Sunday, 31 August 2008

Greenhouse Magic

We have picked and eaten my first melons. They are only the size of oranges, but very tasty and juicy. There are 3 more still ripening. The outdoor melons have been a disaster, but that's not surprising considering the summer we've had. I was down to just one plant, from an original total of about 5. It even had a melon on it, again about the size of an orange. When I noticed this fruit,I lavished tlc on it, gave it feed and water, removed all the weeds etc, and now it seems to have upped and died. All the leaves have shrivelled up and gone brown. I don't know how long to leave it to see if the melon ripens anyway.

We have also had the first curry of the season. These chillis are 'Ring of Fire' and they get hotter and hotter the redder they get. When they are scarlet they are 'blow your socks off' hot. Last year I froze all the excess chillis whole, and to make a medium-hot curry I put in two of these, slightly crushed/bruised, and took them out before serving. They are difficult to cut up once they have been frozen.

Sunday, 24 August 2008

Plague and Pestilence

I have an infestation of asparagus beetle - and I have only myself to blame for not looking out for it. I knew it existed of course but it didn't occur to me that it might find MY asparagus. I vaguely noticed that the plants were going a bit brown - but I didn't stop for a closer inspection as I assumed they were just dying back for the autumn. As a result some of the plants are virtually done for. I hope they recover. We haven't even eaten any ourselves yet, as I only planted the crowns last year and we're not supposed to harvest it until next year.

The beetles themselves are quite pretty - the size of an elongated ladybird, black and brown with white spots. But the larvae are nasty little grey maggoty things, which squidge out asparagus-coloured goo when you try to pull them off. I have spent a couple of hours hunting them all down and dropping them all into a jar of soapy water, which dispatched them pretty quickly. I will have to keep checking and removing them every day from now on, and next year of course I will be much more vigilant.

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Long delay due to holiday and general busy-ness

Have been to Spain for two weeks, although I have now been back since 9th August, so it is just lack of time that has prevented me doing another post. That, and the feeling that nobody had discovered or read my blog so far, and I would like to thank 'MyDarlingtonAllotment' for leaving a comment, because I now feel encouraged to continue - thank you so much. I didn't discover this comment until today even though it was left in June - and hadn't been published - I'm afraid it's because I'm pretty new to blogging and don't really know how it all works. So sorry about that.

On arriving at our villa the owner presented us with a big bag of giant tomatoes, which he had grown in his vegetable plot, directly behind the villa! There was also a big bag of chilli peppers, and he had left some onions in the fridge too. So it was a bit of a 'home from home' experience. In the end I couldn't resist taking a bag of onions, courgettes and squash in our suitcase, which survived the journey with no problems, so we had plenty of veg to keep us going.

This is Senor Pepe's veg plot:
There were lots of tomatoes, chillies, aubergines, and melons, and although it was very hot and dry, he had the most elaborate irrigation system: a well in the garden behind us, connected to a timed sprinkler and drizzle hoses along the rows of veg. The result was no manual watering necessary, and a beautiful, lush lawn and lovely flowers around the villa. The only drawback was that the sprinklers came on rather noisily at about 4.00am every morning! However that wasn't the only disturbance: the crickets (which I love and wouldn't keep me awake on their own) some cockerels which started up at around 4.00am also, dogs barking, and some very noisy frogs who lived in a pond in the garden.

There was also a donkey in the field opposite the front of the villa, but he only made a noise during the day, so that was fine! But it was all very charming and rural, and a good time was had by all. We went with some friends so there were 8 of us altogether. The weather was amazing, needless to say, with a really well-needed dose of sunshine to keep me going till next summer.

Back home on the allotment, it was clear that I needn't have worried about the lack of water. Everything was absolutely rampant, especially the weeds. I have had a few good sessions tidying up, weeding and removing excess growth. The summer brocolli had all gone to flower so I pulled all that up, and the spring cabbages, which I had left for the pigeons, the pigeons hadn't wanted thank you very much, so I was pulling them up to chuck straight on the compost, when I realised they were actually perfectly good to eat still, so we ate a couple and I put one in the freezer (shredded), but the rest had to be composted because we are officially onto the summer greyhounds now. The empty space has been sown with phacelia as green manure.

I have picked loads of runner beans and french beans, a few peas (most had been had by the allotment sitters - fair enough), a few courgettes and squashes, the tomatoes are ripening, but I haven't staked them properly, or removed side shoots, or generally looked after them at all, so they were way too bushy and flopping all over the place, but I've decided it's too late to do anything about it now - 'EVERYTHING WILL BE DIFFERENT NEXT YEAR!!!' I keep saying to myself. The Spanish grow their tomatoes just like we grow our runner beans, up very sturdy cane structures (see pic above) - that's what I'm going to try next year.

This morning I dug up the first of my maincrop potatoes - 'Cara' - and they are HUGE! Baked potatoes for supper tomorrow - we have to eat the carrots and french beans while they are still fresh so we'll have them tonight.

My two compost bins are full so I managed to find one of those big old square builder's sacks at the bottom of the garden, and that is almost full now too.

I have cut down my clover green manure, which is now mulching the almost empty legume bed. I pulled up all the asparagus peas - I'm with the general consensus that they really aren't very nice. Pretty flowers though.

The on-going weather forecast isn't very promising: there are a few dry days coming up, so I will have to make the most of them, but the rest of August, and probably September too according to the BBC weather 'monthly outlook' - doesn't look at all nice. How depressing. How many more years of this do you think?