Friday, 29 June 2012

A note to the sky..

I have had enough of this weather! Have you? Yesterday morning we were sat in the living room being deafened by rain pelting against the windows, the whole road was flooded and there was no sign of it letting up. Then came the thunder and lightening, what a great insight in to summer time this was.

However, cometh the afternoon it was blazing sun with temperatures at 25 degrees celcius. I made my way to the allotment and came back in the evening with blackcurrants, lettuce, strawberries, raspberries and a tickle of SUNBURN!

Absolutely unbelievable. It is so hard to plan days at the allotment when the weather is so varied. Thankfully yesterday afternoon was good enough for me to get a lot of weeding done and also plant out the carrots we had started off in old loo rolls. We also planted some lettuces which we bought from a large food retailer that I work for. They were those cut and come again 'living lettuces' that are quite fashionable in the high end supermarkets. They had apparently exceded their sell by date and thus were destined for the bin (how a living thing can exceed it's sell by date is beyond me!), but I did manage to get them via a friend for 8p each from the staff waste sale. We had 15 so they are all now planted up and should in theory give us lettuce throughout the summer. We've picked some leaves from all of them to encourage them to produce new growth!

They are a gorgeous colour and I will be letting them go to seed at the end of summer to save seeds to plant again for next year!

We've planted 12 out in between the broad beans and dwarf french beans to fill a gap from the second lot of broad beans that failed to get going due to mice/bird problems. I don't normally use slug pellets but I've had to give in. We were losing a lettuce per day last week due to the wet conditions. We had tried using 100% natural organic pellets but they made no difference. So we have reverted back to the blue pellets but they are supposedly repellant and non toxic to domestic wildlife so that is good.

There are plenty more weeds to remove over the coming week, and I also want to get straw down at the top half of the plot to keep weeds down. The top area was awash with couch grass and the only way to get rid of it/to reduce it is to cover the area for 6 months or more. Obviously it would be suicidal to cover 1/3 of the allotment and not grow on it so we have dug over it several times and have planted it up with pumpkins, sweetcorn and some brassicas, so now I can cover around them with straw to keep the weeds at bay but also retain moisture for the vegetables if we do get a warm patch. Unlikely I know..

Anyway, I'm going to be catching up with other blogs today if I can. However, I do need to get up to the allotment and weed around the strawberries. I'll try and take lots more pictures to give you an idea of how the plot is doing.

Have a great weekend!


Monday, 25 June 2012

First Earlies, First Strawberries, First Courgettes and a lot more firsts...

Wow! Things are really picking up on the plot now. I won't do a full allotment update because I am saving that for Wednesday or Thursday's post.

Anyway I just wanted to share the joy we have had over the last few days. We have harvested some first early potatoes, the first strawberries, first courgette, first raspberries, first blackcurrants and MORE LETTUCE!

I was waiting for our potatoes to bulk up a bit, all of the first earlies have been flowering for between 1 and 2 weeks now which means they are ok to harvest, but for a bigger yield you can wait longer. Seeing Monty failing to resist temptation on Gardener's World last Friday, I went down to the allotment this morning to dig up a plant and see what was beneath...

I rushed home after picking a courgette and lettuce before I left, and quickly boiled up a pan of water for the potatoes, put some local sausages in the oven, and made a ratatouille using the courgette, the last of the bought onions (before we harvest ours) and an aubergeine we bought at gardener's world. I then smothered the new potatoes with butter and mmmmm mmmmm mmmm!

Let's put it this way, we didn't need to wash our plates afterwards.. they were spotless!! The tastiest potatoes I've ever tasted, they really were, I'm not just saying that because we planted them ourselves, if you can find me a shop bought potato that tasted that good I wouldn't bother, but until then I will continue to grow my own! Truth is you will never find a shop bought potato that was in the ground 1 hour before I put it in to my mouth. That's a fact!

It has also been satisfying to pick the first few strawberries over the last couple of days because that only means one thing, Wimbledon starts today! You know where to find me for the next few weeks.. In front of the telly, or down the plot in between the big matches!

Thanks for visiting the blog, I hope you are harvesting lots of tasty fresh produce too!


Monday, 18 June 2012

Gardener's World Live

On Thursday night I was sat bolt up right in bed like a kid at Christmas. I was just waiting to hear Santa Claus and his reindeer land on the roof... Only joking! I was actually very excited about visiting gardener's world live at the NEC, Birmingham on Friday.

