12. JULY

The weather was a bit different today, overcast and a bit cooler. But as the morning progressed it was back to hot and oppressive even though the sun didn’t come out. I decided yesterday that I would try and pick a lot of raspberries and harvest my red tomatoes. I’m pleased to say I  managed to do both things.

This is my third batch of raspberry jam but the fruit is so good it would be a shame not to make it. This jam seems to be the most popular and it makes very good presents.

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After lunch I put the tomatoes in my large roasting dish with a few cloves of garlic and a good glug of olive oil and after a while in the oven it was ready. It filled two Kilner jars and after sterilising  15 minutes in a water bath it was done. Starting my winter supply of chopped tomatoes, they are so much better than shop bought tins.

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11. JULY

Phew, what a scorcher!

Yesterday I went to the allotment quite early in the morning and just picked some more raspberries and fixed nets over the greenhouse doors. The idea is that the door itself will stay open and the net door will stop any creatures from getting in. It was very successful last year so I fixed it there again this year. I’m glad I did it, the temperature is around 30 degrees.

Today was another early start, this time I wanted to tidy my large net cage, harvest the peas and sort out the few tomato plants that I put in the middle there – they couldn’t be planted anywhere else, there was no room in the greenhouses. I’m happy with the tomatoes, I will have some fruit on them.

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These are the climbing peas, they are climbing on the netting in the cage and are quite easy to remove after they finished, they don’t damage the net.

Tomorrow will be another hot day so another early start, this time harvesting my tomatoes. They are turning red, there is a good mixture of them some new ones for me like Speckled Roman….

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The others are a mix of plum ones and the usual round ones. I’m sure putting the banana skins underneath has helped with the ripening.

There are some huge green ones in there, ready to ripen…

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I had to put a lid under, they were so heavy they rested on the soil.

5. JULY

The plan for today was to do more weeding in two of my net cages where I planted the blackcurrants. First of all I had to follow the usual routine – open all my greenhouses and then start working. I had a very pleasant surprise in one of them – my very first red tomato.

The cucumber and radishes were in another greenhouse but I had to pick them to add to our evening green salad. I still  have some lettuce in the greenhouse, one is more than enough for the two of us.

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My plan for tomorrow’s lunch is new potatoes, broccoli and oven baked fish. The potatoes are very tasty and they were nothing special,  just what we had left from last year’s harvest.

I will certainly grow the broccoli again next year, this is the third picking – the little rosettes grow quite fast and soon are ready to harvest.

Of course there were more raspberries, I only picked this one box. I haven’t got any sugar to  make jam, this will  be just for us two to have as a desert.

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I am amazed how many raspberries I have this year, I’m sure this is thanks to the bees we have on the allotment now, thanks to Mary and Wayne.

2. JULY

The weather forecasters have got it slightly wrong for our area, the map showed the belt of showers further up north. It started drizzling here after breakfast and continued till the early afternoon. Around three in the afternoon it stopped so I put on my waterproof jacket and went to the allotment. I didn’t want to do a lot, just to see how things were there and perhaps pick some raspberries and currants. I  managed to do all that and got home dry. I wanted to try another recipe using fruit from my farm and thanks to my friend in Allotment Haven I have got just the thing. My blackcurrants aren’t ready as yet so I used red and white currants. The resulting cake smells delicious and looks great. Frank will be the judge of it tomorrow.

Yesterday was another busy day on the farm and in the end I was just too tired to write it all up. I did a lot of weeding in the orchard – again! and picked over two kilo of raspberries so of course I just had to make more jam. It would be a shame not to, this jam is so tasty. The tomatoes in the greenhouse are doing very well, I have removed the bottom leaves so there is a flow of air around them and they are in full sun.

Everything is growing well, the lettuce in one of the greenhouses is amazing, really big and very tasty.

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I have used it to make a big green salad – I throw everything and anything in – chopped hard boiled eggs, Feta cheese, olives, capers and then just stir in my dressing made with olive oil, wholegrain mustard, balsamic vinegar and a little drizzle of honey.

14. MARCH

Today was my first jam making session this year. I know, it is only the middle of March but I had an idea and it worked out very well. Last year during one of our rare visits to Mike and Nicky in the Lakes I picked a huge box of plums. Mike’s tree was so fully laden that a large branch just snapped, the weight of the fruit brought it down. I couldn’t just leave the plums there, they were ready to be harvested anyway so I picked as many as I could. When I returned home I halved them and bottled them in Kilner jars, without any water or sugar. They kept their colour perfectly but I had just too many and on the other hand was running out of jam. After a little research I decided it was worth trying to make the jam using Certo, liquid pectin.

