Sunday, 27 December 2009

Happy Belated Christmas!

Just a quick posting to wish everyone a belated Happy Christmas - I managed to pick up a tummy bug on (probably) 22 December which is still rumbling (literally!) around now. Frankly it pretty much ruined Christmas Day for me and meant that I didn't manage to get down to the allotment to pick the veg. Luckily, The Husband volunteered and came back with a carrier bag full of brussel sprouts. I managed a couple of them on the day itself (along with a single potato, one slice of turkey, a spoonful of mashed swede & carrot and a couple of slices of parsnip!) and they were, as last year, fantastic. The variety is F1 Brigitte and the buttons are medium sized and firm. You only need to steam them for 4-5 minutes and they come out sweet and nutty. So that's my tip to you all for 2010 - grow F1 Brigitte sprouts and you'll be happily trouser-trumpeting all Boxing Day!!

Right, that's it from me until the New Year when it'll be time to start planning where to grow stuff.

Friday, 4 December 2009

I now have an orchard!

I know I've been dreadfully slack with the allotment blog lately but, well, October was full of lousy weather so I barely went and then I was out of the country for almost all of November. The weather turned particularly shiteous while I was away - I was reading about all the storms with gale force winds and torrential rain that were battering the country while I was enjoying extremely pleasant and balmy sunshine (albeit from Eastern Europe, which was a surprise), so I asked The Husband to pop down and just check that the shed was still in one piece. He took a short video to post to me so I could see for myself and, yes, everything was there but the black fabric that I put down to suppress weeds over the forthcoming winter had been blown around. He kindly straightened it back for me.

A few months ago I ordered some fruit trees from Blackmoor Nurseries who are fairly close to me, and these arrived a couple of days ago, with strict written instructions that they had to be planted WITHIN 48 HOURS OF DELIVERY!!!!!!! or, I dunno, hellfire and damnation would rain down upon my head or summink. But the rain wouldn't let me, so they had to stay outside in their cardboard box until I got the chance.

Anyway, I woke up this morning and - be still my beating heart - it wasn't actually raining! There was blue sky! There was sunshine!

I inveigled The Husband into carrying the trees while I took the stakes (which, although heavy, made me feel rather pleasingly like Buffy the Vampire Slayer), with the proviso that he wouldn't be expected to actually stay and help at all.

Needless to say, the wind and/or the foxes had been having a rare old time with the black fabric again and it was all over the place but, luckily, still actually on my plot:

As I'd not set foot on the plopment for the best part of two months, I thought I'd best have a look round to see what's what. The brassica patch is the only thing that's still going strong at this time of year and here the Savoy Cabbages are a bit inconsistent in size with none of them very large, but I may get some usage. The red cabbages have been a disaster this year with not one any larger than a golf ball. The curly Kale is fairly happy in that they all currently look like Sideshow Bob (except they're obviously green, not red):

But, as last year, my brussels sprouts are looking utterly fabulous:

This the Brigitte F1 variety that I've now grown two years running. The buttons are hard, sweet and very tasty.

This year I've grown a variety of carrot called Resistafly and it's been very successful, barely any tunnels at all. I knew there were a few rows left in the ground that I'd planted as late as I could in the season so I knew that, if any had grown, they would be quite small but could be nice to roast whole, so I dug them up, and they were all perfect, not a mark on them although, as suspected, they were quite wee:

And it was time to discover just how mutant the parsnips had got this year. Answer - pretty damn mutant:

I've not yet peeled this but I suspect it will be too woody to be any use. Can't remember what variety this is, possibly Gladiator, but next year I'll have a go at Tender and True which is supposed to be one of the least woody varieties.

So after straightening out the fabric yet again, it was time to get on with the job in hand which was planting out the four new fruit trees. The sun had now gone in and the wind was picking up, so it was getting pretty chilly but I knew that if I didn't do it now, I didn't know when I'd be able to do it as the weather forecast is pretty dire for the next week or so.

