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...

Sunday, 27 July 2008

Hot 'n' tasty

So, Saturday was a busy day. It was very, very hot, so I made best use of the shed and a rather attractive, if not droopy, sunhat to avoid as best as possible going pink. Adam only has to look at the sun to go nice and brown but I - alas - am not so lucky and have to work at getting a tan. I am getting an allotmenteer's tan - brown arms, feet and face/neck but sadly pasty legs. I'll have to hit the bottle before going on holiday, if you know what I mean.

Anyway, I digress...

Adam chopped down all the broad beans, leaving the roots in the soil to make use of their nitrogen nodules (sounds like something out of Star Trek). We also picked the past of the pea pods which we'll dry to save for seed for next year. There weren't very many, but Frank the Italian came over to see how we were getting on and he was quite adamant (Oh! I've just 'got' the name of Adam Ant... he he... oh dear) that we should save some. We picked the first kohl rabi - I still think it is possibly the cutest vegetable I've ever seen - and inspected the tomatoes for any red ones. Not yet. But they are coming along nicely. 6 cherry tomato plants, about 20 beef tomato ones and 7 regular sized ones. We'll have a taste test when they're ripe!

We also discovered that the nicely laden bough of the damson tree behind the shed Has Been Cut Off! Seems we may have suffered from the lack of bees that the paper keeps mentioning, cos not very many of the blossom from spring have been pollinated, and now the one branch that had has gone!! We think it's the new people behind us, who've done a fantastic job clearing the plot and attacking a bramble bush with gusto, but still... looks like we'll have to buy damsons again this year for the gin purposes. Bah!

So what else did we do on Saturday? We weeded and weeded, watered and tweaked. I got excited about little yellow courgettes and tiny cucumbers. We tried some asparagus peas raw (Bleurgh! Don't try this at home!) and picked and ate some mange tout. Now, here's a thing. Waaaay back, we bought the sugar snap peas and mange tout from our local allotment shop (not attached to ours - it's at some allotments the other side of Bedford) and one of the nice, rustic brown paper bags actually had 'Mange Tout' crossed out and hand-written 'Sugar Snap' instead. Now it's come to cropping time, I think they ballsed up, 'cos none of our sugar snap peas are sugar snapping. They're all mange tou-ing.

Never mind, still very tasty.

And carrots! Finally, they've decided to play ball. We had a grand total of ten (count them!) carrots which had germinated from the second sowing we did - the first was an outright disaster, even though we covered them with snuggly fleece an' everything. But now, we've got proper rows of carrot seedlings, god only know which ones are which though, I'm just hoping we end us with some of the 'Rainbow' multi-coloured ones , 'cos strange coloured veg is fab.

And then, Saturday evening, it was time for the barbie. I popped back home for get the chicken portions, local Bedford sausages (Lingers butchers' pork and Bombardier beer ones are highly recommended) a red pepper - not one of ours, sadly they're no where near that stage yet! - and plates, knives forks etc, and away we went. Tried barbequeing the sliced kohl rabi, which was nice, but I think it'd be better boiled. The highlight - of course - was the courgette, picked and sliced straight onto the BBQ. About 30 second from plant to grill and five minutes from plant to mouth. Just add olive oil, salt and pepper... Mmm.

How's that for cutting down on food miles?

Saturday, 26 July 2008

Freebies and weeds

Wahey! I'm back after a blogging drought. I blame the computer people at work, who have decided to block access to blogger so I can no longer start writing posts in my lunch break. Bah!

So, what's been going on in the last three weeks...?

The weekend after the excitement of getting the strimmer working was the bi-annual Bedford River Festival - so no allotmenteering for us! The plot judging took place on that Sunday, and then we had to wait over a week to find out if we'd won anything!

On the following weekend the committee had hired a skip to clear some of the rubbish and unwanted carpets with accumulate around the back ends of allotments. Adam was going away for the weekend so got up extra early to lend a hand clearing bits and bobs. Then I popped down about 10am to spend an hour or two helping clear up and then doing a few odd jobs on our patch. Eventually finished about 2pm when I realised that I was grubby and very hungry! But in that time I'd done some weeding, collected up the shallots and garlic which Adam had left drying in the sunshine, and transplanted our leek seedlings to their 'proper' place, where they can put on some weight ready for winter. Frank - the Italian with the huge field of tomato plants - gave us two old oil drums which we could use as temporary water butts. Now we just have to get them rigged up to the guttering. I also had a coffee with Louise (who's house is just 2 doors down from the allotment gate) and she gave us ten cauliflower seedlings, of various varieties, and some beetroot chutney.

That's one of the very best things about allotments - the sense of community and the fact that people are happy (most of the time) to help out and give you their surplus. Plus - free cauliflowers!!!

In the afternoon Adam's mum popped round along with her sister June and Emma, June's daughter. June especially has been really great, donating bits and bobs for the allotment including a compost bin. This time we were grateful recipients of a rotavator (ooh!) some tools and one of those dustbin-style incinerators. in appreciation we gave June some allotment produce - mange tout, shallots, potatoes and garlic - along with some homemade elderflower cordial and some orange, ginger and rhubarb marmalade.

