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...

Saturday, 27 September 2008

Quick plot stop

Our friends Sian, Kate, Louise and Ian came to stay on Friday for some pre-birthday fun and frolics. We had a massive dish of roast allotment veggies for dinner, with salmon, which seemed to go down well. I love preparing and cooking our home grown veg, and sharing them with others is a strange feeling. I almost feel a bit nervous to start with, in case they aren't as nice as they should be, and then kind of proud, like I'm saying: "Look! Look what our clever courgettes/squash/potatoes/onions did! All by themselves!"

Anyway, we popped down to the plot this morning to have a look - Ian and Louise had never seen it but they made all the right appreciative noises. Sian stayed a little longer, donning gloves and a healthy sense of disgust to help me pull up all the blighted tomatoes (*shudder*) so we can burn them in the incinerator. There's nothing quite so sad as a whole bed full of blighty tomato plants. I think we ate a grand total of 7 tomatoes this year... maybe 8... Although it's heartening to know that pretty much everyone else I spoke to (except Nic, grr, jealous) has also had a rubbish tomato year, either bring struck by blight or just not getting enough sunshine to ripen. I think we may have cursed British Summertime though. Ever since we've had the plot, so the last two summers, it's rained and rained and rained. But it has meant we haven't had to worry about watering so much!

Sian also planted three small rows of red onion sets which my mum gave us last week. Apparently they'll over-winter ok for an early crop. I'll just have to find out whether they need any protection from the cold.

After Sian had gone, Adam rotovated the old tomato bed and strimmed the paths, and I sowed a few rows of spinach. A bit late, maybe, but if they do come up it'll be nice to have some more winter greens. The spinach that's currently growing is doing ok, but there's not as much of it as we probably need to get a decent portion from them.

The plot is looking quite tidy 'cos the grass seed has taken well on the paths and it's just a case of getting the weeds out now. But what you probably can't see in this picture is the couch grass which is beginning to infiltrate the front beds. Any tips for getting rid of it? Or is it - as I fear - another bindweed-type-jobby where it's a case of digging it out, piece by tiny piece...?

We've also got a few flowers (a type of marigold?) which have self seeded around the place. They look lovely in the sunshine, but I have a feeling that they're just planning on taking over while our backs are turned. I'm going to transplant them, I think, to go alongside the shed wall. Just need to attack the grass there and make a little bed. I was also thinking about planting a honeysuckle or some other evergreen climber - preferably with flowers and a scent - to ramble over the sheds. Not only will it look nice but might act as a deterrent to anyone thinking about burning something down (which has happened in the past, though luckily not to us - touch wood).

Thursday, 25 September 2008

All things bright and beautiful...

... well, yellow, anyway, judging by these pics.

I've been off work for a couple of days feeling ill, but this afternoon I felt like I needed to get out of the house and get a bit of fresh air, so I decided to go down to the allotment and see what was going on this week...

Here's an overview pic of the whole plot. You can see in the foreground and on the far left that a few of the squash and courgette plants are well and truly over, while others are still valiantly trying to produce more before the cold weather really kicks in.

I picked a couple of courgettes and three small squashes today as well as the two ripe sweetcorn cobs to have for dinner. I think we'll probably have a roast vegetable omelette to make the most of the harvest.

Fingers crossed that the yellow pumpkin gets enough sun to ripen fully... it's called We B Little so it won't get much bigger than it is now (about 5 inches across) but this one and its 5 friends need to get a bit more orange before they're picked. I also want the strange pointy-shaped squash above to ripen as it's not like any of the others we've had so far.

Grow little squash! Grow!

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Indian summer

Well, I have a confession. We did nothing on the plot all weekend, even though the weather was great. But we do have an excuse... Adam was laying a patio in the back garden, and I was decorating the spare room. So, we were keeping ourselves busy - just not at the allotment.

Then on Monday I was overcome with a sense of guilt and neglect. How could we have left it a whole ten days since we last went down? What about the weeds? What about the snails? We might have become over-run with squashes and courgettes, and some more sweetcorn might have ripened! So we popped down on Monday evening to find that the sky had not, in fact, fallen in and the weeds had not taken over the world. We had one big courgette (almost a marrow) and a few smaller ones, as well as a couple of small squash and lots of runner beans. Apart from that, everything seemed to have been taking care of itself quite nicely. Certainly the weeds aren't growing as fast as they were, and the courgettes aren't ripening quite as manically. I guess that's due to less hours of sunlight, plus the fact that a few of the courgette plants have succumbed to mildew and others seem to have been affected by the colder nights.

