Thursday, 25 September 2014

Lazy Wolfies

Well we had a fortnight off work and didn't do a tap.

We went to the lotty a couple of times, to do some scant weeding and crop some veg, but other than that, not a lot. We cleared the pea bed in the back garden, and cut excess leaves off the tomato plants, but that is it.

We have a lot of catching up to do before the season is over. Hubby is working at the weekend so I will get stuck in - on my own though, as our lad is back at Uni now. I will need to do as much as I can at the weekends, now the evenings are drawing in, to make sure we still get the best out of the plot. It looks somewhat untidy at the moment, it needs strimming at the edges, and the weeds pulling up, and the squashes taming. Hopefully the remaining sweeetcorn will still be edible, so I'll crop what I can and put the rest in the compost bins - except for the weeds of course. The rhubarb is fading, and the pumpkins need to come home to dry off and be eaten. The cauli is pretty much finished, there are a couple of plants left but they have bolted, so will need removing. The swedes will carry on growing for a while yet, as will the cabbages and the leeks. I will try and clear what I can and make it look a bit tidier.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

No Rest for the Wicked

Hubby and I have a couple of weeks off work coming up soon, and we have a long list of things to do. One of the items is to relax and eat fish & chips and drink mucky pop :-) but the others on the list are all hard work, including remove the ivy, remove the bamboo, paint the fence, move the greenhouse, move the compost bin, build the cold frame... so no small tasks as you can see. Fingers crossed for decent weather so we can crack on. Also during this time we will be taking our son back to his uni digs, so we will lose a helper for the hard work!

At the weekend son and I popped to the lotty to tidy and crop and weed, and we came home with so much food it was fab! I'd been feeling a bit despondent about the lotty, so much work, not much joy, trying to tame the rampant squashes, broad beans failing, yardlongs looking feeble; but this weekend changed all that. We got 3 massive cauli's (tasty gorgeous of course!) which hadn't bolted quite as much as the first one so that was good; a load of beets; a load of runner beans, a few yardlong beans (weird looking creatures they are); another couple of punnets of raspberries; some tomatoes; and 3 sweetcorn cobs. It turned out that only two of the sweetcorn cobs were properly ripe, so they will be another week or so before we can get properly stuck in. And a load of courgettes.

I made a heap of ratatouille with the courgettes, but not all of them cos they wouldn't all fit in the big stew pan! I had some peppers and onions already, added some of our own tomatoes, and a tin of toms, and cooked it down, om nom nom. So now the freezer is full of courgette based meals. And there are two fresh courgettes in the fridge, along with a heap of other fresh veg. Smashing.

I trimmed back the tomato plants in the back garden, to remove some of the leaves so the light can get to the fruits to help them ripen, and pretty much filled up the compost bin with the cuttings. Looks a lot tidier now mind you. The peas are finished, and I was going to pull them up but there is nowhere to put the plants now the compost bin is full so I'll do them another time. No rush, we don't have anything else ready to go in the bed so it can wait.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Gorgous Caulis & Poorly Broad Beans

We have eaten our first cauli this weekend which had partially bolted (so we got it just in time) and it was utterly gorgeous! So we can salvage them, if we are canny and catch them in time. There is another one that is ready on the plot, so we need to nab it before it bolts like the other ones. Such tasty veg.

Son and I ripped up the poorly broad beans and plonked them on the compost pile, and also got rid of a lot of big weeds. The two pumpkins are looking marvellous, and are changing colour, so should be lovely come October. They are still rambling all over though, I cut off a few invading tendrils. I also chopped some of the tomato leaves out but the plants are rampant, same as the ones at home. They have plenty of fruit but tons of leaves.

The runner beans are looking great, the black fly remedy seems to have worked, as there is not much there now - soapy water in a spray bottle, excellent. Will be adding that to the Tips page. The cannellini beans are looking splendid, whereas the yardlongs are still flowering and producing leaves but no beans as yet. Not sure if we will try them again, but we had to give them a go. Maybe it's just too cold in this country for them.

We also cropped some more courgettes and some raspberries. Will be making raspberry jam soon I think.