I chose their locations at the end of the plot, just beyond the soft fruit section. This is the view from there looking down towards the shed. You'll note the plot now has that proper Winter fallow (i.e., weedy beyond belief) look about it:

I've already got a Maynard Cherry and an apricot in here so, to that, I've now added one each of Egremont Russet eating apple, Bountiful cooking apple, Victoria plum and Concorde Pear. The apples are on M27 rooting stock which means they shouldn't grow to more than 2 metres high, the plum is on Pixy rooting stock (which is also a small growing kind) and the pear is on Quince A rooting stock which was the smallest I could find but will still probably get to around 3 metres or so - I may have to keep that one especially pruned. I didn't have any Growmore left but I stuck in a good handful of Epsom Salts (for leaf growth) into the holes before planting them, so fingers crossed. I have to remove all the blossoms in mid-May next year to prevent fruiting so the trees can get a really good start and grow extra strong for 2011. It seems a long time to wait but the trees weren't especially cheap so I think it's best to do it properly.

This is what they looked like at the end:

I just hope they like it there!

Monday, 28 September 2009

Harvest Roundup

This year I have been weighing and recording every time I picked anything off the allotment with a view to doing a roundup together with a price list showing how much the same quantity would have cost me from a supermarket.

I've decided to post the results now because, although I still have some Desiree spuds, carrots, beetroot and all the brassicas still in the ground, I can't be arsed to keep writing it all down (plus I keep forgetting to do it), so it seems that now is as good a time as any.

I can't seem to work out how to add a table or spreadsheet to this - at least, not easily, I think I have to get involved with coding which is a huge pain, so I'll just have to do a list. There are some things I've grown but haven't bothered weighing, or I've not finished harvesting them yet, so they won't appear - things like most of the brassicas and the Desiree Maincrop potatoes. Other things, like Pattypan Squash and Crystal Lemon Cucumbers you can't buy in the shops so I couldn't get a comparable retail price for them. Also some things are sold on a price-per-item basis (i.e., organic cucumbers at £1 each) which doesn't work for me as I've just weighed them in bulk rather than as individual items. So I've mainly gone for the bog-standard veggies that you can get from a shop here.

I've taken today's prices from Sainsbury's Organic range where possible (as I grow as organically as I can) or, if there isn't an organic option, their 'Taste the Difference' range. And, remember, this is the total amount picked over several months:

Maris Peer Potatoes - 4.141kg x £0.86/kg = £3.56

Climbing French Beans - 11.56kg x £5.96/kg = £68.91 (!)

Courgettes - 6.66kg x £1.84/kg = £12.26

Strawberries - 2.77kg x £9.97/kg= £27.69

Blueberries - 114g x £9.95/kg= £1.13

Mange Tout - 646g x £7.50/kg = £4.84

Carrots - 1.016kg (so far) x £1.28/kg = £1.30 [still harvesting]

Kale - 329g (so far) x £4.95/kg = £1.62 [still harvesting]

Onions - 4.32kg (at least) x £1/kg = £4.32

Broccoli - 169g x £3.50/kg = £0.59

This all totals £132.48, a not insignificant sum. And this list doesn't include sweetcorn, dwarf yellow beans, pattypan squash, cucumbers, gherkins, garlic, savoy cabbage, red cabbage, brussel sprouts or Desiree potatoes, so I think I can confidently say that, if they were all included, I'd probably be looking at something nearer £200!

Some of the figures are laughably low - in the case of the blueberries, the plants had only been in the ground for a few months so this was their first season. I'm expecting them to do better next year. But broccoli was disappointing - I'm not sure I'll bother again next year. Last year I grew purple sprouting which was okay but nothing to write home about and not especially prolific, so this year I grew Calabrese, which is what is labelled as broccoli in the shops. Mine matured early, bolted and flowered all before I could get to it. But just compare it with the Cobra Climbing French Beans!

This has definitely been a worthwhile experiment and for those of you reading this who grow your own, I would recommend you have a go yourself next year and see how much it would have cost you to buy in the shops what you can grow yourself.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Pictures, as promised, again

So before the sad pictures of the allotment, I thought I'd show you the fruits of my labours:

Onions in a net, hopefully they'll last several months. I still have about another 100 drying in the shed at the allotment but they are really quite weeny, not much bigger than pickled onion size but, hey, they're better than nothing.

These are the jars of sweet pickled beetroot, sweet pickled dill pickles and jam.

