30 June 2009

Busy, busy, busy!

Life on the plot continues apace, so to catch up quickly:

Potatoes (Charlotte) are going down well with a couple of plants providing enough for one meal for the four of us. The children did complain about having potatoes so often, but then queried where they were the next day!

Strawberries remain an ongoing battle, but I'm please to report the 'fortress' finally seems to be working and picked about a kilo last night. This makes up for going to Whirlow Farm to pick strawberries - they're expensive, but it is a charity that the kids love going to - then spending several hours trying to get the jam to set, only to burn it. The recipe (HFW jam 'guru') wasn't great either as there was far too much lemon in it as well.

I'm also getting quite a few raspberries from the 'self set' plants dotted around the plot and the summer raspberries are just beginning to take off on plot no 2. Getting a few red currants at last - netting the plants a couple of months ago obviously paid off! - and hunting through the weeds the blackcurrants (on plot no 1) are also just starting.

However, these are just insignificant compared to the Gooseberries. I picked over 2 kg of these from one plant!

I've also made another batch of rhubarb and orange jam, this time with enough sugar for it to set properly.

The overwinter onions are keeling over, so I dug up half a dozen last night - including a couple of 'monster' ones! You can't really tell quite how big the are in this picture, may need to take another photo ;>)

Nearly forgot about the radishes as well, which have managed to escape attention from the slugs this year, so have been having a steady supply of mixed radishes.

Allotment Fair
Last year we had a hog roast on the site for plot holders, with some other food and music. So this year we (as an Association) decided to apply for some funding from the council, and we were lucky enough to receive some to put on a larger event inviting people from other sites in Sheffield, as well as from the Allotment Regeneration Initiative.

We probably had a couple of hundred people over the day, beer from Bradfield Brewery (most upsetting as I was driving!), elderflower cordial (supplied by me!), lots of food from various plot holders, music and the all important slide (don't ask!) for the children. Oh and a 120lb organic pig ;>)

The bar

The pig

Coming soon...
The dwarf peas and Broad beans should be ready in the next couple of weeks, with more raspberries and blackcurrants.

6 June 2009

Allotments: an obsession?

It's been a while since the last update. It's that busy time of year, and not always on the plot, and I seem to struggle to update the blog at this time of year. Whilst I would do a quick catch up, I have to moan (no doubt at length) about my strawberries.

Now I grow good strawberries. It's not that I'm particularly talented in growing them but I spent a reasonable amount of time selecting a couple of decent varieties for taste above all else (Chelsea Pensioner and Gariguette from Ken Muir). Everyone who has been privileged to taste them has agreed that they are very good. Sadly, I struggle to get many strawberries off the plants due to pests eating them before I get to them.

Originally I had problems with slugs, then I thought it was birds, then mice, before finally catching a squirrel legging it with one of my strawberries in its mouth last year. War was declared. The children were banned from from feeding them at the Botanical Gardens. Large amounts of netting were bought. All to no avail.

This year the feeding ban remains (and they know that it's because the rats with tails are stealing their strawberries) and I started off with chicken wire around the outside of the strawberry bed, straw under the strawberries, slug pellets and netting over the top. Half a punnet of strawberries later with only a few losses I thought we'd reached an acceptable compromised. However a later trip revealed this was not the case. The tree rats decided they wanted everything, having chewed their way in through the netting, decimating all of the (partly) ripened fruits and many still green strawberries.

So tonight I spent over two hours putting chicken wire over the top and tying it to the surrounding chicken wire and joining the two strips together. I then made sure the bottom of the wire was firmed in to the earth, sprinkled chill powder (they supposedly don't like that) around the outside and over the top where the wire is tied together to try and stop them chewing through the string and then covered it all over with the netting again. Quite how I'll get in to pick any strawberries that survive lord alone knows! As I was doing this a couple of the thieving little b*stards popped up at the bottom of the plot and did a runner when they saw me. If this doesn't work I'm going to start sleeping there. With an air rifle.

I couldn't help but think I'm probably growing the world's most expensive strawberries. Gariguette are sold in Harrods, at this rate it'll be cheaper to get on a train to go and buy them in London. To be honest it'll probably be cheaper to get on a train to France to buy them at this rate. But it's a matter of principle and I will not be beaten.

And breathe.

Some older photos from a few weeks back: