25 November 2008

And then there was nothing

Having only managed a few fleeting visits here and there recently, not much to report. Plot no 2 remains largely neglected as I've only managed a couple of hours in the past couple of months. To be honest there's not an awful lot growing up there since I picked the apples and I'm just removing the current bed structure and generally making a mess. It's looking pretty desolate up now and when I visited on Sunday it was far too cold to stand still and do things like take photographs...!

Down on plot no 1 the leaves have disappeared from the trees and you can now see across the site. Again it's pretty desolate but I do have leeks and Brussels growing down there. Neither of which are doing very well - the leeks are very thin and I have no idea why (suggestions gratefully received!) and the sprouts have largely 'blown', but I think this is due to the ground not being firm enough. They both still taste good though, which is the important thing. Apparently not been a great year for leeks on the site and I'm changing the variety of sprouts I grow next year as I've not been happy with them.

Can't imagine getting lot of time on them this side of Christmas either so will have to console myself with some seed orders...

20 October 2008

Autumn = Leaves and Manure

Bright (!) and early on Sunday morning, I set off to await the manure delivery I was sharing with my allotment neighbour Dan (on plot no 1). Farmer arrived 15 mins late due to a 'heavy night', and I can't say I envied him the job as he had several more deliveries to make! Unfortunately, it doesn't appear to be as well rotted as last year, it was certainly smellier. On the plus side that meant it was lighter to shift than last year.

More than one barrow load...
After the disappointment of just how little leaf mould was actually produced from last years leaf collection, I've decided to scale up 'production'. Chris from one of the neighbouring allotments gave me a couple of old builders sacks to try out the 'pub theory' (see previous entry) and ever since I've been trying to fill them. Approximately 20 bin bags of leaves later, they're almost full - and that's not counting the old leaf basket that I've also filled again.

Fortunately Sheffield is very green and has lots of mature trees. I decided to check out the nearby (posh) tree lined suburbs for supplies. This was going very well (so long as you ignore the strange looks!) until I was driving round them and struggling to find any leaves. They either paid someone to come and take them away or the council beat me to the clearing them up. So I had to do a bit more driving than I thought I would but think I'm just about there now. It also amazing at just how heavy a bin bag full of wet leaves can be when you've squeezed as many as possible in there.

The leaf bags are at the top of the plot just above the top bed. There's plenty of room there and a couple of comfrey plants growing there. After watching Gardener's World the other night I decided to relocate my other (larger) comfrey plants up to this spot as well. This will be the second move in two years for the comfrey plants, but they didn't seem to mind the move last year. They could also probably cope with being split as well. The only reason I can think of for not moving it, is that it is doing a good job at containing the Jerusalem artichokes in the corner of the plot they are currently in.

"Why does the car smell of beer?"
After dropping the mother in law off at the station I then spent the next half an hour getting lost in the new ring road system, trying to avoid fines for going down bus gates, getting stuck in traffic, etc. all in an attempt to find the local brewery to pick up some spent hops for the plot. When I eventually got there loaded up the boot with a few bags which I then took straight to the plot, putting one on the compost heap and the rest as a mulch on part of next years brassica bed. Now there is a the combined smell of beer and manure at the top of the plot. Lovely.

I planted the garlic, this year putting it in two rows at opposite ends of the bed, so be interested to see which is best. I used a couple of bulbs harvested this year. I know you're not really supposed to do this, but I did it last year and the garlic did really well. The cloves were really big as well so fingers crossed, as ever.

Dug over another few metres of the bed that's going to be home to next years brassicas, incorporating the remains of last years manure - definitely well rotted now.

Sadly no picture for this one as the battery was completely dead when I came to take the pictures ;>(

6 October 2008

First order of the 'season'

Well the email to say the new Real Seeds catalogue was out, proved too difficult to pass over. So the following was ordered:

    Cherokee Trail of Tears - again - not sure what happened to this years sowing as I got Borlotti beans where I thought I'd planted them!

    Summer Crookneck Squash - hopefully an improvement on this years summer squash

    Parisian Pickling or Salad Cucumber - again - this time I'm hoping to get some planted out before the slug get them

    Leek (Jaune de Poitou)

    Leek (Bleu de Solaise) - bit disappointed with the varieties I've tried in the past (Bandit and Pandora)

    Leaf Selection Coriander

    Pea (Telephone) - again, this time the ambition is to eat some before they are eaten by something else

    Waltham Butternut Squash - managed to grow pumpkins this year, hoping for third time lucky with these

    Double Standard Sweetcorn

    Tomato (Aurora)

    Tomato (Red Cluster Pear) - the plan being to seriously cut back on the number of plants grown this next year, so hoping for lots off these.

