Saturday, 15 September 2007

I dug the cauliflower patch over today and it was like moving dust, the soil is unbelievably dry. Tomorrow I'll need to spend some time doing some serious watering I think. The cauliflowers that I sowed last weekend have made an appearance - although several other things have appeared that I didn't sow !! Guess that is one of the drawbacks of homemade compost, it just doesn't get hot enough to sterilise it. The ying yang bean pods were looking very yellow and dry, so I decided to harvest them - amazingly the beans are black and white inside, I'm really awestruck by mother nature. I'm going to dry the beans thoroughly for a couple of weeks, before putting into a jar. Then I'll need to find a recipe !

I've got four turks turbans growing at the plot and so far every plant has produced a different fruit. Here are two of them, the second bears no resemblance to a turks turban - must have had some cross pollination last year:

turksturban copy

turksbutternut copy

This is one of my few squashes, I've forgotten its name and I'm pretty certain the label has faded. Another couple of others have rotted on the vine, so I'm hoping this one manages to toughen its skin over the next couple of weeks - it is currently football size. It will be treasured this year. I think if this year had been my first season I would be very downhearted - I just didn't appreciate how lucky I was last year ... we ended up giving squash and pumpkins away left, right and centre:

squash copy

Now here is a sight that I would have been delighted to see in July or even August. But September, come on, it is pathetic. I have spotted three and they are not even as big as my little finger yet. I'm guessing that they will not come to much - especially as the weather man was forecasting an air frost for next week:

butternut copy

The only record I'm going to win with my Dills Atlantic Giant this year is perhaps the smallest. The plant has around 10 of these at the moment, they are about palm sized - perhaps if I gather them all up I might be able to make soup ...

dillsatlanticgiant copy

Here is my sweetcorn - it is either Miracle or Incredible (I really must get better at labelling things). Although the plants are still very small compared to last year, the have started to produce decent cobs, and are starting to swell nicely:

sweetn copy

The vole family are having a little taste of my sweetcorn, which I take as a good sign that they are ready to be harvested. I'm just chopping off the bit that has been chewed ... now if somebody told me they were sharing a corn on the cob with a vole !*!*! ... but for some reason its just not bothering me.

Sweetcorn copy

I have another little visitor in the greenhouse, this is the second tomato I've noticed that has been munched

munchedtomato copy

My red egg aubergines have started to change colour now, but they still don't look anymore enticing ... I'm not that keen to try them in honesty
redegg copy

Raspberries are still going well, every week there are more waiting to be picked. I've spread the word that I'm after more when people are thinning their beds:
raspberries copy

I've been chopping away at the hedge today to let a little more light in ... awww, who am I kidding ... really I wanted to clear a path to next doors apple tree and perhaps sample a couple. Sadly after all that work the apples are not worth picking, as they are all marked like this one. I'm guessing that its because the tree hasn't been tended for a couple of years - I'll suggest that the new owners get a sticky collar or whatever it is they need to stop the nasties for next season.

apple copy

Wednesday, 12 September 2007

Autumn has arrived ...

It's been pretty quiet up at the lottie recently, there is not much happening really apart from harvesting produce. I really should be thinking about resuming digging, but I can't quite motivate myself yet. I'll have to get on with it soon though, as I have decided that my plot definitely needs a plum tree. I think I'm going to go for a Victoria as they seem reliable, heavy croppers and are very versatile. I want to put it in front of the compost area. I'd really like an apple tree too, perhaps a bramleys but I've heard that they can grow quite big and don't always give a good crop.

I'm still harvesting beans, courgettes, potatoes, cucumbers, tomatoes, aubergines (baby ones), peppers and enjoyed my first sweetcorn earlier this week. I meant to take a photo of the cobs, but they looked so good and were so tasty that I clean forgot. As I wiped away the butter from around my mouth I remembered ! Oops. I'm never completely sure when sweetcorn are ready, but a couple of the cobs have been nibbled (hopefully by my vole family and not my ratty family, but you know allotmenters can't be too choosey) so I'm going to keep a close eye on them.

