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Wednesday, April 23

Blue sky thinking



 Copyright: Original post from Our Plot at Green Lane Allotments http://glallotments.blogspot.co.uk/ author S Garrett

Tuesday, April 22

More plotting

Another full afternoon on the plot on Easter Monday saw more progress punctuated by chats with fellow plot tenants and the odd cup of coffee.

We usually have a list of tasks that we want to complete on our plot visits and anything else that we managed to fit in is a bonus.

My number one task was to plant out some cabbage and calabrese. After our club root disaster the plants were bought in to plug the gap and hopefully give us a crop before any seed raised plants would. It's always a bit of a gamble buying brassica plants as this can be a source of club root contamination but hopefully buying from a reputable company minimises the risk. One way of supporting plants so they can have a chance against club root infection is to grow the young plants on in pots so they develop a good root system before planting. The plants were now at a stage though when they had to go out in open ground and fend for themselves. Martyn has posted more about the brassica plants here.

The bed had previously been prepared and the appropriate piece of weed control fabric put in place. Whilst the brassicas were being planted deeply and firmed in, I am sure countless little eyes were watching from the telegraph wires and the occasional white butterfly flew past to inspect a possible site for egg laying.

I was, however one step ahead and once planted and plants watered in, the bed was covered with butterfly and pigeon proof netting. Any holes resulting from repeated use were tied up as some determined creature would no doubt use any large hole as an access point.
Whilst I was on planting duty, Martyn was tasked with sowing. He had already prepared the bed for carrots and parsnips. On our last visit, the channels in which the seeds were to be sown had been filled with compost and well watered. The compost was watered again and then seeds sown. Once sown, to keep carrot fly at bay, the bed was covered with enviromesh. The mesh will only be removed if it really has to be. The weed control fabric should cut weeding down to a minimum which will also mean the roots of young seedling are disturbed less. We don't thin out the carrots allowing them to shoulder one another aside. This also cuts down on root disturbance and the need to remove the mesh. At the early stages the compost will need to be regularly watered through the mesh by either us or nature.
Although the parsnips don't really need to be covered the excess mesh has been laid across the area where the seeds have been sown. Hopefully this will cut down on 'divets' made by paw prints or foraging birds.

Martyn also sown some Carouby de Maussane mangetout. These are a purple flowered variety which we have grown in the past. Previously we have raised them in pots but have found direct sowing seems to work better for us. We will see. These are tall growing plants and so hazel branches will be put in place once the seeds start to germinate.


One disappointing situation on our site is that plots that have been vacated this year still appear not to have been allocated. Does this mean there are no applicants for plots on our site? I don't know, but I do know that previously well kept plots are becoming overgrown in the interim and the chance for planting up for this season is slipping by.

If you live in Wakefield and are either on a waiting list or would like a plot it may be worth contacting the council here. You don't need to live in Horbury to take on a plot at Green Lane.

Copyright: Original post from Our Plot at Green Lane Allotments http://glallotments.blogspot.co.uk/ author S Garrett

Monday, April 21

Magnolia

Keeping a close eye on our magnolia tree this year has made me realise that its flowering period is longer than I thought. If asked I would have said that the tree was in flower for about a fortnight. I don't know whether this year has been an exception but despite rain and winds battering it the tree is still flowering and from my earlier photographs, the first flowers started to open around the 17 March. 

It still has plenty of flowers.
Many flowers have shed their petals which fall down past our windows like giant snowflakes to cover the garden and path beneath.

The flowers appear before the leaves which shoot once the flowers begin to fade. 

I must admit I've never noticed whether the seeds pods that are produced ever develop seeds. I'm sure I would have noticed if they did but this year I'll pat special attention.

The flowers have created a living picture outside of our bedroom window.


I hope my neighbours haven't seen me poking my camera out of the open window to take close up shots - no doubt the birds have found my activities puzzling.
It is, however only when the sky is blue that the flowers can be fully appreciated from ground level.



Sunday, April 20

Plotting

It's that time of year when it's all go on the plot - for us now is the time to lay the groundwork for a decent harvest to set us up for the year. It is why it is disappointing to see some vacant plots on our site waiting for new tenants. There is apparently a waiting list but as these plots wait for someone to love them they are gradually filling with weeds and time is running our for new tenants to get planting, (Maybe that is what the waiting list means - plots are waiting rather than wannabe allotmenteers!)