Over the weekend I made a load of courgette curry, using a jar of rogan josh sauce, and other fresh and tinned veg, we had some with rice and it was delicious. I popped the rest of it in the freezer, we now have 5 plastic tubs of lovely frozen curry stored, so at least the bountiful courgettes won't go to waste. There are more courgettes to come, and tomatoes, so I may make ratatouille for the freezer next time. Om nom nom.

The sweetcorn isn't quite ready yet, but not far off, and we still have a glut of beets in the ground, so I will be making more pickled beets for over winter again, we love them. And I spotted the first of the winter squashes on the plants, we'd had plenty of flowers but no fruit before now - I doubt if we will do them again next year, they are very space hungry plants and we simply don't have the room for them with only having a half plot. But we had to give them a go.

So next year we will do courgettes again, and will try a couple of different varieties, patty pan and round ones maybe, as well as the stripy ones. We will also do more french beans as we prefer them to runners to be honest, runners are nice but french are nicer. If the yardlongs don't do anything then we won't waste the space, they have been pretty plants but not productive just yet. We'll give broad beans another go but in a different spot, they just weren't happy where they were. Cabbages are a must, red cabbage especially, and cauli if we can stop them bolting.  And tomatoes of course, lots of tomatoes :-)

Friday, 22 August 2014

Veg Gluts, Green Tomatoes and Dreams of Old Style Pantries!!

We've been away for a couple of days, and had horrible weather when we got back, so hadn't been to the plot for a few days - we were expecting weeds galore, pumpkin madness, runner bean fest, courgettes a-go-go, beetroots a-plenty. And tons of raspberries. :-) And that is exactly what there was - we came home with a couple of marrow sized courgettes and some smaller ones, a massive bag full of runners, several beets, two punnets of raspberries (leaving lots on the plants that we couldn't carry) and the last few broad beans we could find - those plants are coming out at the weekend, they are really sickly looking this year, poor things.

But everything is looking ok, the cabbages are fine, the toms are very leafy with lots of fruit on there, the cauli has bolted :-( and the italian yardlongs are getting plenty of flowers on there but no beans as yet. The cannelini beans are dripping with pods, so they should be great later in the season.

We had our first couple of ripe toms from the garden over the weekend, with plenty more to come, still green as yet. But they are outside and not in a greenhouse so progress may be a little slower. I still need to strip the leaves and the excess flowers off so the fruits can concentrate on ripening. If indeed they will in this cold weather... The weather seems to have cooled down a huge amount, it feels almost autumnal, I do hope we still have a few warm days to come before autumn/winter kick in, it doesn't feel like we've had a proper summer yet. My feet are usually cold at present, so I know it is generally a lot cooler than it was a week or so ago.

I don't know if it's just me but I do feel a bit despondent about gardening at the moment, just waiting for things to grow and ripen, not much to do apart from weed and water. I know we have some crackin veg to come but I feel a bit lost... We ate our petit pois from the garden at the weekend, and I think that's it, all gone now - is there much point in growing peas if you get such a small crop? I'm also concerned as to how we will store the veg and fruit we are growing - the raspberries are easy, raspberry jam, and the redcurrants made lovely jelly, but we still have some apple mush from last year in the freezer, and most of the fresh fruit have dropped off the tree already before they were properly ripe... and we will have a load of pears too. We may have to think about taking one of the trees out, we have too many pears. We are eating as much of the fresh veg as we can, it's the storing of it for over the winter that is the problem I have at the moment. We don't have a cool garage or pantry, only a small (warm) kitchen and a couple of packed freezers. I would love a house with a proper old-fashioned cool pantry :-) Well, I can dream can't I?

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Invading Pumpkins and Redcurrant Jelly

It looks like we will get 2 decent sized pumpkins from the two plants this year, there are lovely big football sized globes, and the largest is beginning to change colour. We don't know what the variety is, hopefully it will taste good, or there is no point in growing pumpkins as they take up a lot of room. They are mighty invasive though, we had to pull them out of the broad bean plants and cut them back from the leeks and the courgettes and the sweetcorn. One plant next year - maybe!!.

The runner beans are being hugely productive at the moment, we may have to think about freezing some, although I'm not sure where we will find the space as the freezers are full of fruit, with apples to come, and beans from last year still in the drawers. We are eating lots and lots of lovely fresh runner beans :-) I even taken some into work for my colleagues.

