Wednesday, August 30, 2006

One potato, Two Potato.......Err, that's about it.

My Collins English Dictionary defines the word "disappointed" as “being saddened by the failure of an expectation”, and further goes on to describe the term "miffed", as “offended” or “to be in a petulant mood”. Clearly the compositors of said worthy tomb cannot be vegetable growers or there would surely have been a more unambiguous reference to potatoes.

Well there would have if they had dug up the rubbish I did today.

Being as I have finished all the earlies, and was reduced to buying potatoes in Sainsburys I figured I’d make a start on the Sarpo Axonna main-crop I have been nurturing all summer. The lush green haulms are not dying off yet, but they must surely have done all the growing they are going to do by now.

Last year I grew the sister variety Sarpo Mira, and they were a huge success…. Huge rows, huge tubers, huge smugness factor. The Axonna are supposedly similar in every way, apart from being more uniform of shape, and a bit creamier of flesh. The results however have been a “failure of expectation” .

Not many potatoes, weird shapes and quite small. It took four hills to yield enough reasonable sized ones to fill a carrier bag, where as twenty hills last year filled three large sacks. I mashed some tonight and although they taste OK – at least one turned out to have unpleasant stringy bits inside it. Thus I am now in a “petulant mood”.

The difference of course is undoubtedly moisture, or rather the lack of it.

Last year the ground was well manured, but this year in the absence of any spare muck I relied on grass cuttings and newspaper as a bottom mulch. Last year they grew smaller tops and put more effort into the crop….. Last year it rained.

I’ll get the rest of them up at the weekend I expect, and I suppose I should say in their defence that they have no damage on them whatsoever; unlike Ray’s rows of Cara, which looked a nice successful crop, but half of which were apparently nibbled or drilled.

Not even the slugs are fussed about my disappointing spuds.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Normal Service Is Resumed....

For whatever reason, be it the bees, the drop in temperature, or the recent prolonged rainy spell, the runner beans are now back in full production again.

Nice long beans, and still quite tender for this time of year.

A welcome revival.... but a puzzling one.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Natural Gold..........

These are the first of this year's cobs.

Well the first to make back home to my place long enough to be photographed that is. I did pick some the day before, but accidentally stopped at the pub on the way home and was relieved of them by eager friends!

I have no idea what the variety is, as the plants were obtained from Dennis's brother, "Charlie the Smallholder", and just came helpfully labelled as "Sweetcorn".

Very sensible too if you are a primarily a food producer. It's only us hobbyists that agonise pedantically over which strains to grow.

At any rate, they look like good cobs, considering it has been so dry, and there are plenty of them on the plants. The Tuxedo variety I planted myself later are also coming along and are about 2-3 weeks behind these I think.

And here are the fist of the "other" pumpkin crop.

Again, I don't know exactly what sort they are, as although I planted them myself, the packet just said "Pumpkin - F1 Hybrid" on it, and I can't remember where I bought it from.

You don't really get a sense of scale from this pic, but they are about as big around as a saucer, and would be about the right size for a "stuffed pumpkin for one". Not that I can see myself bothering with that though.

They look as though they will slice up into nice chunks for roasting, or maybe for just standing about in the kitchen... I think there are about a dozen of them on the plants in all.

Pumpkin's Progress

Another camera-phone snap of the Atlantic Giant. I'll keep feeding it, but I'm not so sure it will get much bigger than this now. Have started to think about what I can do with it... might have to find a local church or school who will accept it as a harvest festival donation I suppose.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

A Load Of Old Has Beans......

I have been increasingly perplexed for the past few weeks about the comparative lack of runner beans on Plot 14 this year.

My Red Flame plants are lush and vigorous, and are producing plenty of bloom but precious few results. They started the season in full swing, but productivity has tailed off dramatically in the last month - considerably earlier than usual. At first I even thought "bean-nappers" might be beating me to it, but this was entirely unsubstantiated of course, not to mention a little unfair on my fellow plot holders.

I then reasoned that since the hosepipes have been out of action due to the burst pipe, I have not been misting them with water as I have always done previously (having learned to do this at my fathers knee almost) just irrigating them from below as usual. "Peter the Plot Boss" tells me however that in his opinion this is a red herrring, and makes no difference. I am unsure. If it is actually an old wives tale, it's a mighty common one.

He laid the blame fairly and squarely on the humble bumbles...or rather the lack of them. Apparently the long very hot dry spell has hampered their reproductivity, and their work ethic. Whilst I can't say that I blame them, it would nonetheless explain the problem. A quick walk round the site reveals that a lot of other healthy looking bean rows, also seem pretty barren, so maybe this is indeed it..... And Peter usually knows a thing or too.

What do other allotmenteers and gardners think?

How are your runners this year compared to last year?.....Leave a comment and let me know.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Airwave Adventures..........

Am just back from spending half-an-hour on air with the nice and incredibly learned folk at Radio Kent.

I was amongst some of their regular contributors both in the studio and on the phones chatting about allotments in general, how we all got started, our sheds, and also fielding listeners questions.

