Tag Archives: Brussels sprouts

Return to the plot 2015

22 Feb

2015-02-22 12.10.55

The patch formerly known as ‘the brassica spot’, now just a mass of weeds.

My guilty pleasure of late has been following ‘The Big Allotment Challenge’. This is a double guilty pleasure because it is pretty trashy TV plus every episode served to remind me that I do actually have a plot languishing unloved and un-visited since December 2014.

Inspired by watching the final last night and being left in charge of a five year old who badly needed a walk, today we ventured down to the plot. Admittedly there hasn’t been an awful lot I could have done in the last two months except plant some garlic and feed the few things growing there. The boat has been well and truly missed on the garlic front and my brassicas were sad to say the least. A weedy mass replaces the patch I last saw sporting purple sprouting brocoli, now all gone, eaten by slugs or rotten.

We also dug up the pitiful sprouts that didn’t make the Christmas dinner table. My youngest enjoyed having a dig and collecting sprouts for the compost.

2015-02-22 12.10.46

A paradise for hardy five year olds!

But as always with the plot there were signs of optimistic life too. The leeks are coming along slowly but surely and my broad beans are now little seedlings, looking OK, if in need of a feed. I sprinkled manure round both, dug up the manky sprouts and then headed home to the promise of hot chocolate.

2015-02-22 12.10.59 2015-02-22 12.11.09

A hint of new life!

It was a brief but useful trip as it reassured me I do still have a shed (always a worry over the winter, that it might just take off in high winds) and reminded me how much I do love to go down there. Last term I was too busy to do anything, getting sucked up into the busy-ness of work and kids. But today was good, it reminded me that everyone of us needs a pastime in which we can totally lose ourselves and which takes our mind of work. For me the plot ticks those boxes. Luckily it has never been 100% about the produce I grow!

Advertisements

Crop Rotation

16 Mar

One thing that any gardener with even the smallest of plots can attempt to do, to keep pests at bay and to encourage nutrients to be replenished, is a basic crop rotation system. These can vary in the length of time they span, the most common being a five year crop rotation system. I don’t have the space or quite possibly the brain capacity to do a five year plan, so I have plumped for a simple three year crop rotation system. I’m sure I will overlap at times and mix up my root veg with my fruiting veg, like I did last year but essentially I will stick to it as best I can.

I made it down to the plot not once but twice this week. I am slowly waking up to the fact it’s there, it exists and I need to get on with things. Top tasks have been sorting out patches with weeds and old Brussels sprout plants. So I dug up those huge beasts and slung them in the compost.

I did a little light weeding, nothing too taxing. I realised I need more compost and pots to get things planted. I bought seeds yesterday and the hubby bought a huge box of blood fish and bone – a truly scary sounding fertiliser recommended by seasoned gardeners. I then read all about veganics (vegan organic gardening) and almost immediately regretted the purchase. Next year perhaps!

I need to weed everything that is uncovered. The purple sprouting broccoli, which I picked a bumper crop from this week, looks like it is growing from a garden lawn. My fruit bushes (or sticks that might one day grow into fruit bushes) are now surrounded by weeds as is my garlic, onions and broad beans.

Spring has sprung 2

Abundant crops!

I know I need to stop procrastinating and just get weeding but something always seems to get in the way. This week I blamed the fruit trees taking up most of the space in our tiny shed. I couldn’t access my weeding bucket to collect all the culprits, so really what was the point?

spring has sprung 3

Leeks!

I also need to harvest my leeks and rotate that bit of land for my spinach seeds that I am hoping will grow, as they like damp shady spots which the pond area certainly is.

There are other good things growing too. Mainly on my kitchen window sill. The seedlings I planted in a sudden spurt of energy a few weeks ago are now surfacing. Seeing these seedlings come forth has partly knocked me out of my plot denial.

spring has sprung 4

Seedlings, a real sign of spring!

And our now one year old pear tree has started sprouting buds a plenty, as it did last year. This year I must get around to getting the fleece that so many old allotment hands told me I needed to protect the delicate flowers from the wind and ensure a bumper crop is possible. So the list of things to do keeps growing!

spring has sprung

Spring time buds!

