This Week’s Harvest – 2017, week 23

The hungry gap is over and it is filled with broad beans! I have had a good harvest this week of broad beans, some lettuce and a few peas.

20170607_174600[1]

I harvested 1.4kg of broad beans and 150g of peas. I also pulled up a couple of carrots to see if they are ready yet. They are still small and have forked but at least there are no sign of carrot root fly!

20170607_174634[1]

I also pulled up the spinach which had started to flower. This tends to happen quickly in dry weather – I think I need to find a cooler place to grow spinach!

20170607_174655[1]

I hope your harvests are coming along nicely!

Advertisements

First Tries, New Buys and some Goodbyes!

Every year since I have had the allotment plots I have tried to do something new, whether that was try a new variety of a particular vegetable or a completely new vegetable altogether. Last year, some of the new vegetables I tried were Sweet potato, Oca and Jerusalem artichokes. The Oca failed miserably, the Jerusalem artichokes were hollowed out by slugs but fortunately, the sweet potatoes were a success!

More often than not, I end up trying too much in one go which leads to abject failure so I am going to try and curb my enthusiasm and only try a few new things this year.

First tries

From my trip to the Eden project two years ago, I have some lentil and chick pea seeds which I have been meaning to sow. I have decided that this year is the year I will sow them. As I have had them for two years, they may not germinate as well as I would like but I still think it would be good to give them a go. I have also picked up some seeds for Samphire which will be interesting to try this year too if not slightly complicated!

Lessons learnt from 2016!

Last year I tried too many new varieties of vegetables at once and this mainly led to them failing as I didn’t have the time to devote to so many plants! I realised that, for me, I only need to grow one or two varieties, and that it would be best to find the ones that I like the most and stick with them.

For example, last year I tried to grow four different types of Brussels sprouts. Not sure why I did that but suffice to say, that because I was trying too much, they all ended up dying and had to be replaced with plants from my local Wyevale Garden Centre! So this year I am sticking with two varieties; and early season and a late season, which will give me six months (hopefully) of Brussels sprouts – much more logical! The list of vegetables I am growing is on a previous post and for most veg there are only one or two varieties I am growing with the exception of carrots, lettuce and cabbage where I am trying to get an almost year round supply. I also will be growing quite a few varieties of winter squash  – I have some room spare on plot 3 and squash is a good space filler so thought I would have a go a trying ‘Turks Turban’ again (last year it failed) along with ‘uchiki kuri’ and butternut ‘ sweetmax’ which both performed well last year!

So this year, as well as limiting the amount of varieties I am trying, I have identified a number of varieties that are tried and tested that I will mostly stick with every year. They have proven to be reliable, easy to grow, good croppers and taste delicious! These are:

  • Parsnip ‘Countess’
  • Butternut Squash ‘Sweetmax’
  • Shallot ‘Jermor’
  • Garlic ‘Provence Wight’
  • Drying beans ‘Blue Lake’
  • Dwarf Beans ‘safari’ and ‘Ferrari’
  • Red Cabbage ‘Rodeo’
  • Kale ‘Nero di Toscana’

New Buys

Most of the seeds I have tend to come from the magazines ‘Grow Your Own’ and ‘Kitchen Garden’ and because I am not one to waste money I use these varieties before buying anymore or trying new ones. However, there were some new varieties that I have decided to buy this year despite having plentiful seed.

Carrots – because of my problems with carrot root fly in 2015 and 2016, I have decided to try a carrot fly resistant variety ‘flyaway’ as I hope that in conjunction with Nemasys Fruit and Vegetable protection, I can solve my carrot root fly problem. I will let you know the result of this!

Sweetcorn – I am trying two new, as yet unnamed (they have some long numerical code name – its on my previous post), varieties of sweetcorn which apparently have a gene which will help to get the plants off to a good start even in cooler summers. This would be a great advantage to me as my sweetcorn always seem to suffer when the weather takes a chilly turn.

Calabrese – I am trying a new variety called ‘Aquiles F1’ which can be sown in the Autumn for early crops next year. I love eating Calabrese and think this may be a good way of extending the season.