The latter - on subjects as diverse as growing unusual spanish peaches, to what types of brassicas to choose - I was very relieved to be able to leave to the professionals, although I was able to chip in with some advice on pruning back your Dill's Atlantic Giants. (As if I didn't know all about that after this year!)

I had great time, and hopefully it sounded OK !!

Just to prove I ain't blagging this blogging, here's a pic of me (on the left) with the show's presenter, the very lovely Sue Dougan, and the very knowledgeable horticutural expert Steve Bradley.

As for the experience of seeing what presenting a radio show is like, well "Multi -tasking" don't even come close!.....As well as chatting off air, cueing up callers on two or three screens on a huge presenting desk, linking with the control room, and calming nervous guests, Sue kept up a cheery and faultless delivery to the listeners all at the same time.

A bit like flying a fighter jet whilst chatting about veg, eh Sue?

Many thanks to the guys at Radio Kent for inviting me, and thoughtfully arranging it for a day when it was too wet to go to the allotment anyway.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Radio Ga Ga....

So one minute you're fossicking around among the runner beans, muttering to yourself about black fly; and the next, you're broadcasting to the masses!

Or so it seems.

"National Allotment Week" is coming up, (Well we all knew that… didn't we?) and my local radio station - BBC Radio Kent - are dedicating their Sunday morning gardening slot to "Talking Allotments".

Somebody at the Beeb has apparently been making good use of the licence fee by reading this humble DFV blog.

A nudge and a wink later, and Steve, the show’s Producer, has been in touch inviting me to drop in to the studio and take part; along with proper journalists, and real live published authors….Little old me.… On the wireless!

So if you are in the Radio Kent catchment area, you should be able to hear me making a spectacle of myself this Sunday sometime between 10am – 11 am. (The show is actually on from 8am -11am though, as I’m sure Steve would like you to know.)

I’m not sure what the format is yet, as I’m awaiting my final mission briefing tomorrow.

Right now, I’m just working on holding a public conversation without swearing......

….So bother those black fly!

Monday, August 07, 2006

Summer Daze..........

August seems to be the peak of productivity on our site.

Next month, things scale down, ground becomes bare and dare I say it, a bit "autumnal" looking. But for a few weeks the summer is still blazing, and providing a good excuse to snap a few more pictures.

Titchmarsh has now come into his own, frightening those pesky crows from "Dumbo" off of the corn, and the uncookable, artichokes are competing with the sunflowers for the bees.

Raspberry Wars

I had the first few Allgold early autumn raspberries yesterday as you can see here. They were very sweet and juicy, but alas also very few in number, due to my foolish lack of care earlier in the summer, when I didn't realise they needed so much water in the first year in order to become established.

It looks as though they will keep coming one by one for a while, but the few spindly canes can't produce enough to do anything with, apart from wolf them down the moment the picture has been taken. The Galante are also about to fruit, but fewer canes survived of this variety so I'm not planning on making any big trifles!

Next year they'll be a lot stronger, but if Matt has a picture to prove his superiority in the fruit growing stakes, I'm prepared to concede defeat for now....(curses!)

Duffer's Guide to Onion Strings...

Here is my first attempt at stringing onions......It's not perfect by any means, but I'm reasonably happy with it.

In the end I did not do it by the proper stem plaiting method, but just sort of improvised on a suggestion from Ernie on the plot above me...That is to say I cheated, and tied them all together one at a time, with string.

If I can manage it, it must be pretty idiot proof, so here's what you do....

Step 1.Cut the stems off the onions leaving a stalk about 4-5 inches long.

Step 2. Take a big one, and tie it firmly to the end of a long piece of strong string, anyhow you like.

Step 3. Now make the simplest of all knots right above this, by making a loop, and passing the
other free end of the string through it.

Step 4. Stick the neck of the 2nd onion through the noose, and pull it down tight to the top of
the 1st one.

Step 5. Repeat ad infinitum, turning succesive onions so they hang down in the most appropriate gaps, thus making the job look good from all sides.

The trick is to make sure that you get all your knots pulled down as close to the previous ones as possible. If you leave even ½ an inch of bare string between them, the final result will look loose and gappy.

In fact, if you can make the loop of each new knot also take in the remaining neck of the previous onion, as well as the one you're now adding, it seems to all fit together a bit more solidly.

When you need to use an onion, start at the top of the string, and just twist one off.

Plot Cam II - Return of the Judder

Well I finally managed to take a spare camera card to the plot with me yesterday, to record another video blog. In truth there's nothing that incredible to look at, but it's quite a change from the last time I shot one here in April.

What has not changed however, is my woeful cinematography. I think the sound is better, but it's still wobbly as heck so be warned. This is partly due to the uneven terrain of course, and also possibly due to the fact that halfway though filming it, I noticed a woman a few plots down had obviously got too hot in her tee-shirt and was gardening in her bra. I did not let this distract me though......After all, it's not that sort of a movie.