Sunday, 24 December 2006

I finished work on 12th December with the aim of spending loads of time up at the lottie, but in all that time I've managed one hour! Why's that you ask ? well, firstly there were presents to be bought, then they needed wrapping, delivery men to wait in for, then there was the visiting of family and friends - finally I get to the lottie yesterday.

Hurray I think, dashing into the brick greenhouse and emerging gleefully clutching my spade and rushing to the bottom of the plot to commence digging - only to find that the ground is FROZEN SOLID ... words failed me as I moped around balefully kicking leaves back onto the beds.

My broadbeans took ages to finally germinate, but I was pleased to see that they had all emerged - however, on closer inspection several of the young shoots have been trimmed at ground level and have a suspicious round hole (2-3" deep) next to them. At first I thought maybe a fox had walked across the bed, but the holes are only where the plants have been and they are very uniform in shape - seems like my little vole family may be the culprits.
Not sure if there is anything I can do to protect them, so will just have to hope that they leave me some.

My bed of garlic is looking really healthy and strong - the leaves are around 2" high now.
The bed next to it has my Japanese onions, which were planted at the same time, but in comparison are very small and weedy looking.
I'm hoping that they've managed to put on enough growth to get through the winter. They've probably not been helped by the seemingly never ending deluge of rain (where was it in the summer when we needed it) that has probably waterlogged the bed by now.

An hour later with feet and hands freezing I had to admit defeat and rush back to the warmth of the house.

Popping back up today to lift some leeks and parsnips and cut some herbs.

Will need to remember to put a marker on the parsnips as I noticed yesterday that the foliage has all but disappeared now.

Happy Christmas and best wishes for 2007.

Monday, 20 November 2006

New Greenhouse

The greenhouse frame is finally complete and was a lot easier to put back together than we thought it would be. Its weighted down by bricks whilst I try to decide on its permanent position. Once thats been decided and the ground has been levelled, it'll need glazing - suspect the air will be blue that weekend !

Whilst we were trying to fix the roof in place, the top crossbeam fell and hit me quite hard on the back of my neck - at first I thought the tears were just from shock, but actually it has been quite painful for the last few days - its easing now, but is still very tender to the touch.

One of the jobs for the weekend was to have a fire to get rid of the huge pile of weeds, hedge etc that seem to accumulate at this time of year. The wind has dried everything out and practically with one match it was away. Here is one of my favourite shots - the bindweed burning !!

I had a clearout of the brick greenhouse, which I've not really done anything with yet. Its heavily shaded by the hedge, so I'll have to take my ladders up one weekend and cut it down a bit. We found some suspicious looking sheets and sure enough the man at the tip confirmed that they are pieces of asbestos sheeting - when I contacted the Sheffield Council Allotment department to report it, they insisted it is up to tenants to remove the asbestos themselves.

When I took over the allotment I inherited a home-made potting table, which is really rickety. It satisfied my needs in spring, but was moved to the brick greenhouse during the summer to make way for the tomatoes. Having found a very sturdy table to replace it, its time was up and the fire beckoned. It was so old and rotten that it collapsed as we tried to move it - not a moment too soon.

We met some new lottie people on the same lane as us. They've only had their lottie for a month or so, but are making astounding progress. It's good to have some new people around, I had a good walk round recently and noticed that many of the allotments look abandoned and run down - although unbelievably there is supposed to be a waiting list ??

The apple tree has lost most of its leaves now, so I really need to think about moving it to somewhere more suitable - wonder what on earth possessed the last tenant to plant it next to the path.

Tuesday, 14 November 2006

Coconut, chilli and pumpkin soup

this soup is absolutely gorgeous, thought I'd share the recipe for all of you who have a glut of pumpkin ! Supposed to serve 8

4 tbsp vegetable oil
4 large shallots
3 cloves garlic
3cm piece of fresh ginger
2 thumb size red chillies
1kg (2lb 4oz) pumpkin (or butternut), peeled & cubed
510ml (18fl oz) vegetable or chicken stock
2 tbsp Thai fish sauce (I'm veggie, so miss this bit, and add more vegetable stock)
2 x 400ml tins coconut milk
25g fresh coriander
zest & juice of 2 limes

1. Heat oil in large saucepan. peel & chop the shallots, garlic and ginger, deseed and chop the chillies. Add all these ingredients to the pan with some salt & pepper.
2. Cook gently for 5 mins on medium to high heat, then add pumpkin, stock, fish sauce and coconut milk. Simmer partially covered for 25 mins.
3. Chop coriander and stir into the pan along with the lime zest & juice, then puree the soup in a liquidiser in batches.
4. check seasoning & enjoy !

