Monday, 31 October 2011

Roll on Next Spring

Well, thats it then, summertime is officially over - the clocks have been put back - and we head on in to a world of darkness for a few months - not so much time to spend in the garden, no popping to the allotment to do a few jobs in the evening - waiting for it to get light in the mornings - roll on next spring that's what I say

I have just finished reading a book called 'The One-Straw Revolution by Masanobu Fukuoka.  It is about going against the face of conventional farming and vegetable gardening by growing things in a semi-wild state.
Most of the book is about Mr. Fukuoka's experiments with rice-growing in Japan in a non-traditional way, but it is his philosophy about simple living that interested me most, and his ideas about the random growing of vegetables using, what we would call 'permaculture' methods.  Using green manures, weeds and straw as mulches, randomly sowing seeds and letting the plants do their own thing - fascinating stuff, I will certainly be using quite a few of his ideas during the next growing season.  One of his theories is that insects walk in straight lines, so if you plant a straight row of veg, they will just walk along the row and munch the lot, whereas, if you sow haphazardly they will have trouble finding the next plant.  Simple idea, but effective, I would think.

As you can see, we haven't had any frosts yet, so the allotment garden is still going strong, and I am loathe to get rid of anything that is still showing plenty of colour.

And for a final picture I just had to show you my monster Purple Sprouting Broc plant
Come next spring there should be plenty of dinners to come out of this plant - if it survives through the winter, that is!

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

No smoke without fire

Had a good work-out in the allotment garden on Monday shifting loads of horse manure and compost to mulch the raspberry plants.  The compost was very wet and slightly slimey, rather than the dry and crumbly texture I expected it to be, but I used it anyway.  It was very windy but sunny so I enjoyed being out - and decided to have a little bonfire to get rid of all the stalky stuff that had accumulated.  I love a good bonfire.  That is something I miss now that everyone gets rid of their rubbish in wheelie bins, the smell of smoke drifting in the autumn air and tending the fire, pushing all the end bits in and trying to keep it going.

I once set the fence on fire, oops, as the wind changed direction and for the same reason, the wind that is, I once set my hair on fire - it must have been the hairspray I was wearing - the smell of singed hair, eyelashes and eyebrows was awful.  So guess what - I stopped having bonfires.  But on Monday I thought I would treat myself, just a little one - pyromaniac, me, nah!

My outdoor Sungold tomatoes are still fruiting - they have been woefully neglected - but keep soldiering on.

And, do you remember I told you about some self-seeded  tomatoes that I had found, well, I took the pot into the greenhouse - and look - flowers.  Fingers crossed, maybe some fruit - if the weather doesn't get too cold.  I may have to pollinate them myself as there aren't many bees about now, but who cares, it will be worth it.
This is the stage the garlic is at in the greenhouse, doing well I think, and ready for planting outside.  Maybe I'll give it a little protection till it hardens off a bit.

And finally, the last two lettuce plants outside - the leaves look a little tough now, but considering the lack of rain and me not watering them either, I think they are survivors.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Top of the Crops

I thought I would do a little bit of a progress report on the allotment garden to keep you up to date on how certain plants are faring.

The Ruby Chard which provides a good splash of colour amongst all the greens has slowed down considerably, but will stand the winter well before going to seed next spring.
Do you remember that I said that I had left the stump of the Calabrese in the ground, not pulling it out as I normally do - well, this is what it looks like now - the plant has re-grown, and I am just wondering if it will be viable next year.  It has already given two sets of heads and numerous tenderstem spears.  I will mulch it with garden compost to replenish the soil a bit and see how it does.
This is one of my Purple Sprouting Broc plants, and it stands waist high.  I have put a cane in for support, as I am sure it will get a bit battered during the winter.  I think perhaps I will find something stronger just in case, but this particular row of plants are double the size they normally are.
The Savoy Cabbages are hearting up nicely and have no caterpillar damage at all - but the leaves are jolly tough, so perhaps that is in their favour.
This is January King which has a long way to go before it is ready to eat, but they do stand the winter well, so there is no hurry.
Earlier in the year I dug up all the Leeks that were left over from last year and moved them to a corner of the garden and promptly forgot about them.  And what has happened is that they have re-grown.  You can see the old stalks with the new plants growing inbetween.  So that's another success story that happened all on its own without any help from me.
I wonder what would happen in the garden if I just left it alone, which I seem to be doing more and more,  would it all just regenerate itself eventually.  I like to think it would.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Golden Harvest

I have a huge Golden Delicious apple tree at the allotment in what used to be the area where I kept my hens.  It has grown well beyond the fruits being reachable, so this weekend, as the weather has been so lovely, I decided to get the ladders out and harvest as much fruit as I could.  There are literally hundreds of apples, far more than we could ever get through, the best year ever.   The tree had an unfortunate beginning, alas, the sheep broke through into the orchard where I had seven different young fruit trees.  They stripped all the  bark off the trees and killed all but two - a Victoria plum and the Golden Delicious apple.  They were saved by the fact that the stakes were close to the trunk and the sheep couldn't completely strip it. 

