30. OCTOBER

I had another helper on the allotment yesterday – my grandson Louis came in the afternoon. We took the kitchen scraps for the composter bins, harvested some parsnips and I tried my luck with the sweet potato. I’m quite pleased, from under two plants I got one sweet potato, reasonably sized. I think it’ll be fine as a jacket potato for myself and Frank, with some salad to give us a bit more for lunch.

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The forecast for today was quite good, at least for the morning, so I went to the farm to finish planting the garlic. I planted the first lot a few weeks ago and that is already sprouting, it didn’t take too long.

The latest garlic only came the other day and I ordered it purely because of its name.

I still had some time left so  I started some more weeding, this time in my little herb area. I have got a couple of pear trees, one apple and a damson bush there, also a gooseberry, a few chilean guavas and a bay tree. This will be just  those trees, the herbs – thyme, rosemary, lavender and in the spring a scattering of annual flowers.

After this I just had time to pull out a few of the dead sunflowers, cut some more chard and head home. To be continued tomorrow, or whenever the weather lets me.

22. OCTOBER

Today was an ideal day for digging. I started on the allotment around 10.30 and as I didn’t have to  cook I took a flask of coffee with me and worked. It was highly enjoyable and it felt almost like a late spring day. I decided to tackle a bigger area and the place to work on today was my large net cage. I had a mix of vegetables there – peas, chard that survived from  last year and a group of yellow pear tomatoes. The tomatoes and peas have finished a while ago but the chard was growing well.

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I harvested it with the idea to make our favourite lasagne.

It took quite a while to clear all the old plants and weeds but it was well worth it. The soil is crumbly and rich , I didn’t pull out the chard, it will grow again for another harvest. That’s the beauty of chard, it grows well, doesn’t bolt and after cooking it it doesn’t shrink as much as spinach. The cage is ready for next year, I will have some wigwams for growing peas, amaranth and perhaps some tomato plants.

All this work was made easy thanks to my favourite tool – the azada.

As I was working inside the cage I could hear and see my resident robin getting very agitated because he couldn’t get to the worms. So after I finished inside the cage I cleared the new raspberry patch next to the cage. It is only small but the robin was waiting on top of the fruit cage next to it and when I left he started looking for his worms.

All this work took a good few hours,  I came home after three pm but there was no time to rest, the chard had to be cooked, white sauce made and lasagne assembled. We shall have our favourite for lunch tomorrow.

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20. MARCH

It was another lovely day today, perfect for some work on the allotment. I started yesterday but because it was so windy I just managed to prepare the ground for sowing my parsnips. The seeds would have been blown all over the site.

It all worked out just fine anyway, Simon had a greenhouse to move from one plot to another – he wanted to have a clear run on that plot in order to work on it with his rotavator. This greenhouse we moved to a plot where he has a polytunnel already so the two structures are side by side. He took the glass out beforehand and it was quite easy to move it.

Today was a better day, sunny and the wind was much lighter. I was glad that I had the ground ready so I could start sowing straight away. First it was parsnips – I cannot imagine not growing parsnips. I went for the tried and tested varieties – Javelin and Gladiator. Every year I try to sow the seeds very carefully to avoid thinning out too much but this year I think I have done it just right. I’m sure we’ll have some great parsnip. Also I waited a few weeks to let the soil warm up more – again in the past I was a bit too quick to start sowing and the germination was poor. Let us hope for better results this year.

Next task was to sow some beetroot and chard. From past experience I know that I have to grow these in a net tunnel because the pigeons we have on the site would eat the very first leaves and I would have no harvest. That happened to me a few years ago and I have been sowing always under a net cover ever since. This is inside my very first net tunnel, I had to do a bit of repair work but I’m sure it is good for another season.

The rest of the space will be used for growing brassicas – red and white cabbage and broccoli, I’ve put down some lime on the soil already.