These are my temptation melons. The vine that they were growing on died a few weeks ago and I left them covered by perspex to try and ripen them. They are now sat on my lounge windowsill. There was also a very tiny one that I just had to try - it was delicious and very juicy, so I'm looking forward to trying them.

Temptation copy

I've decided next year to give them space in the potting shed (if it is still standing) and I will sacrifice the aubergines, which for the second year running have really been a waste of space (6 plants have yielded two very small aubergines)

Autumn is definitely on its way, but I'm pleased to see that there are still plenty of bugs around the plot. This is a green shield bug on a poppy head:

GreenshieldBug copy

Although I love this time of year, its a reminder that winter is not far away - it has been fairly windy in Sheffield lately and the roads leading to the allotment site are suddenly covered in golden leaves. The bushes are laden with berries, so I wonder if we are in for a hard winter this season. I hope not, need to finish my digging before the end of spring (and I haven't even started yet). I have lots of sunflower heads to keep the birds happy over winter ... if I can keep the vole family off them.

OH has been filling up the waterbutts for me as we've not had any rain for ages - we seem to be getting extremes of weather which is not good for the plot. Each waterbutt has either got mosquitos buzzing around or things darting about in the water. Two of them have boatmen (or maybe backswimmers) in them - I know they are 'baddies' but they are so beautiful to look at. I wonder how they survive over winter.

boatman copy

The green manures are doing well, I'm very pleased that I have sown them, although I'm rather regretting putting in the Nick's rye since he informed me that the reason they do so well is because the inhibit growth of all other plants ! Apparently only clover is unaffected. I found an opened packet of cauliflower seeds last weekend, so I've been able to use my own potting compost for the first time. I'll be checking progress on Saturday and as the weather has been particularly nice lately I decided to try a late crop of carrots in the brick bed, where the temptation melons were. They are under perspex, so we'll see if anything happens.

I called the allotment office last week to enquire about progress with finding me a new lottie neighbour. The plot next to me has not been worked for as long as I have had my plot and it is now rampant with weeds and brambles. The allotment officer assures me that a notice to quit takes effect at the end of this month and that I should have a new neighbour shortly. I pity them, it will be horrendous clearing the plot now that it is in such a state. The waiting list has over 80 people on it apparently - which is stunning when you look at the state of quite a few of the unworked plots. Ho hum, we'll see what happens next month. Good job the brambles are nearly finished :-) Wonder if the apples are ready for harvesting ?

Monday, 3 September 2007


Over the last few weeks I've made loads of jam; Blackberry & Apple, Blackberry Jelly and Plum Jam.

After I'd eaten a couple I ended up with 1.8kg of Czar plums - just enough for jam.

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Here are the fruits of my labours, I made 2 small jars, 4 medium jars and one huge jar

PlumJam copy

I'm not sure whether the plum jam will actually set - it seemed as if it was about to burn in the pan so I thought it best to take it off the heat. The blackberry jam and jelly seemed to behave much better at boiling point. I probably need to invest in a proper preserving pan. After searching for months for a jam funnel, I forgot I owned it and managed to burn my hand ladelling the hot liquid jam into jars ... doh !

PlumJam2 copy

Here is the Blackberry & Apple Jelly - I opened my first jar last weekend and it tastes divine ! I don't think it will last very long. If I can find some more jars and waxed discs etc then I shall try and make some more before the blackberries disappear.

Blackberry Jelly copy

Sunday, 2 September 2007

feed me ...

I've been feeding the compost heap quite a lot recently and decided that perhaps it was time to give it a turn. It is actually in two parts - half has been there since last year and looked very enticing and the other half is still very fresh and is made up of contributions from this season. I decided to find my riddle and after an hour or so of sieving was very pleased to be rewarded with 80 litres of beautiful, crumbly brown compost. It looks gorgeous and I'm really pleased. I don't quite think it will see me through the season, but I'm still very excited and can't wait to try it and see what results I get.