Since then both trees have gone from strength to strength and now really need to be chopped back to a more reachable level.  Last year I made a start pruning the top out of the tree, but more work needs to be done.  It won't really matter if I don't get as much fruit and I think the quality of it will be better.

Last year, as the winter was so hard, I fed a lot of the apples to the blackbirds, who I am sure really appreciated it, we had a regular half dozen birds on the lawn hollowing out the halved fruit, so none of them will go to waste and the blackbirds don't mind if the skins are wrinkly.
The Golden Delicious you buy from the supermarket are usually quite a bland taste, but the home grown ones are definitely superior, and when fully ripe, taste almost like pears.  Now I just have to find space to store them all.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Sunrise at the Allotment.

This morning, when I went to the allotment, at 7.30 the sun was just coming up over the hedgerow and there was a heavy dew on the grass.  It was freezing cold and my hands were like ice, so much so that I had trouble picking the raspberries that are still fruiting profusely.  I noticed that one or two leeks have bolted, but I will leave them to flower and set seed.  The Sweet Williams in the cutting patch have re-seeded themselves so I should have a nice patch next year without me having to do anything.

The foliage on the parsnips is now dying back, I had better put a marker on where the row is, just so I can find them when I want to start digging them up.  I may bring a few in for storage as it is so difficult to get them out of the ground if we have a hard frost.  The perennial spinach has also gone to seed but there are still a few leaves to pick on the outside edges, so I think I will put the mesh cloches back on to protect the plants from frost, then I can keep picking a little longer.

There is quite a bit of mulching and tidying to do and as the weather forecast is good for the weekend, you never know, it might all get done.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Baby Broads and Petit Pois

Just half an hour or so in the mornings is enough to get a few jobs done on the allotment garden.  This mornings job was to dismantle the bean poles and store them in the shed for winter.  They have stood up to lots of high winds this year and remained standing through it all.  It's always a sad day when a crop is finished, but the beans have done well and I have plenty in the shed drying out for next years seed.
Back at home in the greenhouse, the Broad beans that I planted in the potato sack have now come through and the Peas are making good growth

I shall be nipping out the tops soon to add to salads and helping the peas to bush out.  But the surprise of the day was the Garlic that I planted at the weekend -

they are already sprouting, after three days.  It just goes to prove that a little warmth can work wonders.
A little tray of sunshine - these are Calendula petals which are going into the airing cupboard for drying - don't the colours just make you want to smile.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Preparing for Winter

I only grew one Chilli plant this year as there seems to be more than enough fruits on one plant for me to use. There are still green ones on the plant but I brought the rest indoors to dry out for use during the winter.  I don't know what the variety is but they are quite mild.  Once they have dried out I store them in jars, and to be honest, they keep perfectly for years, so I really have no need to grow any more for quite a while, I just like to see them growing in the greenhouse as they are so colourful.
The Spring Onions have been really successful this year, I sowed the seed in quite deep fruit punnets in the greenhouse and kept them there till they were well-established before planting out in a block in the garden.  I have sown them in succession and have four blocks growing at different stages.  As it gets colder I will put a cloche over the top to protect them from the worst of the weather
The outdoor lettuce are still doing well and they will also get a bit of winter protection to keep them going.  Lettuce are a lot hardier than they look and stand out well during the colder weather.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Final Harvest

I have finally pulled the last of the summer squashes and courgettes before they start to rot with the advent of wetter weather.  Goodness knows what I am going to do with them all.  The summer squashes have been really good value, each of the three plants has given at least 50 fruits, so I will definitely grow them again next year but maybe cut down to two plants instead.

  The bush-type courgettes didn't stay as a bush but trailed just like the other types, nevertheless they have cropped well even with the dry summer.  Then there is the Gold Rush courgette which out-performs itself every year - I am not as keen on the yellow courgettes, they don't have much taste, but they just look so stunning and crop far more heavily than the green types.  Again, next year, two plants instead of three.

