Sunday, 21 September 2014


So this will be my entry for the Green Living Forum's September photo competition. "Fruitfulness".

These are my last three "courgettes". Well OK, they're now full grown marrows. They'll spend the next few weeks in the kitchen at home, hardening off the skins (but they are already quite tough), before spending the rest of the winter in the shed. The big fat ones will be used as seeds for next year, the longer one will probably be eaten over the course of the winter months, in stews, soups and  stir-frys. I just wish we had a freezer that we could keep stuff in, but a small London flat has no room for such a creature.

The real marrows still have a few left on them as well. Despite me keeping the canteen at work well stocked up with them.

We've now harvested the last of tomatoes from the greenhouse (they didn't get blight) and a load more runner beans. The beans seem to be producing a lot more flowers - perhaps it's this late summer sun? - so we'll leave the plants in place and see what we can get out of them.

The greenhouse still has plenty of flowers left which the wife looks after. She's wanting her own flower beds for next year. So I suppose I'll have to dig them out and build them ready. Anything to keep her happy.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Burn the Blight

Tomato Blight is starting to hit the allotment. The only way to handle this is to either bag the affected plants, bury them or burn them. I chose the latter option.

Fortunately I have plenty of Silver Birch Wood stored on the plot (which I really wanted to use in a Hugelkulture setup) but with the plot infested with bindweed, I can't really use that option. So I used the wood to get a nice hot fire going.

Being an old Boy Scout the one thing I do know how to do is make a good fire. Where a lot of people go wrong is that they build a fire so that it gets lit at the bottom. Wrong way to do it. If you want a hot almost smokeless fire, build it so that you light it from the top.

In this case there was a base of large wood logs (that had actually been left on the ground and weeds had grown though them - hence the grass in the picture above), then I put the tomatoes on, followed by smaller sticks, and then the kindling on the top. The reason you do it this way is that the heat drives out the moisture before the fire burns down enough to set it rest alight. This way very little smoke is produced. Less annoyance for the neighbours, and for me - being asthmatic.

Produce Show Categories

Belinda asked what categories we have for our show. These are they:

  • Class 1: Mixed flower arrangement in a vase (vase not taller than 20cm)
  • Class 2: One scented rose to be judged on perfume only
  • Class 3: A single bloom / flower spike
  • Class 4: A gentleman’s buttonhole / lady’s spray
  • Class 5: Tied bunch of 5 different herbs
  • Class 6: Selection of vegetables (min 5 different types) within 12” square (to be provided)
  • Class 7: Longest runner bean (judged as straight-line length)
  • Class 8: Biggest marrow (judged on both weight & size)
  • Class 9: Five onions on a plate
  • Class 10: Five potatoes on a plate
  • Class 11: Five tomatoes on a plate
  • Class 12: Heaviest pumpkin (weighed on plot)
  • Class 13: Funniest vegetable (can be assembly of vegetables or single item)
  • Class 14: Selection of home grown fruits on a plate (minimum 3 different types)
  • Class 15: Five apples on a plate

  • Class 16: Jam, jelly, marmalade or fruit curd
  • Class 17: Chutney/pickles/relishes
  • Class 18: Cake (to include at least one home-grown ingredient)
  • Class 19: Home-made or home-brewed alcoholic or soft drinks

  • Class 20: Plant portrait
  • Class 21: The weather
  • Class 22: Views of the allotment
  • Class 23: Allotment wildlife
  • Class 24: Dusk-to dawn (photo must be taken between these times)

CATEGORY - CHILDREN’S (under 16 yrs only)
  • Class 25: Photograph of my plot (8-16 yrs)
  • Class 26: Tallest sunflower (judged on plot, under 8 yrs)
  • Class 27: Best scarecrow (under 8 yrs)
  • Class 28: Best arrangement of garden flowers in a jam jar (8-16 yrs)
  • Class 29: 3 decorated cup cakes (under 8 yrs)
  • Class 30: Decorated stone (8-16 yrs)

We have a Best In Show award for each category. As well as we can also give out Special awards at the Judges discretion for entries which are innovative (whilst probably not a winning entry in their group). This year we had a number of classes which had no entries (Classes 4 and 24 for example) and multiple entries for some. Most notably Class 6 which is by far our most popular entry. Yesterday's winning exhibit was this:

Saturday, 13 September 2014

The MAGA 2014 Produce Show

What a busy day. I was on site at 8am this morning to start getting things ready for the Produce Show. The Marquee hadn't been used since the Plant Sale back in May and the weeds in there had taken over. Much to do.


Still when the volunteers started turning up at 10am things started moving a little faster and by the time 12noon came around we were ready for people to start arriving to set up their displays.

Unfortunately this year... I was in charge. Which meant I was busy and couldn't take many photos. So things were a little sketchy in that department. Still it all seemed to work out OK.

The final awards seemed to turn out pretty OK, and it was kind of fun giving out the awards at the end. Even if we were slightly delayed in that department. The thing which really slowed us up was the tasting of the home made produce. Some of it was delicious. Some was pretty foul. But it all got judged and people seemed happy with the end results.
Best in Show for Produce Display

Special Award for Unusual Vegetables

Some of the produce - Most notably the "five <things> on a plate"

The Flowers Section

Largest Pumpkin (No way was I going to weigh the damn thing)

2nd Largest Pumpkin (Still too damn big)

Best Scarecrow

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Compost and Courgettes

The courgettes are coming to the end. Considering that they started out very sorry looking after the slugs decided to feast on them, they have really performed quite well. Certainly we haven't had as much this year as we did last year. There are still plenty of flowers on the courgettes, but they seem to mostly be male flowers on long stems. The Female flowers are lower down but they cannot really been seen at that level in amongst the huge number of leaves. So it's time to thin out some of the more worn leaves and let fresher growth come in.

But they still have a couple of surprises hidden under their leaves. Firstly there are three (yes three) giants that are growing for seeds.

The weed membrane has orange stripes that are 25cm apart. So this beastie hiding beneath this leaf is a shade over 50cm in length. The other two are shorter, but a lot fatter. They're all going to stay in place until the very end of the season. Then they'll go home to sit and cure in the kitchen for a while, before spending the winter in the shed.

But the courgettes have worked wonders. I've even had enough "spare" that I could take them into the office where they have featured as part of the canteen offerings.

The Leaf Beat is also going to seed. But there are still a few tasty young leaves poking through the huge growth of stuff.

Now everything that gets cut back or cleared goes into the compost bin. However at the office they go a step further than a simple bin. They use a proper composting system for all the kitchen waste and from the coffee/tea making areas.

Now obviously this is a commercial system. But it's something we would like to try and reproduce at the allotments. There is too much waste being generated into the waste bays. Each time we get the council to come in and remove the rubbish, it costs us £160. If people composted more, we'd have better results (nothing like a good dose of stimulants for plants) and less costs. All-in-all not a bad thing.