Made redcurrant jelly at the weekend from this year's crop, and from 2.5 kilos of fruit I got 7 little jars of lovely clear jelly, really pretty. Last year I got only a couple of little jars, which shows how much fruit the shrub produced this year. This is going to be lovely with any meats, or cheeses. I made them by following a standard jelly recipe which I will include on the recipes page.

My darling hubby bought me a recipe book, entitled "What Will I Do With All Those Courgettes?" by Elaine Borish. It has a huge number of recipes in there, from starters and soups, main meals, salads, and even cakes. Looking forward to trying them out :-) If I find any really fab ones I'll add them to the recipes page (with acknowledgement to Elaine of course.)

We need to tend to the lotty, but the weather has turned rather rainy at the moment, so we know the soil will be muddy and sticky and hard work. There is always weeding to do, and I need to trim leaves off the tomatoes to let the fruit get the light. The Italian yardlong beans are still flowering, we are waiting for the beans to appear there. The cannelini's look to be full of beans, so hopefully they will be ok. The broad beans however look quite sickly, we have had a small handful of beans off them and they were delicious, but the plants look brown and crispy and unhappy. So they may be coming up in the next few days.

Friday, 8 August 2014

Notes to self (for next year)

We've been  thinking about what we have done this year and what needs to be changed because they didn't quite work and what worked well and will stay the same for next year's growing season. We stopped at 20 things otherwise the list could be as big as the Lotty ;)

1)  don't do so many tomato plants
2)  don't do so many courgette plants
3)  chitting seeds is a Good Thing
4)  get some quality seed compost for seedlings instead of using questionable multi purpose
5)  don't do so many runner beans, or stagger the sowing - 4 plants is plenty for us
6)  refresh the beds at home
7)  one pumpkin plant is sufficient
8)  peas need support
9)  label all seedlings!
10) don't do so many braaasicas
11) sweetcorn is good, 12 plants is plenty
12) tidy the raspberries sooner
13) give plants more space
14) cut garden hedge sooner and more often
15) protect beds from cats earlier and more robustly
16) keep an eye on the plot over winter and don't allow weeds to thrive
17) get stuck into the plot before the 28 day letter arrives! Act, not react.
18) Mr Nunn's Quality Quarter Horse Apples are a Good Thing - the cow poo was fab but there is no more, so the horse apples are the next best thing - clean, no chemicals, excellent.
19) put weed suppressant fabric below the bean poles
20) enjoy the growing and planting as always!!!

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Colours of the Rainbow and YouTubers

Last week we ate the first of our courgettes along with the first of our mange tout (which stayed purple when cooked, yay!) and beans and half a left over yellow pepper - gorgeous! I do so love going into the garden and cropping stuff and eating it pretty much straight away, it feels fab, and must be doing us some good as well, eating such fresh produce. We had beets as well, just a couple of those left in the garden now, will be cropping the lotty beets soon I expect.

Of an evening we've been watching Rickvanman's allotment videos on You Tube, we started around video 95 and went through to the end, and now we have gone right back to the beginning when he first got his allotment. Last night we saw him crop his first produce, and his joy at picking his own veg, we can totally relate. Even now that we are a few years into this grow your own malarkey, we still get such a satisfied feeling when our meals contain our own produce. We got to Rickvanman via Mr Sam The Allotment Man (another You Tube channel), someone had posted a link to Mr Sam on one of the gardening forums we go on, so we watched all of Mr Sam, and he mentioned Rick, so we went off and found him. Neither Mr Sam nor Rick claim to be experts, in fact they both say quite clearly that they are gardening amateurs, and simply share their experiences of allotment gardening. Recommended.

The lotty pumpkins are getting rather huge, we have one about the size of a cantaloupe melon and one the size of a basketball! Both are sitting on a plastic layer to keep them off the ground and away from dampness. Hopefully they will both mature. We cropped a load of runner beans and a load more raspberries from the lotty at the weekend, and 3 courgettes, a plain green one and two stripey ones :-) very pleased with those. It feels wonderful to be eating our own produce, this is the time of year I absolutely love.

The Italian yardlong beans are finally flowering, so hopefully these will get going as the runners are finishing, they took a while to take off, but this is the first time we've grown them so maybe this is normal. The cannellini beans are producing lots of lovely pods, but these are beans eaten as beans not as pods, so they need to develop further before we pick them.