Monday evening was the presentation of the cups and certificates from and judging the previous weekend. and no - we didn't win anything. But those who did win - it must be said - had quite spotless plots, whereas ours certainly has a few weeds (a few! ha!) here and there. Mike was given the Allotment Society Award 2008, and well deserved, as he's single-handedly cleared three or four plots which had become entirely overgrown, to make them more appealing to newcomers. And they're just down the site from us, so that'll mean less weed coming in our direction too. Anyone who reduces our weedage deserves an award as far as I'm concerned.

Adam spotted our first decent sized courgette this week, but we left in on the plant so as to be able to take a picture before we picked it... and then we didn't go to the plot of a few days.


You'd have thought we'd've learned from last year that courgettes like turning into marrows all of a sudden.

Update on this weekend to follow. It's too nice a day to sit at the computer any longer!!!

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Short back & sides

The strimmer decided to work! (Raaay!) Fret not, dear readers, the plot is getting neater by the day...

Adam went to the allotment on Sunday afternoon, in the rain, natch, and managed to get the thing going long enough to strim the adjacent path, our paths through the plot, and the area around our sheds. It'll need another quick going over, but we need a bit of dry weather (you know, like the summer holidays I remember from my 'yoof' when it was a 6 week heatwave) and also a new strimmer-wire thing wot whizzes round for underneath.

I put together the certificate template today and emailed it to Louise today, ready to be printed out with winners' names on after the judging of the plots at the annual 'show' on Sunday. There are going to be eight categories:

  • Winner - Best 10 Pole Plot
  • Runner Up - Best 10 Pole Plot
  • Winner - Best 20 Pole Plot
  • Runner Up - Best 20 Pole Plot
  • Winner - Best Newcomer (in last 2 years)
  • Runner Up - Best Newcomer
  • Winner - Best Produce (for someone growing something great, whether it be super shallots, brilliant beans or cracking cabbages)
  • The Allotment Society Award 2008 - for someone who's put in lots of their time and hard work helping out and being a Good Sport.
There are a couple of categories there that we could go for - hence the tidy up! Weeds - you have been warned!

Oh, and to liven up this post, here's a pic of some curly wurly garlic, just before we snapped the flower spikes off...

Saturday, 5 July 2008

And the grass grows on...

Today Adam's dad Terry, sister Ruth and her boyfriend JB came to the plot see how we were getting on. JB dug up some new potatoes for us, Ruth attacked the shallots with gusto, and Terry made admiring noises about the compost (which is looking rather fine). We ate peas and mange tout straight from the plants, and freshly pulled radish which has a good bit of a kick. Quite nice to be out in the sun on a day which they'd predicted to be rain, rain and more rain. And other creatures were enjoying the sunshine too. I think this is a Red Admiral, but correct me if I'm wrong...

I also stuck in all of the plant labels I made during the week, so it actually looks like we know what we're doing now! But I need to make more labels, as there were a few things that we forgot about like the turnips, broccoli, radish and beetroot.

The strimmer is playing up again. After Adam had it running quite nicely during the week, come allotment-strimming time it decides to sulk. We've both had a tinker, as well as Terry and JB, and even Ruthie made a couple of suggestions for cunning starting techniques, to no avail. I think we may have to resort to slashing at the long grass with a machete.

Everything is growing pretty well now. The pumpkin and squash which Adam sowed from seed under little bottle-end cloches are starting to germinate. The first sowing of leeks are ready to be transplanted (must add that to the to do list) and we've got the first few Marmande tomatoes on the plants. No sign of blight yet, which is great, because last year it wiped out our tomatoes completely. But I think we've come to the end of strawberry season, all of a sudden, which is a shame because I never did get to make that jam.

The Asparagus peas are flowering with pretty little red blooms. Strange little rambling plants they are - and a bit of an experiment. I'll have to keep my eyes peeled for when they start podding. We're picking more mange tout than we can eat - have given some away but will probably start freezing it if that's possible - and the onions are looking fatter and fatter as the days go on.

Louise - plot secretary - has promised us some asparagus seeds. Her and Mike have grown a great bed of asparagus from seeds which they were given, so were hoping to be able to create an asparagus bed at the far end of the plot, below the crookedy fence.

And we still have to build a bench from the lovely pallets I picked up last week. So much to do...

Thursday, 3 July 2008

Getting organised

Time for some allotment tarting-up methinks... Here are some of the new veggie labels I've made for the plot. Bits of wood painted white and then marker-penned on. I think they look quite professional, personally, and hopefully they'll be relatively weather-proof.

And some good news (for us) - the date of the judging has been moved back a week (12th-13th July) so we've got more time for strimming and trimming and making the plot look pretty, which is great because the weather this weekend is forecasted to be rain, rain and more rain. Boo hiss.