Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Onions and Garlic

It's hard to believe I've not written much on my blog the latter part of this year. Well, it is a diary and I have not been doing much at the allotment. Life has been keeping me busy but I did plant some japanese onions and some thermidrome garlic a few weeks. (-maybe a couple of months ago!?!)
Today we went to the allotment to pull carrots and look at the overgrown cauliflower. It is past its best - which is criminal seeing as how hard they are to grow.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Strawberry fields forever...

In The Grand Plan, I was following my hero Geoff Hamilton's advice and had my bed all ready to plant strawberries in August. Although I was stumped when I went online in July to order some plants and all the big sellers quoted delivery dates in October!?! Last weekend I was at Wisley, my favourite garden centre and I bought six Pegasus strawberry plants and six Cambridge Favourite plants. I really wanted Symphony but alas they didn't have them. The plants I bought looked so healthy and strong so I'm really looking forward to seeing them grow and fruit next year. I planted them through membrane to save on weeding.

I've been clearing up the plot today. I cut the beans down to the ground, leaving their roots in because of their nitrogen fixing quality. I pulled up the very successful courgette plants and pretty unsuccessful sweetcorn plants. My little one and I dug for treasure in the form of perfect potatoes and fabulous carrots that have been safe underground for months. Looking back I planted the potatoes in April and I've been digging up them all summer. Next year I want to grow a few International Kidney and also Maris Piper (-if they are blight resistant). The potatoes I grew in bags were fine although I think they were smaller and this is probably due to them drying out more than the ones in the ground. I am going to start my broad beans in root trainers next year and do them in two batches - probably Super Aquadolce again.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Bye Bye Summer

I've been neglecting my blog for ages now, I am sorry.

The allotment has been ticking over well. We've harvested untold beans, tomatoes, cucumbers and courgettes. The sweetcorn was okay but not fab the cobs were not very uniformed and I wondering if I should have watered them more when it was dry and the cukes for that matter. The carrots have never stopped coming, I should have sown some more. The tomatoes never really got blight, I don't know if it's thanks to the bordeaux mix or the change in weather conditions. We are enjoying a huge cabbage which grew spectacularly out from the bed where the broad beans had grown before.
Raspberries are a bit unwieldy and definitely shall have to construct some support system for next year.

I'm really looking forward for the cooler weather and a chance to finish clearing the rest of the plot and completing the paths.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

The B word

It's like mentioning that Scottish play backstage. The 'B' word on the allotments brings fear into the hearts of all.
Two days ago I received an email from the Allotments Association warning of blight on the allotments. Recommending Spraying with Bordeaux mixture. Warning not to compost any of the plants but destroy them.

So let me tell you briefly about blight. It is caused by the fungus Phytophthora infestans. It produces sporangia on infected leaves and fruit which love moisture and riding in the wind for hundreds of miles infecting potatoes and tomatoes alike. You can spray the plants with a copper based fungicide (Bordeaux Mixture) or mancozeb (Dithane) both are nasty chemicals. I checked on a couple of forums about blight yesterday and read that Bordeaux was acceptable by organic standards.

Off I went and got this horrid bottle of blue powder read on the bottle "NOT GOOD FOR THE ENVIRONMENT" - strong words, also they were strong warnings about harming marine life. As I got to the allotments I saw my friends, 'the vegetarians' wheel-barrowing off their tomatoes - some of the first to be noticed with the dreaded blight. They showed me other plots that had it. Pointing out the brown marks on tomatoes etc. They said that mine looked great and no sign of any nasty blight. I was encouraged to 'save' then with the Bordeaux mixture. Regrettably, I very grumpily mixed up the solution and sprayed all my plants. Just to reiterate, I do not have any blight on my tomatoes (yet!)

I was miserable when I left the plots. What have I done? Sprayed some terrible poison on to my plot to save tomatoes that now I'm not sure I want to eat!! What should I have done? Picked all those little tomatoes (most are still small) and made chutney, and composted the plants? My innocent tomatoes are now all blue. And me all blue too.

And to make matters worse when I trawled the web looking for more info on blight last night, I find that bordeaux mixture is not accepted in organic growing and is banned in large scale use. I do not know what or who to believe. I shall fall back on RHS advice I think.

To quote the RHS website:
Tomatoes grown under glass are not always infected. Plants likely to be attacked - especially outdoor tomatoes - require protective sprays of mancozeb (Dithane) or copper (Murphy Traditional Copper or Vitax Bordeaux Mixture). Apply these before the symptoms are seen as a protection against attack. They will not totally prevent infection, but slow it sufficiently to save crop.

