Thursday, 8 September 2011

Long live the chilli plants

I am not sure what has been wrong with my technique of growing chillies in the last two years. I suspect they might have taken objection to my reluctance feeding them.

Anyway, come September they were, and are  - this year even worse - just about to flower for the first time if at all. Won't bear much of a crop.

Except last year I discovered chillies are tender perennials.

So I took 3 pots in over winter and kept them on the kitchen windowsill. They kept flowering and produced the odd tiny chilli. The only problem was greenfly, which affected them all winter. At some stage I also petted a ladybird, that I found on the window, to try and  get rid of them. But then it was summer and I put them outside again.

Here is one. It looks like I will get my crop from them rather than the new plants this year. So if you have not been very lucky with your chilli plants, don't give up. They might do better next year, given a bit of TLC over winter.

I myself am planning to make room in the loft this winter for my new and not so new chilli plants. And for my latest discovery: perennial basil...

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Another year of elderberries

I have not written for a while: gardening is repetitive, so I sort of ran out of topics, and I am trying to figure out how to make my pages interesting in the little time I have. Also, I am not happy with pictures from my new camera, so my old blog format does not work any longer.

That does not mean that I have not carried on in my garden and in the kitchen finding the best ways to use my produce.

Elderberry had a special place this year too. I made Holunderlikoer, which I love, and jam (but it set too hard so it rolls rather than spreading). Then my friend wrote to me saying she had found out elderberries had medicinal properties, could I sent her something. I researched it a bit on the web and found it is good for winter colds and coughs, and what I was after was a "rob" - which, I found out today, stands for thickened juice).

Could not find a definitive recipe, but storage over time seemed an issue with some of them. So I made up my own recipe with info from here and there.

My own elderberry rob
  • 500 gr ripe elder berries
  • 200 gr sugar 
  • 4 clovers
  • ground ginger and cinnamon to taste
With a fork, pull the berries from the stalks, removing as many of the remaining stalks as possible. Wash.
Simmer the berries until soft and squash them with a food mill to get the juice (without seeds, as they are mildly toxic). 
Mix with the sugar and bring to the boil, adding the spices. Thicken it to a runny honey texture. Bottle as jam.

Let's see if it works.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Dry spring, wet summer

I have started clearing the wilderness that both my plot and hubby's had become, the endless rainshowers having not so much made the soil muddy as workable again -especially the new bit, which was compacted and very much like concrete under the spade.

I will take sone pics over the weekend, as it is starting to look good again. And there is a lot going on, despite the indefatigable chomping of slugs and snails (I must be sowing at a rate of three times as much as I get).

At the moment, my favourite crop is redcurrant: the red berries look like jewels dangling from among the lush green leaves, and are delicious straight off the plant when properly ripe. But some ofthe salad colours are equally spectacular, the one I like most having light green leaves with curly edges in purply red.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Pigeons-ortocecconi 2-2

This year I have lost my gooseberries to pigeons once again. It happened in the first year when I did not know what that bush was.

Then I netted it the second and third years, and had bumper crops.

This year, despite the netting, they were gone and I was left with only 2 punnets, when only last week I could see plump, almost ripe berries on all branches... which I did not have time to pick. Yes, I think it was a matter of timing. Once the berries were ripe, pigeons found ways to get at them - even though they are green and barely visible. They throw themselves on the netting, bend or break the branches, and eat all they can. The rotters.

Anyway, two punnets I got, and there might be some red berries on the newly planted bushes, the ones I hope will start cropping seriously from next year, their third.

You really have to like gooseberries, because picking them is not for the faint-hearted. Today my arms look like I had a fight with a rather aggressive cat. It did not help that to avoid a thorn, I ended up with my hand in a clump of nettles! The British seem to like them better cooked, in crumbles, fools etc. I like them raw (and so do all my Italian friends that have heard of them). When they get soft, and from clear go cloudy, having lost the worst of their acidic edge, gooseberries have a mild yet delicious aftertaste that is difficult to describe.

I have some with me for lunch today!

-- Post From My iPhone

Sunday, 3 July 2011

They say you have to try everything at least once in life...

... so this morning, when I found myself awake in bed at 5 AM, thinking of the plumber and work, I decided I would get up for a change and go to the allotment to relax. And so I did.

