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...

Monday, 30 June 2008

More industriousness

I forgot to mention - on Sunday I also made a batch of orange, rhubarb and ginger marmalade... ok, I admit, it was supposed to be orange, rhubarb and ginger jam, but I was so scared that the rhubarb and/or ginger would be overpowering that I put extra orange in, so it's turned into marmalade. And that's what I'll put on the label, so it seems like it was all intentional.

This evening Adam got the petrol strimmer going by a lot of tightening of tubes and nuts and the taking apart and putting back together again (and again) of the air filter. So, the plan is to strim the plot on Saturday, in advance of the show judging.

Sunday, 29 June 2008


Tonight we had an almost-completely-allotment-grown meal! New potatoes, broad beans, mange tout and sliced shallots fried in a wee bit of butter, and slathered over a pork chop. Now, if we can only start keeping pigs we'll be sorted! I thought about taking a picture, but it got eaten too quick, so you'll have to take my word for it - it was DELICIOUS!

Here's a pic of our croppage (a new word I think) from our allotment visit on Saturday... not bad eh? Broad beans, radish, mange tout, shallots, lettuce, new potatoes, strawberries and rhubarb.

So, what did we get up to this time? Well, there was the obligatory weeding to start with - I look back now and thank goodness we didn't get the plot rotovated. The guys next door to us did, and now it's gone crazy as every single little chopped up bit of weed has come back with a vengeance, Bruce Willis style...

I sowed another three rows of carrots, in the vain hope that these ones might, just might, decide to do something. I also sowed some more kohl rabi to try and get the hang of this successional sowing malarkey. Honestly, I know vegetables are just vegetables, but does anyone else think this little kohl rabi is kinda cute?

Adam planted some Wee Be Little pumpkin seeds along with some more squash - acorn and scallopini - hopefully these will enjoy the warmer weather we've been having and may actually germinate. We pulled up the first of our potatoes and bunged in some turnip in their place... I know it's probably not the right thing to do but we thought we'd just see what happens! We also sowed a couple of rows of swiss chard and some more broccolli.

And then there's the mystery of the disappearing cucumber plant. Last Saturday it was planted next to its friend, all happy, and now - poof! - gone! All that's left is a little indentation in the soil. : (

Mike from the lovely plot with raised beds (jealous) had a tinker with our petrol strimmer, but unfortunately couldn't get it to behave itself, so our paths are still un-strimmed. Well, we've got a week until the people from the allotments in Clapham come to judge our plots, hopefully we'll have sorted it by then. The bonus was that Louise, Mike's other half, gave us some chilli plants, with a label in saying 'jalepeno', which is great, except I can't remember if they're the really hot ones or not... (I'll just keep calling them Al Pacinos like our mate Anna does, and see if it catches on...)

I chopped off all the shallot flowers. And then wondered about taking them home to put in a vase, as they're really beautiful. Then I realised they smell quite onioney (surprise surprise) and probably aren't the sort of thing you want in your living room. Anyway, shallot flowers are Not Good News. I used a couple of shallots on Sunday and it's true, the ones that had bolted did have a little hard core in the centre, but if you get that bit out the rest was fine, they just won't keep as well as the others.

Along with our delicious meal on Sunday night I also made some strawberry daiquiri type things. Well, what else is a girl to do with a glut of strawberries? Yum! And when they were gone, I obviously had to make some more, except we'd run out of rum (Why is the rum gone?) so I used vodka and gin instead. Also quite lovely and delicious... Even Adam liked them, and he's a boy wot usually drinks beer...


Sarah's Strawberry Daiquiri Type Things

  • handful of strawberries
  • handful of ice cubes
  • good glug of elderflower cordial
  • a tablespoon of sugar
  • good glug of dark rum OR a good glug of vodka plus a splash of gin (just for that tang, you understand)
mash about with a rolling pin or a potato masher 'till the strawberries have given up their strawberry goodness.

  • if using rum - top up with tonic to taste
  • if using vodka - top up with half tonic, half bitter lemon to taste.
Strain through a sieve - unless you have one of those posh cocktail shaker things - and enjoy! (responsibly, of course...)

Saturday, 28 June 2008

The old methods are best

If at first you don't succeed... delete the post completely, and try again.

I've had problems with line spacing, words jumping about into Places They Shouldn't Be, and then the issue with the whole blog getting smaller and smaller down the page.