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Allotment First Aid and a little love...

I scratched myself with the tip of my secateurs whist trimming leaves on my bushy tomatoes. A scratch it was not, in fact it was a small laceration on the top of the big knuckle on my thumb. I'll spare you the details but it was serious enough. I immediately went to my shed and pulled out a little first aid kit I had in there. I wiped the cut with an antiseptic wipe and applied some pressure to stop the bleeding. My hands were dirty and sticky from the tomato plants. Time to go home. It didn't bleed for long, but my tummy was feeling a bit sicky as a result. I'd cut straight through the epidermis a couple of millimetres down to the fleshy dermis (sorry, I was going to spare you the details.) I felt a bit alone. It was the solitude which I normally love the allotment for, it's my sanctuary and my escape. Now the solitude felt lonely. I wanted my Mum.

I thought I'd to put a plaster on it to keep it clean until I got home and properly dress it. I knew it would be a bit awkward to do one-handed. I saw a neighbouring plot holder not far away who I'd spoken to her before, she had two girls with her, they looked about 10 years old. A mother, she'd help me. She'd offer me some sympathy whilst my courage wavered momentarily. What was wonderful about her was she looked at the cut and nodded agreeing it was mildly serious, then stopped, holding my hands she looked me in the eyes and asked in a genuinely heartfelt way "Do you feel all right?" her head tilting to the side as she spoke.
"Yes, I'm fine" I said, my chin twitched, really I was ready to start blubbering. Silly me, I was fine. I was just so touched my her kindness.
She washed her hands, well as best you can without soap under the tap. The girls wanted to see what I'd done, seeing it they both took sharp intakes of breath then preceded in 'show and telling' me about all their scars. My kind nurse applied Savlon and a plaster and then she told me to go home. "Thank you, I will."

Growing up I was often called Basha because of my proneness to have accidents. I'm not squeamish, I know how to clean up a injury, medicate if necessary and get on with it. What my dear plot holder offered me was the magic ingredient of kindness and love. Thank you. For that really was the healing factor not to be overlooked.

As a result of the accident, I have now scaled up my first aid kit in the shed, included some rescue remedy in case I really am on my own and some large latex gloves, which might make up for the lack of sterile hands.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

What to do with all those courgettes: #3 Hugh's Glutney

Hugh says: This is a ‘multiple choice’ recipe for chutney, designed to help you use whatever seasonal fruit and vegetables are in full glut at the time. For me, the courgettes/overgrown marrows are pretty much a staple in August and September, and they may give way to pumpkins and squashes in October and November. Tomatoes and plums are around at roughly the same time, though the tomatoes will start early – particularly if you use green ones.

Of course, no two batches of glutney will ever be quite the same – but that hardly matters. You should also feel free to play fast and loose with the spice bag. And if you like a really hot chutney, add as much dried chilli as you dare.

Serve with cheese, cold meats, terrines, pork pies etc. But also remember what a useful ingredient chutney is, with a ready-mixed blend of sweet, sour and spice. I frequently add it to curries, soups and stews.

To make about 10 jam jars’ worth:

1kg marrows/overgrown courgettes, unpeeled but cut into dice no bigger than 1cm (discard seeds from really large marrows) OR 1kg pumpkin, peeled, seeds and soft fibres discarded, and diced no bigger than 1cm
1kg red or green tomatoes, scalded, skinned and roughly chopped OR 1kg plums, stoned and chopped
1kg cooking or eating apples, peeled and diced
500g onions, peeled and diced
500g sultanas or raisins
500g light brown sugar
750ml white wine or cider vinegar, made up to 1 litre with water
1–3 tsp dried chilli flakes
1 tsp salt

for the spice bag
1 thumb-sized nugget of fresh or dried ginger, roughly chopped
12 cloves
12 black peppercorns
1 generous tsp coriander seeds
a few blades of mace

Put the vegetables and fruit in a large, heavy-based pan with the sultanas or raisins, sugar, vinegar and water, chilli flakes and salt.

Make up the spice bag by tying all the spices in a square of muslin or cotton. Add the spice bag to the pan, pushing it into the middle.

Heat the mixture gently, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar, and bring slowly to the boil. Simmer for 2–3 hours, uncovered, stirring regularly to ensure it does not burn on the bottom of the pan. The chutney is ready when it is rich, thick and reduced, and parts to reveal the base of the pan when a wooden spoon is dragged through it. If it starts to dry out before this stage is reached, add a little boiling water.

Pot up the chutney while still warm (but not boiling hot) in sterilised jars with plastic-coated screw-top lids (essential to stop the vinegar interacting with the metal). Leave to mature for at least 2 weeks – ideally 2 months – before serving.

