Leek Week

  
Last week it was all about the leeks. After months of holding their rightful place as the longest vegetable standing, it was time to pull them. They’re often the last vegetable I harvest mainly because they can stand in the ground over winter and they give me a little of my gardening mojo back just when I need it! 

I have grown leeks in the past but unfortunately they have had quite a few spots of leek rust, so last year I ditched the fancy varieties and stuck with a tried and tested reliable variety: Musselburgh. 

  
To my delight, not a single leek has any rust! 

Not one! 

Now, I’ll be the first to admit, they aren’t going to win any country shows for size but, skinny as they are, I’m delighted they’ve made it through the winter unscathed! 

  
  
Washed and trimmed within a few hours of pulling, they were transformed into a hearty Leek and Potato soup and the remaining leeks were treated to being part of a leek and cheese tart. Just from this trugful, I managed to get 4 portions of soup and 6 portions of leek tart! 

  
That definitely makes the Leeks the stars of last week! 

The Great Potato Fake-out

  

This week at the allotment I’ve noticed a few crops are starting to show signs that the time for harvesting is getting closer.
The quick crop radishes have suddenly bulked up and I was delighted to see the different coloured radish tops poking up out of the ground. 

I’ve been patiently waiting for what seems like forever for the strawberries to ripen and within the last week they’ve finally decided to put me out of my misery and turn a gorgeous deep red. 

   
   
The broad beans have continued to flower and the first pod has been picked, just as a tester to see how they’re doing! I’m more than happy with the sight of more and more beans developing and that there’s no black fly in them yet…happy days! 

   
   
The peas have started to flower, which I’m really pleased about, especially after I was so late in sowing this year. The peas are a double podded variety (Hurst green shaft) and there are loads of double flowers dotting about the crop. 

   
 Bolstered by the happy sights at the allotment I thought I’d chance my luck and check on the potato progress. For the first year ever, I’ve got flowers on the potatoes. I never realised how pretty they are. 

  
The first potential potatoes for me this year will be the international kidney. Earlier in the week I had a little dig around the bottom of the potato mound and lo and behold I discovered a lovely perfectly formed potato. 

  
Brilliant. 

This must be a good sign I thought. 

They must be ready I thought. 

They’ll make a lovely potato salad for lunch on Sunday I thought. 

   
   
Not quite the haul I was expecting! 

Not to worry, at least I know they’re growing, I’ll leave then another 3-4 weeks and I think they’ll be perfect. 

The first harvest

  
Well, I’m not sure if this actually counts as a harvest but it’s the first veggie to make it home with me from the allotment. It’s also the first spring onion I’ve ever grown so I’m really pleased it’s survived when countless others have not! 

Had a quick assessment of the allotment after work today and everything seems ok, although there’s no signs of the potatoes yet but by my calculations they’ve got about another week before I’d expect to see them so I’m hoping they’re doing their thing underground just as they should. There’s also no sign of the second sowing of broadbeans I made about 3 weeks ago. The weather has been just awful these last few weeks so I’m keeping my fingers crossed they’ll pop up soon as we seem to be having a nice spell of warmer weather. 

Checking the fruit, there’s some lovely new growth on the strawberry plants I got last year. I’m hoping this years crop will be a bumper one. I’ve got my mind set on making loads of strawberry and elderflower jam, we’ve just finished the batch I made last year and it’s my absolute favourite, summer in a jar! 

 
I don’t know about anyone else but I never tire of seeing the rhubarb growing. I just love how the leaves start out all small and wrinkly then expand into the biggest monster leaves ever seen! 

   
 This week I’ll be getting the peas sown (at last) and starting off the squash and courgettes. The sweet peas and sunflowers can start to be hardened off and I might just get some winter cabbages started. I can’t wait to see all the vegetable beds full, let’s hope the nice weather is here for a while! 

Out with the old

  
Today I made a start on clearing the vegetable beds at the allotment. Most of the vegetables were harvested last year but I still had a few leeks left to pull, so out they came! 

 

Lovely leeks

 
These are the ones which haven’t bolted. Unfortunately they all got a slight smattering of rust so I’ve lopped off their leaves and just brought the stems back home to make into soup. I have to admit, I wasn’t sure if they’d be OK to eat but after a quick google search I’m assured that as long as the stems are ok, they’re good to use. I’ve not put the infected leeks and leaves into the compost though, they’re destined for the burning bin next week, along with all the other debris that’s been gathering at the allotment over the winter. 

 

Rust spots on the leeks


Once the leeks were out I spent an hour removing old canes and netting along with the remnants of last years crops. I’d left the Purple sprouting broccoli over winter as the planting guide said it’ll be ready to harvest in February/March…I must’ve been too slow as its already in flower (doh!) 