Anyway, I deleted the problematic posting - no dealing with coding and HTML for me, oh no - and re-wrote it. And now it seems fine.

So, back to the important allotment stuff. I'm on the Queens Park Allotment Association Committee, and we had a meeting last Monday evening to sort out, amongst other things, the best way to distribute The Rules (which some people had never seen, despite having a plot for 5 years... we'd certainly never seen them either), when to have a skip on site for a general clear-up, and how best to organise the Annual Show, which is in a couple of weeks. Some of the cups awarded in the past have gone missing, or at least haven' t been returned, so I'm going to use my Word skills to make some certificates for the winners in case we don't get them back.

We're off to the plot today to do some tidying up - the grass around the edges is getting a bit long but we need Mike to have a tinker with our petrol strimmer to get it going. Then we also need to hack back at the brambles from the nest plot - which are trying to take over. We're also planning to build a bench seat (an allotment essential I think you'll all agree) so I manager to pick up a few small pallets. (Also, it gives Adam something to hammer and nail at, which keeps him quiet for a while...!)

Also - panic panic! - we were reliably informed that you don't need to worry about shallots and onions flowering, that you can just leave them to do their thing until they're ready to be harvested. BUT now I find that other bloggers and websites recommend chopping off the buds as soon as they appear! Aagh! What do other people do? Any advice? Here's a pic looking along our rows of young leeks (leeklets...?!) You can see all the shallot flowers in the background!

Monday, 23 June 2008


I've been having a bit of a problem recently - anyone viewing this in Internet Explorer may notice a slight (!) issue with the font size and layout. But in Firefox and Safari there are no problems!

I hate technology from time to time. Granted, the people who wrote the code for this kinda stuff are, in my mind, heading towards genius, My brain just does NOT work that way. But dear God, why oh WHY can't it look the same on every browser...?

Hope to get it all sorted soon. I know people who know coding...

Sunday, 22 June 2008

Beans and greens

Went to the plot on Saturday for a little while - just long enough to pick the first of our broad beans and a big bagful of strawberries to have after dinner. Mr Hussein (he's got a plot the other side of Phil) gave us advice on our garlic, pointing out some which had gone rotten in the soil and telling us which ones looked like they were going to be good. He then gave us one of his own garlic bulbs, to show us What A Good One Looks Like. Apparently, you can tell if it's a good bulb of garlic if, when you pull it up, it has "a big moustache"... he meant the size of the roots - his English isn't that great, but it's a lovely phrase anyway. When we pull up our garlic I will certainly be checking the size of their moustaches...

I podded the broad beans tonight and eesh! You get a lot of packaging, don't you? The beans themselves are actually still a bit small so next time some are ready we'll leave them a little bit longer.

We went again today to do a bit of tidying and also to plant out the courgette and squash plants which Louise had given us, as well as some tomatoes which a colleague at work had been giving away. She'd sown way too many seeds which is a good thing as our tomatoes are rubbish this year. We've been pampering them and they're still only about 3 inches high. I'm beginning to wonder whether it might be the compost we used - is there a chance it may not have the right nutrients or something and that's why they're not growing very fast?

Anyway, we planted out Louise's courgettes in the places where our original sowings failed, and we also planted four plants which we got from the garden centre. (I feel like a bit of a fraud. Does anyone else have feelings of guilt if they have to resort to buying plants?) So we've now got ten courgettes, at least five are regular green ones and then we've got a couple of yellow ones and a round courgette variety, and another two which are going to be a surprise.

We also planted four squash plants, and two outdoor cucumbers. And, we transplanted the successful sweetcorn so they're all in a block, and sowed some more sweetcorn kernels in the places left over. I know - it's a bit late for sweetcorn, but I'd have kicked myself if we hadn't tried to get a few more plants. Even if we only end up with one kernel on each, I'll be content.

Here's an overview shot - everything's lovely and green...

What else is going on... well, the peas are podding, as are the first rows of mange tout and sugar snap peas. The strawberries are still going crazy, so I might get to make that jam after all. The french beans are finally showing their heads above the soil and the runner beans are just starting to look like they might need a helping hand attaching themselves to the canes. The baby leeks are doing well, even the second sowing which I thought I'd done too late. The kohl rabi and brussels sprouts are also looking a lot better now we've covered them with netting (grr, pigeons) and the red cabbage are also looking a lot healthier - seems the aphids didn't follow them after all. Garlic, shallots and onions are swelling up, and we've got a few beginnings of raspberries and damsons, showing the promise of good things to come.

