Saturday 31 December 2011

Bee House

My Christmas presents usually contain something for the garden, and this year was no exception as Hubby bought me this lovely bee house. Although it's ceramic, the design is based on the original straw or wicker skeps which have been used for centuries to keep honey bees, though this is for Bumble Bees. It comes with hints and tips on how to attract bees to nest in the house so I shall be siting it at the back of my border in February and keeping my fingers crossed. It would be great if I could get some bees to nest in it, I'll certainly let you know how I get on with it.

I hope everyone's had a wonderful Christmas. Thank you for all the good wishes you left on my last post. The parsnips which I dug up from the allotment were delicious served with our Christmas dinner.

Thank you to everyone who has visited my blog this year, and those who have also left comments, they're very much appreciated. May I wish you all a happy, healthy and peaceful New Year, and all the best for the 2012 growing season.

Saturday 24 December 2011

Merry Christmas

Why oh why didn't I go to the allotment to collect my Christmas veggies on Thursday? Instead, I left it till yesterday when it was raining cats and dogs and I got thoroughly wet through. Unfortunately, my sprouts just aren't good enough, so it's shop bought for another year, and my leeks are just far too small, so all we've ended up with for our Christmas dinner plate from the allotment is parsnips. They'll be delicious anyway.

As you can see, Archie is already in the Christmas spirit and is waiting for Santa Paws to arrive.

Wishing everyone a very merry Christmas.

Monday 19 December 2011


It's a good job that I've got plenty of leeks at the allotment as it would seem that I'll need to use quite a few at a time as they're so small. It's not the first time that my leeks haven't grown very big. I always start them off in a plant pot, but I think I'm leaving it too late before planting them out. I think I'll try transplanting them earlier next year and see if that makes a difference. This photo was taken a few weeks ago so they may have grown a little more by now.

I shall pop down to the allotment at the end of the week to see what veggies we'll be having with our Christmas dinner. I'm hoping that there'll be home grown sprouts on my Christmas dinner plate, but time will tell.

The weather has certainly turned colder just lately. I know many people in different parts of the country have experienced snow already. I'm starting to wonder if we're going to have a white Christmas again like we did last year.

Thursday 15 December 2011

Giveaway Winner

I'd like to announce that the winner of my giveaway is Lorna Watson from The Green Lady blog. The book will be winging it's way to you, Lorna, just as soon as you let me have your address.

Thank you to everyone who took part in the giveaway. I'm currently reading another book which I will offer as a giveaway prize at a later date so watch this space.

Monday 12 December 2011

Liebster Award

I'd like to thank Mum from Mum's Simply Living Blog for awarding me the Liebster Award. This award is given to blogs with less than two hundred followers, though I think this number has increased whilst it's being doing the rounds, it used to be one hundred followers.

The award comes with a few rules.

1. Copy and paste the award on your blog.
2. Thank the giver and link back to them.
3. Choose five blogs which you would like to pass the award on to and let them know by leaving a comment on their blog.

I'd like to pass the award on to the following five blogs.

I know that many people don't accept awards, so I don't want to put anyone under any pressure, especially at this time of year when it's so busy. I think it's nice to be able to recognise blogs which you enjoy reading though, so do take a peek at my nominations.

Thanks again for the award, Mum.

Don't forget to enter my giveaway if you haven't already done so. You have until 14th of December to leave a comment on my giveaway post.

Thursday 8 December 2011

Brussels Sprouts

I've tried a couple of times previously to grow Brussels sprouts without much success, but it looks as though I might manage to taste a few morsels this year. They can be quite hard to grow, producing opened leaves instead of those which are tightly packed. One of the reasons this happens is that the soil in which the plant is grown is too loose. It needs to be firm, so I make sure that I really tamp the soil down around the plant, though it hasn't made any difference in previous years. They're still a little on the small side yet, so I'm hoping that the winds that we're forcast don't blow them over or damage them in any way before they have a chance to develop. I don't need to grow many, there's only me in our house who will eat them. I don't think you can have a Christmas dinner without some sprouts on the plate.

The allotment is suffering from neglect at the moment. It's always busy at this time of year with Christmas preparations as well as other things taking priority over our time. I haven't managed to get all the winter digging done so it looks as though we'll be digging in spring instead, all my good intentions have fallen by the wayside yet again. The only thing we're visiting the plot for at the moment is to harvest.

I'm pleased with our veg stocks at the moment. At the allotment, we've got cavolo nero, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, curly kale, parsnips and leeks. There's onions and shallots in store. In the freezer there's mange tout, runner beans, French beans and carrots. We've still got the two pumpkins which we didn't get round to carving for Halloween which I haven't done anything with yet. We've got enough veg to see us through for a while yet.

If you haven't already entered my giveaway, don't forget to do so. You have until 14th of December to leave a comment on my giveaway post.

Thursday 1 December 2011

Book Giveaway

I've recently read Digger's Diary - Tales From The Allotment by Victor Osborne and really enjoyed it, so I thought I would offer it as a giveaway prize on my blog.

The blurb can tell you what the book is about much better than I'm able.

In a wild landscape of unkempt vegetation and higgledy-piggledy sheds, criss-crossed by tiny paths like secret jungle tracks, lies Victor Osborne's inner-city allotment. Here, along with fellow 'diggers' like the Ace Cultivator, the Birdman and even the Hon.Sec. himself, he grows everything from Brussels sprouts to sweet peas, not to mention greengages and tayberries. In this fascinating and charming chronicle of a year in the life of his own patch, he shares with us the highs and lows of a multi-ethnic gardening community in which status is determined not by your income but by the standard of your produce (especially at the Annual Show), and in which a night's unseasonal frost can ruin everything...