Sounds a bit faffy, but its really not.

Sunday, 5 November 2006

Finally the courgettes are no more

Thank goodness - the recent frost has decimated the courgette bed, I'm quite relieved as they looked as if they might continue through the winter ... must try really hard to only grow one plant next year, OK, maybe two, but no more.

The Marigolds are having a last gasp, I'm surprised they've survived so long

Found another comparison photo of my very first bed .. I was so proud and excited when I got to this stage - reaching the path was a big deal ! It seems a very long time ago now ...

Planted my broad beans (Aquadulce Claudia) into bed 7 on Saturday. At Nicks recommendation I fleeced the bed to protect them from frost as they pop through the surface and also from the birds. OH mulched beds 2, 3 & 8 with leaves. We had another go at the hedge, but its going to take ages by hand. There appears to be a young-ish oak tree further down the plot, which I think I'll have to take down, to let the winter light in - feel very bad cutting it down, but it really is in the wrong place - will try and keep it as part of the hedge instead ..

We decided to start using the pumpkin this weekend, as it is taking up so much space. We made pumpkin, chilli & coconut soup on Saturday and pumpkin risotto today. The soup has a gorgeous Thai flavour. Risotto is nearly all gone and we've still only used an eight of the pumpkin at most. Thinking of taking some chunks into work to share it out. OH has asked me to make pumpkin pie, but it seems we have different ideas - I though PP was sweet, whereas he believes it is savoury, so I'll have to do some research on the internet.

The allotments were very busy on Sunday evening with fireworks and bonfires, whilst we were desperately trying to put together a greenhouse frame before darkness enveloped us. It is the greenhouse that I was promised back in spring by some friends which has had a few plants growing in it over the summer, the most notable of which has been a very established grapevine, which they have managed to save and plan to train up an arch. The greenhouse was too big for their garden and considered an eye-sore, so I was very happy to give it a new home ! Its huge (well, by my standards anyway). We've almost got the frame back together, but I need to get some more bolts & nuts, as some of them were a little corroded and sheared off when we were dismantling it. It needs a couple of panes of glass replacing, but overall looks pretty good. It comes with some fantastic staging too. So the next few visits to the lottie will be to dig over the ground where it will be sited, make a base and get it glazed / secured for the winter - sounds easy, right ??

I can feel a nervous breakdown coming on ... OH is already adamant that he wants nothing to do with the next stages.

Saturday, 4 November 2006

Now and then

Well I've had my allotment for a year now, so I thought I'd post some comparison photos of how it looks now compared to when I first took it on (click on the photo to enlarge it).

We had to hack our way in and had no idea that there was a path running down the middle of the plot. Hopefully this winter I'll manage to finish digging the rest - under a third to do now.

This is the view from the potting shed looking down the plot. I managed to clear most of this in time to plant my potatoes back in April. The herb path was added in May. I'm planning to cover this bed in leaves to try and improve the soil. The right hand side of the allotment is shaded by the hedge (which I'm in the process of cutting down to 3-4 foot high), so the ground is generally a bit wetter and not as good as the other side.

Sunday, 15 October 2006

Autumn Walk

here are some pictures from our Autumn walk through a village near to Huddersfield, it was a beautiful day:

October so far ...

My garlic has already surfaced and is looking very healthy. Last year I didn't plant until December, and got very small bulbs in July when I harvested them, so next year I'm hoping for a bumper crop.

The Japanese onions have sprouted too, just hope they don't get too waterlogged over winter, not grown the before, so will be interested to try them next year. Understand they'll be ready a lot sooner than spring planted sets.

I've re-dug beds 9 & 10, which were done very quickly in May / June and were only half dug by the time the pumpkins were ready for planting, as the discovery of my vole family halted digging. I've spoiled myself over the summer with my other beds - the soil is so good and the weeds so few from all the hard effort I put in over the winter, that it was a shock to rediscover the joys of digging soil that is bursting with bindweed runners and other nasty weeds. Will have to rethink my disposal plan. Boy its hard work.