Broad beans – ‘Valencia’ is a hardy autumn sown variety of broad bean which I will be trying in October/November. The ‘Super Aquadulce Claudia’ variety I have sown back in November 2016 have all germinated but are showing signs of frost damage (even though they are covered with fleece) so I am hoping ‘Valencia’ will prove to be a bit more hardy!

There are two vegetables which I have not yet been able to master growing from seed; Aubergine and Celeriac. Because of this I have decided to save my time and am instead buying the plants direct from D.T. Browns so am trying Aubergine ‘Elisa’ and Celeriac ‘Ilona’.

Goodbyes!

I have also learnt that there are some vegetables that I really don’t like and therefore don’t want to grow so I have decided not to continue to grow the following things:

  • Globe artichokes; I don’t like them at all. I tried to move my existing plant to the herb garden so that it would attract bees but the root went very deep and I ended up hacking it to pieces to get it out of the ground!
  • Tenderstem broccoli; I didn’t really enjoy this and the harvesting window is very small as the spears flower very quickly. I am happy to eat Calabrese instead although I will probably give purple sprouting broccoli one more go.
  • Ball and yellow courgettes; I think I prefer the more traditional longer courgette shape and I find the yellow courgettes don’t keep as long as the green ones.
  • Red-coloured broad beans; they loose their colour when you cook them and are green inside anyway once you take the skin off (if they are older beans) so thought it would be best not to spend extra money on a different colour when the green ones are cheaper.
  • Borlotti beans; I prefer to use the haricot beans over the borlotti in cooking so will probably discontinue using borlotti for the time being
  • Climbing beans; I much prefer the ‘Kenyan/filet style’ beans which are more frequently found as dwarf varieties so will concentrate on growing those instead. The only climbing beans I will grow will be for drying beans.
  • Chinese greens and winter radish; I have had some difficulty growing them and I don’t particularly use them in cooking so it is a bit pointless wasting my time growing them!
  • Cherries; I currently have two cherry trees, one on plot 1 and one on plot 2 but since planting them I have realised that it is far too much effort to get a decent crop out of them. You have to protect them from birds and frost and every other pest. I will just let nature take its course and if I get a crop then great but otherwise no effort will be spent on my part for this fruit. They may be useful for hanging a bird or bat box in.
  • Small squashes; varieties such as sweet dumpling, honey bear and butternut ‘hawk’ produce quite small fruits which are very nice for cutting in half and stuffing but not if you want to chop it up and add it to a risotto or curry. I tend to eat more risotto and curry than I do stuffed squash and they require quite a bit of room so for now I won’t bother with them. I think I rather just swap a larger squash for two smaller ones from my neighbour if I am in the mood for a stuffed squash!

I hope your all having fun looking through the seed catalogues and deciding what to grow this year!

 

 

2016 – A review!

I can’t believe how quickly this year has gone! It doesn’t feel like too long ago that I was sowing all my tomato seeds and here I am preparing to sow them for this year! It has been a roller-coaster year with some successes and some failures!

The weather this year has been strange, warm weather in April and then a relatively cold few summer months with it really heating up in August and the warm weather lasting all the way though til the end of October! It has thoroughly confused the vegetables.

Overall, I am rather happy with how this year has gone. As always I feel that I didn’t quite get as much done as I wanted to but then I always overestimate how much Sam and I can get done in a day.

Most of our focus this year has been plot 2. With plot 1’s structure being finished at the beginning of the year, we have only needed to pop over to sow, plant, water and harvest and as all the beds are raised we only needed to do some weeding once a month which has made for a pretty low maintenance plot! So we have moved onto plot 2 where we have worked at putting in the final structure. I have played around with where I want beds and what I have wanted to do but in the end it has come together relatively well. It still isn’t finished but there is only a few things left to do to get it together.

The wildlife pond was finished earlier in the year and we have been lucky that the frogs have moved in quickly. I am really proud of our pond and during the summer months it was absolutely beautiful! We finished off our orchard and have sown grass seed around the trees which took amazingly well. We did have to remove the old apple and cherry tree as they weren’t productive and the apple was diseased!

