Saturday, 30 January 2010

First potatoes chitting

My Anya seed potatoes were starting to sprout in their bag in the fridge, so I have got them out to start them chitting. I don't think it's too early. Anyway once they start there's no stopping them is there? The others are still ok so I've left them for now.

I'm trying not to think too much about all the plants, especially the edible ones, I'll be leaving behind when we move. We are due our first crop of asparagus this year, but it will also be our last. I'm hoping we will decide we're not as keen on asparagus as we thought we were. There are the two apple trees I put in this time last year, from which I've had just two apples so far. And there's the damson tree. At least my cherry tree is in a container so I can take it with me. So are the new blueberries, a bay and a rosemary bush. Also I will get to see the crocuses and daffodils that I planted under the damson tree last autumn. Best of all, there's my new garden, which is a blank canvas at the moment, a perfect new project!

Yesterday I sowed my celeriac seeds - the first seed sowing of the year! Just like last year, they are inside on the kitchen window sill, wrapped up in bubble wrap. I really must get down to the plot and start digging......

Monday, 25 January 2010

Seed Potatoes

I have just been on a trip to Leicester to get my seed potatoes and onion sets. It may seem like a long way at 25 miles each way, but I have saved so much money it was worth it. They have around 90 varieties of seed potato, (although a few had run out) and you can buy them loose. They cost £1.25 a kilo up to 10 kilos, £1.00 a kilo for 10 kilos or above. This is what I will be planting this year:

6 x Foremost }
6 x Vanessa } First early

18 x Anya (saved from last year's crop) } Second early
5 x Maxine }

10 x Kestrel - Second early/early maincrop

10 x Cara }
10 x Rooster } Maincrop

I also bought about 30 red onion sets, 30 brown onion sets and 10 shallot sets. Oh, and two packets of kale seed!

Grand total - £8.03 - which I reckon is a BARGAIN!!

I can also report that I have put my name on the waiting list for an allotment on a site very close to 'our new house'! Apparently I may have to wait about a year, but this seems reasonable considering the length of some waiting lists, and the fact that I already have one - I just won't be able to walk there after we move. On the moving front, everything seems to be proceeding smoothly, but it's still early days.

Monday, 18 January 2010

News and Update

I have been and worked at the plot today for the first time this year. I could only manage a couple of hours before my back was stiff and achy and it hurt to stand up again from bending. Had to come home for a hot bath and a Pilates session. I have got myself a DVD with a view to strengthening my back and 'core' muscles so that I am generally less feeble when it comes to digging etc.

Anyway, it has been very wet recently and I didn't think it was a great idea to work on the beds so I concentrated on weeding and tidying up the path on the hedge side. I disentangled all my canes from a pile of decomposing leaves and an overgrowth of goose grass, pulled all that out and emptied a sack of bark chips behind the compost bins before putting the canes back on top - hopefully that will help them to keep a bit longer - they were in danger of being swallowed up and going rotten.

The daffodils are coming up so I had to weed very carefully around them, and I was followed closely by a pair of robins and a blackbird on the lookout for bits and bugs to scavenge.

I also emptied one of the compost bins which is 'finished' - it's still a bit strawy because I have been adding lots of straw every time I put green sappy stuff or food waste in over the summer. Other than that it looks lovely. The contents has had to go into bags for now because none of the beds are ready for it. I now have about a dozen bags of compost waiting to be distributed when the time comes.

I inspected the various crops to see how they have survived the unusually cold freezy weather. The worst hit are the broad beans. Quite a few of them are completely dead, but there are still a few which don't look too bad. But I think I will have to re-sow in the gaps in the spring. The leeks look fine but obviously haven't been able to grow at all. The onions and garlic are looking quite perky still and the psb seems to have made a good recovery too. There are a few sprouts ready for picking actually. I dug up a few carrots which look fine, and also the remaining few celeriacs, which also look fine, although I don't know what they will be like inside - a bit brown maybe. They don't feel mushy though.