"Why is her pumpkin bigger than mine?"

Last weekend consisted of one day of glorious warm sunshine and the other of cold and rain. I went down to the plot on the latter day...

With the nights getting colder thought it was probably time to pick the second (and last) pumpkin. It's not orange, but it does weigh just under 2 stone! Daughter was suitably impressed with 'her' pumpkin though. After picking it the pumpkin plants were removed to the compost bin, pretty much filling it on their own.

I also cleared away the pile of rubbish at the top of the plot near the entrance, to make to pile of rubbish under the tree larger. It's obviously never going to dry out enough to burn so best hope it rots away over the winter. Wishful thinking. The plan is to store this years leaves in this space, once collected. My original thoughts of making a new leaf basket from chicken wire have been put on hold after discussion in the pub the other night as to weather the big builders sacks that sand, gravel, etc come in would do the. Now just need to go looking in skips for the old sacks...

Apple Day

It's getting cold and windy. Well it was, so I thought. Certainly windier than it has been which was a good enough excuse to pick the apples from plot no 2. Still none the wiser as to what they are, but there's an apple day in Sheffield this weekend, so might take them along there to see if anyone has any ideas. It's also surprising just how many there were.

I wrapped about 40 in newspaper for storing in the outhouse and the rest need to be used up. So to start, I made 7 jars of spiced apple chutney using apples, chillies and onions all of which were grown by me. Think I may have overdone the chilli a bit though...

A Path

The path down the middle of the plot has been a long time in the making. The weed fabric I used to line the path has been fixed to the scaffolding boards on the 'veg side' of the plot but I never put any boards on the 'fruit side', as I ran out of them. My neighbour Dan had some left over and kindly let me have some so I put these in and fixed the weed fabric on the other side now and the resulting path looks quite good even if I say so myself - the picture is only half way through the job and it helps if you ignore the mess at the end of the plot! It's not particularly straight but then neither is anything else on the allotment!

Finally managed to get enough Borlotti beans to make a meal. They look great both before and after podding. There are still plenty more growing, but how long they'll survive I don't know.

Let the digging commence
I've dug over about a third of the bed where the beans are still growing. The plan was to grow winter tares here, but since the beans are still occupying most of this bed, I added a lot of manure as I was digging it and then scattered some rock dust on top. It's certainly a lot easier to dig over than it was last year, so with less weeds more fertility fingers crossed for next year!

Should be getting some more manure delivered next week - if I remember to order it - which I'll largely be throwing on the bed for next years potatoes. I was hoping to grow Hungarian Grazing Rye and Buckwheat there, but I think I've just been feeding the local bird population again.

I've also started digging the area where the pumpkins and squash were growing. There are a lot of weeds in there so it'll probably need digging over a couple of times I reckon to get most of them out. Can't decide what to plant there next though.

27 September 2008

A thing of beauty!

After a year in the making it was time to break out the leaf mould. Now I have to say after two car journeys to fill about 10 old compost bags full of leaves, then cram them into the leaf mould basket, I'm a little disappointed that the end result is just one wheelbarrow full of mulch.

Needless to say it didn't go far, but it did look good. Nice and dark, crumbly, smelled good... And then I realised I was possibly a little too much into it ;>) Anyway, I put it round the brassicas, not as deep as I'd like it to have been mind. I should also point out that the picture is very flattering to the Brussels, they're not as tall as they look!

Fortunately (?) there were two less celeriac to mulch around after they joined the long, long list of casualties lost to the slugs.

The 'Great Autumn Tidy Up' commenced and I cut down the remains of the broad beans and peas to add to the compost heap. The summer squash were no more (well they were only maintaining a healthy slug population, it's not like we'd seen anything off them for sometime now) and the comfrey (again maintaining far too many slugs than should be on an allotment) joined them all on the compost heap. The weeds that have been covering my main path were cleared off and I weeded some of the empty parts of the beds. Obviously there's a little more work to be done...

21 September 2008

After I difficult birth...