Rather strange for someone who, like myself, is definitely not a morning person, I thought the sunshine out of the window warranted a go at sunrise gardening.

The three hours I spent weeding before breakfast were very productive (true in Italy there's a saying that goes "Morning comes with gold in its mouth"), and I got home with a good crop to boot!

Still picking the come-again salad, while the second sowing slowly grows. Salad is really a worthwhile crop, has saved me good money this year, so I took advantage of the current Thompson & Morgan 3 for 2 offer on salad seeds, and also bought some corn salad from Seeds Of Italy, which should crop late in the year.

Now though - slight drawback - it will have to be bedtime already.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Some days are just not on

I arrived at the plot a bit earlier than usual, between 19.15 and 19.30 and it was quiet. Soil was ok and I managed to do some digging while having some banter with the neighbours. All good, except that suddenly I could not hear them any longer and I realised when I came back from wherever I was, just before falling face forward, that I had almost passed out. Ok, I am quite tired, I know, maybe low blood pressure.

But then I understood why it felt so quite: no bumblebees whatsoever - none on the phacelia, nor on the sage and not even on the borage that has started flowering. Quiet as death: it was horrible. I love insects, alive, going about their business and keeping me company. No idea where they all were.

While wondering about bees, my eye fell on the garlic: it had died back. So I had a look: most of it had not even grown,. and all was rotting in the ground. I planted three times more than last year just to be on the safe side, and my crop might turn out to be ZILCH. I'll try and dry up whatever is left and see how it fares, but I'm not too hopeful.

Not the best of evenings. I thought my ROI is very low, would I ever be able to make a living out of my gardening? If anyone ever tells me that - having gardened for a few years - they are an expert, I will laugh out loud.... How long does it take to learn?

Mr Tod was running after crows on the football pitch outside the alltoment.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

My new friend Mr Tod

I have been to the plot a couple of evenings this week, and befriended a fox.

A sign of my loneliness, or possibly to exorcise my fear of him scaring the living daylights out of me by jumping out of nowhere, I started talking to Mr Tod when he turns up just before sunset. Running away or ignoring me were his first responses.

Yesterday, though, he was a bit more sociable, and even posed for me, at a safe distance (bigger pictures on Flickr).

I think we like him, as we have a hope he might chase rats away.

Besides the fox, wildlife is thriving, I even spotted a striped bumblebee I had never seen before!

Although I spend a comparative little time on the plot, the experience of the last few years seem to have resulted in more going happening: I have veg at all stages of development: from the brassicas who have just germinated, through the broccoli white eye that I potted on last week, the courgettes I planted out yesterday and the tomatoes and aubergines that, outside and in the tent respectively, are growing on, to my successionally growing salad.

Fruit also provides a varied landscape: from the wines that are prolifically flowering, through the strawberries that are overwhelmingly being prey to birds despite the cover, to the almost ready gooseberries and the raspberries, whose first few we enjoyed this week.

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Succession sowing: yeah!

For the first time in four years I have managed some succession sowing, so I should be sorted with salad leaves most of the summer.

In April I had sowed some misticanza leaves in one of my two plastic "tents" for protection. By the time I came back from holiday in mid-May, they were ready to pick, and - hoping they might be cut and come again (the packet did not say) - I cut about a fifth of them leaving about 1 cm at the soil level, instead of pulling them out. Just to be sure in case they would not come again, though, I also sowed some into the other tent and...

Yeah! They did come back, so - as I picked another fifth - the first one is regrowing. In addition to that, the other bed is starting to germinate right now, two weeks on. This is great, and the first time I manage to do it successfully.

Pity I have not managed to do the same with rocket (it did not come up for two months and is just starting now to germinate, quite erratically) or radish (it bolted rather than swell at the root). I will leave both to self-seed. Last year leaving poorly germinated rocket to self-seed was the best thing I did, as it came back with a very decent crop the second time round, more or less September time. However that is not enough: I want more. If I manage to go a bit more often to the plot now, I will try some more direct sowing.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

It's been forever!

I have not written for the best of a month, what with my exam and - after that - some longed-for holidays.

The plot is not in bad shape, probably because it did not rain so much as to set the weeds on rampage (not even nettles!), but just enough to get the crops going.