Blackberry Vodka

I am, though, really looking forward to sampling some of these but, unfortunately, not for at least another year. Blackberry vodka is pathetically easy to make but you have to remember to shake the bottles once a week to ensure something-or-other (that the sugar's dissolved properly or summink...) and after three months you have to filter out the blackberries. Apparently they develop a woody taste if you leave them in whereas raspberries can be left in. Whatever. The worst part is that you then have to leave it for a further year to mature! What torture!

So, then, now let's head off to the allotment - I'll warn you, it's not a pretty sight. Everything's now gone over and is looking very shabby indeed.

Cucumber/Gherkin Wigwam

This is one of my three cucumber/gherkin wigwams. I am now totally cucumber/gherkinned out, we've eaten as much as we want and I've preserved all that I'm going to so these are just going to go into the compost bin. I've had absolutely no problem growing them outside so will continue to do so.

Crystal Lemon Cucumber

This year I tried growing Crystal Lemon cucumbers. They were difficult to germinate and I only managed to get about 3 plants after planting many more seeds. So far the three plants have only produced one round yellow cucumber (see above). It's now in my fridge waiting to be consumed. Whether I grow any next year will depend on what it tastes like, but I'll keep you posted on that.

Butternut Squash

These are my two sole Butternut Squashes. I bought two plants at Chiddingfold Festival earlier this year (because I couldn't germinate any of the seeds I bought) and they've grown reasonably well, put out quite a lot of flowers but only two of them developed any further. No matter, it was an experiment - two squashes is enough for us this time round.

Patty Pan Squash

The White Scalloped Summer Squash (a.k.a. Patty Pan Squash) have been really quite successful. We've had about half a dozen from the three plants that I grew from seed. They can grow as large as a dinner plate if you leave them, but this one is about 5 inches/13 cms across so we'll eat it quite soon, stuffed with fried bacon, onions and parmesan, served with baked beans - yummy! There are two more little ones still developing:

There are plenty more flowers still there so I think I'll leave the plants there to keep producing for as long as they want.

The courgettes have, of course, been prolific and we've had plenty of them of various sizes during the summer. There are a couple that I'm leaving to grow into marrows as I'm going to have a go at making Marrow Rum as it sounds quite interesting. Might be disgusting though, but let's experiment, shall we?!?

A very large courgette/small marrow

The Sweetcorn is now looking very sad indeed and I really should do a proper harvest. I didn't grow quite as many plants this year as last as last year I was getting 2 good-sized cobs per plant and we didn't eat them all. Of course, typically enough, this year I grew less but I'm only getting 1 decent cob per plant! Oh well, that's the mystery of Mother Nature....

Sad looking Sweetcorn plants

I'm still digging up Desiree maincrop potatoes. The ones I dug earlier were quite small and pretty badly hit by scab which looks nasty but doesn't affect the eating quality once you've peeled them. The ones I'm harvesting now aren't so badly scabbed and are really big, so I'm quite thrilled. I've still got half a row left in the ground, storing there until I'm ready to use them.

Desiree spuds - these came from just one plant

There are still carrots, beetroot, chard and parsnips in the ground, so there's plenty of stuff still about.

This year I also planted a nectar bar of flowers for the bees in front of the shed. There are lavender, sedum, foxgloves, geranium, asters and cosmos.

But down the side of the shed there grew a self-seeded Thistle plant which I decided to leave for the benefit of the bees:

Sunday, 13 September 2009


Whoops, another month has just slipped through my fingers - admittedly there's been quite a lot going on in my non-allotment life (decorating, illness, The Husband heading off to Rome on business - see here) but mostly bad weather has prevented me from doing much down at the allotment. But that's okay, most of the harvesting has been done and ... tell you what, I'll go take pictures this week and do a proper posting but here's what's been happening with the veggies at home.

The last couple of years I've lost all my tomatoes to blight (as has everyone else) so this year I thought I'd have a go at growing some from seeds taken from a favourite shop-bought tomato variety (Vittoria from the Taste The Difference range at Sainsbury's) in the plastic-house, the idea being that I can at least try and give them some protection from the airborne spores.

And it seems to have worked! I've not eaten any of them yet (is this okay? Is it not a bit late?) but I do have several vines that are now very slowly going red in the sun (once I'd stripped off most of the foliage last week so the rays could hit the fruits and also pulled back the plastic overcoat-thingy that covers the frame).

