Sole Survivor 

  
I know, I know…it’s been a while. Despite my best intentions during the latter half of 2016, I have neglected both the plot and the blog. Today I am determined to rectify both of those counts! 

The last half of 2016 was brilliant. I had a fabulous holiday, went to River Cottage, walked the entire length of Hadrians Wall and celebrated my 40th birthday, all before Christmas and New Year. 

  
  
   
 
  
Turning 40 has had a surprising effect on me. I had thought that I’d hide myself away with a bottle of wine and a take away and simply deny the milestone. The surprise was that I didn’t hide…I embraced it! I’m pleased to say it’s made me more focused, not only on what I want to achieve in the future but all of the things I’ve put off doing. 

No more! I’m a list maker, and in this, my 40th year, I’m making a list of all the things I’m going to do and allotmentry and regular blogging is definitely high on that list! 

Today I thought I’d make a start and face the allotment after the spell of abandonment. I was fearful of what might greet me…

“Have the brambles reclaimed the entire plot?”

“Has the allotment turned into a jungle?”

“Will I be able to tell where the vegetable beds are under all the fallen leaves?”

“Will feral cats be living in the shed?”

The good news is that no, the brambles haven’t reclaimed the entire plot however there are some huge canes to be dealt with, I can now see where my paths are after sweeping up tonnes of fallen leaves, no, it’s not a jungle, it’s just a bit messy and thankfully no feral cats were found in the shed! 

  
Last year was admittedly a poor growing year for me. I had clearly underestimated the destructive force of the slug and snail population and a large quantity of my vegetables were destroyed. I had pretty much given up on the growing season and totally forgot that when the slugs had eaten all my squash plants, I’d planted out my leeks…  

 
Lo and behold…I give you the sole survivors at the allotment! 

  
I can’t tell you how delighted I am to see my leeks still standing! They’re not particularly big, ok, a lot of them are rather skinny but they are all still there, they’ve not bolted and there’s not a hint of leek rust either! 

I’m going to leave them standing in the ground for a few more weeks to see if they grow any more but if not, I’ll dig them up in the spring when I’m turning the beds over and enjoy a whole host of leek inspired dishes! 

Now that I’m back into the growing groove, the only thing left to do is to start planning this years vegetables! 

Bring it on! 

Harvest-a-rama

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It’s happened. It’s official. We’re harvesting vegetables!

It’s sometimes hard to believe that only a few months ago, the vegetables on my plate for tea tonight were just little seedlings starting out in the big wide world.

Garlic ready to be lifted

Garlic ready to be lifted

About a fortnight ago I kick started the harvest by lifting the garlic bulbs. I’ve been waiting for about half the foliage on the plants to die back before lifting them from the pots they’ve been growing in since November last year. The reason I grew them in pots was because at the time they needed to be planted, I was still cultivating the plot, and I wasn’t quite sure where would be best to put them! Because I was limited by the size of the plant pots, I only planted 8 cloves; 6 Lautrec wight and 2 elephant garlic. Now, I’d had high hopes for the elephant garlic as it was by far the biggest of all the cloves planted, but unfortunately, one of the cloves didn’t really come to anything and the other clove that did grow, didn’t really get to the enormous size I’ve seen elsewhere. It looked like some additional cloves had tried to grow around the outside but thought better of it and gave up! The Lautrec Wight however has been much more successful. I’ve now hung the lifted bulbs in the garage to cure and dry naturally so that they store well over the winter, and we can use delicious home-grown garlic for the next few months.

Garlic, fresh from the ground

Garlic, fresh from the ground

Drying the garlic

Drying the garlic

The purple tinged bulbs of the Lautrec Wight garlic

The purple tinged bulbs of the Lautrec Wight garlic

Each time I’ve dropped by the allotment, I’ve been taking a handful of the peas, ever mindful that if I don’t harvest the peas at the right time (when the peas are still tender) the pods will start to get a bit starchy and the lovely fresh taste of the garden pea will be lost. I was delighted yesterday to notice that the plants have started to produce more pea flowers. I had no idea that peas did that. I had thought that once you harvest the peas, that was it, but it seems I might be in store for more pea harvests over the next few weeks.