If you would like to be in with a chance of winning the book, please leave a comment on this post. The giveaway will run until 14th of December after which time a winner will be chosen at random. I'm happy to post worldwide.

I also have a giveaway running on my Through The Keyhole blog so pop over there to be in with a chance of winning.

Good Luck.

Sunday 27 November 2011

Cavolo Nero

My cavolo nero is still going strong. I've got three plants which I've been picking from throughout the summer, yet there's still plenty to harvest. One problem I always seem to have with cavolo nero is whitefly, I think I'll have to plant some marigolds close by next year as this should keep the whitefly away. I do net the cavolo nero to keep the Cabbage White butterflies off them, but my netting must still be allowing the whitefly to pass through, I think only Enviromesh would keep them out, but it's very expensive so I'll have to rely on companion planting.

Another plant which is doing really well is curly kale. There wasn't room in my brassica cage for the plants so they haven't been netted at all, but they haven't had any damage to them. I don't think the pests like them. I've picked a good bunch for tea, it's a vegetable which all the family enjoy.

I nearly got blown away when I visited the allotment today, the winds are really strong. The temperature has dropped too, though we still haven't had a frost, could it be that winter is finally on it's way?

Tuesday 22 November 2011

Hanging Around

I moved my tomato plants out of the greenhouse a couple of weeks ago in order to have space in there to overwinter my tender plants. I've been a bit lazy in actually emptying the tomato plants out of their pots and disposing of them, they've been hanging around in the garden waiting for me to get my act together. Whilst I was in the garden this morning, I noticed that the few green tomatoes I left on the plants are starting to ripen, who would believe that they'd be doing that at this late stage? I don't hold out much hope of any more ripening though, you can tell by the photo that we've got a grey, damp day again today, there isn't much light never mind sunshine.

I've had a subscription to Gardeners World Magazine for quite a few years now. I've decided that when my year is up this time, I'm not going to renew it. I do enjoy reading gardening magazines but I'm finding that I just don't have the time to read each issue properly , there's two issues here which haven't yet been opened, so it's a bit of a waste of money subscribing. I actually find that reading gardening blogs is more enjoyable than a magazine anyway, especially blogs which you follow. It's a bit like a serial, tuning in for the next episode, plus there's two way communication with blogs, something else which I prefer.

I didn't manage to get to the allotment at the weekend so I must make more of an effort to get down there this week. Time is running away with me now and I know I'm not going to get everthing done before winter sets in, though I'm not letting it stress me, what gets done gets done and what doesn't will be left until spring.

Saturday 19 November 2011

Cauliflowers Fluffy And Cabbages Green

I haven't grown any cauliflowers this year, but my cabbages are lovely and green. I've never been very successful at growing cabbages, the slugs usually get them before I get chance, but it's looking very hopeful this year. They're starting to heart up now and should be ready to harvest before long. I don't seem to have had as much slug damage this year, I suppose that's one of the good things to come out of the dry weather conditions this year.

My Brussels sprouts are just beginning to produce some buds along the stem. This is another crop which I haven't been very successful with in the past, though it's too early yet to predict if I'm going to do any better this year. I always keep the soil firm around the plants but the sprouts are still never up to much. It would be nice to have home grown on my Christmas dinner plate.

We've had a lovely bright day here today but I didn't get chance to go to the allotment as I've had other commitments. I'm hoping for similar weather tomorrow so I can pop down there then.

Wednesday 16 November 2011

This Year's Failure

There's always something which does spectacularly badly on the allotment. This year it was the turn of butternut squash. I haven't grown this before, and I don't think I'll bother again. There was only one squash produced on the plant and it only grew to the size of a tennis ball. I've captured it's good side in the photo, the other side has a couple of holes in it where insects have had a feast. I would like to grow squash though, so next year I'm going to have a go at one or two other varieties. As I'm not growing potatoes on the allotment next year, I'll give the potato bed over to them. I'd love to hear if you've got any particular recommendations of varieties to try. I'd like to grow some which will store well over winter.

I've been out to the greenhouse this morning to check on the strawberry plants which I mentioned a few posts back. I'm pleased to report that they've all recovered from their time in transit very well, every single one of them has sprung back in to good health and have produced some new shiny green leaves. I've got high hopes of a good strawberry harvest next year.

I had a visitor in the garden a few days ago, the first robin I've seen there this autumn. We get lots of sparrows and starlings, a couple of blackbirds and the odd pigeon, on a regular basis. I'm making sure that I'm feeding them all regularly so that they know where their food source is when winter comes, especially if snow's on the ground and food is hard to come by. I love watching the comings and goings, the feeders are well used and there's always something to see.

Sunday 13 November 2011

Purple Sprouting Broccoli

I've tried growing Purple Sprouting Broccoli in the past but it got stripped bare by hungry pigeons before I got to taste it. I wasn't going to let the same thing happen this time so it's been netted from the offset in my brassica cage. I didn't realise just how tall this grows though, it's making a bid for freedom, trying to find a gap in the top of the netting through which it can escape. The plants are producing their heads early, I shall be tasting some this week, though it's a plant which usually produces it's harvest in the new year. I suppose this is another plant which is confused by the weather this year.