I'm undecided whether or not to pursue this approach next year - depends on what the tomatoes taste like, I 'spose.

I have two plastic-houses next to each other. The tomatoes are in the left hand one, and the right hand one has my chillies and sweet peppers, which are also coming along very nicely indeed.



Oh, I've also been preserving and bottling like fury and meant to take a picture of my stack of jars in the garage as it's quite impressive (well, for me it is!). There's jars of sweet pickled beetroot; sweet pickled gherkins/cucumbers; Blackberry & Apple Jam; Blackberry, Apple & Vanilla Jam; and four bottles of Blackberry Vodka. The freezer also now has portions of French Climbing Beans, some Sweetcorn still on the cob, bags of ready-made Ratatouille that can be turned into other stuff such as veggie lasagne, spag bol, soup, veg stew, and a large bag of Borscht which was absolutely delicious and made 3 tennis ball sized beetroots, 3 medium sized spuds, a large onion, some crushed garlic, juice of 1 lemon, sugar to taste and 3 pints of water go an extraordinarily long way (it's basically sweet 'n' sour beetroot soup - hence the sugar - and very, very yumksi).

There's potatoes still in the ground and I've got all the winter brassicas to deal with yet, so this year's harvest is far from over (not to forget my autumn fruiting raspberries and loganberries) but I'm pleased to say I've got my act together on the storage and preserving front much more this year than last. Next year we're going to look into home brewing!

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Positively Cornucopian

The weather has been particularly vile this week so I took the opportunity of it being dry to head off to the plopment in trepidation at the jungle I would find.

As expected, the courgettes are getting ideas above their station and straying dangerously close to the realm of the marrow. Nevertheless, I've found a fab-sounding recipe for Maltese Stuffed Marrow (thanks, Ali!) which I shall be attempting next week.

No more pattypan squash since the first one last week but there are more forming and the flowers are huge - the bees are queuing up to dive headfirst into them so I'm hoping for good things here. The plants themselves are really big so if leaf growth is anything to go by then a bumper crop (or at least more than one!) is to be expected.

I also harvested my first Beetroot, and it was perfect! Also perfect was the Resistafly carrot that I pulled up today. Last year's carrot crop was a total crushing disappointment on practically all fronts (too many legs, carrot fly tunnels). So I'm hoping I may have cracked it!

I also picked 1.7 kilos of Climbing French Beans. And half a kilo of Yellow French Beans. Good job we like beans in our house, then. I also picked Kale, a good coupla handfuls of sugar snap peas, a small amount of calabrese, a Little Gem lettuce and about half a kilo of blackberries, so quite a haul in total!

(The photos were taken on my phone so I'm hoping the quality is okay.)

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Normal Service Has Been Restored

Enough of my trials with the red ants (the bites are much better, thanks for asking....), let's get back to matters vegetabular (have I just coined a new word?)

It's been chucking it down here since I last went (and got all bitten) so as there were some bits of blue in the sky today I thought I'd best grab the opportunity to get down the road to do some weeding and harvest some stuff. The last pictures of the plopment proper were on 8 July which is some time ago now. So, behold the jungle that has appeared since last you looked:

All the new potatoes have been dug up now and, delicious though they were, the yield was quite staggeringly poor. In the vast majority of cases, I only got 2, maybe 3, spuds per plant! Barely worth it. I'm hoping for much better things from my Desiree main crops.

I'm growing quite a few new things this year that I've not tried before - Butternut Squash is one. You grow them like cucumbers, up poles, but I believe pollination is a bit tricky - it says on the packet that you can aid pollination by using a paintbrush or just sticking your finger into one flower and then into another to act as a surrogate bee or bug or whatever. I've found, though, that I've only so far had one flower open at a time! This is just an experiment, though. We'll see what happens.

Another veg I'm growing this year for the first time is the Pattypan Squash or, to give it its more formal title, "Early White Bush Scallop Summer Squash". Originally grown by native Americans for hundreds of years, it's now very popular in modern American vegetable patches but little grown over here. You grow them just like courgettes and I started by sowing just three seeds but all three germinated so I didn't bother sowing any more (I only need to grow enough to feed the 2 of us and if it's anything like courgettes....need I say more?)