The only ones from this family that haven't done very well for me are the Butternut squashes - I have only had  four or five squashes develop and they aren't anywhere near as big as they were last year - you can't win 'em all.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Crops for Winter

As the wind was atrocious again yesterday - I spent a couple of happy hours in my greenhouse, doing what I love best - having a bit of a potter.
Although it is earlier than I would normally do it - I planted up these Banana Shallots to give them a chance to develop good roots before planting them out in the garden.  This years Shallots all went to seed, probably because of the dry weather, so I am keeping my fingers crossed for this lot.

I also planted my Garlic in pots

On the way home from holiday we stopped in at Norfolk Lavender and they were selling these huge garlic bulbs (nearly the size of a tennis ball) for only 30p ea. so I am hoping for an equally large crop.
In the bags that I planted Potatoes previously I sowed some Meteor Peas at the weekend - I couldn't believe it when I checked yesterday - they are already through, so I brought the bag in to the greenhouse, as I knew the weather was going to get colder (which it is today) together with the carrots sown in the other bag

So the greenhouse is gradually filling up with crops for the winter where I can nurture and protect to my hearts content.

I  also  sowed three troughs of salad leaves so I can still have my daily lettuce fix through the winter.

All in all, a good afternoons' work.  Now - what's next on the list?

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

A Tale of Two Tomatoes

This is a picture which makes me sad - it is the last of the tomatoes picked from the tumblers before the plants were discarded - no more fresh tomatoes till next year - or so I thought ....
I made a late sowing of French beans in this container and added some compost from the heap to jhush the soil up a bit - the beans haven't done very well, but the tomato seeds in the compost have thrived.  I have now brought the container into the greenhouse - do you think the plants will survive the winter, should I separate all the plants out and pot them up individually or should I just forget the whole thing and bin them?
Maybe I could be eating tomatoes off the vine at Christmas - dream on!

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Jars full of Delight

My store cupboard of preserves, pickles and chutneys isn't as full as it should be - why?  Because I haven't made any jam this year - why?  Because I still have jam in the cupboard from 2006!  It is obvious that we don't eat as much jam as we used to, so I can't see the point of making it - anyway, I have been given some crab apple jelly and damson jam which will be enough to keep us going.  The trouble is that I feel a little guilty not preserving all the lovely fruit that we have had this year - but there is still plenty of it in the freezer, which I am sure will all get used eventually.

On the other hand, I have pickled some onions and beetroot and made picallili and one or two different  chutneys. but in general I do make a lot less of everything, it just doesn't get used - and I'm not going to make stuff for the sake of it, and the produce seems to get used in other ways.

One thing I do like making though is  windfall marmalade which is made from apples but looks and tastes just like the real thing.

To make 4 - 1lb jars
1lb windfall apples, 1 grapefruit, 2 lemons, 2.1/2 pints water and 2.1/2 lb sugar
  • peel core and chop apples reserving the cores and peel
  • pare rinds from grapefruit and lemons as thinly as possible and shred finely
  • remove pith from fruits and chop flesh removing pips
  • tie citrus pith pips and apple peel and cores in muslin
  • put all fruit in preserving pan with shredded rind water and muslin bag
  • bring to boil
  • simmer for 2.1/2 hours until reduced by half
  • remove bag and add sugar then boil rapidly for 15-20 mins.
  • leave to stand for 15 mins
  • then stir to distribute the peel before potting and covering the usual way

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Re-birth and Rejuvenation

The allotment garden in the early morning sun

One of the advantages of being a lazy gardener, which I freely admit to, is that it gives the plants a chance to do what comes naturally to them.  If I was a perfectionist, I would have dug out plants that have finished cropping, consigned them to the compost bin, dug over the soil and re-planted, which I have done in some cases.  But, with the Calabrese, I have left the plants to do their own thing, and this is the result:-

We have had many servings of Calabrese in different forms from these plants - firstly, the main head, then all the tender stem broccoli  that came after - this basically left just a stump, which I never got round to removing, as I didn't really need the space for anything else.  This morning I noticed that a whole new plant has formed at the base of the stump, which looks as though it will produce even more tender stems.  How good is that.  So my advice is, don't be too hasty to clear the ground - you never know what will happen next.
I have mentioned before that I have been gradually clearing out the squash and courgette patch, as you can see it's looking pretty awful with rotting leaves and thistles growing - but even though the plants look terrible they are still pushing out baby squashes, and even the courgettes are producing new leaves and baby fruits:-

You can just see a small courgette at the side of the new flower.  So although the plants may not be very nice to look at - don't be too hasty to clear them away.  Sometimes a little laziness goes a long way.

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