Welcome to our allotment blog. We've got a plot, now we're trying to figure out what we're doing! So please join us - put the kettle on, sit back, and dream about Living The Good Life...

Friday, 22 February 2008

Marshalls, we salute you!

Wow. Seeds. Lots of seeds.

Are you ready? (Deep breath...)

  • Cucumber Marketmore
  • Carrot Rainbow. 'A range of unusual colours' it says.
  • Parsnip Panache.
  • Asaparagus Pea.
  • Pumpkin We B Little 'Heavy yields of mini-pumpkins'.
  • Squash scallopini mix. 'Prolific' (read between the lines - this could mean 'lots of fruits' or alternatively 'take over the world'.)
  • Squash acorn mix. 'Tasty when roasted'.
  • Courgette Gold Rush. (Yes, they're yellow!)
  • Kale Dwarf Green Curled.
  • Sweetcorn Swift
  • Kohl Rabi red and green mix
  • Swede Marian (now I have to get something called Robin Hood too)
  • Spinach Emilia
  • Beetroot Tasty Trio 'Mix of red, yellow and white beets'. (Multi-coloured salads, here we come!).
  • Outdoor Tomato Super Marmande. 'Large, irregular shaped fruits, great flavour'.
  • Pea Onward.

All for the grand total of... (drumroll please)... £25. Bargain!

The carrot and parsnip says it can be sowed outdoors from February to... wait a minute! It's February NOW! Hurrah!!! Fresh carrots in May, la la la...!

Jamie Oliver is my food hero today. I watched Jamie at Home on Thursday and he was doing strawberries in the first episode, and broad beans and peas in the second. I now can't wait 'til things are in season!!!

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

It's cold again

Wow, looks like February has finally remembered that it’s winter. Frosty mornings, ice in the water butt, frozen earth. Brr.

But we have seen the first onion set poke above the soil. Which is good. After we got carried away and planted the whole lot of onions and shallots a couple of weeks ago I was worried that they’d got frozen or rotted in the damp below the ground. But now I have hope. Fingers crossed that most of them will come up ok! Roll on spring…

No sign of the broad beans yet either. On Sunday I made a makeshift cloche out of bamboo canes and corrugated plastic which’ll hopefully keep most of the chill off the row, and then I also sowed another double row of beans alongside.

Adam did more digging (good man!), and I thought about tackling more of the strawberry patch before the weeds take over, but then I had a closer look, and chickened out and started a fire to burn all the twiggy weeds and dry grasses. (Mearing! Hurrah!)

We also took one of our compost bins from home to the plot. We’ve used cheap plastic dustbins, with some holes drilled in, for all our kitchen waste. We didn’t think it was very well composted – there were lots of big lumps on top – so we were going to add it to our heap on the allotment to give it a kick-start (it’s currently lacking greenery), but when we took the top layer off, underneath was nice and brown and crumbly - yeay! So we’ll keep the precious stuff separate, ready to add to the soil where it’s needed in a month or so.

We’re also planning on creating a compost trench when we’ve decided where the runner beans are going to go. It’s dead simple - you just dig a trench in the ground, add a whole load of kitchen waste in the bottom of it, and fill the soil in over the top. If we do this a couple of months before we plant beans on top, by the time the seedlings are sending down roots the kitchen waste will have rotted down, giving lots of lovely nutrients. And more beans for us. Fab.

Thursday, 14 February 2008

I love squash

Posted off our mega seed order on Tuesday. It says that seeds are usually dispatched 3 or 4 working days later, so we might get them by the weekend. *Glee!*

We decided to throw caution to the wind and just go for everything we wanted, and even stuff which we just had a slight hankering for. £1 here or there doesn’t make that much difference - not when you think how much free (ish) food we’ll get out of it - and if we don’t use everything this year, or we run out of room on the plot (a definite possibility) we can either keep seeds till next year, or give them away to family, friends and allotment neighbours.

So, alongside yellow courgettes (yeay!), funny-shaped and various-coloured squash (double yeay!!) and multicoloured carrots (triple yeay!!!) we’ve also ordered kohl rabi, asparagus peas and a random selection of winter greens. Hopefully next year we’ll have spinach and winter salads to munch on, plus leeks, sprouts, swedes and parsnips, if not more! Looking forward to Christmas Dinner already :)

Most excited about growing? Squash. They’re little jewel-like lanterns of goodness. Roasted, fried, barbecued or souped, they’re tasty tasty tasty.
Least excited about growing? Cucumber. Bleh. But then I wasn’t a huge fan of Brussels sprouts until we grew them ourselves, so maybe I’ll be a cucumber convert too.

I think a solution to the potential lack of space issue will be to look into companion planting. A usual example is sweetcorn, beans and squash... The sweetcorn grows nice and tall, providing support for the beans, which climb up it, while squash plants scramble around on the ground below, also suppressing weeds (another reason I like squash.)