Compost corner

31 Jan

I realise that I now feel the same way about running  as I felt about the allotment this time last year. I try to go running once a week. That is me being kind to myself, letting go of perfection and all that. I don’t want to run a marathon, just run 20 metres without gasping for oxygen. A small enough target you might think but it is certainly taking a while to achieve.

This week I put my run off until today and last night when I thought about running I was filled with a sense of dread. The wet, the cold, the imagined public humiliation. The field I run round has been water logged for weeks now so on Tuesday I treated myself to a trip to the allotment.

The very idea that a trip to a rainy cold allotment is a treat sums up my relationship with running. I am not sure I will ever enjoy it but I would still like to run 20 metres without gasping and so doggedly I persist!

My trip to the plot on Tuesday was a delight unlike today’s short, gasping run. It was cold and I vowed I wouldn’t stay long. I would just pick a few of the last sprouts, check the shed was still there and then go.

compost corner 3

I know I said no more pics of sprouts but I couldn’t resist!

But once there I kept finding more tasks. I netted up my now sprouting broccoli and also picked some for dinner. The kids have already vowed they will never eat it (purple broccoli – urrrgh!) but hey, all the more for me!

compost corner 2

Broccoli netted!

Once this was done I found myself searching for other small tasks as I simply didn’t want to leave my little oasis. The next job was a decidedly unpleasant one – spreading compost over the area known as the pond. It stank to high heaven, I can now understand why some gardeners don’t bother making their own compost as it’s an awful lot of faff with not a huge amount to show for it.

compost corner 1

The picture above for example is the area known as the pond covered in what must be four months worth of home made household compost and it didn’t go very far.

compost corner

We still haven’t got around to buying a whizzy, whirling plastic compost container. Our plot came with a pallet compost box at the back of the shed but for storage at home this system doesn’t really work during the winter months when you are only visiting once a month if that. So we have been using old recycling boxes that the council recently decommissioned.

compost corner 4

The finishing touch was to cover the stinking mass of rotting veg and fruit peelings (gosh we eat a lot of kiwis, bananas, avocados and potatoes in our house as that is what it all seemed to be) with cardboard. A huge box saved from when my daughter got her new bunk beds.

I realised later I had broken a compost golden rule: have nothing with seeds in your compost as there was a whole mouldy pumpkin in the mix but I am sure it will do the job, preparing the pond for better drainage and replacing it’s depleted nutrients – I grew two or three crops of beetroot there last year. This year I will grow only spinach which apparently thrives in damp shady spots. Perfect!

New Year’s Resolutions

9 Jan

When most news outlets have photos of green gloop with headlines shouting detox this new year, you know the whole detox phenomenon has become well and truly mainstream. I can remember when I was a lone eccentric detoxing every January,  now Andrew Marr proclaims he has gone ‘dry’ this month. I realise that last sentence sounds a bit like someone reminiscing that ‘all this used to be fields’, but who cares, I am old enough to get away with it now.

One of my first resolutions this year was to never do a fruit detox again. Man it was horrible! I have done it for twenty years but this year my body was clearly saying no way, not three days just living off fruit, you will cave in. And I did, on day two. At least that’s one resolution I won’t have any trouble keeping.

The other resolutions (I’m a dyslexic ex-perfectionist – of course there is more than one resolution to fail at every year) are much simpler than usual. Someone asked me at a New years day soiree what my resolutions are and I said instead of ‘start doing x’ happily my resolutions this year are ‘keep doing x’. Psychologically that helps with the staying power. Keep up the plot, keep up the writing, keep up the running, keep meditating, keep drinking moderately, keep happy.

I can already guess which one I might not keep up. I deliberately started running last year so I wouldn’t have to start it in January. And I thought I was looking forward to taking it up again but on Tuesday morning a strange impulse came over me. I became incredibly chatty with fellow mums, we chatted and chatted until I could do displacement activities no longer. I finally started running only for it to rain and for me to get very wet feet.