My Dad very kindly got the strimmer going properly over the weekend. He took it home and re-built the carburettor, I think, as well as re-attaching the 'stop' button. (That wasn't really a necessity before, as getting the thing to stop wasn't an issue.) Anyway, this now means that we can strim our paths and edges to our hearts' content, and it'll make a big difference to how neat the plot looks, especially now that things are starting to die back and it's all looking decidedly autumnal.

Easygardener from greenforks.com left a comment saying: "One of the upsides of the end of the season is thinking about what to plant next year - and what not to repeat - in my case that would be carrots!". Luckily for us, our carrots are now doing fine, after many, many attempts. But I whole-heartedly agree with the sentiment about looking forwards to 2009. I think I get most excited when we're planning what to plant next, flicking through the seed catalogues and choosing the exciting-looking varieties. There are quite a few things that we probably won't bother with again, one being asparagus peas. Who decided they tasted like asparagus, anyway? They taste more like... well, what I would imagine eating grass tastes like.

Saturday, 13 September 2008

Mildew, mould and machines

Mum called me this morning and offered (really offered - no arm twisting involved) to come and help us weed! Fab! I love it when people actually want to come and help out. As long as they don't mind taking some extra veg away with them as well!

So, this afternoon - making the most of the sunny weather - we went to the plot with Mum and Dad and got looooads done!

Dad and Adam immediately turned to the petrol strimmer and rotovator. The strimmer is notoriously temperamental but Dad got it going and strimmed all the paths which has made a huge difference. Then he and Adam had a go with the rotovator and churned up some of the already-dug beds, mixing in the manure which we spread a few weeks ago.

Meanwhile, me and mum were weeding around the cauliflower plants (looking good, the snails haven't found them yet!) the courgettes and squashes, and the chard, and pulling up some of the mange tout plants now that they've died right back. Everything looks neater and tidier now.

Here's mum among the courgettes...

We picked quite a lot, including the first two cobs of sweetcorn, which we had for dinner. YUM! This is one of the few things that I can honestly say tastes SO much better than shop- bought. You know how people usually smother corn on the cob with butter? No need. Ours are sweet and delicious, and I'm just hoping we get enough sun for more of them to ripen. Anyone who has a couple of square feet in their garden, or even in a bucket on a patio, should grow some. As Tony the Tiger would say, they're great.

Here's the rich pickin's from the plot this week... swiss chard, runner beans, a little pumpkin (picked too early 'cos I thought it was a squash!), white and red beetroot, colourful carrots, white scallopini squash, a green acorn squash, some dark green cucumbers (bottom right), courgettes, a yellow scallopini squash, a round courgette and the beautiful, delicious sweetcorn. And this isn't all of it, because we gave a carrier bag full to mum and dad for helping out.

Not everything has gone according to plan. The red cabbage and swedes are being munched to death by snails. Grr. The tomatoes have blight, I think, so we've picked all the healthy tomatoes and I'll make some Green Tomato Chutney. The dwarf beans have, frankly, been a bit pathetic, though we've had enough for a couple of meals from them. Some of the courgette plants have mildew, we pulled up the most productive squash plant yesterday after it started to die back with some weird disease, and the biggest cucumber plant has withered and died too.

But all in all, it's been an ok summer for the plot. I'm feeling quite pleased with ourselves.

Now we just have to think about overwintering things and ahead to 2009!

Thursday, 11 September 2008

We're back!

Hello again one and all. Sorry for the absence but we're just got back from holidaying in Cancun, Mexico. (Not very carbon neutral, I know, but we'll plant some trees or something to make up...) It's an amazing part of the world but it's a bit depressing to come back to all this rain and grey skies.

We popped to the allotment on Monday which was very kindly looked after by our Mums while we were away...

Good things:
  • there are many, many squashes ripening, which is good 'cos I like squash (as I may have mentioned before.)
  • the carrots have grown, finally, and they taste really good.
  • there are lots of blackberries on the surrounding bushes so I can make bramble and apple jelly again.
  • the sweetcorn is getting fat and is nearly ready to pick.
  • the beetroots are getting big and juicy-looking.
Bad things:
  • some of the courgette plants have got mildew and look a bit pathetic.
  • one of the squash plants has some weird disease which makes the fruits go all bobbly.
  • the tomato plants have blight. Again. (sob!)
  • snails are eating the brassicas.
  • there are weeds EVERYWHERE!
  • I don't know if we'll get enough sun now to ripen the sweetcorn. That would be A Sad Thing.
  • I've realised I don't know how to cook beetroot... (research is needed.)
Things to do at the weekend:
  • set some beer traps to catch snails.
  • weeding, weeding and more weeding.
  • tie up the cucumber plants.
  • general never-ending tidying.
  • find out what to do with raspberry canes which are getting long and whippy.
  • decide what - if anything - we can plant to grow through the winter.