Saturday, August 28, 2010

Who Ordered The Soup.....?

This is my first foray into edible pumpkins, as opposed to pointless great show off ones.

They are "New England Pie", supposedly a good culinary variety, and this is the crop from two plants, which germinated and grew easily, but seemed very susceptible to powdery mildew. More so than other types growing nearby.

The fruits could have done with ripening on the vine a bit longer, but as the plants are completely dead, and in view of the current sub-aquatic weather, I decided to get them in.....Luckily, the cottage has walls, and therefore windowsill about 18" thick!
Apparently, according to young Mr. Buckland, (a boy doing a man's job if ever there was) it's important to leave a short "handle" of vine at the top of the stalk, rather than cutting the stalk off flush. This then dies off and seals the stem, and helps prevent rotting during storage.

Once they have ripened sufficiently, like all squashes & pumpkins they will keep best hung in a net, in a cool dry place, and can be stored right up until Christmas if necessary.

Odd One Out....

Using your skill and judgement, try to spot which one of these is actually a dinner plate.

And before anyone starts, sunflowers do not count as flowers when grown on an allotment.

.........They are garden architecture.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Beans And Beets........

......Are taking over my diet just now.

What I Know About Fennel.....

1. It germinates easily, grows freely, and looks mighty impressive on the plot.

2. Comparatively few people grow it, so be prepared to face a barage of questions such as:
What is it? .....“Fennel”
What does it taste like? .....“Pernod”
Why are you growing it? .....“It looked sexy on the packet”
How do you cook it? .....“Fucked if I know. Look, don’t you have something better to do than standing here like a curious three year old?”

3. It tastes like Pernod. I know I just said that but it’s worth repeating. If you don’t like aniseed it’s probably not the veg for you.

4. Although it romps away (use the thinnings in salads) it’s incredibly hard, if not nearly impossible, to get it to “bulb up” like the commercial varieties in the supermarkets. If you get some fattish but flattish, blade shaped, results, then you should settle for that. Still tastes the same.

5. It goes to seed quickly. Keep an eye on it and harvest before the bulbs start to produce one big central spike, or they get too tough. This tendancy can be counteracted by planting it late, after the longest day, and keeping it well watered.

6. Lightly browned in butter for a few minutes, then simmered in a weak chicken stock for 20 minutes, it’s rather good actually. If you like Pernod of course. It's also good in a stir fry, a rissotto, or grated in salads.

7. It's a powerful diuretic if you eat too much of it. (Remember how freely it grows?) Something you only find out after the event, as they don’t mention that on the packet, or the recipe cards.

………Which is taking the piss if you ask me.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

And The Veil Lifted..........

Hello World. (Ya big troublesome conundrum! )

I'm back online, and back on schedule at the plot. ...Only things have moved on quite a bit it seems.

Nature still toils undeterred, when hard drives falter and monitors dim .....More to follow.


Sunday, June 20, 2010

Service Interruption....

Please to be assured that the lack of updates here is not due to a weakening of my horticultural resolve, nor even a heavy dose of World Cup fever. Rather it is simply a dead computer.

Posting from the phone, (like this) is torturous, whatever the adverts make out on TV, so nothing further from me, until the techno pixies send me a new machine. Which given the frankly obscene amount of squids they want for one these days, may be some time.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

First Crop Of The Year.......

I don't understand all the fuss about asaparagus. Or all the waiting. I find you can crop it after just a couple of months....

On arriving at the plot this morning, I was assailed by the sight of a single, huge asparagus spear, slap in the middle of the plot.

It wasn't there on Thursday, but had since risen like some kind of scary, pre-historic creature.

No one has cultivated the ground here in 15 years, but this sleeping giant, awoken by rain and rotavator no doubt, appeared to be making up for lost time by auditioning for a part in a Tolkein movie.

Sadly the proud volunteer has gone to meet its maker......Right after meeting a chicken breast and some new potatoes.

A short but busy life.....

Flying Rats......

Pigeons to you maybe. Agents of Satan in my book.

I've never known them to scramble under netting, or inside tunnels before, but apparently the pigeons round here are more ruthless than their soft, southern, Kentish cousins, and have effected an escape from Alcatraz, in reverse... Sort of.

They breached my defences sometime in the last two days and have stripped half my cabbages.

I have improved the netting, and am considering resigning my job in order to mount a round-the-clock vigil.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Wig Wam Bam....

.....But not a facial star or a flared lurex jumpsuit in sight.

Just beans... And buckets with holes in them.

