Wednesday, 22 April 2009

What's growing on the home patch?

As well as having the space at the allotment to probably feed a football team, we also have our own little back yard with it's view over the Orwell estuary.......and the plebs on Ashley Street! After many years of dithering over what to create in this terraced space, with many a false start and the removal of many a patio I finally decided it would be more useful as a production area - hence the greenhouse we built this year. That said it's easy to get carried away - there are currently seedlings crammed on every sunny windowsill in the house too.

I think I have about 60 tomato plants growing away quite happily - Gardener's delight (cherry type, good yield, very productive - eat them straight off the vine when warm in the sun and yum!), Tigerella (unusual stripy skin, seem to remember has a good flavour), Matina (performed well when I grew it last year at the place I worked, good skins not easily split) and Marmande (think this is a beefsteak type and again performed well for me last year - how it will perform in my garden remains to be seen).

I don't expect to harvest from 60 plants - that would be crazy - but I'll have lots to give away, which is another great pleasure of gardening and one that tends to be reciprocated! Gardener's are commonly, generous people - well the ones I've met are! Whenever I get chatting to a fellow plot holder ('the wall' seems to be a common talking point), invariably I get offered a little something - a few beetroot, some cabbage seedlings, the use of a hose, a few sticks of rhubarb.
It seems we all grow too much of one crop or another or experience gluts but would rather happily give it away than have stuff going to waste - though waste, in theory, does not exist on the allotment as it can all be composted and re-used.

Other seeds bursting into life include -

Borage and Ipomea or 'Morning Glory' -
both being grown to attract pollinators but the borage has additional benefits of being used for culinary and medicinal purposes - both of which I am yet to experiment with!

Pak Choi -
just planted some out in the greenhouse, and have some to give away. I've found them very useful in stir-fry's, and particularly tasty with fish. You never know - I might let you in on a few recipes!

Chives and tarragon (french type - said to have a better flavour, though not hardy. However - has survived several winters on our patio) -
I divided these up and re potted them, so now I have even more plants!

Parsley and coriander -
this is how they are grown for supermarkets. Lots of seedlings in one pot. Quite wasteful really when you consider that one seed will develop into a whole plant that can have leaves removed as and when you need them rather than the short life span of the pot on your windowsill. It may be possible, though I've not tried it myself, to take one of those supermarket pots and gently tease apart the roots to make lots of individual plants - you will get more for your money and are saved the agonising wait for them to germinate (parsley being particularly slow!). I may give that a go so watch this space......

Broad beans -
somewhat late but what the hell - let's see what happens. Just planted some in the back garden and I'll try the rest at the plot. Always sown them direct before and too thickly which encourages fungal disease and can make them difficult to harvest if there is a small forest of them. They are spaced roughly a foot apart in a double row - more pics to follow if they get going!

Remember these? The first salad leaf crops. Well - they are a bit bigger than this now and with more holes in the leaves (grrrr), but reasonably successful. Not as successful as they would be in a polytunnel, I think. The ambient temperature in a polytunnel seems to be a lot warmer and is also moist so salad leaves tend to grow really quickly - which is good for cutting. An indoor environment also tends to keep flea beetles at bay which can damage the leaves of brassicas - rocket, mizuna and chinese leaves being of this group - radish too! There was a row of salad onions but they seem to have failed - the seed may have been too old. Ah well - you can't win every time!

Yet to find a spot for them on the plot. Speaking of rhubarb though - we plan to have a go at rhubarb wine soon so watch out for the trial and tribulations of that!

My small potted herb garden -
the sage and rosemary are due to be planted at the plot, when there is a place for them but the mint is much better contained in a pot and divided up every now and again as it will take over in open ground!

Echinacea -
really excited about this. Never had any success germinating the seed before. I'll soon be dishing out cold remedies before you know it!!

There has been further activity since taking these photos - just not enough time to document it. I'll do my best to keep up between my hubby's entertaining video diaries.
So far he has managed to avoid getting his hands dirty!!

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Pigeon theft!

Well not theft of a pigeon, but a pigeon stealing! For as long as I've had bird feeders outside my study window (here at home) there have been pigeons and doves sat above them trying to figure out how they might benefit from our generosity. After I built a flimsy arbour in the garden a few days ago one pigeon has been sitting on it for what seems like hours trying to figure out how to get the seed...

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

How to make nettle beer

Here's our first instructional video, how to make nettle beer! There's also some coverage of the bottling of our blackberry wine, enjoy!

Monday, 13 April 2009

Blackberry wine is ready, fancy a drop?

Started when we picked the blackberrys up at the allotment 6th September 2008, and finished when we bottled it 13th April 2009. Note we reuse screw top bottles now, cork might be fancy but it's a right pain in the bum!

Our first allotment video update

Actually it's not much of an update at all, just a bunch of random clips from today, but I figured most viewers of this blog haven't seen any moving images of our plot. So here's a brief look at our plot and wander around the other plots at Maidenhall Allotments in Ipswich;

Thursday, 9 April 2009

What's growing?

With the Spring sunshine rapidly encouraging growth, I thought I'd give a quick run down of all the happenings currently flourishing on the plot.

The daffodils we didn't know we had -
almost lost their lives to the lawnmower! When they have finished flowering I will dig them up and move them somewhere more suitable.

All four apple trees survived the winter and have lovely healthy new growth. I suspect the stable muck and top mulch may have helped them through the current dry spell we are experiencing.

Comfrey -
one day this will be a lush patch of leaves that can be cut and covered in water to make a liquid feed. So far they too have survived the winter and the heavy foot of Mr Laws! Bees love the flowers too!

The redcurrant -
a birthday present from Nick and David. It lives - which makes me happy. And look - the strawbs can be seen in the distance and are starting to look better from a weeding and a top mulch of spent mushroom compost.

Hyssop -
another great favourite of bees - and butterflies too! Medicinally can be used to soothe coughs and catarrh which is great news for me and even better news for Andrew! I've been watching 'Grow your own drugs' - I reckon I could turn my hand to to a bit of herbal alchemy!
These plants may will be moved somewhere else eventually and replaced with the taller Anise hyssop, which I have yet to raise and is on my mental list of plants to grow.

The geranium collection (relatives of the wild meadow crane's-bill) -
with all the change occurring on the home patch these have been re-homed here so I can still enjoy them as my most favourite garden plant. The space at home I can then use to grow the tender high maintenance or regular use stuff such as salad leaves, tomatoes, peppers and aubergines etc.

Garlic -
we use a lot of this so I'm pleased it's looking this good. There is some yellowing of the leaf tips which generally means the soil is lacking in nitrogen - (hardly surprising with a previous crop of grass) but over time, adding lots of soil improver's - compost, muck and mulch I'm sure it will get better. However, the onion family are not huge fans of a freshly fed patch. All the books tell you they prefer poorer soil but well drained - great on our sandy loam - not so great on clay.

Ah yes - and the wall. This is growing well too. Soon, I will have a fortRESS - but it will be pretty and green and not look like the trenches of the first world war .
More on the wall another time.......

Other stuff in the ground that should be growing are the spuds - except the Maris Piper's - (still frantically preparing a patch for them), onion sets - (there is some life here), shallots and the raspberries. I'm a little worried about those. I wonder if I buried them too deep or whether the mulch is too thick - I may have to prod around to see what I can find - sigh.

Mostly, it's all good though - I have many an idea spewing forth from my tiny noggin and splattering all over our little piece of land in a free styling, organic kind of way.

What is developing - is something quite unique.......