I still didn't manage to source any pansies for my hanging baskets this weekend. It's a job which I shall definitely do in the next week, time just seems to be passing me by at the moment.

We've had a really miserable day today. We haven't had any rain but it's been damp and grey all day. It hasn't been ideal gardening weather so I didn't do any, I really need to get motivated and get the plot dug over for winter.

Friday 11 November 2011

Parsnip Experiment

I dug up the first of the parsnips at the weekend, and delicious they are too. I've always started my parsnips off in pots and then transferred them in to the ground once they'd germinated, but this year I thought I'd try sowing them direct. My soil contains quite a few stones so I decided that I would sow them the same way as I do my carrots and channel out a trench which is then filled with multi purpose compost before sowing the seed. This gives the parsnips some soft earth to grow down in to rather than hitting stones and forking. The seeds are quite large which enabled me to space them out evenly, avoiding the need for thinning out later. I also started some seeds off in pots, as I have done in previous years, and transplanted them once they had germinated. The two parsnips on the right are the ones which were transplanted. As you can see, they started off well having nice wide shoulders, but they must have forked just as soon as they were transplanted, after hitting stones in the ground. They also suffered from a bit of canker but it was only skin deep and didn't affect the flesh at all. The three parsnips on the left are the ones which were sown direct. They've still forked but not before growing a little longer than the others. I think I need to dig my trenches a little deeper, so I'll try that next year. They still tasted good, and there's lots more in the ground to last through winter.

I usually plant some hanging baskets up with pansies for winter but I haven't got round to it this year. I must make an effort to take a trip to the garden centre or nursery otherwise I'll regret not having a bit of colour around when we're in the depths of winter. I choose pansies as they stand up to the cold and wet weather really well. They were covered in a foot of snow last year yet they still survived it and went on blooming all winter.

We've had a bit of a grey week here, though it's stayed mainly dry. We still haven't had our first frost, and the grass continues to grow. I thought it had had it's last cut a few weeks ago, but it's actually in need of another one. I wonder if it will stay dry long enough now for the lawnmower to come out again.

Sunday 6 November 2011

Blue Skies

I planted some borage at the allotment two years ago and I haven't been without it since. It's a prolific self seeder and the bees love it. I've been at the allotment today and have done a little work, though there's still plenty more to do. The borage plants got pulled out to enable me to get some of the beds dug over. I want to get as much digging done as possible before winter comes as the frosts will break down the clods of earth making the earth more workable when spring arrives. Anything for an easier life.

We've had some real downpours over the weekend. There was heavy rain on Friday night which lasted right the way through to Saturday evening. I'm glad we hadn't planned to go to a bonfire. I thought the weather was finally changing, yet look at the gorgeous blue sky on the photo I took today. Perhaps our first frost is still a little way off.

The pumpkins which I wrote about in an earlier post got a reprieve. It turned out that my daughter had a drama rehearsal on Halloween so we didn't end up carving them after all. I think I'll have a go at making pumpkin soup.

Sunday 30 October 2011

Tatty Plants

You may remember that I bought some new strawberry plants - Flamenco, which are everbearers, at the start of the year. I potted them up intending to plant them out at the allotment once I'd prepared a bed, but I'm ashamed to say that I never got round to it so they're still residing in their plant pots. I had intended to purchase some other strawberry plants too as the ones at the allotment were coming to the end of their productive life. That's another job I didn't get round to, however, the ones at the allotment did ok again this year. I've now pulled all the old plants up so I really need to have some more ready for next year. I came across an offer on the Gardener's World website of twelve Sonata strawberry plants for £4.50. I ordered a pack myself and ordered a pack in hubby's name too. They were delivered in a bit of a sorry state, though mail order plants often look this way when they're delivered but they soon pick up. I've potted them up in to generous sized pots, as you can see, and they'll now stay in the greenhouse over the winter to recover from their ordeal of being sent through the postal system and to establish themselves. I'll plant them out along with the Flamenco strawberries when the weather begins to improve next year.

I've noticed lots of wasps around over the last week or so. I don't remember seeing them around this late in the year before, certainly not in the numbers I've seen this week. I wonder if they're another thing which this mixed up weather has confused.

The clocks went back last night which means there's even less time to spend outside in the garden or at the allotment now. Hubby often has a trip to the allotment when he gets in from work, but as it will now be dark at that time the after work visits will cease until March when the clocks go forward again. I suppose it's now time for the winter hobbies to start up again.

Monday 24 October 2011

They Won't See Us Through Winter

Hubby went to the allotment today and has now dug up the maincrop potatoes - Maris Piper. I wasn't expecting great things from them for a number of reasons, it was late when they were planted, the dry summer wasn't ideal and there wasn't much top growth. All things considered, I still wasn't quite prepared for the small amount which hubby brought home with him, just a little under ten pounds. The seed potatoes cost more than I could buy ten pounds of potatoes for in the greengrocers. There were a few more than these but they had been eaten, and some of the plants didn't have anything underneath them at all. I've made the decision that I'm not going to grow potatoes at the allotment next year. Instead, I will grow early potatoes in containers at home, as I did this year, and the potato bed at the allotment will still be kept in my four year rotation plan but instead of having potatoes planted in it, it will have sweetcorn and squash.

I was really pleased with how my cherry tree performed this year, we harvested plenty of cherries from it, more than I ever expected really as it's grown in a container and I thought that might prevent it from producing so well. Now that I've seen how well it's done, I'm happy to try another fruit tree in a container. I thought this time I might try an apple tree. There's so many varieties to choose from so I've got lots of research to do, but it's a fruit which we all like so it makes sense to have a go at growing our own. I know a container grown tree won't produce a huge crop, but it will be good to have a few home grown apples to eat.