Bed 11 was the potato bed this year, I've finally finished digging and raking it - but it's huge, so I need to think about paths to break it up for the next season. OH started to tackle the hedge behind it, I want it taking down to around 3-4ft to let the winter sun spread its warmth across the bed, which is slightly wet. As soon as the leaves arrive (courtesy of the council), I intend to cover it with barrow loads to try and improve / condition it. OH also replenished the bark paths running down each hedge - they look great and are really helping keep the weeds down. My only worry is that the bindweed is probably taking hold, as it can spread unseen and unchecked under the mulch.

I've set up a temporary cold frame with an old packing case and some perspex. It is currently housing the lavender cuttings (not sure that they've been terribly successful), strawberry runners (loads more to pot up), and some poppy and lupin seeds that I'm going to try and get established before the winter. If I manage to get any spare time over the winter months I want to build a permanent cold frame - I've got a plan and some glass, just need some wood and some spare time.

Next month is my one year anniversary, so I'm going to take some photos and then do a last year / this year comparison.

Size matters ...

My biggest pumpkin measured 45" ... not a world record breaker, but will still make a fair bit of soup !

Harvest Festival

Worried about the recent cold weather, I decided that this weekend I should take all of my treasures home for storage. Its brilliant seeing it all together

I've donated two of the pumpkins to the local schools that my firm supports - they are not sure what they are going to do with them yet. I've kept one for us - if we started eating it this weekend, we might finish it by January !!

I don't think I'll grow them again next year, as they take up so much space (although I did get some packet of seeds during the Wyevale sale ...) and the final one is at the lottie - it's skin has a little damage, so I don't think it will last long. Bernard & Roo have their own mini munchkins.

The kitchen is overwhelmed with veggies at the moment - I do wonder when we are going to eat them all.

Dug up the last of the Desiree They've benefitted from the additional couple of weeks in the ground, although they do have a bit of critter damage.

We've still got two blue crates of Pentland Javelin left, but noticed that they have started to sprout ! They are stored at the top of the cellar, but perhaps its not cold enough.

The courgettes are STILL going strong - they have been quite phenomenal this season. We've given up cutting them ... There are just four plants in the raised brick bed.

I'll definitely be growing these again, they look so lovely and didn't take up too much room. Next year I'll set them up a frame.

I've got some new friends

Here is my newest resident. I heard OH shrieking, as if in distress, and came running to find him chasing the poor little thing around the sunflowers.
I found another baby living in the herb path, he seems quite partial to the alpine strawberries and forget-me-nots.

OH chased him into the pond and was then delighted with himself that he'd helped him find the water "as he might not have known that the pond was there before". I suspect they'll be looking for a new home soon !

This is my cutie caterpillar

Friday, 13 October 2006

Sweet success !

I planted my T&M sweet potato slips out at the end of May under black weed supressent material. I've never grown them before and was bit unsure what to expect, especially so far North. Once they got going, they produced some good foliage and finally this w/e I didn't dare dally any longer and risk frost, so dug them up. What a suprise, they look fantastic

I've got some sizeable tubers and loads of very small ones (lots looked like they'd like to be in the ground for another month or so).

Unfortunately, the local wildlife also thought they looked fab for lunch and lots of them have small holes in them.

I'll definitely try them again next year, however, I'll try and produce my own slips rather than buying them.

This wee fella was the first out and looks like he is auditioning for a part in Aliens They looked so yummy that we decided to have these two for tea - delicious!

don't look muvver... tis rude !

heh, heh ..... lookie what I dug up ...

Wednesday, 4 October 2006

Yum !

Made a special tea for Mum & Mike's birthdays - Ale pot pies, with champ and courgette & potato bake .... followed by warm chocolate pots - which was followed by lemon curd drizzle cake. Well we wouldn't want it to go off now ...

Delicious !