I've sown my usual reliable Red Flame variety in the polytunnel, but being an impatient sort of soul, I bought a few plants at the local garden centre to be getting on with. (One man's impatience is another man's sequential sowing!) They are a mystery variety, being labelled "Streamline" on the pots, and "Enorma" on the plant labels.....Ho hum.

Given the cost of the manure & compost I bought from the site shop, the canes, and the plants themselves, these are going to be pampered and very expensive runners, but that's starting from scratch for you.

The soil needed improving though, and the buried bucket system is a tried and tested way of delivering water to the roots; so I'm confident that despite the dry ground they will do well.

And that I suppose is main the difference between me and The Sweet (though there are plenty I assure you.)

I have the rocks you see.... but not the glam.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Speculate To Accumulate....

I'm sure I can't be the only allotmenteer, who despite repeatedly swearing to do things on a tight budget, somehow keeps on aquiring more plot related stuff.

On the way from my friends' site to my own on Sunday, I passed a house with a hand written sign outside reading "Tool Sale". Cue the screeching of tyres as I pulled up in a cloud of smoking rubber, and rushed headlong up the garden path. (In every sense of the words).

I have a fork already... Well I have two actually, because the second one was a bargain. But still I managed to buy these beauties, eulogised by the sharp witted salesman, who was in his waistcoat and slippers, and scarely a day under ninety.

A really useful long handled number, so I can turn over my clay/rock/stones without bending my back, and a fabulous old, flat tined potato fork. For all the potatoes that won't grow in my soil... At only £5.00 each, who could resist!

If I only had a shed at the plot, the back of my car might stop looking like a tool sale in transit.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

If I Could Turn Back Time....

The fact that Cher hasn't entirely managed it yet, despite all the surgery, does not discourage my stubborn pretence that I can cheat the clock, and that May is in fact still March. A ploy that has been made all the more convincing by the unseasonably cold weather we've been having.

Yesterday, it being the weekend closest to the 17th, I celebrated St. Patrick's Day by planting my first early potatoes. Before you snigger though, hands up who's plants got frost bitten this week? ..... Hah, not so crazy now am I!

I put in two rows of Rocket, and one each of Pentland Javelin and Maris Peer. And because even after rotovating, there is only about 5 inches of loose topsoil, I spaced the rows twice as far apart as normal, leaving more bare soil between them. What I lack in depth of trench I shall endeavour to make up in height of hillock.

The shockingly lumpy, hard stony looking ground is a pretty accurate impression of what it is like at the moment. I raked top layer off at the bottom of the plot to put out some cabbages, but there is no way to get a tilth fine enough for seed sowing, so I shall have to draw out rows for things like radishes & beetroots, and fill them with multipurpose compost to give them a start.

The cabbages are all the better for being (mostly) freeman's, from my friends The Polytunnel Pair, at another plot in town. I have Savoy, Red Something -they forgot the variety- and some makeweights from Focus DIY (other brands are available) helpfully labelled as " Cabbage".

Bigger, Better, Faster.........

Thus was the work of the alternative rotavator man, organised by Chairman Eric, our site supremo. A good soaking of rain, and beefier machine finally broke down the hard pan to something approaching a workable consistency. It's chunky, and clumpy, and sets off hard as soon your back is turned, but at least we can get something in the ground this year.

Alas the machine only penetrated about 4-6 inches, underneath which is still a hard, claggy layer that's going nowhere without a fight. It has also of course, chopped up all the root weed into a million exquisitely fine pieces, which will soon see me hoe-hoeing harder than a whole Santa Claus convention.

Nonethless...."The concrete and the clay beneath my feet begin to crumble..."

And whilst tomatoes most assuredly will die, love, apparently, will not.

And boy must I fucking love allotments to be persevering with this one!

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Unmissable Offer....

By popular demand our Urtica Dioica plants are now available to the general public.....

No allotment, garden or small holding is complete with this classic hardy perennial.

Bare rooted stock available now, or alternatively, "in the green" any time soon. (Subject to to 15% handling charge)

Plentiful stocks - Guaranteed to be vigorous doers.

Ask about our generous bulk discounts!

Companion plants also available: Rumex Obtusifolius, Equisetum Arvense, Elytrigia Repens

Friday, April 30, 2010

Praying For Rain...

Here's hoping the weather is true to form this Bank Holiday, and properly pisses down all weekend.

I want it to soak my rock hard plot, so that I can then cover it with black plastic to keep the moisture in, and dig over a bed or two at my leisure ( Huh...yeah right!) next week.

I would do a raindance, but I think the ground has probably been flattened enough by the council digger, without me adding insult to injury......

Saturday, April 24, 2010

On The Unreliable Nature Of Men And Their Equipment....