Yesterday I picked a meter -ong asparagus, that was not even too woody all considered, and there is salad ready for next time I manage to pop in. The pumpkins I had planted out just before going away got frosted on their first night out but have done very well after that, and I will not praise enough the rather rough "Botanico" small growhouses I bought on (apparently no longer in stock :( ) which have turned out to be deeply loved by the seedlings (or maybe it's just the position they are in, under some blackthorns that shade them a bit).  Most seedling are in perfect shape, not least because of the precious help of lovely Carol, who has taken care of my greenhouses while I was away.

Hubby's plot has a pretty grassed area covered in Veronica persica: speedwell (which I have always known before today as little Virgin Mary's eyes, as my mother used to call it), and Leuchantemum vulgare: oxeye daysies.

Looking forward to a summer of gardening, now.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Happy Easter!

Weather is glorious, but no rain means a lot of watering needed, and seedlings wilting away.

I had to make some rhubarb jam, as the plants have decided to grow this year, and very fast... incidentally they are bolting with all this heat, and it's impossible to stop, so after chopping three buds, I've given up.

Asparagus, also, has started to make good spears four years from planting: unfortunately, asparagus beetles (Crioceris asparagi) have noticed too! Here they are chomping away... I must say that the spears that have grown through a patch of self-seeded parsley were left alone, though: maybe companion planting is the answer. In the meantime, I have killed the offending pretty little nasties.

My first ever artichoke has also appeared on last year's plant - actually two of them - they are a great temptation, but I will follow Mark Diacono's advice in his book "Veg patch": I will be brave and chop them off so the plant will concentrate on the root system instead :(

The plot looks lush: even my neighbour Keith noticed it's looking at its best ever.

The home pond is also joy: frogs, tadpoles and newly emerged damselflies have been joined by newts! I do not have a good picture, and I have not had time to check which species it is, but here's a blurry snap. All the creatures I had created my ponds for have now moved in: I'm happy!

But I am officially behind schedule once again, with my uni exam fast approaching, and the drought is not making it any easier to manage... that is one of the reasons I have not been writing much; however, you can follow the unfolding of spring in my gardens on the photo album.

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Sun and Guerrilla

It was warm, unbelievably so: in the greenhouse 35C/100F made it very uncomfortable to work, and outside plenty of water was required to keep you going. But glorious. Flowers. Butterflies. Fragrances. Even a new pollinator I had never seen before, like a small bee. Unfortunately I had no camera with me.

Most of the seeds I've sown since March have germinated: finally on top of the time schedule, I have already potted on artichokes, Calendula and basil. Hubby's new little greenhouse came in very handy, and I have made a makeshift one with a spare wire basket trolley and some large bubble wrap: should be fine I hope.
And the last trench to sow potatoes is ready and weeded.

At home, spawn in the pond is alive and developing: I'm so glad.

Most of my seedlings and plantlets, nurtured over the last few years but which did not find a permanent place in the garden and plot, have finally fled the nest and been driven to a new home. As I was worried that several were becoming pot-bound, I contacted Richard, the mind behind the Guerrilla Gardener movement, who was passing by - it is good to know that my loved plants will end up making some derelict place more beautiful. I may see them again, thriving in the soil, on the website pictures!

The garden is now tidier, even if I still haven't mowed the lawn, so at the end of a long day, I sat there enjoying it and realised I really look forward to the end of my uni exam so that I can pick up horticulture once again...

Monday, 4 April 2011

Shipshape plot

All charged up for having completed my uni essays, I went to the plot to tackle the big remaining task: the old, derelict shed, sheltering ratsand who knows what else.

Armed with a dust mask and a crowbar, I descended on the offending pile of rubbish, and at the end of the morning all was clean and tidy, and all nesting insects were exposed much to the enjoyment of a friendly robin.
Next step will be to transfer the compost heap there, so that I can free precious planting space in a spot that is now sunny, after the hollies have been cut back. At this time of the year any hybernating creatures should have left the heap, so it's ideal.

A productive weekend, I managed to find on Harrod's website the greenhouse door wheels that I needed to fix my wobbly door once and for all. They also have greenhouse shelves, which come quite handy at this time of the year, when my greenhouse is full and bursting with propagators. They should work on all greenhouse models, will try them at the weekend.

