Sunday, 25 November 2007

Today I decided to harvest the sweet potatoes from the brick greenhouse. Some of the foliage was just beginning to go over, but in honesty I wanted to move them so I could start to empty the cucumber bed. After the dismal crop from the outdoor plants I really didn't think it could get any worse, but I was wrong ! Just a couple of measly swollen tubers, not even finger thickness. I have learnt my lesson - I think it was a combination of too many, in too small a space. They will definitely be outside next year - but in a better position. I think I shall use a supermarket tuber to start my slips next year, I'll probably buy it in the next couple of weeks and start it off on a sunny windowsill.

As I got halfway through removing the cucumbers, I realised I'd disturbed a huge wasp, which had obviously decided to hibernate beneath the plastic, which lines the brick bed. It was 2-3 times the size of normal wasps. As it was starting to come to, I decided to go and clear the glass greenhouse and leave it in peace.

I took up the tomato plants and french marigolds and then dug over the beds. OH has been complaining that he can't get his feet sideways onto the path, so I straighted the boards to make a bit more space.

greenhouse copy

The left hand bed still has salad leaves in it, although they are huge now and have started to go to seed. I have no idea what the leaves are, but next door assures me I should have eaten them when they were about one inch high, vs their now one foot collosal size !

salad in flower copy

red salad copy

I also have this rather delicate and lovely plant, which I THINK is fennel. It looks lovely and I've seen bulbs in the shop, but don't know anything about harvesting it or eating it, so will need to go and do some research on t'internet. I must remember to water it next time I go though, otherwise it'll be a dead fennel plant :(

fennel copy

My cauliflowers, which have been very neglected since they were potted up, are now beautiful little plants. I couldn't bring myself to plant them outside, so have planted them up in the newly vacated bed. I'm hoping they'll be ready long before I need the space next year - we'll soon see.

Cauliflowers copy

But lookey here - where there's a lovely young, healthy plant, there's always something eyeing it up. This little fella did his best to hide, but fortunately his lovely green coat postively glowed against the brown compost. I hope he didn't have any friends.

caterpillar copy

The last job of the day was to dig some potatoes up. I've still got Cara and Charlotte's in the ground. We've got plenty of Cara at home, so I lifted a few Charlottes. They actually look very good and don't appear to have any critter damage at all. There is another half row to go and then two full rows of Cara.

For tea, we had brie & potato (Cara) bake, with roasted pumpkin. OH has decided he doesn't like roasted pumpkin, so the rest of it will be made into coconut, pumkin & chili soup.

Sunday, 18 November 2007

Just about it for this season

I find you have to take your moments when you can, so off I went this morning, in the freezing rain to the lottie. Not surprisingly I appeared to be the only sole daft enough to venture out on such an unpromising day.

It was just a quick visit this time, and I was pleased to see the lottie looks quite in order. I was, however, disappointed not to see any signs of the garlic or broadbeans. Patience !!!! I have a little cartoon on my wall at work, I really must post it on here sometime, it sums me up completely.

One of the jobs I wanted to do today was take the remaining tomatoes home. I did think I was perhaps being a little hopeful taking a trug with me, but it was all I had to hand and amazingly I actually filled it to the brim with ripe fruit. I've got a bowl full of unripe fruit too, that I'm hoping will ripen at home.


How wonderful to be picking tomatoes in the middle of November ... actually, it wasn't wonderful at all, it was bl**dy freezing. This is the last of the tomatoes now until next May / June. We've got used to having fresh tomato sauce every week, so its quite sad that they have now come to an end.


My greenhouse lodger is really appreciating the peace and quiet of late, it has dug the most amazing maze of tunnels. I keep coming across little larders - a few seeds here, a few munched tomatoes there. I wonder if I'll come across him, when I have time to start digging the greenhouse borders over.

Finally the Tasty Red Grill peppers have ripened in the brick greenhouse, its taken 8 months from seed to fruit. I'm thinking of setting up one of those plastic greenhouses inside the brick greenhouse next year, to see if it speeds the process up a bit.


Eight months is ridiculous and even now, one of them is still green.


