Saturday, 29 September 2012

Fruits and Diseases

We had a lovely few hours on the plot today. When we first arrived there were a lot of butterflies around as it was sunny and pleasant. Jamie got down on his knees for some serious weeding around our leeks.
Whilst weeding he noticed that we have rust appearing on quite a few of the leaves. Rust (Puccinia allii) on leeks is apparently quite common and the fungus spreads due to poor air circulation (the usual humidity problem on our plots) and is often worse on nitrogen-rich soils with low potassium - not sure whether this would be the case with our potato quarter... It doesn't look very nice but shouldn't have a big impact on the actual leeks - we may remove some of the worst affected leaves.
I was dead-heading and ripping up cardboard to add to the compost - we have so much green going in there at the moment and not very much brown. I also cleared yellowing leaves from the sprouts - this helps with air circulation and prevents disease - though we're a bit late with one of the plants which has gone really mouldy, but luckily hasn't spread to the other plants. We'll be pulling that this week or next weekend.
Strawberries round Marsh Lane have been great this year - and they're still going for it!
Sadly I can't say the same for my raspberries which I transplanted this year - they're very sporadic. Hopefully next year they'll be better...

 We've had some lovely peppers though and took some home with the last of our onions - not sure how much we'll get to eat from them - and Red Duke of York and Chopin spuds.



Loads of interesting wildlife

There was a lot of wildlife around today. Mostly hoverflies and some lovely butterflies but I also saw a stoat (pretty sure it was a stoat). It ran really fast across one plot then made a flying leap into stingers on another plot!
The radish flowers and calendula are still attracting most of the insects. This noon fly probably arrived on site with someone's manure!

A noon fly - great gold face!
A colour-match hoverfly!
Jamie spotted a mass of these tiny caterpillars on the raspberries. I think they're Yellow Tail moth caterpillars but again I'm checking on the Wild About Britain forum. They're great looking though! Will check how much bigger they are tomorrow. Correction: This is a Dark Dagger moth caterpillar!
 Neal was working his plot next door to us  and found this hairy caterpillar.
It looks rather like a ruby tiger moth caterpillar we found before but it's a different colour. I'm checking this on the forum too to see if they agree with my identification. Correction: This is a Buff Ermine moth caterpillar!

Wild About Britain is a brilliant site. So full of knowledge and willing to share. It's brilliant to share pics and get beasties identified.

Lastly we found this common green shield bug. It's slightly more mature than the one we found on 1st September and is getting more green.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Good Housekeeping has arrived!

I was sent the Good Housekeeping magazine (Nov 2012 edition) today. My piece is in there (Page 31) - funny, I couldn't remember exactly what I'd been dressed in for the pic. I also don't quite remember saying some of the words but it's not too embarrassing! Luckily as everyone at work and beyond knows about it!!
Here's a sneak peek but I'd better not scan it just yet...

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Sussex Cousins & Seedy Onions

Here are the photos of my cousins (Jen & Steve, Paula, Jamie & Julia) visit to our plot on Sunday.
it really was extremely wet!

Thank Goodness for the Calendulas to provide brightness
Huddling for warmth

Our wet plot

Excellent photos courtesy of 'Cousin Jen' - thank you :-)

On a drier note, this is why you should pull your onions more quickly.
Or, if your onions go to seed just let them flower, after all they do have a pretty flower and the seeds can be used as flavouring if not for sowing.
These went in the bin as there wasn't enough onion flesh to use. Also, one side was full of stinky onion water :-(

Monday, 24 September 2012

Admin and sweet, sweet, sweetcorn

I was on leave today so spent the morning doing allotment computing stuff. I'm back on the HAHA (Hungerford Allotment Holders Association) committee as communications officer so had some stuff to do following yesterday's event; I updated the HAHA website and waiting list - we had a new person to add to the list (we've got 13 waiting for a Marsh Lane plot now) and updated the Marsh Lane Facebook page.

I also needed to contact the plotholders and a couple of visitors to the HAHA stall.
Ellie Thompson, a wood turner from The Treen Workshop was interested in the paper pot maker. We always get a lot of interest in it at events. However, we've found that our pot maker is a bit too small so we were talking about a larger one and I asked her if she could make a longer one suitable for sweetpeas.

