Tuesday, June 26, 2007

A pizza pie

Well with our birthday party being held on Saturday and "authentically cooked" pizzas the main stay of the food I thought it was time to test drive the clay oven by actually cooking a pizza or two.
The home made pizza was in and out within 3 minutes and was eaten in about the same time. They were absolutely fabulous.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Stick some flowers in there!

Our three, well established rows of Autumn bliss razzers always do well, but are a bit boring to look at until they fruit. Last year we sprinkled some poppy seed in amongst them and now have them flowering, brightening up an otherwise staid bit of allotment.

Feeling fruity.

The rain is also proving a boon for the fruit. Blueberries, redcurrants and apples are all swelling up and ripening very well indeed.

The rain cometh!!

The rain is certainly not the best thing for an enjoyable summer but certainly brings on the plants. The top picture is a flower of purple podded pea, they are just coming into flower now and hopefully will crop well and taste even better.

The middle picture shows the globe artichokes growing on our new plot. They are a perenial and thus we get to crop them each year.

Lastly the onion bed is looking the worse for wear weed wise and will need some serious clearing out to prevent problems. Onions do not do well if smothered by competition.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Fire in the hole!!!!!

Today we "test fired" the pizza oven. As the clay was still damp in areas it was started off gently. The fire is built to one side so that you can fit a pizza into the main part of the oven. The heat of the fire draws air into the oven which then rises as its heated and washes up under the dome and then down and out of the front.

After about 10 minutes, the heat is such that it burns off any smoke before it escapes from the front. As the fire had only just been lit in the pictures, the temperature had not got hot enough to burn off the smoke.

After about an hour the top half of the oven was very hot indeed and had caused some minor "scabbing" of the clay inside which can easily be patched up with fresh wet clay/sand mix. It appeared that the top of the oven was leaking smoke but it was found to be steam as the clay was drying out with the heat.

Next time its full on "cook a pizza" trial.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Fork to fork

New potatoes are just at their best if you can get them from fork to fork in minutes. We grow "Foremost" and "Lady Crystl" as first earlies and one of Kazzi's favourite jobs is lifting new potatoes for tea. Boiled with some mint and served with good butter they are just out of this world and are one of the real tastes that cannot be bought from a shop.

Stuffed fuller than a fat birds shoe!!

I try to ensure that every inch of my plots are productive. In front of the leaf mould bin is dead space at this time of year (erm, no leaves) so I have planted courgettes into 25 litre recycled oil barrels and placed them there.
The raised beds really come into their own and can be planted a bit "tighter" than standard beds, hence they are stuffed fuller than a fat birds shoe with carrots, beetroot, chard, salad leaves and scallions amongst other crops.

There nearly ready

In the new tunnel, lots of sweet peppers are growing away. This variety is called lipstick and is available from the "Real Seed Company". They are exceptionally early, prolific and are open polinated sop yuo can save the seed.
The Red cabbage is also hearting up very well and the first ones will be harvested within a couple of weeks. The variety is called "Rodeo".
It really blows my frock up (Who's Queen!!) to see plants come to that point where there nearly ready and are just waiting to be harvested.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Is it Wimbledon yet?

We are picking several scrummy bowls of "marshmallow" norberries a day now. The best bit is that the aromel everbearer variety are not yet ripe and will follow on giving us fruit up until the first frosts.
Where's that cream?

Its all grow now.

The courgettes, (green and yellow varieties) are fruiting, the spuds in tubs are putting on lots of haulm, the overwintered cape gooseberries (including self setters) and last but not least the onions are all looking good.
Dont you just love this time of year?

Going Bananas

The banana shallots are coming along most famously now and are starting to take on their "banana" shape. I have great hopes for these beauties in the kitchen. A good job that there are around 200 of them planted.

Sprung a leek!!!!

Two beds of leeks are now in, we eat loads and family like them as well. This year I am growing Jolant and Bleu de Solaise. I dib a hole with a snapped off spade handle about 8" deep and just drop the leek in and then water generously.

The jolant are for late autumn / early winter use and the Bleu are for Later winter into early spring use as they stand the cold exceptionally well. The leeks are planted 12" apart with 12" between rows. I have never taken to the old wives tale of triming the roots and leaves. Why?

