Sunday, 31 May 2015

Potatoes and Jam

Been an interesting weekend. Saturday was the more conventional "down the plot stuff to do" sort of day.

Apart from potting on tomatoes and other stuff that we have in the greenhouse, it was also time to start putting out the courgettes. The first four went out onto the "new" mound. Well I call it the new mound, but it's actually the mound I made last year for the pumpkins which got sluggified. Hopefully this year will be better for the courgettes.

But that wasn't the first lot of courgettes to be planted out. Earlier in the week I planted three at work for the canteen.

The potatoes seem to be coming along just fine. Although some of them have definitely failed. Maybe I left them chitting far too long? Either way I have a few bags left empty.

So, pick an empty bag, and put the carrot seedlings in.

Last year out carrots grew all stunted because the soil compacted and forced them to bifurcate and generally go into strange shapes. This year, this bag as 20kgs of sand mixed in which hopefully will prevent that.

The outside strawberries are now starting to bear fruit... yet they still have a load more flowers which is probably good news for when the Championships rolls around.

And our first main harvest this year is a truly heroic amount of rhubarb.

Slightly over 4kgs of the stuff once it was chopped and processed. I left it to "soak" over night in 4kgs of sugar.

Sunday was rather wet and dreary. So after a quick stint on shop duty in the morning (only one customer!) it's back to the warmth of the kitchen to get cooking. I put everything into our big cooking pot. It just fit.

Which was actually a mistake. Throw in about half a kilo of freshly grated ginger and the resulting amount, though it still looked to be able to fit, bubbled up and over and made a sticky mess all over the cooker. I had to scoop some out into an additional saucepan so that it could properly be dealt with.

Eventually a suitable amount of liquid was boiled off and it bottled into a shade over 14 jars of rhubarb and ginger jam.

Now I have to clean the sticky mess before the wife finds out I made a big mess everywhere.

Oooops. Too late. Dog house time for me.

Monday, 25 May 2015

Day Out: Surrey County Show

What a lovely Bank Holiday. Just the time to be busy down the plot... or not.

Today we went out to the Surrey County Show down in Guildford. Just a short trip straight down the A3 from us. It is a one-day event which covers a lot of Agricultural activities. Far too much for me to cover here, but here are a few of the images I took.

The Sheep Show. An interesting talk all about sheep with a shearing demonstration.

The Judging of the Dairy Cows...

And the Bulls...

The Food Hall was absolutely packed...

But here's an unexpected twist. In the Honey tent, we bumped into Alison from the Allotments. You may remember that she keeps bees and is a member of the Wimbledon Bee Keepers Association. Well she won Second Prize in the Frame of Honey category.

It was an extremely exhausting day. I didn't really take many photos, because it was just too damn interesting. I just got carried away with the whole experience. We were there from 10am through until 5pm, so it was a full day. We got home at about 7pm after a quick trip to the plot to water the greenhouse and then collapse in bed for a "couple of hours". So here I am writing this up after waking at 1am. Yeah, exhausting.

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Trouble with Beans and Sweet Potatoes

It's a bit of a mixed bag down the plot at the moment. Some things are going great but others are not doing so well.

The Soya Beans I planted a few weeks back have completely failed to materialise. I planted 32 beans and not one of them germinated. Nada. Zilch. Zip. Instead I'm left with a weed filled square of nothingness.
Guess I'm going to have to put something else in there.

Meanwhile, there appears to be slugs in the greenhouse because they haven't half munched their way through some of the small seedlings. My Rockets has gone, the basil has been attacked, and the Courgettes are looking sorry for themselves.

Outside the Sweet Potatoes have failed dismally.

However, the backups in the greenhouse have been going great. (In the middle of some of the better courgettes and sweet peas.)

The strawberries inside are in full flourish (when the slugs don't get at them).
But the ones outside are just coming into flower.

I've snipped the tops out of the Chard to stop it running to seed and growing so tall.

And even the Onions are doing well.

Next door, the Beetroot has now been planted out.

Two new beds are now Borlotti Beans, and a herb mixture (Thyme, Sage, Rosemary and Basil) in amongst the rogue potato.

Spuds in the Spud bags are also a bit hit and miss. Some have worked, some haven't. Not sure what is going on with the plot this year. All very strange.

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Sweet Sweet Potatoes

My Sweet Potatoes have finally arrived.

The enclosed instructions say that they should be planted 50cm apart. Difficult to do in the layout I have. Not only because my beds may not be suitable. The bags that I have currently house a load of normal potatoes and the full layout of my beds is not complete.

Anyway, I've put 5 of them into one bed with a staggered planting.

The remaining 5 I have put into pots to be grown on a bit in the greenhouse whilst I get the rest of the beds made.

But I better get a move on. Things are nearly ready...

Monday, 4 May 2015

Bank Holiday Weekend

This past weekend has been a bit of a mixed set. Whilst dodging showers, and pulling a two hour stint in the Allotment Shop, I did manage to get a reasonable amount of stuff done... it just doesn't look like it.

I've started sowing a second round of seeds of all the favourites. Beetroot, Courgettes, Carrots etc. Some of it to bring on to stagger the output, but mostly to produce stuff which didn't germinate. I am suspecting the compost from the office. There is a high amount of spent coffee grains in it. So much so, that when you water it, you get a very nice dark coffee like liquid seeping out, and a nice smell of coffee. Whilst this may do wonders for the smell, the coffee tends to make the acidity of the soil rather high and as a result, a lot of seeds failed to start... most notably, the Leeks, Pak Choi, and many of the wife's flowers.

The courgettes have been loving the soil though, and have gone off like a shot.

Outside it's still a little wild. the weeds have definitely raised their heads, to it's all hands to keep them under control. Unfortunately that also means the brambles. I borrowed a mattock from a friend on the site and started doing some major damage to those invasive bramble roots.

The mattock was brand new, never been used. I'm not convinced that they have the right handle for it though, because the head of the mattock was somewhat loose and it didn't go to the end of the handle. Needless to say though, it certainly did the job of hacking through those deeper roots with ease. Once you got into the swing of things, you could really work up a sweat. Mind you, it played hell with my asthma too.

I started putting down the beds into the more wilder parts of the plot. A new delivery of wood chip went down over cardboard to try and keep the bindweed under control. Even though it still keeps making an appearance, I just have to keep plucking it wherever I see it in an attempt to get rid of it. This will be a long term game though.

The first bed went in OK, but as I am working my way across the plot, it gets a little harder as we get into wilder territory. There is also a hazard of left over spuds.

These must have been left behind after last years Charlottes failed to work properly in the ground. The bags worked well, the ground not so. But it seems that some in the ground obviously did survive as they have poked their heads up right where I'm trying to build beds.

So I guess I'm going to have to leave a hole in the layout to handle the rogue spuds. Mind you judging be the number of grass tussocks that I've dug out, I am considering simply raking the far side level and then covering it with weed membrane in an attempt to compost down the grass. That might make for a better option. I'll let you know how it goes.