Sunday, 30 July 2017

Tighten Up

It was a drenching day yesterday and today has been showery and windy. We only visited the plot to pick some veg and water in the greenhouse. I'm pleased to see that the sunflowers are managing to stay upright now they're attached to the frame I grew them under.
The four at the front are meant to be shorter than that though. They're Big Smile and are nearly as tall as the Russian Giant at the back - they're rather swamping the Asters and Eschscholzia which are in that bed too. It's a shame as they're very pretty - I need to sow them closer to the edge of the bed if I grow them next year.
Sadly four of the purple dwarf bean plants have now snapped off completely while in full flower due to the windy weather, such a shame! The beans are just appearing now so we've added extra ties in an attempt to keep them from moving too far from their sticks. The plants are taller than we thought they'd be and probably could have been grown up canes.
More security has also been added to the cucumbers and squashes on Plot46a. We've got various supports for the plants to grow upwards...
And then the idea is that they'll spread across the wires and partially mesh-covered roof to provide us with a ceiling of hanging squashes - won't that be fun, if it works!
A couple of tiny Tromboncini are on their way but these are close to the earth so they won't be hanging far... I could (should) remove them to encourage the plant to grow fruits higher up, but I can't bear to do it!
And talking of tiny, here's our first redcurrant tomato - full size. Sweet and tasty, but you really need more than one at a time :-)
The excellent title song is provided by the Black Keys.

Friday, 28 July 2017

Two Way

This post is mostly about courgettes. Because I'm on leave at the moment I don't have work-mates to pass the surplus on to. Not surprisingly we haven't found a plotholder to take them off our hands either so here's a post to show how at least 3 of the rather larger specimens have avoided the compost bin.
The first is basically a stuffed courgette - a delicious one.
Cut a wedge out of the courgette and add spring onions, pepper and olive oil. Cook for 30mins on 180, covered in foil.
Then add extra mature cheddar cheese and chopped mixed nuts (plus a few tomatoes) - cover for a further 15mins, then remove the cover for a final 20mins.
Voila! Delicious (I never claimed it was a healthy option!)
The next method is soup and, as you can see, has a few additional ingredients - all freshly picked from the plot. I'm not sure you can actually taste the courgette, but at least it's used!
Fry the florence fennel and chopped (peeled & de-seeded) courgette in a frying pan on a high heat. The onion and fennel stalks are gently fried in the saucepan with the lid on.
Add chopped carrot to the onion pan along with the browned fennel and courgette. Add 800ml of vegetable stock and some curry powder.
Boil, then simmer for 20mins and then blitz.
Mmm, so delicious. The fennel is a subtle flavour behind the curry.
KT Tunstall with James Bay provide the song.

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Shelter From The Storm

Wow - this weather!
That 10 minute shower followed a sunny half hour and produced over 7mm of rain - Thank goodness for the greenhouse!
It saved us watering the Chinese Natsuki (chinese leaf) that Jamie sowed a couple of days ago. It will also help 'puddle in' the second lot of leeks that we planted out in the space where we cleared the broad beans.
Not so good is the fact that I still haven't cleared the crazy amount of chickweed seedlings that have run riot over Plot 46a. At least it's easy to spot the beetroot seedlings among them but it's more difficult to differentiate between the weed and the swede seedlings.
The mini munch cucumber will appreciate all the water and we'll hopefully start harvesting them by next week. 
In the meantime..guess what we're having for dinner...
The trug contains Desiree spuds - Jamie's favourite for mashing. And we decided to have some of the rhubarb which has had an unexpected new lease of life. Here's a bit of Bob Dylan to sing-a-long to.

Backdoor Man

One of the main topics of conversation over the last couple of weeks has been how the runner beans aren't setting. We figure the windy weather hasn't helped as there are less pollinators about, but there is another issue...
A lot of the bees and wasps take the nectar from the back of the flowers, rather than through the front door for pollinating - this animation is a bit more obvious (but the red flowers make for a more dramatic top photo).
Another obvious topic of conversation is the weather which over the last week has been decidedly changeable which is most unfortunate as I'm off for the week and we've only had one hot day.
But this kind of weather helps things grow and we've been picking potatoes, fennel, carrots, cabbage, beans, courgettes, courgettes, courgettes!
These yellow courgettes have been the most prolific. The stripey Goldmine ones are good too but unfortunately half the plant got snapped off - I think it got too big and couldn't support itself. Even that hasn't stopped it producing though!
These are our Tigerella tomatoes - rather pretty, but this is the only truss so far.
The purple dwarf beans also fell foul of the wind and two plants snapped off, but the others are looking pretty and healthy and are just beginning to set. We've secured them and also our sunflowers to supports as more wind and heavy rain is expected.
A lot of us have found our onions have succumbed to rot - even these that are sold as resistant. I've pulled some of the largest ones so they can dry off for the Horticultural Show on 19th August, but I'm not expecting any prizes. Perhaps this little cyclops could have been included as a funniest veg, but we've eaten him :-D
The Doors provide the title track - referring to the bees antics (I know it's spurious, it's hard work finding suitable song titles along with songs I like!)

