Thursday, 27 October 2011

Kings Seeds - A little update on my last post

Rotten Garlic

I was so miffed about the rotten garlic bulb, that I sent an email to Kings Seeds.
They don't give you any obvious way of complaining/ getting a refund via the website, or on the delivery note - something which is sure to aggrovate an already annoyed customer...however...I shall give Kings seeds their due. The following day I received a nice apology email back, saying that they were going to send me a new bulb straight away.

I actually received a complete new pack of 2 bulbs, in beautiful condition. I am a very happy customer. Thank you Kings Seeds. I'm looking forward to getting them in the ground as soon as possible.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

It may be a while since my last post, but I haven't been idle...

There's been lots going on since my last post.

In the garden, I have planted out lots of Spring bulbs, tulips, daffodils, narcissi, muscari and crocus. That was really hard work, as most of them went under the trees in the front garden, which is a mixture of tree roots, clay, chalk and hardcore! Classic!!

I've harvested lots of Achocha from my crazy vines...


This little group look like a family of hedgehogs...if you have a good imagination...and hedgehogs were green!!


I planted out my baby leeks (it was probably faaaaaar to late, but what the heck), and the Ailsa Craig onions I'd grown from seed in spring. I'd sort of forgotten about them, so they've been in modules all summer. I'm not sure they'll survive the winter (they are an exhibition variety rather than a tough over-wintering type), but they've been in open ground for about a month now, and seem to be okay.


I planted out my pot grown brassicas, including brussel sprouts, white sprouting broccoli, normal broccoli, cauliflower and a couple of cabbages.

 


















...the girls have been impossibly cute!!




My glut of beautiful green tomatoes got made into a huuuuge batch of 'Green Tomato Chutney' in my lovely new Maslin pan (Thank Crunchie for Wilkos!!)


Today I planted out my garlic and shallots, with varying degrees of pleasure...
My garlic bulbs, 'Solent Wight', purchased from Kings Seeds was pretty disappointing. They say that 2 bulbs should give you an average of 30 cloves to plant, hopefully equating to 30 bulbs of garlic by June time. However, one bulb (the one on the right) was looking a bit squishy. I wasn't too worried, thinking maybe I'd lost one or two cloves max...


...but as I took off the outer layers of papery skin, I realised it was worse than that.


...I ended up with four iffy cloves, that I am giving the benefit of the doubt, and the rest (however many there were) were a squishy, mouldy mess :-(


The second bulb was the complete opposite. I got 14 good sized cloves, and 5 small ones (which you would normally cook with rather than plant, but bearing in mind the disasterous first bulb, I've planted them too).


See the difference between a 'good' clove from the 'good' bulb (left) and the 'best' clove from the 'bad' bulb (right). Though it's a good size, the bad one is a sort of brownish colour, and didn't feel as firm as the good one. I think I'll be very lucky if they come to anything.


Here are some of the Banana Shallots that I planted out today too. They are from Wilkinsons and are firm and a really super size. I have great hopes for these for next year.


...and finally for today, I wrapped up the brassica beds, with fleece, to protect them from the mob of local wood pigeons, who can dessimate brassica crops just by looking at them!
This will probably be one of the last trips to the lottie for this year, so I want to be sure my little brassicas will survive through to the spring.


Sunday, 11 September 2011

Reinspired

After such a brilliant day yesterday, I felt reinspired by the whole 'growing stuff' thing. The weather was supposed to be dreadful, with high winds and torrential rain, but in fact it turned into a perfect lottie day. So we packed up the lottie bag and spent 2 and a 1/2 hours weeding, planting and sowing.

The pumpkin bed is still looking healthy, though the only real fruit growing are the Tromba d'Albenga.














I planted out some bare-root Purple Sprouting Broccoli plants that I bought yesterday at the show.



MrPB continued the impossible task of digging out the  horseradish roots. It's gone seriously deep, and we may have to resort to a glyphosate weedkiller.


We weeded three other beds ready for planting up with a variety of brassicas and leeks that are still sitting on my patio in pots!!

 










I sowed some rows of Spinach, Radichio and Lambs Lettuce for over wintering.

...and finally, here are my beetroot and parsnips...they've been in the ground for months, but wouldn't even give a mouse a decent meal! Grrrrrrrrrrrr.


Saturday, 10 September 2011

Gardeners' Society Autumn Show 2012

Crikey! It's been a very long time since my last post. Sorry about that. My only excuse is that I was actually a bit down about the garden and allotment. The weather had been so hot and dry, and then so wet and disgusting, there never seemed to be an ideal time to get out into the garden, let alone the allotment!

So, of course, the weeds flourished, and the veg had to fend for itself. But of course, today was the Gardener's Society Autumn Show. This one always takes me by surprise, because it seems so early, and I'm reluctant to cut things like my pumpkins and squashes when they could get another month on the vines, get a bit bigger and ripen properly for winter storage...but there you go, do you grow to show, or grow to eat. This dilemma is where my competitive side takes over. Last night I was adamant that I wasn't going to enter the pumpkins and squashes, but I'm very glad I did...