Compost copy

Its been a strange season, so different from last year. I've got NO butternut squash at all, which is very disappointing as we love them so much. Myself and OH are both vegetarian, so the allotment is great for us, but this season we are going to be a little limited in options.

I finally plucked up the courage to dig up the rest of my rockets. I think I must have had blight as half of the potatoes had rotted in the ground, but strangely the other half appear absolutely fine, except for slug / worm damage. Perhaps the tops were dieing down as the blight struck. Next door looked at the size of them in amazement and queried 'earlies, are you sure??', but in honesty they have been baking size since beginning of June. I've cleared the bed and sown some Alfalfa, which is supposed to restore fertility. The bed looks lovely now that it has been dug over. I'm thinking of putting some broad beans in there next, after I've done some reseach on t'internet ref 'crops to follow blight'. The rye which I planted a week or so ago in the onion bed is already a couple of inches high and the other two beds with green manure are looking pretty good. I'm hopeful for next season.

I'm slowly getting to know my plot and understand what works and what doesn't. For instance, in the brick greenhouse is this Tasty Red Grill pepper:

TastyRedGrill copy

It looks great, its really tall (taller than me), has no pest damage and the plant looks really healthy, strong and green. Compare that with the same plant that is in the glass greenhouse and they look like different varieties. All of the peppers in the glass greenhouse have got terrible pest damage and the plants are quite stunted in comparison. So next year I realise that the brick greenhouse should be the pepper house.

Sadly my Mohican is well on its way to the compost heap. I'm not sure if it is the greenfly, or down to bad ventilation - I suspect a combination of both. The plants are absolutely covered in greenfly and I keep forgetting to take my washing up liquid with me. The tomatoes in the same area do not have any greenfly at all:

Mohican copy

Here are my Red Egg, which are looking very strange at the moment, its safe to say the jury is out, but I don't think I'll be growing them again next year. The leaves have horrendous spines, far worse that the other varieties of aubergine:
Red Egg copy

My Calliope and Black Beauty look gorgeous and even though they are very small I decided to cut them just in case:

Calliope copy

Black Beauty copy

My Hispi are behaving very strangely - but then again I'm not familar with them, so perhaps they are behaving normally ... they grew quite big over the summer and the slugs have been enjoying them. However, the inside of the cabbage has continued to grow and has now burst through the centre, Alien style. They look pretty healthy, perhaps they are miffed that OH won't eat them. I've fed a few to the compost heap, but it will be a shame to send them all, so perhaps I'll try another stirfry next week.

Hispi copy

I lifted the remaining cauliflowers and fed them to the compost heap too (you can see why I've been riddling can't you). They started so well when they first germinated, but have been very disappointing. I will try again, but wonder if I did something wrong with them. Will check with my million books on growing veg and see what they recommend.

This is my Jack Be Little. I've set it up a trellis wigwam, but the plant is pathetically small and I've only got three fruit - one for Horrace, one for Bernard and one for Roo perhaps. At least they will be happy.

JackbeLittle copy

My globe artichokes are all in full flower now and almost have a look of Sea anemones about them. Once they've finished flowering I shall cut them down and then move one of them to the pond area. I've also promised next door one. Hopefully next year we'll do more with them in the kitchen, but they are so lovely it is hard to harvest them and spoil their beauty.

artichoke copy

I was lucky enough to meet someone in the car park as I was packing up to go home who has a glut of plums and let me take some to make jam. They have two trees, one was Czar and the other was a Victoria Plum. The trees were dripping with fruit and they said they don't need to prune the trees as usually the branches snap under the weight of the fruit ! I picked around 2kg of Czar and am now desperately seeking jam jars ... I've decided that I shall definitely get a plum tree for my plot and I still have my £30 gift vouchers (which have tried to burn a hole in my pocket, but failed so far) so shall start to look around. If the jam works well a Czar will probably be my first choice.