20160623_194847[1]
The wildlife pond in the height of summer!

All the beds on plot 2 have now been marked out and we have constructed raised beds on half of them. The other half will hopefully be completed early in 2017. Not only do we find raised beds easier to manage but on plot 2, they will also help us keep nice clean lines where the grass meets the bed!

20161023_1547282
Raised beds are being erected on plot 2

Plot 3 has started to come along nicely! We only took it on last January and I had quite a lot I wanted to accomplish. As those of you who follow this blog know, I wanted to get a polytunnel erected at the end of the plot but I didn’t get time to do that in the end so I am hoping that we can get the area cleared before the sowing and planting starts in earnest!

We did get our herb garden up and going, complete with bird feeding station, and we got one of the beds dug over and producing sweet potatoes! The shed was cleared out (twice) and we have set up a nice little stove so we can enjoy some nice hot cups of tea and coffee when we are working hard in the cold. All in all we got about half the plot dug over and productive.

20160925_1301271
The herb garden was dug over and more herbs will be planted in 2017.

I thought that having the three plots would be too much to handle but in actual fact it hasn’t been too bad. As all the plots gradually come together I am finding I have much more time to concentrate on growing the plants instead of playing catch up. And in fact, this year is the first year where I have ended it feeling slightly ahead of the game (and slightly impatient for the next season to start!)

In terms of fruit and veg we as usual, have had successes and failures. Redcurrants, raspberries and strawberries have been fantastic this year. I have had half a freezer full of these lovely red berries as well as plenty to eat fresh with my breakfast in the morning! The strawberries were amazingly productive, so much so that I was finding that half the yield was rotting on the plant before I could get to them. I hope that the plants are as productive next year although they will becoming into their third season so I expect some decline in yield.

All other fruit I have tried to grow this year has not been very productive. Mostly I put this down to the weather as I don’t think I could have improved the situation much but I have been proactive this winter by making sure everything gets a good mulch so they will have a good start to 2017.

On the veg side of things, my proudest achievement would be the sweet potatoes! I am really happy with the harvest I got. There are many improvements to be made but for a first try it was a good start. Potatoes have also been good this year – I ended up with far more than I need so next year I will be planting less seed potato! Onions, garlic and shallots were also productive this year and I also managed to dry the onions properly so that, so far, we have had very little spoilage.

Beans that I have grown for drying were fantastic this year. I have plenty of borlotti and haricot beans which I have been using in soups, stews and will be using to make my own baked beans. Runners beans also produced a good yield, despite the plants toppling over as did the broad beans.

IMG_1802
The tower of runner beans collapsed but luckily the plants kept producing for a few more weeks!

The dwarf beans could have been better but I let them get crowded out by weeds which is something I will work to avoid next year. Peas were dreadful – most of them didn’t germinate properly or were eaten by pigeons. Some of you will know that I tried to do an experiment to combat the pea moth but due to the poor performance of the peas I din’t manage to complete it.

Brassicas have been relatively good. Cabbages have certainly grown well this year – my only problem is making sure I use them before its too late – better planning needed on my part. Squash and courgettes did not perform as well as last year but again I think this is partly due to the weather and partly due to a foot root that the plants seemed to suffer from. I wasn’t sure if it had come from my water butt as it was really dirty (and not a proper water butt) so I had my dad come up and install proper water butts which I will clean regularly to stop this from happening again.

Sweetcorn suffered from  similar problem to the squash and the few cobs I did get were eaten by rats before I could get to them – need to ensure that next year I keep the rats away!

IMG_1797
Rats ate my sweetcorn and ripped up all the plants.

In the greenhouse, the tomatoes seemed to be doing well until blight struck. However, I managed to save the fruits and got them to ripen on the windowsill by placing a banana next to them to encourage ripening. Peppers didn’t really produce anything and the aubergines, although produced fruit, were eaten by slugs before I could harvest them! The cucumber was semi-productive but not as much as I expect a cucumber to be.