But, look, I harvested my first squash today! Well, okay, so it was the only one on the 3 plants but I'm hopeful there'll be more! In the picture the squash is next to (some of) today's harvest of Cobra Climbing French Beans and another new arrival, Yellow French Beans.

My courgettes are coming along:

As are the cucumbers:

The Calabrese/broccoli:

And the Sweetcorn is starting to develop its flowers (or what passes for flowers in sweetcorn-world):

The two rows of Resistafly Carrots seem happy enough, but it's hard to tell until you dig some up, so we'll see later if they stand up to their billing:

The lettuce hedge is as succulent as ever. One thing I can say for my plopment is that it grows terrific lettuces. Just after I took this picture I tasted a few of the leaves from the salad bowls (frilly bright green plants in the picture) and, sadly, they were starting to bolt (I'd suspected as much) and the leaves were so bitter I had to spit them out, so I removed them. Fortunately I'd brought with me half a dozen new lettuce seedlings so they got popped into the vacant space.

The fox trampoline was starting to look a bit full and as I'd not weeded underneath the mesh since planting the brassicas in there, I figured it was time to do it.

And this is showing just how big the brassicas have got (I think we're looking at mainly Savoy Cabbage here and possibly some Brussels Sprouts):

The Cosmos that Sylvia planted when she had the top of my plot has flowered beautifully this year. I decided to leave them as the colours are so vivid.

And, finally, this year's competition on the site is for the best scarecrow (last year was tallest sunflower and the year before that was something to do with sweetpeas, I think). Anyway, I have enough to be getting on with without having to think about designing and constructing a scarecrow so won't be entering, but other people on site are and scarecrows are gradually appearing. The competition is going to be judged sometime during the week of 10-16 August (which is, apparently, National Allotment Week) but this one went up this afternoon (all 10ft of it!) and I think it's fabulous - such an easy design and so effective! Bit early for Hallowe'en but what the heck, I wish I'd thought of it now!!

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Evolution of the Lumps - Day 3

And so we come to Day 3. It transpires there are actually 7 bites, the cluster nearest the ankle is formed of 3 separate bites, not 2, as I originally thought. This little group is also going beetroot red and feels hot but is not particularly inflamed. Today's picture's been taken outside in the sunshine (we had some, for a bit of a change). The itching hasn't been nearly so bad today but I did, finally, remember to get some Anthisan cream from the chemists in readiness for the next occasion because, oh yes, it will happen again although, hopefully, not quite on this scale.

The pustule is still there, as you can see but, for some reason, it's the only one. The temptation to pop it has been quite strong but I managed to restrain myself.

I think this will be the last posting about the Evolution of the Lumps as they'll start to go down and become less red from now on and I really should return this blog to its original intention, which is pictures of the allotment and, anyway, I think that's quite enough of my afflictions for the time being.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Evolution of the Lumps - Day 2

And so here we have Day 2 of the Red Ant Bites. You will observe that there is more pronounced redness and you can see where I've been scratching between the bites when it's all got too much. They were a bit troublesome last night but I slathered them with Lanacane cream which is a local anaesthetic albeit a pathetically mild one - I really needed the stuff they put on little kids in hospitals before sticking a needle in them, that'd do it...

This next picture is not really for the faint of heart, so if you're feeling even slightly fragile, please look away now and just imagine it's a picture of kittens and puppies.

There - don't say I didn't warn you. Yes, I know my legs need a shave but I'm not going to do them now, am I, not with the bites now GROWING PUSTULES!!!

More tomorrow....

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Beware the Red Ants - vicious little buggers....

What you are looking at here is the untoned, in-need-of-a-shave, lower right leg of a slightly overweight woman who had a bit of a tan from when we got the heatwave a little while ago (remember that? When it got too warm to sleep? That was our summer this year, right there - I hope you made the most of it!) but which has now faded. I genuinely apologise for inflicting the sight upon your innocent retinas. And, yes, those are floorboards you can see, bare floorboards with just the ghostly herringbone imprint of ancient perished underlay upon them. We're redecorating and the carpet's come up. Just in case you thought we were too poor to afford decent floor covering. Which we're not.

