Sunday, 14 September 2014

Composting & Harvesting

A warm reasonably sunny afternoon gave us time to deal with our compost.
Purple-podded mangetout with such pretty flowers
We're moving their position back to where they were year 1 - they hopefully won't mind the hedge/tree roots as much as some of the vegetables do.
The black Dalek bin has been warmly composting all the old cuttings, cardboard and kitchen waste (and a bit of manure) for over a year - close to 18 months.
Straight from the compost bin
Lots of lovely clean, pink little worms, wood lice, millipedes and beetles (mostly devil's coach horses) have been doing a good job breaking down all that organic matter. We roughly riddled it all - through an old fire guard topped with chicken wire - and bagged up the resultant compost.
The end result after riddling
Mmm, so good to feel with your fingertips! We're storing it in the empty bin to keep it nice and warm before we make our new (additional) strawberry bed with these potted-on runners.
Runners still attached to the mother plants
The remaining woody bits, cardboard and eggshells (which we're amazed remained un-rotted) were returned to the other compost bin as brown waste.
Before going home I picked a load of Zephyr squashes and some other veggies for a few meals, plus a few for work colleagues. There's parcel in there too - lovely celery tasting parsley-type herb to add to some potato salad lunches this week.
The mangetout and asparagus peas are so delicious fried in butter!
Patty pans a-plenty!
Festival Squashes
As you can see, the patty pan are going a bit crazy and some Festival squash seem like they may actually come to something - especially if the weather warms up, as forecast. I hate to say it, but we could really do with a few drops of rain! We keep having to water our toms. I've ordered some jar lids so I'll soon be making tomato chutney - hooray!

Sunday, 7 September 2014

British Legion Horticultural Show and Chain Mail Article

It was show time again yesterday. It's a shame so many of our fellow plotholders don't fancy the idea of 'showing' or were away. The event sounds so much grander than it is, with sadly only 2 or 3 entries for each of the vegetable categories.
Our Hungerford show is a very local-type show with 'nice', 'normal' looking veg rather than monstrous exhibition vegetables! That's not to say I don't like seeing the monster veg, but I know we'll never go to the efforts of growing it!
So, we entered a few photos and produce for the following vegetable categories:
  •  4 White spuds - we got a winner! Jamie's potato-polishing did the trick :-)
  •  5 Bush tomatoes - we didn't win. Our tiny toms looked a bit sad wobbling around on a white paper plate!
  •  5 Dwarf French beans - a winner. Our first French beans of the year too!
  •  Longest runner bean - mine was over 30cm, but the winner was substantially longer!
  •  5 Carrots - I think we won this because we left the full leafy tops on
  •  Any other vegetable - I had a big yellow Patty Pan squash. Looked pretty and won!
  •  Selection of any four veg - Got a 'highly commended' (loser) sticker for my beetroot, colourful chard leaf, purple mangetout and Rondo-carrot. It looked colourful, but Neal's display looked much better.
  •  Funny shaped fruit/veg - our mutant Desiree potato won that one for us!
Some of my photos won, but I can't remember which - will post later if I find out.
I was going to put an entry in for chutney but didn't get my act together, so I'll save that for the Hungerford Food Festival next month. There were plenty of jars of pickles and jams though and the flowers were lovely.

We unfortunately couldn't attend the prize-giving and auction so I'm not sure who won best in show. I hope it was a plotholder!
This was our haul of Chopin potatoes from about 5 plants - many more had slug damage
(they're not the winning carrots by the way!)
Oh, and my latest Chain Mail article is here, if you want a little read. 

Sunday, 31 August 2014

There goes August!

What an odd month! We've had rain, wind and temperatures down to 1.5° but today was warm and sunny. We've had plenty of summer squash, tomatoes and beetroot to eat. The Zephyr squash are particularly tasty, but have grown as bush plants rather than climbing up the trellis. The patty pans have been brilliant this year.
Our Lizzano tomatoes are still supplying an abundance of toms and they're so sweet, perfect for eating straight from the plant :-)
The Festival squash have only just started producing fruits so not sure I'll get any to taste this year. They've been rather late to start trailing, so I chopped the extra runners off today in the hope that will encourage some fruits (one will do!) to mature... 
I've had some delicious meals of roasted vegetables and made a meal with seven home-grown ingredients - I love that!
Look at the centre of that pretty sunflower
The dwarf sunflowers have provided a lovely display and kept the bees happy. And the Russian Giant sunflowers have grown impressively tall and on the last day of August the flowers have finally opened.

The runner beans didn't appreciate the cold spell, so not sure whether they'll still be edible. Lots have brown patches which seems to be bruising from wind damage. There are some good long ones which may be suitable for the British Legion Horticultural Show next weekend - longest runner bean entry here I come :-) And I think we'll have something suitable for the funny shaped veg entry....
Look at the red berries in the hedgerow!
The wildflower mix is putting on a lovely display, with plenty of buds to come, if the weather stays good.
The mangetout are only providing enough pods for plot-snacks and, although covered in lovely scarlet flowers, the asparagus pea pods are very sparse so far. I hope I get enough to fry up a plateful, they really are a delight!

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

I know I've been quiet...

...but I've been quite busy too.

We've had some visits to the plot over the last couple of weeks but this is the most exciting thing that's happened..

The most amazing video filmed by a friend, Colin, using his Quad-copter. I'm obsessed! Can't stop sharing it with anyone I meet so how could I not share it with you lovely people too?!

Please enjoy and feel free to share too if you're so inclined.
This is just the type of thing which will help spread the word about how lovely our site is and what Hungerford will be missing should the worst happen when our current lease expires in April 2016 :-(

Thursday, 31 July 2014

July came and went

Another month passed us by :-( We've had some dramatic weather; hot, hot temperatures and a couple of amazing thunderstorms but not as much rain as a lot of people have had - though the sky often threatened.
We had a few visits to the plot and managed to pick a few veggies and get a few of our sickly seedlings into the ground and we've been pleased that the runner beans, carrots and beets are growing well. Though there aren't many bees around to pollinate the beans.
Funny that this year, when we've hardly grown anything, was the time that BBC Radio Berkshire decided to call (5mins before live broadcast) for a quick (1 minute!) radio interview. I was expecting them to ask about the plight of our lovely site but he actually wanted to talk about what we've been growing. Well, we all know you can't trust the media so I basically made some stuff up! Thank goodness for my fennel, which I've been boring everyone with this year!

Here's a sound file of my bit, if you're interested. Don't get too excited!
I did make the soup and it was delicious. Notice that I didn't claim to have grown the celeriac :-)
Finally I've had a few patty pans and the Zephyr squash have just started to look like they're meant to! The first squash on each plant just looked like a normal pale green courgette - maybe the plants were a bit shocked into producing a fruit a bit too quickly. They don't look like they're going to climb up the trellis, but hopefully there will be a few for me to try. Our Lizzano tomatoes are doing well and are super sweet - we've even managed to take some home, but most have been eaten on the plot.
I've seen the beautiful kingfisher flit across the site a couple of times! The neon blue flash is so eye-catching, but I'm not sure I'll ever be quick enough to snap it!
Cape Gooseberry
We had one late night at the plot to do a spot of bat-detecting - just look at all those insects and the ghostly form of Jamie! There were a lot of bats (most likely pipistrelles) at the top of site, but not so many by our plot, near the canal, which was rather surprising.