20160824_073728
Using a banana to ripen my tomatoes after they were struck by blight!

Celeriac didn’t work again, it either bolted or was hollowed out by slugs although we did get a semi decent harvest of beetroot, chard and lettuce. Parsnips were good as usual but the carrots all got carrot root fly!

20161106_carrots-harvest-rot-fly
Carrot root fly damage to all my carrots! Managed to save some of them to enjoy on Christmas Day!

All in all there has been ups and downs and some lessons learnt! I think that 2016 has been the best year so far for me and I hope that 2017 will be even better. I have lots of plans for the year ahead and I hope that the majority of them work out!

I hope you have all had a good year and I wish you every success in 2017! Also a big thank you to all those who have helped me in the allotment over this year and to those of you who have followed this blog!

new-year-2017

 

 

Vegetable of the Month!

NOVEMBER – CARROTS

I love carrots and a roast dinner is just not complete without them! As November is starting to get really cold and extremely wet, it is now that we  turn to comforting, filling warm winter food – casseroles, stews, roasts all containing the humble carrot! It is a vegetable that is definitely worth celebrating!

carrot_mr-fothergills
Image credit: Mr Fothergills

A short history of carrots!

Reports suggest that the ancestor of the carrot originated from central Asia from it’s ancestor, the wild carrot (also known as ‘Queen Anne’s Lace’ and ‘Bishop’s Lace’). The carrot was originally grown for its scented leaves and seeds rather than its root as the root was thought to be bitter and woody. Carrots were known to be eaten by the Romans as a root vegetable possibly as early as the 1st century. Carrot roots were originally purple or white. In the 17th century, dutch farmers cultivated the first orange carrots from yellow rooted varieties (a subspecies of the purple carrot thought to have lost its purple pigmentation). This orange carrot was thought to be developed as a tribute to the ‘House of Orange’ which ruled at the time. Continued cultivation of the carrot led to the sweeter, less woody roots that we now know and love!

Why should we eat carrots!

carrot-nutrition

Carrots are best known for the large amounts of beta-carotene, a known  anti-oxidant and also include other anti-oxidants such as Vitamin C and other phytonutrients which are important for fighting oxidative stress in the body and boosting your immune system. Research has also shown that anti-oxidants in carrots and other vegetables have a protective effect on the cardiovascular system with one study showing that those that had a high intake of carrots had a lower risk of cardiovascular disease. Purple carrots have large quantities of anthocyanin, another anti-oxidant.

Beta-carotene (provitamin A) is also important in vision and eye health and is partly metabolised in the liver to produce vitamin A. Whilst important for eye health, the saying that carrots help you see in the dark is actually a myth and was made up during the second world war to account for Britain’s pilots success in night raid to cover up improvements in radar technology. Vitamin A is also important for growth, development and reproduction.

Carrots provide only 41 calories per 100g and are a source of dietary fibre and contain no cholesterol and negligible fat – good for anyone on a weight loss or low cholesterol diet. Can’t really see a reason not to eat them!

How to grow carrots!

Carrots are best sown direct into the soil than planted into seed modules. Whilst you can sown into seed modules or buy plants in modules, you may end up with a higher proportion of roots that have forked. You can now get carrot mats and tapes which hold carrot seeds in a biodegradable material at the right spacing to reduce the need for thinning!

forked-carrot
Image credit: Carrot museum

If you are sowing your seeds direct, carrots prefer a well draining soil which is free of lumps. Add lots of organic material to your compost but avoid freshly manuring you soil as carrots don’t tend to like this. Any lumps, large stones or clay can result in stunted or forked carrots.

Make drills in the soil and sow your carrots very thinly. The more thickly you sow the carrots, the harder it is to thin them out. The more thinning out you do, the more likely you will attract the dreaded carrot root fly! When sowing your seeds you are aiming for a depth of 1 cm with a spacing of 30cm between rows. Draw the soil back over your carrots making sure they are well covered and water well! Germination can take between 10-20 days.

