Bring me Sunshine


I’ve been having a bit of a dilemma recently about what to do with a certain section of the allotment. The area beside the cherry tree is currently sitting vacant, waiting to be put to use, but the ground leading away from the tree is, naturally, full of tree roots. I don’t want to damage the tree or the roots by regular digging but equally, I don’t want the space to be wasted. Then the solution came to me.

Fruit bushes

When I was young, my Granda grew vegetables in his back garden and at the bottom of the vegetable garden were the most delicious gooseberry bushes. I remember picking the ripe fruits for my grandma to make pies and puddings and I’d always get a few to eat straight from the bush as a reward.

I spent a few days last week researching the various types of gooseberry bushes and I decided on two varieties. Invicta and hinnonmaki red.

Both varieties have a good resistance to mildew which can plague gooseberry bushes and both will give high yields of fruit. Perfect.

On Friday I was able to spend the whole day at the allotment so planting the gooseberry bushes were first on my to do list.


I gave the area a quick dig over and set to work finding the perfect spot for the bushes. I want to make sure they get enough sun but are well spaced to allow me to put little fruit cages over them later in the season to stop the birds eating the fruit.

I dug the hole deep enough so that the top of the rootball would be level with the ground, and hey-presto! We have gooseberry bushes!



I’m not expecting much of a crop this year as I believe the fruit only forms on branches over a year old but to my delight I spotted these little fellas



Next up were the sunflowers. Last year I planted the seeds in March and I think I waited too long before planting them out so they didn’t grow to their full height. This year I waited until the end of April before sowing and I’ve been hardening them off for the last week or so, ready to be planted out earlier. I loved them along the fence last year, it was like having a whole wall of sunshine to brighten up the plot. I’ve got 2 types this year, Titan and ruby sunset, I’ve planted them out without knowing which type is in each pot, we’ll get a surprise when they open in August.



To finish that side of the allotment I’ve sown some seeds directly, radish, Spring onions both red and white varieties, carrots and lettuce. I’ve left some space to transplant the beetroot and rainbow chard I’m growing in modules at home.


I can’t wait to get this side of the allotment growing, all we need now is the sunshine ☀️

BOOM!

  
It’s been a veritable growing explosion at the allotment this week. The cherry tree is in full bloom, the apple trees are just starting to blossom, the broadbeans the cat ate a few months ago have recovered brilliantly are starting to flower, I’ve even spotted flowers on the strawberries. 

   
   

  

 

 I’ve discovered a mystery currant tree too which has loads of flowers dangling off it. I must remember to check it regularly otherwise the birds will strip it before I can discover what kind of currant tree it is!   
Just when I thought it could get any better, I spotted the first few leaves of the potatoes popping up! 

  
Blooming marvellous 

Autumn jewels

Autumn. It’s such a lovely time of year. You can see the leaves on trees gradually changing from the fresh vibrant green of summer to the rich earthy tones of red and gold. This is my first successful year of Autumn crops at the allotment and I’m delighted with the harvest so far.

I managed a quick harvesting trip this afternoon (I’ve got a week off work soon so I’ll do all the gardening essentials like weeding then!) and came back with another trug full of autumnal delights!

I’m really surprised to see the runner beans still producing massive pods, and there are more flowers coming.

I’ve decided to harvest a few of the Buffy ball pumpkins. Not sure if they’re quite ready yet but I don’t want to get caught out with a surprise frost so I’ve picked most of them today and left a few of the smaller ones on the vine. The picked pumpkins will store in the garage until I can research how to cure them and hopefully I’ll have mini roasted pumpkins for tea on Halloween

The apples this year are fantastic. There’s just so many on the tree I can’t pick them quick enough! I love the colour of the apples, such a lovely rich red, it’s great to be able to pick your own food just at the right time and to taste it, freshly picked is amazing. (The apples are currently being baked in a crumble as I type…the smell is awesome!)

And last but not least the tomatoes. I’d left them on the plants hoping they’d ripen but I think they’re determined to remain green. I’ve picked them all, still on the vine and I’ll make them into chutney using more of the apples and the already harvested onions to enjoy closer to Christmas.

That’s it for now, I can hear the crumble calling out my name… Here’s a quick look at the haul from today, happy harvests everyone!

Back in the game

  
What a whirlwind the past 6 weeks have been.  There’s been a camping trip, a new school, a country show, a black belt and a house move, which unfortunately has left very little time for the allotment. At times, it’s really stressed me out when I’ve known there’s loads to do at the plot but there’s simply been no time to do it. 

For the first time in weeks I had a couple of hours free last weekend so I hightailed it along to the allotment. 

