The love of gardening is a seed once sown that never dies. Gertrude Jekyll

Annie's Little Plot

Annie's Little Plot

Tuesday 28 August 2012

Making the most of the light nights

The nights are definitely drawing in. I'm avidly following the weather forecast at the moment (which seems to be nice one day then raining the next) for nice evenings for me to go up to the allotment. Tonight was perfect. I left work on time, quick tea and then up there as soon as I could. I went round the back of the allotments which is a bit of an overgrown path which dog walkers use. It leads to an area which contains a communal orchard. I had a walk round there but there are hardly any fruit on the trees. Is this another victim of the poor weather, the cool spring meaning less bees around to pollinate the flowers. I've got an old apple tree in my garden and this has quite a few fruit on but they don't look very healthy this year. Anyway I digress, on this path there are some fences covered in brambles and as I showed in the post last week, the blackberries are ripening already.
I disturbed a flock of sparrows on my way round who've also found this treasure and though I don't want to deprive the sparrows some fruit I'm sure there is enough for all.
So first batch of jam making ingredients, will pick a couple of more batches, there is plenty of fruit on them waiting to ripen. Its handy finding my own patch.
However my friend gave me a 'cultivated' blackberry bush, not sure of the variety, which she had grown in a pot in her garden which wasn't doing too well so I've planted it at my allotment and its taken off. I need to get some wires on the fence and properly train it. But I've got quite a few flowers and small developing fruit. The flowers are quite pretty.

Had a good weed up at the plot tonight, I've definitely been more on top of the weeds this year but it is never ending. Good job I find weeding therapeutic! I've cleared one bed tonight (my failed roots bed) and I'm going to give green manure a go, I bought some seeds at the Tatton Park Flower show.  Will post on that when I get going with the sowing.
Whilst going round my plot tonight I noticed I've got a healthy crop of mushrooms growing in some places. Should I be worried or is this just expected as the bark chippings start to rot down? Should I do anything or just leave them be? Any suggestions?

Friday 24 August 2012

Allotment Show

At my allotment site we have recently set up a committee to try and address issues on the site, to combine resources such as buying seeds and compost and also to get together to work on communal areas of the site. We have been meeting for about a year now and for me it's been nice, as I'm fairly new to the plot, to help me get to know the other plot holders.
We have created our own little shop, have set up a website and reinstated a mini-show of our produce. It used to be a big annual event in Paddock but as allotment usage dwindled it got dropped but now our site is thriving again with all plots taken and the council are relatively on top of people who don't look after their plots. All our work to improve the site has been recognised by the local council and the big show in Huddersfield where our site was awarded the most improved site in the Kirklees region.
In addition one of our plot holders was awarded the prize for best novice gardener across Kirklees.
At a meeting early in the year we decided we'd like to have our own show but we wanted to start slowly to see how much interest that we would have and if it was a success that we might extend to other sites in the area in future years. As this has been such a difficult year we decided a few weeks ago to have a general  entry which is a basket of mixed produce of your choice (the term basket could be loosely interpreted as any container or if preferred produce can be displayed on the table top which will be covered with cloth). First prize was a memorial shield with certificates for second and third prizes.
The show was to be held on Sunday 19th August in our communal hut on the site. We had a Kirklees official judge, Roy Jackson and we had to exhibit our produce between 6 and 7p.m. on 18th August or between 11a.m. and 12 noon on 19th August. Judging to place at 1.00 and then we all in the hut for tea and cakes at 1.30.
Here was my entry.
It really has been difficult, I've no beans or peas ready at the moment (my first sowing of peas is finished and my second just starting to flower now!) I've not grown runner beans this year and my dwarf beans and purple beans not quite ready yet! So my exhibit consisted of some potatoes 'Pentland Javelin', my garlic which I'm really pleased with, one fennel bulb, 3 varieties of courgette ('Best of British', 'Summer Ball' and 'Tondo di Toscana') these add a bit of colour and 3 globe artichokes and just to decorate some 'Carvelo Nero' and 'Scarlet' Kale. I'm not sure the edible flowers of Borage and Marigold were approved of by the judge but it added some colour! I was pleased but as you will see below the competition was fierce. It was funny at the allotment on sunday morning picking the last few things and seeing people looking at around at what everyone else was doing! For me it was a bit of fun to get involved and meet my fellow plot holders, but it obviously meant alot more to some of the male plot holders as it sparked their competitive spirit.
So here are a few of the other exhibits.

