It has been so amazingly dry these last few weeks that I’m quite surprised anything is growing on the allotment. Fortunately I have my greenhouses and that keeps the tomatoes and peppers happy. I haven’t had so many tomatoes and peppers in all the years I’ve been working there.Thinking of the current situation it is quite lucky that I’ve had such a super harvest, I was able to bottle a lot of the produce – oven roasted mixed vegetables or just tomatoes, cooked blackberry and apples for future crumbles and the list goes on. I’m especially pleased with the oven roasted mixed vegetables, I just add a glug of olive oil, no water so the flavours are really concentrated.
The cucumber in the greenhouses did very well. I have planted two plants and they have climbed up and along a wire the entire length of the greenhouse, producing a lot of fruit. I had so much that I was able to make cucumber relish for the very first time and it was very tasty.
My friend Mary and her son Wayne have got a few beehives on their plot and today was the day to harvest their honey. I’ve never seen it done and was amazed how very laborious it is.
I’m sure it is thanks to the bees that our fruit harvest is so good. It is not only the fruit that benefited from the bees, my sunflowers did very well too. My tallest one was 915cm and today I brought home two of the biggest heads to save them for Chris for next year’s competition.
Both are 25cm in diameter so we should have enough seeds for everybody.
The afternoon work session started as usual, greenhouses opening, picking some raspberries and hoping that I will finally get some weeding done. I did actually clear one of my net cages when Simon , who was watering his grapevines, called out – come and have a look! I couldn’t believe my eyes, there was another swarm of bees in one of our trees.
I find them fascinating, how they manage to hang there like this, just quietly pulsating and changing places. I phoned Wayne and he came to have a look. He wasn’t sure if these were his bees or if they came from somewhere else. Either way the fact that we have a number of hives on the site is quite obviously good for the fruit trees and bushes. My fruit trees are laden with fruit – I know, it could be a combination of factors but the bees are helping a great deal. All this supports the efforts we make not to use any weedkillers or sprays, anything that may harm them. We must make more effort to protect them because without bees we wouldn’t survive very long.
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.
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.
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.
Today’s forecast was correct-cold, windy and rain, heavy at times. I had to go to the allotment as I wanted to get some more rhubarb. I was looking for some other ways to use it and found a recipe for rhubarb and vanilla jam. I have got enough rhubarb and the only other ingredients were vanilla pods, sugar and lemon juice. Found all of them so the afternoon will be spent making this jam.
When I arrived on the allotment I was in for a big surprise – a swarm of bees! I’ve never seen one at close quarters so this was quite amazing to watch – like a living creature, constantly moving, shifting.
I guessed where they came from – over the hedge Mary and Wayne have hives, it took just a short phone call and Wayne came all dressed in his protective gear to collect them. Even though he didn’t manage to collect them all, he said that the others will find their way home. It was rather fortunate that they settled on a couple of raspberry canes, right beside one of my paths, he was able to cut the canes down and just shake the bees into his special box. Very interesting to watch.
I decided to move my mason bees from the allotment to the back garden. Last year was the first year I had them, they only capped one tube so I thought I’d like to offer them something better in here. I have got a fairly large manuka tree, grown from seed near the the place where I fixed the holder with the tubes. I didn’t check for a long time and the other day I managed to get to it, there is a large elderberry bush nearby too. To my delight I found nine capped tubes!
After reminding myself what to do next I took the inner tubes out and stored them upright in a small jar on a shelf in the sitting room. I replaced these with empty ones and put them back in the holder. I am hoping they will carry on the same way and cap many more. It is well worth the effort, we have to keep the bee population protected.
It is the time of year again, my mason bee cocoons have arrived.
I had them last year already, they filled just one tube but there were eight cocoons in there. Let us hope for more this year.
My Mason bees started to hatch!
Only 19 more to come but I am hopeful, if one can do it, so can the other 19.
A package with some mason bees cocoons arrived yesterday in the post – a red-letter day for me.
I took them to the allotment in the morning and installed them in their little home and now just have to wait. I shall have to go there in the morning, take them out (I had to put them inside the shed overnight) and put them back in their little house. Each evening they’ll go back inside and in the morning out….a nice little routine, just like having chickens perhaps…
Watch this space!
We did have a bee hive on the site but unfortunately the bees swarmed twice and left us – obviously they didn’t like us!
Shame, it would have been good for the plants but I haven’t given up. I have found out about Mason bees. I would very much like to get them, next year , it is late this year and hopefully it’ll be a big help to our plants. Not only that but it’ll help to keep them going.
I’ll be going to the NEC on the 17th of this month to the BBC garden show, I might find out a bit more there.
Some time ago we were contacted by somebody from the Allotment association and they wanted to know if we wouldn’t mind having a bee hive on our allotment. We asked all our members and after explaining where the hive would be placed everybody agreed.
Frank made the hive himself (he was used to have a large number of hives and also allotment plots but due to ill-health he had to scale down; he still has a few hives). He told us that he’ll bring us the next swarm. He was true to his word but the bees didn’t settle and left us.
In the autumn he came again with another swarm and this time they settled in and when I saw Frank today he was very pleased with them we might even get some honey.
I think it is a great thing to have them on the site, it can only be good for our plants. I’m sure I’ve seen more bees on my fruit trees than ever before.
I’m going to sow some wild flower mix around my shed there, also around the fruit cage and in some other empty spots, to encourage them.