What to do with all those courgettes: #2. Pasta with Zuccini sauce

Neil Perry is one of my favourite Aussie chefs, this recipe is really easily and tasty! Don't be put off by the anchovies they dissolve in the oil and just add 'taste'... trust me on that x

200g/7oz pasta (any orechiette, fusilli whatever)
3 large zucchinis
extra virgin olive oil, for cooking
6 whole anchovies
3 cloves garlic
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
dash fried chilli flakes
fresh parmesan, to serve


1. Bring a large pot of water to the boil. Add the pasta and cook 'al dente.
2. Meanwhile, grate the zucchinis and place aside.
3. In a large frying pan, heat plenty of olive oil and add the anchovies, crushed garlic and sea salt. Fry for about 3 minutes, stirring continuously until the anchovies start to soften.
4. Sprinkle in the chilli flakes and freshly ground pepper, followed by the grated zucchinis and a dash more olive oil. Stir for a further 2 minutes.
5. When the pasta is cooked (it should take 10 minutes), drain well and add to the sauce.
6. To serve, toss the pasta through the sauce and spoon onto plates. Grate fresh parmesan over the top and finish with freshly ground pepper.

What to do with all those courgettes: #1. Dolce Zucchini Cake

To ensure that this courgette and pine nut cake has a sweet taste, it is best made only in early summer, when the courgettes are still very small.


150g Unsalted butter, softened
175g Caster sugar
3 Eggs
225g Plain flour
1 tsp Baking powder
225g Sultanas or dried vine fruits
300g Small courgettes, grated
70g Pine nuts
1 Lemon, finely grated zest and juice


  1. Preheat the oven to 180˚C/gas 4. Grease and line the base of a 20cm high-sided flan tin or springform cake tin.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar together in a bowl until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating constantly
  3. Sieve the flour and baking powder in and fold in with the sultanas, grated courgettes, 50g pine nuts and the lemon zest and juice.
  4. Transfer the thick batter to the tin and scatter with the remaining pine nuts. Bake in the centre of the oven for 40–45 minutes.
  5. When ready, the cake will be slightly brown on top and a skewer inserted into the centre should come out clean. Leave the cake to cool completely in the tin before turning it out.

Monday, 13 July 2009

Lovin' in a Mist

Perfection in white, need I say more.
Click on for detail.

Carrot Lovin'

"Birds do it, bees do it,
Even educated carrots do it
Let's do it, let's fall in love!!"

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Rosemary Beetle

I found that my sage had been munched away but this armour-plated bug. Do click on the middle picture to see it's hammered metal casing. A fine specimen. It's so cool, I found it hard to decide if I liked it more than my sage! I think by it's name it's probably safe to assume it's keen on rosemary too.
It has been raining now in my corner of Surrey and the vegetables and I have been rejoicing. Water butts are full! Thank you x

Friday, 3 July 2009


A pretty site at our lovely allotments

Diane is unable to work on her plot whilst she is unwell but she has so many beautiful flowers it's a gorgeous site to behold. Get well soon Diane.

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

High Maintenance Brassicas.

After pulling up my cabbages because they had some speckly yellowing of the leaves - suspected mildewy sickness? I was thinking, as I always have, why bother with brassicas? They are fussy; needing rich, limey soil, they are greedy for food and water and space, they are eaten by everything - birds, slugs, aphids, cabbage whites, root flys, flea beetles, moths - oh but not eaten by teenagers and the fussy other-half and they can suffer any number of ailments from various mildews and club root. And although I like eating them I don't love them, not like I love tomatoes or asparagus or raspberries or onions or garlic or most other things. So I was thinking what am I going to put in the brassica bed - perhaps some runner beans I dunno but I wasn't thinking "umm, yeah I'll definitely do more high maintenance brassicas in there!" Well then along came our friends 'the vegetarians.' They are lovingly nicknamed 'the vegetarians' because once when I was chatting to them, a flock of low flying canadian geese flew over, I pretended to aim and shoot them with my hoe that I happened to be holding and they were appalled and declared their love and respect of all animals! Anyway along come our lovely allotment friends with gifts of two cauliflower seedlings, two cabbage seedlings and a brussel sprout seedling. I had given them a couple courgette plants a few weeks ago. So here I am in a quandary. I smiled graciously thanked them and thought to myself well at least I don't have to worry about what I put in the bed. Or do I!?!

Sunday, 28 June 2009

"Rain, Rain come back, Go Away another day!"