When your carrot seedlings are large enough to handle, they will need to be thinned out. This allows each carrot room to grow into the lovely big roots we want. Thinning out can be done in stages if you wish or you can thin out to the final spacing of 10cm. By thinning out in stages, you have spare seedlings should slugs attack! For the first thinning aim to leave one seedling every 2-4cm, pulling out any in-between. About four weeks later you can further thin your carrots to the final spacing of 10cm.

carrots-growing
Image credit: diynetwork.com

Carrots should be kept weed free as they are growing and once established, only water when the ground is dry. I water the carrots once a week with a really goos soaking! If the tops of your carrots poke through the soil you can earth up around them to keep the tops from going green. Carrots can be harvested in approximately 10-12 weeks from sowing and will keep well in the ground until you need them or can be pulled and stored for months in damp sand boxes.

Problems with carrots!

The major problem you get with carrots is carrot root fly. The female carrot fly is attracted to the scent of the carrots and will lay her eggs on the surface next to carrot seedlings. The larvae then hatch and burrow into the carrot tunneling through. The larvae then pupate in the soil and when the time is right hatch into flies and the cycle starts all over again. There is no chemical control against the larvae and the best means of preventing root fly is biological.

20161106_carrots harvest rot fly.jpg
My carrot harvest – slightly damaged by carrot root fly

Carrot fly are apparently weak flyers and can’t fly higher than 6 inches off the ground so barriers of enviromesh or fleece should be able to stop them. However, my carrot planters are 3ft high and I still get infestations so it might have only limited effectiveness. Covering the tops of crops with enviromesh might be better than vertical barriers.

There are now semi-resistant varieties to carrot root fly such as ‘resistafly’ and ‘flyaway’. I will be trying this varieties next year so will let you know how they go. The adult females are attracted to the scent of carrots and crushed foliage so carrots are particularly vulnerable when you are thinning the carrots. Where possible, carrot thinning should be done in the evening when the fly is less active and the thinning should be disposed or burnt immediately. You can also confuse the adult female by planting chives around the carrot seedlings as they don’t like the scent of alliums.

You can also get a nematode now which can be applied to the soil which will infect and kill the larvae from ‘Nemasys’. This is also something I plan to try next year!

If your carrots do get a root fly infestation – don’t be disheartened. If they are not to badly damaged, you can pull all your carrots and scrape away the damaged areas with a vegetable peeler, then cut your carrots up, blanch them and freeze them. If they are really badly damaged, you just have to cut your losses and throw them away!

20161106-prepped-carrots
Carrots once the damaged parts had been removed. I then chopped them up, blanched them and froze them. They will be saved for Christmas day!

How to cook carrots!

When it comes to cooking carrots, they can be cooked in many ways. The can be boiled, roasted, steamed or sliced and added to stir fries. They are also lovely eaten raw whether that is as crudites with a lovely houmous dip or grated onto a salad. There so many ways to use carrots! I hope you enjoy some of the recipes below and let me know what your favourite recipes are!

Carrot recipes!

Yummy Scrummy Carrot Cake

yummy-scrummy-carrot-cake_1

Carrot and coriander soup

carrot-and-coriander-soup

Honey-glazed Roast Carrots

Honey glazed raost carrots.jpg

References:

July 2016!

This month was off to a great start with some lovely sunny days and warm temperatures. Everything on the allotment is growing well and we are really starting to harvest things now.

We have been harvesting lettuce and cucumbers all month long and it has been really nice to enjoy a salad that I have grown myself for lunch everyday (my waistline thanks me for it too!). The broad beans have been coming thick and fast, so fast that I have been freezing some away for the winter. The strawberries continued to produce massive yields and again these have also been frozen away as I couldn’t eat them fast enough. Other fruit we have harvested include raspberries, blackcurrants and redcurrants. The blackcurrant yield is the best we have had so far although it is still quite small. I am hoping that over the next few years the yields will grow! We have also had masses of Tenderstem broccoli and calabrese, again some frozen away for the winter, but have decided not to do the Tenderstem again as it quickly flowers in this weather!

 have also harvested a few potatoes, pulling the plants up as and when we need them. All the first earlies have come up and we have dug up half of our second earlies. We have also enjoyed some nice chantenay carrots. Onions have been dug up and are drying in the shed – 157 in total!

