12. MAY

After harvesting some broad beans the other day and putting them in the vegetable soup I decided to pick some every few days, chop and freeze them. A great idea, this way we shall have some different beans to cook in the winter.

Today was also planting tomatoes day – I had another seven plants at home and no room anywhere. The greenhouses on the allotment are full so I decided to plant these in the large net cage, there is a square of ground just big enough.

They are strong enough to survive the move but just to be on the safe side I put a surround made out of garden fleece, just to protect them from the wind. I’m sure they’ll be fine, I could even leave it there all the time the tomatoes are there, no harm done.

9.MAY

My tomato plants in the three greenhouses on the allotment needed some attention today, putting canes beside them and tying them – all 41 of them. They look very healthy and some of them are almost ready to flower. There is a plan behind this large number of plants, I like to bottle them either as passata or just oven roasted ones, they are much better than any tinned tomatoes from a shop.

I still have some more tomato plants in the greenhouse in the back garden, nine of them in smaller pots, they will be planted later on the allotment in one of the net cages, and four plants in big pots. With those I’m just waiting for settled warm weather so I can stand them outside on the patio.

There was a change of activities on Saturday. I was given some vouchers by our son Tom for my birthday and it was just the right time to go to the Perfect ponds to get some more fish and plants for our pond. Two guys from this place came in December last year to sort our pond, the result is an amazingly clear water and happy five old fish. We got four more Koi and loads of food for them and some plants. These are now on a low ledge in the water and hopefully they’ll get bigger and will prevent the heron from fishing in the pond. We have also rigged up a system of CDs on strings, they flicker and again act as a scare. Time will tell but I’m hopeful.

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19. APRIL

The leeks are done so today I finished a job that I started on Sunday morning. My tomatoes are amazing this year, every seed I put in the pots must have germinated, I have got dozens of plants. Very carefully labelled varieties including Yellow pear. That one is prolific and produces lots of small sweet tomatoes, very late into the autumn.

I have managed to fill two of my greenhouses on the allotment – I need four more plants to finish altogether. I have even put some tomatoes in the big pots I have rescued from the canabis farm and still I had a lot left. I mentioned it to my neighbour’s daughter and she took 12 of them. Now it looks quite normal, I’ll put the rest in some more big pots and perhaps inside one of my net cages when the weather warms up.

Both greenhouses were thoroughly watered and I moved on to the next task. When my third greenhouse was erected it left a narrow strip of land between the old and the new one. I put a water butt at each end, collecting rainwater from the gutters. Unfortunately it closed the access to the piece of land so weeds grew quite well there. I was always going to sort it out, never had enough time until today. Of course I had to empty one of the butts so I chose the one with the tap as it stood on a structure made of bricks and would be easier to move. It wasn’t very full, I used the water on the sprouting peas in the net cage and the raspberries, then heaved it on the path and started clearing the weeds.

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I’m pleased with the result, I’ll have just enough space to plant my competition sunflowers there, they will be sheltered from both sides.

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The water butt is perfect in the new position, it is even easier to draw the water.

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6. FEBRUARY

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.

4.JANUARY

Yesterday was a day of rest and a visit to a lovely National Trust place with our friends Lisa and John and children. Packwood House is lovely at any time of the year and yesterday was very enjoyable.

Well rested I started in the morning by taking  my kitchen waste to the allotment, to feed the worms in the composter bins. As I have five of them, it takes some filling but Lisa gives me her kitchen scraps so  my worms are well looked after.

The next task was a big improvement in my oldest greenhouse. When I was there last time I managed to dismantle the top of bench and the plan was to find my set of little spanners so I could detach the frame from the greenhouse structure. I was sure they would be in the shed – they were there and the bench didn’t take any time to undo. I’m delighted with the result, I have gained whole side of the greenhouse to grow tall plants, like tomatoes or peppers.

REPAIRS

One of the most satisfying activities on the allotment is exactly what I was doing today. Using something other people didn’t want and improving my plot at the same time. In this case it was a few long pieces of wood, about 10cm profile. I think it was a part of somebody’s decking in its previous life. I have used it for mending the edges on my path and creating a border edge on my raspberry patch, to contain the plants and make it easier for the future wood chip spreading.