Italian Parsley and Roma Tomatoes

my flower bed

The ground is shockingly dry. I've been really, or at least I thought I had, drenching the plants with endless cans of water, but the soil has been baked deep down. Normally the Wimbledon Tennis starting and Glastonbury festival normally ensures a decent spell of rain, but no not this year, I'm thinking we're in for another '76!! Not so long ago I was teaching my son "Rain, rain go away, come back another day" - as he had his nose and scooter disappointedly pressed up against the window! Now I think I'm going to teach him a rain dance - er, well if I knew any! Perhaps we'll just do "Rain, rain come back, Go away another day!? At home I've been recycling his bath water on to the lawn; very easy with a hose held in the bath by the bath mat then chuck the rest of the hose out the window, I fortunately found out that if there is water already in the hose it sucks through with need to help it syphon through yourself!

This is my first year at the Lottie and I didn't really think through what I could plant when crops were finished. Therefore I had nothing ready to go in and a bit worried as I hadn't sowed anything. I visited a lovely local garden centre this morning to buy some seedlings to bung in. Sweetcorn and Cucumbers were two things I had on my original plan but hadn't cleared their allocated beds, so I was pretty excited when I saw them already started. They have some serious catching up to do if they want to get as big as our award-winning neighbours and my god I'm going to have to pray for rain or be there twice a day nurturing these babies.

I couldn't decide what to do about the broad beans roots, pull them out or dig them in. I did neither I just left them in the ground dug in some more manure between the lines and covered the bed with black membrane and cut holes for the cucumbers. I planted them and a big plastic bottle upturned and bottom cut off next to them for ease of watering and seriously puddled them in. I have put the sweetcorn in the end of the onion bed where the garlic had been. I'm most worried about them as they we're all in one pot and their roots did not split very well. I also bought a very tasty Tayberry bush, I can say that as it already had fruit on and they tasted divine, I planted it where a summer raspberry had failed.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Results of the Garlic test

Purple Peruvian Garlic - only formed two cloves!

Purple Peruvian on left and Thermidrome on right

Q: Can you grow garlic from the supermarket?

A: No, unless perhaps you are lucky enough to get a variety that is right for our climate etc.

I harvested my first batch garlic today after planting it almost eight months ago. The Thermidrome variety which I got from the organic catalogue all seem to have grown perfectly but the Purple Peruvian variety I got from the supermarket was a failure, the bulbs had formed but were very small, in fact only 2 cloves formed. Fortunately the large majority of the garlic I planted was Thermidrome.

I have chopped all the broad beans down to the ground so the roots are intact under the soil holding on the the nitrogen - I hope!?!
I'm totally unprepared as to what to put in next - doh! I think I could put leeks in the garlic bed or should I start rotating? There are still onions in there. I'm thinking that I could do a few runner beans where I had the calabrese and what about sprouting broccoli where I had the broad beans? I'm not sure but the unplanted ground makes me fidgety!!

Monday, 22 June 2009

All Things Bright and Beautiful

Bees and Borage

Unidentified Caterpiller on Nettles

Poached Eggs

Garlic needs harvesting and broad beans are ready to move on now - what shall I do next? My potatoes are not flowering - why? These are the questions I am pondering any thoughts greatly appreciated.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Heaven is Homegrown

Broad beans, broccoli (calabrese), carrots and sweet smelling sweet peas...mmm!
- don't they just look perfect? So proud am I.

Tonight we enjoyed a herby spatchcock chicken accompanied by the freshest and most perfect (-well I would say that) carrots, broad beans and broccoli (calabrese)...mmm...divine. I have come the swift conclusion that when you eat 'fresh as it comes' vegetables you are getting the life energy of the vegetable. The ions are still bouncing about and the rigor mortis (-for want of a better term) has not set in. The purest transfer of energy from the ground to ones own being. There definitely is a lightness to the taste.. ooo! and virtually none of the vitamins are lost to the drawer at the bottom of the fridge. I could go on. But I think you get the point. The joys of freshness. The smell of sweet peas..aah! bliss!
I wasn't sure how to harvest the calabrese actually. Obviously I cut off the head to eat but I'm not sure whether I should let it grow on or whether I'm to pull out the rest of the plant and bung it in the compost? Ever the optimist I shall leave it and see if more perfect heads shall form.
I have planted two types of beans on a tepee where the raspberries failed. One variety is French climbing purple and the other is French round safari. I wasn't really thinking when I bought them whether they were dwarf or not. I pretty sure now I've googled that the safari variety are dwarf... I wonder if they are compatible with each other? I planted them alternately around a tepee of bamboo. I have no idea how tall the safari will grow (-more googling necessary!) I decided to split up the poached egg plants and dotted them around the plot too. I also sowed a new shorter (18") row of French Breakfast Radish along side the raspberries and some Flakee carrots in the carrot bed were the carrots had failed to show before.
It really is a joy to be at the plot now.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Early Summer

