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.
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