I'm pleased to announce the birth of this years' first pumpkin! He weighed in at 1 stone 3 pounds and was picked this morning after it seemed to be getting a bit nippy in the evenings. I say 'he' as he has my son's name (faintly) etched on the skin, you can still the 'F' quite clearly on the left of the pumpkin. His sister is still growing and still not showing any signs of turning orange. So fingers crossed the nights don't get too cold.

Managed to pick some of the perpetual spinach, which was pleasing to see I get some as well as the slugs. I'm sure the kids will be overjoyed with it...

What tree?
Moving on to plot no 2, now stuff is slowing down growing I thought it was best time to start the big tidy up. So I removed some of the slates edging the beds to try and make things a little safer, may eventually use them for the central path when they've been broken up a bit. I also took up some of the carpet that was lining the paths, just in time as I don't think it would have lasted out the winter, however I've still got to get rid of it somehow - I'm not a big fan of carpets on allotments at all, I'm still digging up the stuff on the old plot, as well as having a huge piece down there to somehow dispose of. Carpets may seem like a good idea at the time, but they'll come back to haunt you!

Pruned the summer raspberries and had a look at the blackcurrants before seeking advice from someone who know what they're doing - Richard from a couple of allotments away. Ditto the rather sickly looking gooseberries. Hopefully with a bit of hard pruning, some TLC to the soil and a relocation across the newly expanded fruit bed they will do better in years to come.

The apples still aren't ready, but I did try one - after hitting my head on it and knocking it off the tree! - and at least confirmed they were edible. Bit sharp and very hard still, but should be good when they are finally ready. Bit worried to see what looked like a woodlouse tunneling into it though, not going to help them store well. Although the rate we get through them in our house, it's not likely to be a long term issue.

Having confirmed one of the trees was just for 'decoration' that was next on the hit list. There's another tree on the list and a few shrubs, in an attempt to turn it back into an productive allotment as opposed to a garden extension. Needless to stay by the time I left it was all looking like a bit of a mess...

14 September 2008

Autumn it is then

The nights seem to have well and truely drawn in now, so I'm only getting to go down at weekends from now on. It was distinctly Autumnal this morning as I made an early start to pick up a few things from plot no 2 before trying to sort out plot no 1 (ha!). I was just about to go through the 'gate' when I disturbed a fox on the plot. Sadly it disappeared before I could get the camera out.

So I picked the remaining tomatoes, admired the slug population I'm now supporting and then picked up some seaweed meal and chicken pellets to take down to plot no 1. I also took pictures of the apples trees to see if anyone has any ideas as to what variety they may be. They're currently quite large, bigger than my fist and have been red since they were quite small.

Moving on to plot no 1, a quick review revealed the weeds remain healthy. The raspberries are still struggling through, but the pumpkins are coming on nicely. A few weeks ago I attempted to write my son's name on the one pumpkin I had at the time. Not necessarily that succussful, but you can see the 'F' on it - if you look carefully on the left hand side. Fortunately a couple of weeks after this a second pumpkin appeared and (with a little more success) I managed to write the letter 'E' on it - well I wasn't going to get 'Elizabeth' on it!

The larger pumpkin is now a bit bigger than my foot in diameter and the smaller one is catching it up fast. And to be perfectly honest I could do with them both being the same size to save arguments!

I dug up the particularly crap looking leeks from the new plot in the hope that transplanting them to the old plot would help them get going. So put them in next to the others I was given earlier in the year, they've looked considerably better since I transplanted them.

These were the ones that were trasplanted some time ago, I'm too ashamed to show the others! I also planted some red and white over-wintering onions, alternating them!

I then put the seaweed meal on the compost heap, the whole compost area looking a bit rubbish still. But I 'acquired' a couple more pallets and the next job will be to sort them out so that they stay standing in the Autumn winds. The leaf mould next to the complost heap on the other hand is looking very good. I'll be applying that as a mulch somewhere soon - not sure where is best to put it, possibly round the brassicas. Speaking of which some of my Brussels are looking very close to being ready, don't think they'll last until Christmas!

I then moved on to sorting out the strawberries, cutting the leaves and runners off the plants and clearing the straw from around them. I took the runners home to pot up the plants and ended up with over 50 potential plants...

Just before leaving, I picked a couple of Borlotti beans that were ready. There are plenty of more coming and fortunately the mice (or what ever they are) that ate the broad beans and peas seem to be ignorring these.

