Sunday, 16 November 2014

Tidying Up

Today was a day for tidying up the allotment and the garden. Though with the relatively mild weather continuing, some plants are still going!

For instance, one of the jobs today was to cut down the fruited stems of the autumn fruiting raspberries. But, several have still got raspberries on them, which is quite surprising for this time of year. So, some of the old stems got cut and some new growth got pruned back to waist height, and I set about clearing the nettles and brambles instead. There are a few blackberries, but the birds can have those....

Talking of birds, the nice surprise today were several long-tailed tits looking for insects in amongst the minarette apples and the summer raspberries. They really aren't that bothered about humans being about and so it was lovely to get some close views of them as they searched for food.

So, I then weeded the strawberry bed, and the asparagus bed, and chopped the old asparagus ferns down to the ground, putting in some sticks to mark where the plants are. I may be able to harvest one or two sticks of asparagus next year, but the main crop will be the year after.

Back in the garden after lunch, the main task was to stop the ivy taking over the planet! This ivy was taken as a cutting from the ivy growing on the garden wall of our old house back when we moved in 1999, and has gradually been spreading down the fence ever since. But it has ideas of world domination, or at very least the pavement outside the garden and inside the holly bush (ouch!), so a trim was in order. I also took the opportunity to trim back the buddleia as well but the fuschia is still full of pink and purple flowers!

While on the subject of flowers that shouldn't be still around, two of the tomatoes in the greenhouse have decided to produce more flowers, and some appear to be pollenated but I can't see many tomatoes coming before it really does go cold!

Sunday, 19 October 2014


In the allotment right now it is the apple season, with plenty of fruit coming from our minarette fruit trees.

These are the three varieties of apple that are grown. For each I have linked to a very informative website

On the left is Chivers Delight

At the front right is a Gala

At the rear right is a Falstaff

These particular varieties are in adjacent groups for fertilization purposes, the Gala and Chivers Delight being Group 4, the Falstaff being Group 3 (although self-fertile itself).

The Gala and Chivers Delight are too close together for comfort now and the lack of light, despite pruning and training, has meant some black spot fungus and downy mildew, particularly on the Chivers Delight. The latter is going to be moved across to the other side of the fruit area so that it is not suffering by being too close to the Gala and the nearby damson minarette tree.

The only thing that seems to be effective against Black Spot Fungus is Diphane-945, which isn't organic but unfortunately is the only spray that is suitable for dealing with this on fruit. It also, like such as Bordeaux Mixture (which is allowed under organic standards) is being phased out due to an EU regulation.....

Friday, 10 October 2014

Autumn is here

Over the past week or so, the weather has turned properly autumnal. Lots of rain, and windy at times, but still warmth in the sunshine. There are still some really nice blackberries in the allotment, along with the autumn fruiting raspberries down the bottom of the plot. Picked what I presume will be the last of the mini and large sweetcorn, the kernels of the large one going into shepherd's pie at the weekend.

Couch grass is a problem, and a fari amount of time has been spent trying to get rid of it, first from the strawberry bed as this was replanted (still coming back though!) and now from around the fruit bushes and trees.

Can't wait until the first parsnips are ready, you could I suppose eat them now but I prefer to wait until they've had some frost, they do taste better - it is not a myth! Salsify is the new vegetable for this year, no idea whether it will taste good or not, but you can deep fry it as chips!

Still picking apples, varieties are Chiver's Delight, Gala, and Falstaff - all minarette varieties with the Gala ones being very late, in fact most of them are still not ripe yet. All the Chiver's Delight are picked, with about half of the Discovery so far. Pears are nearly all eaten - mostly Comice , with only two Conference this year.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Harvest and thinking ahead

At this time of year, you can't walk in the allotment without finding something pick and eat!

Over the past week there was:

Raspberries (late fruiting)
Beetroot, Apples, Pears, Courgettes,
Broccoli, more Potatoes, Runner Beans.

The beetroot have been boiled with a little salt and pickled in wine vinegar - I read that the salt helps draw out the flavour and stops the water inside the beets from diluting the vinegar, thus increasing longevity.

(The wine vinegar was bought in an amazing deli in Ashbourne, Derbyshire)

Having cleared the onions and beans a month or so back, these beds have been dug over and plenty of compost put onto them - the worms and rain will take it down into the soil over winter - and then winter onions have gone where the beans were and winter cabbage will be going where the onions were.

Next month, the parsnips will be starting to come into season, along with the salsify, the leeks will be a little while yet, and there will be more apples, the remaining pears, pumpkins, more broccoli and cabbage and carrots.

Monday, 25 August 2014


At this time of year the freezer is creaking with the strain of having to contain all the soft fruit from the allotment!
Now, I personally don't play any part in the jamming process, picking yes but after that it's all my wife's doing. (see for more about this)

And it's award winning jam, well the local pub's annual vegetable show anyway!

There's plenty of books (see for one of our favourites) on the subject of making jam and I also don't want to give away any trade secrets, so I won't go through the process here, but suffice to say it is delicious, and varying quantities of strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, blackcurrants, rhubarb and damsons are used to make what ends up being sufficient jam for all year round use and a few for presents for others.

Little and Large Sweetcorn

In the allotment we grow both the full size sweetcorn and the mini ones, the latter are really quite useful for putting in stir fries - and cost effective as well! They freeze no problem, no preparation required, just bag them up.

Copyright Michael Smart 2014
It is really important not to let them grow too big. in fact, they are ready to pick only a day or two after the little yellow tassles appear. Letting them grow on only gives them an impossible hard centre and they don't taste great either if too big!

They are alway sown into peat, degradable, pots and then they are planted, pot and all into the our brassicas section of the allotment. A bit of manure and/or compost around them doesn't hurt, although you don't manure straying over to the rest of the brassica plot.

A strong wind can knock them sideways, so we plant them in blocks rather than rows to help protect them.

We don't put them near the big sweetcorn though, these were planted this year near the runner and french beans.

For stir frying, you can throw them in whole or cut lengthways down the middle, either which way about 10 15 mins in the wok with other vegetables should ensure that they are cooked.

Copyright Michael Smart 2014
Again, these were planted in peat pots and with plenty of compost. It is often preferable to give these a head start in the greenhouse or under cover.

I pick them when the tassles are brown and shrivelled, the problem is that you are never sure when they are ready unless you open them, a sort of Schrodinger's Sweetcorn! (in any case cats, Schrodinger's or otherwise aren't welcome in the allotment!)
You are supposed to open one, pinch one of the kernals with your finger and if it is milky white it is ok, but in general most people know what a ready to eat sweetcorn should look like. Don't open the leaves on one and leave it on the plant, woodlice and other bugs will get in and make their home inside.

To cook, boil for about 10 minutes or so, it's easier if you are doing portions to chop them into pieces before cooking as to try and chop up boiling hot sweetcorn is not the bext of ideas!