In the afternoon I joined Jamie at the rather cold plot. He'd been deadheading and watered the strawberries - which sounds rather odd given the amount of rain we've had, but they are newly planted so need a bit of help! He also picked as many orangey tomatoes as he could find and we're redding them up at home under our LED grow-light.

I took a load of cardboard up and added to the compost with kitchen waste. I picked some carrots and courgettes and a couple of onions to make some soup. The onions are ones that flowered. Although the tops were chopped off as soon as possible the stems are weird and bulbous - it gives the onions a hard centre (Steve's information from yesterday) but I can chop round that for my soup.
Finally, we picked the two biggest sweetcorn and rushed home to get them boiled as quickly as possible. They really are super-sweet and so delicious with butter - mmmm
There were a few missing kernels but not many!

A Busy Weekend

Apart from work I try to avoid having busy days, so having two busy days over a weekend is very unusual for me. My idea of 'busy' on Saturday actually meant spending a few hours at a great family party!
The Garston Gallopers with party-goers
On Sunday it was the Hungerford Food Festival where HAHA had a stall so Jamie and I were there to help Ted and Kerry set up.

Wet weather didn't deter the crowds
Hundreds of people turned up even though the weather was absolutely awful; pouring with rain and chilly. The HAHA stall was placed at the top of some busy stairs so had a lot of passing visitors and it was a fun day. We had plenty of veg and jars of pickles, chutneys and jams from plotholders to show off. We also had out usual paper potters for people to make a pot - previously we've had runner beans to sow but yesterday we had 'pot up a viola'.
Julia, Jamie, my mum, Jen and Steve
During time away from the stall Jamie and I met up with my cousins from Sussex who had been to the party. Jen, Steve (who work the Freshwinds Garden), Paula, Jamie and Julia braved the awful weather and had a tour of the plot. I should have taken a photo but was too cold (hopefully Jen will let me use one our two of hers ~ Jen?!!) They've seen the plot through the blog and I was concerned that my photos make it look more impressive than it is! Luckily it was looking ok though, with quite a few veggies still growing, like the sweetcorn, celeriac, squash, calendula, kohl rabi and even the sweetpeas are still in flower. Our squashes have survived the cold temperatures so far (except the cucumber), though other squashes on site have died back.
After the site tour we returned to the food festival - I won a prize in the raffle! - and then we went home to have salsify (thanks Jerry!). I liked it, it had quite a subtle flavour -we had it with parsley sauce. You have to soak in acidified water after peeling and chopping to stop it going black and slimy. It's back on my planting list for next year  :-)

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Avast me hearties!

Hoist the Jolly Roger!
It's international talk like a pirate day!
And there was frost on the caarrr in Hungerford - yaarrr, but only down to 5 degrees at t'plot - Aarrg, so all the veggies are fine aye!

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Strawberries are in and first celeriac is out!

Another couple of hours on the plot today. Not sunny but pretty warm and there were a few friends to chat to for a while.
We put our strawberry plants in. Very pleased to see how much the runners had rooted in just 3 weeks!

Well-rooted strawberry runners
Managed to get the eight plants in with plenty of room for spreading and the weed suppressant hump should mean that water runs away from the strawberries... that's the plan...
We pulled our first celeriac. There were a lot more roots than I expected! Once I'd cut them back there is rather less celeriac than I've seen in shops, but plenty for our mash this evening! It smells lovely and I tasted a bit of the root - it's like a slightly more subtle celery.
Hairy celeriac
Picked lots of tomatoes and other bits for a lovely bruschetta lunch, salad for work lunches and I'm going to do a ratatouille in the week - will need at least one courgette for that but that won't be a problem!
We're really pleased with the tomatoes. We've just got the 3 plants in tubs on the plot but they're producing masses of toms. Lots of people seem to have had problems this year with blight but our tumbling variety has managed to avoid the worst of it. They have collapsed and a few toms and branches are clearly succumbing now but this is the best year so far with regards to tomatoes on our plot - we'll be looking to buy Lizzano plants again next year!
Lovely veggies!