I have only been once in the evenings of this first week of BST, but I got my first crop of rhubarb. And for dinner on Sunday, my second crop, nettles, went into a delicious omelette!

-- Post From My iPhone

Monday, 28 March 2011

Fighting the hollies

The most gorgeous weekend saw me against the hollies on the allotment boundary bank once again: my neighbour Louis should be very happy as he will be able to grow stuff up to almost the top of his new plot - and hopefully my shed will not mould and rot with its contents. My arms look much worse for the wear but my heart is singing! ;p

Sowed more potatoes and discovered than more artichokes than expected have made it through the winter, even if quite battered: what a surprise! The cardoon is also resurrecting from its ashes - so to speak - and the first of hubby's peas are emerging with strenght.

The water taps have been opened, and just as well, because we are going through a dry spell, and both of my waterbutts are empty.

The plots looks nice and tidy and this is the week I can start my evening gardening: hurray!

-- Post From My iPhone

Sunday, 20 March 2011

The mystery of the snoutless rats

For the first time in four years at the allotment I do not feel like I am behind schedule sowing and planting. My early potatoes are already in the ground and sweet peas have germinated. Which does not mean I haven't got a lot to do, but there is no anxiety, which feels good.

The hubby's terraced garden has dried up a little bit too much over the last week, but I watered it yesterday and have finished flattening the area where the new bench will go.

Something that is bugging me, though, is the rats. I mentioned already that I did not catch any last time, but I found no cheese and a few little droppings in the cage. Well, this week I caught two little rats - as usual they came in pairs. No need to drown them, as they were already dead. And spookily something there was no trace of had eaten their snouts away: only the bones on two furry balls and tails were left.

Monday, 14 March 2011

Sunny days

Finally, we got a proper sunny day, it was actually just the afternoon, but it was proper sunny sun!

The springlike weather shouted spring-cleaning, and since the shed, plot and greenhouse are already ship-shape I tackled the hollies on the bank, cutting them back considerably: I love how it feels airy now!

Then I started on old saved seed, and a pleasant, almost emotional journey in time it was, to when I first came to the UK and had a garden to care for for the first time. It was a beautiful, mature garden, and inspired me to learn more about the plants in it. The collector I am, I looked for ways to reproduce them to take with me, through cuttings and self-seeded seedlings - which I religiously potted on - and saving seed.
How fascinating to go through the brown envelopes, labelled and dated - mostly 2006. Somehow I had forgotten about them at the back of the shed, but most seed looked in good condition, so I sowed them: lavender, geranium, Oenothera, hellebores, some wild flowers I never identified but were probably of the Malvaceae family.

In the greenhouse, I went on sowing: tomatoes, aubergines, Lathyrus latifolius. And was extremely pleased to see that my vine cutting took and now has a huge, downy bud sticking out. I followed a method I read in a library book: cutting 10 cm in all around a good bud, then with a sharp knife slicing the twing lengthwise in half under the bud, laying the cutting - bud up -in compost & sealing in a plastic bag (*).

We also went on working on hubby's terrace garden, and he helped me clear away another two bags of rubbish. We got a compost bin, and a bench to come shortly, for summer picnics.

* the bud never burst open, but I found out that it is easy enough to propagate vine cuttings just the "ordinary" way, by sticking them in a pot, no fuss added.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

The weekend that sowing and planting started

At the end of this weekend we are both knackered, hubby and myself... maybe we overdid it this time. Today it was sort of sunny so we went on the mission impossible of putting the chitted potatoes in the ground. Hubby's soil is really heavy, though, so we ended up digging ust enough for one of the four bags potato seed I got this year.

However, we did sow some peas. Will they have a chance? For the first time in the last four years there has been something digging out my broadbeans to eat the seed, while leaving the emerging stem there. Mice? The rat trap left me wondering with its mystery: the cage was where I had left it, closed, but the butter and cheese rind in the tub inside were gone, tiny droppings in their place. Happened to Paul the neighbour a few plots down.  If they are mice, they must be really tiny. What else could it be though?