Friday, 21 July 2017

Song for a Friend

I had such a lovely day with my friends yesterday - a day in Oxford and in particular the Botanic Garden.
The oldest botanic garden in Britain - founded in 1621!
It has 7 glass houses with different climates from the fernery to the arid cacti house. I particularly liked the insectovores house.
The laid out gardens and these amazing meadows are so beautiful!
And the walled border, which was planted up 10 years ago - wow!

The sun shone for much of the day, after a grey wet start which would have upset our open-top bus ride!
My lovely buddies - good luck in Switzerland Sarah!
 Thank goodness for the sunshine as it makes for much more colourful photos!
So, we had a great day with lunch at The Vaults and later a cream tea in the oldest coffee house in Britain, The Grand Hotel. 
Such a beautiful city
It was a fab send-off for Sarah who's moving to Switzerland. Today's title song is for her by her favourite, Roddy Frame.

Monday, 17 July 2017

Dont Matter Now

Over the last week we spent a lot of time clearing weeds that we've been ignoring for a few weeks - so much grass, bindweed and occasional giant thistle! So the plots were looking their best for Saturday morning for the Hungerford in Bloom Allotment judging.
Look at that! Not a weed in sight.
It's good to have a reason to clear the plots up, but unfortunately we came 4th - so no certificate for us this year. Maybe our plots have a few too many flowers or too many gaps? Well, not to worry I love our plots this year - the weather has been really good for growing (along with plenty of watering).
On Saturday afternoon the Marsh Lane site was open to the public - we didn't get any public (! - there were lots of other local events on) but we got plenty of plotholders and cakes that they had generously made and donated.

So, even though we didn't get to show off our plots to other locals, we got to have a good natter, eat cake and have a drink or two...

And, although we had some rain in the morning, it didn't rain in the afternoon and the wind only flipped the gazebo onto its roof when it was being taken down :-)

I pulled the rest of the garlic as they had all collapsed and the leaves have browned. The ones I pulled a week earlier are drying in the greenhouse surrounded by tomato plants.

The leeks are planted now and, at last, so are the pumpkins! One Atlantic (not so) Giant and two Jack of All Trades. I don't think these will even get us a fourth prize :-) They're planted in holes filled with manure but the ground hasn't been dug very well on that empty plot that a few plotholders are using for the competition.
Lunches and dinners have been involving courgettes quite a lot. We've bought a Spiralizer so at least meals look a bit different, even if they have very similar ingredients :-) That's my first fennel bulb. I'm shaving it into salads this week and eating it with the first of our Chopin potatoes from one of the bags - very tasty, but not a huge haul considering it was two plants - but it'll provide us with about 6 meals in total.
So, you can see where the blog title is derived from - thanks to George Ezra (and my cousin Jen for sharing the song)

Monday, 10 July 2017

Come Up and See Me (Make me Smile)

Two weeks of extreme heat and still no rainfall have meant plot visits have mostly involved watering, watering, watering! But because of next Saturday's Open Afternoon and Hungerford in Bloom (Allotment) judging in the morning we're doing a lot of weeding too.

We fed nearly everything. The green things were given a nitrogen-rich mixture and the flowers were given a coffee-based mixture, which is potassium-rich as well as providing a bit of caffeine!
After the confusion with the pumpkins in my earlier post it turned out that the four gifts were  courgettes - that took us up to 7 courgette plants! A few too many :-) So we swapped two of them for 2 Tromboncinos, a spaghetti squash and a Jumbo Pink Banana! They're all in the barrels and as they grow we'll try to encourage them across the wires over the top of Plot 46a.
And, we now have 3 pumpkins which have germinated - 1 Atlantic Giant and 2 Jack of All Trades. They're rather behind the other competition growers but hopefully we'll have something to show! And here's the first trug shot of the year - nice and colourful, huh?

I've cited poetic licence with the title song: Make Me Smile (Come up and See Me) by Cockney Rebel is to encourage you to visit the Marsh Lane Allotment site next Saturday! I wonder if there will be any lavender flavoured goodies there?!