Dainty Alliums

Brazen Borage

I have been nipping down to the plot to water and weed a little. I'm always impressed by the speed everything is growing, weeds included. The borage is massive now and the flowers will be open in a few days I'm sure. The alliums, if they don't get decapitated by my son, will soon been in flower too. I have planted the little one's sunflowers and some sweet peas in the flower bed. I've been harvesting delicious broad beans and superb radishes which wonderfully completes the cycle from fork to fork. My lovely boy has been pulling a few carrots which are almost ready and I've delighted in watching him washing and munching them.
Unfortunately two of the summer fruiting raspberries have died. I'm not sure why they haven't taken, perhaps not soaking them before they were planted or perhaps I didn't water them enough early on? I do feel remarkably sad about them but will try again in autumn.

Sunday, 24 May 2009

The best laid plans...

Plan version 3

Tomatoes precariously close to potato bed.

...often go awry. As you may know I love growveg.com. So here's my plan at the moment. I really wanted to clear the whole plot but I just don't have enough time at the moment; the rest of the plot is keeping me so busy with the watering and weeding etc. The weather is hot and the ground is very dusty which is not such a nice combination for full on digging. I hope that I shall get it done as the weather gets cooler later in the year. It was a decision that was made for me by the factors above. It was a sad decision to make as I wanted to clear it all now, but I have accepted that I should be proud of what I have achieved already.

Yesterday I had a delicious few hours to catch up with things at the plot. I planted twelve Roma tomato plants. I have read so much about potatoes and tomatoes not being planted together but I have so many tomato plants and no more prepared beds. They are in separate beds but adjacent to each other. I'm worried if blight appears on the plots this year it could easily spread to both.

I have sunk a plant pot beside each plant to aid watering. I also planted marigolds around the outside and some basil seedlings from home which I have protected with some little plastic bottle cloches. I have given them all a bamboo support, Roma is a bush variety so should only need a little support but I am being cautious as the wind can whizz across the plots.

At the end of my potato bed I have planted some courgettes. I planned to plant two, but as I was planting my little under-gardener delivered two more stripped of their pots so I felt obliged to pop them in too. As they should be planted 3' apart I think this will have to be addressed very soon and right now four are squeezed into a 4'x4' square. I may squeeze in three like my plan and put one in a planter.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Beautify My Blog

Broad beans appearing

Tomatoes potted on

Goosegogs plumping

I have a new camera... I am so happy. Thank you my love.

Good photography makes a blog so much better. I feel very spoilt to have been given a camera outside of birthday and Christmas time. Oh but how it will revolutionise my life and blog. Carrots and Kids blog is so gorgeous to look at and of a quality I aspire to. The writing is professional. I haven't much hope of that. It is the blog that inspired me in the first place and which in a way, supports me. Sometimes I wonder whether I'm going to fail, whether the weeds will beat me. I wonder if life will pull me away from the allotment and I'll be one of those, who the seasoned others tut about. I don't want to fail. Carrots and Kids encourages me. And to all you others who comment on my blog, thank you, it's really lovely to have you out there. I never really knew how nice comments were until I got some.

My work has picked up and I really have to steal time to get down to the allotment and just water. The weather men have forecast elusive rain for weeks now. Dark stormy clouds appeared at sunset this evening and I thought my water butt may actually be employed, but no, no rain yet.

I've potted on my tomatoes at home today. I am, if the all survive, probably going to have too many tomatoes. I love tomatoes. Which is a good thing because the other half cannot abide by them, especially in their natural state. I have also got the little one to sow some more salad leaves as he weeded the previous batch out!

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Helping hands

It was the most glorious Sunday, warm and sunny. Armed with a picnic, the little one and I spent all afternoon at the allotment. We pottered around weeding and watering, making mud pies and practising scootering. I sowed a row of French Breakfast Radish and thinned carrots. We had a visit from a friend I've known since I was about the little one's age who brought sandwiches, strawberries and smoothies.
My (award-winning) neighbours at the allotment gave me two tomato plants, a Big Boy and a Costoluto Fiorentino. I planted them both in my cold frame, where I dug in loads of well rotted manure, practically a whole bag in the 4'x4' square. I'm not sure what I do when the tomatoes out grow the cold frame - I guess I lift the frame off and hope we're past the frosts and pray they don't get blight? Now I've found loads of 15mm piping in a skip I might build a mini poly tunnel over the tomatoes - yes I think I will do that.
Today I managed to put guttering on the shed which was so easy peasy, like child's play, just clipped it all together. All I need now is a water butt to replace the bin which there at the moment.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Green manure

Digging in the green manure

I sowed some green manure five weeks ago in the bed where I am going to plant strawberries in late summer. This was packaged as a spring green manure and to be used as a soil conditioner. With the weather being wet and sunny last week it had really shot up. The packet instructed to dig in when 9'' tall. As I am not sure when I'll have much time at the allotment the next few days I thought I ought to get it dug in now. I have to be sure it does not flower and go to seed as that would be a disaster for the strawberries.