Other than harvesting we have been getting on with my list of jobs too. The first weekend of July, my dad came up and installed some nice new water butts on plot 1 and 3. There is currently only one butt per plot but I hope to add to this over the next few months so that we can make the most of the winter rains!

We have been slowly taken most of the non-combustible rubbish to the local tip. We have done this over several trips but have now mostly cleared this rubbish (just a couple more trips to go!). We have also made a small dent on the combustible pile, burning the bindweed and other nasty weeds. Hopefully by the time September come the plies of rubbish will be completely gone and we can concentrate on the polytunnel.

In the second weekend of July, we transplanted the leeks to their final growing positions. Unfortunately there was quite a bit of leek rust on the seedlings so I am not sure how they will fair but I did pick the biggest and least rust covered seedlings to ‘puddle in’. We now have 74 leeks growing on plot 2 with the rest of them being burnt so as to not further spread the rust spores and on 25 of the plants we have placed black pipe around them to get longer blanched stems. It will be interesting to see if they turn out better than the ones without pipe.

IMG_1732

Finally after probably two years, we have  a functional carrot bed. Those of you who regularly read this blog will know that we finally erected the carrot bed a few months ago, well now we have filled it with a mixture of sand, seed compost and multipurpose compost. It is about 1/3 full which is enough to grow some decent carrots in for now but we will fill it up some more next season. I have sown four varieties of carrots, which I know is a little late, but seedlings are poking their heads through so hopefully we shall get some carrots to enjoy over the winter!

We have continued work on the herb garden as well, adding some nice new herbs and plants, a bench, and archway and a clematis to grow up said archway. We have also been pulling up the wild strawberries as they have gotten a little out of control It will take a while for the perennial herbs to really get established so I will be filling the gaps with some annual flowers to attract the bees and butterflies. Last weekend we also installed a bird feeding station to attract wild birds to the plots!

The cherry and plum tree both got a nice haircut and am hoping will be a little more re-invigorated for it!

IMG_1733

The strawberries have come to an end in the last week and so the job of clearing and trimming has begun in the strawberry bed. I have dug up a considerable number of runners that have been allowed to set down roots and they have been potted on in troughs ready for setting up a new strawberry bed. About four ‘Elsanta’ plants died – I think from the lack of rain – so they have been replaced with some ‘Cambridge favourite’ runners. Half the bed is done – just need to get on with the other half!

IMG_1730
One side of the bed is done – now onto the other half!

Other than these jobs, it has been a constant stream of weeding, mowing and tending to plants, with breaks to sit by the pond and look at all the life that has inhabited our pond. A rather large frog has taken up residence in the pond and we have also spied several little frogs too! Exciting times! We also have two resident pond snails, water boatmen and thousand of tiny little creatures swimming around – don’t know what they are!  Bees are in abundance and I can tell that we are still being visited by Peter Rabbit as the barley straw is regularly being dug up!

IMG_1737
Can you see the frog? We counted at least ten frogs in our allotment over the last weekend!
IMG_1735
Water level is quite low and a lot of the pond liner is visible!

Unfortunately, with little rain over the last couple of weeks, the pond level had gotten quite low. I thought it would be a good idea to do some rain dances to get the water flowing (my neighbours where looking at me rather strangely!)…and it worked! The last few days have been nice and wet, watering my plants and topping up the pond!!

'Well, when I've tried everything and it still hasn't rained, I wash the car.'

Strawberries and garlic!

Not together…because I imagine that would be gross!

We have now harvested our third punnet of strawberries in a week and today we pulled up a bulb of garlic to see if they are ready…which they are!

20160617_132645
Third strawberry harvest, first bulb of garlic and our first carrot (its a very small carrot – might need to wait a bit longer for them!)