They do look good though and are a great size, I hope they taste as good as they look. I shall definitely grow these next year, along with Gypsy. I'm not going to bother with Redskin - they weren't a patch on Gypsy.


I had a quick look at the sweet potatoes. The foliage looks quite happy, so I've left them in situ for a bit longer. I'll be disappointed if there is nothing to show for my efforts - the outdoor ones were not as good as last year, so I won't hold my breath.

Here are my Ying Yang beans, which I harvested last month. They have been drying at home ready for storage. I have no idea what they taste like, or indeed how to cook them (suggestions welcomed), but will probably grow them next year, purely for their appearance. I've enjoyed growing beans so much this year, I've gone overboard and got loads of varieties for next season - I'm going to have to be very strict and just grow, say 10 of each variety. The problem is I can't bring myself to put the spares onto the compost heap, so expect I'll be overun with beans.


Here is my amazing crop of pumpkins - the table is groaning under the weight ... NOT, ah well, there's always next season.

I thought I'd get them all out before we start to eat them, they look so beautiful. I'm not sure which are which, but I planted Butternut Squash (nil point), Sunshine Squash (the very orange ones I think), winter festival (I think the applely looking ones), Baby Bear (pretty certain he died), Jack be Little, Turk's Turbans and Dill's Atlantic Giant. I have no idea what the biggest one is.


This could be winter festival ?

In the foreground, I think this may be a very young Dill's Atlantic Mini pumpkin. Then to the right is a turks turban.


I think this one could be Sunshine Squash. OH roasted it with some olive oil and then made risotto. I preferred it to butternut squash, it seemed sweeter and stickier, the risotto was delicious. I'll almost certainly try them again next year, if I still have some seed.


I'm looking forward to trying them all.


Sunday, 4 November 2007

What a difference a day makes ...

The weather this weekend has been exceptional, but frustratingly I've had to divide my time between the house and the allotment. I spent Saturday wallpapering the small bedroom with backing paper and then had a walk to town to pay in some cheques into my new bank. Fortunately it was closed, as I realised later that the bank I'd headed to and stood outside for a bit, isn't my bank after all ! Doh, I blame the wallpaper paste fumes.

Today I got up nice and early and headed off to the lottie with my list (oh yes, a list!) of jobs. Halfway through the afternoon I met a potential new neighbour - Dennis. I went with him to view the plot and despite my best sales patter his face fell and I'm not sure that I'll see him again. It seems he had his last plot taken off him as he did not do enough to it, so perhaps it is not a bad thing if he doesn't come back. It really needs someone who is going to be dedicated and who can spend the time to bring it round. Keep your fingers crossed.

This bed has had sweetcorn all through the summer. The ratty-mice had stripped the cobs (I don't feel too bad, as the frost got to them before I could) and I chopped up the stems and added them to the compost. I dug the bed over, made the temporary paths into permanent ones and finally planted my broadbeans (aqua dulce). Next doors beans have already popped through and are looking very healthy, although some are already around 2" high - I'm not sure if they are perhaps field beans (for use as a green manure).

Broadbeans copy

Next to be cleared away were the courgettes. I've been very pleased with them this year. I grew tri-coloured balls and they behaved very nicely (only had a couple of canon ball sized ones). Perhaps it was the weather, or maybe the position, but this year I've been able to stay on top of them and we've actually enjoyed them, vs endured them. Will definitely be growing the same variety next season. This bed has been dug over, but as it will not get much sun during the winter I'll leave it empty.

The remaining cabbages still look pretty good, but OH just is not interested in trying them. The pigeons have obviously been enjoying fresh greens and with a little amount of regret I have pulled them up - they will go to the compost heap next time. The soil under the cabbages is frightenly dry - almost dusty. It didn't take much effort to dig over the bed and it has now been planted up with my Germidour Garlic. I love garlic and I really hope that we get bigger bulbs this year. The Cristo Garlic is in the brick bed. I must remember that I have wrongly labelled the garlic and broadbean beds (LOL, must be those paste fumes again).