Companion planting
A row of Sweet Alyssum was sowed along the edge of potatoes. It has tiny white flowers which attract insects like hoverflies whose larva devour aphids. In the corners of the strawberry bed, under the gooseberry standards, I sowed some Love-in-a-Mist (nigella damascena) which was given to me by a gardening teacher.

Made with my own hands.

Ignore the fact that it needs a scrub...

Note: The hinged top...

and the removable front panel.

I have been claiming stuff from skips since we took on the allotment. As soon as I laid eyes on this pallet crate I could see it as a cold frame. It was another day and another skip when I claimed the plastic twin-wall sheeting. The other timber came from here and there. Bar the hinges which I already had, this creation cost me nothing but my time and plenty of elbow grease.
The base was very heavy - it's the type of crate that paving slabs and roof tiles are supplied in, so I had to saw out the majority of the structure and weight out of the bottom. Leaving it strong and stable and heavy enough to have no chance of being blown over by the wind. 
It's some of the finest bodging I've ever done. I'm very pleased with it. 

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Allotment therapy

I'm trying to make a cold frame out of skip finds - halfway there.

Peas under cover protection from mice and green manure in bed behind.

I only managed a measly half a day at the allotment over the whole of Easter as I was working back in the (-tougher than I left it 3 years ago) world of pop videos. My head was so knotted up with stress from the job that I thought my brain was going to explode. It was so blissfully calming and levelling to get a little time to do some sowing and weeding this bank holiday Monday. Thank God for Lottie! I needed the solitude and relished the time listening to bird song and children playing in the park.

So, what did I sow?
Finally the Ambassador Peas, which were supposed to be soaked for 4 hours before planting, actually they ended up, because of a immediacy of my job, soaking for 5 days! And in that time a lot had sprouted. Okay, so this may be another experiment that fails but I couldn't very well throw them away! I sowed one triple row and in a couple of weeks I shall sow another. To protect the peas from mice I covered the bed with some enviromesh.
With me I took my much coveted seed box - my mother's day present - which meant I also sowed Poached Egg plant limnanthes douglasii, Calendula 'Candyman' (-alongside the potatoes), two rows of Nantes 2 carrots and a row of Giant Italian Parsley.

Other things...
I was very excited to see that the lovage was really popping up. I shall have to transplant them soon. I want to use the lovage like an edible hedge as it can grow up to 7 feet tall - the giant of the herb world! I removed the enviromesh from the broad beans to allow the bees to get to the flowers. A couple of weeks ago, I nervously sowed some (spring) green manure on the strawberry bed which should act as a soil conditioner when dug in a couple of months from now or when it reaches 8 inches high. I am not planning on getting the strawberry plants until late summer - taking that advice from the late, great Geoff Hamilton. I am also in the middle recycling skip finds to construct a coldframe which I need to finish soon.

I left refreshed and ready for the arduous week ahead.

Saturday, 4 April 2009

my first early pototoes

Child-proof potato bed - I hope!

Today was such a lovely warm sunny day. I put the sides on another bed, took time to dig in some well-rotted horse manure. My plan was to make this bed half leeks and half potatoes, but I had so many seed potatoes that I stole a bit of the leek end and I also made three potato bags.
I planted swift variety and as the name implies I hope they shall be ready in no time.
I know my little one will be tempted to stamp and jump over the bed especially as he sees nothing growing, so I put some slates I liberated from a skip around the edges to discourage him.
As I had so many potatoes left I  turned three empty compost bags inside out, rolled down the sides and filled it with about 12"/30cm of multipurpose compost. Into each bag I put 3 seed potatoes. This is a technique I heard on Radio 4's gardeners question time last week so I'm very interested to see if it works.
I had some more garlic so I ran a line of them down the raspberry bed. I got the idea to do this from my file I have compiled of companion planting. 
Little one and I sowed some marigolds on Thursday and put them in the heated propagator and already many little seedlings are appearing! - photos to come.

