Wednesday, 19 September 2012

The big sort out and a taste of... SPRING!

I have a problem. It's a type of addiction and it mainly happens when I'm in garden centres. It's quite embarassing and it costs me a fortune but for some reason I can not stop buying seeds.

I already have two containers full and I now need a third. On the way back from Ryton we popped in to our local Wyevale garden centre. I joined their gardening club and they sent me a leaflet saying that all seeds were 50p. So I made a visit a priority and stocked up. We managed to get £60 odd worth of seeds for only £12. We also got plenty of seeds for free which were the promotional packs you get when you buy 2 or more packs of a particular variety. Because I bought so many new packets, I promised myself I would sort out the ones I already had and throw out any unlabeled, out of date packets and also chuck any that had a poor germination rate or simply didn't live up to expectations!

Anyway next year I will be trying to grow watermelons, yellow carrots, banana shallots, gourds and many other weird and wonderful things that I have been jealous of seeing other people grow. I am now ready for next year and have a seed collection to envy...

Although it is getting darker and colder every evening, I still have a small sense of optimism and excitement. Buying seeds and sowing them is something that you normally do in March onwards, but in order to get the most out of our plot I've bought seeds to sow now including some chards, lettuce and radishes and I also have seedlings emerging from the cabbage and lettuce sowings I made the other night! With all of this spring like activity, I'll probably forget to put the clocks back next month and will instead put them forward!!
It is nice having a year round vegetable garden. Not using it for summer crops but autumn, winter and spring really does increase it's efficiency and worth. Being able to pick runner beans, dwarf beans, squash, marrows, raspberries, strawberries, cabbage and kale in mid September certainly ensures we don't go hungry!! We've also got the delights of celery, celeriac, turnips, swede, pumpkins, leeks. sprouts, parsnips and lettuce to come before the end of the year. Then at the beginning of 2013 we'll have cabbage, purple sprouting, chard, lettuce and kale still to pick! Long gone are our days of only growing summer crops like courgettes, tomatoes and peppers. This is a 365 day a year thing now!
We're still getting used to this plot so we can certainly learn from what we don't have enough of this year and what we have too much of also. So next year we know to only plant 1 marrow plant instead of 3 and to double the amount of sweetcorn plants and broad beans that we sow! One day we'll be able to sit down and say 'yer, we got that just about right', but that's if the weather plays ball of course!!
Never mind, it's an interesting learning curve! Gardener's certainly never stop learning!
Enjoy the rest of your week!!!

Monday, 17 September 2012

The sweet taste of success...

Well here we have it. The first sweet taste in 2012 of homegrown sweetcorn..

It was absolutely delicious! We served with plenty of butter and I have to say it was a) the sweetest and b) the biggest I have ever grown it. It was simply perfect, and I can't wait to harvest plenty more of the coming weeks!

Today we also picked kale, cabbage, runner beans, borlotti beans, strawberries and raspberries. The beans and brassicas were taken to my grandparent's house and the strawberries and raspberries are waiting to be devoured as soon as I publish this post. Amy has been down to the allotment three times this week to pick strawberries and we have picked over 50 each time. We also have raspberries by the bucket load too...



You might already know if you have seen our live twitter feed on the right, but at the weekend we visited Ryton Organic Gardens near Coventry. We had scheduled to visit West Midland's Safari Park because we HAD some free tickets, emphasis on the HAD because as we about to step out the door we noticed that they expired the week before! Typical!

Anyway we ended up at Ryton. Amy had never been before and I hadn't been in a couple of years. I love the idea of growing heritage varieties and this is something they really promote. We obviously paid most attention to the vegetable growing side of things.

This would be idyllic wouldn't it...

They also had a greenhouse full of interesting tomatoes. This tomato really caught the eye. They didn't seem to form on 'trusses' like normal tomatoes do...

They were actually dangling on their own. They were absolutely huge and almost pepper like. Here is the placard with the variety name on...

The amount of tomatoes growing perfectly was very enviable. So many fellow bloggers (ourselves included) have reported about the widespread blight problem that we've had in this country this year. A real shame. For all of us who forgot what home grown tomatoes look like, here is a reminder...

Right, I'm now off to enjoy those strawberries and raspberries. Don't forget to follow us on twitter @ourgoodlifeblog ! I am slowly making it around everybody elses blogs leaving comments. Thanks again for reading. We hope you have a plentiful harvest this week! I have another blog post planned for later this week, so keep your eyes peeled.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Nights drawing in? Bring your gardening inside!

You are probably wondering what is wrong with us making so many posts in a week!

Anyway, we really are having to play catchup at the allotment with weeding, sowing, harvesting etc. I managed to get down again last night and bagged up some of the couch grass I had dug up ready to take to the refuse centre tomorrow. Don't put couch grass roots in your compost bin, it will come back and you will be making a huge mistake, trust me!

Anyway I did manage to sort a few things down the allotment tonight, I went down at about 7pm for an hour. Still in my shirt and trousers from work, so it was only some light and not too messy work. Anyway come 8pm I could barely see a thing and this was the seen. Because the perimeter to the site is surrounded by lots of large, established trees it does become a pit of darkness as soon as the sun begins to lower.