Yellow flowering purple sprouting broccoli

Ah, well, out it came, so the beds are now empty, save for the usual weedy suspects! My plan over the next 4 weeks is to cultivate each bed so that the seedlings I’ve got growing now can be transplanted as soon as they’re ready. 

 

Empty beds

  
Last, but not least I spotted some nasturtium seeds as I was sweeping the path. I loved having these flowering along side the vegetables, although I’ve heard they’re notorious self seeders…I wonder where I’ll find them growing this year! 

  

Top Potatoes

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The last part of planning this years vegetables was to pick the types of potatoes to grow. I wanted to make sure I chose different ones to last year, and to pick varieties I wouldn’t usually buy in the shops.

But potatoes are just potatoes I hear you say. I beg to differ.

They can be the cream of the crop.

When I was choosing last years varieties, I wanted to try and get a potato supply for the longest possible time. I chose an early type, which would be ready to harvest after about 10 weeks, a second early which would be ready to harvest after 12 weeks and 2 main crop varieties to harvest after about 16 weeks. I was really pleased with the early and second earlies but the yield from the main crops was disappointing. They didn’t grow to the size I’d hoped for and they were covered with potato scab. The slugs seemed to enjoy them but I don’t think they’re too fussy about what they munch through!

With all this in mind, I sat down at the weekend to pick my potatoes.

Second Early – International Kidney.

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These are better known as Jersey Royals (but you can only call them that when they’re grown in Jersey). I picked these because I just love new potatoes. The flavour is fantastic, they’ll cook well and should be out the ground before the slugs will be able to get to them.

Second Early – Anya

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I wanted to grow a variety I wouldn’t usually buy in the shops and at first I was all set to grow the Pink Fir Apple. The reviews about its lovely earthy flavour were all good, but it’s more of a main crop type and the last thing I want is for the slugs to get to the potatoes before I do. Then I found Anya potatoes. They’re bred from the Pink Fir Apple potato and Desiree potatoes and are ready for harvest much earlier. Anya potatoes retain the nutty earthy flavour along with the long, irregular shape of the pink fir but they’re less knobbly, making them easier to prepare. That did it for me. They made the selection.

Main crop –  Belle De Fontenay

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I’d never heard of this type of potato before I started writing the blog but last year this variety popped up all over. It had really good feedback and the yield as a main crop was good too so I thought it would be worth a go. It’s an old French variety which has been grown since about 1885 and is apparently delicious when simply boiled. We could be on to a winner here!

Main crop – Salad blue

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This is probably the wild card in the potato pack. It’s unusual in that it will retain its blue/purple colour on cooking so we could be having purple mash with our Sunday lunch! My son thinks this is fantastic and gave it his seal of approval so with that it made the list.

The potatoes have been despatched and are now making their way to me. Egg cartons have been saved and are eagerly waiting for their new potato pals to arrive so that the chitting process can begin.

 

 

Confessions of an allotment holder

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Ok. There’s no sugar coating this folks…I’ve been a very bad allotment holder. I’ve been busy and I’ve not spent the time I should’ve at the plot. There…I’ve said it…I’ve failed in my duty to keep on top of the weeds, and I’ve not looked after the veggies as well as I could’ve. In my defence, most of the vegetables have been harvested already, and the ones I’ve left at the allotment should’ve been OK for a while.

Did you see the “should’ve” there?

The vegetables I’m referring to are the leeks and main crop potatoes. I’d thought that by keeping the main crop potatoes in the ground until I needed them (at least until the weather got colder) it would be the best way to store them and keep them fresh.  Today, the allotment told me different. At first I thought the potatoes were OK, then I brushed the mud off them and spotted loads of holes where little white grubs had burrowed their way inside. I hoped that only a few of the potatoes would have been feasted upon, I’m ok with sharing a some of the crops with the little critters that live at the allotment, but no, every single potato I dug up had been eaten. The best I can do is to learn from this and next year I’ll either lift the potatoes earlier or I’ll just stick with earlies and second earlies.

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Grub infested potatoes

Moving along the plot I spotted the leeks. Now, I was under the impression that leeks are a low maintenance vegetable and would be totally fine to do their thing with hardly any supervision. After all, leeks can stay in the ground for months over winter, easy peasey. Well, I’m sure they can but no one told me that there was a chance of the leeks bolting before winter arrives. Checking my little leek patch,  about half of them have bolted.

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Flower head on the leeks

I’m not sure how or why it’s happened, but it’s happened. Determined to find the silver lining, I’ve decided to leave the bolted leeks to flower and the birds can enjoy the seeds. I’ll dig up the remaining leeks over the next few weeks and enjoy them before any more get the urge to produce flower heads.

After a quick rake up of the leaves it was time to go. I’ve not left the plot empty handed for ages and it didn’t feel right to do so today. So I dug up my first non-bolted leek, and it’s a beaut!

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Ready for pulling

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My first leek

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!   

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!

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