I also must not forget that things aren't in the ground all year. The spring cabbage will be up and out (and eaten) by summer, in time for planting out other veggies that need warmer weather to start...

Happy Valentine's Day, by the way

Monday, 11 February 2008

Packets of potential

Just realised we never had a picture of the seeds that I got so excited about last month. The Rainbow Mixed radish we can sow now under glass, but we have to wait to do anything with the rest until March and April... or even May! Aah! I've never been so keen for spring!

I'm most excited about the squash. I mainly blame Sian for waxing lyrical about squashes and pumpkins on many an occasion. I'm looking forward to getting the other squash varieties - which we're going to send off the order for later today -which includes white ones shaped like flying saucers and mini pumpkins which are (according to the catalogue) 'ideal for two people'. Also ideal for carving mini Halloween lanterns out of, methinks.

Potato Chitting Update!

Wah! They're getting hairy!

And one last thing. After my broad bean planting predicament (to bean or not to bean...) I've finally found a book which DOES mention planting broad beans in February (yeay!) The Allotment Keeper's Handbook by Jane Perrone - see perrone.blogs.com - has been a really handy book (he he!) plus Jane lives in Bedfordshire so we can assume that her month-to-month guide is going to be pretty relevant to us! Thanks Jane! :)

Spring-like sunshine

Wow, busy weekend. Kate and Tim came to stay on Saturday and (yet again) watching the rugby in a nice pub with beer and tasty treats took priority. We managed to squeeze in a visit to the plot on Sunday, but spent the best part of an hour just enjoying the glorious sunshine with a cup of shed-brewed tea and reminding ourselves that it's actually February.

(This tulip was in a vase, by the way, I don't have obscenely early tulips in the garden or anything.)

I'm having to control myself, and not forget that IT'S NOT SPRING YET. Even though it's been nice and warm during the day there's been frost the last couple of mornings which new tender little seedlings really won't like. So I mustn't get carried away and plant anything yet, give it another month at least. It could yet snow...

No sign yet of any growth on the onions, shallots or broad beans. But the garlic is going great guns (strange phrase)... Our local market has a stall, which sells everything from chilli sauce to chutneys, and they did a fantastic sweet garlic chutney which was just gorgeous when swirled through mashed potato. But they don't do it any more, which makes me sad. So I'm going to attempt to make my own
in the autumn.

I made lamb meatballs today, and, as an aside, will share my made-up recipe with you, loyal blog readers...

Minty-lamb meatballs with parsley and coriander

  • 500g fresh lamb mince
  • 2 onions, very finely chopped
  • 2 slices brown bread (stale-ish) made into breadcrumbs
  • 2 eggs
  • handful of fresh coriander, chopped
  • handful of fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons mint sauce
  • Generous sprinkling of salt and pepper
(this will serve 4 people, about 6 meatballs each). Simply bung everything in a bowl and mix it together (use your hands, don't be squeamish). Then shape the mix into balls, golf-ball sized or smaller. Leave in the fridge for at least an hour to chill and firm up. Roll in flour and fry in a little oil 'til brown and crispy on the outside. Serve in a tomato sauce. Yum.

Sunday, 3 February 2008

Six Nations slacking

Only one trip to the allotment this weekend. I blame the rugby for keeping us entertained all day Saturday.

First things first...
Potato Chitting Update!
Compare this to last week's pic - thou shalt be amazed.

Planted a row of broad beans today. It's a confusing matter, actually. The books we've got all say to either plant broad beans in August or September to overwinter for a spring crop, or plant them in spring for a summer crop. But our wise old allotment neighbours assure us that right now is the time to sow them, straight into the ground. And who are we to argue? Anyway, we've done one double row, and will do another in a couple of weeks, and another row a couple of weeks after that, and see what happens. I was going to take a picture, but broad beans, once they're buried underneath a layer of soil (no matter how skilfully it's been raked to a fine tilth) really isn't that exciting to look at.

A bag of beans was only 60p from the oh-so-cheap allotment shop, so even if nothing comes up the only thing we'll be missing out on is a bit of plot space, which I guess we can bung something else into in a couple of months. We also bought some mange tout today - Oregon Sugar Pod. Same variety as we had last year cos they were so tasty.

The garlic is all coming up nicely, the new cloves are just starting to poke their little green spikes above the soil, but no sign yet of the shallots and onion sets we planted last week. Also weeded the cabbages and turnips today. Beheaded one cabbage plant, but it wasn't my fault because it had grown with a wiggly stem which got in the way of the hoe.

Didn't spend quite as long down on the plot today because oooh, it was windy and, oooh, the wind was freezing. Siberian, in fact. But it was a good time to try out my new gardening gloves, which sport a natty yellow and black colour combination, with three layers (count them!) for waterproofing, thermal insulation and something else, I forget. Toasty hands, I had.