Sunday, 28 October 2012

Over-wintering broad beans

Last night we baked one of the Cornells Bush Delicata squash - well worth growing. Jamie thought it similar to sweet potato and I've today found a reference to it as 'sweet potato squash'. It really was delicious, with butter and pepper on it - ooh, I'm drooling at the memory...

We pickled two jars of beetroot last night - again in red wine vinegar, with thinner slices. The lightest of the beets was yellow once it was cooked! It tasted incredibly sweet. I think they were all boltardy beets but there may have been a couple of moneta in there too, though they were all meant to be red ones!

A rather bleak-looking plot!
We went to the plot this afternoon - it was rainy and rather chilly. It was just a quick visit to sow the Aqua Dulce broad beans for over-wintering. We've covered them with the onion netting - hopefully that will protect them from mice and the worst of the weather (we're holding Kerry to this!). We've only sown 17 seeds - leftovers from last year.
It got to 0° last night... The chives have gone down and the marjoram went black a couple of weeks ago(!) but the hardier herbs (rosemary, thyme and fennel) are ok and even the parsley is hanging on to life for the time-being.

Plot 8 still looks quite colourful in this photo, but the calendula are just about dying back.
And this side of Plot 7 only has sprouts to show off!

Saturday, 27 October 2012

A sunny, cold Autumn day

We had a couple of hours in sunshine. It was chilly though and the wind was blowing all the leaves about. In fact, it looks like Autumn has really hit over the last week - trees and hedgerow have changed colour and the berries really shone out in the sun because so many leaves have fallen (all over our plot).
Look at that beautiful blue sky!
The thermometer showed that the minimum over the last couple of days was 1.5° and there was ice on our tub. Washing the dirt off the beets which we're going to pickle this afternoon was hand-numbing!
We collected some wood which someone had donated to the allotment site - we're going to use it for a new cage next year. We need to work out a design for what we actually want; the plastic tubing is great but makes access a bit tricky so want to work on something to make that easier... We also collected some manure which had been in a tub by the gates for a few months - well rotted horse manure - should be good for mixing into the brassica quarter.
The chard was glowing in the sunshine, but has gone to seed so unlikely to get eaten now and this is what's left of the butternut - the wildlife is welcome to it!

Picking Bush Delicata squashes before the frost

Jamie visited the plot a couple of times during the week. It's been a grotty week weather-wise - basically living in a cloud, so everywhere is soaking.
Jamie said that the mouse or slugs have left empty hulls of the little butternuts, which came to nothing because they got going too late. They were Butterbush variety but did spread over the ground; possibly because they weren't confined to pots. I think the year's weather can be blamed for their poor show rather than the variety as each plant did produce several fruits. The squashes grew to about 10cm but were still green when the frost took them out :-(
More positively, Jamie picked all the good squashes from the Cornell's Bush Delicata - pretty good from one plant! He brought them home as we were expecting the weather to go very cold on Friday and it did - about 5° at work, though no frost on the car.

We're going up the plot later, after my flu jab, but still won't be able to burn the hedging day cuttings - they're probably wetter today than they were last week! As I look out the window now there's beautiful blue sky and sunshine but it sure looks cold - brrr. Where's our flask gone? I've a feeling we're going to need coffee!

Monday, 22 October 2012

Celeriac and Fennel Soup

Mmmm, yum, yes the soup worked though I needed to add more pepper to it - I always do anyway. Lovely for my lunch for a few days this week!

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Fennel, Celeriac and Garlic

As I'm typing this there's a lovely smell - my fennel and celeriac soup is cooking. Aah, the smell of the celeriac on my hands is lovely!
I pulled three celeriac roots which, after hacking off all the unusable bits, weighed 500g. I've added a pint of veg stock to that, plus an onion, plus as many fennel fronds as I could cut from the big stem I brought home. I should have used the bulbous fennel stem but there wasn't one(!) so this soup is going to be more celeriac that fennel-flavoured. After I've blended it with my favourite kitchen accessory, my hand blender, I quite often have to add more water, but as celeriac is such a watery-type of veg it may be fine this time..
Soup in-waiting
During our quick visit to the plot I planted the Taylor's Solent Wight garlic - the one bulb had more than 15 cloves so I planted 5 rows of 3 - they're about 15cm apart. Some of the cloves are quite small and slim so not sure how well they will grow but if only half of them grow that will be plenty of garlic. It seems that planted now they should be ready for harvesting, when the foliage is dying back, next June.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Hedging Day

It was the first visit to the allotment for a week and it was a foggy start. The last week has been noticeably darker in the morning but I didn't think it was particularly cold. However, there had clearly been a frost - the squashes have definitely had it now.
Frosted squash
Something had enjoyed the last of our Rocky cucumbers! Not sure if it was a mouse or a slug - or a few of each!

