Every now and then I feel that my efforts to keep the site reasonably weed free are like painting the Forth bridge (but even that doesn’t need painting over and over again, they have got some special paint that lasts longer). It was the turn of my largest soft fruit cage – I have lost count how many time I did that and the weeds keep coming back.
I didn’t stay much longer after that and after lunch at home it was time for some greenhouse work. I have some garlic growing in there in one of my grow beds already and now I have added some shallots and onion setts in small cell trays. It works with the garlic – I’m hedging my bets as I have some garlic growing on the allotment already.
I haven’t tried it with the onions or shallots yet, it will be interesting.
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.
Today was the turn of the composter bins. I have got five of them at the end of one of my plots and I’m filling them in turn. It always amazes me how quickly they rot down. Some of them were easier to empty and one yielded an amazing amount of this dark brown crumbly soil. I emptied one after another and using my wheelbarrow transferred it all to my other fruit trees and bushes.
There was only one more thing to do – planting my elephant garlic. I didn’t have much more strength anyway.
I have always resisted the gardening gurus’ encouragement to stop digging. My argument was that I have to clear the ground of all the weeds, there was no point in leaving the ground as it was after harvesting whatever I grew there. This year is different. I have harvested my potatoes and to my surprise the ground was almost weed free. All I had to do was to level it with my favourite tool – the azada, it has got a blade on one side and a claw on the other – and the job was done. Then I scattered a mix of chicken poo pellets and fish, blood and bone fertiliser and I’m ready to plant my garlic there. I will use my own garlic, I had a very good harvest so I can spare some.
I can’t imagine not growing tomatoes, I grow them every year and I have done so even before I had the allotment. I’m lucky to have a super greenhouse in my back garden – I treated myself for my birthday one year and got the best I could afford. It is a lovely Rhino greenhouse, I had a guy to put it up. He had all the necessary tools and it was amazing to watch. He made it look so easy.
It was in this greenhouse that I harvested the huge tomatoes today. I try to grow different ones each year, these ones are new to me – Cherokee purple. They are lovely to look at and great to taste. To grow them I fill the pots or the grow beds with a special compost I have, I get it from Dalefoot, their compost is totally peat free and they have a special tomato compost. The tomatoes just love it and I’m delighted with the results.
The biggest one was 571 g, quite a monster. I chopped them all up and roasted in the oven with some olive oil and a few cloves of garlic. Afterwards I just blitzed it with a hand-held stick blender and seasoned the soup. Quite delicious, nothing but fresh home grown organic ingredients. There will be more soup as there are more tomatoes in the greenhouse on the allotment.
The June drop has been and gone and I have decided to thin out apples, not only on my trees but on my friend’s trees too.
They will boil down to a mush and then I will put them in a muslin bag and let it all drip during the night. It will make a very tasty jelly – perhaps with chilli or garlic or some herbs. Watch this space!
After a fairly dismal start everything seems to be growing well – not quite everything, the carrots, parsnips and beetroot didn’t germinate well, I had to re-seed them and even that is struggling. Never mind, I live in hope.
The squashes are doing much better though. As usual I will grow my tromboncino and zucca da marmelata and I add some new ones to it – zucca Hubbard and a Maltese pumpkin.
The squashes had a lovely structure last year but as one zucca da marmelata was about 7 kilo it pulled the structure down – with the help of a fairly fierce wind. Back to the drawing board then and I have constructed a new structure this year, in fact three of them. Much sturdier and I very much hope they will last a few years.
I planted a couple of squashes beside each vertical and with a little bit of coaxing they will climb.
After this I harvested one part of the garlic plants, purely to get it out of the ground to clear a square piece of land to implement my plan.
I have rescued two raised beds – they were abandoned on an empty plot so I thought I’d give them a chance to be useful. And useful they are for me – they are made in such a way that the corners are hinged so they can fold flat. Well, they’re not flat any more, I have put them on the plot, ready to plant with the autumn broad beans. That means that I can cover them with some netting as last autumn the pigeons ate all of my broad bean plants!!
It is well and good to have the rain and heat, everything grows but certain plants grow better than other – like weeds.
It feels like painting the Forth bridge but even they don’t have to do this any more ! I, on the other hand, have to carry on with the weeding. I have finished the onion and garlic beds today – I wonder how long they’ll stay like this.
Only time will tell.
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!
….and the result is a lot of goodies.
First of all I had to boil the apples I picked on the allotment – thanks to the strong wind I managed to find quite a lot. That was done yesterday and it very slowly dripped overninght. I decided to make two savoury jellies – rosemary and garlic. I use a recipe in my favourite book – The preserving book – and use whatever I think might make good jelly. Garlic is a strong favourite.
Next was the making of some soup. As I have a lot of different vegetables on the allotment I try to use them all. My friend Anita recently gave me a great recipe book (you can’t have too many!) and this is the book I use now, very often.
It might not look exciting but it is very tasty. Wilted spinach and Stilton cheese.
Last but not least was the turn of something quite different. When we went to Brazil some years ago, our friend Lucia taught me how to make their local delicacy – cheese balls. They are very easy to make and once made, impossible to stop eating!
One good thing about them is that they can be made and frozen; when I need to serve them, say with soup or just as nibbles with wine, I take them out and bake.
All in all, a very productive day.