Garlic copy

Surprisingly my runner beans were still producing pods and I could even see a couple of flowers. The frost doesn't seem to have touched them at all. It took ages to untangle the canes and I'd forgotten that I'd planted a butternut squash underneath them (not a fruit in sight though). Most of the plants are now on the compost heap, but I've dug a few into the soil, in the hope that the nitrogen will be locked in.

RunnerBeanBed copy

Here is the plot, looking up towards the entrance. The sweetpeas and sweetcorn are now on the compost heap. I still need to dig over this whole area. It was finished in quite a rush last season, but I've very pleased on the whole that the area is relatively weed free. I know that I will find a few bindweed roots when I dig it over, but it is not bad at all.

plot4 copy

This shot is with my back to the greenhouse, still looking up to the entrance.

Plot3 copy

This is from entrance looking down the length of the plot. The brick bed in the foreground has my Cristo garlic in it, but it seems to be one of the foxes favourite places to practise their dancing! I wish they would step up their rodent patrols - a little brown bugger appeared from the tyre wall next door as I was leaving.

plot2 copy

This is the other side, looking down still. The broadbean bed is inthe foreground, then the garlic, green manure (rye - looks like grass), overwintering onions with Jerusalem Artichokes at the right hand side of the bed and then the flower bed.

plot copy

My Red Electric Onions are looking very well. They are still very small, but are very green and look quite happy in their bed. I hope that next season is better for onions - I don't think my crop from this season is going to last very long. They seem to be developing an outside skin, halfway through the onion and then rotting from there out. There was far too much rain for them last year.

RedOnions copy

My peppers are teaching me a thing or two about patience and looking super in the process. This is the last plant (and also the best) still at the lottie. It is in the brick greenhouse, which next year will be the pepper house. I'll be cropping them in the next couple of weeks.

red peppers copy

The buckwheat has finally succummed to the cold, so I decided to dig over the bed. It looks so much better - but I ran out of time and inclination, so still need to do its neighbour. The bees finally seem to have hibernated, so I won't feel so bad about digging the Phacelia in.

GreenManureBed copy

Here are my musselbrough leeks. They are starting to fill out nicely:

Leek copy

This is the very last Globe Artichoke still in flower. I've cut the heads off all of the other plants and have left them on the hedge for the birds (I presume they will eat the seeds ?)

GlobeArtichoke copy

A trip to Lidls the other day rewarded me with a Crab Apple Tree (Malus Red Sentinel) and a Bramley Cooking Apple Tree. For now they have a temporary home behind the greenhouse. When I have a bit more time I will move the Bramley apple nearer to the carrot bath at the end of the plot. I have no idea whether I'll get any fruit next year, or whether perhaps they are a longer term prospect - but I have my fingers crossed for apple pie and crab apple jelly. (the photo is of the crab apple).

Crab Apple copy

Remember my carrot bath ? It started off so well in Spring, but the carrots never really got going. I think covering them with fleece was not such a good idea - I don't think much rain got through it and I think the carrots dried out too much and their foliage died. Once the fleece was removed (around August I think), the carrot tops bushed up again, but the carrots are a pitiful size.

CarrotBath copy

If anyone has any top tips on growing carrots I'd be very interested to hear them. Next season, I intend to make a fleece or mesh fence, which will be open to the elements. The bath is filled with river sand & compost.

Carrots copy

Here is my compost heap. It is pretty sizeable now that I've filled it. I'm not sure it'll get hot enough though, as it is open at one side. I really must try and get hold of some more pallets and make another 'wall'.

CompostHeap copy

The alpine strawberries look gorgeous in the weak sunshine - and taste lovely too. I've managed to get a couple of baby plants, so hopefully next year I'll have doubled my crop.

AlpineStrawberry copy

This fushia used to live in my back yard and is temporarily living at the allotment. It is hanging on to summer and just has a few flowers left. We've had several frosts now, so it is doing very well. Over winter I will move it one of the greenhouses, along with my bay tree, fatsia japonica and geranium.

Fushia copy

The Verbena is still going strong - it looks so pretty and delicate. I hope it does lots of self seeding. The Ox Eye Daisies are just beginning to go over.