Finally, I made these the other week. I'd like to say these were entirely from our allotment, but they were mostly from my Grandad.

1 September 2008

Happy Birthday!

Well it's been two years since we got the plot. I think it's fair to say it's not been easy to get to this stage. There were the minor inconveniences of large amount of produce being eaten by slug, squirrels, rabbits, mice, rats, pigeons, pheasants, etc. The plot suffered from major flooding last summer. Mrs D ended up in and out of hospital with knee problems, which ultimately ended her digging career before it began. The hedge remains a constant battle, not helped by 'absent' neighbours. And then I went and took on another plot!

But it's not all bad news. We've currently got potatoes, onions and garlic dotted around the kitchen and in the out house. Made jams - rhubarb and ginger, strawberry and raspberry (some of which were actually from our allotments). Introduced the kids to the delights of digging, eating raw peas, pulling up onions and seeing potatoes being dug up. They've even eaten raw French beans and (cooked) Brussels sprouts!

The site is now full again with a waiting list and we set up an association for the site last year. For my sins I was elected Chair for the first year and still remain on the committee now - but I get a lot less moaning now! We have an active Facebook Group to keep in touch and can regularly be found sampling the delights of a local tavern.

So what's happening now. Not much really. Tomatoes are coming to the end, potatoes are all dug up after the got blight, onions are now up and drying in the kitchen - well it's not like they're going to dry outside! Summer squash and courgettes are still going on, and we have at least one pumpkin growing well. The raspberries are struggling along, they don't seem to like the wet weather. The raspberry jam I made the other day was approximately 90% supplied by my Grandad and 10% from the allotment.

Planted some buckwheat, under one of the mini polytunnels to give them a chance to germinate before being eaten by the pigeons and/or pheasants. Hoping to get some Hungarian grazing rye in the same bed. Need to sort out the strawberries still. One of the varieties doesn't seem to be giving out any runners at all whilst the other variety is throwing them out all over the place. I'm going to put the new plants in the new allotment where there seems to be less wildlife around to eat the fruit. Hopefully the apples will soon be ready, after which there will be an 'identify the apple' entry to the blog. At the moment I have absolutely no idea what variety they are or even if they are 'eaters' or 'cookers'.

22 August 2008

The Good, the bad and the ugly

So glossing over the lack of an entry for the last 3 months... Work, holidays, busy on the plots, etc.

The potatoes went down with blight a couple of weeks ago, so I cut off the tops and waited the suggested length of time before digging them up. Which was today. The remaining spuds to be lifted were a few Salad Blue, a row each of Pink Fir Apple, King Edward and Maris Piper - I still have a few rows of King Edward and Maris Piper on the other plot that thankfully hasn't got blight. Well not yet anyway.

So a few hours later, the good...

'Action' shot digging up the Pink Fir Apple

King Edward

Maris Piper

Pink Fir Apple

The bad...

Some of the potatoes throw away due to blight, with added weeds.

A slug 'at work' - check out the centre of the picture,towards the top.

The ugly...

Not only an 'interesting' shape, but with scab and the beginnings of blight too.

So all in all a reasonable harvest from the potatoes. Not surprising they were pretty much on the small side, not too much slug damage (maybe the nemoslug works?!) and lost about 10% to Blight - which was a bit of a relief really. Probably lost more like 20% of the Pink Firs to blight, possibly due to their sprawling nature and being quite close to the surface? Still got the same number of King Edward and Maris Piper in the ground at plot no 2, although they went in quite late. Mrs D seems to think we've got a lot of potatoes but I did point out that they will store (once they're dry) and also that we'll get through them quicker than she thinks.

Will we grow them again? The Orla's that we finish months ago now - maybe. Nothing special on the taste front though. Salad Blue - doubt it, great from the novelty point of view and got loads of interest, but again taste wise just OK and blue potatoes don't look right on some occasions - and yes they so keep their colour when cooked! Pink Fir Apple - possibly, taste good but bit problematic with sprawling nature and if I do grow them again maybe not so many. King Edward and Maris Piper - probably, although if so it will be on plot no 2 where blight seems to be less of a problem.

Next year though I want to try some Charlottes and possibly some of the maincrop blight resistant varieties.

So what else is growing?