The beauty of making jam this way is that it doesn’t have to be boiled for a long time, in this case only ten minutes.

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The colour of this jam is perfect, it made 12 jars. It should keep us going until the raspberries start and then the strawberries and…..

9. FEBRUARY

Some time ago I read an article by James Wong about growing fruit and vegetables. It made quite an impression on me when he said that it makes a lot of sense to grow soft fruit. I agree with that view, it doesn’t take so  much effort to look after the fruit bushes and they give very generously for a number of years. With that in mind I visited the garden centre today and had a lovely time – like a child in a sweet shop! They had a good range of seed potatoes I will start chitting them tonight, I got enough egg boxes for that. Then there were onion and shallot sets, but the best was choosing the new raspberry canes.

They are Autumn Bliss and Cascade Delight, five canes each. I had just the right size area for them so as soon as I got home I went to the allotment and planted them.

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8. FEBRUARY

I have to make most of this mild weather – today felt like a spring day again. The days are getting longer in the evening so I can do a bit more every day.

I had to finish the clearance of the raspberry patch, it was quite bad so it took a few days of fairly hard work. Amazing how well the weeds survived the winter – shame the pigeons don’t peck them, they prefer my chard!

Unfortunately the last two lines of raspberries were the worst. Not only were they full of creeping buttercups but also some strawberry plants made a comeback. First of all I wasn’t going to do a thorough job on it but then I just couldn’t leave it untidy so I did the usual clearance. It was worth it.

Tomorrow I’m hoping to visit a garden centre not far from from town, Russels in Baginton. I was given some garden vouchers and they accept them. What is even better they stock my favourite peat free compost – Dalefoot – so I can indulge. They also have a very nice cafe so lunch in there will be just the perfect end to the morning.

1. FEBRUARY

Things are looking good, February is here, only 28 days and we’ll be closer to spring. In the meantime the work goes on. I’m glad I started renovating the raspberry patch, it was a great improvement when I finished the other day. Today was the turn of the path. I always lost my nerve when it came to this path and usually just trimmed it somehow but didn’t tackle it properly. Today was different, I thought a drastic action was needed. I decided to get rid of the grass altogether, it was mainly a collection of couch grass and creeping buttercups anyway.

At least this time I remembered  to take the ‘before’ photo to remind myself how bad it was. All that’s left are the weeds in the rows of raspberries and I can take it easy, one or two lines each time I work there.

30. JANUARY

Apart from the three main plots that I have,  is a small patch, about a quarter of a plot, right beside the top fence. I’ve got a plum tree there, a rhubarb bed and about five lines of raspberries.

They are quite well organised, each double row has a path in between lined with a pond liner ( my friend’s husband was re-lining his little pond and got too much so she kindly gave the rest of it to me). The liner was just enough, all the paths are covered. Unfortunately I didn’t pay enough attention to this area last year and now it looked rather sorry for itself. Yesterday and today was a clear up time. It was quite daunting to start with but as soon as one bit was clean of weeds the rest was easy. I know the raspberries did well in previous years and so did the rhubarb so I’m hopeful that we’ll have a good harvest. The soil looks very good, not at all waterlogged, dark brown and crumbly. I have covered one of the rhubarb crowns with a bucket to force it – there is nothing better than the early pink rhubarb.

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I still have quite a bit of work there, all the small weeds in the raspberry lines but the hardest work is done.

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REPAIRS

One of the most satisfying activities on the allotment is exactly what I was doing today. Using something other people didn’t want and improving my plot at the same time. In this case it was a few long pieces of wood, about 10cm profile. I think it was a part of somebody’s decking in its previous life. I have used it for mending the edges on my path and creating a border edge on my raspberry patch, to contain the plants and make it easier for the future wood chip spreading.

 

I have nearly finished weeding the raspberry patch – first of all I had to cut down the fruited canes and then I was able to tackle the weeds. Amazing how well they were hidden under the lush greenery. This job is almost done.

My latest little greenhouse is quite secure now, all I had to do was to put a few slabs down inside and create a little path in the front. That is all done now, the surrounding soil is hoed and all is ready for next year. I have put nine grow rings inside, it’ll be ideal for tomatoes. I keep reminding myself how good it is to grow tomatoes every time I open one Kilner jar of my oven baked tomatoes. Gone are the days of tinned tomatoes.