What I want you to concentrate on instead is the constellation of angry looking red lumps scattered liberally about it. I may as well own up to the fact that, yes, the leg belongs to me (I have another just like it but without the lumps) but I think you'd probably guessed that anyway. After all, why would I be talking about someone else's pale, hairy, lumpy leg unless I was being especially bitchy that day, so, yes, it's mine. Just thank the Flying Spaghetti Monster that it's not attached to your body because THE ITCHING IS DRIVING ME NUTSO!!!

Yesterday, because it wasn't raining (hence the lack of posts lately - nothing much to report if I don't go to the allotment due to the weather), I decided several hours of stuff needed doing, involving harvesting produce (or, as we pronounce it in our house, in that very annoying American way, 'pro-dooce'. Because it amuses us, alright? Look, we've been married for 13 years so we have to make our entertainment in whatever way we can...) and transplanting 50 beetroot seedlings into where the onions are now being harvested from. Ooh, bad sentence but '...transplanting 50 beetroot seedlings into from where the onions are now being harvested' is worse. So just suck it up, grammar nazis.

Now, like many of you good people, I have an iPod. It has my entire music collection on it, numbering close to 9000 tracks now and, for the first time ever, I took it to the allotment with me. Strapped on the headphones, chose my 'St Vitus Dance' playlist (all tunes I can't keep still to) and, singing away at the top of my voice, danced up and down the potato rows, boogied around the beans and shimmied amongst the sweetcorn. Our site where my allotment is is large, 4 acres, and I was the only person there so my dignity (and their eardrums) remained intact.

But, my goodness, what a difference it made to my work rate! I suppose much like people listen to music when they're at the gym or going for a run, you get into the rhythm, and shaking your booty and singing along to some bangin' beats tends to take your mind off the tedium of weeding (or jogging or stairclimbing or whatever) and by the time I'd finished listening to my list of tunes written by the genius Cathy Dennis (Kylie's 'Can't get you out of my head', Britney's 'Toxic', Rachel Stevens' 'L.A. Ex', Katy Perry's 'I kissed a girl', Sugababes 'About you now') and was most of the way through my Funky Prince playlist (not the sloppy stuff, just pure purple funktasticness, like 'My Name is Prince'), I found that I'd dug up at least 100 onions (it's okay, I meant to) and laid them out in the shed to dry, weeded where they'd been and popped in all 50 beetroot seedlings.

I also found that my brain was so busy dealing with the additional stimulus of the music that I was not paying attention to the fact that, all that time, I'd been kneeling in a red ant nest. A nest now full of very angry red ants. Because I was busily demolishing their home. Which is understandable. The stings, when they happen, feel like you've lent against the end of a bit of sharp dry grass. Obviously I felt them but they felt like I'd lent against the end of a bit of sharp dry grass. It wasn't until I bothered to look down that I saw my kneeling pad had a handful of very smug looking red ants scuttling across it and back into the grass that I realised it wasn't dry grass. Bugger.

Ant 'bites' aren't actually bites at all. Black ants wee a little bit of formic acid onto your skin which stings a bit but that's all. Red ants have a modified ovipositor (a tube through which eggs are laid) which presumably resembles a hypodermic syringe which they jab you with and inject you with formic acid. At first you don't see anything so I didn't know how many times I'd been bitten but, having been bitten several times over the months I've had the allotment, I knew they would take 12 hours or so to emerge.

And so it came to pass - I could feel the itching starting in bed this morning and when I went to put on some insect bite cream, I could definitely see the six red lumps. The itching will become worse when I get hot, so nighttime is always tricky - it's not that easy to sleep with one leg on top of the covers. The lumps will get smaller and go down but will become dark red and eventually leave a sort of darker skin-coloured stain will can take months to finally vanish.

I may entertain you with further pictures of the Evolution of the Lumps but take this posting as a warning - be careful around red ants and brush them off you as soon as you see one!

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Monsoon - just like last year!

So yesterday in the south of England we had the most enormous downpour of rain, with a real, proper, old-fashioned thunderstorm (the kind that frightens the pets and small children). It even flooded London underground stations. An absolutely enormous amount of water fell, very quickly, out of the sky - it was something to behold. Dead Biblical, it was.

