PLANTING OUT

I took a gamble and started planting out some of my seedlings. Yestarday was a lovely day so after lunch I took most of my brassica seedlings over to the allotment and planted them out in the recently rejuvenated polytunnel – now a beautiful net tunnel. All in all there are 50 of them there – a mix of kohl rabi, purple kale, cavolo nero and cauliflower.

Even though it is only a net tunnel it feels slightly warmer inside, the mesh is so fine that it seems to stop the worst of the wind. Let us hope for the best.

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I think they’ll be fine.

Next I had to get some of my courgette plants out, they were getting a bit too big. I decided to put them in one of the raised beds where I constructed a support for them. The plants are lowere down so the wind doesn’t affect them.

After that it was just time to have a look how everything is doing – the broad beens are doing very well, I pinched the tops and hopefully this will stop the blackfly invasion.004

The iceberg lettuce, the chinese cabbage and the Daubenton kale are all fine in the first net tunnel. Especially the kale – I bought just one plant and managed to get a number of cuttings, all rooted well and growing – this reduces the need to grow ordinary kale seedlings. This kale is very tasty and I’ve been picking it even during the winter.

ENGLISH WEATHER

I’m rather pleased with myself that I wasn’t in too much of a hurry to start my courgettes, squashes and beans in the greenhouse. Hailstones a few days ago, arctic wind now, the gardens and allotments don’t know what hit them!

Another good idea was to keep my kaffir lime in the greenhouse after the winter, it has got flowers and I live in hope that we might have some fruit. Even if I don’t get any fruit the leaves are very useful.

IN THE GREENHOUSE

things are starting to grow. I’ve been very good this year and didn’t sow things too soon (as I was used to do, year after year, and everything got very ‘leggy’).

The sunflowers are doing well, got high hopes for my chances in the ‘Johnson competition’.

The same can be said for my selection of different courgettes and squashes. The pumpkins are coming up too, there should be a decent harvest to make more delicious chutneys.

Tomatoes will be just the outdoor types, I’ll grow them in some of my net tunnels. This way they will get a bit of protection from the wind, and with a bit of luck, I shall avoid the dreaded blight. I’ve got a selection of brassicas – cabbages, kale, cauliflowers and kohl rabi. They will all go in the rest of the net cages, somewhere I didn’t grow this kind last year. This way I’ll be able to rotate between the cages, rather then moving any of them. I think I have got enough cages to be able to do that quite well.

…AND BUILD SOME MORE…

I have a steady supply of beautiful long willow branches because Paul is taking his sorting out very seriously. He was very kind to deliver today another huge bundle of sticks to the allotment and it din’t take very long to use up most of them .

First was this….

..a very nice, sturdy structure in one of my raised beds. This will be a home for some courgettes. They climb quite well, important is to keep them tied to the sticks. At least the fruits will be off the ground and the slugs won’t be tempted!

And of course, you can’t have too many trenches for growing climbing beans. This is a trench number two

…so this way I shall have a nice ‘bean corner’ beside my net tunnel. There is a small area left, between the trenches and the tunnel and thet will house another structure for growing more courgettes and squashes.

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I’ll be able to build it next week because I’ll get another delivery of the sticks!

All I need now is good growing weather.

DIGGING

There is nothing more satisfying on the allotment than digging and clearing a neglected plot, bringing it to life.

I’ve done just that; the result is a sack of potatoes and endless supply of courgettes and squashes. The soil on this patch is lovely, rich – still full of weeds and bindweed but I’m getting there!

Gardening is better than any therapy and you can eat the results!

SHAPES AND SIZES

My squashes and courgettes come in all manner of shapes, sizes andĀ  colours.

All of them are tasty and some of them will reach an amazing size – watch this space!

FROM THIS….

…to all these goodies.

The courgettes are growing at a rate of knots! I went yesterday to pick some for my brother-in-law and for our evening salad, thought I got all the big ones but the reality was something else…

001I thought I’d better pick all the big ones and some small yellow ones and then the next question was – what to make?

No problem, I have got my favourite Courgette chutney recipe, I make it every year and it never lets me down.

006Even after making 5 large jars of this chutney I still had plenty left. I made my other favourite – a kind of stew. There is no recipe to follow, I just chop the courgettes, start with onion and garlic and some oil in a big pot, sweat it for a while, add all the courgettes and a carton of chopped tomatoes and some spice – it is always different because I change the spice mix. Bring to boil, turn down and simmer till the courgettes are soft, then eat one part and freeze the rest for later.

007I put it in 500g oblong dishes, fast freeze and take out of the dish, put in a plastic bag and put in the freezer.

My freezers are quite well organised, one has mainly frozen fruit, the other veg and the last one a mix of bought things and an overflow from the other freezers.

The result is that I don’t have to buy any frozen vegetables, it is all there from my allotment.

COURGETTES AND OTHER VEG

I always think that my courgettes aren’t going to do anything and they always prove me wrong. This year is no different.

The only change is the varieties I grow – yellow as before but very pale green ones I haven’t tried. I made a casserole with the green, yellow and pale ones today and it was delicious. It didn’t look very exciting but the taste was exceptional.

I use my favourite book of recipes, my son Mike gave it to me the first year I ever grew courgettes and I think he was concerned that I didn’t have enough recipes. No need to worry now!

002Not only do the courgettes grow well, I am very pleased to have grown my first perfect cauliflower ! Cabbage and calabrese is not in the same class but I’m happy all the same.

It certainly was worth going to the farm and getting a car load of sacks filled with horse manure!

PLANTING TIME

Even though the weather is still quite unsettled and un-spring like I decidedĀ  to plant my Spagna Bianco beans out. I waited quite a while before I started them in pots in the greenhouse but they grew at an alarming rate and very soon were trying to get out of the greenhouse. I put the whole tray of them in the veranda to harden them so I think they were quite tough when they went in the ground. I didn’t want to take chances so I built a little fleece fence round them, perhaps just for a bit of protection from the wind.

There is also one line of them but this didn’t get any pampering because these are just beside the net tunnel and that seems to keep the wind off them.

The next job was to plant something in the four empty cold frames. I had radishes there, harvested them and now they were ready.

I have grown five bush courgettes, ideal for this, hopefully they’ll just sit there and produce loads of tasty fruit. One cold frame had to have two courgette plants but I don’t think this will matter. If it gets too overcrowded I’ll just carefully take one out and plant is elsewhere.

The last job was planting some more lettuce seedlings in the polytunnel. The first batch are doing very well and the four cucumbers as well. I had one tray of lettuce, one cucumber plant and one ‘mystery’ plant. It looks like a squash, courgette or pumpkin – the label got lost in moving. We shall see.