The beans at the allotment have finally finished producing now. They've done so well this year and there's plenty in the freezer for the coming weeks. It was worth making a late sowing as we got a late harvest, though we may have sown them a little too late had it not been for the heatwave we got at the end of September. All that's left at the allotment now is parsnips, leeks and brassicas.

Tuesday 18 October 2011

Halloween Pumpkins

These pumpkins don't look very scary now but I'm hoping they will do so by the time Halloween comes round. I only grew one pumpkin plant and this is the fruit which it produced, one pumpkin is smaller than the other but it's still large enough to carve. As a child, it was always swedes which we carved, and tough going it was too. It's much easier to carve a pumpkin.

I was pleasantly surprised on Sunday to find that I was able to harvest some climbing beans from the late sowing I made. I suppose the mini heatwave helped them along, though how long they'll go on producing for depends on the weather. There's still plenty of runner beans being harvested too.

The weather has certainly turned much colder this week. I was wearing my summer jacket and flip flops when I took Archie for a walk this morning and I came home frozen. It's definitely time to dig out a warmer jacket and boots.

Sunday 16 October 2011

Ladybird Ladybird Fly Away Home

The allotment has been neglected this weekend in favour of tidying up the garden. The jobs which had to be put off last weekend because it was raining finally got done, the rabbit hutches were moved down on to the patio for the winter, the garden had a general tidy up and even the grass got a final mow. I make sure that I don't tidy the border up too much though as the birds like to forage for seeds and the insects need somewhere to sleep over winter. The ladybirds were out with us enjoying another sunny weekend, though the temperature didn't rise to the same height as it did a fortnight ago.

A job which I didn't get round to doing is sorting out the greenhouse. The tomato plants have finished producing now so they need to be removed and the greenhouse needs a thorough washing down which will help to remove any nasties which are hiding in there. I'll be able to move my tender plants in to the greenhouse for winter as I'm sure it won't be long now until we get our first frost.

Although I haven't done any jobs at the allotment this weekend, I do need to pop down there this afternoon to see what needs harvesting. I'm amazed that I've still got beans to pick, and I know that there's a couple of pumpkins that really need removing from the plant now. I shall carve them for Halloween.

Wednesday 12 October 2011

It's That Time Again

It's the time of year when our allotment rents are due. My plot is just over half the size of a full sized plot and for the past two years I've paid £20. This year the rent has increased to £24 which I still think is a bargain. Other allotment sites in our area have water charges added to their rent, but as we don't have water on our site, we're not charged for that. There's plots which haven't been used at all this year, yet there's lots of people on the waiting list. I don't know people's personal circumstances, but in my opinion, if they're not going to use the plot they should allow someone else to get some use out of it. I remember being on the waiting list and seeing overgrown plots not being tended, it's so annoying.

I have two Phalaenopsis, Moth Orchids, and they're both just throwing up a new flower spike. This will be the fourth time that they've come back in to bloom. I always thought that Orchids were hard to take care of, yet all I do with mine is water them once a week and cut off the flower spikes once they have faded. I've never fed either of them yet they keep rewarding me with new blooms. They'll be in flower again for Christmas.

I can't believe how dark it is, both on a morning and on an evening now. The days seem to have shortened so quickly this year and the clocks haven't even gone back yet. The drizzly days don't help either, there isn't much light through the day and I'm having to turn the light on to enable me to see if I'm reading something. We're only just out of summer yet I'm longing for spring already, it's going to be a long winter.

Sunday 9 October 2011

The Last Of The Tomatoes

This is the last pickings of the tomatoes for another year. It's very rare that I buy tomatoes from the supermarket, they always disappoint when you're used to the superior taste of home grown, so it will be the best part of another year before I get to taste a tomato again. The Tangellas have been my star tomato this year. They've got a fantastic taste, and I've had a huge harvest from them. The Gardener's Delight grew very leggy, even though they were grown in exactly the same way as the other two varieties. The first tomatoes I harvested from the plants were extremely small, but they did eventually give me some decent sized ones. I was very impressed with San Marzano last year, yet the five shown here are the only tomatoes I have harvested off two plants this year. They developed blossom end rot earlier on in the year, a sign of erratic watering. It was around the time that we took our fortnight's holiday, so I wasn't too concerned, but the plants just haven't produced many tomatoes at all. I shall try a different plum tomato next year, I've already got the seeds.

I had intended to plant lots of daffodil and tulip bulbs at the allotment this autumn ready for cut flowers for the house in spring. I feel like I'm so behind with everything at the moment though so I'm going to leave that for another year. I think it's more important to spend my time getting the allotment in order before winter sets in rather than using the time to plant bulbs. I do feel a little downhearted though, I always mean to be more organised at this time of year yet I never am.

I had made lots of plans for getting jobs done this weekend, but it's been so miserable that we've spent time indoors instead. We had continual drizzle yesterday, certainly not allotmenting weather, and today isn't much better. I think autumn is finally here.