The field where I run is seriously water logged and so it was with some trepidation I considered going back there. After considering it this morning for several minutes I felt the plot calling as it hasn’t for a long time.

I have not been down the plot this year. My last visit was mid December to hastily pick sprouts for Christmas. With all the winds that have been lashing I was again concerned about our shed.

NY4

Still standing!

Happily it was still there, the only casualty was my poor tangled wind chime. I untangled it and let it continue doing it’s job of scaring off birds and annoying plot neighbours. A quick scan around showed the pond is back (again) but other than that things have been going nicely in my absence.

NY5

The pond is back!

There were more brussel sprouts to pick and the purple sprouting broccoli looks like it has finally sprouted something that looks edible.

NY2

The last time I put up a picture of sprouts, I promise. Let’s just call winter a slow news season!

NY3

Blurry broccoli!

The best thing I spotted on my fleeting and chilly trip back to the plot was my latest raised bed, which I fashioned out of a £1.99 roll of lawn bordering, seems fairly abundant in onions, garlic and broad beans. And the tiniest scarecrow in the world still stands.

NY

Raised bed three – looking productive

It was good to be back. On a day like today you are guaranteed a quiet and uninterrupted visit. It was not nice enough to actually drink the flask I had made myself but when I walked home, which takes me past the water logged field which I attempt to jog round, I felt a shiver of appreciation that I had been to the plot and hadn’t panted my way round a sports field.

Yule blog

30 Dec

Slightly belatedly, terrible internet access over the festive period has meant no sly checking of Facebook (a good thing) but also my Yule blog got postponed.

The allotment often feels like a distant memory these days, I was starting to forget it’s very existence until the renewal email dropped in my inbox a week ago. The rent has gone up to £18 this year, still a snip for us small holders but I imagine people with maximum rods will notice the increase more acutely.

I had visions of the plot allowing me to do some kind of home spun Christmas thing this year: a vision of organic hampers and chutneys. The reality was in fact  all I actually managed  was a jar of plot pickle to my nearest and dearest as well as buying the usual presents.

plot picklePlot pickle gifts!

I also contributed to the vat of sprouts my mum cooks every Christmas day, though we didn’t quite grow enough to stop her from buying any, it worked out at roughly a third of the sprouts on the yule table were home grown.

Me and the kids ventured down the plot just before they broke up, my youngest coughing and wheezing and me feeling guilty at having dragged them there after school. But it was a quick job, I picked the sprouts as they ran around giggling at the fact it was almost dark at 3.30 and we were on the plot once again.

chilly more sprouts

Sprouts in situ

Once home they looked a slightly manky slug eaten batch and yes that probably is a small pest you can see nestling amongst them. And I may have mentioned before I am not even that keen on them anyway, I just kind of felt obliged to grow brasicas because that is what allotmenteers grow. I usually only allow 3 on my plate on the big day itself!

picked sprouts

My sprout booty!

One other unexpected deferred fruit of our labour was a pear found lurking in a forgotten corner of a drawer. Again not a bountiful crop but a pear we had grown none the less which I snapped as the hubby peeled it for posterity. It was bitter and rather wrinkled but it was our pear!

ken peeling pear

Here’s to more pears and sprouts and veg in general next year!

Happy winterval and a healthy 2014!

It’s chilly out there

19 Nov

I ventured to the plot this morning, encouraged by the sight of a whole day of sunshine. I forgot to look at the temperature part of the BBC weather page. It was sunny but chilly, almost freezing.  There were frozen puddles on my latest bits of membrane and the frost covered everything. I lasted ten minutes. Consoling myself with the fact that I needed a leg stretch.

Currently all over the world people are trying to write novels in a month.  I first heard about Nanowrimo years ago when a fellow would be writer told me of the great events it held in London. I finally signed up to their face book page this year and keep being bombarded by people’s word counts, one bloke said he had got to 45,000 words already. The aim is to reach 50,000 words in a month and thus have the first draft of a novel completed by December. The idea behind this is that with support and a bit of competition writers will stop procrastinating and just write.

