Friday, June 30

A Manic Monday

The weather forecast, which turned out to be fairly accurate, was poor for this week so we decided that we needed to make the most of Monday and carry out a long overdue task. We don't usually go to the plot on a morning but we decided on Monday to make a special effort.

So what was the task that drew us? Nothing really directly gardening focused. We really, really needed to sort out the shed.
We don't keep anything in our allotment shed that is of any value as sheds tend to be broken into. Our shed is full of things like fertilisers, netting, gardening gloves and items such as plastic cartons for transporting harvests. Useful things which would be of little value to someone intent in acquiring items to sell on. It's other purpose is to give us somewhere to shelter during showers or as a place to make a drink. The clutter meant that we could hardly fit inside. It was also in need of a good clean. We needed a dry day for this big clear out as the first task was to take everything out and sweep out the cobwebs.

Martyn headed off to the tip with bags of rubbish whilst I washed the shelves the floors and - don't laugh - cleaned the windows. Well I want would-be thieves to be able to get a good look inside to see that there is nothing worth stealing housed in there.

Everything back in place and we have a suitable hidewaway.
It didn't actually take as long to sort the shed out as we thought it would, so in the afternoon, there was time to do a bit more plot tidying. This time the focus area was under the greengage trees. Over the years this area had gradually become overgrown so Martyn had been tidying it bit by bit.
We now have another area where we can sit in shade - when it is sunny - and enjoy a coffee break.

This isn't just a seating area. Firstly we have made use of our old wheelbarrow. A scrap of weed control fabric was placed in the base as the barrow has a hole in it which will serve as a drainage hole, but we didn't want compost to fall out. The wheelbarrow was filled with home produced compost. I then planted it up with nasturtiums which were transplanted from areas around the plot where they had self sown.
We also had some large bags that we were sent as a freebie with an order a couple of years or so ago. Last year we grew tomatoes in them in the garden greenhouse but they needed a lot of compost to fill them and only supported three tomato plants as does a large grow bag.

We have decided to fill them with more home-made compost and use these as mini raised beds.
In one I planted some lettuce seedlings and sowed salad leaves, mizuna and radishes and in the other I sowed swedes, beetroot and spring onions. In another I will sow pak choy. We think that we may have at least another bag hiding elsewhere in which I may grow some mini carrots next year. Anyone any suggestions for other things that I could grow in them?

It was as well we did have a manic Monday as the weather has been wet for the rest of the week and we haven't been back to the plot. Maybe now that we have a shady sitting area "the sun aint gonna shine anymore".

Wednesday, June 28

Beamish : Living Museum - 1900's Pit Village Cottage Gardens

Monday, June 26

Golden harvest

Last week we managed a special harvest when we picked our apricots fresh from the tree in the garden greenhouse. The fruit was warm from the sun and delicious.
The apricot only had a few flowers on one branch but they all produced a fruit. Last year the tree was loaded so maybe it needed a well earned rest. 
19 June
Berry production has now kicked in so we are spending lots of time on the plot picking ripe berries which seem to actual ripen before our eyes as as we pick them. 
20 June
If the apricots are the gold of our week's harvest, the berries are the jewels. I picked posies of lavender which add their lovely perfume to the gathering.
22 June
All the main heads of the calabrese have now been picked but the plants are now producing sideshoots that we are harvesting. Alongside them cabbages - a variety called Regency - is coming to maturity. It is a really firm pointy cabbage which has a really good flavour. Hopefully the cauliflower - Helsinki - will follow on from the cabbages.
These early brassicas were bought as small plants from DT Brown. They were grown on in 5" (125mm) pots so that they built up a good root system and were strong plants before planting them in the plot. This was to try and mitigate any effects of club root although so far this bed seems to be club root free but we didn't want to take the risk.
The berries look very colourful when gathered together. From the top left we have, red gooseberries, redcurrants, purple Glencoe raspberries, jostaberries, blackcurrants, alpine strawberries and tayberries (that could be loganberries). To break up the shades of red scheme on the left a couple of courgettes have photo bombed the scene.
23 June
We have pots of basil and coriander growing in the garden greenhouse. Coriander can very quickly run to seed and so I decided to crop some along with some basil. This was frozen for use later.
24 June
Strawberries are also cropping well, although the berries are rather small and the plants are unlikely to produce for as long this year. I think that the plants are struggling due to the really dry conditions. Once they stop producing fruit I'll water them well and treat them to a feed.

I am often asked what we do with all our fruit. I think the expectation is that we make lots of fruity desserts. The truth may seem boring but we really enjoy eating our fruit fresh and unadulterated with maybe just a dollop of yoghurt. Any excess is stewed into a compote to accompany morning porridge or is frozen for later use. Some frozen fruit also makes it into pies, crumbles or other puddings later. To be honest even if we had the inclination we wouldn't have time to make complicated desserts at this time of year.
To finish off, if you enjoyed my video last week you may like the one below. This time I have concentrated on the cane and vine fruit grown on the plot. The video lasts about 14 minutes.