Thursday 6 October 2011

Winter Crops

I didn't have much growing at the allotment last winter so I wanted to rectify that this year. My brassicas are doing particularly well at the moment, the cabbages are just starting to heart up and the sprouts are just starting to form on the Brussels plants. I've also got purple sprouting broccoli, calabrese, cavolo nero and curly kale. There's lots of top growth on my parsnips so I hope there's lots of growth underground too, they're mine and my daughter's favourites. My leeks are still rather small but there's plenty of time for them to grow, and there's lots of them so we won't be without. I've also done an experiment and sown a couple of containers of carrots. As you can see, they're still very small. I'll move them in to the greenhouse when the weather gets a little colder, though I don't think I'll be harvesting them over winter, I'm hoping that they'll give me an early crop next year. I've sown potatoes in containers over the last few winters but I never got round to it this year, so that's one thing that will be missing on our Christmas dinner this year.

I'm hoping for some gardening weather this weekend as I need to do lots of tidying up in the garden as well as moving the rabbit hutches down from the grass on to the patio. The hutches are moved on to the grass in spring so that the rabbits can be let out in to their runs when the weather is fine, but the grass gets so waterlogged in winter that it's such a hassle to look after them there, so we move the hutches on to the patio for the winter months. The rabbits seem to enjoy this arrangement as they get lots of attention each time one of us either comes or goes through the back door.

After last week's heatwave, the weather has taken a turn for the worse. I've just taken Archie for a walk and I've nearly been blown off my feet, it's so windy. We've had rain overnight, but that's cleared up now and the sun is trying to make a breakthrough. It's still very cold though.

Monday 3 October 2011

Ripe Peppers

What a long growing season my peppers have needed. The seed were sown on the 20th of February and the peppers have only just ripened. I've grown two varieties this year, California Wonder, which is a bell shaped pepper and is on the left, and Corno di Toro Rosso, which has a tapered shape, and is on the right. The California Wonder are extremely small and I've managed five peppers on the one plant. The Corno di Toro Rosso peppers are a much better size, but there's only three on the plant. I grew two different shapes to see if one ripened quicker than the other, but as you can see, they've both ripened at about the same time.

I'm still picking bagfuls of runner beans and there's still plenty more to come. Hubby picked some more beans from the first sowing of climbing beans yesterday which I think will be the last of them, though there's some small beans just starting to come on the second sowing so we might just have enough time to get a harvest from them before the frosts come. We also harvested the last beans from the second sowing of the dwarf French beans.

I've been hanging on for an Indian summer and just when I'd given up all hope of getting one, we had a mini heatwave. I should have been doing some jobs at the allotment this weekend, but instead, we made the most of what will probably be the last hot days of the year and had a couple of trips out. Jobs at the allotment will wait for another day.

Monday 26 September 2011

Saving Seeds

I don't save many of my own seeds. Last year I saved some Tangella tomato seeds, purely because it's not that easy to buy them, there aren't many places which stock them. This year I'm having a go at saving some seed of the mange tout which I grew. These are Robinson and Stephens, which are actually peas, but they can also be eaten as mange tout. They were kindly given to me by Bilbo Waggins from The View From Bag End. I left the pods on the plants to dry, and now that I've snipped them off, I shall leave them a while longer just to make sure that they're thoroughly dry before removing the seeds. Fingers crossed that they germinate for me next year.

I was very sad last week when I came across a goldfinch in the back garden. It was laid on the grass as dead as a doornail. I've no idea what it died from, a cat certainly hadn't had it, it looked so perfect. Poor thing. I've never seen a goldfinch in the back garden before, I've seen them on a few occasions in the front garden.

It's a lovely bright sunny day today. I've been holding out for an Indian summer after the miserable summer we've just experienced, but it's been so cold lately that I'd just about given up all hope. That is until the weather forcasters told us that the temperature is set to rise this week. Perhaps we'll get our Indian summer afterall.

Tuesday 20 September 2011

Know Your Onions

These are just a few of the many onions I've got drying out at the moment. They're Turbo which have been grown from sets, and they've done really well this year. There's some quite large ones. We don't use very many onions in cooking so they'll easily last us through the winter months. Next year I'm going to have a go at growing from seed and I've got a packet of Bedfordshire Champion at the ready.

After the gales we had at the beginning of last week, I was expecting to find lots of damage at the allotment. I'm pleased to report that everything was fine, even the bean wigwams were still standing, and we're still picking lots of beans from them. The late sowing of dwarf French beans are now producing, though I think we were a little too late with the second sowing of climbing beans, I don't think they're going to come to anything.

I've eventually got round to sorting out my seeds. I've been quite ruthless putting aside any which I know I'm never going to sow, or any which I've got duplicate packets of, and they've been taken to hubby's workplace for anyone who wants them. There was a full carrier bag full. I made a list of the things I want to grow next year, and headed back to Wyevale for any seeds I was missing. I managed to get everything on my list from the packets offered in the 50p per packet sale, and the total savings I've now made on buying reduced seeds this year stands at £50.01. Not bad.

Tuesday 13 September 2011

Carrot Success

You may remember that I named this year the Year of the Carrot. I've never grown carrots successfully on the allotment yet, I manage to grow round stumpy ones in containers at home, but I really wanted to get some growing at the allotment. I've never even got them to germinate in the past. When we took on the allotment, we inherited an old bath which had been left on our plot, and hubby has put it to good use this year filling it up with old compost and sowing some carrot seed in it. Meanwhile, I sowed some carrot seed in the bed which had been allocated for my root vegetables this year. Well, the biggest success has been the bath. The picture is of carrots which have grown there, all different sizes, shapes and colours as hubby sowed all different kinds, he can't remember which varieties though now. The carrots which I sowed in the ground did grow, so I've had a success of sorts, though because I didn't cover them with fleece, they were decimated by carrot root fly. I'm not too bothered, at least I got them to grow, and I know what to do next year now, though I'll definitely be utilising the bath again.

