Tag Archives: vegetables

Never Ending Harvest

26 Sep

Since taking on our scrubby corner of paradise 4 years ago the constant questions from friends, family and anyone vaguely interested has always been ‘Have you noticed your food bills have gone down since taking on an allotment.’ The answer has always been a resolute no, not in the slightest. The cost of buying equipment, seeds, manure, compost and other allotment kit has always far outweighed the occasional £2 shaved off a shop because I don’t need to buy any spuds that week.

However this year had anyone asked me (no one did this year, perhaps they me too brash in previous years) my answer would have been do you know what, yes I think I have probably saved about a tenner each shop since July, so plentiful has the harvest been this year.

This in itself led to more spending – so often the way – my slightly lower food bills fooled me into thinking I could now afford an organic veg box to supplement my harvest and now I am signed up to the veg box scheme I’m confident that will go on long after any savings can be felt.

I made some raised beds at home this year and from them I have had a constant supply of courgettes, cherry toms and lettuce, loads of lettuce. I haven’t bought any bagged lettuce all summer. This has become so ingrained that even my husband remembers to go out to the garden with scissors rather than buy more lettuce when there’s none in the fridge.

At the plot itself I have had a constant supply of cucumbers, potatoes, more tomatoes and now our apple tree is finally giving us our first harvest, three years after we planted it.

The cherry tree, blueberry bush and gooseberry bush were all rather disappointing but still I am pleasantly surprised that it’s been such a good year given that I have hardly been there – something else always crops up. Something else I enjoy a lot less, like reading work emails, or keeping up with governor related stuff or having a driving lesson.

The crops are all done now, alas there is no such thing as a never ending harvest but it’s been a good summer on the plot and growing veg at home was good for ensuring things got harvested regularly while I am so busy. I spent 2 hours at my plot this morning and, just as the weather gets cold and winter draws in, I realised I really should go there more often. Perhaps next year.

Advertisements

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!

Rue the day….

16 Apr

So yeah, I was saying I am the world’s biggest slacker-gardener and an expert in shonky doings when it comes to all plot-related things. This thought has niggled me for the last few days, I woke up wondering if my wobbly green house thing might still be standing.

Today I had to find out. After a day plodding through work for my diploma I promised myself a fleeting trip to the plot to check on my construction and my poor carrot seedlings, still languishing on the shelf, well guess what? As I walked towards my plot I could see something was missing, the mini greenhouse was gone.

rue the day 3

Luckily it hadn’t travelled far and was miraculously undamaged. Whether a kindly plot neighbour placed it in its final resting place or if the wind did, I will never know but it’s undamaged and intact. I looked around hoping there were no witnesses as I hastily collapsed the whole thing and packed it away, slightly shamed, in the shed.

Why not reassemble it? Well my three runner bean seedlings that it was purchased in order to protect are dead. Five weeks on my window sill, two days on the plot. Se la vie! It’s a steep learning curve this gardening malarkey.

The carrot seedlings were also wilting so I hastened myself to shonkily plant them. Aware of the irony, that here I was again doing things in a less than perfect fashion, but what could I do? I had a grocery delivery at 4pm, the clock was ticking and the seedlings looked like they wouldn’t survive another night on the shelf. So plant them I did.

First I had to prepare the seed bed. This involved a bit of membrane peeling back and collecting a plant pot full of slugs and weeds, followed by some digging and hoeing. It was only when I was sprinkling grass seed and watering it in that I realised a trip to the plot is much like a microcosm of my life, what ever it is that actually needs to be done often gets left till the very last moment.

rue the day 1

I spotted the carrot seedlings with only ten minutes left to go. Oh yes, them, I found myself thinking. I hastily planted them out, added manure and compost and covered them with a friend’s old shower door as a makeshift cloche. I will probably return to find the shower door flat, with the seedlings squashed because in haste perhaps I didn’t do it very well but I figured that is better than going back tomorrow to find all my carrot seedlings dead on the shelf, planting no longer a viable option.

rue the day

rue the day 2

And when I left the plot today at ten to four, I did at least get a small buzz of knowing I had, in my unique half-baked way, got the job done, finally. For now at least.

Easter shenanigans

13 Apr

The plot has been much neglected. I managed to fit in a quick visit before the holidays, before having my youngest at home for three long days prior to the holidays, with an ear infection that left him howling for most of the time.

Luckily I went down the day before that kicked off and planted my trees that had been languishing in the shed for several weeks. Things were looking most spring like and I realised on each fleeting visit I needed to spend a good few hours there if those trees were to get planted.

spring 1

Soaking the roots

spring2spring 5

The spot where it was to be planted had been covered for a year and hey presto, a wobbly apple tree!

I knew the end result was not the spirit level perfection my partner would’ve gone for but I did it in a third of the time, so really who is to say my shonky ways are not more efficient, unless of course the tree dies then I will rue the day anyone let me loose on tree planting.

Since then what with the ear infection and the Easter holidays, for which we were away last week, I have not ventured there since until today. Basking in glorious sunshine and with the promise of a roast when I returned. First the whole family came along and I had a rare moment of enjoying all our work, the kids were sitting on the lawn I planted last year, it looked all lush and green. Picture perfect, I enjoyed the moment so much I forgot to take a picture.

Once they went back to cook a roast I got down to some real work, still hard if the kids are ever around. We had brought with us stuff grown on the kitchen window sill, my carrots, looking a bit pot bound and weather beaten, didn’t actually get planted, I ran out of time.

a3

Carrot seedlings

I had time to admire the broad beans, planted way back in October last year, which along with the onions and garlic, have shot up since I was last there.

a1

Broad beans

And then I was preoccupied with getting my runner beans planted. They had grown so tall that my plan to buy a cute cloche to protect them went out the window as they now stretched to at least 30 cms. I planted them and then tried to erect a small green house frame thing around them, a silly error as one of them ended up getting beheaded as I faffed and struggled in the wind. I was on the verge of giving up and calling the hubby for assistance when a stubborn part of me thought no, I can’t be one of those women who get their hubby to do all the ‘man’s’ work. My son had already horrified me earlier in the day by saying ‘daddy’s stronger than you and you can’t drive’ (both true enough if we mean a brute physical definition of the word strong but I still pointed out there are many different types of strength).

a2

Frame up

a

Cover on!

So I was on a mission! The end result is not a complete disaster and it’s weighed down with six bricks though I don’t fancy it’s chances if the wind picks up to the same degree it did earlier in the year. I felt I had won for today, but maybe I will send the hubby down there at some point with his spirit level and amazing tendency to straighten up my shonky work.

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!

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.