Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Faster, Higher, Stronger....

It's been almost a month since I last updated the blog which is, perhaps, a little remiss of me, and for which I humbly beg your forgiveness. In my defence, the weather at the end of July deteriorated so I didn't go to the allotment all that much plus the last couple of weeks I've been glued to the telly watching the Olympics. And when I did go to the plopment I seemed to do nothing more than pick French Beans, which I thought was very boring to write about. The running total is - get this - 38.5 pounds of beans. I'm getting sick of them, as are my family, friends, neighbours and complete strangers in the street. In fact anyone who comes anywhere near me will be asked if they want some beans. My freezer is full of them, as is my fridge. There are carrier bags of them sitting on my garage floor.

This is all the more astonishing when you see just how battered and weedy the plants are looking now, but they're still damn well producing! Having said that, though, I think production is tailing off now and hopefully will be finished in a few weeks. It said on the seed packet that Cobra French Beans are a prolific cropper and they're not wrong! I've had getting on for 40 pounds of beans from about 40 plants (planting 2 or 3 to a cane). Whether I plant as many next year remains to be seen. One thing I will change, however, is the shape of the cane structure. The way it is now is traditional but I hadn't realised just how windy it gets at the plopment, and the structure's come apart on more than one occasion. Next year I think I'll put the canes in a more robust teepee-shaped construction which also means I can dot them about the place as well.

All my onions are now out of the ground. Our site secretary recently sent a warning round that the top of the of the allotment site had been hit by Downy Mildew which affects onions. I'm at the bottom end of the site and actually don't know if it affected my onions or not. The leaves were going yellow and falling over, but that's what they do anyway when it's time to harvest them. There's all sorts of ways of harvesting onions including doing stuff like bending over the tops and leaving them in the ground prior to digging them up (not sure what this is supposed to do), or easing them out of the ground with a fork but not pulling them up altogether, and leaving them there for a couple of weeks (I think this is supposed to start the 'stop growing' process). I know you have to let them dry for at least a couple of weeks before you can store them (otherwise you run the risk of them rotting in storage).

I decided that as the foliage was dying down on all of them they might as well come up out of the ground and do their drying in the shed which is draughty enough to allow drying to occur. The Husband kindly attached battens to the walls of the shed so that various hooks could be screwed in to hang implements from, and these battens actually make handy little shelves which, although extremely narrow, are wide enough to support an onion bulb. I've also got some hanging up in a pair of tights in my garage with a plastic tie between each one so they don't touch - the idea being that you cut the toe off the tights leg and remove the onion, undoing the tie so the next one drops down. It seems to work except that I can't seem to hang the tights high enough so they don't drag on the floor! We've eaten a few as well and while they're not as eye-wateringly strong as I remember previously home-grown onions to be, they're most acceptable. They're also very crunchy, which I like. So as long as they dry properly and store well, I'm going to chalk that up as a huge success for the onion crop! Next thing I have to do is track down some over-wintering Japanese onion sets to plant in September and see if they work.

The lettuce hedge is no more. The Salad Bowl lettuce was brilliant but bolted, as had the Wild Rocket, so they all had to come out. I've been successionally growing Lollo Rossa lettuce as well though so we're now eating them. I've also sown some mixed lettuce seeds that, supposedly, I can overwinter if I put cloches over them, so we can have salad leaves in Spring. I'm pretty cynical about that working but I'll give it a go. My carrots, however, are going from strength to strength. Luckily (touch wood) I think I've managed to avoid Carrot Root Fly as I've found no evidence yet in any of the carrots I've dug up, so I've just carried on sowing seeds at 2-3 week intervals, and planting them out in the plopment when big enough to handle. Although it may not be terribly clear from the picture but there are 5 rows of carrots, each with about 20 plants, so that's (hopefully) 100 carrots! The orange string shows where the latest row of little transplants went in a few days ago.

I think my Sweetcorn will be ready to eat very soon but I'm going to leave them a bit longer yet.

I've been gradually earthing up my Leeks individually lately. You do this so that a large percentage of the plant is blanched - the white bit that is eaten. I'm rather pleased with how they've come along especially as Leek Growing Lore seems to be very complicated and I just ignored all that and shoved them in the ground. We'll see what happens when I come to harvest them next year though. Hopefully I should get about 35 Leeks come harvest time, all of varying sizes I should imagine. The local Fruit & Vegetable Show is on in a couple of days and while part of me is quite tempted to have a go at entering some of my produce, I don't honestly think I've got anything that's of Show standard. I've been concentrating far too much on getting the ground cleared and actually producing something edible than to bother with all the palaver of producing showbench winning veg! Maybe next year though...

The Cucumbers have been a runaway success but are now, I think, coming to the end. I took a couple of pictures about 10 days ago so am posting them now. The first picture shows what they look like on the plant - this view reminds me of H R Giger's designs for the original 'Alien' film - all dark, smooth and tubular. I then picked them and laid them out on my kneeling pad with my trowel for size perspective - aren't they great!! Since then two have been sliced up and are sitting in two Kilner jars in pickling vinegar to be eaten over the winter, and we're eating our way through the others. Even after 10 days in the fridge they remain solid, hard, crunchy and juicy. I genuinely didn't expect to get anything like as good as this. Guess I'll be growing them again next year!

The Broad Beans have now all finished and I'll be taking out the plants quite soon, but leaving the roots in the ground as the roots of all bean plants fix nitrogen in the soil, so it's best to leave them. All of my Pentland Javelin first early potatoes are now out of the ground and either in storage or have been eaten. In their place I've sown Winter Spinach and Swiss Chard. The picture shows the Winter Spinach which has grown a bit quicker than I expected really (the black plastic covers the ground where the onions had been). I tasted one of the leaves the other day and it seems to be quite nice. I understand, though, that instead of just taking off individual leaves like you would with ordinary spinach, for winter spinach you cut off the entire plant to use, leaving the roots in the ground from which the plant regrows!

What else? The Herb Garden beside the shed has been quite prolific, even if I didn't eat very much of it. We had some of the French Sorrel as salad leaves (it tastes just like uncooked Bramley cooking apple), and I made some soup with the ordinary Sorrel (which was nice enough but not outstanding). The Basil I'm going to have a go at drying in my airing cupboard to then crumble up to put in a jar. The Garlic Chives I didn't use at all but as it's a perennial, it'll be there next year.
The Coriander has loved its location but is flowering like billyo now - I may save the seeds. The sweet peppers are coming along nicely as well - I have half a dozen decent sized green peppers but I don't like them green so even though I could pick and eat them now, I'm going to wait until they turn red.

The tomato plants are rampant but I have a horrible feeling there may be some blight there - there were fruits with tell-tale brown marking on the top. The brassicas are doing well, especially as I spend about an hour each visit just picking off the dang caterpillers. The green leafy growth coming out of the parsnips is just vast - I'm a bit concerned they're going to be huge and woody by the time I come to eat them, and I wanted to have them over winter rather than in the autumn. Is a puzzlement.

1 comment:

  1. Well worth the wait in my opinion. A lovely read.
    I must get down to my lotty. I hate the rain and I have a thing about mud so timing is crucial in this weather!
    Catch up soon.
    Ali :0)


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