As I've mentioned before, I'm really pleased with my Tangella tomatoes. They've produced a very good yield and are still cropping now. My Gardener's Delight were very leggy and produced tiny tomatoes early on, but are now giving out some decent sized ones. The San Marzano have suffered from blossom end rot and haven't given one edible tomato yet, though there's some ripening at the moment. I might end up with half a dozen this year. I don't grow a huge amount of tomatoes as I only grow them in my 4X6 greenhouse and have already decided that I'm going to grow some outdoor ones in the garden next year. I was telling hubby's auntie that I want to make some soup and sauces next year, and she kindly popped round with a bag full of tomatoes for me from their allotment. I shall turn these in to soup.

Hurricane Katia was forcast to hit our shores yesterday, and it's certainly given our area a battering. Part of the garage roof over the road from us blew off yesterday and my greenhouse is in bits. Archie, the dog, was frightened on his walk last night as the street lights were out, and temporary road signs were following him down the street being blown by the wind. The rain has started now too and it's being driven by the wind. I haven't been to the allotment so I don't know if there's any damage there, I hope my bean wigwams are still standing.

Thursday 8 September 2011

What A Bargain

I always visit Wyevale Garden Centre at this time of year as they reduce all their seeds to 50p per packet and I stock up ready for next year. The seeds I bought this year should have cost me £42.14, I saved £35.64. Amongst the seeds are five types of tomato. One of the varieties I've chosen is Ferline. I've grown this before and it has good levels of blight tolerance, which will be more important to me next year as I plan to grow some plants outdoors. I also stocked up on Gardener's Delight, a favourite variety. The other three varieties are ones I haven't grown before, Black Cherry, Gold Nugget and Pannovy. All these tomatoes can be grown outdoors.

I also bought some onion seed, Bedfordshire Champion. I've always grown onions from sets but thought I'd have a go at growing them from seed next year. I've heard people say that they get a better crop from seed rather than sets so we'll see, they'll have to do well to improve on this year's harvest.

Other seeds which I purchased, which are new varieties for me, are carrots - Resistafly and Sweet Candle, dwarf bean - Purple Teepee, salad onion - Furio, and cucumber - Swing. I haven't ruled out another trip there once I've checked my seed box and see what I'm missing.

Monday 5 September 2011

They're Coming Thick And Fast

I'm picking beans like there's no tomorrow. I've got dwarf French beans, climbing beans and runner beans and they're all producing very well. I also made a second sowing of dwarf French beans and climbing beans of which the dwarf French beans are just starting to flower, but the climbing beans are still climbing at the moment. I hope there's enough time left to get a crop from them. Beans have to be my most successful crop, they've never let me down, but have consistently given a plentiful supply every year I've grown them. I've never grown broad beans, I remember not liking them when I was a child, but I'm going to give them a chance next year and grow them for the first time. Who knows? My tastes might have changed.

I found another cucumber hiding in the greenhouse yesterday, that brings my tally for this year off three plants to three. To be fair, I haven't gone out of my way to look after them very well, I've really left them to get on with it, but still, three off three plants is pretty poor. I must try harder next year.

We've been out and about all weekend, making the most of the last few days of the school holidays. We've been really lucky with the weather, avoiding any rain apart from when we were driving home on Saturday evening. Today is a different story though, it's sunny at present but it's windy and we've had some downpours this morning. I'm still trying to hang on to summer for a while longer, but I think it's in vain.

Thursday 1 September 2011

What a whopper

I've never grown marrows before, but last year, after finding some overgrown courgettes which I'd missed when picking, I decided I'd use them to make stuffed marrow. It was a hit with hubby so I decided to grow the real thing this year. This is the first one we've had off the plant and we haven't used it yet. I've heard that it does taste different to courgette so I'm just hoping that we like it.

I've been reading of courgette gluts on many blogs but my plants haven't really got going this year. They're just starting to produce a decent amount now so perhaps the glut is to come. The Firenze courgettes which I grew in containers have given up the ghost, they've been a washout producing a few tiny courgettes before giving in. I've got yellow and green varieties at the allotment and both are now producing well.

It's always at this time of year that my thoughts turn to next year. Already I'm weighing up what's done well and what hasn't and what I'll grow again next year and what I won't. My mum and dad are moving in a fortnight and we're inheriting their freezer, so one thing I definitely want to do next year is grow more things to freeze. I already freeze some things, but even though we've got one of those American style fridge/freezers, there isn't enough space to freeze much. The new freezer, even though it's only small, will give us extra space to store gluts for winter use. It'll be nice to be eating from the allotment right the way through winter.

Sunday 28 August 2011

Bargain Plants

We had a trip out today to the Yorkshire Dales, and whilst there, we visited a candle making workshop. Outside the workshop were some plants which were for sale and an honesty box for payment. I love coming across plants for sale in this way, you can pick up some real bargains, and that's just what happened today. I came away with an Alchemilla Mollis and an Astrantia, each costing just £1.50. I'll pot them on in to larger pots and wait to plant them out until next spring. You can read about the rest of my visit to the Yorkshire Dales on my other blog, Through The Keyhole.

