Rinse and Repeat

What a sunny scene of home-sown flowers 😊. 

Sunny flower bed

I must remember to sow lobelia into modules next year. It’ll make it far easier to pot them on. Zinnia seem to be the flower of the moment. And ours are appearing. They’re multi-coloured so some of the orange flowers are zinnia rather than marigolds. 

I’m seeing them everywhere, but look closer and they’re even more fab. No wonder the bees were enjoying them today.

Zinnia Macro

I’m really happy with the Love Lies Bleeding (Amaranthus Caudatus). There are 4 plants around our plots. This one on Plot7 is the most advanced and this lovely long tassel has started to turn the deeper red. Such an amazing plant from the tiniest of seeds. The birds will apparently enjoy those seeds in the Autumn and I may well try some myself, as explained here by the Laidback Gardener’s blog. I hope some will set seed to re-grow next year.

Love Lies Bleeding

The harvests are continuing and are not very varied, but a bit of creativity means that meals don’t need to be boring. That said, I am missing the kitchen at work where I used to leave all the surplus for my colleagues to take home. I must admit that we left a large patty pan and over-grown courgette on the spares shelf at the allotment and I was pleased to see that someone actually wanted them! I’m also very pleased that the chalk addition to the patty pan watering has largely resolved the blossom end rot problem.

Trug of veggies

This Rose Harissa dish with sticky rice was tasty though a bit too spicy for my taste (I got carried away with adding the harissa paste!)

Harissa flavoured veg

The only flavouring in this stuffing, with added pine nuts, was the garlic, shallots and garlic oil. We had this in stuffed courgettes, with some left over for lunch the next day.

Vegetable and pine nut stuffing

This weekend has been so sweltering that cold salads have been best for lunches. 

Cucumber, beetroot and vegetarian pastrami salad

The temperature has reached 33° in the shade but it’s been lovely sitting under the sun umbrella with a deskfan run on a Jackery power station, which we’ve bought for heating the polytunnel in Winter really!

Making shade

The weather is what everyone is talking about. We even had to postpone our HAHA picnic; not due to rain, but because we’re in the amber extreme heat warning area.

It’s just beginning to cloud over.

It’s still sweltering and some of us aren’t convinced that the rain/thunderstorms will hit Hungerford over the next few days, but the temperatures are forecast to drop to a more average 23°. Too late for our pumpkin, which has gone into emergency mode and decided to skip a couple of months.

Early Halloween pumpkin

The other squashes don’t seem to have had the same idea, so hopefully more than one fruit per plant, though the ‘tunnel’ hasn’t quite developed this year.

Squash tunnel

My Florence fennel has sadly all gone to seed. It’s just not been possible to keep it wet enough.

Florence fennel

At last the sweetcorn has developed tassels but no cobs are emerging yet, which seems rather slow. We’ll see…

Summing up the last week: Work, water, harvest, deadhead, work, water, eat, sleep and repeat. And, I must say how much I like it 😊 Song title provided by Riton.

Rewind The Film

It’s here! The new drone video of the site, courtesy of Colin de Fraine. 

Click on the image to view the YouTube video

I hope you agree that the plots are looking amazing from all the different angles. How dry it is though! Still no rain, so thank goodness for the borehole and generator to pump our water.

From Monday it’s National Allotment Week and we’re having a vote for the Plotholders Choice Award for the favourite plot. I hope lots of people join in and next Sunday we’re having a bring-your-own picnic for the prize-giving. We’re not quite ready for an open day with Covid cases still high, so this is the next best thing – also takes less organisation!

National Allotment Week 2022

We haven’t had any rain all week and aren’t expecting any at least till Friday – hope it stays dry on Sunday for the picnic!

Nicola Potatoes

The dry earth makes digging the potatoes easy and they emerge clean, with no slug damage so far – it makes a nice change. These are Nicola potatoes. The tubers are mostly quite small. They’re tasty hot or cold. We’ve had them boiled, as roasted wedges and mashed. 

Nicola potatoes

I had the carrot, fennel and spring onion with mayonnaise in a roll for lunch – yum yum. Only one Florence fennel looks like it may bulb up quite big – nothing like you see in shops though. They are mostly going to seed but are still good as a flavouring.

Purple potato and green bean salad

I enjoyed the last of the pulled Salad Blue potatoes with French beans and these smoky not-chicken bites. They were a tasty snack and added a bit of extra protein to this colourful little lunch.

