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'.