Anyway back to our plot. We sow most of our seeds at home in our garden greenhouse where we can look after them more carefully - a full list of our sowings is here but there comes a time when our fledgings must leave home and April is the time for the first departures.

Onion and shallot sets were started off in modules and have now taken up permanent residence on the plot. We have several generations of onions. The autumn planted ones are sprinting away now. We start using these as soon as they are big enough to be useable.
The next generation are the ones that were started off in modules and have developed a root system and made some growth - these have now been planted out. Then as always we end up with too many sets to raise as full sized onions and so these form the next generation. They are close planted and will produce small onions just right for pickling.
The garlic planted in autumn was doing really well until disaster struck. Our plot neighbour, Jan has given us some old fence panels with which to repair our compost bins. These were propped behind the garlic bed when the winds came along and - splat! - blew it on top of the garlic flattening it! We hoped it wasn't damaged beyond recovery and fortunately it has sprung back if not to its former glory something closely resembling it.
Potato planting is underway with one lot planted experimentally under weed control fabric. We chickened out of planting all the potatoes in this way until we convinced ourselves that this would result in a decent crop. Interestingly we watched Beechgrove Gardens the other night and they are trying out the same thing, - maybe they read Martyn's blog where he has already mentioned doing this.


Although the plum and greengage blossom is now fading the pears and cherry are looking beautiful.


The apples are also flowering - interestingly the sunny side of our apple hedge is well ahead of the shady side.


The bees are loving the bounty - such a pity that Wakefield council have decided no more fruit trees can be planted on plots. Its strange as they state they are all for promoting biodiversity and the blossom must be a lifeline for bees at this time of the year and as we all know these busy little insects need all the help we can give them.

Friday, April 18

Harlow Carr - Some highlights

If you follow Martyn's blog you will know that on Tuesday we visited our nearest RHS garden - Harlow Carr.

Having joined the RHS we decided that we would pay regular visits to Harlow Carr to see how the garden changes over the seasons.

Last time we visited at the beginning of March when the early spring bulbs were the stars of the garden.

We missed one part of the gardens during our last visit including this area.
For me the display of white daffodils, blue muscari and primroses were one of this month's highlights. This may well be a combination that I'll steal.
The clouds of snakeshead fritillaries were also a highlight. The pink and white flowers were naturalised in various parts of the garden.
Along the banks of the stream the unflatteringly named skunk cabbage - Lysichiton americanus grabbed attention. Fortunately the scent which is the reason for the common name wasn't apparent.
 Other plants which drew the eye were the mass planted erythronium Pagoda ...
 ... and various types of anemones...
Wood anemones - anemone nemorosa
Anemone blanda
and the bed of anemone de Caen that was full of flower on last month's visit and still producing a vibrant display.

Of course we did have to visit the garden shop just to see if there was anything we would like to buy - and was there? Well what do you think?



Thursday, April 17

An alternative to apple sauce?

Having lots of rhubarb at the moment, I was looking for different ways to use it. We have made crumbles, rhubarb compote and rhubarb crumble muffins will soon be added to the list but I wanted to use rhubarb in a more savoury way.

Being positioned right in the middle of Yorkshire's Rhubarb Triangle each year Wakefield hosts a Festival of Food Drink and Rhubarb. At one time it was just The Rhubarb Festival and one of the features was to produce a full dinner menu based around rhubarb. There were dishes for starters, main and dessert courses. I seemed to remember rhubarb and pork as a combination and so decided to try and find a recipe for a rhubarb sauce that could replace the more traditional apple sauce accompaniment for pork.

I found quite a few variations on the Internet many were really just the same recipes as we use to make compote and I wanted something a bit different. In the end taking bits and pieces from a few different recipes I came up with my own variation.

I'm afraid it's not very photogenic - maybe the later pink variety will make a prettier sauce.
I didn't really measure anything but to give you some idea. I fried a chopped shallot in oil to soften and added chopped rhubarb. Rather than adding water I added some white wine - just enough so the rhubarb would stew in it - about a teaspoon of white wine vinegar and sugar - about half weight of rhubarb. This was all simmered until the rhubarb was soft and the sauce thickened.

I was going to add some spices, ginger, cinnamon or cloves but decided to try that another time. Other recipes use orange juice as the cooking liquid or a chicken broth and also add mustard. I wasn't sure about the chicken broth or mustard. There is plenty of scope for a bit of experimentation.

My next project is to try making pork and rhubarb burgers. Our butcher makes pork and apple burgers so why not? I just need to decide which herbs or spices to use in the mixture