Trug full of French beans

Green beans, whether runners or French beans, are well and truly on the menu now. The French beans are  Blue Lake climbing French beans. And the cucumbers are just beginning to join most lunches. 

Trug of beans

Mmmm, cheese and cucumber sandwiches… we just bought some fancy cheddar cheeses from the monthly Hungerford Food market along with some more garlic oil. I also couldn’t resist buying a couple of pots on the plant stall, including a salvia for the flower patch by our bench. Talking of which, that’s where I’m going now.

The song title is provided by the Manic Street Preachers. Go on, why not take another look at the drone video? It’s only 2½ minutes long.

Superstition

It’s colourful-meal-time! No colour enhancement necessary for Salad Blue potatoes (they’re actually a maincrop). Fabulous looking and great flavour.

Salad Blue Potato salad

The one Salad Blue plant that we pulled provided enough potatoes for several meals and there are still a few little ones left.

Fried veggies and blue potatoes

These veggies were fried in chilli oil and included garlic so was totally delicious though only included home-grown potatoes, garlic and courgette. Our tomato plants are only just producing tiny fruits on the plants in the polytunnel and outside.

Super-fresh ingredients

As more fresh veg becomes available I’m happy to eat very simple fair. Garlic and soy sauce was all that lovely veg needed for this rice dish.

Vegetarian food

Unfortunately our patty pan have started to develop Blossom End Rot – a result of too much nitrogen. I’ve removed the dodgy fruits and put chalk pellets in the watering bottle so hopefully subsequent fruits won’t be affected. There are loads of fruits developing.

Blossom end rot in patty pan

The Sunshine, Butternut and Spaghetti squash plants have started to produce small fruits and the butternut in particular is starting to climb. Not as prolific as last year’s tromboncino, but hopefully more tasty!

Squash tunnel

We still haven’t had any rain so we’re watering daily. It has continued to be lovely and warm. Look how dry the earth is though! This is where we cut the potato haulms off as the foliage was dying off on this row of Nicola spuds. They’re a second early variety so it’s fine to stop them growing at this stage.

Dry earth

I’m thinking of sowing some Chinese leaf and Pak Choi where I cleared the mangetout yesterday. The mangetout had gone to seed during the hot weather and we considered harvesting them as peas but they were incubating pea moth, so we decided to compost them instead!

The brassica cage on Plot3 has 2 x Brussels sprouts, 3 x Purple sprouting broccoli and 1 x Cavolo Nero. They all look rather weak, especially as other plotholders are already harvesting their Cavolo Nero!

Brassica

I’ve taken so long writing this that it’s now rained! So we’re off to see a wet plot for a welcome change. Need to be back in time for England versus Germany in the Women’s EUROS FINAL this evening! So exciting! Annoyingly we didn’t put the flag on the plot in time for the first match but we’re too superstitious to put it up now 🙄, hence the song title provided by Stevie Wonder!

The Last Film

Our new trug – thanks Joanne

Today we’re hoping to have another drone video filmed over the site by Colin. Thank goodness the wind has died down from the blustery days we’ve just had, would be nice if the sun shone a bit too. This is the film he produced 8 years ago, in April 2014.

April 2014

The site is looking much more loved now, which I hope will be apparent from the air. It’s just a shame the ground and grass is so parched at present.

Plot 7

I pulled one of the Salad Blue potato plants yesterday. A good number of tubers and they’re certainly blue!

Salad Blue potatoes

We finished off our first harvest of Nicola potatoes with roasted veg and halloumi last night. The halloumi is on fried courgette slabs (thick slices).

Halloumi and Roasted veg

That meal and the cold roasted veg that I had for lunch turned out much better than the large stuffed patty pan I cooked the other day. The patty pan refused to cook through and I had even boiled the whole thing for 15 minutes prior to stuffing. I had to eat round all the hard bits which doesn’t make for an enjoyable meal.

My sister came to visit us on the plot at the weekend. It was lovely chatting in the warmth and showing her what’s growing and what’s not. Her zinnias at home are in flower but ours seem to be rather slow. However, this comparison from 4 weeks previous shows how far they’ve come on though not as much as the pot marigolds.

4 weeks comparison of flower patch

The chrysanthemum at the back are shorter than I thought they’d be, but they’re extremely pretty up close.

Chrysanthemum

This River Lily on the wildlife bog garden (not so boggy at the moment) is rather beautiful too. While I was doing a bit of weeding there a small frog (about 2cm) bounced in front of me. I wonder if that is one of our home-grown ones.

