Saturday, 31 December 2011

New Years Eve

We went to the plot to pick, you've guessed it, sprouts and carrots :-) This carrot weighed 333g - that's what Autumn King carrots are all about! (Not kilograms as I originally recorded!!)
We spotted a hoverfly in the sprout netting. I didn't realise they'd be around at this time of year, but apparently so.  Not much for him to feed on at the moment, but he must have found something to get pollen from...
Also spotted our little rodent - but it's a vole, not a mouse. He ran between the compost bin and under a wooden trough.

New life is already sprouting - the chives have got plenty of re-growth, and though the chard looks pretty awful there are signs of new leaves. The mint has gone a bit mad - growing round and round the pot and shot off under the paving slab - needs a bit of work next year...

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Runner Bean Chutney

This is the runner bean chutney which Jamie made on 5th September - lovely and sweet. It was our usual french bean recipe but with red onions - looks pretty similar to the french bean chutney but is a bit darker - may have been boiled down for a bit longer.
Made some carrot and coriander soup with 4 lovely big carrots that we picked yesterday - they didn't split this time, so these were probably Autumn King - we sowed 2 different types of carrot in the one trench (where our parsnips didn't grow) and can't really tell the difference between them...

Today it's very rainy and has got a bit chillier. The thermometer on the plot yesterday showed that it was 7 degrees and that was the minimum temperature!

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Carrots & Sprouts

That's pretty much what we'll be living on for a while! Jamie's going to stir fry some sprouts tomorrow and I really fancy some baked in a dauphinois-style potato and carrot thing - my preferred method of cooking anything :-)
Though there are cabbages left in the ground they look pretty ropey, so not sure how they'll be - if we ever get to pull them...
The broad beans look ok so hopefully we'll get some early beans this year.

We were the only people on the allotment today. Only went to pick a bit for dinner and deposit coffee grounds, papaya skins, sprouts waste, potato and carrot peelings into the compost but ended up doing a bit of tidying.
I cleared the bedraggled stems of the sweetcorn - birds and mice had completely removed all trace of corn. There are masses of stringy roots left in the ground which Jamie dug up a bit - mostly to get some worms to come out for the little robin who was hanging round.
We put the sweetcorn remains in the compost as they were quite dry to use as 'brown'. Whilst turning the compost we saw a mouse run out and then back again when we'd finished! Really is worth stirring up the compost and not just leaving it to become a mouse sanctuary!

Christmas Eve

We went to the allotment on Christmas Eve morning before visiting our relatives. Many of the usual suspects were there, picking their produce for Christmas dinner - which is what we were doing too.
Shame this year, the only home-grown food we had to show was carrots and sprouts to go with our Quorn roast! We had to buy parsnips and spuds.

Having said that, we've had lovely chilli pickled onions and pickled beets to go with our cheese and biscuits snacks! The sloe gin and raspberry vodka has also gone down extremely well :-)

We got a couple of lovely allotment books for Christmas so are enjoying looking through those. We also got a couple of journals - one for both us to record what we think is important through the year. Most of the info gets put in the blog, but it's handy to have a book to record some stuff too.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Eventually got to the allotment

We managed to get to the plot before the cold rain started today.
Not much happening, only a couple of other people were there.

Since our last visit the minimum temperature had been -5° I've had to scrape frost from the car a few times in the last week - brrr. Good for the sprouts though!
We picked enough to for two meals. They look really good; some are huge. The enviromesh did its job stopping most pests before they did too much damage.

Picked some lovely carrots too and pulled the last potatoes (Kestrels). They had started growing but look ok, although there weren't as many as we'd hoped - we ended up having to buy some from Tescos to have enough for the two days (which is always disappointing!).
The carrots split whilst being peeled/cut. This happens quite a lot - probably because they'd been left in the ground too long. They should have been Arctic King so shouldn't mind the cold weather... Anyway, they tasted lovely. As did the sprouts, even the biggest ones and no damage beyond the outer leaves - excellent! Now we know they'll be good for Christmas dinner.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Mmmm French Bean Chutney

Before going up to the Hungetford Victorian Extravaganza we needed a snack, so...
We started on the first of the chutney. It was the batch we made with our first harvest of French beans on 30th July this year.

Really sweet and delicious with cheese and crackers.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Marsh Lane Allotments

Wish Google maps would update so we could see the plots from the sky!
Marsh Ln, Hungerford, West Berkshire RG17 0, UK

Thursday, 1 December 2011


We've been sunning ourselves in Tenerife for the last 10 days.

Can't help thinking what it would be like growing veggies here! We've decided that carrots would appreciate the sandy soil; potatoes would be blight free; tomatoes and peppers would be abundant and there'd be lots of squashes and melons. Only trouble is the lack of water - really would need to get that sorted! Here in the North of the island they do get some rain so it is lovely and green, but still even drier than Marsh Lane.

The veggies in the shops are pretty weak looking, the spuds tend to look like seed potatoes. Haven't seen too many bugs apart from butterflies, so there must be some caterpillars about, though I'm surprised any get past the lizards!