One balmy evening last week, a man came to me with honeyed words, and told me he that could give me my heart’s desire.

That is to say, he met me at the plot, and assured me he had the wherewithal to rotavate it within an inch of it’s life. His machine was apparently legendary at his own allotment. He was a landscaper by trade he said, and encouraged by his cheerful patter and firm handshake I found myself telling him my plans….This is where the fruit cage will go, over there the shed, and here be dragons.

Come Saturday morning though, as it emerged from his truck, I have to say his equipment did not look quite so big or impressive in the flesh as it had sounded in the boasting. Nonetheless I made flattering comments as we discussed the horsepower and strange foreign transmission system, and he set to with a will.

He huffed and puffed, and the machine roared, and whirred it’s tines with fury, but maddeningly just skittered and skated over the surface. We moved to another position and fell to again, but sadly the task was proving beyond him. The ground continued to just lay there, stubborn and unyielding. Like a woman’s heart.

The poor chap was clearly a bit embarrassed at this point, and swore he never usually had this problem. I felt sorry for him, and said “It’s not you, it’s me.” Me and my ridiculously hard soil. Clearly no rotavator could be expected to operate in those conditions. We must have been fools to suppose otherwise…..Though perhaps if he rested for bit and tried again?

But in truth our enthusiasm had evaporated by this point, and the moment was gone. So he put his machine back in his truck and left.

So any gardener's dreams I may theoretically have had, of sneaking back later and rolling naked in the moonlight in a bed of beautiful fine tilth, now looked withered and small. ……Much like the four bags of seed potatoes I had prematurely bought on the way there.

As for the plot, well I’ll just have to go back to doing it manually.......

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Like A Phoenix From The Flames...........

Well, if not a phoenix exactly, perhaps a sparrow from the ashes then.

After 2 ½ years on the waiting list I have a new allotment ….. Mine, all mine, for the princely sum of £28.00 a year!

The Southfields site that I looked at way back when Moses was a lad, and posted about on my other blog has now been extended. The Association finally won a hard fought battle with the Council for funding to re-open a part of the site that was mothballed about 10 years ago when you couldn't give plots away. (Urgh, digging - how unfashionable!) This has created somewhere around 30 new (old) plots, and catapulted me up the waiting list.

And here the really good news ends. Having been left to go wild for all that time, the land reverted to grassy scrub, with whitethorn and brambles dotted all over it.

This is a hastily grabbed camera-phone picture taken in March, before any clearance work was done. Plot 63 (It’s mine I tell ya!) is helpfully picked out in magic red pen. As you can see it’s a gentle slope, running roughly NE at the top of my plot to SW at the bottom.

And here’s a view of area now it has been ”scraped” by the council, with a 40 tonne excavator. ….10 poles of weed and clay never looked so daunting.

And clay is the overriding factor really. There’s about a foot of heavy topsoil, and then a layer of clay proper. Since it’s been exposed, flattened by the heavy machine, and the sun has got to it, it’s started to bake hard.

Digging it is rather like one the Twelve Labors of Hercules. It’s hard on top, claggy underneath, and each forkful comes up with the sickening, wrenching sound of torn root weeds. Every sod has to be picked over by hand. A bit like winkling out reluctant spaghetti. This small square is the unimpressive result of about 2 hours toil.

If I sound disheartened, I’m not. I'm chuffed to buggery actually, but there’s no hiding from the fact that it's going to be a long hard slog.

Sooooo…… I have abandoned all my better instincts and am arranging for a friend of a friend with a big tool ….ahem…. commercial rotavator, to come and blitz it for me.

Yes, I know it will chop up and bury all the weed. And yes, I know I’ll be digging it out for evermore. But as it stands, in two weeks time I won’t be able to get a fork in it unless I do something now. I’ll still hand dig the beds again, and pick as much weed out as I can before planting…. I promise.

And besides, who’s to say Hercules wouldn’t have used power tools given half a chance…………………

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Do not seek me here...

For anyone dropping by on the off-chance that I may have posted an update....well I have... several in fact, but they're over on my other blog "Quotidian". ....Just follow the link.

Thanks for your interest!


Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Alright Already !!......

Sheesh! ....Here's a chap trying to lie low....doggo.....incognito etc.... being foiled by other chaps and lady chaps who keep lifting the duvet, and poking aforesaid sleeping dog with a cyber-stick.

Seriously though folks, I'm touched by the number of friends asking for an update, and would have posted one sooner, where it not for the lack of anything much to tell.

The house is still on the market, and although I have recently accepted an offer, the potential purchaser has not sold hers yet, so I am still stuck here in damp and windy Tonbridge....with no allotment, no move, and not a lot of work.

