Tag Archives: pumpkins

In a bit of a pickle

7 Nov

Pity the poor gardener at this time of year. Some people may feel delight as the shops fill with Christmas paraphernalia but for a gardener it means only one thing – most of the garden stuff in mainstream shops like Wilko and the pound shop (my two fav places to stock up on gardening related clobber) have cleared the shelves of all gardening stuff and replaced it with tinsel and plastic tat till April.

My mission to get some onion sets, garlic and some pots to re-pot my indoor chilli  plants failed miserably this morning and now only a trip to the out of town garden centre will get the goods. I still managed to spend a lot of money during this retail therapy spree but not on anything gardening related.

It’s been a  month since my last post and that’s because not much has happened plot wise. My newly planted grass path was indeed a grass path too far – it is still a bare brown patch, all the seed has washed away or been eaten by birds.

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We did manage to harvest the second pumpkin in time for Halloween. It was one of the last evenings before the clocks went back, you remember those heady days, when it was still daylight at 5.30pm? The pumpkin was swiftly whittled into a classic pumpkin lantern by the hubby. Being a waste-not-want-not environmentally friendly type the left over flesh was of course used later that week in a pumpkin curry.

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The last fresh plot grown cucumber turned to mush in the fridge, they are not the type of vegetables that sustained peasants through harsh winters that’s for sure. Luckily I did pickle some earlier this month so the glut still keeps on giving. I did two varieties of pickles – sliced cucumber and gherkin-esque ones, from all the half grown baby cucs I harvested when I dug the plant up.

I am now left with three large jars of pickled cucumber in a household of non pickle eaters, there is no way I will work my way through that lot so I plan to at least off load one jar onto my mum. As I have nothing else to blog about there now follows some random pickle pictures.

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My most recent trip to the plot was only a week ago. It didn’t warrant a blog post as it was with the kids in aid of half term entertainment which means I got very little done. It was however a glorious sunny day that saw us shedding our coats and having a picnic. A week ago today in fact. Seems hard to believe on a day like today when I found myself, instead of buying onion sets, stocking up on thermal socks and tinsel in readiness for winterval

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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.

Progress

3 Oct

September absolutely flew by. I was back at work, I was trying to get a mindfulness class started and the kids were settling into their new lives at school. The plot doesn’t know or care about this and of course those weeds keep growing. I set myself some ridiculous goals for September – dig strip 3, plant fruit bushes, make some grass seed paths. True to my dyslexic always-over-stretching-myself self, I knew some of this simply wouldn’t get done. This blog got dropped for a week or two but that didn’t mean I wasn’t still there digging, be it sporadically!

So let’s do the bad news first. My tomato plants succumbed to blight just as they were going red! We did manage to get about two week’s worth of tomatoes before they were blighted but still, it wasn’t a happy moment up rooting these plants I had nurtured since March and chucking them in the plot dump to be burned.

progress toms

Blighted!

A second thing to die was my youngest’s pumpkin plant. I was there at the weekend, it looked fine. I returned on Tuesday to see that the plant had withered so much it was almost invisible and all that remained were two dinky pumpkins, not yet orange being circled by hungry slugs. I gathered up the withered plant, salvaged the pumpkins and they now reside on my window sill. I am not sure if they will turn orange in the same way tomatoes turn red.

progress pumpkins

Diddy pumpkins!

But aside from these two setbacks things are good on the plot. My oldest’s pumpkins are thriving, huge and turning orange. This of course has provoked a bit of sibling rivalry. My attempt to appease all (you have a dinky one of his and we’ll give him a big orange one of yours) was flatly refused by the eldest who can spot a bad deal when she sees one!

progress

Proper pumpkins!

My courgette plant – the one constant all summer – really is the gift that keeps giving. I have picked another 3 courgettes this week and there’s more on the way if slugs or frost don’t get them first.

progress courgettes

Courgettes still growing.

I can’t say I have had an awful lot of luck with my brassicas but I was amazed to see that after months of growing I can now see some distinct looking brussels on the way – maybe in time for Christmas?

progress sprouts

Sprouts! At last a brassica I’ve planted has grown!

