Wednesday, 24 February 2010

The sowing has started

Just a very brief update on the allotment scenario:

It's still too damn wet to do anything there properly so I've gone through my seed stash and decided what to grow this year, what I'm abivalent about and what not to bother with.  The 'not bothering with' list is the shortest  -
  • swede (just won't grow in the soil properly), 
  • tomatoes (blight every time so not bothering again), 
  • sweetpeas (too many greenfly), 
  • broad beans (ditto), 
  • Swiss chard (grows well but pretty underwhelming flavour - pretty colours though, but no), 
  • sweet peppers (until I get a proper glass greenhouse, these just don't work for me).

Ambivalent -
  • Dwarf Yellow Beans (prolific but got dry and leathery very quickly), 
  • Mange Tout/Sugar Snap Peas (I grew both intermingled but only liked the flavour of one - seemed a lot of effort for not too much reward), 
  • Red Cabbage (rubbish yield this past season, not much better season before), 
  • Garlic (grows well but we just don't use that much in cooking), 
  • Onions (don't grow very large and cheap as chips in the shops - I know that's not the point but sometimes it's best to be realistic), 
  • Broccoli (big plants for not many spears, plus mine flowered extremely quickly).  
Chances are I'll probably still grow all these anyway, as I have the space and the seeds so might as well....

Checking the packets to see what can be sown now, I've taken the risk and sown half a dozen little pots each with Leeks (Musselburgh), Spring Onions (White Lisbon), and three kinds of lettuce - red Lollo Rossa, green Salad Bowl and green Little Gem.  You're not supposed to sow any of these until March but I thought I'd experiment with them a bit early and pop them into one of the plastic-houses at the end of the garden.  No pictures I'm afraid as they're just too dull.  Some dark brown earth in paler brown pots stuck on a gently rusing shelf in a dilapidated plastic-house whose cover has gone brittle in the UV light over winter and split, now held together with brown plastic parcel tape. Not very Cath Kidston, I know, but at least it works!!!

Sunday, 7 February 2010

And so another year begins....

It's probably time to start paying attention to the allotment again.  The sun was out yesterday but I was selling my jewellery at a craft fair in Alresford, Hampshire, so couldn't get there.  But this morning wasn't too bad - the sun was going in and out and it wasn't icy cold, so I thought I'd ease myself into the 2010 season with a little light digging and seeing what's what.

First thing I noticed was that the plot next door to mine has been taken over.  Another older chap on the site, Henry, had been sort of semi-using it (he also has two full plots opposite) and was basically using the lower half of this particular plot as somewhere to park his car, and the top part as a sort of overflow potato site.

From the top edge of the potato beds to the boundary with the house behind was a massive tangle of brambles from which we picked pounds and pounds of blackberries over the last couple of years - Henry's wife made blackberry crumbles and pies and I made jars of blackberry and apple jam and, perhaps more practically, bottles of blackberry vodka.  These brambles have now been totally cleared away and new beds dug in their place.  While I can appreciate that the new tenant will want to have as much growing space as possible and what they've done is very sensible, it is a bit of a sadness to me as I will now have to go farther afield to find my blackberries - although I suppose I could always grow some large, thornless variety on my own plot *ponders*...

The 'new' plot next door. From where the white square is at the top of the picture to the hedge behind and right across the width used to be all brambles.

The new people weren't there but it looked freshly dug so I'm assuming they came in yesterday when the weather was nice.

My plot looks as if it's come through this past extreme winter remarkably well - the fruit trees are still standing, as is the shed, and the black weed suppressing fabric is still more or less in place.  I'd gone there today with the intention of just having a bit of a look round and perhaps picking some brussels sprouts if there were any to be had.  There were.  And what's more surprising, I harvested quite a lot of other stuff:

Leeks - there are about 10 more still in the ground, thinner than these guys.  I didn't grow very many last season as they weren't too successful the season before, but these don't look too bad, do they?

Ridiculous monster parsnip.  I take a size 6/39 (European) size shoe [I change into wellies on site, in case you were thinking I was wandering around barefoot - I'm not that much of an Earth Mother!].  Remains to be seen if this is at all edible.

There were about 4 Desiree potato plants that I hadn't managed to get round to digging up before the snows arrived, so they had to take their chances.  I dug them up today and was astonished to find some spuds that weren't rotten from the ice.  There was, though, about an equal amount that were and they got lobbed into the black dalek compost bin.  But, hey, usable spuds!

The Savoy Cabbages that I planted seem to be a bit like a Curate's Egg - good in parts.  This is the largest of the dozen or so I have and this is after I've removed the rubbish outer leaves.  You'll see the frost has blackened the tips of the leaves but I'm hoping that the heart will be okay once I get in there.  I love eating steamed and buttered Savoy Cabbage with bacon and onion herby suet roll - yum!

I was completely astonished to find some small but hopefully usable carrots.  They'll have to be steamed or roasted whole because they're too small to do anything else with.

I also got a coupla handfuls of pretty small brussel sprouts (the whole reason I went to the site in the first place today!) and picked some curly kale but forgot to take pictures of those.

I now have all these veggies sitting in my kitchen waiting for me to wash them and decide their fate.  I am amazed that there was so much to be harvested - my flabber has rarely been quite so gasted....

Before I left the site this afternoon I thought perhaps I ought to do a bit of digging and make it look like I've been working the plot a bit - the obvious work that's been done on almost all the other plots on site has rather put mine to shame, so perhaps it's time to start this season in earnest.

The wee spot of digging over I did around what's left of the brassicas.  I don't feel quite so bad about the state of the plot now!

My next task, I think, apart from the never-ended digging and weeding, is deciding on the layout and plan for this coming season, and starting to get my head round what I can and can't start sowing. 

And so (sow)  it begins.