Calabrese, Hispi Pointy Cabbage and Dahlias

I popped in very quickly to Lottie yesterday with some calabrese and Hispi pointy cabbage seedlings that I picked up at Wisley, where of course I had gone for something completely different. I have been very reluctant to grow brassicas as the are attacked for all directions but as I have a small (limed) bed with only one kale and one cabbage in, I thought I might as well make use of the space. I planted them firmly in with about 12"/30 cm between them. I have put some grit under them which I hope will keep the slugs off.
In the next bed, I was thrilled to notice the first signs of carrots coming up my young under-gardener though it was splendid too, so much so he launched himself across the whole bed, mesh, hoops and all and lay prostrate over the lot. I'm not sure the carrots are going to like that!
I also had a small bag of bright cerise pink dahlia bulbs and I put them in the flower bed.

Friday, 27 March 2009

D'you wanna see how much I've done so far?

As it was after the big chop...

As it is now, March 2009

Okay, so it's still messy but it is shaping up now. I have hit the serious bramble infested end of the plot. Progress has slowed because of the sheer density and depth of the roots and also the rainy weather. I had a huge pile of weeds that had been drying nicely on a pallet which I joyfully incinerated. It was very cathartic burning all the weeds. 
Contrary to what some think I have dug every square foot of the plot so far - not just where the beds are placed. 

If you need tips about clearing and burning weeds:-
  • I recommend putting the weeds on a pallet rather than into a bag or bin or straight on the ground. This way the air circulates and they dry, as they dry the soil falls off - of course I covered them with plastic when it was going to rain! - well most times!  The first load of weeds I dug up I put in one of those spring-up bins - they are still there, sodden with soil and no good for burning. I shall tip them out onto the pallet the next sunny day I go down and get them dry and ready to burn. 
  • Cover weed piles up when it's really windy or you may upset your neighbours by scattering weeds over their plots.
  • Bonfires on allotments have to be well considered. It's common sense really. I am close to a playground where I take my little under-gardener, so I won't burn when the wind blows in that direction or towards any houses, especially those with open windows!
  • May to September are mostly no no months for fires. 
  • Don't forget November 5th is the best of all days for a blaze!
  • A still day is perfect for burning - but also pretty hard to come by. So I choose a cold and/or spitting day when I wouldn't really want to be outside. 
  • Weekdays are better than weekends as less people are at home enjoying their own gardens. 
  • My top tip is get the fire hot hot hot. It smokes much less the hotter it is. Get it started with timber kindling of some sort is good. 
  • Fed it little by little and don't be tempted to stir or poke it as you'll could collapse in necessary air pockets. 
  • Obviously green, wet and soil covered weeds smoke the most so take note of the first tip.
  • Use the ash and feed your beds potash, valuable potassium (K) fertiliser. The perfect cycle of weeds to fertiliser. Bad becomes Good.

New Plan....

I still love growveg.com, I have revised my plan many times....at the moment this is my plan!
Click on it to see it larger.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Bramble question...

One of the monsters I've evicted.

Now as I understand if I leave even the smallest piece of couch grass in, the rhizome will sprout and more will grow so it's important to carefully get rid of the lot. I assumed that the same is true of the bramble roots. But today a chap at the allotment told me I didn't need to excavate the whole root just the crown part. Is this true?.. have I been burrowing to Australia for nothing? Help me find the definitive answer please. I can't help feel unnerved by leaving some straggley roots behind...

On RHS advice search it says..
In light, workable soils, cut back scrambling stems to around 12in from ground level. Dig out the bramble stump, taking the roots away at the same to time. It is important to remove as much of the below-ground parts as possible, as brambles have the ability to regenerate from below the soil level. Seedlings should be weeded out.
I think - I'm going to have to go back and re-dig ! AND I'm going not always going take advice from know-it-all chaps at the allotment !!

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Raspberry replant

Friday saw another long day at the allotment. As well as plenty of digging and some more weed burning, the raspberries were replanted properly, singularly. I have given some of the extra raspberry canes to my sister, to friends and a couple of other allotment holders. My sister in turn has given me two gooseberry standards.
Thanks to my lovely friend who has given up some of her time to help me, the brassica bed and the broad bean bed also got some lime applied to them.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

I lovage borage xx

I spent nearly seven hours at the allotment today. When I got there it was lovely and quiet, as I got on with jobs I listened to the lovely bird sounds. There was one interesting one which I'm afraid I can't describe but it wasn't long until I spotted the green woodpecker that was making it. I had a real moment of feeling so perfectly contented which was made even better by glorious sunshine coming out too. Aaah!