We left early to get their for opening and we spent the whole day at the show. My overall impressions were that the standard was not as high this year both in the floral marquee and in the show gardens in general. Nonetheless, it was a very good day out and there were plenty of ideas I have managed to take on board.

Last year the main themes that ran through the show gardens was that of growing your own in small spaces, however this year the 'grow your own' trend has been dug up and replaced with beneficial wildlife gardening and gardening during drought and the hosepipe ban.

I didn't take too many photos, and those I did were of course of gardens resembling the good life. My favourite garden was called 'Urban oasis' which resembled a small city garden which still made room for a veg patch and cleverly used tall plants and trees to hide the garden boundary whilst adding colour and height at the same time..

Another favourite of mine was coincidentally 'Best in Show' which was called 'Childhood memories' it represented a typical garden complete with a den, skilttles on the lawn, tadpoles in the pond, freshly cut grass. All of those memories you accumulate from your younger years..

I don't know if it is me, but it seems that grow your own has reached the very peak of it's fashion and perhaps is starting a decline slightly, there was notably a smaller presence of vegetable growing and vegetable exhibiting stalls and a couple of years ago our allotment site waiting list hit the 5 year wait mark, but I've heard that you can almost walk on to one now. We only had to wait about 6 months..

Anyway, the vegetable patches and products that were available were as always inspiring.

Quite often when I talk to a non-vegetable grower their excuse is that they don't have a big enough garden or that they just have a patio etc. I absolutely loved this idea of pulling up a few slabs on the patio and popping in some home grown lettuce..

The 'Mammoth Onion' company always put on a good display in the floral marquee, I wish I had a tomato crop like this..

Raddish this size wouldn't be too bad either...

Last year we went to a vegetable talk followed by questions and answers with Alan Titchmarsh, but this year we went to see Carol Klein istead, who was ever so pleasant and interesting, although perhaps not as inspiring as Alan was..

I have quite a few more photos to share and I also want to share my ideas about how I can bring parts of the show gardens and many ideas on to our allotment and in to our garden. Part 2 will therefore follow in a couple of days.

One last thing, I absolutely love reading gardening and vegetable growing/good life style blogs all year round but this time of year is particularly my favourite. So I will be reading and commenting on lots of blogs, but if I don't follow you as of yet, please leave me a link in a comment below!

Happy Growing!


Wednesday, 13 June 2012

British Summer Time is here..

It's raining! Again!

I almost went with the title 'Rain stop's play' but I must have used that over a dozen times since I re-started blogging last year.

I was up the allotment for a very short time today, whilst Amy had a phone interview for a new job in fact. I was going to stay for a bit longer but then the pitter patter of rain droplets started hitting both me and the ground, so I knew it was time to go.

Despite the rain, I did manage to sow a few more rows of dwarf french beans. I had spoken to a couple of allotment holders and they were having a nightmare getting them to germinate this year. The site's 'Allotment of the Year' holder even had a mere 7 beans germinate out of a whole packets worth he had sown. Knowing this I sowed very generously, and guess what! It looks like they've just about all come up! Typical! However, I do find that if your soil has enough nutrients in then you can sow them very closely together and still get a good crop from them.

You can see the two current rows of dwarf french beans from the last sowing. Then from the row of beans to the wooden plank is another 3 rows. Hopefully this will give us a large quantity of beans but in two harvests rather than all at once. Although they do freeze well, it is a real treat to have them fresh.

I did gloat yesterday about my cabbages, which are really flying. I can only see one allotment holder on the whole site who is having as much luck as me. I didn't realise until I published yesterday's blog entry that I hadn't posted a picture of the cabbages. So lucky you, here is a sneak peak...

Looking good aren't they! It is quite apt that I did say to Amy that if the brassicas didn't grow well this year then I wouldn't try again. So that means they will grow again so that I plant some next year and they won't be anywhere near as good! Watch this space.

I'm trying to catch up with all of the blogs I follow. This is a great time of year to be in the garden, rain or shine!

I am also giddy with excitement like a child at Christmas with the prospect of going to Gardener's World Live on Friday. I can't wait!

Enjoy the rest of your week!


Tuesday, 12 June 2012

I swear that veg is growing...


This rain is certainly increasing the amount of foliage on the plot. As you can see below the potato bed is now a sea of green leaves and small flowers. A very promising sign indeed, the cabbages, well, they are certainly flying along and the lettuces don't seem to stop.