I've made the decision that I'm definitely going to have a go at growing tomatoes outdoors next year. I'm not going to grow them at the allotment for fear of blight, but I shall grow them in containers in the garden. I now need to do some research as to which tomatoes grow well outdoors, so if any of you have any recommendations I'd be happy to know.

It's been an extremely wet week compared to the summer we've just experienced. I had hoped to lift my onions this weekend, but I'll put it off a while longer to see if the rain stops. If not, I shall have to find room for them in the greenhouse until they're dry. I should have been weeding at the allotment this weekend too but I've put that off in favour of some trips out. Any excuse.

Thursday 25 August 2011

How Long Till Christmas?

I couldn't believe my eyes the other day when, along with my monthly RHS The Garden magazine, this RHS Christmas Book & Gift Selection brochure dropped though my door. It's still August for goodness sake. We may not have had much of a summer but we're still four whole months away from Christmas. It won't stop me leafing through it though, and I will make a mental list of the things I would quite like to find at the bottom of my Christmas stocking. I've had some great gardening presents bought for me over the last few years, I always appreciate something new for the garden.

I popped to the allotment last night to harvest a few things and noticed that my onions are just about ready to be lifted. They've done extremely well this year and some are quite large. We don't use that many onions in cooking so we'll be able to provide my mum and dad with plenty too. I love to have an excess of produce as it feels so good to share it with friends and family.

The beans have now started to produce and we're getting a good amount to harvest already. We made some follow up sowings too of which the dwarf French beans are just about to flower, so we should get another later crop, but the climbing beans are still, well, climbing, so I hope there's enough time left for them to produce some beans. We should be eating beans for weeks to come.

Monday 22 August 2011

Arabian Night

I bought four different varieties of dahlia at the start of the year. The plan was to grow them on the allotment, but I never got round to allocating a patch of ground to them. Time had run away from me before I decided that I had better get them planted in to containers in the garden, or else all would be lost. This variety is Arabian Night and it's just come in to flower. One variety has been totally eaten away by slugs, and the other two don't look near to flowering at all. It's a lovely late addition to the garden so I shall save the tubers to replant next year, hopefully not so late.

I'm still emptying out my containers of first early potatoes - Arran Pilot. They've given a fantastic crop this year and I'll definitely grow them again next year. The maincrop potatoes at the allotment - Maris Piper haven't put on much top growth at all. Time will tell if there's anything going on under the ground, though I'm not holding out much hope.

It's bad news on the sweetcorn front. They didn't look like they were going to make it when they were planted out, so it's not a total surprise, but it's a bit of a disappointment as I haven't harvested any sweetcorn since I've had the allotment. They were started off on time and grew well in the plant pots, but they were left to languish for rather a long time before we got them planted out. I will make every effort next year to grow some decent sweetcorn as you really can't beat the taste of fresh picked corn cooked within minutes and devoured with lashings of butter.

Saturday 20 August 2011

My Favourite Tomato

Ever since I've been growing tomatoes, I've tried a new variety every year. I was so pleased with the tomatoes I grew last year that I decided to grow exactly the same varieties again this year, so this is the first year that I don't have a new variety to try out. A friend on one of the forums I read sent me some Tangella seeds last year and I tried them for the first time. I loved them, but because they're a heirloom variety, it's not easy to find anywhere which sells the seeds so I had a go at saving seed for the first time myself. I'm pleased to report that I had 100% germination with them, so I've got fruit again this year, and they're just as delicious as I remember. They've got a very fruity taste and are extremely juicy. They give a very good yield, in fact I can't think of anything bad to say about them. I'll be saving seed again this year for sure, they're my favourite tomato. 

Unfortunately, the other two varieties I've grown again this year aren't doing so well. San Marzano is a plum variety and I enjoyed them cooked last year. This year they've developed a bad case of blossom end rot. This is where the bottom of the tomato develops a black patch, probably due to erratic watering or lack of calcium, but as I was away for a fortnight and relied on my dad popping round every couple of days, I'm going with the watering. Hopefully, now that they're getting a consistent amount of water, they'll recover. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

The third variety I'm growing is Gardener's Delight. I've grown these for many years and they've never let me down, until this year. I knew I was in for trouble when the plants grew very leggy at the start of the season. They were grown exactly the same way as the other two varieties, started off indoors then moved in to the greenhouse which wasn't heated. They had plenty of light and very little heat so I don't know what caused them to grow this way. This is a cherry variety of tomato, but a cherry would look huge in comparison to most of the tomatoes being produced on my plants. There's plenty of tomatoes on the trusses, they just don't seem to be growing.

I'm considering having a go at growing some tomatoes outdoors next year. I did grow tomatoes in containers outdoors before I had my greenhouse, so I don't know whether to go down this route again, or have a go at growing some at the allotment. I'll still grow some in the greenhouse as I do now, but as my greenhouse is only 4X6 I don't grow many plants. There's only me who eats tomatoes in our house, but I'd like a few more than I'm getting at the moment, and would ideally like enough to have a go at making some sauces and soups.

I've been meaning to mention in my last couple of posts that Bilbo Waggins from The View From Bag End has very kindly offered to send some of Ollie's Sunflower seeds to any of my readers who would like to grow some. If you look back a few posts, you will see my post about Ollie's Sunflowers. Ollie was Bilbo's Bearded Collie and he sadly passed away in August 2009. You can read about the connection with the sunflowers in my post of 25th July 2011. If you would like some seeds to grow this sunflower, you can contact Bilbo through an email link on her profile.