Just hollowed-out skins left

We didn't do anything to our plot today (though I had intended to plant garlic) as it was a HAHA workday. And when the fog had cleared it was a lovely sunny day for it.
We cut back the hedging which was growing through the rabbit fencing and strimmed some of the overgrown communal areas. It was quite exhausting but a nice way to spend the day, though there was some guilt in cutting off the lovely rosehips and other berries - we left plenty for the birds though. It's been so wet recently that we got soaked by the dripping hedge but managed to finish all the way round the site.

Zoe and Alison
The brambles, hawthorn, ivy and other cuttings were piled onto the communal area and Jamie and I attempted to burn it...
Firestarter/Smoke breather
Unfortunately there was more smoke than fire and the wet green cuttings were really not wanting to burn so we've left the big pile to dry off for a bit (hopefully we'll get the Indian summer we've read about).
The barbecue was rather more successful and made for a welcome break for a chat - shame for the workers who couldn't stay for the grub though!

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Hmmm, leek moth and lifecycles

Well, I clearly should have looked closer when I photographed the leeks yesterday! We have got some leek moth damage (not too much) and today we found several leek moth cocoons, which we disposed of, away from our leeks - hopefully our little robin will gobble them down! It would appear that the leek moth caterpillars had sneaked under our leek netting cage.

Leek moth cocoon
Leek moth cocoon
If these do develop into moths they'll be the parents that start the cycle to trash our alliums next Spring :-(
Talking of which, we visited the local Wyevale Garden Centre to buy a fork - they didn't have any!! - but I did buy a Solent White garlic bulb. So, we dug over the area by the leeks and hoed some chicken pellets in - we'll plant the garlic next weekend. I think there should be about 10 cloves.

Belinda hoeing the area ready for garlic
Hoe hoe hoe (sorry!)
There are still quite a few butterflies about. Though it was cold enough for a frost last night it's lovely and warm in the sunshine. This small tortoiseshell butterfly was warming itself on the stones and there were a lot of cabbage whites about too. From the patterns on the outside of the wings I think it's a male. According to UK Butterflies, tortoiseshells stay in the UK and hibernate in outbuildings or hollow trees.
Tortoiseshell butterfly warming itself

When we picked one of the cabbages early last month we took a tip from Liz and Ken on the allotment - they're long-term veg gardeners and know loads of tips. If you cut a cross into the remaining stem you can get extra cabbages to grow - well, this is the result. Not quite cabbages but certainly brassica leaves that can be eaten. We'll try them at some point if we get a chance while they still look edible.
The weeds continue to grow, we have a lot more weeding and clearing to do, especially with the rain and warm sunny days we keep seeing...
We picked two of the biggest celeriac and the last of the kohl rabi and sweetcorn. We rushed home to eat the sweetcorn within 20 minutes to ensure they retained as much sweetness as possible - it worked they were delish!!

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Clearing through the showers

As soon as we arrived at the site it started to rain - we really should try to move faster on a Saturday morning!! There were a few heavy showers throughout the afternoon but we escaped to the container with Neal and Malcolm for one of them and managed to work through the others. Sadly, our umbrella that I was so proud of a few weeks ago, broke on it's second outing :-(

Rain's a-coming
Jamie cleared the area where the onion netted cage is - we're going to sow some Aqua Dulce broad beans in there over Winter. We're hoping they'll survive better than they did last year. Kerry told us that she protected hers with enviromesh and got a good early crop this year, so we thought we may as well give it a go. Jamie added some chicken manure pellets to the ground and hoed it in well.

Not a great pic, but I like the shadow of this black wasp
I cleared the cabbage patch. We had one giant cabbage left and one little one. They've gone over though - have black tainting along the inside of the leaves so they went into the compost bin, apart from the stems which would take far too long to rot down (so the Council gets them).