It definately looks like an allotment now doesn't it. Onions and potatoes in the foreground then beans and brasiccas just beyond.

We'll start at the back and move forewards in today's blog post.

In the soft fruit area there is plenty of growth amongst the raspberries which now present a huge green canvas of lushious leaves, with the not so glorious bindweed wrapped around it of course!

Our grape vine has finally started to get a shift on too. Everybody has a vine on our site and they all started off as cuttings from my plot neighbours single vine he purchased 31 years ago when he first got his plot. Everybody's elses have been running wild for the last month or so, however mine hadn't even broken out of it's winter dormancy, until now! The weeds on our site really are rampant due to 5 or more years of neglect. I have put some black tarpaulin over the grape vine area and cut a hole for the vine. This should supress the weeds and give the vine more of a chance. Here is what the area currently looks like, it is certainly  a work in progress!

Just in front of this area we now have 5 pumpkin plants. 2 hundredweight and 3 smaller Jack O'Lanterns. Amy and I are having a competition to see who can grow the biggest one! They were planted on top of heaps consisting of a mix of horse manure, farm manure, multipurpose compost and top soil. I've got a few tricks up my sleeve to make sure I'm the winner...

The thing I am most pleased about is the brassicas. I am the envy of the whole site. My cabbages are hearting already and my brocolli have heads! Unbelievable, I've never grown a good brassica in my life, I hope my luck has changed and we'll be enjoying some delicious greens in the future....

You might have noticed my home made net tunnels before, they are fantastic at keeping pests out and also shading the crops from the blazing soon. They also allow perfect ventilation on moisture to enter. They are a real secret weapon..

They're not massive weeds between them either, they are actually rows of fast growing Cos Lettuce, to allow us to maximise our space!

Opposite the brassica bed is our bean bed. Our broad bean plants are starting to produce a few bean pods now and the dwarf french beans have germinated plentifully. I also managed to get my runner beans in today at last. They are a real staple for all allotments, plots don't look the same without them!

With the amont of horsemuck I put in their trench I really do expect a good harvest from them!

Here is a picture of the potato sea. Lots of foliage, let's hope there are some good tubers underneath..

Elsewhere, I was very glad to see Monty cover dealing with bolting onions on last Friday's gardener's world. Many of mine had repented the recent weather conditions and decided to bolt, thankfully I've now nipped them in the bud so there is still some hope.. I hope!

Although the allotment is being stocked well, there is still plenty in the mini greenhouses including kale, red cabbage, savoy cabbage, more lettuce, sweetcorn and french climbing beans. They'll all be making their way out in to the ground over the coming weeks...

Final installment of this update, is a suprising advancement. Remember those 19p Asparagus crows I bought from a large supermarket chain...

Only 2 more years to go and I might be able to taste some. At least they're growing! Best 19p I've ever spent, that is for sure!

Enjoy the rest of your week. If their is a break in the rain make sure you are in your garden or on your allotment!!


Sunday, 10 June 2012

Flaming (wet) June

Well, I'm glad exams are out the way and a long, luxurious period of time on the allotment is now upon me! Poor Amy still has another 2 weeks to go until she put her feet up for a short time and join me on plot 114.

It makes me chuckle that the last time I made a post on this blog I entitled it 'Cost Del Allotment' referring to the scorching temperatures we had at the end of May. Almost 2 weeks on and the allotment is full of puddles and I haven't had to water for at least a week which is great in a way!

The courgettes and pumpkins are loving it, but the weather has stressed the onions and many of them are starting to bolt which is highly frustrating! These things happen though.

I was hoping to get down to the allotment to take some pictures to show you but the weather and bad light doesn't make them worth posting in all fairness. So you'll have to wait for the sunshine before you see the pictures of the plot now.

The good thing to tell you is that we are now eating fresh produce off the plot. We've had raddish but now we're harvesting a couple of lettuce per week which is ideal. Here's a few of our perfectly formed and delicious little gems....

 I see the strawberries are tinged with red too! Can't be long now, when's Wimbledon??

Everything is growing really well, especially the brasicas which look like they are already beyond the stage my brassicas usually get to, so fingers crossed there.

Off to Gardener's World Live on Friday so will do a report like last year. Last year's report had hundreds of hits from around the web so it was obviously popular.

I haven't logged in to the blog for a few weeks and our number of followers has jumped up so welcome all, I hope you enjoy reading.

Enjoy the rest of the week, sun or no sun!