It was great to be back, just stepping through the gate I could feel weeks of stress slipping away…until I saw the weeds! I didn’t want to spend my first visit in ages simply weeding so I decided to lift the rest of the onions instead. 

  
I’ve had a bit of a mixed result with the onions, I’ve had some tiny ones, some huge ones and a few had bolted but on the whole they’ve all grown and they’ve been pest and disease free so I’m calling them a success! They’re now laid out on a table in the garden at my parents house to dry out so that they’ll store for use over the winter. 

  
The apples were looking good too but I’m never sure when to harvest them, so I gave a gentle twisty-pull to a few and just took the ones that came away in my hand. 

  
Plans for the apples are crumbles and pies, and perhaps an apple cake. I really would like to make some kind of jam/jelly with them but I’m not sure if that would be weird or not? Might try apple and blackberry jam with a few elderberries thrown in for good measure, in essence autumn jam, you never know, it might be delightful, or it might be the most awful thing ever, anyway, I’ll give it a go!

With preserving things in mind I come to my tomatoes. At the start of the summer I’d had big salad-like plans for the tomatoes, as well as slow roasting them to intensify the flavour, similar to sun dried tomatoes. However I’ve only got one single red tomato. Not really enough for slow roasting really is it?

  
I do however have loads of green tomatoes so chutney making will be on the cards next week. 

  
With time pushing on I quickly dug up a few potatoes to take home for tea. The yield from the potatoes has been really good but they have been a touch on the small side. (Must manure next year) Only a few had been nibbled so discarding those I collected my haul and headed home. 
  
My head is now full of plans for the allotment over the autumn. I need to clear the old crops (peas/summer brassicas) and collect the squash before the first frosts. The winter vegetables are coming along nicely with the kale looking healthy and Brussel sprouts just starting to form at the leaf bases so I’ll need to make sure I harvest those regularly.

  
 I’m going to revamp nature corner by re-digging the pond and using a preformed liner to help maintain water levels and encourage more wildlife to the plot. My biggest challenge however is going to be the pampas grass. I think it’s days on the plot are numbered and although it’s going to be a nightmare to dig out, I could use the space more effectively.

So, with the house move out of the way, I’m back on track. I’ve got a plan, and over the next month I’ve really got to get to work. Once the pampas grass is out, I’ll be able to get more spring bulbs planted and I’ll have to re-stake the cordon apple trees as they’re practically horizontal with all the fruit on them (poor things!) 

Oh, by the way, I think I might just hold the record for the slowest latest early sweet corn crop…it’s just started to grow cobs now! 

Happy Autumn folks!   

Stealth Attack

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Having an allotment has taught me many things; patience, planning, adaptability, resourcefulness and above all else to expect the unexpected. All allotmenteers will know about this. You expect a crop to fail, and against all the odds it succeeds. You dig over a forgotten corner in your plot and discover a vegetable tucked away that you never knew you had. The allotment holds many surprises. With a little bit of luck, the surprises will be happy events. However, sometimes, this isn’t always the case. Your treasured seedlings are devoured by slugs, the pigeons strip your cabbages, or the mice have a feast on your freshly sown seeds. Most things you can plan for and with a bit of resourcefulness and creative thinking you can protect your crops against most predators.

This week my squash plants have been under attack. Not by slugs, or snails, or birds or badgers, not even by bugs or any other pumpkin loving creature. This attack was more stealthy.

Meet my current nemesis….Powdery Mildew.

Powdery mildew on a squash leaf

Powdery mildew on a squash leaf

It’s awful. My lovely pumpkin plants are covered with white patches of this fungal disease. I first noticed it last weekend and thought that it was because I’d watered them a little too well and that the water had splashed up onto the leaves and with a little bit of sunshine they’d sort themselves out. I was horrified a few days later when I saw that the white patches on the leaves had spread, making their way around the rest of the squash and pumpkin plants.

Early signs of powdery mildew

Early signs of powdery mildew

Spreading powdery mildew

Spreading powdery mildew

Serious research was called for. I’m trying to grow everything at the allotment organically and so far I’ve not used any kind of pesticide or fungicide on any of the plants, but I’m not sure I’m going to be able to control this outbreak without some heavy-duty help.

Most of the information I found on the Internet calls for the use of fungicides, but I really want to try and treat this as organically as possible. Further research suggested using a mixture of bicarbonate of soda, water and a dash of liquid soap, while other reports suggested that a mixture of milk and water works really well. Today I loaded up the milk and set off to tackle the outbreak.

