, and also some resistance to late blight. It is supposed to do well in large pots, and particularly well in a greenhouse so I have left a few under glass to hedge my bets.
This photo is from the Real Seed Company's website as clearly mone are not in fruit yet!

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Leek recipes anyone?

I have harvested 3kg of leaks this week, mainly from the allotment but also some from the raised beds at home. In addition, we had a lovely fresh supply all through the winter.
With Waitrose selling organic leaks at £4.99 a kilo, that's my answer to anyone who wonders whether it's worth growing your own. (I may have recently defected to Aldi, but I'm still happy to quote Waitrose prices for comparison purposes!)
The car was a tad whiffy on the way home, but that will soon clear. Needless to say, I will be researching leek recipes for this evening's meal.

Monday, 11 May 2015

2015 tomatoes

I've worked hard this morning. I have planted out the first lot of tomato plants. I got them started early, with the help of my secret germination weapon: the airing cupboard. I am trying a different variety this year, from my new favourite online seed supplier, the Real Seed Company.
The variety is called Latah - supposedly one for your earliest crop. It's a super-early variety that should tolerate short or cool summers. The leaves are very far-spaced on the stem - the plants look a bit odd – and this apparently lets in more light to reach the fruit so they ripen even earlier. Lets hope so. I waited until September for any tomatoes last year!
They look a little forlorn in the photo below. It was so windy they were bent over double.
In addition to planting these out I finished preparing the rest of the seedbed, did some hoeing, and harvested two enormous carrier bags full of spinach which I have yet to transform into something edible.
I rewarded myself for all my hard work with a glass of wine to accompany my lunch. A little decadent for a Monday lunchtime, however, I have done all of that plus loads of washing. Oh, and I'm still suffering from post election blues. I think I've earned it.

Monday, 4 May 2015

That's better

Ah, now that's better. I only managed half of it but the soil on the right is the bit I've been working on. Not a seed potato nor a weed in sight.
I'm feeling a ridiculous glow of satisfaction at the sight of this well-prepared seedbed. Middle age has truly arrived. So has a glass of white wine!

Rogue potatoes

Each one of these critters is a potato which I missed when I was harvesting last year. I clearly did not do a very thorough job!
They have waited it out through the winter, and now they are popping up all over my so-called seedbed. Along with earthing up this year's crop once more, the other job I will be getting on with today is digging these out.

Monday, 27 April 2015

Early Garlic

This is the 2015 garlic crop. I am growing 10 different varieties this year. Most of them are doing pretty well. What we don't need now is a cold wet May, as that won't do them any good at all.
It is way too early, but I dug one out to see how it was doing and it's looking pretty good. I'm cooking spaghetti primavera tonight, and just couldn't bring myself to use old garlic that's been in cold storage all winter. It just wouldn't be right.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Earthing up

The Rocket new potatoes which I planted on 23 March have just appeared above the soil. My lovely mini vegetable hoe from Santa is proving just the job to earth them up.

It is hot work down at the allotment this afternoon, and I am feeling distinctly overdressed... And very lucky not to be at work!

Earthing up

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Planting notes 16th April

It's seed sowing time again!

I'm planting a double row of "Touchon" carrot and "Paris silverskin" onions, with the carrots underneath and the onions on top. I've done this successfully before in pots, and in the raised beds at home. Let's hope it works as well at the allotment.
I should be able to use the onions young as spring onions, or leave in the ground longer and use a salad onion.
Next up, the remainder of a packet of "French Breakfast" radish from last year, and turnip "snowball", a white variety which can be eaten raw in salads.
Then, a single row of perpetual spinach, again left over from last year. We'll see how they do. Finally, a single row of "Long White Icicle" radish. These should allegedly be ready to eat within 25 days of planting.
Job done! I feel just like Monty Don.

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