The grounds were all abuzz this weekend, with nothing less than a huge bumblebee, drowsily scouting around the greenhouse, in addition to bit-more-lively ladybirds and, of course, people. Was good to have a few chats with old acquaintances. Also, I have a new neighbour, Louis, whom I have seen every time I was there - makes a nice change from not having seen anyone on that plot for four years! He seems rather nice too, even apologized for the bonfire he was making, a gesture I really appreciated. Down at hubby's plot I also met another Tony, with Cath, new tenants, but still no sign of the direct neighbours on one side.

The terraced garden, previously planted with daffodils, was sown with wildflowers cowslips, harebell, Oenothera, Meconopsis Cambrica - might take a while to see results, though, as they are mostly biennials, but more flowers are on their way, as I was tempted by an offer of 150 freesias (bulbs or corms?) at Sarah Raven's last month.

To end the day, I could not believe my greenhouse door lost a bolt (the other one, not the one that I found recently), so it's wobbly again... argh!

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Rain rain rain

Although we cannot complain as the weather is affecting some people in much worse ways, I must say that the constant weekend rain has started getting at me quite badly. I try and go out anyway, but mud is everywhere and there's only so much you can do.

Not everything was gloomy, though. We had a couple of hours' sun, and it was warm, and everything looked so unbelievably beautiful it almust hurt. And my unnamed plant cutting took (the one that was growing on the allotment path, so I pulled a branch out with a bit of root and took it home, where I stuck it - literally stuck - in the ground). I also managed to plant hubby's daffodils in the newly terraced bottom of his plot.

I picked the last of the Jerusalem artichokes as I planted the newly arrived ones: they will form a nice windscreen and feed us through the winter.

Next weekend is March already, and I will have to start sowing some seed and plant my chitted potatoes (btw I found a very useful online source of information on potato varieties in the British Potato Variety Database)!

-- Post From My iPhone

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Jerusalem artichokes

I am still enjoying my own Jerusalem artichokes, which I stored in the unused dishwasher and found like this: quite a spectacular sight.

Having some leftovers after a big roast (oil, salt & pepper), I decided to improvise a curry (Italian style): I stirfried a small onion, with some chilli flakes, turmeric and curry powder. When the onion was soft and translucent, I added tinned chickpeas, the roasted artichokes and a tin of coconut milk.

Once the coconut had melted and reduced, I added a mix of black rice and wholemeal basmati, which I had rinsed and simmered for half an hour. Hubby's loved it and I did too: it was a good balance of flavours.

I still have one plant in the ground to pick, but next year I am definitely planting more: besides the tuber fragments I left in the ground from this year (Jerusalem artichokes are a bit weedy in behaviour) I have ordered more already: they work as a windscreen for the wines, and are a wonderful winter crop that requires very little care.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Ready for the season

So husband has a few tools now and is immunised against tetanus. Has had a go at digging and manuring and is surprisingly happy with it. The rubbish from his plot is mostly cleared and I got him some daffs for Valentine's day, and some ranunculus that need planting.

My greenhouse is fixed - courtesy of the strong wind a couple of weeks ago, which brought out the lost nuts and bolts - is now clean and disinfected and so are the propagators. My seed stocktaking is also completed and copies have been printed for both hubby and myself, so that we know what is available, where in the crop rotation and when to sow.

Raring to go. Except it's raining quite heavily!

Anyway, while sitting at home in the rain, I was thinking that since my plot is almost all clear and manured too, and since it will take a while for the first seedlings to come out of the greenhouse, I might have a go at green manure this year.

My green manure booklet from Garden Organic gives a comprehensive list of benefits:
  • Feed the soil
  • Protect and improve soil structure
  • Stimulate soil micro-organisms
  • Prevent weeds
  • Control pests
  • Improve appearance
  • Rest soil
so definitely worth it, and I bought a few types. However, there's a problem. Looking at the list
  • Alfalfa La Bella Campagniole B, Fabaceae (Leguminosae) - April
  • Buckwheat                 X, Poligonaceae - April
  • Fenugreek                         B, Fabaceae - March
  • Field Beans                 B, Fabaceae - Sept
  • Fodder Radish         C, Brassicaceae - Aug
  • green manure mix                 X
  • Hungarian grazing rye C, Poaceae - Aug
  • Red Clover         B, Fabaceae - Apr
  • White Lupins         B, Fabaceae - March
most are Fabaceae, which means they go in the rotation with beans and in my 4-year rotation with Alliaceae too. As I grow quite a lot of both beans and garlic, though, I have no "B" beds left. It means I will have to buy Phacelia (Hydrophyllaceae), the only one that you can plant from March onwards and is not in the rotation. I planted it once already, I left it long and the flowers were a lovely lilac, loved by bees.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Aching all over with a warm feeling!