Tuesday, 3 October 2006

Progress Report

well, we had a good day at the lottie on Saturday, despite mum's sandals (!) We harvested all of the butternut squashes, turks turbans, patty pans (only 3 from 8 plants - where did they all go ??) and pumpkins. They are now all sat in the potting shed drying / curing. The pumpkins won't win any competitions, but I'm very pleased with them. I think I'll give some to one of the schools that we support through work - maybe they can raise some money through a guess the weight compeitition, or perhaps make use of them in the kitchen.

The butternuts look brilliant, shall definitely grow them again next year.

Cleared out most of the potting shed, as everything looks so tired. Kept a couple of tomatoes that look as if they might have a last gasp and the pepper that I think has finished, but I can't bear to throw it out just yet ... and lookie, see what I found amongst the foliage:

I know they're very small, but they're mine ! Here is the one that my folks grew (from a plant I gave to them), it's huge and looks lovely. Shall make a curry with them I think.

The outdoor tomatoes looked absolutely terrible and have really suffered with all of the rain, so they've now gone to the make-shift compost heap.

We managed to dig over 3 beds, didn't take much effort really, as I have paths down either side, so never need to walk on the surface, hence its really light and uncompacted. Surprisingly there were not too many weeds either, I'm quite pleased with how I've managed to keep on top of everything in my first season. The beds look fabulous now - have a strange fetish for freshly dug earth, it looks so lovely.

I planted 6 bulbs of purple wight, which have taken nearly a whole bed and Mike planted the Japanese onions. Suspect his rows will be a lot straighter than mine !

Mum cleared the path (when I first took over the alloment, we didn't even realise there was a path there !) and planted my free daffodil bulbs down the side of the herb path, which should look lovely against the blue bench in the spring.

I still need to lift the remaining Desiree, I've got my fingers crossed that they haven't suffered too much from slugs, but the lottie has definitely been invaded. They've had practically all of the carrots - just empty orange shells left ! Next year I shall plant my carrots into a container, maybe a wallpaper trough, where the slugs can't reach them.

Think its probably time to have a peek at the sweet potatoes, the foliage is very impressive, but its impossible to tell whether there is anything under there.

Tuesday, 26 September 2006

Well it's been a busy month.

The tomatoes surely must be coming to an end soon, but every time one of us visits there are yet more red fruits demanding to be picked.

The courgette sized marrows are still going strong - in fact, I'm throwing out more than I'm using and we've been enjoying the sweetcorn for the last 3 weeks (I was beginning to wonder whether they would ever be ready).

Harvested a couple of butternut squashes earlier in the month. One larger than the other. We used the smaller one last week and upon preparing realised that it is way bigger than the supermarket ones - only used a quarter of it (for butternut squash risotto .. mmmm). Rest of it is lounging around the fridge like a teenager.

The onions are finally all harvested, cleaned up and in boxes for storing, along with the garlic and shallots. Still eating the Pentland Javelins and have harvested the first half of the Desiree ... desperately need to find somewhere to store it all before the weather turns.

My garlic, Purple Wight, arrived yesteday - yippee. Also managed to get some Japanese Onion sets (x 50), although not yet managed to find any shallots. Folks are visiting at the w/e so hopefully we'll get them planted, harvest the rest of the potatoes and the remaining squashes.

Pumpkins are a beautiful colour now and also need harvesting, although not quite sure how we'll manage that, or even what we'll do with them. Have an IKEA tape measure in my bag so I can measure them at the w/e.

Sadly the sunflowers didn't last long, but the heads are a fantastic size and the birds will be kept happy for a while.

Oooo - just thought of another job for folks visit - when I bought the seeds from Wyevale, I was given a voucher for some free daffodil bulbs, so they need planting too - Las Vegas & King Alfred (I think). Have three carrier bags full of gardening related magazines for them as a sweetener !

One of my winter projects is to make a cold frame. I've got my plan and now have some old windows, courtesy of Clare (my work colleague) and her mum - thanks xx

My other project is to make a compost bin. Yes, I know its easy and yes, I've got lots of pallets, but my problem is the infestation of bindweed that is currently lurking in said compost designated area. Oh, that's the other autumn / winter job - clearing and digging the remaining third of the plot. Oh, still got to dismantle, move and rebuild the greenhouse that I was promised earlier in the year and haven't built my leaf mold bin yet either .. Blimey, the list is never ending.

Its hard to believe I've had it for nearly a year now - still lovin' it!