I won 1st prize, and got a Certificate of Merit too!

Here's the rest of the results...

Shallots and Onions were a bit sneaky, coz I showed them in the summer show too!

One full truss of tomatoes, any size, shape and colour. These are 'Sweet Olive' a plum shaped, cherry tomato.


Treacle tart. This is attempt No2. Attempt No1 had a raw bottom and the pastry was really salty anyway, so it went in the bin!!

Vegetarian Samosas. These were alegedly undercooked...but I did them how I like 'em, so there!

Peppermint creams. These were made with lemon juice rather than water, which I thought was rather nice. You got the lemon flavour coming through first, and then the peppermint followed. Rather than add food colouring to the whole mix, I made my little discs, let them set overnight, then mixed green, powdered, food colour with a little white rum (any clear alcohol would do), and with a fine paint brush made green swirls on the tops.

I recently described my Plum Jam as 'Plum Goo' on FaceBook, as I wasn't convinced it was going to set. It didn't particularly, but that makes it good for spreading on sponge cakes. The colour is really pretty and it's not too sweet.
1st Prize!


And finally, these teeny-tiny chillis are called 'Demon Red'. Each one is approximately 2cm long, and they are, apparently, VERY hot...I haven't braved one yet.
I grew these, with my best friend, on the windowledge at work. I can't believe they got 1st prize, and in addition I got a Diploma of Horticultural Excellence and a trophy for Best Vegetable entry in show! Wow!!

Wait...I haven't quite finished yet, because being the Autumn Show, meant there were annual cups and trophies to give out. I won the Ken Dunn trophy for highest aggregate points for cookery over the year...I only gave it back this morning, after winning it last year too!...

and...
I also won the Chairman's trophy for 3rd highest aggregate points overall for the year, soundly beaten by Adrian and Aly. What an awesome day! I really thought I wouldn't do anything this time. I am completely chuffed to bits :-)
I might even post a bit more regularly again!

Sunday, 31 July 2011

Oh rats!! (...or other small furry creatures)

Popped down to the lottie on Thursday evening, ambitiously taking with me three carrier bags in which to bring back my bumper harvest of broad beans and yummy peas.

Well, the grass paths were a mile high, and the pea bed was full of empty pods, which had clearly been stripped off the plants, nibbled open by rodents and the juicy contents demolished! Hurrumph! Not one single pod of peas left, the little ratbags.

I took the opportunity to chop down the grass paths with a pair of shears - hopefully a helpful local owl will find it easier to predate my little furry residents in shorter grass...I hope there is an owl nearby, or a kestrel, or something...even a cat would do!

I did manage to pick a bag of broad bans, so that was good.

Oh, and I discovered the worst smell in the world...nettles rotting in a wheelbarrow full of rainwater - man alive that is evil!! I bet we're not very popular with our lottie neighbours now!!

Monday, 11 July 2011

Summer Show 2011 Results

Well, despite being on the Gardeners' Society Committee, the Summer Show really crept up on me this year! I'd done very little prep for it which is never good. Friday evening was spent baking a coffee cake, bread rolls and cheesey red onion scones. I decided to leave everything else until the morning, which probably wasn't very clever, especially as I had entered a total of 22 classes!!

By the morning, it was clear that I wasn't going to have any sweetpeas, lillies, peas, broad beans, delphiniums, flowering plants in a pot not exceeding 12"diam, and a couple of other things that I hoped would be ready (or not completely over - like the delphiniums!).

It was a great show, competition was pretty hot, and one member walked away with 11 Firsts!! (not me I hasten to add). So how did I do? In reverse order:

2x Thirds: Cheesey Scones, and a Floral Art exhibit entitled 'Wedgewood' and arrangement in blues and whites.



6x Seconds: 5 Onions, Floating Flowers in a bowl, 3 Bread Rolls, 10 Raspberries, Hanging Container, and Floral Art 'Table Centrepiece'


























2x Firsts: 3 Carrots, and 10 Shallots.



Now, my 10 Shallots also won me Best Vegetable Entry in Show, and a Diploma in Horticultural Excellence from the Worshipful Company of Gardeners.

An excellent result, and I'm chuffed to bits. Although I don't 'Grow to Show', it really is worth all the effort involved in preparation.


Thursday, 7 July 2011

Collecting rainwater without the aid of a handy shed roof...

We've had our plot for four years now, and I've been writing this blog for 10 months, and it's just struck me that I haven't shared with you our super, homemade waterbutt.

'But surely a waterbutt is a waterbutt?' I hear you say.

