Tuesday, 30 September 2008

New seed catalogues

Today I received my new copy of 'The Organic Gardening Catalogue', and recently the new T& M catalogue too. Definites for next year so far:
Sungold tomatoes. 'Voted by gardeners as the sweetest tomato ever from seed'. Unfortunately they are F1 hybrids so a bit more expensive and I won't be able to save the seed, but I shall do the trusty Gardener's Delight as well.
Dwarf french beans instead of climbing ones. I like the look of 'Aiguillon' - 'a true 'haricot vert', pencil slim, stringless beans .... mature very early on strong, upright plants'.
I'm very tempted by all the exciting looking squashes, such as Uchiki Kuri, Marina Di Chioggia, Blue Ballet - most of them in fact, although I'm not sure if the family really likes them, except made into soup with plenty of chilli and spice. Also they take up a lot of space which I might need for other things. But I'll certainly be doing one of them.
Spinach - I've never grown it before because I don't like what it does to my teeth - I don't mean getting bits of green stuck between them - I mean it makes them feel all rough and funny. But the family say they all like it so I'm thinking of a leaf beet called 'Erbette' - 'a tasty traditional cut and come again leaf beet from Italy, with tender green leaves and stems'. It looks more like spinach but hopefully won't have the same effect on the teeth.
Spud varieties (from T&M): 'Mimi' a little pink 1st early; 'Anya' a cross between pink fir apple and Desiree - 2nd early; Charlotte - 2nd early; and maincrop - 'Sarpo Mira', which has everything apparently - 'unprecedented blight resistance, huge yields, vigorous weed suppressing foliage, long storage, and tubers do not appear to be affected by slugs'. Not that I've had much of a problem with slugs on my spuds, but it doesn't hurt to be on your guard.
I might go and check out what the local garden centre has first though, as I hate the suspense of waiting for the seed potatoes in the post. I was on tenterhooks last year, wondering if I'd have enough time to chit them properly.

The other dilemma is whether I should buy new seeds while I still have some left over from last year? And what to do with seeds that you don't really want to use again? I don't like throwing them away and I don't like spending money if I don't have to. I could Freecycle them I suppose. Mm - good idea.

Sunday, 21 September 2008

A Sea of Orange

My pumpkin is ripening nicely. What I want to know is, how do you get the flesh out of a pumpkin without chopping it up? We can't do that until after we've used it for hallowe'en. Only once we've been burning a candle in it for a few hours it doesn't look too appetising.

Today I took down the french bean plants - they have finished - and the sweetcorn, which have also finished. I also cleared away the dead melon and the outdoor cucumbers, which have produced lots and lots of rather bitter cucumbers. We haven't eaten a single one - they all ended up on the compost. I will stick to all-female next year. The greenhouse ones were fine.

While I was doing all this some naughty kids - well teenagers really - kept ringing the bell on my bike, which I had left just the other side of the fence. They weren't really doing any harm, just trying to wind me up. I haven't come across any really nasty behaviour up there yet - although my allotment neighbour, Valerie, was once menaced by a young lad who threatened to burn her plot down!

I keep wondering about cutting down the Broom trees next to the shed. I always feel very guilty at the thought of destroying perfectly healthy plants - especially ones that size. They are very impressive when they are in flower, but they are getting quite big and they really get in the way. I wonder how severely I could prune them back?

Here they are in flower. They are even bigger than this now, and overhanging quite a big area of this corner of the plot. With a great big clump of marigolds on the right now as well, it's almost impassable.

The dreaded cabbage whites have found my purple sprouting brocolli. I have managed to keep the caterpilars more or less under control by hand-picking them, but I don't really like handling them, I wish they wouldn't ooze green goo all over my hands.

Found a few french beans as I was dismantling them, and picked almost the last of the runner beans - just enough for a meal. And this afternoon my son and I have made an apple pie.

Monday, 15 September 2008

Summer's back!

Spotted these two butterflies in the garden yesterday - I don't know what they are?

This afternoon on the allotment, as I was shovelling the well-rotted manure, I inadvertantly uncovered a nest of three tiny, newborn baby mice (or something, most probably mice). They were really new - pink, bald and helpless. As I stood there, panicking slightly, wondering if I could rectify the situation, the mother scuttled out from under a bush, took one look at me and, quite understandably, ran away terrified. I decided that the damage was already done, the nest was probably done for, so I made a little hollow at the back of the heap, put some dried grass in it and moved them all into that. Then I covered it up with the tarpaulin that had been covering the manure. A little while later I peeked in to see if they were ok and they were all gone! So I HOPE that the mother had found them and taken them away somewhere safer. I did feel so guilty and distressed about it.

