Monday, October 05, 2009

red alert

Two. That's the number of ripe tomatoes we have had from our plants. We ate them in a ceremonious salad tonight and they were very tasty. It's October but let's hope the frosts keep off until the others ripen up.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

One potato, two potato...

On a recent trip to Ireland we had a day out at Lissadell House and gardens. It’s a grand 19th century house overlooking Sligo Bay with two fantastically well stocked gardens – one for alpines and the other for crops. The house was completed in 1833 but had fallen into poor repair in recent years. New owners have carefully restored it and cultivated the gardens which were overgrown for over six decades.

To mark the UN ‘International Year of the Potato’ they planted 169 different varieties of spud along the circumference of the walled kitchen garden. Many of the potatoes were from the heritage collection of David Langford which was donated to Lissadell. Their most popular varieties are the Orla, an early, blight resistent potato bred in Carlow in 1999; the Arran Victory, a maincrop potato first bred in 1918 and the Pink Fir Apple, a salad potato bred in 1850.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Underneath the pavement

So often I seem to be dashing out of the house and hurrying off to do something. Head down and scurrying along pavements you often don't spot the changes, a different type of city regeneration. There is lots going on unplanned within the built environment. Like the blogger of Organic Allotment I too have spotted a self sown tomato plant growing out from a crack between the pavement and the wall of a city college. Seeded no doubt from a discarded sandwich filling of a passing student.

This might go unobserved by most of us but nature is always on the look out for opportunities. In the neglected front yard of a terrace house a colony of cinnabar moth lavae are munching their way through a ragworth plant. These beautiful black and vermillion moths only lay their eggs on this plant. The warning stripes of orange and black a message to birds that they have ingested the toxins from this weed and won't be good to eat.
A buddleia bush growing down a crack in a nearby wall offers nectar for bumble and honeybees. They are so attracted to the flowers that there is a bit of jostling going on. It's crowded at this new nectar bar in town.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

a barrow of marrow

Things have been really busy with work meaning that trips to the plot have been put on hold. With the recent combination of rain and sunshine the courgettes which have been busy changing into marrows while our back was turned. We have given a few away to family and neighbours but there are plenty more to get through.

Jane Grigson's vegetable book if really handy for courgette recipes but also has advice for those of us who have left them too long on the plant:
'For a small family faced with a huge marrow, it is best to slice it down into rings about 2-3cm thick, allowing one or two per person. Do not peel the rings, but blanch them for five minutes only, after removing the seeds in the middle. Place the rings in a buttered dish and fill the centres with stuffing, allowing it to spread a little over the marrow in a domed shape. Allow 45-60 mins at 190C/375F.' Sounds like a plan.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Hello ladies!

There are lots of ladybird lavae going walkabout on the lottie. This is good news as the lavae are voracious feeders and will munch their way though lots of aphids. I am reliably informed by wiki that they pupate after about three months depending on how much food there is about.

Spotted lots of lavae at the pupal stage as I was weeding. As I was peering at one of the pupae it began flicking up and down. I thought this might mean that a ladybird beatle was just about to hatch but have since learned that this was actually a demonstration of annoyance. I like the fact that it doesn't let a little thing like undergoing morphological change get in the way of telling me to keep my distance.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Running away

It's the first time I have grown strawberries. The six plants potted up in grow bags are doing well and each are showing a promising branch of green fruits. Apparently plants are more productive in their second year so I'm not sure how much fruit I will have this summer. They have each sent out a set of runners which I could try to root by pinning the plantlets into a pot of soil. Geoff Hamilton's Organic Gardening book suggests this as a good method if you want to force strawberries in the greenhouse. However he warns against restocking beds with plants grown this way in case they spread virus disease. Not sure if the same applies when using grow bags but I think I'll try rooting a few of them.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Bolt thrower

Everything is growing well at the moment but most of the veg is not yet ready for picking. The first set of broad bean plants have produced pencil thin pods which are slowly fattening up. The second set of beans, planted out a month later, are in flower. The peas are also in flower and are setting their first pods. Thankfully the salad leaves are ready. I picked a bag full of rainbow chard and handfuls of salad rocket. Rocket doesn’t like hot weather but I managed to catch it just as it was starting to produce flowers but before it had well and truly made a blot for it.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Plot summary

The recent rain and long hot days have resulted in everything growing like fury. Sunday was the first visit to the lottie for a couple of weeks so the change was rather dramatic. The shallots and onions look like a real success story which is good news as last year the heavy rain practically drowned them. The chard and beets are coming along too, adding colour to the planting.

Our feathered friends have been feasting on the cabbages I planted out recently but neglected to net. Still, there are a couple of survivors which are doing well and I have planted out some red kale to keep them company. The broad beans have not yet been attacked by black fly so I must remember to pinch out their growing tips when I visit next. The Observer allotment blog is worth checking out for a useful list of jobs to do this month. There are certainly lots of tasks to do in June but it is rewarding when you see everything growing so well.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Turned out nice again

Recently got back from a short trip to Nice. Noticed that the municipal planting often included edibles amongst the flower displays. From bold red stems of chard to frills of red kale and silvery spikes of cardoons. I could not resist a trip in to a garden centre to see what varieties might be on sale. I think I showed considerable restraint by only coming back with a couple of seed packets in the suitcase.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

British summer time

The clocks changed and the sun shone. It was a promising start to British summer time today and the allotment was busy with activity. Folks wandering past the gates were peering in. When the sun is out, growing veg and working in the fresh air is an enviable passion. I know, gardening doesn't quite work like that and you have to get out there when it's windy and cold too. But it's days like today which make it all worthwhile.

Dug over the potato bed as I'll soon be planting out the seed potatoes. The broad beans are growing well and just neeeded a little support.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Now you see it...

Often we talk about seasons as if one rolls out fully formed every three months. Gardening makes you realise that within each season there are small changes and shifts in nature. Two weeks ago the crocuses were in flower on the plot. They had died away by the next week just as narcissus were beginning to bloom. This week a primrose had come into flower and nettles were showing their frills along the edges of the plot. Each new appearance telling a tale about temperature and time. Wonder what will have popped its head up next weekend.

Sunday, March 08, 2009


Things are stirring on the allotment. Rhubarb leaves are cracking through their papery shells and narcissus are flowering in clumps amongst the grass borders. Planted out some broad bean plants and spent another Sunday morning digging over the beds. Trying to get a head start by pulling up the tangle of grass stolons lurking under the soil before they really pick up pace.