Sunday, 15 June 2008

Strawberry time

How time flies. Look, it's already mid-June and I haven't put a proper posting on here since the end of May. I'd better do a bit of an update...

As the heading suggests, it's strawberry season! Yum! The patch isn't quite as chaotic as last year as we've weeded and sorted out half of it (with a bit of help from Jo) which makes it much easier to pick the little red gems of deliciousness. I'm not sure if we'll have the glut we did last year either, but I'm hoping so as I've now got a foolproof jam recipe (with extra pectin) and I want to make daiquiri cocktails, which Sian suggested last year but I never got around to doing. The picture is of the Very First Strawberry of 2008.

The carrots and parsnip are a total disaster. I made a second sowing a few weeks ago but we've double and triple checked and I think there's three, maybe four coming through. That's hardly even a mouthful. It's reassuring to hear that other people have also failed with carrots this year. We haven't yet seen any sign of the French beans which Sian and I planted either. Most of the runner beans have come through, but the French beans are sulking I think. I've popped a few more in, just in case. And we've given up on the cabbages as well. they all got so aphid-y and misshapen that although they tasted great, they were a pain in the bum to clean up. Plus the aphids had transferred to the red cabbage too which was a Bad Thing. I've cleaned up the red cabbage and moved four of them to the failed carrot bed in the vain hope that the aphids won't be able to find them again!

Another area which hasn't gone quite according to plan is the far end of the plot. Our mini-field of sweetcorn has had a really low germination rate, so it's more like a mini-mini-field... We'll have to buy some more kernels and bung 'em in, quick. Our courgettes have also been disappointing. We planted them in exactly the same way as we did last year, except this year we've got a grand total of three plants out of nine... three (count them!) Bah! I think we'll have to throw in the towel and buy some plants from the garden centre.

I also planted some squash and pumpkin seeds at home in toilet rolls and only 4 out of 20 have germinated. I think I'm losing my green fingers! But all is not lost. As we were walking back from the allotment last weekend we went for a chat with Mike and Louise, (who have a fantastic bed of asparagus, grown from seed!) and Louise offered us some squash plants! We ended up coming away with two courgette and four squashes. Hurrah! They also have a blackbird nesting on the back shelf of their greenhouse. Might try and get a picture if I can.

But anyway, onto the successes. Other than the strawberries, we've got broad beans that are nearly ready to pick (we ate some small beans fresh from the pod yesterday and they were really tasty), the peas, mange tout and sugar snap are just starting to flower, and one of the globe artichokes is budding. The salad bed is doing fine, with peppery radishes and chunky lettuce, although the spinach in the corner has bolted. Potatoes and tomatoes are also doing well so far, and we've got some outdoor cucumbers which are nearly ready to be planted out. The asparagus peas are coming up as well, plus there's the onions, garlic and shallots which are just happy doing their own thing. And I'm happy to leave them to it, especially when they're doing so well.

The onions are getting fatter, and look! Actual shallots!

In the seed bed we've got brussels sprouts and kohl rabi, and lots of little leeks, half of which are nearly pencil thickness, which means they're almost ready to be planted out. We also have a few broccoli seedlings coming up, and - over in the failed carrot bed - we have a couple of rows of swede have just germinated. I planted some more yesterday 'cos there's nothing nicer than some swede mashed with carrots, and we've got lots of... oh.

Adam continues his battle with the bindweed. He's getting there, slowly. He's also used the last of the scavenged pallets to make the cold frame taller as we realised that things like tomatoes wouldn't have enough headroom. Here's his handywork - Ta Daa!

Off to pick strawberries this morning to take to parents' barbeque. Mmm.

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Compost-dwelling critters

Lucky we have a new compost bin. Adam went to turn the old heap with his big ol' spikey fork, and we found that there was a family of field voles living in our compost heap! The baby ones were about 2 inches long, but they ran around a bit so I couldn't get a picture of them. Here's one I nabbed off the internet, so anyone who doesn't know what a field vole looks like can join in with the collective 'aaaahhhhh, how sweet'.