Following the recent set of break ins a couple of the old boys are doing a night patrol and walking around the site as the sun sets. Aparently in total 15 sheds were broke in to or vandalised and we also have the recent emergence of a 'phantom fruit picker' who many plot holders (us included) have seen walking the allotment site in the evening and leaving through the gates with a bowl full of strawberries, raspberries, blackberries etc. We don't know who she is, where she comes from but we're gonna catch her nonetheless!!
Anyway, because it was so dark I decided to allocate some homework to myself. I mentioned how I had not managed to sow my spring cabbage seeds yet so I filled a couple of seed trays with compost and put my seed box in my bag.
After dinner I ripped the seed packet foild and made the sowings. We have sown 2 cabbage varieties which were 'Pixie' and 'Durham Early'. We also decided to sow some winter lettuce, we coincidentally had 2 winter lettuce varieties too; 'Winter Gem' and 'Arctic King'. We'll keep them on the windowsill for a couple of weeks to give them a chance to catch up and get to where they should be. I think we'll be ok. I remember last October being quite warm and dry so if that is the case we won't be at much of a disadvantage at all...
Now that I'd finally got that bit sorted, it was time for a cup of tea and a read of my new magazine..
I normally buy this magazine on the day it comes out each month. But I've just been too busy this month that I finally remembered to pick it up at the petrol station today on the way to work. I'd be interested to hear what magazines you like to read. I always buy 'Grow your own' and I subscribe to 'Gardener's World' (just to get the free gift at Gardener's World Live'!
Look at the front cover though! PUMPKINS! Which can only mean one thing. It's almost Halloween, which means it's almost my birthday and it is also almost time for our annual trip to Disneyland where we will be from 15-19th October. I really love autumn from a romantic perspective. Red leaves, the first tender frost, conkers on the ground, christmas things appearing in shops, it's a nice time.
Anyway, we obviously haven't harvested our pumpkins yet but we have had something just as good. Our first ever Turk's Turban Squash! I'm not sure wether to call it ugly or a piece of natural art. We're not going to eat it, we are using it for ornamental purposes...
Not bad, hey?

I'll definately be growing them again this year. This little baby has really inspired me to grow some other varieties of ornamental squash and fortunately look what was attached to the magazine as a free giveaway this month...

 They certainly look interesting don't they.

Anyway be sure to follow us on twitter @ourgoodlifeblog and we'll be going live on Facebook next week too. Don't worry, we'll be blogging here as normal these are just some new ways to increase our readership and allow us to share more with friends and family!

Have a good day! Also remember to let me know which magazines you read!


Thursday, 13 September 2012

At least it's not this bad..

Last night's allotment trip was an absolute wash out and continues with the theory that I am cursed. Anyway, I did manage to cover up 2 of the beds which were this year occupied by onions and potatoes. Before covering them I raked in a sack of compost for each bed. They'll get some well rotted manure and soil improver come the spring. Anyway this washout gives me a chance to share something with you that really get's on my nerves.....

This is the biggest plot on our site and look at the state of it!

Apparently it used to be held by 'Barry Trout' who won the Best Kept Allotment competition every single year! He grew the biggest pumpkins, tastiest onions and was the awe of the site. Unfortunately when he died, his family took over the lease and have not bothered with it since due to their own unfortunate circumstances which I won't go in to. It is a real shame, it is the size of 2 of our plots and it overlooks the river and part of the cow field. I hope that somebody takes it over next year and restores it to it's former glory. It's a shame that the local town council don't do something about it. There are genuine people on the waiting list and this double plot is untouched and has been for years. It could have been ours if somebody had sorted it out when we were on the waiting list.

I often get a little depressed about the state of weeds on our allotment, but at least it doesn't look like this plot. Everyone has struggled with weeds this year due to being unable to get to the plots between heavy rain and even thunder storms.

Roll on Summer 2013, a bit more sun would be a delight!!


Wednesday, 12 September 2012

A tour around the gardens at Fircroft.

Well you might have seen me mention my new job in several posts that I have made over the last couple of months. Anyway today I would like to formally introduce you to Fircroft College of Adult Education. I am currently working in the marketing department here and I am having a great time to say the least. Fircroft is set in the house and ground of the Cadbury Empire's former family home. Featuring the historic main building and 6 acres of beautiful gardens, it is a lovely environment to work in.

Today I have been on a walk around the gardens to bring you a small tour of the gardens here. Obviously we are coming to a bit of a halt in this year's growing season, so at the end I'll share some pictures of what the place looks like in the spring and summer seasons too.

From my perspective, the most interesting thing about the grounds at Fircroft is the kitchen garden and polytunnel. Seeing delicious veg being grown here all year round and then having the privilidge of eating it in the dining room is a pleasure. The majority of food at Fircroft is home-made and a lot of the vegetable's are home grown too. Today we have had runner beans in honey (sounds odd, but was delicious) and home grown sweetcorn to accompany our roast chicken.

