Wednesday, 7 November 2018

OUR ALLOTMENT - Life on the Weald October 2018

OUR ALLOTMENT - Life on the Weald October 2018

October has been a rather short month on the allotment!.  We returned from the US and Canada on 16 October and didn't see the allotment until the 18th.

We had seen the preparations for Halloween in Seattle

Strange fruit - Madison Park, Seattle

no shortage of pumpkins in North America!
and I wondered how my pumpkin was faring.

I was worrying unnecessarily as it finally weighed in at over 10kg

On arrival at The Weald, my priority was to harvest what I could of the beans, cucumbers, courgettes (now giant marrows) and peas.  Some of the beans were far too gone and stringy but we are drying some and saving the seeds for planting next year.

 The peas were excellent and it was obviously a good decision to do a late sowing and we continued to harvest succulent peas until the end of the month.

Some of the courgettes had grown to 2 ft in length - 

- some we have had stuffed and baked, others cubed and baked/roasted with peppers and tomatoes, some have been used for soups and some for jam (marrow and ginger jam is one of our favourites)

The leeks, the kale, cavolo nero and purple sprouting broccoli were all looking good (but rather a lot of whitefly) and we have had several good pickings from the purple kale and cavolo nero.

Leeks 19 October
Purple kale 19 October
Kale, leeks and Purple sprouting broccoli 19 October
Cavolo nero 19 October

Broccoli 19 October
And we also have some Brussels sprouts which hopefully will have matured for Christmas but they look a bit far behind at the moment.  Next month I must get some fleece or netting to protect the broccoli from the marauding pigeons!

At last Halloween has arrived but my pumpkin is too good to waste so I have used only half for a face and scooped off as much flesh as possible, saving the seeds for roasting and the flesh for soups, curries, roasting, and freezing for later use.

My pumpkin

See you next month!

John Austin

Hove, October 2018

OUR ALLOTMENT - Life on the Weald September 2018

Our allotment - Life on the Weald September 2018 

As expected, I did encounter a delay at security at Gatwick airport in August as I had packed one of my oversize courgettes to take to Spain.   Sure enough it caused some queries on the x-ray screening and I had to open my case.  "Oh is that your prize one?" asked the security officer. "No," I said, "the prize one wouldn't fit in the suitcase".  I presume that once we have Brexited; it won't be permissible to take an oversize courgette into Spain and I won't be able to bring more than 2kg of lemons back!

On my first September visit to the allotment on 5th, one of the first things that I noticed was the pumpkin which had more than doubled in size since mid August.

5 September - pumpkin 
It was a plant that I had bought at the allotment holders' sale in Portslade and I'm not sure what variety it is.

I also noticed the plums which looked good, but unfortunately most were diseased and grainy inside.

5 September Plums
The rest of the plot looked fine.  There were several courgettes of reasonable size...

7 September courgettes

...and a plentiful supply of runner beans, French beans and cucumbers.
7 September beans and cucumber
The purple kale was coming along nicely......

7 September kale
...and the leeks looked healthy but in desperate need of hand-weeding!

7 September leeks 
The late peas were also looking very healthy and will possibly be ready for picking at the end of the month or early October.

7 September peas
We avoided growing tomatoes on the allotment in view of past year failures and instead grew several varieties in pots in the garden at home.  It was a very good decision and we have had a very successful crop.

7 September tomatoes

The leeks and the kale certainly looked a lot better after a spot of hand weeding.  It's hard on the knees but hopefully with a bit of hoeing we can keep the annual weeds at bay although we will face the constant battle with couch grass, bindweed and brambles.

9 September kale

9 September, hand weeded leeks 

Spinach and chard are naturals on our patch and love to self seed all over the place. Once they have taken hold I'm reluctant to pull them up so we have a surfeit.  We eat it regularly, we feed family and friends - and we have a freezer full!

10 September Chard

It's almost possible to actually see the pumpkin growing and I hope it doesn't suddenly explode!

10 September
We are still harvesting courgettes and carrots and there are still a couple of cucumbers.

13 September
Always thinking of new things to do with courgettes, I found a recipe for a courgette puree made principally from the skin....
14 September
...which I served with some pan fried fillets of John Dory

14 September
We had a reasonable crop of chilli peppers this year, grown in pots in the garden at home and in the conservatory.
16 September
This is my second crop of chillies and these will go the same way as previous ones - straight into the freezer so they can be used as and when needed (I still have some frozen habaneros from last year which I rarely use as they are too hot for most people).

My son, Damien, seems to have had a better crop than me this year, grown in a pot in his garden in SE London.

Damien's chillies growing in a pot in SE London

Damien's chillies harvested
Not the freezer for Damien.  He's a bit of a purist and has threaded his to hang them up to dry as they do in Spain, southern Europe and South America 

Damien's chillies threaded for drying
A few last minute rushed jobs as we will miss the last weekend of September as we'll be at the Serpentine open water swimming to cheer on Sylvi's nephew, Matt, and then we are off to the States and Canada for three weeks and won't be back until mid-October!

We have tided up the area near the shed where the wormeries are kept and cut back the brambles and it is looking much neater.

We have also emptied the bottom trays of the wormeries into the raised beds where the onions and garlic will go later this year.

contents of the wormery
There were certainly plenty of worms!

I have covered the compost from the wormeries with a layer of grass clippings from the lawn at home and covered that with some riddled soil rescued from the couch grass dug up last month.  I will dig all this in when we get back next month.

I lifted the last  remaining row of the Nicola potatoes and planted a new double row of leeks where they had been.....