Its an amazing display considering the year that we have had.
Can you guess from looking at them which one first prize?
The winner of the first prize and the memorial shield was our chairman, Barry. Who exhibited the vegetables in the picture straight above. The second prize went to Peter, the first picture above and the third prize to Johnathan the one with the two cauliflowers (which to be fair are brilliant) I've never managed to grow a cauliflower. This won the Haighe trophy for best in show.
But I'm sorry boys size isn't every thing! There was a definite gender divide in the show, the women more interested in having a good harvest and a tasty crop. Maybe we should all strive for perfection but then I think of the amazing mis-shapen tomatoes and peppers that you see in markets in Spain or Italy where they are really more interested in taste, rather than the uniform fruit and vegetables that you see in the supermarket in the UK. Anyway it was a fun sociable afternoon with lots of talk of the weather and pesky snails. Plus lots of lovely cake.
What do other people think about these vegetable shows?

Tuesday 21 August 2012

Post Olympic blues

I'm having withdrawal symptoms! I'm missing the buzz of Team GB. I want to be watching the tense tactics of the cycling, hear the roar in the Olympic stadium, watch the horses dancing, marvel at the gymnastics and see all the Union Jacks waving. I'm afraid I've been engrossed by the Olympics which explains my lack of blogging, instead I've been watching Mo, Usain, Jess, Chris, Victoria, Louis, Beth and many more of our Olympic heroes. I knew that I'd be watching lots but never imagined that it would be the success it has been, not only in sporting terms but in making people smile and talk to each other. 
Huddersfield had one gold medal winner, Ed Clancy the cyclist so we are proud owners of a gold post box!
Disappointingly I didn't get any tickets for any of the events in London but I did go to watch some football at Old Trafford which was fun. I was also down in London for the closing ceremony gig at Hyde Park, New Order, The Specials and Blur's last ever gig (so they say) which was amazing. Back to reality with two very busy weeks at work 
But things are moving on, I can't believe its nearly the end of August. Walking up to the allotment last night I went past a mass of blackberry bushes which are producing ripe berries already.
I spent a lovely evening there, making me realise that I need to make the most of any nice evenings. So how are things going up at t'plot? Well its definitely more positive now, some crops have been disastrous this year, roots have been a no no. Slugs ate all my celeriac, no beetroot germinated, a few radishes have survived. Peas have not been great, broad beans were nibbled to death by birds. Even onions have not been too great, well apart from the autumn planted ones. But some things are thriving, everything is behind but hopefully on their way now. 
Other berries that I'm feasting on at the moment are the alpine strawberries, they form a hedge along my fruit bed and have been flowering and fruiting since April. When I get to my plot I have a session of picking the tiny fruit some which I save for on my breakfast cereal in the morning!

Best picked when they are really dark and fully ripe. Small but intensely sweet.
My sweetcorn is looking great this year, I sowed two batches and one is a bit behind the other and just starting to flower now, the other hopefully are ripening behind the wrapped leaves.
I love sweetcorn so I've got my fingers crossed for sweet and tasty cobs.
My few fennel that survived the slugs are swelling by the day.
My courgettes are fruiting like mad now, I've grown some round yellow ones this year which are perfect.
I've also grown a variety called 'Trombocino' which has very weird shaped pale green fruit which are just starting to develop. Don't say anything rude.....
My broccoli is growing well now and I'm hopeful that I'll get some crop before the end of the summer. Better late than never.
I've not grown runner beans this year but have some dwarf beans that are starting to develop beans now and I'm growing a purple climbing bean called 'Cosse Violette' which is covered in flowers and has tiny beans just starting to develop. Its very pretty with purple tinged leaves and lovely purple flowers.

I've got lots of flowers on my plot this year, fennel is full bloom and the hoverflies love that.
This is the best sunflower which grew out of reach of the slugs.
Finally one flower that I can't imagine slugs ever trying to eat! Amazing flowers of the globe artichoke. Which the bees just spend hours inside.

The allotment my antidote to post-Olympic blues.....