May 15

What’s happening now 14/05/18

I can’t believe it is nearly a month since I wrote the last post on the blog. In that time everything has started to grow and the weather is currently quite warm: the polytunnel needs frequent watering.  this week has been a week of planting out so that I can make a bit of space in my greenhouse and sow more seeds!

To my surprise, the garlic in the polytunnel had started to bolt.  Last year, I planted all of my garlic outside and each clove sprouted due to the cold and then hot then cold weather. The bulbs were very small and it really wasn’t worth it. This year, I decided to plant half in the tunnel and half outside.  The half that is outside is not ready yet but this lot was.  I pulled it, strung it up to dry out and planted some aubergines into the space they left.

The heads on these are a reasonable size and so I will save one or two to grow again next year.  Some people on the allotments have been planting garlic that they have kept for years and now have plants that are especially adapted to their soil and watering conditions.

 

 

The broad beans have started to produce and I have picked a kilogram from the tunnel again. They were small, juicy and tender and we ate them in salads and as a vegetable with small carrots and asparagus.  We are eating a lot of asparagus at the moment. So much so in fact that I might have to try and freeze some. It would be great to have an asparagus omelette in the summer or to include some in stir fries throughout the year.

 

 

 

It is the first year that I have grown spring onions, red and white, and they are doing well. I keep thinning them and eating the thinnings in stir fries. The carrots are also bushing up and starting to thicken so these are also being thinned and eaten.  My carrots outside have not germinated particularly well so my next visit to the plot will involve resowing both carrots and parsnips.

 

 

The main job this week has been planting out in the polytunnel.  I have a lot of tomatoes to plant: Costoluto, Sungold, Zlatava, Black Krim, Green Zebra, Tigerella and Black Cherry. You can’t have too many tomatoes, can you?  I have interplanted several varieties of lettuce and am hoping that the tomatoes will provide a bit of shade for them until it gets too hot in there.  I also planted lettuce outside around my courgettes which should stagger production.

 

 

 

 

 

The spinach has been prolific and will very soon need to be pulled even if it hasn’t bolted: I need the space – there are more tomatoes to go in!  This variety, Medania, is supposed to be good in heat and drought so perfect for a polytunnel. I hate it when you have to take something out because you don’t have enough space.

What’s going well on your plot at the moment?

April 16

A harvest and some new things

It has been a strange spring. It felt like it had started in February but then March brought several falls of snow which is unusual on the south west coast of the UK. However, this week we have better news: some sunshine!

Well, maybe not tomorrow but the rest of the week looks good. So what have we been harvesting?

First, the rhubarb. It is enormous probably due to all the rain we have had. And then there are the radishes. These grew whilst we were away and are now ready to eat. Delicious.

The sprouting broccoli, White Eye, has been fantastic. It stays together and if cut regularly is as good to eat as asparagus when dipped in a little bit of mayo. I only grew 2 of these plants this year but I think 6 would be better next year. The rhubarb we ate in a crumble, one of our favourite puddings.

Things are starting to grow on the allotment and I am starting to plant some of the seedlings outside albeit with a fleece covering. So, a little trip around the plot.

In the autumn, I mulch with compost, both homemade and bought and manure if I have any. This means that when it is time for planting, I can just plant straight away – after removing a few weeds that have grown over winter. Today, I planted out more Douce Provence peas in a ring of netting with some fleece outside the mesh.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have seen peas grown like this at Rosemoor , the RHS garden in North Devon. I am not quite sure why they grow them like this and picking might not be too easy. What if they all collapse and grow together in the middle of the mesh? I will find out.

The first and second photos show the difference between broad beans planted in the polytunnel and outside, the indoor ones being much bigger and with flowers that are open and ready for bees.  Under the fleece is beetroot and onions. I will leave the fleece on for the next couple of weeks, taking it off during the day when it is warm.  As well as keeping the plants a little more protected from the weather, it also keeps the slugs off for a little longer.

The Wildlife allotment is next to one of mine so I do get many visiting plants. This year the forget-me-nots and primroses are prolific and I have left some to flower. They do brighten the plot up at this time of year.

 

I am a member of the Undug – no dig Facebook group, a very friendly and useful group to belong to. There does seem to be a myth that no-dig means no weeds for some of the newer members. Unfortunately it doesn’t.  It is just like any other method of gardening. Get the weeds young before they seed and you will reduce them over time. Let them get away and they will!

I ran out of time tonight to get all of these out but I will be back early tomorrow morning to remove them. They are just starting to flower and before I know it, they will have gone to seed.

