Sunday, October 21, 2007

Now that the gladioli and dahlias are either lifted or in their new positions, the end raised bed could be built. They are 4' wide and about 9' long and are built over good membrane to prevent any weeds groweing up through the bed. It will be filled with my usual blend of leaf mould, allotment compost and 12 year old manure which has a consistency of bought compost but with the added benefit of it holding onto moisture very well indeed.
One more to go but for that I need to have finished eating the bed of parsnips in the way.

Blue Lake seeds

The last of the climbing Blue lake seeds are now just about ready to harvest so that they can be dried and saved for next years seeds. Most of my beans and peas are now grown from saved seeds

Romping away.

The first of our "radar" autumn planting onion sets are now starting to show. The cracking late autumn weather is helping them to get a flying start.


This bed was full of summer cabbage and now just requires digging over to be ready for planting with the rest of our lautrec garlic purchased in Normandy.

Fed up with long hoses???

One of lifes mysteries is how a nicely laid out hose can tie itself up into knots or get dragged over fragile crops without any help.
Having finally had enough this summer, I have now sorted out the hose pipes on my plots. The hose is laid out with an end long enough to reach the tap. The rest of the hose is then laid out and is cut at an appropriate distance along the plot and a tee piece fitted. Then posts are knocked in and the I find a tee fitted about a third along if ideal. The hose is then clipped to these posts and are fitted with a stop end. This allows you to connect to the tap and, using a short length of hose, plug into the stop ends to water that section of plot. Typically my plots have three stop end outlets fitted meaning that the bit of hose that I drag about is roughly 5 metres long and easily managed.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Keep on preserving

As a luxury twist to pickled onions, today I bottled a few jars in balsamic vinegar. A bit more expensive but well worth it, they taste wonderful.
With a frost forcast yesterday, I hot footed it out to the herb bed and picked some nice French Tarragon shoots and after popping them into 1 litre bottles (sterelised), topped them up with white wine vinegar to make tarragon vinegar. Dont use Russian Tarragon as it is not at all like using the French version.
As a footnote, the 1 litre bottles were originally from a French supermarket and filled with lemonade costing about 90p each. Just the bottle would cost several times that in the UK.

Ripening Green tomatoes

Regular followers of this blog will remember that our tunnels were hit with blight in early September and that we lost all of our tomato plants. Well, all of the unaffected trusses of fruit were picked with the red ones being either eaten or converted into passata. The Green ones however were hung under our porch on a herb rack to ripen and now, some 8 weeks later we are still eating red tomatoes so all was not lost.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Pick a peck of peppers

With a frost forcast tonight, and not wanting to lose all of my peppers I picked all of the fruit off 1 side of our tunnel just in case. The other side has been left, hopefully to carry on growing.
The fruits are a mix of lipstick, tesco finest poiny pepper, lange rhode red, an un named bell pepper and a few jalapenos for good measure.
I think we need to make some red pepper and tomato relish tommorow!

Bingo, a decent swede

Swedes always cause us problems and the crop we harvest is usually small and disapointing. However this year we have hit the jackpot. The variety "brora" has performed very well giving us lots of good sized swede. This one will be served tommorow with lamb shanks cooked in mulled wine and seasonal veg.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


Normally we leave our gladdies in the ground. However a row need moving this winter to make way for a new raised bed. To prepare these for winter is quite a simple process.
After lifting, rub off any small bulbils if present and save if required. These can be planted in an out of the way nursery bed if wanted and will produce flowering corms in about 3 years. After removing them, you will see the old corm attached to the bottom of the new corm . This should be pulled off and composted as shown in the top picture.. Now you can cut the stem down to 4-6 inches and store the bulb in a cool but frost free place to dry out, ready for planting out in the spring.

The organic option

We never spray against bugs, prefering to companion plant in an effort to attract the "good guys". This is working well as an outbreak of blackfly on our sweetcorn was soon sorted out by ladybird larvae.

Make sure your plot has plenty of overwintering places for these and other good guys such as lacewings to overwinter, thus giving you a head start come the spring.

Spagna Blanco "Butterbeans"

Another tray full of spagna blanco butterbeans were picked today. They are really proving to be prolific as well as huge and indeed tasty. They have been shelled today and put on trays to dry out for winter use.