Or has been harvested in this case. The shallots were smaller than last year, but a reasonable crop from the Longnor on plot no 1. The others (name escapes me at the moment) on plot no 2 were rubbish - barely bigger than the sets that went in originally, but that did at least divide up to give me something to plant next year I guess.

The garlic has been dug up, dried out and plaited. It's actually bigger than last year as well so more than happy with this. Only grew half the number as last year so just the 27 bulbs this year - and from my own 'seed' saved from the previous year.

There's been a slow but steady stream of tomatoes (mainly Aurora) from plot no 2. The Sub Artic Plenty haven't really delivered on their early promise. I've still a lot to learn with tomatoes though and next year we'll be growing less plants and (hopefully!) watering a bit more consistently. The first chillies from the Ring of Fire as well. Amazingly something has been eating them (what eats chillies???!!!) and whilst the plant is healthy enough not going to producing that many at this rate. I've also had quite a few of the Hungarian Hot Wax - not as big as I thought they'd be (there's a theme running through this entry!) and seemingly varied in which ones are 'hot' and which ones are pleasant to eat!

Fruit - we had loads of summer raspberries (ice cream - yum!), but the Autumn ones are taking their time getting going. My pot grown blueberries have never done very well either, one of which hasn't had any fruit on at all this year (these are grown at home in a nice sunny spot). They could do with a 'partner' to aid pollination really. Typical crap bought from not very reputably source, you live and learn.

[Picture on other computer - arrgghhh, it was all going so well!]

The pumpkins appear to growing well this year, although only one fruit so far - that one being about the size of a football now.

Sprawling mass of the plant.

This years' soup and lantern!

I've been having great problems with my beans and peas on plot no 1. Basically they are being eaten before I get to them by something, quite what I'm not sure - suggestions please! Mice?

As a result I've not had any Broad Beans from this plot, but fortunately the other plot has been most productive on this front. The peas (Telephone) are also suffering, but only about 50% of them are being lost. The rest are eaten practically as soon as a get in the door but either one of the kids or their Mum - none have actually got as far as being cooked yet! The French beans are just beginning to start producing some beans and I was surprised to see this Borlotti Bean - didn't realise I planted any on that plot.

Finally one for those of you who like looking at pictures of soil - really that's going to be most of you even if you're not prepared to admit it ;>) This is the bed I've just dig the potatoes from. It was heavily manured last Autumn and looks really good now, even though I say so myself!

Hopefully another update before Christmas...

27 May 2008

101 things to do with Rhubarb

No 47, rhubarb ice cream. We do like our ice cream in this house, so it seemed like the logical thing to do with the stuff. I attempted to make it as a kind of 'rhubarb ripple', which didn't work so well as the rhubarb wasn't mixed in well enough so that froze solid. Also would probably use a bit more fruit - it's not like we haven't got enough of the stuff! The recipe I used (based on the 'standard' base from Ben and Jerry's Book):

400g of Rhubarb
50g Caster Sugar
Orange Zest

Cook the above for 10 mins (might cook for a bit longer next time) until soft. Then put in the fridge.

Ice Cream (sorry recipe uses American 'cups')
2 Eggs
3/4 cup of Sugar
2 Cups of Double Cream
1 Cup of Milk
1 tsp of Vanilla Extract

Beat the eggs, then gradually add the sugar whilst still whisking. When custard like consistency add the cream milk and vanilla extract. Mix together then pour mixture into ice cream maker. When done mix in the rhubarb and put in the freezer.

Next on the list is rhubarb vodka!

24 May 2008

A glut!

So what to do with all the rhubarb? Despite eating a LOT of rhubarb crumble, giving away the stuff in vast quantities to friend, families, anyone really, we still have a lot of the stuff to get through.

Having inherited my grandmothers preserving pan last year, it was time to find out how to make jam! So quick web search threw up Allotment Lady's blog with a recipe for rhubarb and ginger jam. Once I got over the shock of just how much sugar there is in jam, a surprisingly short amount of stirring later produced 5 jams of rather good jam - even if I say so myself! Sadly 3 of them were immediately 'snapped up' by the family, but only on the proviso my jars were returned with something else in them. Now with Mum, this isn't going to be a problem having supplied the family with jams for many years now. My brother on the other hand...

As luck would have it the rhubarb on plot no 1 is finally picking up, so should have another chance to make some more jam.

16 May 2008

So much to plant!