Aah, back home tomorrow to see if we've had any frost....

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Crazy weather for November

The weather is still really warm for November (2.5degC) was the lowest last week. There hasn't been any rain for a while but it's been misty/foggy so it was pretty wet on the allotment this morning, but the sun was shining.
The weather's causing a bit of confusion - our raspberry canes are flowering again! We're going to clear them late this year or in the new year and just keep a few canes where we want them to grow - it'll be a shame if they've got fruit on them!!

We only went to have a look at the broad beans - the 3 which hadn't grown last week are still pathetic so we've left the cloches on them, the rest look happy enough though something is nibbling the leaves.
Talking of nibbling.... we didn't eat many of our sweetcorn this year as they hadn't produced very good cobs, but something is happily clearing them up for us!

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Bad Camouflage

Whilst tidying up the chard - clearing dodgy-looking leaves and removing a couple of plants - I found three of these bright green caterpillars. A hopeless place to hide as they were almost glowing against the red stems. The Wildaboutbritain web forum confirmed that it's probably a Angle Shade moth larva.
They're living over the hedge now :-|

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Hot November

We haven't visited the plot for a couple of weekends but wanted to get up there to do some digging today. It's been rainy and dull over the last week (lowest temp was 1.5°) but today the sun was shining and it was about 16° - amazing for November!
The broad beans have sprouted well, with only a small number not looking right. I took the cloches off all the good ones and have put a frame over them in an attempt to keep pigeons off...
Pulled the remaining turnips and dug over the area and the green manured area.
We cleared Quarter 3 and dug the horse manure in, avoiding the area where the peas are going to stay.
Jamie dug up the last of the purple Congo potatoes and we also took home a giant beetroot and a carrot to have a lovely veggie bake tomorrow.

We left 3 hours later with a much tidier looking plot.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Next Year's spuds and onions ordered

We've placed our order for next year from Thompson and Morgan.

We've opted for these potato varieties:

Potato 'Kestrel' - 10 seed potatoes (Second Earlies)
Potato 'Orla' - 10 seed potatoes (First Earlies) We found these to be good for mash and baking too this year
Potato 'Belana' - 5 seed potatoes (First Earlies) These should produce lots of small new potatoes
And we've ordered the following onions and shallots:

Onion 'Santero' F1 Hybrid - This is an early cropper which is apparently resistant to downy mildew
Shallot 'Golden Gourmet' - Our favourites for making pickled onions

They won't arrive until Jan-mid-May.

We've ordered less than we've had this year, as they just keep going on for too long really. We got a bit fed up with the new potatoes this year and it's a shame to let them grow big.
We've still got a Congo and a Kestrel plant in the ground at the plot at the moment.

We're really hoping the onions will be happier next year so that we get a full season without them succombing to mildew...

Tuesday, 1 November 2011


We had a lovely Halloween dinner: Layered beetroot, potato, carrot and tofu chunks in a cheesy sauce - so delicious and colourful (we used purple spuds).

The next day the pumpkin went to the compost bin - not a home-grown pumpkin this year; they take up so much room, but next year we may grow some small jack-o-lantern squashes...

Sunday, 30 October 2011

More Tidying

Another sunny morning meant more weeding and tidying up on the plot. No signs of life in the broad beans yet.
I ventured into the sprout cage, weeded and pulled off all the yellowing leaves at the lower level of the sprouts. Masses of white fly under there, while some of the sprouts look really healthy - others look really awful!

We actually weeded Plot 8A as well - it was a state! Filled a compost bag with weeds. It looks so much happier now.
And we went home with another trug full of purple Congo potatoes.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Sloe Gin

As expected there weren't enough sloes in the hedge by our plot so we picked ours from Hungerford Common where there were loads. Some of the berries were pretty small but we filled a jar and made a litre of sloe gin in 2 kilner jars half filled with sloes and with about the same weight in sugar. We'll just give the jars a shake every day and in a few months we'll have a lovely drink.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Enjoying the sunshine

And it was lovely being able to sit in the sun with a coffee again! Look at that blue sky - gorgeous!
This bee was enjoying warming itself in the sun too

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Digging and Clearing

Had a lovely 4 hours on the plot this morning in the sunshine.
The temperature had reached -1 and the beans, courgette and tomato plants all collapsed due to the frost. We cleared them all away to the compost - such a lot of runner beans went uneaten. We must sow them earlier next year!
Frosted Runner Beans
Frosted Courgette

Jamie dug and put organic chicken manure pellets on the quarter for onions next year and I dug all the areas which had the plants cleared. It's satisfying to clear the areas and nice to be able to dig again - funny how you miss it even though it's tiring!

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Pickled Cucumber

We pickled (sweet pickled) the cucumbers. The chopped cucumber was left in salt overnight to remove some of the water. Pickled in about a pint of white vinegar, 60g sugar and a teaspoon each of mustard and celery seeds. We made some last year which were really tasty but overly sweet so we reduced the sugar by half this time...