I am linking to harvest Monday hosted on Dave's blog Our Happy Acres

Copyright: Original post from Our Plot at Green Lane Allotments author S Garrett

Sunday, June 25

Growing Perfect Vegetables - winner of draw

The winner of the random draw is Alcea Rosea. Congratulations Alcea.

Could you please email your address to me so that I can forward this to the publisher so that they can arrange delivery.

If the winner doesn't contact me by 10 July I will re-run the draw.

The draw was made using Random Result 

Friday, June 23

Book review and giveaway

Don't miss the cut off for entry into the draw and a chance to win

My review of the book is here. Just indicate your wish to be included in the draw in the comments attached to that post.

Last entries need to be placed by midnight, tomorrow Saturday 24 June so not long left.

Wednesday, June 21

June allotment plot

Copyright: Original post from Our Plot at Green Lane Allotments author S Garrett

Monday, June 19

Ready Steady Berry

13 June
 Last week our harvests were dominated by calabrese and strawberries. The main centre heads of the calabrese had grown very large and we were pleased to see that having removed the centre heads of earlier plants there were now some sideshoots developing.

The strawberries are fruiting well and keeping us busy picking but the fruits are smaller that usual which I put down to the really dry weather. We try not to water strawberries when they are fruiting as it can spoil the flavour but with some plants seeming to struggle I may have to relent.  I have already given the alpine strawberries a good watering.
15 June
The hot weather has meant that watering has been one of our main tasks at the moment. We had a couple of days away in County Durham and so it was a case of watering before we left and watering when we came home.

Many of the redcurrants are ripe and so on Sunday I picked the first punnet. After picking it was a case of finding a spot in the shade to destring them before taking them home.
WE also picked the first of our courgettes.
The salad leaves growing on the raised bed in the garden now are suffering an aphid attack and so will be cleared but fortunately we have lettuces growing on the plot. We uproot lettuce and pop the plant into a bucket of water to keep it fresh as we use it.
Despite their battering the cornflowers are still producing cutting and bee browsing material.
18 June
As our berry picking time is beginning I have put together a video tour of our allotment berries. It's about 11½ minutes long and if you are interested in listening to me rambling on you will need the sound turned on.

Saturday, June 17

Growing Perfect Vegetables

This month I was sent a copy of Square Foot Gardening - Growing Perfect Vegetables to review.

I must admit I feel that the title is deceptive as the book isn't really about growing vegetables, its focus is on when to harvest your crops. Neither does the book restrict itself to vegetables as fruit is also included.

The Square Foot Gardening Foundation is 'a nonprofit organization that operates an extensive outreach network to bring Square Foot Gardening and vegetable gardening to countries with hunger issues'. It's base is in the USA and so unsurprisingly the book leans towards an American audience and the vocabulary used reflects this. The book refers to collards, eggplant, zucchini, cilantro and scallions - names which many UK readers may be unfamiliar with. Fortunately the book is well illustrated and so this shouldn't cause a problem.

The book aims to explain how to determine when fruit and vegetables are at their optimum 'ripeness' for harvesting or buying. The term ripe seems rather strange when applied to vegetables but in the first chapter it explains that ripe is 'the stage of growth or maturation in which any fruit or vegetables at its ideal point to be eaten'. 

Chapter one discusses ripening in general exploring how different crops ripen using different mechanisms and why certain fruit and vegetables should not be stored together. Did you know that apples and oranges should not be stored together?
The second chapter focuses on individual fruits and vegetables and covers, how to determine whether a crop is ripe both for home grown and when buying fruit and vegetables. It also has advice on how to store harvests to extend their shelf life. Towards the end of the book is a summary chart
Although the book is produced by Square Foot Gardening the book doesn't limit itself to crops that can be grown in square foot boxes and so the book is still appropriate to those growing using more conventional methods
It also covers more exotic crops - some of which I have never heard of - Jicama?
The main pages contain a chart for optimal planting and harvesting times that usefully base the timing on likelihood of frost rather than calendar months.
This means that the charts are relevant to the UK even though the book is written for an American readership.

In summary I found the book to be interesting and it will change the way I store my fruit and vegetables.  No more mixed fruit bowls!

The publishers are offering a giveaway copy of Growing Perfect Vegetables. If you wish to have your name included in a random draw with a chance to win a copy of the book, please let me know by adding a comment to this post. The closing date for entry to the draw is midnight on Saturday 24 June. The draw will take place on Sunday 25 June and the winner will be announced on this blog. I will allow two weeks for the winner to email me their mailing details which will be passed on to the publishers who will send a copy of the book directly to the winner. In the event that the winner fails to get in touch a second draw will take place.

Unfortunately the draw is open to UK residents only.