Newly planted leeks - 19 September

...tidied up around the pond and then took a last fond look at my pumpkin which I hope will still be there in October! 

Pumpkin 19 September
And headed off to San Francisco.

John Austin

Hove, September 2018

Wednesday, 22 August 2018

OUR ALLOTMENT - Life on the Weald August 2018

Our allotment - Life on the Weald August 2018 

As if there were not enough distractions to keep us from the allotment in July, this month proved even more problematical.  Our visitors left on 1st August only to be followed at the weekend by our nephew, Niall and his partner Emily and it was Pride weekend.

getting into the spirit - Brighton Pride 5 August

I did manage a trip to the plot on Sunday 6 August, only to find that some of my courgettes had become giant marrows!

But I was able to harvest some potatoes.  I lifted the last of the Vivaldi and a few of the Nicola, second earlies, which appear to have escaped any infestation.

I also harvested a few plums but I'm afraid that the plum trees are infested with a fungus and the fruits rot before they have ripened.  I am not sure there is a cure but I will need to seek some advice.  The few that had escaped infestation were quite delicious.

And the good news is that the outdoor cucumbers are doing fine


I also began lifting the onions.  Unlike the shallots and garlic they had survived the drought well. My intention was to leave them to ripen a little longer in the sunshine which we have been experiencing but regrettably, later that week we had torrential rain.

Electra onions
Apart from the rain, another distraction from the allotment was the preparation of favours for our niece, Adele, who was getting married on 11 August.  We had promised her some of last year's Sloe Gin  which we carefully decanted into miniature bottles and also last year's apple jelly, which had to be labelled.

And of course we had to be away in Sheffield for the whole weekend for the wedding, where I had been "volunteered" along with my daughter-in-law, Nicole, as official photographer!

Adele and Andy's wedding 12 August
On my return to Hove, I was able to spend a couple of days at the allotment, lifting some more of the Nicola potatoes. There is one 10ft row left to lift.

Nicola potatoes
At home, in the herb garden, the Asian garlic chives and winter savory were in full flower and very popular with the bees.

Asian garlic chives
I have planted some garlic chives on the allotment, grown from seeds harvested last year, and am hopeful they will be as successful there as in my garden.  

Winter savory
I will think about taking some cuttings from the savory to grow on the allotment too, to encourage more bees.

A feast for bees 
I also managed to clear an area to plant out some late leek plants from the plugs I had bought at the garden centre and to prepare an area for a row of kale.  I dug over the area and removed as much of the couch grass and bindweed as possible and the annual weeds; raked in some fish, blood and bone fertiliser and then top dressed with some compost, watered and well trodden down and then left for a couple of days.

ground prepared for leeks

We have given away several marrow size courgettes to friends and neighbours and shared ideas what to do with them.....

oversize courgettes - wine bottle for size comparison
....we have tried them spiralised in many dishes....

.... including my Asian Cod recipe

We have tried courgette soufflé in the past but I quite fancy the idea of lemon drizzle courgette cake

If you have a recipe for carrot cake, just use grated courgette instead of carrot - it will be a wetter mixture so you may need to add a little more flour.

We have harvested more cucumbers. We have given the pumpkins and green crops a good feed with liquid manure from the wormeries.

In a spare space between the peas, I have planted some more beetroot seedlings and hopefully they will crop by late autumn, early winter.

beetroot seedlings planted 14 August 
The peas sown direct last month are doing well 

Peas sown July

One of our favourites - the cavolo nero -  has not disappointed and it looks like we will be picking this well into the autumn. We have had several pickings already and are keeping a watchful eye for any evidence of caterpillars....

Cavolo nero
...and I have planted out some purple kale plants bought from the garden centre.

young Kale plants
Some hand weeding was needed around the leeks which had been planted out in recent months and they are looking healthy and I have top dressed them with some compost.

I planted out more leeks in the area which I had prepared a couple of days earlier.  Here's the method.

Water the area well and leave to soak in; tread down well to get a firm planting area. Make a hole with a dibber about 6 - 8 inches deep.  

Carefully withdraw the dibber making sure soil does not fall back into the hole.

Drop a young leek plant into the hole 

Carefully fill the hole with water.  Water daily for the first few days.  The leeks will expand within the hole which gradually fills up with soil.

newly planted leeks
The pumpkins are doing as well as the courgettes and you can almost watch them growing

I had planted one pumpkin between two rows of climbing French beans but it seems to have taken over the raised bed!

The torrential rain in mid-August was not helpful to the onions which were just hardening off.  We have now lifted all of them and are able to store most, but a few were soft and we decided not to risk them rotting in store.  We peeled them, removed any damaged parts, roughly chopped them and have frozen them in small packages in the freezer.  They can be used when needed by just adding to soups, stews etc.

The largest brown onion, centre stage above, was 4.5 inches in diameter and app 14 inches in circumference!

The red onions were such a beautiful colour, they deserve a picture on their own 

Electra onions
We also have a proliferation of spinach and chard.

perpetual (beet) spinach
On my last couple of days in August - around 18-19 - we were able to harvest some French beans and carrots as well as chard, courgettes and cucumbers......

.........and of course, more potatoes

But just as we have this major harvest, it is time to go on our summer holidays.  Having given away as much as we could we have asked our neighbours on the site to help themselves to anything which they think will not last well until we return in September

Just off to Spain to celebrate my 74th birthday - and of course my courgettes! (Hope I don't have too much trouble at airport security).

John Austin

HOVE 19 August 2018