Verbena copy

All in all not bad for November. I feel much better now that I've at least got my garlic and broadbeans in. There are still lots of things left on the list, but they'll have to wait. The most urgent I guess is lifting the final potato bed - not sure what to expect, especially as it'll be a couple of weeks at least I think until I can get back.

Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Get your woolies on ...

Oh dear, autumn has turned into winter already I think. We have had several frosts here, which have completely seen off the sweetcorn, squashes and pumpkins.

This miserable little thing is all I have to show from around 6 plants - very disappointing. I haven't quite gotten over it. I may consider giving one of them greenhouse space next year to guarantee some butternuts.

butternut copy

These are my outdoor sweetpotatoes, taken a week or so ago. The top growth looks like it has been in a fire. It was the motivation I needed to dig up the tubers:

frostedSweetPotatoes copy

They are certainly not as big or as plentiful as last year, but with hindsight they were definitely in the wrong place. Next year, they shall have a far superior home. The ones in the greenhouse still look OK, so I've given them a watering and will lift them next month. We've not yet sampled them - they didn't last long at all last year, so I'm hoping they make up in taste, what they lack in size. Apparently if you keep them for a little bit and 'cure' them, they become sweeter. The blue tray is about half full now (from around 15 plants)

Sweetpotatoes copy

Here is my most successful aubergine. The variety is Red Egg and the bush now has quite a lot of little fruits hanging off it, but can I bring myself to try them .... NO!!! they look horrible. Have crossed aubergines off my list for next year - someone remind me when I am nurturing my seedlings next spring :)

RedEggAubergines copy

The lemon crystal cucumbers have been very successful - but we have hardly eaten them this season. Again, another thing to cross off my list for next year - although I might just plant one, as they are very refreshing.

LemonCrystalCucumbers copy

I've now cropped all of the big tomatoes and they are sat at home, ripening slowly. The plants were sucumming to mold and the cold.

GreenTomatoes copy

The sweet olive plum tomatoes are on their last legs, but still have plenty of fruit. Most of it is now orangey-red and I'm hoping that they'll ripen over the next week or two. We've been roasting them with olive oil and the resulting sauce is delicious - so much nicer than anything you can buy or make with shop bought tomatoes.

tomatoes copy

I cut down the sunflower heads to dry them and collect the seeds a couple of weeks ago. We took some of the stuff from the move up a couple of days later and discovered huge piles of shells everywhere. As I've disturbed a 'ratty-mouse' and found droppings in the brick greenhouse, I'm pretty convinced they are the culprits ! Little b*****ds. Found another one in the compost heap, it seemed startled, then miffed at being discovered and ran around like a loopey thing for a while, until it realised I could still see it. I shrieked (of course) and did a little jiggy dance (to stop it running up my trousers you understand) whilst watching it scarper into next doors lottie.

sunflowers copy

I've been more than a little stressed for the last couple of weeks - in the same week that I moved house, a muppet crashed into my car. It has finally gone to insurance, but the cost of the repairs are very close to the value of my car, so there is a possibility that it may be written off. It goes to the garage next week, so I'll have an anxious wait until they make a decision. I suffered a bit of whiplash, but was more annoyed at the timing. They say moving house is one of the most stressful times of your life and thats without numpties who don't look where they are going.

MCD car3 copy

I've got so many jobs to do and so little time (renovating my new 'home') at the moment, that I think I'll be overwhelmed soon. I have managed to get my onions in and half of my garlic. There is still a bed of Charlotte and Cara potatoes waiting to be dug up. The green manure needs digging in. The cucumbers, aubergines, tomatoes and remaining pepper plants need to go to the compost heap. Sweetcorn needs chopping up, before adding that to the compost heap too. The greenhouses need cleaning out and sorting / tidying out. I need to have a huge fire with all the bits of hedge and weed piles that are lying around. The beans need to be pulled up and added to the compost. The broad beans need to be planted once the beds are prepared. The Jerusalem Artichokes need digging up. The Globe Artichokes need pruning / moving. The strawberry bed desperately needs attention and then of course there is still the jungle to tackle. Aaaarrrrggggghhh, going for a lie down now, while I think about it all.