And that digging, the bane of any reluctant gardener’s life, that was really making my hands hurt a few weeks ago and so I slowed down the pace, has come on in leaps and bounds. I still have a small corner yet to dig but I have finished my first grass path and started my second one.

progress path 1

My first grass path!

progress paths

Strip 3 – flatter and the starting to take shape

OK so my one concern is the grass seed has all come from a pound shop in Harlesden. Even as I was buying it there was a sensible voice inside me (being ignored as my sensible voice often is) screaming go to Wilko. So we shall see, I might get another blog entry out of lamenting my foolish stinginess!

Going on a bug hunt

24 Aug

Another week and more time spent away from the plot. The last time I was there was Monday night. I had gone on a mercy mission to save my tomatoes from up ending, saying to the hubby I would be forty minutes at most. He gave me a wry smile and I realised that my forty minutes down the plot are always nearer an hour and a half at least. Once there I find it difficult to leave. Even if it’s raining it seems so calming and welcome after a busy week with the kids.

The hubby was right to wear that wry smile. My plot forty minutes are a reverse version of the counsellor’s hour. In my defence it takes ten minutes to walk there and back so maybe I do only do forty minutes’ work I just forget about the journey time. An hour and a half later and I am trapped in plot, it has got so dark I cannot see the numbers on the combination lock. Thank goodness for the illuminating mobile phone in my pocket.

The tomatoes were now, I felt, securely tethered. I had used 3 bits of bamboo, creating a tripod like structure and watered the poles in so they would set and not wobble. I then got sucked into the whole pruning all the useless bits on the tomato plants and that took me up to dusk. Finally I remembered I needed to add ericaceous compost to my ailing blueberry bush which was why I ended up leaving the plot in darkness. It was calm there at night but also a little spooky.

Today, five days, a trip to Brighton and a fourth birthday party later, what would I find? Firstly as the name of this post suggests, I found a  whole lot of bugs. The plot was wet and muddy and entirely different from when I had left it. It smelt different and seemed a little gloomy, giving me a feel that autumn is only round the corner. And the bugs! Oh my they were out in force today.

My first job was to remove the caterpillars from the brassicas. This, it has to be said, was not my finest hour spent on the plot. Wet, grubby, up close and personal with a whole lot of caterpillar juice – I can think of better ways of spending a Saturday afternoon.

Going on bug hunt caterpillars

One of the many caterpillar colonies I found today.

I peeled them off each leaf, sometimes three or four at a time. Being as gentle as I could. Reminding myself that today’s caterpillar is tomorrow’s butterfly but to my horror I witnessed the smaller ones literally bursting on impact, green ooze coming out of their wee heads. I tried removing whole leaves rather than killing them but the small ones did not fair well. I found puddles of caterpillar wee or droppings, I don’t know what it was but wherever they were found, nearby was a pool of slimy green liquid with lumps. I had to get right in amongst the brassicas, searching for more caterpillars and then the stench of wet cabbage reminded me I do not even like cabbage, sprouts or cauliflower that much.

Going on bug hunt slug in brassicas

My brassicas have turned into the best bug hotel going.

During my accidental slaughter of the caterpillars I also chanced upon countless fat slugs. Much more robust creatures they also got thrown in the weed bucket alongside their more delicate cousins, ready for delivery to the allotment dump. I found one that looked almost the size of a small vole as it nestled in my gloved hand.

Going on bug hunt mega slug

No wonder my sprouting broccoli is looking a bit lame!

In the interests of being fair to that slug I have to say I do have quite small hands but still, I picked off half a dozen over fed beasts of a similar size. My gloves were now soaked with caterpillar juice and slug slime so I was grateful the next thing on the to do list was weed the pumpkin patch. My bug hunt wasn’t over though as I soon discovered whilst pulling up the weeds that two small pumpkins have now also fallen to the voracious appetite of these slimy blighters.

Going on bug hunt slug pumpkin

It didn’t just eat my pumpkin, it fell asleep there too!

But my return after almost a week was not all bugs and ravaged plants. The grass seed in fruit corner is growing at last, if very patchily.

Going on bug hunt fruit corenr

Looking less like a grave!

I scattered more grass seed on the bare patches and went to check out the tomatoes. The home made bamboo tripods have held them in place over the windy week. I cut off more excess leaves, being as brutal as I could muster. And then I noticed the best thing of all. After weeks I finally have two reddish tomatoes. I left them on the vine, having heard the red ones give off chemicals that help the others turn red. I just hope none of the countless remaining bugs I may have missed on my bug hunt get to eat them before I do.

Going on bug hunt red toms

Hurrah – I have two red tomatoes!