At last the temperature is a bit easier to work on the allotment, however my activities are rather curtailed. I have great plans on the way there – I’ll do the weeding here, collect the cut branches there etc. It is the same every time I go there and it always finishes in the same way – only a fraction of jobs get done. Take today. I was hoping to get on with watering all the plants in the four greenhouses but when I got to the farm I noticed that the blackberries had turned black overnight. I wanted to make some jam so I decided to pick them first and then do the other jobs. This didn’t take too long and I had two full boxes quite quickly.
As I started watering the greenhouses I realised the tomatoes needed picking as well, even though I had a large bag of them a couple of days ago. Another little delay but well worth it, I could make more pasta sauce because I also picked a handful of sweet chillies in yet another greenhouse.
After that I finally got going with the watering and after that came a few more jobs – cutting off some of the tomato foliage and tying the plants to their sticks, weeding inside the greenhouses and here I thought – how come the weeds always grow so well, even if the plants I want growing are struggling. There must be some kind of logic here but I can’t see it.
I was slowly getting round to all the jobs I wanted to do, even managed to harvest some runner beans and other climbing beans. I wanted to make more pasta sauce, this time a mix of tomatoes, peppers and the beans. It all together made a huge potful and I have kept one portion for us for tomorrow’s lunch, the rest is already bottled in my Kilner jars. All will be very nice in the middle of the winter.
As the last thing in the evening I made the jam. I had more than enough so I got two Kilner jars of blackberries as well as all the jam. I’d better slow down a bit with the jam making, there isn’t much storage space left and I’m beginning to run out of empty jam jars.
There are very dark clouds overhead and I’m hoping we might get some rain at night. I think I will work in the back garden at home tomorrow, and I must catch up.
It was back to the usual activities in the afternoon, after a fantastic weekend. Thanks to Mike and Nicky, Tom, Kim and the children and Pete, Suzi and Jay we had the best ever birthday weekend in a very long time (that’s what I think!!) A session in a spa with Suzi for me, the Wave experience with the boys – young and older for Frank and then a meal in the Telegraph Hotel for all of us. We had rooms booked so it was a late night for all.
We got home around midday and after unpacking I started doing the usual things – tidying our things, sorting out the seeds that I want to get going, sorting out the propagator and getting the soil in the little trays. Amazing how much time all this takes, but the propagator is up and running, three out of four trays are done – chillies, peppers, tomatoes and just a few aubergines.
One tray is empty as I’m waiting for my latest seeds to arrive in the post. I have found a new (for me) seed company and ordered some different chillies and tomatoes. They are called Sea spring seeds and I’m hoping that they will be as good as the website suggests.
Yesterday was an unseasonably warm day. I had to remind myself what date it was, it felt like a good day in early spring. It is too wet to do any serious work on the allotment, but saying that, all my serious work is done. The greenhouses are ready for the next growing season and as I have four of them I can spoil myself. I have decided to grow quite a lot of tomatoes, less of aubergines and a good mix of sweet peppers and chillies.
I have a good reason to grow more tomatoes, we are still using my bottled tomato soup and also chopped roasted tomatoes.
The chillies did very well and I have managed to dehydrate them, ready to be used in future recipes.
Yesterday was dedicated to work in my big greenhouse in the back garden. I have got four large grow beds there and I was able to single out and plant all my leek seedlings, also the onion seedlings. I have started those in late November. It seems to work, they are looking good.
I have also planted some garlic cloves, to make sure I have got enough to harvest later. I have garlic already growing on the allotment but you can’t have enough!
That was exactly my thought about onions and leeks so I started two more seed trays with leeks and onions. The plan is to grow quite a lot of vegetables that we like.
I was given a food dehydrator for my birthday in February and to my shame I only decided to use it today. I wasn’t quite sure until now what I could dry in it – all the produce I either bottled or cooked and we had it there and then. I grew a number of chilli plants, I found a new one that is rather prolific – Havana Gold. It has lovely little fruits, they start as pale yellow and slowly turn darker yellow to orange.