First frost

Well, at the weekend the thermometer on the plot was showing that the temperature had got down to 3degrees C. The only plant affected was the basil plants which had gone completely brown then black over 2 days - well, one of them was Greek basil so not too suprised it doesn't like the cold! We picked the last 5 cucumbers as the weather was expected to get colder this week.
And... the weather people were right! I had to scrape ice from the car this morning and had to find my woolly gloves. May not get up the plot for a couple of days but I've got a feeling the beans will have gone down - luckily Jamie pulled a few pods to get the beans out when he popped up the plot yesterday.

At least it means we can pick some sloes and make sloe gin this weekend - I've been waiting to do this for about 3 months it seems!!

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Another sunny day

We went up to do some digging and other bits this afternoon, but again it was so sunny we stopped and chatted for about an hour then didn't have time to do all that we planned!

However, we did chop down and dig in the mustard green manure and planted a couple of rows of broad beans which we're hoping will over-winter. We've put cloches over the beans as the mice are still causing trouble on other people's plots.
The beans are planted on the strip where we thoroughly dug in the horse manure that we're slightly concerned about - our test at home produced 4 broad beans; a couple which look rather fern-like and a couple which look just about perfect - so not such a great result to put our minds at rest! However, we figure the on-plot test will tell us for sure, so fingers crossed that the manure is fine....

Put a lot of corrugated cardboard (ripped into small bits) into the compost bin and gave it a good mix about - it's still a bit stinky, but there is a lot of green in there so not too suprising. It's not too wet so should be ok. The black compost bin has shrunk to about half full and is lovely compost for use next year. We've also bought some bags of Westland Farmyard manure to put under our spuds again next year.

Purple chips

Used a few Congo spuds to make purple chips at lunchtime. They look so great and tasted good too!
You can see where some of the potato flesh is white, that is the case with some of the tubers where others are deep purple all the way through - brilliant :-)

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Sitting in the sunshine

Went to the plot in the morning. Only intended to pick a few spuds and a cabbage, but ended up picking some other bits for my sister. I took all the remaining courgettes - there are still a few more flowers but not sure they'll have time to grow as frost is threatened...
It was lovely and sunny and really quite warm so we just sat in the sun for a bit, watching other people clearing their plots.
And we saw a steam train go by - I was shooting into the sun so actually missed the engine, but the smoke looks quite artistic :-)

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Cabbage Patch

Ventured under the cabbage netting (which hasn't been terribly successful at keeping butterflies off) and weeded. I pulled a couple of the red cabbages which have split and been eaten. I found a lot of snails and slugs in there - netting won't help against them! You can see from the picture that the non-eaten cabbages look brill.

This month's pest - Leek Moth

Well, another crop has gone because of the pests! The leeks have been looking bedraggled for a few weeks but after confirming that we have leek moth we decided to bite the bullet and pull the whole lot up :-(

Such a shame, though I did manage to save a few to eat (after some very careful checking for critters!)
 Jamie dug the patch over and we took all the leaves and other waste home to attempt to avoid contaminating the ground with any remaining caterpillars/pupae. Hopefully our friendly robin will spot any that we didn't clear...
The ground did look good after it was dug though - it looked a bit awful with a load of miserable looking leeks on it!

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Weeding, weeding, clearing

As promised, we spent a few hours on the plot yesterday. Weeded the whole leek/potato quarter and the root/onion quarter (well, lots of it!). The green manure (mustard) has grown really tall and should really be dug in, but we'll wait a bit to do that.
green manure
I cleared the pea netting and weeded that area too. Tomorrow we should do the brassica patch. Some of the cabbages look really good but others have been chomped by something - not sure whether it's caterpillars or something like mice - it certainly has a big appetite whatever it is!!

The leeks (all over site) are looking pretty awful - we think it may be leek moth and need to examine for further evidence now we've checked them out on t'internet....

Our poor neglected plot

We haven't spent time on the plot for a couple of weeks, last weekend was so hot and there was grass seeding going on on-site so we went for walks in the sun instead. Jamie did pull some Kestrel spuds on Tuesday.
We went up yesterday though and it's desperately in need of some tlc! There are so many weeds and the Congo potato foliage has all died so looks a mess. We'll go up later and do a lot of weeding and clearing.
We picked 2 sweetcorn. Only about half the cob had formed proper kernels. Soo sweet and tasty though! We also had another cucumber, some little turnips and carrots for snacks while we listened to England footie.
Picked 2 courgettes which should have been picked a fortnight ago - they're giant marrow-sized now. Think I may be living on courgette soup all next week!

Not much room for anything else in our Ka boot!
We picked our first celery plant. We didn't really look after the plants as much as we should have and although they're tall and bushy the stems are weird. Some of the stems and just a shell, with no tasty fleshy bit. The rest appeared to have gone to see so we had some stem which was tasty but not spoon-shaped; more round... Still tasted ok and could have been used for soup, but not really properly grown. Celery needs much more water than we gave it; the ground needs to be almost water-logged apparently, so different plan for next year!

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Not everything on our plot is purple, but...

While we were pulling one of the Kestrel spuds I found this lovely little purple centipede.