Well, I hate to disagree with you, but no, that's not strictly true. For example, we are not allowed to have sheds on our allotments (for aesthetic reasons), so this makes it difficult to collect rainwater in the traditional way. I understand that this is a common problem on allotment sites across the country, and although we have running water on site, wrestling with hosepipes is nothing but a pain, and it's far too easy to decapitate plants accidentally!

Our answer to this problem is stunningly simple, and doesn't take up a lot of space (probably less than an actual waterbutt). Here it is...

(photo to follow soon - promise!)

Yup, its a wheeliebin!
We've stood it on some blocks, and fitted a waterbutt tap to the bottom (which involved MrPB lying inside!). We took the lid off, drilled some holes in it, turned it upsidedown and reattached it (with wire). The lid acts as a collecting device and directs the water into the bin below. I can either turn on the tap (when the nettles aren't in the way!), or lift the lid and dunk my watering can in the top!! I try not to water too much at the lottie, I like to grow things a bit 'hard', so on our small plot, there is always plenty in the reservoir to water new transplants or damp down seed drills.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

....and that's shallot!! ...I can hear you groaning you know!

Popped up to the lottie this evening, to see what will be ready for the Summer Show on Saturday. I wasn't expecting much, but actually there were lots of exciting things going on.

The weeds had gone mad with all the recent rain, so I left MrPB pulling those up while I dug up my onions and shallots. Here we have Shallot 'Jermor' and 'Golden Gourmet' (in one pile), Onion 'Radar', Onion 'Japanese', and Onion 'Shensui Yellow'.
























My elephant garlic didn't get as big as I'd imagined, but I have got four little bulbils (the little buff coloured blobs between the garlic and the label), which I guess I might be able to pot up and grow on for next year.









Me and some of my 'Radar' onions


















...and one of my biggest 'Shenshui Yellow', What a klonker!












In other news, I planted out my Mange Toute, which were too big to be in a pot anymore. I'd guess that they were all about two foot tall...they took a bit of untangling I can tell you!.









My peas, 'Kelvedon Wonder' and 'Junos' are looking good, and in fact 'KW' has lots of pods forming, but I don't think anything will be ready for Saturday.










...and finally, this is probably the silliest thing I've ever seen on the plot (apologies for the poor focus)...This Broad Bean pod is almost bigger than the plant its growing on!!! Seriously, the plant is only about 6 inches tall...Crazy!!!

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

1000 Views!!!

Okay, this isn't a gardening post, but it is a big thank you to everyone who has ever read my blog. This evening it hit 1000 views since I created it in September last year.

Thank you so much!!!

Sunday, 3 July 2011

My mini allotment at home, and an excellent freebie from my dad

It seems so long since my last post, and I thought much hadn't happened, but there's been a flurry of activity in the garden just recently.

First, I had a problem to overcome...Last year a neighbour offered me some veg bed space, but I didn't take him up on it. At a barbeque recently, I broached the subject again, but unfortunately he hadn't any spare beds available for me. This was a BIG problem! The kitchen garden side of my garden isn't ready yet, I have grown more pumpkins and squashes than ever this year, and my brassicas (touch wood) appear to be doing really nicely. I definitely don't have enough bed space at the lottie for all these plants, and the other side of my garden is slowly filling up with flowers. Well, 'Be Prepared', 'Dunkirk Spirit' and all that, I had to find a Plan B, and here it is...my mini, at-home, allotment



I've got about 9 tomato plants, 3 courgettes, 2 gherkins (a gift from my best friend) and 12 pumpkins and squashes. My only wobble about this set up is that my growbags aren't peat-free. There are still a few cucurbits to got in at the allotment, 10 new gherkin seedlings of my own, (pathetic looking) sweetcorn and tonnes of brassicas, which are all waiting in the wings. Here are the brassicas...



I've also planted up my window baskets for the front of the house...



Using a selection of trailing petunias, trailing lobelia, ivy, geraniums, fuschias, busy lizzies and verbena, in my classic range of whites, purples, pinks and lilacs...I have spotted a rogue red verbena, but I can swap it with a spare one I have.

I did have a major disaster at 10pm last night. My hanging basket is currently sitting on a bucket in the back garden, where its been for a week since I planted it up. However, I thought it would be a jolly good idea to use said bucket to water my window baskets...I lifted up the hanging baskets, rested it on the wall of my raised bed...and watched helplessly as it landed head-first on the patio %*&&^@!!!! Here's the aftermath, and the best replanting job I could do at that time of night, in the dark!


 










In other news round the garden...

The viola 'Rebecca' are flowering their socks off...soooo pretty!












The Achocha are scambling up their wigwam, as are the two lots of climbing french beans in the longtom.














The Delphiniums have given way to the Dahlias and lavender in the back raised bed...



...and finally, my excellent freebie from my dad...it's my mother's old coldframe. It needs some new glass, and a bit of a brush off, but other than that, it's perfect! Roll on next spring, that's all I can say!!!