I will wait until the ground is drier before pulling the rest of the crop and drying for storage. This bulb will be used fresh as i have just come to the end of the 36 bulbs of garlic that i harvested last year!

That seems to me to be perfect timing!

Jobs for June

Both plot 1 and plot 2 are done and planted up (mostly) and so my focus will really turn toward plot 3 this month.

The main thing I will need to do on plots 1 & 2 is weeding and mowing the grass as well as general care of the plants.

One thing that still needs doing on plot 1 is to fill the carrot bed and sow some carrots – if I am lucky we might actually get some carrots this year!

carrot bed
Carrot bed needs filling!

On plot 3:

  • dig over the rest of the ‘permanent’ bed and plant oca plants
  • dig over bed 2 and plant brussels sprouts
  • keep grass mown and trim bed edges
  • tidy up raspberry area; remove old dead plants and grass
  • Burn weeds and green waste
  • Take rubbish to the tip!

20160130_145516[1]
Bed 2 needs digging over and brussels sprouts planted!
Although this seems like a small amount to do compared to previous months, I know that keeping on top of weeding and mowing will take up at least half of our time!

At home, I will start planning for winter and spring to make sure that I have harvests all year round!

Sam’s Challenge! – Part 1

 

Sam, my partner, got a book for Christmas titled ‘ Grow as much as you can eat in 3 square feet’. I think he has seen this as a challenge rather than the advice it is meant to be so he has decided to try and see how much he can produce from a 3ft square raised bed.

So that I can keep my symmetry on plot 3 (I need to have my symmetry!), a second raised bed will be put in as well which Sam will also use.

The wood has been bought and cut for the raised beds and now just needs to be constructed, positioned and filled. This would have been done last week but we had the wrong size screws!

Last week, we used Dobies Garden Planner to plan what and where Sam will be planting. He is mainly going to grow veg he likes that I don’t, or try heritage varieties of some veg.

Here is a look at Sam’s raised bed plan:

sam's plan

It looks quite packed but some of the plants will be vertically growing. In the bed on the left, Sam plans to construct a bamboo ‘cage’ over the bed for the runner beans to climb up. and I offered some advice, about moving the brassicas next to beans to benefit from the nitrogen that the beans produce. He will have summer squash growing under sweetcorn and will use the sweetcorn as a support for some climbing beans.

He will trying salsify which we have never grown or eaten before, a yellow pattypan squash, fennel and will have a go at trying to successfully grow pak choi (I am yet to be successful!). He will also be growing small carrots such as ‘Chantenay’ and ‘Paris Market 5’ as the raised bed won’t be deep enough for the longer carrots.

It will be interesting to see how this develops over the next year and to see what the yields are like!

Jobs for April

Ready, Steady….Sow, Sow, Sow!!!!

It’s that time of year where the soil temperatures are rising, the frosts are diminishing and its time for the allotment to come to life! I think this is the most exciting time of the year!

I was impressed with the scale of work we achieved in March so my to-do list is not as long as I thought it would be so I can get only with the most important job which is sowing!

20160331_204537

To sow at the allotment:

  • Carrots
  • lettuce (for successional sowing)
  • beetroot

To plant at the allotment

  • potatoes
  • broad beans
  • peas

To sow at home in pots

  • courgettes
  • cucumber
  • brussels sprouts
  • sprouting broccoli
  • squash
  • sweetcorn
  • runner beans
  • green beans
  • shelling beans
  • peas
  • more broad beans

Despite all this sowing there are still jobs to be getting on with at the allotment – mainly weeding and tidying to keep the plots in order.

Last year I focused so much on the structure of the plots that I kept finding the weeds were get on top of me as I neglected to hoe them off regularly. So this year I have developed a new ordered plan to ensure that I use my time correctly when down the allotment with focus being on the care of my plants and getting even better harvests this year!