River Lily

Our pumpkin plant has grown one pumpkin, it’s already football-sized (“Come on England!” 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿) but the plant seems to be stopping any other fruits from growing; they drop off very early. We think it may be due to the weather, or perhaps we’re going to have one GIANT pumpkin!

Pumpkin

I attempted to plait my garlic, but couldn’t do it, so I have a knot of garlic instead – that’s fine 🙂 and it’s already been used in most of the meals I’ve mentioned. 

Garlic knot

The song title, provided by Kissing The Pink (loved this song) is obviously about the 2014 footage, which I’ll just watch again ☺️

In A Moment

Vegetarian meal

Hands up who else was flagging like this yesterday!

Sagging Patty pan plant
Sagging Patty pan plant

“When leaves show their undersides, be very sure rain betides” says the Farmer’s Almanac. Well, the rain reached Swindon but missed Hungerford, so I think it was wishful thinking for the beans, or perhaps they wanted us to do some more watering. 

Leaves turning round to receive rain

Watering just isn’t the same as rainfall, so we had to water twice on the hottest day in Britain EVER. Such hard work 🤭 

Watering

The temperature in the shade on the allotment was 37° But look at the polytunnel temperature – Ugh! Didn’t stay in there long.

On Monday we got to the allotment for sunrise (05:10am). It felt really cold at 8° but it’s always interesting to see the site waking up and to see how much dew forms on the plants. The magpie family were flying about like they were playing in the squash tunnel and then we saw 3 squirrels frolicking. Perhaps they were dashing about to warm up, as I was.

Sunrise

The sun reached the top of site first.

Sunrise

Jamie took the haulms off one potato plant which had died back – just one Nicola out of the row. We firkled to see how the tubers were doing – no sign of blight, so perhaps the plant just died due to lack of water. Anyway, the potatoes were lovely.

That courgette was one of Neal’s. We had a larger one than that another day and I stuffed it with shallots, garlic, baby carrots and cheese. Really delicious.

Vegetarian meal
Stuffed Courgette

They weren’t home-grown shallots, though I have pulled ours now. Not a very impressive haul again this year.

Shallots drying

On one of the less-hot days I sowed my seed paper that my clever cousin Jen made – I’m making sure I keep the pot well-watered and look forward to seeing what appears.

Home-made Seed paper

Talking of emerging, I found this shiny golden chrysalis on a lettuce. I think it may be a small tortoiseshell. 

Golden Chrysalis
Small tortoiseshell – possibly

Rain is threatening again, but I wonder if it’ll actually fall today. We’re back to our average temperature for now which is rather a relief but I have enjoyed the blue skies.

Stay hydrated

It’s raining!! The song is provided by The Stereophonics. Good video but I don’t like the thought of crunching sand in that bread. 😣

I’m Free

I have more than a week off work – Yippee! And the weather is good – Hooray! 

Little Fluffy Clouds Scudding

Actually the weather has been beautiful continuously since my last post. The photo above was from last Sunday when the clouds put on a marvellous display throughout the day. And look at these beauties.

Clouds

We spent most of the weekend on the plot, but needed the shade of the brolly at times. The daily watering continues.

We spent much of the time potting up flower troughs and pots of begonia, lobelia and fuchsia – some of these will go on our shady doorstep, but we’ll let them enjoy a bit of sunshine for a while. Talking of flowers, our beans (runners, borlotti, French and Gigantes) are all on their way.

Runner bean flower

The Gigantes is winning (of course it’s a race) and there’s only one plant so I hope it produces a lot of beans!

Bean Wigwams

The race is also on in the squash tunnel. The Butternut is definitely winning. In fact, some of the plants look more like bush varieties, but I hope that isn’t the case… Look how dry it gets between watering, but we have the bottle waterers so the roots are reaching water and the plants should be fine when there’s a bit more foliage.

Squash tunnel

A lesson learned this year: don’t write labels with stupid pink pen! They’ve all faded so I need to re-do them, or just wait and see what develops – Yes, that’s what I’ll do.

Squash varieties

Ivan let me pick some of his blackcurrants so I made a sauce with added lavender. It was so delicious on ice cream or vanilla soya yogurt and look how pretty it was pre-cooking.