The buds are bursting out of their scales on most plants, and the wind of the last couple of days was warm though quite strong: it blew away one of my greenhouse tents and down my greenhouse door (a blessing in disguise, really, as I found a couple of lost bits which had made it wobble for the last few months, and so I could fix it for good!). Even the sun made a timid appearance out of his permanent blanket of white clouds. And more people are emerging from their winter hiding, and are busy around their plots.

Feeling energised, I had a go at tackling the hill of rubbish at the bottom of hubby's plot - a hell of a big task:  I dug out another 3 bin bags of rubbish, while removing a wheelbarrow or two of suckers, nettle and other weeds.

Up at my plot, my beds start to look pretty and tidy now. Both days I stayed until after dark, as in the good old times :) I feel very well but also extremely tired and all sore: it takes just a month or two without serious gardening to get me unfit: I am really getting old! ;p However, I found myself with a grin on my mouth whenever I stopped working.

No sign of further digging from the rats: have they eaten the baits? I keep forgetting the butter, but I have also remembered why I had stopped using it: the resident fox would get the trap and bash it around until she managed to eat what was inside.

Hubby has been down with me all the time and managed quite a lot of work: he cleared a big strip of land, manured it (the soil was extremely heavy and compacted so I though it might be a good idea) and planted his first onions. I hope he enjoyed it.

The technological type he is, Gianfry managed to think of a geeky gadget for the allotment too: he got us walkie-talkies to communicate when apart! I guess it is one of those thing that you hang on to from childhood for both of us, because I remember having thought of getting a pair myself a while ago. They work well, but I still prefer to walk from one plot to the other: it's good exercise! And it is nice to be both there on site, even though we soldiered through and didn't have much leisure together.

That's all for the weekend. I have soaked some cyclamen seeds and will try to sow them one of these evenings: my penchant for flowers is still showing, so much so that I have even bought again from T&M (but their website is really clunky, so I used the catalogue to browse). Well, time to get my head down and write my essay now...

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

The allotment of Eden

After a bad day at work I decided I needed some carefree time all for myself, and no thought of studying whatsoever. So I got a day off and spent it all outside: in the garden, which is now much tidier and shows the emering bulbs that were previosly buried in overgrown grass and weeds; and at the allotment.

I was reading this blog entry and I think at the end it describes quite accurately what the feeling is that I have missed in my winter blues and that was back yesterday. Through my slipping in the mud, stabbing and otherwise hurting myself. Through the drizzle that finally gave way to a timid sun. Through the sorry mistakes of finding a ladybird under my foot and bleeding a tree (hopefully not to death) when hanging a bird box on it.

It did work! I find it really amazing how the mind stays empty and focuses on the task in hand while you garden: it's so relaxing. Even the physical aching of untrained muscles afterwards is somewhat pleasurable, as it makes me feel alive and real.

Now, almost all my beds are clear of weeds and manured, and ready for planting.

I have been looking at hubby's plot too, but it is such a big task and still I haven't figured out the best way to tackle it. I guess your plot grows on you while you manage it... But was very pleased to hear that hubby, too, found it relaxing, despite his initial skepticism.

There's probably a reason why Eden was depicted as a garden... ;)

-- Post From My iPhone

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Finally a bit of sun

I must say that the tinsely bit of sun we got today made a huge difference to my gardening motivation.

And so did going to the allotment with my husband: it's a nice feeling looking up and see that he is digging.

I have unearthed another ten or so paint cans and tubs and cut back some of the sloes in the process. Hubby suggest that we put a bench down there, as it's the sunniest place we have on the plots. So I thought it would be nice to terrace the soil behind and around the bench and plant it with flowers.

There's an awful lot to do, and it's better taken in chunks, so that we figure out what would come out best. So I left it, and went to clear my pond from a heavy blanket of couch grass that had covered it completely. I am gradually also clearing all the beds from weeds: about time, as the bulbs are already pushing through and there's a risk of damaging them.

