Status Report Captain…

  
How the weeks have flown by! One minute you’re pawing over the seed catalogues and the next it’s May and you’ve not even planted out the potatoes….well, rather, I’ve not planted out the potatoes! 

I know, I know, it should’ve been done weeks ago but, the delay in planting then has made sure they haven’t succumbed to the sharp frost we had, and I’m sure once they do make it into the ground, which is going to be tomorrow, I’ve every confidence they’ll still be delicious when harvested, even if it’s a few weeks later than anticipated! 

  
So that’s the potatoes. 

I’ve been equally late in getting the beans and peas going but I’m pleased to report that the broad beans have made an appearance over the last 7 days. Last year I veered away from the Crimson Flowered variety and tried Bunyards Exhibition. The pods themselves grew really long but I did prefer the sweeter taste of the crimson flowered type, so I’m back to those this year. 

  
Last week I sowed the peas direct and constructed a support frame from bamboo canes for them to scramble up when they get going. I’m sticking with the tried and tested Hurst Greenshaft peas, but I’m also dabbling in the world of Mangetout. The variety I chose is Shiraz, and the pods are a lovely deep purple colour. I can’t wait to try them later in the year. 

  
The shallot sets have fared the frost well and the onion sets have started to sprout. I also spotted the first of the familiar lily pad shaped leaves of the self seeding nasturtiums today. I love how they come back again and again adding colour to the plot. 

  
  
The Gooseberry bushes I planted last year have put on loads of growth (I think I should be pruned them in winter) and I had an abundance of flowers in March and April. I’m delighted to see that there are now loads of mini gooseberries gently swelling up. 

  
Indoors, the tomato plants are coming on great guns. I’ve been tickling them every day to encourage them to grow strong and sturdy for when I plant them out at the allotment. There’s something about the smell from the leaves of tomato plants that just reminds me of the summer! I’ve tried not to get too carried away with the tomatoes this year and have restricted myself to only 2 types: Gardeners Delight and Sungold. 

  
The Cayenne chilli plants are now flowering away quite happily on the window sill. I’m not sure if they are self pollinating or not so once a day I’m playing the part of a bee and gently using a small brush I’m transferring pollen between the flowers. I’ve got huge respect for the bees, pollination is tricky! 

  
I’ve also got sunflowers growing along with a second batch of cabbage and cauliflower. I’m not sure what happened to the first batch of brassicas, they just shrivelled up. I’m hoping the second sowing is more successful. 

  
The next few weeks are going to be hectic with all the squash, courgettes, beetroot, strawberries and the rest of the quick crops. I’d better get the last of the leeks dug up quickly otherwise I’ll have nowhere to put them all! 

  
Happy Gardening! 

Three heads are better than one

  
This week at the allotment, it’s been all about the brassicas. I don’t know if it’s been the cool temperatures, coupled with the rainy weather we’ve had, but it seems like they’ve just been loving it and have put on a bit of a growth spurt. 

Today I’ve managed to harvest another lovely head of cauliflower and two (yes two) heads of broccoli! I’m so happy that the brassicas seem to be growing, after reading about growing this family of vegetables I was worried that the soil wouldn’t be right and they may develop club root (massive confession…I didn’t test the soil for acidity or add lime…or manure the plot…or add any additional nutrients or anything…but the weeds seem to grow fine so I thought I’d chance it!) or that some other brassica beast might strike them down, but so far they seem to be doing well. 

  
Elsewhere on the allotment the Buffy Ball squash are starting to look like mini pumpkins  and the tigrella tomatoes are just beginning to show their stripes. 

  
These harvests of delicious home grown vegetables are definitely the gardeners rewards, I hope all veggie growers everywhere are enjoying their harvests too!

Heads up

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Allotment time has been tight this last week. The weather has been down right awful recently, making what little time I’ve had to get to the allotment tricky to say the least, with hail and thunder one day, searing sunshine the next followed by drizzly rain after that. How’s a girl supposed to keep on top of the weeds?!

I had a little trip away last weekend to visit a lovely group of girls I met at University 17 years ago. It’s only the second time we’ve met up since we left, but when we get together, we all just fall back into each other’s company so comfortably, it’s like we just saw each other last week. I love friendships like that.

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My University girls

After my time away, I was keen to check up on the plot before the working week started. To my delight the plot had survived without me, the slugs and snails didn’t launch a stealth attack in my absence and the birds hadn’t devoured the strawberries.

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I have to say, I’m loving the way the allotment is looking at the moment. It’s great to see all the beds being used and little by little there are signs that vegetables are either ready or on their way. I’ve started to harvest my new potatoes now, even though they’ve not flowered yet. They’ve been in the ground for about 13 weeks and quite honestly I couldn’t wait any longer to get digging! The crops per plant have been just big enough I think, but I’d definitely manure next year to increase the yield.

I’ve been harvesting the Lady Chrystl variety mostly and they’re quite delicious. They take only 8-10 minutes to cook, hold their shape well, and taste fresh even after they’ve been stored for a few days. I’m keeping the harvested potatoes in a closed cardboard shoebox lined with absorbent paper in the kitchen until I’m ready to cook them. I know it’s a little unorthodox as far as potato storage goes but I don’t want to keep them in the fridge in case they absorb any moisture and disintegrate when they’re cooked and I’ve read that if they are too cold when stored the starch in the potatoes will turn to sugar which will affect their flavour. Not having a paper potato sack handy, the next best thing I could find was a cardboard shoebox and some kitchen roll and I’ve got to say it seems to be doing the trick.

I had a fleeting visit to the allotment on Tuesday, again to make sure no critters had been eating the crops but was able to spend about an hour and a half yesterday getting a little plot maintenance done. I swiftly cut the grass, as my mum deadheaded the roses. I also had to add another rung of support canes to my squash hide out. Since mulching the squash and pumpkins with manure a couple of weeks ago they’ve put on a huge amount of growth.

This is a picture of the Buffy Ball squash plants taken on the 2nd July

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This was them yesterday

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I can’t believe the pictures are only 15 days apart. As I was tying in the stems, I noticed my very first squash fruit. Fingers crossed it was pollinated and doesn’t drop off!

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I’ve been keeping a close eye on the brassicas recently as I found a caterpillar and a whole load of eggs on one of the broccoli plants last week. After their swift removal I’ve been a little obsessive with checking all the leaves front and back to make sure I’d not missed any more. Well I think I’ve been focusing too much on the creepy crawlies because I completely missed this beauty

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A cauliflower! An actual real cauliflower, and it’s growing on my allotment! Even better, there’s more of them! I spotted 3 the size of the one in the picture and 2 smaller ones. How I missed these I’ll never know. Quickly I cut some twine and gathered the leaves around the heads and tied them together. Using the outer leaves to cover the cauliflower heads will keep them a creamy white colour as sunlight can turn the curds a brownish colour.

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Feeling like a proper gardener I quickly harvested some more potatoes, broad beans and some strawberries before leaving for the day.

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The potatoes and broad beans I’m using today to make a summer vegetable frittata.

The strawberries have gone already…

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