  1. Weed – hoe off any annual weeds, dig up perennials. I neglected to do this last year and the weeds crowded out some of my plants,
  2. Harvest – often we ran out of time and I would forget to harvest certain veg, like courgettes, and next time I returned they had gone over,
  3. Sow/plant/care – Then it is time to sow new seeds, transplant seedlings and plants and care for existing plants such as tying in, staking, removing diseased or dead plants, pest control etc.
  4. Water – water all the plants and feed where necessary. Last year we were always in a rush to get the watering finished before we went home – this year we will dedicate the proper time to it to ensure our plants flourish,
  5. Tidy plot – tidy away any rubbish, burn perennial weeds, wood etc
  6. A.O.B – any other business can now continue i.e. digging over beds, putting in raised beds, turning compost, building projects etc
20150809_110425[1]
Last years the weeds took over! 😦

I’ll let you know how the new plan works out!

During this month, I hope to get a start on putting together my herb garden.  I am also going to try and mulch our fruit trees and get the ‘orchard’ into good shape!

However, the main focus this month is to get sowing and planting. I feel a trip to the garden centre coming on…

March Recipes!

I am not very good at planning for a year round supply of veg although every year I get a little better. So whilst I am out of veg from the allotment, I still try to eat seasonally when shopping at my local Tesco and where possible I make sure it is British produce! I also try and make vegetables the main focus of my meal and the recipes often revolve around them but sometimes I am partial to a bit of meat and there is nothing better to complement this than some well cooked vegetable side dishes.

So here are a selection of seasonal vegetable ‘side dishes’ that will give your dinner a bit of a lift!

If you are pulling up the last of your roots before they start sending up flower heads then this recipe is a good one to try!

Skinny Carrot Fries

skinny carrot fries

It is quite easy to swap out the carrot for parsnips, celeriac or even beetroot or a mixture of root veg chips! What a lovely healthy alternative to potatoes especially if, like me, you have come to the end of your store. This BBC Good Food recipe can be found here.

celeriac gratin

Celeriac, Potato and Rosemary Gratin

If you are a celeriac fan then try this delicious creamy recipe. It is a lovely rich warming dish. I have swapped some of the potato out for swede before and it still tasted lovely! This is also a BBC Good Food recipe which can be found here.

cabbage hash

 

Cabbage and Ham Hock Hash

Brassicas can be found at any time of the year but they are of particular importance during the hungry gap! Swap out the potato mash for this cabbage and ham hock hash! A perfect accompaniment to some sizzling bangers and caramelised onion gravy! Use cabbage, spring greens or kale! It’s all delicious! The recipe can be found here

If you are looking for a easy one stop recipe for your sunday roast (and to cut down on the washing up), I found this roast chicken tray bake type recipe from a Slimming World recipe book. It was absolutely delicious, uses some lovely seasonal veg as well as being healthy and low fat!

20160329_092343

Garlic Chicken Roast

Ingredients:

  • 750g new or baby potatoes scrubbed and halved if large
  • 300g Chantenay carrots, scrubbed and halved length-ways if large
  • 3 red onions, quartered
  • 1 bulb of garlic, cloves separated
  • 200ml boiling chicken stock
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 lemon, cut into chunks
  • low calorie cooking spray
  • small handful of fresh rosemary sprigs
  • 4 chicken legs, skinned
  • 300g butternut squash, peeled, de-seeded and cut into pieces.

Preheat the oven to 200°C/Fan 180°C/Gas 6. Cook the potatoes and carrots in a saucepan of lightly salted boiling water over a high heat for 6 minutes then drain well.

Put the potatoes, carrots, onions and garlic in a large roasting dish, pour over the stock and season to taste. Squeeze over the juice from the lemon and add the squeezed lemon chunks to the dish. Lightly spray with low calorie cooking spray and toss everything together, then cover with foil and roast for 15 minutes.

Remove the foil and stir through most of the rosemary. Season the chicken legs and make a few slashes in each one with a sharp knife, then arrange them on top of the vegetables along with the squash. Respray with low calorie cooking spray, return the dish to the oven and roast for 30 minutes or until the potatoes and vegetables are tender and the chicken is cooked through.

Scatter over the remaining rosemary sprigs and serve hot!