Blackcurrant and Lavender

The broad beans are over now. I had the last, rather gnarly, ones fried into ‘falafel’ the other night. They were very tasty made of broad beans, mangetout, onion, garlic, cumin – all ground together and fried. I couldn’t get them to hold together so fried them in metal pastry cutters. I had them with a grain mix and a tiny courgette and tiny patty pan. And, I successfully microwaved a couple of beets ☺️ 

Neal gave us beets, turnip and lettuce yesterday. It made for a tasty lunch. The thinly-sliced raw turnip was nicely peppery. I had the remainder boiled with dinner, very tasty but no longer peppery. I must grow some again next year.

The wildlife plot is doing its job attracting pollinators. The bumblebees love the evening primrose flowers.

Evening primrose

They also spend ages on the teasel flowers – the plants are over 8ft now!

Teasel flower

This mallow is stunning, but doesn’t seem to attract as much wildlife as I thought it would. I’ll keep an eye on it over the next week as there are loads of butterflies about now.

Mallow

So that’s me caught up before the holiday-on-the-plot begins. Great song by The Soup Dragons

First of the Year

The last couple of weeks have been mostly warm, with much less rain than was threatened so we had to water every day. And there have been really windy days with sun-cloud-sun. Stupid weather doesn’t know what month it is!

Mallow flower stigma

I like this photo of a mallow flower on the wildlife plot, with its own little wildlife visitor. Talking of wildlife, I’ve uncovered two toads over the last few days. No wonder this one looks so fat with all the slugs that are emerging.

Toad

There’s evidence of a mole on Plot3, but it’s just circled the pumpkin for some reason. The young plant is being protected from slugs and wind damage, but we’ll have to release it to the elements soon.

Mole hills

The Wildlife plot has another not-so-wild visitor these days! Not very wildlife-friendly is it 🤭

Cat on the Wildlife plot

Here’s Plot7 looking good after a shower, so much more effective than watering but the sun and wind soon dried the soil out. I’ve been weeding and thinning between the beetroots and the Florence fennel on that quarter. 

The thinnings make a good addition to salads and I’ve even had the first few small beets chopped up raw in a salad. I need to sow some more of the Chinese Dragon radish as the first sowing are just beginning to go a bit woody and going to seed.

Raw salad lunch

The harvests are fairly meagre but it’s so nice to be eating fresh-picked again. Most of the meals involve broad beans and a handful of mangetout from every plot-visit.

Veggie sausage salad lunch

I’ve really taken to the early-morning plot visits. I work from 7am for an hour then have an hour on the plot before working for the rest of the day. It feels less rushed than lunchtime visits and it’s so often sunnier than the rest of the day. Just look at that beautiful sky!

Sunny morning

That’s our potato quarter. The salad blue have lovely flowers.

Salad Blue potato flower

Of course, not every morning visit is sunny…but things still need watering even if we are in raincoats 🤭

We’ve finally planted up our Crimson Plum tomatoes in the polytunnel- look how pathetic they are! Hope they grow quickly before blight strikes, though they are meant to be blight resistant..

And our Lizzano tomato is planted outside on Plot3 and the two Brussels sprout seedlings are in the cage – well-protected by slug pellets. The black-covered area is where our cucumbers will go, in pots.

Plot3

A couple more meals on the menu this week. First a lovely salad for lunch with lovage leaves adding a delicious celery-flavour topping and Squeaky Bean pastrami-style slices.

And for dinner, I added rice to this tasty mix including What the Cluck chicken-style pieces fried in chilli and garlic oil. It’s so easy being vegetarian these days, even Hungerford sells these meat-alternatives.

And that pan contains our first courgette of the year – it was tiny and very tasty. It’s the first one that’s actually matured rather than dropping off. Plotholder, David, gave the plant to us and it’s growing in a tub. And that is why I chose this song title by Skrillex.

Sweet Harmony

Shared from my primary blog: https://plot7marshlane.blogspot.com/

What a month June has been. In the last week we’ve had beautiful blue skies and high temperatures (~30° on Friday) but night-time temperatures still fell to 3.4°! And now we’ve finally had some welcome rain. What a great growing-month.

So happy to have teasels on the wildlife plot

We had a couple of early morning visits to the plot in the week, to water and enjoy the sights and sounds of the waking allotment. So beautiful, but I only had an hour before returning home to start work 😔. A benefit of a morning visits is picking fresh veg to have for lunch. That scrummy salad included broad beans, radish and mangetout.