The toad has moved away from under the plank. There was a toad-shaped indentation in the soil! There were a lot of empty snail shells in the manure heap too - I wonder what had been eating them, or perhaps they just died there - a snail graveyard?

Monday, 8 September 2008

Rude Tomatoes

I couldn't resist posting a picture of these cheeky chappies. Anyone know why this happens?

Saturday, 6 September 2008

Cheeky Chilli Pepper Chutney

Yesterday I made Jamie Oliver's 'Cheeky Chilli Pepper Chutney' from his 'Jamie at Home' book. It's nice - quite hot and spicy. It's a fairly simple list of ingredients: red peppers, chillis, red onions, rosemary, cinnamon and bay leaves, balsamic vinegar and brown sugar. But it's a bit of a palaver grilling all the peppers and chillis until charred, blackened and blistered all over, then putting in a bowl covered with clingfilm until cool, then peeling off all the skin and removing the pips and pith. Luckily I had my parents visiting, and they helped with this part. And after all that, only 3 and a bit jars! I didn't have any of my own peppers either, which slightly defeated the object, mine aren't ripe yet. However I might try doing it with tomatoes instead of peppers, or maybe a combination, once my peppers start to ripen.

Here are my boxes of tomatoes, in various stages of ripeness:

I should really go and pick some more, before they all get blighted.

Today I went to have a peek at the allotment show. I haven't been to anything like this since I was a child and I used to enter the children's miniature garden category. I can't remember if I ever won anything. Anyway, today's show was quite an education. The same few names appeared again and again, and some vegetables weren't even represented at all, eg courgettes and squashes, french beans, cucumbers, brassicas other than cabbages, and fruit - nothing except apples and one plum entry. If there's only one entry in a category, you automatically get first prize don't you? I don't know if there just weren't other categories, or whether there were but nobody had entered them. There was only one pot of jam - if I'd entered one I could have at least won second prize??? Maybe next year...

Monday, 1 September 2008

First Day of Autumn

It's the beginning of the end of the season and everything is starting to look a bit faded and frazzled. My pumpkin is rather lumpy, but beginning to turn orange. The tomatoes in the background are beginning to get blight. I picked lots of ripe-ish and semi-ripe ones yesterday that hadn't yet been affected, and brought them home to ripen in boxes. With the weather we are due over the next couple of weeks I will be lucky to get many more unblighted ones.

Here are my winter and spring brassicas - a cauliflour in the top left corner - there are several of those; savoy cabbages in the middle, and I can't remember the name of these spring cabbages on the right.

The marigolds have got so big that this area, where the legumes were, and which I then sowed with clover, has shrunk to about half its original size. Most of the clover has been cut now and is now mulching down. The roots should decompose over the winter leaving a lovely nitrogen-rich environment for next year's brassicas. I have taken down the rather mildewy peas that you can just see at the back, in front of the beans, which are all that are left there now. I didn't organise this bit very well - next year I will do a lot more broad beans, a lot more peas (sown successionally) and definitely no asparagus peas. The crimson clover has been quite successful, so if there are any empty spaces I will put that in again.

I forgot to take pictures of the sunflowers when they were at their best. In fact that was while we were away so it would have been difficult. This flowerhead is easily 1 ft across. There are several more along the path, one of which has a droopy head which I keep bumping my head on as I pass. It's more painful than it sounds.

The borage is now pretty much over. I need to remove it but I would like to save some seed if possible. The marigolds have all but taken over the plot but it seems a shame to pull them up when they are still flowering so well and the bees and other insects are still enjoying them. They also smell amazing - spicy and aromatic.

One project I definitely need to complete over the autumn/winter is the path/hedge/verge area. I need a couple more planks for edging, and I don't know where to get hold of them. I'm too self-conscious to be a skip-scavenger. Maybe I can get some from the tip. Don't want to buy them new, obviously. My parents are visiting at the end of this week, the idea being they will help me on the allotment - that is if it stops raining for long enough to do anything.

Also I would like to plant a few bulbs and flowers/wild flowers to come up along the hedge next spring - a few daffodils, bluebells, I've got a cowslip to go in, and some primroses would be nice. Don't know whether I will ever get around to doing a pond - maybe I don't need one, I've got my toad, and I saw a frog up there the other day too.

The great thing about veg growing is that you can start all over again every year.