I can heartily recommend trying them if you like butterbeans, even if they are a type of runner bean.

The engine room

An allotment is only as good as its soil and with that in mind I consider the compost bins to be the engine room of the whole plot.
We have 5 big bins made out of pallets, three for compost, 1 for leaf mould and 1 for shredded stuff that takes a while to break down.
The top picture shows you 1 year old leaf mould, this will be added to the raised beds as soon as they become clear along with any compost that is ready to give a real boost to the soil structure and condition. The bottom picture shows a "full" compost bin that will be turned in a few weeks. After turning the level will drop as stuff breaks down. You can see cardboard amongst the greenwaste. We compost all cardboard that comes into the house, along with shredded papers and envelopes and even the neighbours grass clippings.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Be prepared

The scouts motto it may be but you can never be too prepared when it comes to Christmas time and these jars of pickled onions will be perfect for Boxing day with some cold cuts.

Come Christmas and come the new year quickly after, we now have all of next years saved bean varieties saved and drying ready for sowing in spring. Three varieties are from Serbia, two are grown for the beans and one variety for the pods or beans giving it a dual use. The Spagna bianco or "gigantes! butterbean type are brilliant and will be grown en mass this coming year.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Pigeon damage

Due to a very late start with our sweetcorn, we are still harvesting them. Our site pigeons though are canny devils, they will strip any that they can rip the outer husk off. Thankfully they have to be able to land on them to do it so its only been the odd one on the outer edge of the block that been filtched.

Some for this year, some for next

The last of the Blue Lake French beans have been left to produce seeds for next years crops.

Our Crown Prince pumpkins may not last that long, some being eaten this year and some next. They are superb keepers and will last til May next year. these three came from one plant and to be honest, its not been a great pumpkin year.

A touch of autumn colour

You know, I reckon blueberries would make cracking shrubs for a herbacious border. Not only do you get lots of blue jewels from them in the way of berries but they give such a fabulous colour at this time of year.

Better late than never

These savoy cabbage were intended to be planted out several weeks ago but due to a lack of space were potted on. The potting on has kept them in fabulous condition, with the root ball not being constricted at all. They were planted under netting and well firmed in as brassicas hate loose soil.

Gooseberry trauma

Having cleared the overgrown blackberry bush on our new half plot, a very old gooseberry came to light. It was massive, very overgrown and neglected and almost certainly quite old. It was therefore an easy decision to dig it out and get rid rather than to try and rejuvenate it.

Whilst digging it out we came across two other bushes which I presume are self setters from the original. These were worth saving however so were given a good prune and potted on into John Innes number three until their new location is sorted. You can see how much growth was taken out when you compare the bottom two pictures.

Jerusalem artichokes

We planted "fuseau" jerusalem artichokes in the spring to act as a bit of a windbreak at one end of the plot. I expected them to grow to around 6' or so but these boys have raced to well over 10' and are now flowering. the flowers are quite pretty, although small for the size of stem. We will start to harvest these next month and replant the same area after adding some allotment compost.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Hay man!!

Today our local council delivered a load of hay, fresh from Watermead County Park. Six bales went straight onto my plot, stacked up nicely next to the compost bins and covered with an off cut of polytunnel plastic, ready to go under my strawberry runners when they are planted. I intend to plant them on ridges through good membrane and use the hay to keep the fruit off the floor like the local pick your own farms do, although to be honest they use straw rather than hay which is generally used as a winter animal feed.

This time of year the council tends to drop off leaves as well and also bark chippings, all of which are very welcome and put to a good use.

Better than Tesco or what

During June of last year, a trip to Tesco included me putting some "finest sweet pointy peppers" in my trolley. There is no shame in admitting that considering the time of year, however, a quick glance at the packet showed that they were UK grown but did not name the variety. Always trying to steal a march on the seed producers, and indeed the supermarkets, I have realised that this often means that the varieties are not F1 and are worth a bit of a trial and with this in mind saved the seeds.

So, early this February 25 seeds were sown and 15 plants went out into the polytunnel in April. They have grown to some 30" high and have cropped really well. I have mostly been taking them as green peppers for salads and general use but left several plants to ripen the fruit to a red colour. For the last few weeks I have been harvesting fabulous Red peppers and the beauty shown, whilst larger than average from my plants is not that much bigger.

So, better than Tesco or what???