This morning I wondered what had been happening this time last year down at the allotment (by way of comparing how things are going this year) and, interestingly, we'd also had a massive downpour of rain, on 9 July 2008, so almost exactly a year to the day.

Anyway, yesterday I'd managed to find a gap in the clouds to shoot off down to the plopment to pick some lettuce and see what's what. I was dismayed to discover that my white netted brassica cage had collapsed in the middle but extremely annoyed, upon closer inspection, to discover unmistakable muddy fox footprints right on the top of the mesh, smack bang in the middle of the broken bamboo poles and crushed plants! Little Sods. And that's the thanks I get for treating the foxes suffering from sarcoptic mange - they've just taken a running jump and landed in the middle of the netting!!

Took me a while to reconstruct the thing and replace the broken bamboo poles by which time the heavens had opened again and I had to retreat to the shed for about 15 minutes while the deluge passed. Hopefully I may only have lost a handful of plants - most of the others have been flattened but the stems are still viable. I might get the plants growing along the ground rather than up, but at least they're still going.

We are now actively eating the lettuce, mange tout and I've just picked my first harvest of climbing french beans. I've also started digging up the new potatoes and it won't be terribly long before the onions have to be dealt with. My strawberries have now finished and I think I've had all the blueberries I'm going to get this year but it was all a good start.

Time for pictures then:
General view down the length of the plot, from the shed. Things are starting to grow, thanks to the recent sultry heat followed by lots of rain.

The repaired Fox Trampoline. Buggers.

The Lettuce Hedge. The Little Gems are bulking up quite nicely although I don't know (not having grown them before) how long they take to develop a heart, but I'm quite happy to let them take as long as they need. We're already eating the lime green Salad Bowl and the red Lollo Rossa, plus there's more elsewhere in the plot and some still in the plastic-house at home so it's not like we'll go without while waiting for the Little Gems to do their thang...

This is the (3 x) squash and (5 x) courgette (zucchini) patch. We've already had two small courgettes which, I suspect, is just the start. I'm aware that you probably only need 2 courgette plants to feed a family of four for the summer - there's only two of us and I've got 5 plants! Uh-oh....

Behold, the Butternut Squash, Crystal Lemon Cucumber and, er, Ordinary Cucumber wigwams. The two plants nearest the camera (one of which has a yellow flower on it) are my Butternut Squash plants. I bought these as large seedlings for £1.25 each from the Chiddingfold Horticultural Society's stall at Chiddingfold Festival on 14 June this year (I also had a stall) as the free seeds I'd got from the BBC's Dig In campaign had spectacularly failed to germinate, and they've settled in nicely. I've not grown these before so am going to have to find out what to do with them later on (assuming they develop fruits, that is!). Behind them is a single Crystal Lemon Cucumber plant (although there's another in the plastic-house at home which is just waiting to be planted out - keep forgetting to take it with me though...) then the wigwam behind that has four cucumber plants of either Telegraph or Marketmore (I planted both varieties). These are now growing strongly and need to be tied to the poles on a regular basis or else they sprawl across the ground.

The Sweetcorn are coming along although the one in the bottom right of the picture is having a tremendous sulk and doesn't want to play with the others. There's quite a large variation in the size of the Sweetcorn plants so far - I have absolutely no idea why this should be as they were all treated the same, as was the soil they've been planted into. Oh well, as long as I get some cobs this year I'll be happy.

Last year I was both astonished and thrilled at the sheer quantity of Climbing French Beans that were produced from about 20 plants that I'm wondering if it's too much to hope for a repeat performance this year. This is how they look at present - two wigwams of four poles each, with at least three plants around the base of each pole, so that's somewhere in the region of 24 plants (although there may be a few more) in total. We've already eaten a decent sized portion of beans so fingers crossed!

The onions and garlic are starting to yellow which means they're nearly done. Some of them have got pretty large too. Hopefully this last spell of wet weather will cause them to swell up even more before they topple over. And then I've got to decide how I'm going to dry and store 400 bulbs.

The two rows of Resistafly Carrot I sowed in the spring seem to be surviving as well. I'm persevering with growing carrots because homegrown ones taste incredible. Last year's ones were multi-limbed and tunnelled so I had to throw most of them away but what I did manage to salvage and eat was a complete revelation.

I think that's enough for now - just a quick catch up really.