Oh my, Garlic garlic garlic

The top picture shows part, yes part of our garlic harvest. Its a mix of white and Lautrec garlic which we buy from France for a few euros a kilo. Some were planted in raised beds and some directly into traditional beds in very early October as a very relaxed trial to see which performed best. There was no difference really so next year they will go into traditional beds to keep the raised beds free early season.

The second picture shows the Lautrec garlic top and the white garlic bottom, with a 10p piece to give you scale of the size of the bulbs. they garlic is in the tunnel at present finishing its drying and will them be plaited as gifts for family and for the kitchen and the rest will have the foilage chopped off and stored in trays.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Wood burning pizza oven

For something a bit different we are having a "pizza night" for our birthdays (both on 1st July) and to be authentic I have built a wood burning pizza oven.

It sits on the shelf over a log store for our outside fireplace (which does have a chimney pot) and isapprox 24" round and the same high. The cooking base is a heavy set smooth concrete slab with the corner cut off to allow the round shape to be formed. The clay is mixed with water and sharp sand (the sand helps to prevent cracking) and is formed around the base. A wooden former is used to make the opening. Once the sides are up so far I made a mould with damp sand and the clay was laid over this about 3" thick. As a strenghener some wire mesh was laid over this first layer of clay and a second layer of clay was added. The second layer was about 2" thick.

As the clays surface began to dry, the surface was smoothed with a trowel dipped in water. It will dry out over the next couple of weeks and will be kept covered with polythene to stop any rain causing damage and to prevent it drying out too quickly. Cracks will occur due to the thickness of the clay but these will be constantly filled with wet clay until the structure is dry and no more cracks occur.

At this point the sand will be removed and a few more days of drying allowed before a couple of gentle firingd are undertaken. Providing nothing too bad goes tits up we can then have a trial run.

I cant wait, I want to cook one now.

Succession and modules

Most of my crops are started in modules. There are always pots and cells of plantlets ready to be planted in any space that shows its face. By having the plants already off and running there is no time wasted waiting for seeds to sprout and then the chore of thinning out.
This lettuce wasted planted in a bed today and will be ready to cut within a month. Lots of ots friends are ready and waiting to fill in other gaps as they appear.
Always try to have one crop ready to follow another. I have trays of leeks ready to follow the new potatoes when they are lifted, sweetcorn is following spring cabbage and all manner of salad crops follow each other.

The engine room

All of the compostable materials from home go to the plot once the home compost bin is full. It really is the engine room of the plot. This bin, one of 5 on plot one is now full but will drop a bit as it rots and will be topped up.
All of the bins have comfrey planted next to them and this is cut 3-4 times a year and just added to the bin or turned into comfey liquid feed.
Dont be shy with your compost bin, feed it as much as you can and it will repay you in spades the following year with a harvest of black gold.

Catch crops

n an atempt to keep the harvest coming in, and me out of Tesco's, we plant catch crops whereever we can. Quick growing lettuce like these little gem were planted between tomato plants in the tunnel. They grow fast in the protected environment and are bug free and are harvested before the tomatoes get in the way. If there is space another crop will go in, either more lettuce or something like scallions or radish.

Feeling fruity?

Regular readers of my blog will know that we have some 18 blueberry bushes planted directly into the ground on my plot. They get treated twice a year to some sulphate of iron and other than that they are pretty much left to it. Its a policy that seems to work as they are all hanging with fruit. We get an added bonus as they are underplanted with cranberries and come Christmas time they come into their own for cranberry sauce.

Also in the fruit cage our Red currants are starting to ripen already and a fair bit earlier than last year although the birds got most mainly due to the fruit cage having no netting on it. The blackbirds were rolling about laughing, stuffed fuller than a fat birds shoe with my currants.

The last piccie shows one of our outdoor grape vines. We have two in the tunnels and two on arches, all are hanging with bunches of fruit, so much so that I have had to cut quite a few out. Hopefully the blackbirds will leave a few of the outside ones for us.


The tunnels

The old tunnel (top picture) is now coming into its own tomato wise. We should be harvesting this month and most of the plants are already 4-5' tall with 4 trusses of fruit on.
The new tunnel which we built this year has a few tomatoes in but is mainly planted with sweet peppers and aubergines as we intend to bottle an awful lot of bolognese sauce and passata for use over the winter. These are now coming into flower and forming fruit.
The last picture shows the never ending chore of pinching out sideshoots. Well this one was missed and turned into a side branch. They all need removing if growing as cordons otherwise you get swamped with foilage and this can cause mildew problems as it prevents air circulation.