Thursday 18 August 2011

The Year Of The Carrot

I'm so determined to successfully grow carrots this year that I've adopted a few different methods to ensure a positive outcome. You may remember that at the start of the season I sowed some seed for a stumpy round carrot variety in a container. That worked out and the carrots grew well. I've also got some carrots growing in the ground at the allotment. I've never got seed to germinate there before, and they look to be doing well, but you can never tell what's going on below the ground until you pull them so I'm still keeping my fingers crossed. Hubby's little project this year has been to utilise an old bath which was left on the plot when we took it over. He's drilled some holes in the bottom for drainage and filled it up with old compost from used containers as well as compost we had left over from last year. As you can see from the photo which was taken before we went away on holiday, the carrots which he decided to grow in there look to be doing ok. We may be lucky and be successful with all our methods of growing carrots this year.

I've got some gorgeous gladioli in a vase on my windowsill at the moment. Hubby's uncle always keeps me in flowers at this time of year and when the gladioli finish, the chrysanthemums start. Gladioli are such long lasting flowers and they're so bright and cheerful. I know they're not everyone's cup of tea but I love them.

I haven't made it down to the allotment since the weekend. I'm still ploughing my way through all the washing and ironing that holidays produce, but I'm hoping to get down there over the next couple of days to get some much needed weeding done.

Tuesday 16 August 2011

Everything Survived

We're back from our holidays and I'm pleased to report that everything survived while we were away. My dad came round every couple of days to water my tomatoes and there were a few ready to pick on my return. We went straight down to the allotment when we got home on Saturday just to have a look how everything had fared whilst we'd been away, but we were short on time so hubby went back on Sunday to harvest everything which was ready. As you can see, I had the obligatory courgette turned marrow ready to harvest, which will be stuffed with mince and tomatoes for a meal later in the week. The yellow dwarf French beans have started producing and were delicious with our meal last night. The cavolo nero is still going strong and I'm still getting small quantities of calabrese. There's loads of beetroot ready to harvest, but hubby left most of it in the ground and brought just four home for the time being. There was a small cucumber ready for harvesting, my first one of the year, they haven't done very well at all. I'm still harvesting first early potatoes from the containers, they've done great this year. I left the shallots drying whilst we were away, these are just a few of those we harvested, there's a bag full ready for use.

The climbing beans and runner beans are covered in flowers and small beans are just beginning to form so it shouldn't be long until we start to harvest those too. We put in another late sowing of climbing beans and dwarf French beans a few weeks ago so I'm hoping there's enough time left for them to produce more beans for us this year.

We had a wonderful time in Cornwall and Devon, though the weather was mixed. It didn't stop us from doing anything though, and we've heard that the weather back here in Yorkshire was worse, all that rain has made the weeds grow at the allotment so I really need to tackle those.

Thursday 28 July 2011

Snack Size

When I look through seed catalogues, I notice more and more seeds being sold which are suitable for growing in containers. Having grown edibles in containers myself before taking on my allotment, I know you don't need a huge garden to grow at least some of your own food. I decided I would have a go at growing some courgettes - Firenze in a container this year. This is one of those varieties which is billed as ideal for growing in containers. I've grown Hestia runner beans in containers previously. This is also a variety which is especially suitable for growing in containers, but I wasn't very impressed with the amount of beans I got from the plants. I was much more successful planting normal runner bean seeds and giving them some canes to grow up. I'm afraid that I'm of the same opinion with these Firenze courgettes. I have previously grown normal courgettes in a container with great success, whereas the ones I have just harvested from my plant are extremely small. I've grown lots of things in containers before I got my allotment, all regular varieties, and was thrilled that most things did extremely well, even things such as sweetcorn which I thought would need a much larger growing space. My advice would be to give anything a go, I've found that most things work, just so long as you give them a little extra attention, especially making sure that the container doesn't dry out.

It's a lovely day today so I shall take a trip to the allotment. I need to harvest anything which is ready as we go on holiday on Saturday for two weeks. Let's hope the gorgeous weather we've got today continues.

Monday 25 July 2011

Ollie's Sunflower

The sunflowers I've grown this year are very special indeed. Let me tell you all about them. Earlier on this year I mentioned that I was going to have a go at growing mange tout for the first time. I received an offer of some seeds from Bilbo Waggins from The View From Bag End. The seeds were Stephens and Robinson, both of which are actually peas but can be used as a mange tout, and both have performed very well. Enclosed in the parcel were some Ollie's Sunflower seeds which I've felt very privileged to be able to grow. Ollie was Bilbo's Bearded Collie, a once in a lifetime dog, and he sadly passed away in August 2009. On that very same day, a bird sown sunflower bloomed for the first time in Bilbo's garden. She collected seeds from the plant and whenever she sends seeds to anyone, she also includes some of these sunflower seeds in the parcel too. What a wonderful way to keep Ollie's memory alive. If you'd like to read about Ollie, you can visit Bilbo's blog via the link, and you will find the label for Ollie down the right hand side.

I got my leeks planted out yesterday, there's fifty four of them in total, so they should see us through the winter months. We also planted out another sowing of dwarf French beans and climbing beans. The first sowing are just starting to come in to flower now so this second batch should extend the season. I'm hoping to be able to freeze plenty. I also lifted my shallots and they're now drying.

All the brassicas which I sowed a few weeks ago have been devoured by slugs. I'm having lots of trouble with the little blighters this year. I was hoping to have plenty to plant out for winter, so I'll have another go at sowing them this week, though I might be a little late now, only time will tell.

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