The leeks are looking quite good, even with the rust. Quite a few people have leek moth damage but the enviromesh seems to have saved ours so far. Our ones from Malcolm, which aren't under netting, also seem to be doing alright - he said his look better on the side that's protected by the runner beans so maybe ours are protected by the marigolds and the carrot netting on the other side.
The temperature in the last few days has still only gone down to 4.5° - the courgette plant has succumbed but still hasn't collapsed completely. And the Cornells Bush Delicata has still not been frosted so they're still ripening up.

This is evidence of mice in our raised bed - look at those little teeth marks! They really like beetroot! Our sweetcorn seem to be ok but pheasants have desecrated other plotholders crops :-( We'll probably pick the last of ours tomorrow.
Beautiful day in between the showers

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

HAHA Seed Night

We held the HAHA Seed Evening & Get Together on a wet Monday evening. Not many turned out which was a shame but we had a good time up the legion. I had arranged a quiz but that's been saved to be used another time when there are more people to make up teams!

Instead we had a few drinks and a nice couple of hours of chat. We had an interesting discussion about the best potatoes - so many different opinions and this year was such a poor year to base a decision on!
We picked up the 2012/13 Kings Seeds catalogue - they've printed in colour, it looks so much better than the black and white one and is surely more enticing to buy from :-)
As members of HAHA we get an excellent 40% discount off all their seeds.
So, Jamie and I now need to go through that and decide what we want. We have so many old seeds at home but many of those will be from 2009 when we first got the allotment and bought everything we saw :-) It's time to actually start planning...

Sunday, 7 October 2012

First Sprouts and Kohl Rabi

We had a few hours on the plot this afternoon - mostly socialising and a bit of HAHA chat but also did what we intended to do. We took the fleece off the squash. The temperature had got down to 3.5° so the squash are fine but the Leonaris has succombed a bit and the asters are flat to the ground :-(

We pulled the sprout plant which had the mouldy section. I tried to pull it in one go but it snapped so not sure it would have stayed intact much longer anyway! We got quite a few sprouts from it which will go into bubble and squeak tomorrow.

We also pulled a few of the kohl rabi - I forgot to sow the next lot of succession but as the slugs are starting to eat them it's not a bad thing! We grew some in 2009 and 2010 but they have always got ravaged before we can eat them - that's why they're under mesh this year.We should have another harvest and then that area can be cleared - it should be where I'm putting fruit trees in next year..

I also pulled the last good carrots - two are really good; the other two would have been perfect for the funniest veg competition in September!!
All our onions are gone so my carrot and coriander soup is being made with spring and silverskin onions - I'm not sure they'll add much flavour, but waste not want not...! I'm using coriander seeds which I picked and dried yesterday.
The last thing in the trug is two Atlantic turnips (thanks Malcolm!) - we swapped a kohl rabi for them. That's another great thing about the allotment - swapping and freebies!

Saturday, 6 October 2012

October Clearing

We had a lovely sunny afternoon on the allotment today. We had the place to ourselves for half the time but after lunch more plotholders turned up.

Cleared potatoes
The picture shows the potato quarter with no potatoes left (just the leeks). We pulled the last couple of Chopin plants today. Got some good-sized spuds but slug holes a-plenty - just hope there's enough potato left to cover two dinners!
Cleared runner beans
Most of the time today was spent clearing - such a shame, but it is October (though it didn't feel like it at 17° in the sunshine). Jamie saved the last of the tomatoes and cleared the three plants - it wasn't worth saving the green toms this year as they're rather blighty, but the plants did do fantastically well for us. The tomato plants couldn't go to compost because of the blight, so they went home to the Council recycle bins.
I cleared the runner beans and put them in our green compost bin - I transferred the contents of the green one into the black bin first and gave it a good mix up.

The Cornells Bush Delicata squash are looking good, we have about 8 squashes which are ripening nicely. There's a risk of frost tonight and because we really want these to ripen a bit more before they get frosted we wrapped them up with fleece for the night. It's surprising that they haven't already got frosted - seems that our plots may be being protected because of the hedge/stone piles/canal (take your pick!) because other people's squashes were frosted a couple of weeks ago. I had to scrape off the car windscreen again during the week so I was expecting the worst.

We got everything sorted, chatted with our fellow gardeners then made a quick exit with the trug so that we could eat our sweetcorn as soon as possible after picking it!
The two biggest sweetcorn hadn't formed kernels right to the end but were delicious and plenty big enough. We had to have the third one because the plant had fallen down - the cob wasn't really ready but we scoffed it anyway :-)