And I got an amazing amount of sizeable Jerusalem artichokes from only one plant: I really like them, and the fact they are the only veg I have managed so far to grow in winter, alongside leeks: will put down more next year.

Unfortunately my complacency with rats over the last summer has bitten back: a huge mound of crumbly soil under the derelict shed of the previous owner (which I still haven't pulled down and transformed in a compost heap - is sure sign of them burrowing in. Luckily I had some pellets with me, which I scattered in the hope they will eat and die. Unfortunately I forgot the butter to load the trap, but next time I will go armed with that too!

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Husband got a plot!

After 8 months in the waiting list, and an incredible series of defections (there were 5 plots to choose from), we've got a small addition to our growing space.

Hubby got wellies and gloves, and a kneeler pad (he is still in need of a tetanus jab, though), and today we went down to clear up and take some pictures.

(more pics)

The plot is on the other side of mine - on the sunny side at the bottom of the hill - so the microclimate is bound to be different. For example my soil was frozen in places today, while hubby's was all right. We do not know how the soil was kept, so I was thinking a good round of weeding and feeding with seaweed might be appropriate. Gianfry dug clean a good three square metres: not bad at all for his first time.

The neighbour, Sarah, was very nice and she said she will remove things that are in the way, like her compost heap.

Unfortunately, the previous owner chucked cans of paint and other chemicals in the little grove at the bottom of the plot. I have removed at least five cans today: such a shame! We will have to clear it well, chopping some of the self-seeded sloes back, and then I guess plant flowers and leave it as a haven for wildlife: I would not trust it for growing food. However, the grove might be a good place to plant my hops, if they do come out once I sow them: not sure why I suddenly fancied trying hops, but I bought a packet of seeds.

There is quite a lot to do, even though the plot looks in much better state than mine did when I got it.

On my side of the allotment, in the meantime, the garlic is already 10 cm out: let's hope we do not get a major freezing spell in February.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Freshening one's memory...

Yesterday I ran through the allotment pictures from 2009, a selection of which I published on Flickr.

I was really surprised by how much was there: I had forgotten almost entirely the amount of work I put into it, how much I had transformed the plot, and the fairly plentiful crops, the bugs, the colours... it felt strange, as I was studying throughout for my final exam of the BA, and I seem to have accomplished more than last year, when I had all my time for the plot!

I had a lot of strawberries in 2009 that never returned in 2010, but much fewer raspberries. My tomatoes did get red, back then, although most went down with blight, while last year I had plenty of green tomatoes to make into jam (which is nice, and my auntie liked a lot!) and sliced in oil (though potentially very good, they came out too salty for my taste). I attempted carrots and "cime di rapa", although my results with brassicas have been rather awful both years.

It was good to freshen one's memory...

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Broad beans

I finally managed to sow my broadbeans today... and it rained straight afterwards: that's good!

Monday, 10 January 2011

Spring is going to come, after all!

Today was such a lovely day: it made me forget Christmas and think of spring, besides wanting to go out! It must be the first day we have had a proper blue sky and sun in over a month.

I have taken off the decorations from the tree, which has gone back to my back garden. As I put it back, I realised I have quite a few one, two and three-year old hazels and beeches in pots that need a home.

The allotment is not in too bad a way, even thought weeds are proliferating and I spent all my time clearing a couple of beds. I am taking out the oldest strawberries from their bed of three years: anyone knows if it is worth breaking down the root clumps and re-plant the buds somewhere else?

Garlic and onions have been pushing out their little leaf-tops for a while now, but I still have to sow my broadbeans.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Happy New Year!

We had the snow, then a thick fog so it was a great time to spend indoor and relax, doing all the stuff I had left for months, some for years, like making pasta!

I did my stocktaking: it came out last year I had been particularly keen on flowers, and fruit. I made a conscious decision to get more fruit, as I find them a really rewarding category (figs apart) to grow, and they give pleasure year after year. So I bought a persimmon plant, a couple more grapes and soft fruit galore, besides pomegranate (seeds). But I had not realised I was getting so many flower seeds!!!

At the end of the holiday period, we finally got a couple of days with timid sun behind clouds, which were perfect to go at the allotment, plant some onions and pick lovely - and sizeable - Jerusalem artichokes.

-- Post From My iPhone