 

I have nearly finished weeding the raspberry patch – first of all I had to cut down the fruited canes and then I was able to tackle the weeds. Amazing how well they were hidden under the lush greenery. This job is almost done.

My latest little greenhouse is quite secure now, all I had to do was to put a few slabs down inside and create a little path in the front. That is all done now, the surrounding soil is hoed and all is ready for next year. I have put nine grow rings inside, it’ll be ideal for tomatoes. I keep reminding myself how good it is to grow tomatoes every time I open one Kilner jar of my oven baked tomatoes. Gone are the days of tinned tomatoes.

TOMATOES

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.

ONE MAN’S RUBBISH IS

another man’ treasure. This was the story of my morning today. This story started some months ago. On the street where I walk to the allotment a house was raided by the police. It was a canabis growing place. The police took the occupants away and boarded the doors and windows of the house. So far so good. As I was walking to the allotment in the morning I saw a van in front of this ordinary terraced house with a couple of men carrying pots and bags out and loading them in the van. When I asked what they are going to do with the pots etc I was told that they would donate them to me – and the bags with the compost if I wanted it.. Of course I agreed, got my wheelbarrow from the allotment, which is just down a short passage, and started taking it all there. In the end it proved a bit much for me so I phoned Frank to come and help and between the two of us we finished the job. The compost in the bags was used but only once after one lot of plants grew in it so it is still very good.

I had a piece of land where I harvested my garlic and had nothing growing there now so that is my latest storage area. I’ll be able to share the pots with my friends on the site and the compost will be excellent for topping up the level of soil in my raised beds. All this has saved me quite a bit of money and effort – I don’t have to drive to a garden centre to get  the compost and the pots will be just right to grow my tomatoes or peppers.

Waste not want not and the guys from the clearing company had much less to take to the tip.

BOTTLING TIME…

…..is here again. I always remember my Grandma when it comes to cooking, baking and making jams or bottling. She was able to create something out of nothing or almost nothing. A few basic ingredients and she whipped up something delicious. My Granddad was a keen gardener and had a large plot of land outside our town. We didn’t call it an allotment – he got the land between the two world wars with the view to build on it – as they had two daughters who would one day get married and have children, the house would be big enough for all of them. It didn’t happen and I remember the big area as a lovely garden with a large shed that was big enough to sleep in. We had a well with delicious cold water all year round, he kept rabbits and grew a multitude of fruit and vegetables. And here is where my Grandma came into her favourite role. Whatever he grew she used it and made something out of it. Freezers weren’t around as yet – perhaps somewhere in the West they were but not behind the Iron curtain so she bottled or dried fruit and veg, made compote, jams, you name it she made it. I always recall her larder full of jars and since I have been gardening on my allotment I tried to follow her example. I am quite a way behind but I’m getting there.

This finally brings me to my activity today. In the morning I harvested a full box of my cherry tomatoes and decided to oven roast them with some elephant garlic, also harvested today, and bottle them. Much better to use in cooking than buying a tin of tomatoes. There is no sugar or salt added to my tomatoes and the result is delicious.

Courgettes are another vegetable that keeps on giving. My latest is to make pasta sauce using courgettes, mushrooms, sweetcorn, peas, tomatoes and anything else that I have to hand, chop all veg and cook. As it usually gives me a huge pot so I bottle it.

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Much tastier than any shop-bought and I know that I didn’t add any sugar or salt.

Next I have to do some research how to best use aubergines, one of the greenhouses on the allotment has about seven plants and they all started producing beautiful shiny fruits.

Watch this space.

TOMATOES

I knew I was going to have different tomatoes but I didn’t realise that they’ll be so different. I thought they were called Cherokee purple but these are even darker than purple. I’m sure they’ll taste great, looking forward to harvesting them

Talking of harvesting – the strawberry harvest is quite amazing this year. I’ve made two lots of jam, we have them on our porridge in the morning and the little smiler next door gets a box almost every day – his favourite birthday food.