Freshly picked salad

Other days we’ve had lunchtime plot visits. Aah, working from home definitely has benefits, but I have my fifth(!) COVID vaccination at the end of month so maybe things will change… we’ll see.

Seedlings

Those are some of the flower seedlings that I potted on a couple of weeks ago including lobeliazinnia and love lies bleeding. In fact I planted some of them out yesterday and their roots had grown well in 2 weeks. I’m concerned for the zinnia as slugs apparently love the seedlings 😖 Will discover later whether they survived their first rainy night in the wild…

Newly-planted flowerbed

Okay, I agree, it doesn’t look much at the moment but I’m hoping that will be a riot of colour in front of our bench quite soon.. If you want colour you have to visit the wildlife plot which is looking lovely.

HAHA Wildlife plot

I’m pleased to say that the squash tunnel is now mostly planted: 2 x Honeyboat, 2 x Festival, 2 x Sunshine  and, thanks to plot-neighbour Kate, 1 x Butternut and 1 x Spaghetti.

Squash Tunnel planted

I’ve left positions for the 2 x Winter Celebration squashes which have only just germinated, about 10 days after the other varieties. It seems that they may prefer the warmer temperatures.

Climbing beans

The climbing beans (French, borlotti, runners and one Gigantes) are, well, climbing and yesterday I planted out the three Yin Yang dwarf French beans that managed to germinate. The mangetout have been providing small harvests for me, if they make it home, and I’ve been enjoying the Chinese Dragon radish. They’re peppery and crisp and, as you can see, much better than ‘normal’ radish.

Radish

The ‘normal’ radish have all been resigned to the compost bin as they’ve gone to seed – like they inevitably do. I don’t think I’ll bother in future; I’ll stick with the Chinese varieties.

Radish and broad beans

Yesterday was a HAHA workday. We cleared the site of rubbish and surplus ‘junk’ followed by cake and a cuppa.

HAHA Work party

Which reminds me that I haven’t mentioned the HAHA stall at the jubilee picnic. I wasn’t interested in the party, but when I went along to help set-up I couldn’t resist staying to help with the stall. We made over £60 and gained three new members on the waiting list, so it was very worthwhile. Our site is currently full again, which is great.

HAHA Stall

And our plots are almost full too! We’ve planted 15 Lark sweetcorn, chard, a love lies bleeding and 2 sunflowers on the last quarter of Plot7.

Plot 7 is full

So it’s been a busy month so far. I hope we get outside in some sunshine today so I’d better get off my butt!

We’ve been watching TOTP from the 1990s on BBC4, which is why the song is provided by Beloved and it refers to the DELICIOUS pairing of rhubarb and strawberries – mmmmm, that smell ❤️

Squash Tunnel (updated)

I’ve been talking about growing a squash tunnel for so long and 2021 has been its year. I planted 11 squash plants at the beginning of June, on trenches full of manure, with their own bottle waterer – for ease of watering.

They needed a bit of protection for the first 2 weeks

They’re all Winter squash, except for the Tromboncino which can be used as a Summer or Winter variety, apparently:

  • 2 x Boston
  • 2 x Tromboncino
  • 2 x Honey Boat
  • 2 x Festival
  • 2 x Crown Prince
  • 1 x Spaghetti
Looking up

The tromboncino were first off the mark. One plant has produced the usual light green fruits but the other has produced dark-skinned fruits.
Both of the Crown Princes appear to have only produced one fruit each, unless there are more hidden in the foliage.

That big yellow one is an immature Boston squash. Those plants started climbing slowly but now the vines are at the top of the tunnel they’re producing more fruits, which I hope will hang down through the mesh. The festival have been least inclined to climb and are producing all their fruits close to the ground.

From this, in June 2021
Through July
To this in August 2021

Unfortunately, the Boston squash succumbed to blossom end rot, perhaps it was the weather.

Blossom end rot

The tromboncino kept on growing… and growing ….

134cm in September

As you can see, September was when the foliage started to die back and revealed more fruits. The festivals didn’t trail much but produced some lovely looking fruits.

And the crown prince plants only produced one medium fruit each, which is plenty for me but I did expect a bigger harvest.
October was when all the fruits were harvested as the night temperatures were threatening to dip low.

Ok, so one fruit remained longer than the rest… that was finally removed and donated to a local primary school to amuse the children and teachers.

Everything else is waiting in the polytunnel and some have already been eaten, but now…. what varieties shall I grow next year…?

You can visit my main blog here: https://plot7marshlane.blogspot.com/