Now the latest news is that we have found another house to buy. Still early days but we have had the offer accepted so just keeping our fingers crossed. Hopefully it will be straightforward because for various reasons (which I won't go into) there is no chain, but we probably won't be moving until the end of June/early July. So I think you will understand why I have decided it is not worth growing greenhouse crops this year. Not only would they be in full growth by then - and there is no greenhouse there yet, but we are going away at the end of July for two weeks and I wouldn't feel happy asking brand new neighbours to water our greenhouse AND feed the cat, before we've had a chance to ingratiate ourselves with them. I will probably just grow a few chilli plants and ask a friend to have them to stay while we go on holiday.

Finally, I have baked my first butter-free cake - a cherry and almond one containing potato and ground almonds. I'm pleased to say that it was really very nice, and it wasn't just me who thought so. The family all agreed. I am looking forward to trying a butternut squash one. Not sure if I can bring myself to buy a courgette from a shop - perish the thought!

Monday, 11 January 2010

Cabin Fever and Sowing Plan

It's still too cold/snowy/icy to go to the allotment and too cold/early to start sowing seeds. I don't know if it's a good idea to go to far flung/off the beaten track garden centres (which are the ones I want to go to to seek out loose seed potatoes) in case (a) they have not been delivered due to the weather and (b) the roads are hazardous. I was so bored this morning that I sat down and went through all my seeds and made a month by month sowing plan on an Excel spreadsheet. I thought I might post it on here but I don't know how.

Then I decided I would indeed venture out to an independent garden centre in a village a few miles away, to see what the seed potato situation was there. In fact the roads were fine. A bit slushy in places but not particularly dangerous. Their potatoes hadn't arrived yet although the lady said they were expecting them 'any minute' (by which she meant 'any day') but unfortunately they were not sold loose but in 3kg bags. I guess the seed potatoes will have to wait a bit longer. Oh well, there's no rush is there?

Anyway, while I was there, and I had a few Christmas vouchers, I bought 3 blackcurrant bushes and 2 blueberry bushes. These are now waiting in the greenhouse until the ground is plantable in.

Yesterday I received this late Christmas present. Most of these recipes contain no butter or equivalent, but instead are made with grated vegetable to make them nice and moist. The majority are made with courgette or butternut squash, and there are others which contain potato, sweet potato, carrot, turnip or beetroot. Because the vegetables contain natural sugars, most of the recipes contain slightly less sugar than normal recipes too. I'm afraid I can't tell you what any of the cakes are like as I haven't had a chance to make any yet, but I will let you know when I have. If they turn out to be as good as the pictures suggest it will be a nice way to use up all those courgettes and butternut squashes I will no doubt be inundated with later in the year.

Saturday, 2 January 2010

First plot visit of 2010

Like most of you I imagine, I haven't been able to do anything at the plot recently, even I had wanted to. However in the brief time when the temperature rose above freezing I did manage to dig up a few respectable looking carrots, three small celeriacs and a cabbage. The carrots and cabbage made a nice dish of coleslaw, while the celeriac was turned into soup.

I went for a walk up there yesterday for a dose of fresh air (I was feeling a bit fragile) and it was a very beautiful day, so I thought I would take some photos for an update. Not that much has changed since the last time I took some. Above is the phacelia, gone a bit droopy and brown since the frosts. As soon as the ground has thawed out I will be digging that in. Everything is in a state of suspended animation. The leeks haven't grown at all for weeks.

The broad beans are just about hanging on, this one is the biggest and most healthy looking.

This is a view along my neighbouring plots towards the back of the scout hut.

I often feel a bit down at this time of year, but having the allotment to focus on makes me feel much more positive about the coming weeks. I know it's a little while before I can really get going on it, but in the meantime I am planning a trip to a nursery which I have been told does 90 different types of seed potato, sold loose. It will soon be time to start them chitting. If I can't find what I want there I could try the Ryton Gardens Potato Day on January 31st. I decided not to get my seed potatoes by mail order this year, as they arrived so early last year and you are restricted to packs of 5, 10 or 20.

I got lots of gardening vouchers for Christmas and I plan to spend them on some new fruit bushes, blackcurrants and blueberries probably. It won't be long before I can start sowing a few seeds, celeriac and maybe some Marmande tomatoes.