A VERY BUSY DAY

I am sure the first of many. If the weather forecast is to be believed we shall have a sunny Bank holiday weekend – whatever next!!

I made most of the lovely day, took some lunch with me to the allotment in order not to waste any time and worked almost till 4pm.

One of the jobs I have is to cut the grass on the paths – I am getting there. It is rather handy as I use the grass to mulch my raspberries. It not only looks good but it is much easier to walk. Unfortunately I have to do it with my shears – somewhat backbreaking but needs must.

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Next came some planting. I have got a fig tree on the allotment already but as they grow quite well from cuttings I shall have a few there. Today was the day to plant another little one and hopefully in the autumn or next spring I shall have a few more.

I’m lucky to have my little greenhouse on the farm and today I started planting my tomato plants there. Some years ago I got some grow rings that were meant for grow bags but I use them in the open soil in the greenhouse and they are just perfect!

Last two years I grew some huge squashes, they managed to climb up on my structures I constructed for them but as one of the large ones – zucca da marmelata – weighed 7 kilo, the whole structure collapsed. The zucca was unharmed but I had to think of something else. I just happen to have a very nice neighbour who is changing some decking in his garden so I have used the horizontal pieces from the banister and the result is just what I wanted.

I will plant one zucca in each corner and they can climb as much as they want, this structure will support them.

And the last job was to plant some cabbages in one of my net tunnels – pigeon protection! I had them outside for quite a while so they are used to the temperature.

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A RAINY DAY

I got used to the idea that the exceptional nice weather has gone but I didn’t want this cold and wet day like today. Never mind I thought, I have got jobs I can get on with, like working in the greenhouse and dreaming.

Despite the distinct chill in the air the seedlings in the greenhouse are doing very well, they all look healthy. I have got quite a few pumpkins grown from seeds from Malta

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All of a sudden my tomatoes have started growing – it was a very slow start and I almost gave up but now I think I shall have enough to fill a few of my net cages. I have been growing them in this way and I seem to avoid them being hit by blight.

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One more plant I am delighted with, a Himalayan lily. I bought just one bulb a number of years ago at a country fair. So far it didn’t do anything, just produced beautiful shiny leaves but on careful reading I shall have to wait a bit more to get a flower. It looks especially good his year so I am hopeful.

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It was growing in the open ground but didn’t like it very much. Moving it into a large pot with rich soil certainly improved it. As I was replanting it last autumn I managed to detach a few scales from the main bulb and planted them on the allotment in my mixed flower bed. I’m delighted to say that there are at least two lovely shiny leaves appearing.

UNDER A BLANKET

I was looking at my seed collection and grew more and more frustrated. It is all fine to see that parsnips could be sown from February onwards. Well, that would have been rather difficult as the weather was against me.

Never mind, yesterday was a lovely sunny day so I made sure the piece of ground where the parsnips are going to grow is weed – free (quite a challenge, they seem to grow at the rate of knots!) and covered it with a piece of horticultural fleece. I’m sure it will worm the soil and I shall be able to sow one of my favourite vegetables.

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That done I turned my attention to the greenhouse. There are raised beds on both sides and a small one at the back. I added some more soil from my composter bins and now they are ready. Fortunately I have a large plastic cloche to cover one of the beds so I planted some lettuce seedlings there. That way we can have some early Icebergs.

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Last but not least I prepared another small raised bed that is beside the greenhouse, put a bag of old horse muck in and covered it with a thick layer of good soil, this is now ready for one pumpkin. I have high hopes for my latest acquisition, seeds from a Maltese pumpkin. I’ve seen them in Malta, now the challenge is to grow them as big as they were there.

In the past few years I had four raised beds with strawberries but one in particular is getting a bit old, they didn’t produce very much fruit. I have decided to dig them out, used some of the best runners to fill gaps in other strawberry beds and this one is now ready to be planted with broad beans. I have started them in the greenhouse in the back garden. They will be sheltered in this bed, I can plant them there a bit earlier.

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ZUCCA DA MARMELLATA

Or a squash but that doesn’t sound so good – Zucca da Marmellata has a certain ring to it.

