IT KEEPS GIVING

Each time I go down to the allotment, or the farm as I call it, I spend quite a bit of time harvesting. It was the strawberries to start with, then the raspberries and now redcurrants. And in between I picked the first greenhouse cucumber.

I have made loads of jam – strawberry, raspberry and mixed jam with the two fruits. Today was the turn of redcurrant jam, and the result is great. I’m happy with that and the amount I picked yesterday was just a fraction of what is there! I think the rest will have to be frozen.

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There will be more cucumbers, one of the water melons is there, only as big as a gooseberry – it has got to start somewhere!

BROAD BEANS AND OTHER DELIGHTS

I have been trying to grow broad beans from the very first year I have been on the allotment. Either the pigeons ate the beans soon after I put them in the ground or they waited and ate the young plants. Every year I had some beans but nothing to boast about. Until now…

I was very lucky with the weather today – even though it has been raining since the morning I had a couple of hours’ window where I was able to go to the allotment and harvest these beauties, all 4 kilo of them. And there are plenty more. The reason for this success is the fact that I planted them in October inside one of my net tunnels. I wasn’t quite sure if it would work but it is obvious that it did.

In the same net tunnel I have Victorian climbing peas – I think I shall just grow those in the future. It not only looks good but they are much easier to pick.

And finally, the best of all were the strawberries. I didn’t expect so much but even in this deluge I brought home just over 1.5 kilo of them.

MAY…

…is here and it is rather chilly. All the same, work on the allotment is going on – building raised beds inside one of my net cages. I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time, got a nice lot of timber from the friendly builders next door and it took a few trips with my wheelbarrow to take it to the allotment.

The tomato plants were outside already so this wasn’t too much of a shock for them as they got planted here. I used some old flower pots, cut off the bottom and embedded them in the compost, that way the tomato plants will have more depth for their roots. In the empty spaces will be lettuce Webs wonderful.

The same goes for my sunflowers – they stood in one of the net cages for a week or so ; they’ll be fine planted here as they have a bit of protection from the greenhouse.

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Last but not least – I covered four of my strawberry beds, they are flowering very well and some small strawberries are already there. I just don’t want to share them with the birds.

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The mason bees are doing what they are supposed to do, it is wonderful to see that.

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SUNNY DAY

I was reading my notes from last year, trying to see how behind I am with my planting. The result? At least two weeks. Never mind, my activity on Wednesday and today (18th and 20th April) almost caught up with last year.

One more plot finished, of course the same goes for this one as for the first one – the net cages are empty but the greenhouse in the back garden is filling up with seedlings that I will start transplanting as soon as the weather stabilises.

There are parsnips, strawberries, broad beans, globe artichokes, garlic and potatoes on this plot and one pear tree and two apple trees. The fig tree in front of the shed is doing well and my plan is to plant some more rooted cuttings of the fig there as well thus creating a little orchard. Who would have guessed that I would be able to grow and harvest figs!

MORE JAM

I have decided on a different strategy when it comes to jam making. The usual time was in the middle of summer when the weather is (hopefully) quite hot and it is all rather tiring. Not any more.

I always freeze the extra harvest of strawberries , raspberries and blackberries. The strawberries are crushed and weighed in 500g pots and frozen, the other berries are just frozen loose in bags.

Yesterday was a jam making day and it couldn’t be any easier. I selected 4 such packets, added the required amount of sugar, lemon juice and Certo and hey presto

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we have 12 more jars of strawberry jam.

I shall make some jam as I harvest the fruit but just enough to keep going and the rest of the fruit will be frozen, ready for future use.

IN FULL SWING

It is harvest time!

As it is so hot these days I started going to the allotment quite early in the morning. The plan is that I will either water the most needy plants with the hose or, on alternate days, feed the ‘special cases’ either with the seaweed extract, comfrey tea or the liquid from my wormery.

It was the turn of the comfrey tea. My, does it stink!! And the smell seems to linger close to the ground, so when I was bending down, I got a good whiff of it. Never mind, the squashes love it!

I managed to pick another large box of strawberries, pulled out a lovely bunch of carrots and a few nice beetroot.

yesterday was a day to thin out the gooseberries…..

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…and I was pleased I had this lovely lot.

Got them home and in no time made a very tasty gooseberry and mint jelly. Goes a treat with cold meat, cheese or a quiche.

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As I was picking the gooseberry I also noticed that the currants are almost ready. That’s the beauty of having the fruit bushes in the net cage – I can take my time picking them, not like in the past where it was a competition between me and the birds. Guess who lost??

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Another benefit of net cages is the ease of growing brassicas. It was the same story in the past – try to stop the birds nibbling the leaves of the young plants so there was hardly anything left. I thought they wouldn’t like kohl rabi. I was wrong. So now the kohl rabi grows in the net cage and nothing gets at it and I can enjoy the fruits of my labour.

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NEW HARVEST – NEW JAM

I have managed to stop – well almost – the thieving squirrels by protecting my strawberry bed with nets, I knew why I planted them in all four raised beds – very easy to fix the nets over. Work is going ahead to move more strawberry plants into the new beds after the harvest. The squirrels were very persistent!

Never mind, all is well and the other day I picked 2 kg of lovely strawberries. The next day there were 13 jars of delicious jam – summer in a jar!

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ALL IN ORDER

Amazing what a day of rain can do – it seems that everything has doubled in size. I thought I had the weeding under control but how wrong was I!!

There was nothing else but get down to it and weed….and weed again. As a result I have got very nice and regimented rows of carrots, beetroot and broad beans. Potatoes are usually in order but even the humble spuds are quite orderly.

The next job was to construct a couple of frames for my next year strawberry beds. I had this idea that I’d surround an area of land with planks of wood and next year I would grow strawberries there – much easier to protect – just throw a net over the whole structure.

I was lucky, my friend on the site had an asparagus bed that he no longer wanted. It was a quick job to dismantle the whole thing and install it on my plot! Exactly as I wanted!