In the absence of anything prettier to show you, here is a self portrait of me looking suitably harrumphed about it.

Anyhap.... On the upside, I am now a leading expert on day-time-Tv, have been gardening vicariously via other peoples blogs, and am also becoming a dab hand at painting bathroom ceilings.

As soon as the move takes off, I’ll start a companion blog to this one, called “Up Sticks” or some such, to chart my progress. Mean while however, as I have been “tagged” by dear Frankie from her Veg Plot… are “5 Things About Me”….

1. I am actually a lot thinner than I look.

2. My only reliable Karaoke song is “Dock of the Bay”, but if egged on, and plied with alcohol, I will most assuredly forget this, and attempt any number of other less accomplished alternatives.

3. I am Sports Mad, but sadly woefully uncoordinated, and thus not much good at games. I once gave up playing (in the loosest possible sense of the word) cricket for my local village team, in order to take up golf. I was working on the premise than in golf, at least, the ball is stationary…..”How hard can it be?” I thought……The answer it appears, is very.

4. I am strangely accident prone when encountering recording artists. (Aren't we all!) Over the years I have flattened Toyah in the street, made Lynsey De Paul cry, and dropped Dave Stewart’s camera. Thus when once meeting Kylie, I thought it best to say little, and keep my hands in my pockets. She has a lot of minders.

5. I love anchovies. I also like olives……Buy me some olives stuffed with anchovies (only the pukah Italian ones mind!) and we can be friends for life.....Attempt to surreptitiously feed me parsnips however, and I will curse you and your kin for all eternity.

Apparently the rules demand that I now turn the spotlight on five other unsuspecting souls….so would the following please stand up and elaborate about yourselves… have been "tagged" and are now “it” it were.

She Who Digs, Mr. Toad, Rebsie Fairholm, Lottie, & Emma Jane

Saturday, September 30, 2006

So Farewell Then To All Of That....................

Friends, I have a sad story to tell, but first, a confession to make.

Many visitors to “Dig For Victory” over the season have been very complimentary about my produce, and have also been kind enough to say that my plot always looks neat and tidy. ….Well it bloody should do. I’ve had enough time on my hands as I’ve been out of work all year.!

Because of this I’ve been able to spend quite a lot of time down there, more I know, than some other Allotmenteers can fit in, juggling it around family and work as they have to. In fact both the allotment, and this blog, have been a welcome diversion from the endless round of job applications, interviews and rejection letters.

In the space of a year, I have made a whole host of new friends, pontificated about veg in cyberspace, had some successes and some failures, grown a large pumpkin, and even been on the radio….A job would have been nice, but I’ve enjoyed my time regardless.

Unfortunately, this blog will now cease for a good while, as I am selling my house to release some much needed funds, and to move to a cheaper area of the country. I’ve chosen Northampton, as it’s a nice town, is not really so far away from Kent, has some wonderful countryside around it, and most importantly some much cheaper houses…. Sadly this means giving up plot 14, Ridgeway Crescent though.

At some stage in the future, I’ll certainly have an allotment again, or may even a decent sized garden, but this will probably take a year or two I think. In the meanwhile I shall be concentrating a bit more on my other hobby, which is photography. (If anyone is interested you can keep up with my progress here, by clicking the "photos" tab.)

Today is the end of our allotment year and I have tidied up my plot and handed back the keys.

I cannot finish however without thanking all the friends I have made at RC for their help, advice and humour : Jim, Ray, Ernie, Dennis, Jo, Ken, and all three Peters to name but, err....nine.

Nor my fellow bloggers around the world, especially: Lottie, Frankie, Rebsie, Jane, Mildew, Matron, Petunia’s Gardener, and all the others….. I will be keeping up to date with your pages of course, and sticking my oar in occasionally no doubt.

To end on a happier note however, I know that Plot 14 will be in good hands, as Peter Seach (to give “The Plot Boss” his due and recognise him by his real name for once) is taking it over. His current plot is right at the other end of the site, and it makes sense for him to have one nearer the trading sheds……Also the crafty bugger knows it’s much better soil at this end, eh Peter!

Lastly, my friends Geoff and Sue, in some part due to these pages, and my constant banging on about it in the pub, have decided to take over half a plot at RC this next season….More converts to the wonderful world of allotmenteering!

I have given them my seed box to help them get started.

My work here is done……

Pumpkin Harvest.......

So at long last the pumpkins have left the building! .... Not in an Elvis style limo, but on the back of Jim’s truck.