Let's start at the orchard. There are a good mix of established apple and pear trees along with about 10 new trees which were planted alst year....

 here is the kitchen garden...

This is where all of the delicious vegetables we eat in the canteen come from....

Here's the polytunnel....

Only the other day it was full of tomatoes, but now it's just peppers and chillis left....

Here's a vegetable I don't want to see and if you've read some of our previous posts then you'll know why.......

Like all plots there is a lot of bare earth. Potatoes and onions are up and out of the ground. These patches will get a chance to breathe and with some manure or compost will be ready to go again in 2013..

A path from the kitchen garden leads you to a large lawned area...

On the way we bypass this little sign...

That oak tree is now over 50ft tall!!

Back on the path behind the kitchen garden, where will we go now?

Plenty of woodland..

Now the pond....

Needs a little tlc but is a nice feature none the less...

I spotted plenty of dragonflies around the pond. There was plenty of other wildlife I saw on this little tour including some birds of prey which I think were buzzards, there were also squirells, magpies, a robin, bees, and lots more too!

Looking back at the historic main building which as I have said used to be the Cadbury family home...

In the foreground is a small rose garden....

After all that I even bought myself a present back to the office from the woodland floor....

Alongside courses for adult learners including literacy and numeracy we also host courses for professionals in the voluntary sector, but if that isn't your cup of tea and you've stumbled across my blog whilst looking for gardening start up advice then we also run gardening courses in the summer. It would mean a lot if you took one moment to have a look at our website and see some of the really important work that we do. There should be more details of the gardening courses and their dates on the website too, and maybe some more pictures.

Well, I hope you have enjoyed today's mini tour. I'll try and do at least a monthly update from within the college and let you see what we are up to in the gardens. One of my ambitions that I have is to open up the gardens for the general public next summer, so I'll keep you posted on any developments as and when they happen.

Before I finish here are a couple more pictures of Fircroft at more favourable times of year and also taken with a good camera as opposed to an iPhone!

Also, you may notice that there is a bit of maintenance going on behind the scenes here at , so don't be alarmed if when you next come back some bits have changed or are missing, we are actually updating a few things here and there to bring the live facebook stream to you. I also have a lot of emails throughout the year about growing, gardening, chickens, quail, you name it, so I have decided to add a couple of pages with some FAQs and 'How To Guides'! We hope you'll like them and will let you know when they are ready.

Thanks once again for reading this blog! Your continued comments, emails etc. they mean the world to us and it is always nice to know that people enjoy reading about us and what we are passionate about.

We'll be back tomorrow with an update from tonight's shift at the allotment!


Tuesday, 11 September 2012

September Strawberries and other musings...

Well, at least it's now official! The craziest growing season that we have ever had!

We had literally a couple of strawberries to harvest during the sunny spring, nothing all summer and now....

I think this picture taken only a couple of days ago really sums up the rollercoaster that all of us growers have been on this year. Many, many downs but thankfully some ups too!! It's been really exciting seeing what has coped but also dissapointing to see what has flopped. The strawberries are still on a resurgence and there are plenty more to pick in the coming days.
Other recent picking have offered...
...plenty of beans....

The last week or so has been pretty good weather wise, but due to the new job the allotment is a little bit more neglected than I would like. We are also going out for the day on Friday so there will be little time to visit the plot then. Thankfully Amy has agreed to come to the allotment to give me a hand tomorrow evening, so it will give us some chance to catch up.
So hopefully we'll get the weeds under control at some point and we'll be ready to put the beds we used for potatoes and onions to bed this week by raking in some new compost and covering them over until next year. I have been so busy elsewhere that I haven't even sown any Spring Cabbage seeds despite having the packet sat on my bedside table to remind me. I might have to buy some plugs in a few weeks or sow some in the next couple of days and really hope for the best. Never mind. We're still eating a plentiful supply of summer cabbage, but we are definately going to suffer come the hungry gap!
I must remember that this is our first year on this plot, so we are still learning all about what grows well on this site and we are always thinking of things we can do better. Despite having the allotment for only 7 months we have already been hit twice by mindless thugs. You might remember that our mini greenhouse was stolen a couple of weeks after we 'moved in' and last week some thieving scum bags broke in to a whole host of sheds on the plot. Thankfully they didn't manage to get in to ours but they did have a very good go and there is noticeable damage to some of the shed panels and to the lock which is obscurely bent and now difficult to close.
Thankfully there is nothing in there worth stealing......
We opened the door, it wasn't ajar when we discovered the failed break in attempt.
Oh well! It is depressing, but at least they didn't damage any plants or steal any veg! That's the main thing!
Well. I hope to bring you more updates here soon. I would also just like to clarify that WE ARE NOT moving to facebook permanently. It will just be a subsidary of this blog and will make it easier to communicate with a large pool of our followers and we also hope that our 'min updates' will  feaure here too. Please don't worry, we aren't going anywhere and we are here to stay.
Thanks again for reading. I am hoping to get some pictures of my new work place on here before too long. We have 6 acres of beautiful gardens including a kitchen garden!
Keep smiling, it's almost Christmas!
Martin :0)