So now summer has arrived, and looks like it's on the way out already, everything needs planting out/potting on at once. The chillies (Ring of Fire and Hungarian Hot Wax) and tomatoes (Sub Artic Prime and Aurora) were in desperate need of potting on to larger pots, which has now largely been done, but so much for putting them outside looking at the forecast. Which in turn meant the greenhouse needed a good sort out - which to be honest it's needed since I got it. Fortunately it's long looking a bit tidier than it does in the picture. The Sub Artic Prime were from the front of a magazine and are supposed to be good to grow outside. These are doing really well. The Aurora on the other hand are looking a bit leggy and not so good considering they're supposed to be an early variety too.

Finally got the last of the potatoes (Maris Piper) planted out on plot no 2 last night in the semi darkness. Also planted out some cauliflowers (Snowball), calabrese (Waltham) and Brussels (Groninger) and covered with netting. This isn't going to be a popular move as this was the bed the kids had been using as their 'digging patch'. By the time they were in and covered up it was pretty much completely dark - and I wasn't staying long last night...!

The blossom on the apple trees is looking good, so hopefully get some nice fruit off them this autumn. So long as we don't get a late frost. A bit lost in amongst the fruit bed there! Difficult to see but the currant bushes look like they are going to be loaded with fruit, weather permitting of course.

Back on plot no 1 the strawberries are looking good, plenty of flowers - look like they've caught up with the other side of Sheffield now! Just need to keep the birds and slugs off them now. Thinking of getting some straw to put around them, so need to find somewhere that sells it preferably without getting ripped off. The (new) rhubarb is still looking crap though, not quite sure what's going on there. The rhubarb on the new plot is still providing enough to supply most of Yorkshire, so rhubarb and ginger jam is on the menu for later in the week.

The potatoes are all through now and earthed up, the mint looks like it's going to try and take over the whole allotment and the spinach is just coming through. Put in some Brussels and calabrese as well, sadly the netting I took down wasn't big enough to cover them all, so I'm guessing they're not going to be there when I next get down there. Put in a couple of butternut squash with lots of manure, and would have put some courgettes in but realised I hadn't actually dug enough ground...! So they returned home to take their chance with the slugs, already lost one of them.

Back on the new plot I have discovered I have both Ground Elder and Bindweed, which is going to be lots of fun for many years to come...

5 May 2008


A controversial subject! Some people (no names mentioned!) "don't do flowers", but I'm a big fan of having some on the plot. In particular bulbs as they suit my style of gardening - i.e. you put them in the ground, they look after themselves!

Daffs are OK, but these tulips (Queen of the Night) have got to be worth space on anyone's plot.

I grow them for cut flowers and they're certainly a hit with Mrs D! This time last year she was in hospital so we missed them, guess that makes them all the better this year.

How much does it cost?
The general consensus seems to be that having an allotment costs more (financially) then you receive back in produce. However, given rising food prices I'm not so sure any more. I was looking at the price of rhubarb in the supermarket we usually use - 50p per 100g. I reckon I've had at least 5kg of the stuff of my plots, which is £25 at supermarket prices! Not even taking into account that I grow my crops organically. So I'm going to try and keep a record of what we harvest from the plots this year.

29 April 2008

In the night garden

My secret weapon

Used this last year and didn't seem to have too many slug 'issues', although they were probably washed away in the floods! Put this down tonight over the potato bed and around the strawberries, although may have had it a bit longer than recommended in the fridge. Certainly was the case for Mrs D...! Have got some more some more coming in a few weeks, the theory being a couple of applications about 6 weeks apart should take care of most of the little buggers in the soil and therefore save your potatoes and strawberries - in the latter case for the birds...

This is the first signs of the Orla's I put in before Easter.

Decided I'd best get the strawberries sorted out before it's was too late to move them. Last year I put them in a bit too close together and more importantly too close to the rhubarb so they were getting covered by the leaves from the rhubarb. They were also planted a bit too deep. So after moving the lavender and mint the other day I dug over the bed to remove any weeds and moved one row of strawberries (Gariguette) and spaced them out a bit more. I also moved a couple of the Chelsea Pensioners (the other strawberries, not some elderly residents of the plot!) to give them a bit more room too.

As you can see by the time I finished and took the photo, it was getting a little dark.

28 April 2008

Rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarb!