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Like a summer's day!

We had a lovely few hours in the sun today. Some fair weather cloud developed throughout the afternoon but it stayed at about 19°. You can see in the photo below how red the hedgerow has gone with all the berries. It certainly feels autumnal in the mornings but during the day it's been lovely over the last week.

There were masses of white butterflies around today and were enjoying our radishes which have seriously gone to seed but are very pretty! Talking of butterflies, the results of the 2012 Big Butterfly Count are in - my record compared fairly well with the national results, but the whites and the peacocks arrived just too late for the count - they're certainly around in abundance now!

Small white on radish flowers
And this silver y moth was enjoying the radishes too.

The big orange frog was back so looks like he's going to look after our plot for us  :-) Here's a lesson learnt though - don't leave your plastic trays around, the snails have moved in!!

Snail Hotel
I collected some of the coriander seeds - shame we're not going to have enough carrots to make soup with! There are still plenty, like these ones,which aren't dry enough to collect yet.
The Cornells bush delicata squash is developing it's stripes and the plant is still looking healthy. But the Rocky cucumber is dying off.
After a lot of weeding, scoffing a few strawberries and raspberries and some more dead-heading we went home with the plot looking pretty and tidy!

Friday, 14 September 2012

Planes, beans, parsnips

Had a walk up the plot this afternoon for some fresh air during my recuperation day. I didn't do anything strenuous, just watched Jamie watering everything. We saw two big Hercules aircraft fly over - pretty impressive.
We picked all the big runners, this may encourage new ones to grow that won't be stringy Hmm, hope so but not too sure. The nights are still getting down to 5° Such a waste otherwise. I took some home intending to freeze the podded beans - they're nice added to dishes like cottage pies and casseroles.
Our parsnips really don't look happy - don't know why the leaves have collapsed. The one I ate last week tasted ok but not too convinced that they'll last till Christmas with leaves like that!
Collapsed parsnips

Monday, 10 September 2012

Food, frogs and children

It was a lovely sunny, warm day again yesterday - albeit rather windy. We managed to get the weed suppressant pegged down over the strawberry bed and it looks very tidy, ready and waiting for the little strawberry plants to bed down for the winter!

8 little strawberry plants
Jamie spotted a big brown frog today - can't be the same ones that we saw earlier in the year - unless they've eaten so many slugs they've grown really quickly - that could explain the colour too, ugh!
Refusing to pose for a photo, but you can see the colour
We didn't do much else, just a bit of dead-heading (yawn) and picking veggies. Including some courgettes from Neal's plot which I'll share at work.
Nice trugful of goodies
I forgot to say that on Saturday we had to do an impromptu tour of the plot for some visiting children. They were on their first field trip as part of the Cherry Grove Saturday morning club. I showed them around our plot and let them eat some raspberries, then led them to Geoff's plot to eat his raspberries too - Geoff's on holiday but did say we could pick any that were ripe :-}

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Strawberry prep

What a fabulous sunny day! We were at the plot for hours but had a break at lunchtime as it was just too hot to stay out.

Strawberry bed taking shape
Jamie dug a bag of our riddled compost into the strawberry bed and then we added some Farmyard manure and banked it up a bit.
That should keep the worms happy - they'll have a couple of weeks to work the manure through the earth and then the strawberry plants will go in on top of the weed suppressant.
Strawberry bed finished
I took all the dead leaves from the bottom of the sprout plants. It's looking rather crowded in the netted area - we really should have only put 4 in there rather than 5 plants. They are in different states of growth even though they all went in together; one has produced big sprouts already and another is half the size of the others.
Tiny sprouts just starting out
Sprouts big enough to eat
We also did a lot of dead-heading and a bit of mowing - round our plots and Neal's. We used the big power mower - certainly easier than our little push-along but I found myself fighting against it a lot of the time and I did run down the plot markers several times :-}
We left at about 7:30 but it felt later. It's dark by 8:30 now :-( But look at that great sky with all the contrails - beautiful!