My thanks to Dave at Our Happy Acres for hosting the Harvest Monday posts. It is a really good idea.  I love to see the way other people grow their veg and some of the more unusual veg (to me) that people grow.

What are you harvesting this week?

 

 

 

March 5

A little bit of a harvest Monday 05/03/18

Oh we have had a cold time this last week. Snow and freezing rain and we are just not used to it. The whole country shut down and I had two snow days at home. Yes, it even reached us here on the south coast of the UK.

In 2010 we had a lot of snow and on Christmas day I went down to the allotment to harvest some veg for the meal of the year only to find that the weight on top of the polytunnel had meant that it had collapsed. I didn’t have crop bars going across for extra stability because who would have thought we would have that much snow down here! Anyway, I spent the next two or three years bent double in the polytunnel growing short vegetables whilst I saved up my pennies for a new one.  So, when it snowed, I went down and brushed it off the tunnel – several times a day! The best bit was the freezing rain as it coated the tunnel and made a wonderful sound when pushed off from inside. There’s a short video here of me doing that cracking ice-1ow8hpz.

I am still picking leeks and parsley and eating the squash we grew over the summer but do have one new vegetable that is just  coming in to its own and that is purple and white sprouting broccoli (no not stripey, two different plants). The white never seems as prolific as the purple and I do love sprouting broccoli. I have three plants of each but I am not sure that is enough.  The first harvest is always the best – I eat it like asparagus. Lightly steamed and dipped in mayonnaise. Yum.

I may not be harvesting much but the seed sowing has started. There are chillies and aubergines potted on in the propagator upstairs and tomatoes just sown in the propagator downstairs. I also have peas in the greenhouse but I am not sure whether the recent cold weather has seen them off or not. A week or two will tell.  I also sowed four types of beetroot: Boltardy, Bona, Boldor and Detroit 2. They too are in the unheated greenhouse but are quite hardy seeds.

How are your veg growing?

 

February 13

Harvest Monday 12/02/18

Stored vegetables

We grew a lot of winter squash this year; Crown Prince, Waltham Butternut  and Hunter – a type of butternut.

Here they are after we had harvested them in October . As you can see, the bench is quite full. We ate the Butternut squash first because they do not last as long as the Crown Prince which will still be going strong in May.  There were five Crown Prince in total and they all grew on one plant. Normally I have five plants each with one squash on so I do put the vigour of the one and only plant that survived the slugs down to no-dig. I have also just noticed that there is an Uchiki Kuri, the bright orange one, in there as well.

 

This is what the bench looks like today. Just the Crown Prince to go and they are probably the best-tasting of all of them.

New no-dig bed

I have created  a new bed for some squash this year on a slight slope. Being a no-dig gardener, I have put cardboard down first, watered it, and then manure and home-made compost on top  and covered it with black plastic that lets the rain through.  A new bed in 15 minutes. I reckon I will get three squash plants in it.

It is not essential to put compost on top of the manure but I have found that plants seemed to do better in that mix rather than just compost or just manure.  That could be more about my compost and manure than anything else. The compost I have is full of weed seed because it was made before I got on top of the weeds which is why I covered the bed with black plastic. Again, it isn’t essential to do this but beds that I haven’t covered, where I used my compost, do have weeds growing in them. I need to get the hoe out!

I am as desperate as everyone else to start sowing seeds but the weather is so cold at the moment.  I might sow some chilli seeds in a propagator on the kitchen windowsill but that is all until this cold snap disappears.

Multi-sown seeds

I really enjoyed Charles Dowding’s latest video about growing multi-sown module leeks. He certainly seems to grow a lot in a small space which is what I want to do. Leeks are one of the seeds I will be sowing soon.  I have Musselburgh which were free with the magazine Kitchen Garden and are ready from October onwards; Tadorna, which I have not grown before,  are ready in December  and Blue Solaise which are ready from November onwards.  With these three, I should be able to have leeks throughout the winter and into the early spring. I planted 50 leeks last year and they are just about to run out now so I would say I need another 20 at least.

Harvest

And so to the harvest. I really can’t show kale again which doesn’t leave much to show this week.  I do have large clumps of parsley in the polytunnel and so a salad of parsley, cucumber and tomatoes all chopped really small would go well with my chicken tagine tonight.  I know people talk about the hungry gap starting in April/May but mine seems to start now!  I do still have a freezer half-full of blackberries, raspberries and black currants which we eat for breakfast every morning.

What is the best fruit or vegetable you have stored over winter?

January 20

Gardening mistakes – and there have been many!