So after hail, came snow and then sunshine. Obviously the latter was quite unexpected, which may explain the sunburn on the top of my head - sadly it's all a bit thinner than it once was up there these days!

In between the snow and the sunshine plot no 2 suffered some mindless vandalism. Some idiot went on the plot and threw over the shelving in the greenhouse with most of my plants on. Most of them were struggling to grow as it was, but if anyone's going to finish them off it should be my job! I got away lightly compared to one of the other plots on site that had the shed burned down.

The rhubarb at the new plot is now in full swing. Looking at it, I think I can easily split it up into about 8 crowns this winter, not to mention the four crowns I have on the old plot. So anyone got any good rhubarb recipes? So far we've had rhubarb crumble 3 times (main because my son loves it) and given some to the neighbours, but I can see (some of) us getting tired of the crumble.

Taking advantage of the good weather, on plot no 1 I got most of my potatoes in (Maris Piper, King Edwards, Pink Fir Apple and Salad Blue). The Orla's that I planted before Easter have just started to show through, as have the broad beans I'd all but given up on. I also planted a row of peas (telephone). And then spent most of the time 'harvesting' my crop of dock leaves. Now the weather has warmed up, the weeds have started growing very well ;>(

I did move the lavender and mint that were growing next to the strawberries so I can give the strawberries a bit more room to grow in, although may have to move them away from the rhubarb for that! The globe artichokes aren't showing any signs of life, possibly died? They did have great roots on them when I moved them earlier this year, but maybe the cold and wet killed them off? The daffodils are now past their best, but we got a couple of bunches from them and the tulips won't be long before they're in bloom.

Up on plot no 2 I took the kids up there on Saturday where they got very messy digging before eating their picnic - which on later inspections appeared they mainly ate sweets! Whilst they were doing that I planted out the dwarf peas (Hatif D'Annoy) I planted in toilet rolls and survived the greenhouse 'incident'. I also planted some more leeks (which hadn't survived the greenhouse 'incident' - Bandit and Pandora) and some carrots (Amsterdam Forcing).

The following day we went up en masse. The children dug again, this time with water for added mess/fun, their mum knitted and I dug more weeds. Couldn't get any volunteers to help plant the French Beans (Cherokee Trail of Tears), so planted them myself.

5 April 2008

Spring is here!

Then again...

And those hail stones hurt! In between being pelted with hail it was bright sunshine. I guess that's what you call April showers...

So clocks went forward signalling the start of the evening visits once more. However the first night I did this it was colder, wetter and windier than it looked, so it was also a shorter visit than daylight allowed and the onions remained unplanted.

Checking over the plot (no 1), nothing much happening. No seeds through (not surprising given the weather), no sign of the potatoes under the polytunnel, but plenty of weeds begining to make their way to the surface. The rhubarb that was showing some promising signs has flowered! Now this apparently isn't good, so I've removed these and am crossing my fingers that I get some rhubarb from them this year.

Given the foul weather I decided to sort out the main path going down the middle of the plot. It has to be said it's a little uneven (!) so the plan was to lower and level the path, putting the excess soil in the main beds and covering the path with the weed surpressing fabric. I'm also taking the opportunity to narrow the path a bit too to increase the size of the fruit bed - by about 20cm... Eventually I will cover this with bark chippings. However the crap weather made things a bit wet and slippy so didn't get as much done as I'd hoped - which is a familiar story with most of my jobs on the allotment!

Earlier in the week
When spring was still here, took my son to the new plot so he could try out his new gardening tools from the grandparents. Has to be said the quality of them is better than some of mine! He tested them out by digging a big hole and burying himself in it! After digging him out he then proceded to 'dig over' and trample all over the rest of the bed I'd dug a few weeks before. However I did forgive him as he discovered some couch grass I'd missed and helped to dig out a seriously big dandelion root.

In between digging him out I planted the broad beans I'd started off in toilet rolls in the greenhouse. Not much top growth but they've got some good roots on them, which I'm hoping is a good sign. Moved various seedlings up to the greenhouse (various brassicas and leeks) to create more room to start stuff off at home and gave the salad leaves and strawberry plants a water. Sadly there is no sign of the sweet peas at all. I'm sure the slightly erratic watering hasn't helped but not one of them has germinated ;>(

More planting
So rubbish forecast of snow showers for the day decided to stay put and plant some seeds. As it happens most of the day was bright sunshine with no snow here, certainly none that settled. Quality forecast as ever...

