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.

SOMETHING DIFFERENT

The only thing to do during the winter months is to sort out the seeds. I know there are other jobs around the house etc but I’m leaving that to my ‘man who does….’

I was fortunate to receive some Sutton seeds vouchers and as I had all my usual seeds already I decided to treat myself to some different ones. My motto – try some thing new every year – foremost in my mind, I ordered three unusual varieties.

When I first started gardening on my allotment I grew anything and everything, even though things like onions are ever so cheap in the shops and in order to have enough I would have had to have a field of them.

I follow James Wong‘s advice instead – grow something you find difficult to buy in the shop – and also have my own one – try something new every year. If it grows well and we like to eat it, I’ll have it again next year. If not, I didn’t lose anything much and will try something else next year.

WEIRD AND WONDERFUL

I like this time of year. Everything seems to be bursting out of the ground, shouting at me “pick me, me and me….”

I took on a neglected plot in the spring; I didn’t plan it but the people who were supposed to have started there gave up, I didn’t want our site look in a bad way – this plot is right next to the fence and nowadays everybody who walks by can see in.

I wasn’t quite sure what to grow. When in doubt, grow potatoes. They were a huge success as I had more space I planted them quite far apart and the result is that I have fantastic baking spuds. The rest of the ground was filled with courgette and squash plants.

The soil is great there and now the whole half of the plot is covered with huge courgette and squash plants – like an invading army, slowly marching across.

I planned to grow my favourite monster – Tromboncino courgette – but this one went a step too far.

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There are other shapes and sizes, my next favourite is the flying saucer – New Zealand squash. The packet of seeds I have a few years old, Mike and Nicky brought it from their holidays there. Obviously tough seeds, keep on growing!

Another of the squashes gave me a bit of a shock, it appeared all of a sudden…

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The best thing about all these monsters is that they taste great. I roast them in the oven, cut into chunks, sprinkled with olive oil and spices and just about 10 minutes before the end of cooking I add Halloumi cheese, cut into pieces, the result is very tasty indeed.

FROM THIS…..

….to a load of delicious chutney.

I found a great recipe last year – spicy squash and apple chutney – and because my squash harvest this year is exceptionally good, I decided to make some.

All it took was a trip to an old abandoned allotment site and pick some apples. I cannot imagine gardening there – the soil is quite poor, full of stones and the whole site is rather deserted. But the main thing is that the apple trees are doing well, despite being neglected, unpruned etc. They’re Bramley and that was perfect for my recipe.

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The preparation is quite fiddly but it is well worth it. Another good thing about squashes is that they keep well, the important thing is to cut the stalk as long as possible if you’re not going to use them soon – they keep better that way.

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 and  colours.

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

LEEKS

I think I’ve finally got it right when it comes to growing leeks. In the past I usually put the seeds in a seed tray, they grew but were rather spindly and when I wanted to plant them out, all their roots got tangled and the result was disappointing.

Not so this year. I’ve got a small raised bed next to the greenhouse in my back garden so I decided to raise the leeks there. The seeds went in, I erected a small protective “fence” out of thick because the birds would have loved to sample the seedlings and then forgot about them.

Today I pulled them out and was delighted – lovely strong plants and enough to fill an empty space on the allotment.

001This work done I had a bit of time to inspect my squashes. They too are doing fine, it certainly helps that I have been watering them with either comfrey tea or diluted liquid from my wormery.