I particularly enjoyed the post over at The Anxious Gardener all about the mistakes made. I don’t think we could call ourselves gardeners if these sort of things didn’t happen to us.  In fact, I think we are one of the groups of people that like to learn by doing and that means mistakes!

I curse the day I planted Vinca Major in a difficult part of the garden. It didn’t stay there and now occupies a large part of the back border, including working its way up a 5ft bank and competing with nettles and brambles.

Or there is the year I used plastic string in the polytunnel to hold my tomatoes up. I had about 50 and the string gave way on all of them on the same day. It looked like a giant had stepped on them.

What about the time I stood on top of my compost heap, got my foot caught in a bramble and fell headfirst down to the bottom of the section that I had dug out.

How about the time I dug some weeds up from inside the fruit cage and speared a mouse on my fork.  I did scream a little bit! My allotment backs on to houses and so I have a lot of cats about and they seem to catch the mice and leave them lying around for me nowadays.

There was also the year I mulched the whole plot in fresh manure and everything was eaten by slugs that were hidden in and under the clumps of manure.

And finally, my most expensive error was to not go down and clear the snow off the top of my polytunnel. It buckled and caved in and I spent the next three years bent double inside it until I could afford a new one.

Have you ever made a mistake? Do tell!

January 14

It will only take half an hour! And a harvest

You know what it is like. You take your eye off a plant – a helianthemum – for 5 years (!) and it outgrows its allotted space. You have half an hour so you think you will just pop out and give it a quick trim. Ha!

The first thing you find is that the local cats have been using the top of your much loved Helianthemum as a toilet. It is after all quite cold at the moment and who would want to put their little botty near the cold floor when there is a nice, cushion-shaped plant near by.  So, you clear that up which is not easy and then continue.

You then decide to put the clippings into the dalek compost bin only to find that rats have taken up residence. It is cold after all.  So you tip it over, spread it out and make a lot of shrieking noises just to scare them off and put the clippings on the big, open compost bins. You do however, see some suspicious holes in the big bin.

You then have a good idea! You prune a holly bush and stick the twigs of holly in the helianthemum to keep the delicate little bottys off ! And it has only taken an hour.

One thing I am very pleased with though is my bowl of salad in an unheated greenhouse. I planted the pot up in early November. I don’t keep records (but I might make it my New Year’s Resolution to do just that) so I am not quite sure when, but we have had a picking each week from it throughout December and now into January. I just pick the outer leaves, leaving the growing inner leaves and they seem to have replenished a week later. I will definitely be growing more of these pots next year.  I found some old polystyrene boxes in a recent clear out of the garage and they would be fantastic being slightly insulated. In the pot there is Little Gem lettuce, Mustard – which seems to be taking over and needs more frequent picking – Catalogne lettuce (I think!), fennel and coriander.  There have been several mornings when I have looked at them and they have been very droopy. It is quite cold after all, but they have all recovered as the greenhouse has warmed up. So, salad with tea tonight.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What have you harvested recently?

 

January 2

New seeds for 2018

I have just finished listing all of the seeds I have for 2018 and am just wondering if I have too many. Of course I do but there is always something new that catches my eye.  Here are this year’s new seeds:

Chinese Cabbage Scarlette

I saw this on Our Happy Acres on the posts that list what they harvest every Monday. I have not grown Chinese Cabbage before but what really drew me was the colour! I got the seed from Simply Seeds and I understand that they are best grown in the autumn so something to sow in June.  The packets says that they are frost hardy, not that we get a lot of frosts down here on the south coast.

I am not entirely sure how you cook Chinese cabbage. Stir fry? However, good ol’ BBC food has a selection here to get me going.

Lettuce Pigale Pills

I think I might have a bit of a thing for red vegetables this year. This is a Little Gem type of lettuce that is said to be sweet-tasting and has good resistance to bolting, tipburn and mildew – all of which I need.  The interweb says that it can be sown from March to July so can be grown over a fairly long time span, the later ones probably better off outside rather than in the polytunnel. We eat a lot of salads in the summer – have you seen the list of lettuce I grow on the page at the side?  We eat tons – tons I tell you! This will add colour to the salad bowl.

 

Cabbage April

No this is not a red cabbage – ha! This is a cabbage for early spring to be sown in July or August. I can never grow enough of these so I am going to try this one outside and in the polytunnel to try and stagger the harvest. The thing that attracted me was the description that it grows well in well-drained soil and that is definitely what we have on our plots. Some might call it sand.  The 5cm of compost/manure I am adding to each bed every year as part of no-dig growing is starting to ameliorate this but I thought it was worth a try.