I didn't deal with the raspberries as I said I would. But I did consider my options.

Meanwhile I weeded the beds. I made hoops to hold up the enviromesh above the carrots, brassicas and the broad beans. I'm very pleased with them. I sowed two rows of early Nantes carrots. I also sowed borage and lovage in the brassica bed. The lovage won't stay there as I becomes a large plant, I'm just starting it there - finger crossed it germinates. Lovage is a great habitat for ground beetles and slugs hate ground beetles - yippee!
I'm really into the whole companion planting thing so the lovage and borage are part of my masterplan. Borage is a companion to most plants. Apparently detering cabbage worms and attracting bees. Borage adds trace minerals to the soil, can be used as a mulch; if grown near will enhance the flavour of strawberries and improve tomatoes' resistance to disease. If that wasn't enough the pretty flowers are edible and the leaves contain vitamin C, potassium, calcium and mineral salts!

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Thank you Monty

I have just watched a 'How to' plant raspberries video on bbc.com and my questions are answered - Thank you Monty, for making it so clear for me.
Tomorrow I shall go and sort out the raspberries. 

So, one learns from one's mistakes!

Hopefully I've caught this one early enough to rectify in time. It appears that I should have split up the canes of my raspberries before I planted them. This is not explained on the labels of any of the plants. I shall be working on my solution at once and get back to you then. I guess I was confused by the fact they were potted and not bare-rooted... and by the diagrams of the scottish stool system...Oh  - I'll be back!

Monday, 2 March 2009

With a little help from a friend...

... the raspberries are planted.

It's always good to share a special moment with someone, especially if they happen to bring a confident approach to the whole affair. (- thank you, you know who you are)
Hoping that once planted the raspberries will be there for 10 years or so I wanted to be sure to give them the best start I could, so I'd been cross referencing planting techniques. Raspberry roots are shallow, perhaps only about 4'' deep I needed to get the right organic fertiliser. One kind, fellow plot holder had lent me a book which advised using nitro-chalk - but apparently this is quite industrial and not readily available from garden centres. Other books advise bone meal but I didn't want to use that knowing how the foxes love to dig it up. So my dear friend got a recommended organic fertiliser which we used as well as digging in well rotted stable manure.
I have planted three summer fruiting varieties; Glen Moy, Glen Prosen and Glen Ample and three autumn fruiting - all Autumn Bliss. I understand the autumn varieties are easiest to grow as the canes can be cut to the ground in late winter as the fruit grows on the new seasons growth they also smaller plants and don't really need any support. Whereas the summer varieties grow fruit on the previous years growth, so you only have to cut the canes which have been fruited on, picking the newer canes to tie to supports for the next years fruit. You see it's also complicated to explain. Anyway as we love raspberries in this house I want to have the longest possible season therefore buying both summer and autumn varieties. All four varieties carry the prestigious Award of Garden Merit (AGM).

Friday, 27 February 2009

Preparing the Raspberry Patch

...weeds, weeds, weeds...

Some major excavating had to be done to clear the deep, winding and sprawling roots of the brambles. The alien-like bramble roots went all the way down to Hades! Often we'd have to dig 4' down into the orange sand and stoney subsoil following one to its finer hairier ends. Not to mention the couch grass and the nettles. This area perhaps 16' x 8' was the hardest so far. The two of us worked for 13 hours, over a few days to clear it - it's very slow progress. But so satisfying. It's inevitable that we've missed some but I know we have be very thorough.
We squished grubs as we found them like the horrible fat chafer grubs and tough leather jackets. Leaving our favoured fat worms and shiny black ground beetles free reign.
Interestingly, I recently listened to something on Radio 4 about slugs being repelled by ground beetles. Apparently the beetles like to eat slugs! Slugs have been observed rearing up at the ground beetles!! Scientists are experimenting with the scent of ground beetles to create and organic slug deterrent - Now that would be good!!


Frozen ground 6.1.09

I'm sorry to desert my blog for so long..... As it is a diary of Lottie I should run through what's been happening since I last posted. 
I dug another bed next to our seating area. This bed will be for flowers and herbs and for my little under-gardener to practice gardening in. In the picture above you can see the pallet box which I am making in to a cold frame/mini greenhouse, it is sitting on said bed.
Not much happened in December except I forgot to plant garlic on the shortest day! - so the experiment I was planning - plant on the shortest, harvest on the longest day - will have to wait another year.
January was cold and the ground was frozen hard (as above) so digging was suspended. I did manage to get some free turf from a job so we have a little grassy patch alongside the shed - which looks a little silly at the moment within the chaos but shall be our little spot of sanctuary soon.