Pea jungle

Pea jungle

The last of the Spring/early Summer crops are being harvested now. I’ve been really happy with the strawberries so far, considering that I only bought the plants this year. This leaves me wondering how they’ll fair next year. I’m hoping to clear an area at the allotment to make a dedicated strawberry patch. My goal is to have enough strawberries ready to harvest all at the same time, so that I can make my own home grown strawberry jam, without having to buy additional fruit from the shops. I don’t think I’m asking too much there!

The final few pods of broad beans have been picked this week too. Again, I’ve been happy with the yield from just a short double row of plants. The variety I grew is the Crimson flowered type and I’ve got to say I’ve not had a single black fly touch the crop. I didn’t pinch out the growing tip and they’ve still produced lovely tasting beans. The only down side (if you can really call it a down side) is that they’re a really short podded variety with only 3-4 beans per pod. They taste lovely though, the flowers look and smell amazing in the spring and the pest resistance is way beyond what I had hoped for.

The final few of my Lady Crystl potatoes were dug up this week. They’ve been a lovely early potato and have been enjoyed by everyone who’s tasted one (or two). They’ve grown to a really good size and I’ve only lost a couple to slug damage. The disease resistance has been really good too. Apart from one solitary potato that seemed to take all the potato scab the ground had to offer, the rest have been untouched.

Strawberries, potatoes and broad beans

Strawberries, potatoes and broad beans

Scabby potato

Scabby potato

In the next few weeks I’m hoping that the courgettes will be ready to pick and that I might even get to cut a head of broccoli too! The apples are looking good on the tree and the pumpkins and squashes have been thriving from the recent rainy weather. The blackberries are also just starting to plump up ready for picking in the autumn, you know they’re destined for jam right?

Baby courgette

Baby courgette

Broccoli head

Broccoli head

Apples

Apples

Ukuchi Kuri winter squash

Uchiki Kuri winter squash

Buffy Ball squash climbing the frame

Buffy Ball squash climbing the frame

Blackberries

Blackberries

It’s been great to see the harvests in the trug gradually get bigger as the weeks go by, although, if the pumpkins keep growing at the rate they are, I might need a trailer to get them home (Fingers crossed)

Girlinthegreenwellies

Girlinthegreenwellies

Brambles? What brambles?

Over the course of clearing the allotment, I’ve had the opportunity to learn lots about brambles. I didn’t have much choice really, they were everywhere!

Dad drafted in again to help beat back the brambles

Dad drafted in again to help beat back the brambles

They were growing through the fence from the park, coming up beside the apple trees, growing in with the pampas grass, they were all the way along right section of the plot. I had to get them out otherwise there’d be no allotment left, just a bramble jungle. I decided the best course of action would be to cut them down, section by section, so I could find the roots and then dig the whole thing out. Sounds simple enough doesn’t it? Well it would be if there was only a couple of brambles to remove, but remember, I was only a few blackberries short of the worlds biggest bramble jungle.

Brambles ahoy!

Brambles ahoy!

It took weeks of hacking back the sharp canes, and cutting them down to ground level. Then came the root removal. They were enormous! I was able to burn about half of the dug out brambles before the wet weather started, since then, the rest of the brambles have been bagged up and stored on the plot. We’ve had a run of good weather recently so I decided that I’d get the rest of the brambles burned this week while I’m off work.

Bags of brambles

Bags of brambles

More bags of brambles

More bags of brambles

I thought that the cuttings would’ve stayed reasonably dry in their rubbish bags but it seems as if I was wrong. They were really damp which meant that I’d have a hard time burning them. There were some larger brambles that had dried out, so I started with those and tried adding a little of the bagged cuttings once a good flame had taken hold.

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The flames went out and were replaced by massive plumes of smoke. Not wanting to annoy the neighbours, I decided the only thing I could to was to have a quick cup of tea, load up the car and take all the bags to the recycling centre instead.

Quick tea break for the worker

Quick tea break for the worker

Two and a half hours, 5 trips and 36 bags later, it was done.

Bye bye brambles

Bye bye brambles

Order has been restored

Order has been restored

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Brambles? What brambles? No brambles here.