21 October 2007

A 'proper' allotment

Managed to visit a few times this week and am now the proud owner of a large pile of leaves and an even larger pile of manure!

The valley below the allotments is a great source of leaves and I have added about 10 compost bags full of leaves to the leaf mould basket now. Which when compressed down fills a surprisingly small space, and no doubt will make a significantly smaller amount of leaf mould.

My leaf supplier

Saturday I shared a delivery of cow manure for the local farm with my allotment neighbour Dan. The farm is where I regularly buy our meat from and has a policy of rearing their animals using non-intensive methods that "forbids the use of growth promoters and antibiotics". Much credit to the tractor driver for first managing to reverse onto the lane and then actually getting as far down as my plot to dump it all - but I guess when you're driving a tractor you don't care much about overgrown hedges scratching the paintwork!

The farm fortunately has a huge supply of the stuff which has obviously been around for sometime. Now allotments are very popular again, they're getting through it. Ours was still last years stuff though, which you could tell by how good it looked, and more importantly how little it smelled! Ah who'd have thought I'd be sitting here raving about cow manure...

It's all piled up at the (newly cleared) top end of the allotment. It does look fairly well rotted down, but still some straw in parts of it. Can I use this now to add to empty beds or should I wait for it to rot down further? Any advice greatly received.

In between collecting leaves and shifting manure I've also done a bit of tidying up. Note to self, try and keep on top of the weeds when they are small...! Spent a couple of hours weeding and digging over the bed where I grow the daffodils and tulips, and planted some more in there. Attempted to control the mint in this bed too - no laughing at me next summer when it takes over again!

Closing the stable door...
My miniature Brussels are still surviving despite the attentions on the local pigeons and pheasants, and in an attempt to actually get something off them I have constructed some bird scarers (tip from Grow Your Own magazine) using some string and the collection of naff CDs from the newspaper. This may be a little late in the day for them, but it we get anything off the plants they will have done the job.

Finally managed to get one bag of the 'home grown' compost down to the site to use as a mulch for the raspberries - now sadly at an end with the frosts. Could do with another bag as I had to spread it quite thin, but it will do until the next visit. Fortunately I have a few more bags at home to add round the raspberries and also the strawberries - although they need weeding first. Planting the strawberries between the comfrey and rhubarb doesn't seem like such a good idea now either. Still undecided on which will be moving.

The courgettes and pumpkins have now been added to the compost but I'm still hanging on to the sweetcorn. Not sure why as it's obviously not going to do anything now the frosts have arrived, it's just one of the few things still growing (well it's alive, maybe no longer growing). The Jerusalem Artichokes have flowered as well, and I discovered just what happens when you leave them in the ground on a walk to the local cafe the other day. I could be wrong and the allotment holder really likes them, but it doesn't look like the site has been cultivated much recently. Difficult to judge the distance from the picture but I'd guess this 'row' is about 15m long!

The green manures have been mixed. The buckwheat fed the pigeons and pheasants nicely, but the crimson clover did eventually grow well. I'm probably supposed to dig it in now, but I haven't got anything to put in this bed yet so will leave it for now. Never got round to planting any Hungarian Grazing Rye though and probably too late now.

The plan for the winter is to get as much as possible dug over and to add various nutrients to the soil to improve it. One thing I have noticed is that most of the stuff I've grown has been quite small and I'm sure it's down to a lack of soil improvement. I'm looking at getting in some volcanic rock dust - anyone used it? - together with the usual manure, lime and the seaweed meal I've got left into the appropriate beds. I will be planting some garlic shortly, and possible some broad beans but not sure if I'll get enough space cleared to get them in.

7 October 2007

Autumn is definitely here

The odd cold night (which leads me to suspect the sweetcorn are never going to fill out and that the runner beans may have left it a little late to start flowering now!) and lots of leaves falling from the trees means autumn is now with us. To take advantage to these I have 'salvaged some of the materials on the allotment and 'created' (some may say bodged!) a leaf mould basket.

Last years leaves (just a small bag from off the plot) still have some rotting down to be down so were added first before I left for the valley below with two large bags. Fortunately the valley road below is lined with 700 lime trees and has plenty of leaves to spare! OK so leaves from the roadside may not be ideal but that's the problem living in the middle of the city.

The French beans (Cherokee Trail of Tears) that have finally started producing beans are proving a big hit at home with the family - the wife loves them, the kids eat them and the mother in law declared them 'the best beans I'd ever eaten'! So will definitely be growing them again next year. Sadly never around long enough to get any photos! I can't help but wonder how well they would have done if it wasn't for all the floods.

My pumpkin plants seem to be dying so I picked the two pumpkins that looked ready. I'm hoping they are packed full of flavour given the size of them...

There are a couple more pumpkins left on the plants which still seem to be surviving so will leave them and see what happens. At least the two that have been picked are the perfect size for two small children to carve and carry around come Halloween ;>)

Red Onion Marmalade
Since I wasn't able to get down to the plot very much in the previous month, I thought I'd look at using up some of the onions in the kitchen. After some searching - well very little really it was the first one listed on Google! - chose the recipe from BBC Good Food Magazine. It tastes pretty good (he says modestly!) but thought it might be a bit stickier.

Next up on the preserving is spiced apple chutney (from one of Nigella Lawson's books). My grandad has lots of apple trees we raid at this time of year, Mum and Dad are never going to eat the chillies on the chilli plant I gave to them to look after, and we've still got plenty of onions.

Have bought some more tulip and daffodil bulbs to plant down the allotment. They were a real incentive to keep going when not much else was happening this spring. And hopefully this time I'll make it down to pick some of them to bring home. Next week the whole family will also be planting daffodils for my grandmother who passed away last week. She loved her garden and we're scattering her ashes round one of the trees in sight of the house and then planting a bulb each.

1 October 2007

Is that the top of my allotment I see?

The site had a working day to clear up rubbish from the plots - most of them having being 'inactive' for many years other than as a dumping ground. Essentially this working day consisted of 4 large skips, plus tea and bacon sandwiches.

Many exhausting hours later, I can see the hedge at the top of the allotment! I could barely drag myself off the plot at the end of the day, and the photos were in fact taken the following day. Thanks to my labourer for coming over to help out. The next big job is to fill the newly found space with a load of manure.

Lack of updates
As the nights have drawn in, I've not had time to get down to the plot in the evenings any more. Mrs D has had another knee operation as well so is currently out of action again. All in all this has meant little time to see what's happening down on the allotment. But to summarise, lots of weeds have grown, the remains of a dead chicken were left on one of my beds (although whatever left it there came back later and finished it off!) and the pheasants and pigeons have feasted on my buckwheat.

Still getting the odd courgette and a few raspberries. The parsley is doing really well, just wish I'd planted some more coriander. The Jerusalem artichokes are now starting to flower, and must be about 8-10 foot tall - seem to remember should have cut the tops out before they got to this stage...!

The flowers (don't know what they are, any suggestions?), I put in from home are doing well and attractive hoverflies. One of the plans for autumn is to create more wildlife friendly areas - after trashing the wilderness they were all enjoying before I took over the allotment.