Tomatoes

I can not lie! I know what I like in tomatoes and it is Black Russian, also known as Noir Crimee, Costoluto, Sungold, Tigerella and St Pierre and I have grown these every year for the last 6 or 7 years. I do also like to throw in Green Zebra every now and then and will do so this year just to give a range of colours. This year I am trying out a couple of new varieties just to see how they taste and crop – taste being the most important thing. This year it is  Rosella and Zlatava. Why have I picked them?  That is a really good question. I have to admit that it was more stick a pin in the page than a careful, thoughtful choice but she who dares wins as they say. Kings describe Rosella as a deep-pink cherry tomato (nearly red!) with the taste of blackberries, raspberries and other summer fruits. I couldn’t resist but I am a little doubtful. I will of course update you. Zlatava is orange on the outside and guess what colour on the inside?  I thought they might be an interesting. Kings do say that they have an excellent flavour.  We shall see.

What are you growing that is new to you this year?

December 25

Harvest Monday 25th Dec 2017

The last Harvest Monday of the year. The next one will be the 1st of January 2018.

I recently moved over to a ‘no dig’ approach to allotmenteering and it has lead to some amazing vegetables, some of which I have harvested for our Christmas dinner.

First off are the parsnips.  I generally have dreadful troubles with germination and this year was no different. However, an allotment neighbour had sown his and they had all germinated in the early warm weather we had this year.  True to form, it took me 3 goes to get some germination. These are Countess and I will grow them again next year. They are enormous. In fact, I could sow some each month so that I have more of them but not all this size!

Another vegetable that was large this year for me was celariac and again I put this down to no-dig gardening.  Where the slugs nibbled, the woodlice moved in so I need to prevent that next year but these are definitely the biggest celariac I have grown over the last few years.

It wouldn’t be Christmas day if we didn’t have sprouts! I love them and so don’t need chestnuts or pancetta with them, although that would be tasty. And leeks in cheese sauce.  Plus there is spinach and some early white sprouting broccoli.

 

Christmas and Boxing day sorted!

The potatoes, which are not pictured here, are Sarpo Mira which I tried for the first time this year and will grow again next year.  They didn’t need watering and only showed slight signs of blight at the end of September.

What did you pick for your Christmas meal?

Merry Christmas every one.

December 11

Harvest Monday 11th December 2017

Over on the excellent blog Our Happy Acres every Monday, bloggers get together and share what they have harvested that day. I thought I might join every fortnight. After all, there are only so many interesting ways you can photograph leeks!

In the polytunnel, I  have a couple of cabbages for over the Christmas holiday. We particularly like these with sauerkraut, raw beetroot, mackerel and horseradish sauce. Sounds disgusting, tastes lovely.

The peppers are sweet peppers and are a chocolate colour. I found these last few lingering on the plant. I did think I would try and save this plant and keep it going over winter by cutting it back quite hard but it is very cold this week and it may not survive.

 

 

These veg are what I think of as typical winter veg.  The parsnips are really quite big and too my annoyance I snapped one off as I was digging it up. There are three different types of kale, curly leaved, Tuscan and one other with red midribs which I am not sure about. They are all great in soups or casseroles.

 

 

And finally there are the herbs and spinach again from the polytunnel.  The flat-leaved parsley grows all winter here and with 5 plants, I have enough to see me through until late spring.  There is also some lemon grass in here which I grew from seed. I use it in a raw carrot, ginger and lemon salad which is one of those fresh dishes that you sometimes crave during winter.  The spinach is just a small handful now and will sit there until spring when it starts growing again.

 

What have you been harvesting this week?

December 9

Recipes with winter squash #1

We grew a lot of winter squash this year. I do love them but I also need

variety otherwise it will be a long winter.  My favourite meal is a lamb and squash tagine. You can find the recipe below.

Lamb and Squash Tagine

300g diced lamb

1 onion

1 red pepper

2 cloves of garlic

lump of ginger chopped up small

2tsp turmeric, paprika, cumin

1tsp ground coriander

chilli

50g dried apricots

500ml stock

200g (we use more!) of squash

juice of half a lemon

Put everything in a pot apart from the squash and put it in the oven for 1hr at 150C. Then put the squash in and lemon juice and cook for another hour.

We like this served on cauliflower and broccoli. Not the trendy grated cauliflower and broccoli, but florets.

There are lots of squash recipes here: http://www.thegardenofeating.org/2015/11/winter-squash-recipes.html