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

the nights are drawing in ..

Sunday was my first trip to the lottie for a couple of weeks - we had a lovely weekend in Whitby, visiting my folks and delivering birthday presents. We went to Scarborough for a day and walked the North Bay - the weather was fantastic and gloriously warm. I think the sunshine may have gotten to my mum however, as she is convinced that she saw a penguin being attacked and eaten by a mink ... there wasn't much to say after that LOL. This is Scarborough from Oliver's Mount:

Scarborough copy

We didn't have time to visit the castle, but perhaps next time.

I had a great day on Sunday and got loads done. The cauliflowers are now potted on and in the greenhouse to grow on a bit. The cold has seen off three of the turks turban plants so I harvested three squashes (the fourth, which was very small, has succumed to the cold) and dug over the bed. Only one of the squashes will store, the others will need to be eaten as soon as possible. I left the remaining plant in the bed as it is still healthy (it is protected by the jerusalem artichokes at the end of the bed) and planted up the remainder of the bed with my overwintering onion. This season I'm trying Red Electric ... they can't do much worse than last winter.

Electric onions copy

The jerusalem artichokes have developed flower buds, so I guess it is nearly time to dig them up. I have never eaten them before so am curious to taste then - although I've heard lots of stories about their effect on the human body !!

I've also bought some garlic - Cristo and something else (its pink) and decided to plant them in the second potato bed. As I lifted the final spade of potatoes I got to thinking about what I'd planted there the season before ... oh yes, onions. So total waste of time digging up the potatoes after all. So now I'll need to dig up the cabbages instead ! The potatoes I dug up were Cara and Pink Fir Apple. It's my first season with both and I'm really pleased. The Cara are quite small, especially compared to the Rocket, but the tops had died off by the end of July, so I guess they didn't have long to grow. I got a brilliant crop from the PFA and experienced a bit of a thrill digging them up, they are so quirky. Potato bed no. 3 is still waiting to be dug up (more Cara and Charlotte). Am running out of storage space for them.

The weather has definitely grown colder, so I decided to take my remaining melons home. I was furious when I picked them up and realised that bloody slugs have been munching the underneath. On the plus side the smell was divine, so I cut off the munched bits - I'm so at one with nature ;) - and we enjoyed them on Monday evening. I asked OH what he thought of them and he said he thought they tasted 'very meloney' ... so err, I guess that can be classed a success then. The Edonis is really having a growth spurt and has started flowering again. I don't imagine it will last much longer in the cold, but I haven't the heart to dig it up just yet, so I've tucked it up and given it some protection. I dug over the rest of the brick bed. About three weeks ago I sowed some carrots seeds where the Temptation melon had been, surprisingly they have germinated and look pretty good. I've covered them with a fleece cloche and we'll see how they do:

Carrots copy

Here are my musselborough leeks, they are starting to fill out nicely. I've only got 20-30 and nearly fell off my chair when one of my work colleagues informed me that they have planted 200 !!!

Leeks copy

My tomato plants are still going well and some even have flowers on again. There are lots of green tomatoes on the plants in the potting shed, but something is eating the ripe tomatoes in situ - at least whatever it is, is eating full fruits, not just having a bite here and there. The red egg aubergines are now orangey/red and still as unappealing as ever. Next year I am only growing one aubergine - it will be the calliope as I had more success with it than the others. The peppers are looking great - I've given OH four of the tasty red grill / yellow grill to make stuffed peppers ... they are still green though, I think they need a lot more sunshine to change colour.

A cat appeared in the allotment on Sunday. It gave me a rather dismissive glance and then continued its leisurely prowl into the long grasses and weeds and disappeared from sight. A little while later it popped up on top of the compost heap, looking very interested. Worried about my little vole family I went to investigate - as the cat disappeared into next doors lottie, I saw some huge red fruits in the hedge. I've never noticed them before and think they may be tayberries - they are double the size of raspberries. Here they are, along with raspberries (bottom left) and alpine strawberries (bottom right) ... which are now inside my tummy after being baked in muffins :)

berries copy