So planted some parsley, coriander, peas, sunflowers, pumpkins, cucumbers, and courgettes, the latter three just sowing a few of each to see if I can get an early start with them. Having just planted the parsley and coriander, my two little helpers arrived to help with the larger seeds. Planted all those in toilet rolls which were ideal for small hands to fill with compost, put the large seeds in, top up with more compost, put the labels in and then finally water. They seemed quite happy with the job, which of course means I was happy!

Few days earlier I planted some more Brussels, cauliflowers and calabrese to supplement the rather poor specimens I've grown so far. These are now through already, having found a new place for germinating seeds - the bedroom windowsill. Fortunately Mrs D has quite willingly given her approval for this move!

24 March 2008

Local Links

In a slight departure from the usual ramblings I've added a new category to the right of the page - Local Links. This lists some local food and drink places we use and visit, obviously not much use for most of you from outside of the local area but hopefully interesting all the same. The more observant may notice there are three breweries in the list! Sheffield used to have several large breweries all of which have now closed - which apart from Stones is no bad thing! We now have a thriving micro-brewery industry.

The Hillsborough Hotel is a local pub that brews its own beer on the premises - and very good it is too. We've had a couple of get togethers for the Allotment Association there. Anyone thinking of going, the Stannington Stout is amazing!

Kelham Island Brewery has a special place in my heart, it was the last major project of my degree before my finals (just a few years ago...) to produce a simulation of the brewery to see how they could increase production. Obviously I'd like to think I had a hand in the fact they built new premises next door after we found they couldn't increase production in the premises they were in... However, more importantly they do some very nice beer, Pale Rider being my favourite.

Bradfield Brewery is a relatively new find. Situated on the outskirts of Sheffield, about 10 minutes away from us but in the middle of the countryside, they do some more than passable beers and we're hoping to try the pub out soon.

Not just beer!
Probably the most regularly visited on the list is Coppice House Farm Shop. We probably go at least twice a month to stock up on meat. They raise their animals in the Valley just a few minutes from home, and just down the road from the allotment (plot no 1). They have a good philosophy in raising their animals, the meat is very good, and they also supply manure for the plot!

Our Cow Molly is in fact an ice cream maker on a local dairy farm. It is seriously good! I think we picked up our first pot at Coppice House Farm Shop, but on Easter Sunday we made it to the farm where it is produced - where the kids got to feed the new born lambs as well. Again the farm isn't far away from home and still officially in Sheffield, but was in the countryside.

Finally, picked up the South Yorkshire Good Food Directory from Our Cow Molly, which lists a whole variety of local suppliers of food, restaurants, farmer's markets, etc. Looking forward to trying out some of these in the book.

Yes, I know it's snowing!

After an early morning dash to cover up the recently planted potatoes before the frosts and snow returned on Good Friday, I was determined to get out to the plot at some point over the holiday weekend. So today, during yet another snow flurry I went to plot number 2.
Sadly the recent strong winds left the (plastic) greenhouse in need of repair. Unfortunately it was far too cold to be standing around trying to fix it properly, not to mention not having any tools to do so. So I propped the sides up as best as possible and wedged some bricks against them in the hope it will hold until the next visit. Despite this and the door constantly being blown open, the broad beans are finally through, the strawberries are looking well and two of the three trays of salad leaves are through.

Beds looking up the plot

Beds looking down the plot from the pond

Back outside in the cold, I dug over another bed and dressed with rockdust and tidied up a bit more. I discovered some mint and oregano (I think), seemingly randomly planted in the middle of a bed - OK so I know mint has a habit of appearing anywhere, but oregano? Dug up the remaining parsnips that had been left behind - all three of them -before digging out numerous dandelions and started on the couch grass... Get the feeling I'll be cursing that a lot soon.

Despite the weather, the trees and rhubarb are showing signs of life. The rhubarb always looks like some weird alien creature when it first starts to appear like this to me! One of the fruit trees has some sort of growth on the ground around it, that I'm not sure what they are, but despite this being the main reason I took the camera up for I forget to take a picture of it...

So, instead here's the 'spot the shed' competition!

However, because of the weather it was just a short visit to the plot! Maybe some time at one or both of them later in the week, let's hope it warms up a bit.

Fruit beds, still a work in progress!