This is the second year of growing these monsters – last year was good but I think this one is even better. I saved the seeds from my biggest specimen last year and used them in the spring. The plants started well and the grew and grew….

Last weekend was a bit windy and wet and even though the plants climbed fine on the structures I made for them, the combination of their weight and the wind meant that a part of my building effort came dow.

I had to harvest 3 of the squashes – no problem, they keep fine, as long as they have a longish stalk.

The big one looks very much like the big squash from last year and it weighs the same – 7 kilo!! Now I have to find a recipe how to make the tasty marmalade.

THE LATEST HARVEST

As ever, my unusual plants didn’t let me down.

My long green wonder is Dutch croockneck – I knew it as Tromboncino. Never mind, it is very tasty roasted. The yellow ball is my favourite Zucca da marmelata. This is only a juvenile – 4lb. Last year the biggest one was 14lb. Again, very good roasted.

I did an experiment – somebody had some chitted potatoes left from the spring planting. A very good variety – Wilja. As I had a recently cleared piece of land after harvesting onions I decided to chance it and plant them to be ready for Christmass. I did this a couple of years ago and it worked. I’ll have to keep an eye on the weather and cover them if it gets too cold. Hopefully new potatoes for our Christmass dinner.

 

AN UNLOVED PLOT

It was a neglected plot, right next to mine. I hated the idea of all that lovely soil not producing anything so a decision was made. I took on a half – there is a greenhouse on the first half and somebody else has got that. I didn’t want a greenhouse on the allotment – too much hassle with watering, ventilation etc.

First I moved a mountain of piled up wood and don’t know what  else, sorted out good pieces that could be used again and then started digging.

Cold or no cold – digging is a perfect remedy. It only took a few days and the job is done. I even managed to construct a little enclosure for a compost heap (for weeds and such like), moved the water-butt and a composter bin and now all is just lovely and ready to be planted.

Because I know the previous occupant grew potatoes I shall put some pumpkins, squashes and bush courgettes there this year.

You can’t have enough ground, there are always plants to grow…..

ZUCCA..

…da marmellata is my new giant. It is a pumpkin but not as we know it. This beauty weighed 7 kilos!

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Not quite sure what I’ll do with it – there is a recipe for making jam. We’ll see, it all depends if I find enough jars. If not I’ll roast it and make some soup and…..

7 kilos is a lot to get through. And there are two more on the allotment!

SECOND HALF OF MAY

Well, the weather isn’t too great but everything in the garden – or rather on the plot – is growing fine.

It was rather chaotic in the greenhouse and in the veranda at the back of the house – an organised chaos I must add. The veranda was used for hardening off all the plants before I took them to the farm to plant out and this method worked! Everything on the farm survived the move and is growing well.

Cabbages in the net tunnels, tomatoes, lettuce, Chinese lettuce, climbing beans are all fine. And then there are the hardy types who survived the winter out there – onions, shallots, garlic, strawberries, rhubarb and last but not least the potatoes and raddishes who are trying their best.

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THE HUMBLE PUMPKIN…..

,,,makes a delicious jam!

My pumpkin and squash harvest was very good and I also managed to keep a lot of them until now. They were carefully placed on folded cardboard in the garage and in the studio at the back of the house. Both places are not heated; I did this last year and it worked, so I continued this year.

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Over the years I managed to collect a number of different books on preserving, bottling and other activities but my all time favourite is The Preserving Book. When in doubt or whenever I want to use an ingredient I’m not quite sure about I always reach for this book. Yesterday was exactly the case. I realised I had a rather a large number of little pumpkins left and as I don’t like wasting anything and I couldn’t see us eating all of the as baked or pureed or…. I reached for The Book!

The result is amazing! Even though the books says that the jam can be used with savoury foods, the opinion of my maim jam tester is to use it on fresh bread and butted or a toast – I agree. Mind you, it would go well with a tangy cheese too.

The possibilities are endless….

 

MORE YACON

I think this is the ‘veg to grow’ for next year.

I harvested my other two plants and the tubers from the first one were an amazing 2,6kilos!!!

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I have tried two recipes so far – one was the Thai curry, very tasty. Today I just simply roasted the cut up yacon with some pumpkin and Halloumi cheese – yum!