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I cut off the most badly affected leaves and discarded them. (Don’t put the leaves into the compost or you could transfer the spores to other plants in the future). Then I set about making the milky mildew killer cocktail; one part milk to two parts water. Once my sprayer was loaded I waded into battle. I sprayed all the leaves, front and back, even the ones not showing any sign of the mildew. I’m hoping with a few repeated applications I’ll be able to at least stop the spread of the spores to the new leaves.

After battle I thought I’d cheer myself up with a little harvesting. I managed to dig up a nice crop of Charlotte potatoes, I picked my first courgettes, an onion, some more peas and a few green beans.

Charlotte potatoes

Charlotte potatoes

Courgette

Courgette

The first onion

The first onion

The harvest

The harvest

The onions are starting to topple now so in a week or so, if they’re not all over, I’ll bend the stalks to help the maturing process.

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The apple trees are laden with fruit but I’m not quite sure when they’re going to be ready for picking, I’ve got a plan to make apple and blackberry jam so I’m hoping I’ll not have to wait too long.

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Even though the pumpkins have been under attack, they are still producing fruit. I’ll have to make sure that they stay in tip-top condition and that any further attacks are dealt with swiftly.

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I’ve checked over all of my other crops to see if the mildew has attacked any other plants and for now it seems to only be affecting the squash and pumpkins.

On the bright side my inspection brought some exciting news…the purple sprouting broccoli has started to sprout!

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I’m pleased the allotment visit today wasn’t all doom and gloom. I was really worried about how much the mildew might have spread. I’ll keep you posted with the results of the milk and water treatment. If anyone else has any tips or tricks or even an alternative treatment I’ll gladly give them a try.

PS. My son spotted this little beauty today at the allotment too, aren’t dragonfly wings just amazing?

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Mistaken Identity

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The whole time I’ve had my plot I’ve known about the apple trees. There are 3 of them. Two are fruiting trees, trained as cordons and the third is a male tree for pollination. The male tree stands apart from the fruiting trees, giving a little bit of shade to nature corner. In spring this year, the male tree blossomed first, it’s flowers perfect, heralding in the hope of apples to harvest on my other two trees in the autumn.

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Over the last few months I’ve watched the petals gently fall away and in their place came some little green buds on the end of stalks. I wasn’t really sure what would happen to the buds on the male apple tree after flowering and just thought that they would probably fall away naturally during the June drop.

The apples on my fruiting trees have set and are looking really promising. The long awaited June drop happened at the beginning of July (we like to be fashionable late here) and the remaining fruit is continuing to grow well.

Lots of apples forming on the tree

Lots of apples forming on the tree

Every time I check on the fruiting trees I’ve got to go past the male tree. Every time I fill the pond in nature corner, I’ve got to go past the male tree and every time I check on the garlic, I’ve got to go past the male tree.

I go past this tree quite a bit.

My son came along to the plot with me at the weekend, (so I could marvel at the cauliflowers again) and asked what the red hangy things were on the apple tree?

“What red hangy things on the apple tree?” was my reply.

Red hangy things

Red hangy things

After a few moments, he brought one over to me to check out. They felt soft and squishy. They didn’t really look like apples but I thought they might be a seed pod of some kind and again, didn’t really think too much about it.

Later on in the day I was catching up on my blog reading and was drawn to the lead picture on one of the blogs I follow. It looked exactly like the red hangy things on my apple tree. Except they weren’t calling it an apple tree with red hangy things.

They were calling it a cherry tree

Hold on a minute.

Surely it’s an apple tree.

Intrigued, I started to research apple and cherry trees online hoping to clear up the matter swiftly. As it goes, identifying trees can be a tricky business and after about an hour of searching I decided it was possible for the red hangy things to actually be crab apples.

Crab apples

Crab apples

Crab apples

Crab apples

So we’re back to 3 apple trees.

Looking at the pictures they were certainly similar to the fruit on my tree at the allotment but something just didn’t sit right with me. The fruits on my tree were soft and squidgy. Not firm like I’d expect an apple to be. Plus they didn’t have the little dried sepal at the bottom of the fruit.

Continuing my internet search I came across a few diagrams of the crab apple. They showed a cross section of the fruit inside. Here I saw the familiar core shape I’d expect to see in an apple.

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Inside a crab apple

Inside a crab apple

This was it. This is how I’m going to identify the tree. I decided to go to the allotment and pick one of the red hangy things and if it showed a star shape inside when cut in half, it would be a crab apple tree. If it has a single stone, it’s a cherry tree.

My red hangy thing

My red hangy thing

Inside

Inside

A cherry tree it is!