These chillies were growing in the greenhouse at home so in the early afternoon I harvested them and then started reading the instructions about the dehydrator. They were reasonably easy so it didn’t take too much time to fill the trays and plug it in. The temperature was then set and the time – there is a very helpful booklet on how to do it all. All is done and it is sitting on the table in the studio, quietly humming. It’ll be interesting to see the result. Next time I must try to dry something a bit more challenging.
Finally it all came together. First of all I managed to harvest my very first spring rhubarb – I think it is the tastiest of all the pickings.
Last year in the autumn I have acquired another greenhouse, a very old one at that. It belonged to an elderly lady who lived in a house right next to our allotments. We were very friendly, she was used to come to see me quite often . She had a little gate in her fence as her husband was used to have a plot on our site quite a number of years ago. She died a few years ago and the people who bought her house didn’t want the greenhouse so I rescued it. The structure was sound but as we dismantled it quite a lot of the panes of glass broke – it was very old and brittle. Anyway, with help I moved it all to my plot and stored it very carefully. My friend Dave said he would help me to put it together. Soon after the New Year he surprised me by getting the structure up and in position. It formed a neat group of greenhouses. Next job was harder – sorting out the panes of glass. As so much of it broke I decided to do a bit of mix and match – I ordered eight polycarbonate sheets for the side panels and decided that the rest and the roof would be glass. Had to buy some more glass but it all started to take shape. I’m delighted to say that the only thing to do now is to fix new runner wheels on top of the door – on order – and all is done. Nevertheless I have constructed my raised beds inside, filled them with the contents of one composter bin and a number of sacks of Dalefoot compost. This way I can have one greenhouse for tomatoes, one for peppers and chillies and one for aubergines and the occasional cucumber will be placed where I will find space. I am very happy but all this was possible only with a huge lot of work by Dave. Thank you Dave. A friend in need is a friend indeed.
My courgettes always did well on the allotment but I am adding cucumbers to the list this year. I have a couple of plants in each greenhouse and they are producing very well. I like munching on a sliced cucumber but there are limits to what I can manage….
and I decided to find something else. After searching I discovered a recipe for ‘quick pickled cucumber‘ and just tried it. Just delicious!
The next huge harvest are courgettes, every year is the same. I thought I’d like to try something else and after another search found a recipe for fermenting vegetables. I mistakenly thought it to be very complicated. Not this recipe! I will have to be patient, follow the instructions very carefully and try it later. Watch this space.
I had just enough of the following vegetables: courgettes, dwarf beans, Borloto beans, kohl rabi, courgettes and a small green chili pepper.
What would have been a waste has been turned to something delicious, a savoury jelly.
It would have been a shame to waste the thinned-out apples, we have two kinds of yummy jelly. Perfect with cold meat or cheese….
I think this year I have finally managed to do what I knew I should be doing – not to get carried away when deciding what and when to sow.
In the past years I was sometimes way too early and then plants got leggy or just died so I didn’t gain anything or I simply sowed too many seeds and was then swamped.
This year is different – I’ve got quite a few kohl-rabies and cabbages, purely because I wanted a lot of them. As I have my brassica nets on the allotment, I shall have enough space to house them all and, as I have read in the RHS information pages about mushroom compost, that is excellent for brassica growing because it means that the plants are less likely to be affected by club root.
In the brassica line I’ll have cabbages – white and red, kale, purple sprouting broccoli, kohl-rabi and cauliflowers.
All of these are neatly transplanted into bigger pots and there they can take their time to grow, ready to be transplanted into the cages.
The tomatoes are doing well too, again the same rules apply – less is more and I’m quite pleased. I managed to find some purple tomatilloes, delighted about it as so far I only managed to find the green ones. It will be very interesting. I have got a few chilli peppers and sowed some sweet peppers today, just to make sure I’ve got a bit of everything.
I’d like to grow the tomatoes and tomatilloes on the allotment, inside the net cages – these do offer some protection and the fruit is much more tasty having been grown outside.
Apart from the veg I’ve got some sunflowers coming up, I’d like to plant them out on the allotment to encourage the bees – we have got a hive there, hopefully the bees are still in.