The last two plots that were unused have  new tenant, Wayne, our friendly tree surgeon who lives next door. He and his Mum keep bees and he has got two of his hives on the plot next to the fence and he’ll be growing on the next one, next to mine. It was a very overgrown plot and he worked magic on it. It is ready for planting. He also planted a few small fruit trees there, his bees will be busy pollinating.

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I was looking at my fruit trees, the pear trees are always the first to start flowering. I just hope we don’t get any late frost.20220320_133753

2. JANUARY 2022

I keep reminding myself that it really is just the beginning of January, the temperature is spring-like. I had to start the new year the right way, with some work on the allotment.

It was dry enough to pull out the old chard plants – they were very good and provided me with multiple harvests. I don’t grow spinach, chard is much better, has stronger taste and doesn’t bolt. I had all the plants in my large net cage –  had to do it like this because the pigeons were waiting to peck the little seedlings to death. They did it to  me last year so I was prepared.

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As I was doing that I finally decided what to do with the oldest of my greenhouses. This is the only one that has a bench. I had two growbags on that bench but it created too much shade underneath and that growing space was wasted. I don’t really need a bench in the greenhouse, I have got enough bench space in my large greenhouse in the back garden. The growbags had to go and then the bench could be dismantled. Not sooner said than done. It was surprisingly easy and now I have got more growing space in the greenhouse, the extra soil was distributed in the beds inside and some of it I put on my flowerbed in front of this greenhouse. When I go back tomorrow I will try to detach the bench frame – it should be possible using some little spanners – I’m sure I’ve got a set somewhere.

DECEMBER 31st 2021

I am quite glad to see this year out. I’m hoping the next one is going to be an improvement on the last one but I’m not very sure. But I’m positive, as long my health is ok and I can walk to the allotment, do my daily Guardian crossword and have my best mate – Frank – by my side, I’m happy.

Today was another spring day, I don’t even think it is December, just enjoy the moment. Of course I went to the allotment, harvested some chard and cleared some ivy from the shed – amazing how quickly it grows! I took my eye off it and there it was, half way around the door. The winter honeysuckle that I transplanted from my Mum’s garden after she died is doing very well, it flowers and the scent is fantastic.

The back garden is finished as well, put down another bag of the compost so it looks much better and it’ll get the feed it needed. The pond needed a new fountain and a general clean and that is done as well. It looks like a brand new pond.

RHUBARB

At last!! I have pulled a number of beautiful rhubarb stems but unfortunately I don’t know the variety. This crown has been on the allotment for a number of years, it looks quite established but it is not too big so I don’t have to divide it yet.

The soil was quite warm and getting dry so I started sowing my parsnips – 7 lines(you can’t have too many parsnips!) Also a long line of Swiss Chard, the brilliant white variety.

FRESH PRODUCE

I like spinach but instead of that I grow chard. I found that spinach bolted very quickly and when I cooked it, it just collapsed and was down to nothing.

Chard is much more robust and comes in a variety of colours. Some of the stems are brilliant red and can be used like celery. I have found a recipe using spinach so as usual I substituted that with chard and the result is scrumptious – spinach and bechamel bake.

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HARVESTED IN ONE DAY

I think the important thing is to keep picking a bit each day – just as I did yesterday. There were some more courgettes to pick, then I dicovered my climbing beans started producing and, of course, the pride of it was the humble potatoes!

After that it was the turn of my swiss chard – I pick it as very young and use it instead of spinach.

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Kale is doing well – Cavollo di Toscana, so that was next on the list…

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…and last but not least was my faithful rhubarb. That grows in any weather

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BOXING DAY HARVEST

I knew that my chard was growing – it always survives the bad weather but I never managed to pick any sensible amount. This year is different. I went to the allotment on Boxing day in the morning and returned with a large bag of very clean-looking chard.

It was washed and steamed within the hour, chopped, and after cooling it, put in the freezer. I’ll use it to make a spinach lasagna and spinach – filled pancakes.

I’m sure I’ll have one more harvest from it.

Next year I’ll make sure I grow it again.