One of the best writing teachers I have ever come across had this as her mantra: just write, whatever needs to come out, will come out. Even if you have to get the self indulgent crap out the way before the actual crafted writing commences, just write.

When I signed up to the face book page I didn’t think for a minute I would try to write so much in a month which is good as I have clocked up about 2,500 words so far this month in between writing lesson plans and blog posts. But it has reminded me that the main obstacle to writing is always the writer them self. The allotment is not going to be taking up much time for the next few months so I may as well stop procrastinating and hunker round the old lap top and see what comes forth.

chilly plot

What the plot looks like at the moment

I surveyed my plot during my chilly ten minutes and had a clear your-work-here-is-done (for now) moment.

chilly more sprouts

Must not forget to pick these in time for Christmas dinner!

Currently the only things really growing that may need harvesting soon are the sprouts and other brasicas so it’s time to step back from all things allotment related. I will miss it but I never have been that good with the cold.

chilly pumpkin patch dug

Pumpkin patch, dug over and covered.

And last time I was there I did end up digging the pumpkin patch, ready for next year’s veggies which was the last thing on my usually never-ending to do list this year. It’s always hard letting go and it took so long to make the plot part of my routine. I am probably worried once I stop going regularly I will forget it exists all over again and come back to an overgrown weedy mess. But for now I don’t know what else there is to do and with this cold weather I’m quite pleased I won’t be trudging down there quite so often. Instead I will be in the warm listening to my laptop purr, plugging away at those 50,000 words long after Nanowrimo ends.

Late autumn

14 Nov

I read something the other day that said once you have done Halloween and bonfire night then you can consider yourself in winter. I prefer to think it’s late autumn, I’m not quite ready for winter yet. Autumn is the most dramatic, and for me, depressing season because it can start out so sunny and goes steadily downhill. The fact it will be colder at the end than the beginning is guaranteed and in that respect, as a season, it is unique.

All this cold, rain and wind has seen me ignoring the plot. For two weeks I have been plot starved. We popped there at the weekend to pick the last of the pumpkins but aside from that I have spent little time there until today. I miss the walk there most of all – that has become my gym, that walk. Don’t get me started on how much I hate gyms – the lycra, the sweat, the irony of being some out of shape bod who drives to the gym. I digress. On Sunday we picked 4 green stunted pumpkins that now reside in the shed. Perhaps they will turn orange one day. Perhaps I will make that pumpkin curry at last.

last of the pumpkins

The last crop of pumpkins

late autumn pumpkin patch

Pumpkin patch now covered

So today, in between having a cuppa with a friend and my Sainsburys shopping delivery I squeezed in a visit to the plot. The first job was to cover the old pumpkin patch up with more membrane. I didn’t get around to digging it over as there were other things that needed doing, so I just covered it in the hope it might be easier to tackle next year.

It was cold this morning so I didn’t fancy my chances of staying there long but I now have my nice dry boots and a thick jumper and soon I was as absorbed as ever. I dug the raised bed and cleared the last of the courgette plant, which in my absence had been devoured by slugs. I covered it with my own home made compost and then put the old shower doors a friend gave me to keep the earth from freezing.

late autumn shower doors

A near perfect fit for my raised bed

Then I pulled up the last useless tall non sprouting broccoli plant to give the Brussel sprout plants more room, sun light and nutrients. I fed the leeks with organic manure, they are doing well but I’m not sure how long they will survive these frosts. The poor pepper plants I planted several months ago are now black – singed by frost, if that works as a metaphor.

late autumn

My leeks are one of the last things still growing alongside brassicas and onions

late autumn dead peppers

My pepper plants are no more

I pulled up some straggling beetroot that had not really grown and chucked it in the compost. Every time a crop gets cleared there is more digging. I did the old beetroot patch in record time, aware I was late for my cuppa and it’s cold out there. Gone are the days when I linger and an hour turns into three. It was more a case of my planned 20 minutes became 40 minutes but that was all I could bare. I am sure I will fit in a few more brief visits before the year comes to a close but I now have free time again in those once plot-filled hours. I am not sure how I will spend this extra time but I do know I won’t be spending it down the gym any time soon.