A small group of tuggers and lifters assembled to help us get them loaded this morning, and here I am “posing” amongst the pumpkins.

The larger one of the two should apparently weigh around 170lbs, which is roughly 12 stones in old money. This is calculated by using the very cunning measurement to weight ratio, that you can find on this American pumpkin enthusiast site. Basically you take three specific measurements over and around the beast, add them together, and look up the total on the chart provided. This then tells you the equivalent weight in lbs. They reckon that this method should be accurate to within 5% either way, in the majority of cases.

Those of you from the US-of-A where truly huge fruits are grown for competitions all over the country, are probably wondering what all the fuss is about these two rather unremarkable small gourds. (The current World Record is a mind boggling 1,469 lbs !) Locally however, these are seen as being pretty big stuff. The record at the Tonbridge area show, which I just missed entering, is only 132 lbs.

We didn’t measure the smaller one, but based on picking them up between us, I’d say it is about two thirds of the weight.

Tomorrow is Harvest Festival in Churches around here, the larger one has gone to Hadlow Parish Church, where Jim (in white) and I roped in a passing church warden to help us unload. The other has gone to the Tonbridge Methodist Church, that Jim and his wife attend. Sadly we weren’t able to hang around to see them fully “dressed” by the flower ladies, but here are a couple of pics anyway.

Thanks Jim, John, Geoff & Sue for your help!

Claret & Blue ...............

Being a loyal and long suffering West Ham fan, I could not resist snapping this Kalibos cabbage, in a fantastic shade of punk purple, in front of the blue morning glory......My team colours.

Sadly, the way things are going, this looks like the only bit of glory the Hammers are likely to be associated with this season.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Easy Life...........

Well don't be looking here for an update!

I've been sitting on my backside all week, and haven't been near the plot once. There are a few tidying things to be done during the week, but essentially I'm having an allotment holiday this weekend. The more perceptive amongst you may notice this coincides with wall-to-wall Tv coverage of the Ryder Cup. Make of this what you will.

Do check back here next Sunday however, for pics of the Great Pumpkin Lift, and my end of season round-up............betcha' can hardly wait eh?

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Let Them Eat Cake.......

Don't worry, I'm not trying to compete with Lottie, over at Simply Living....In fact I've never baked a cake in my life.

I have however done a few small favours for Peter "The Plotboss" just lately, and also donated a sack of Winter Festival squashes for the stall he and Jo are running at a Macmillan Cancer Support day.

In return, this morning I received this quite unexpected and most welcome homebaked gift!

It seems Jo is a bit of a whizz at this sort of thing, and has made a lot of cakes for the fund raiser.

The kettle is shortly about to boil, and I shall then conduct some very in depth research into whether it is better to eat it plain, or with butter..... I anticipate my deliberations may take quite some time.

Ah, the joys of the allotment economy eh!.............................

Un-Bifurcated Carrots......

The runner beans are over now, so whilst the red cabbage are still maturing (bloody slowly!) and the raspberries continue to trickle along, this is pretty much all is I have to harvest now.

I've just tested a spring onion and "crikey!" is definitely the verdict....they are very strong. Much more so that the previous sowing from the same packet earlier in the year. I guess this is because they have been a lot longer growing, and got off to a slow start in all that hot weather. The flavour seems to have "matured" in some way.

The carrots look good, and came out of the raised bed "salad bar" very clean and uniform. This is certainly the best result I've had with them, as I could never get them to grow at all in the bare soil, right next door.

They grew so straight in this manner that I'm at last prepared to say
"bye-bye bifurcation"........ (Sorry!)

Autumn Digging.......

I've been doing a bit of Autumn digging lately. In actual fact, this picture is over a week old as I meant to post it previously but never got round to it. I've since finished this section, limed it, and rotorvated it ready for planting.

Much as I usually hate digging, I have to say this time, on this part of the plot, it was almost a pleasure. Three seasons of previous careful turn over when I removed all the root weed I could find, a load of manure last year, and some assidous hoeing this year, mean that it is very clean, and pretty much weed free.

The texture of it is also good at the moment, very soft and friable. It broke so easily with a fork, it was rather like digging into dark sponge cake.

If I'm sounding overly pleased with myself, it's because I feel I've proved that it's quite easy to improve your soil if you are prepared to do it over a few seasons.

Although other parts of the plot are a year of so behind, and therefore heavier, this section bears very little resemblance now to the dense, clay bottomed, bind weed haven it was when I first started.

Satisfaction can come from some strange sources sometimes.....

Thursday, September 07, 2006

For The Showmen Amongst You........

You may be aware that Frankie at Allotment 21 has been working on producing "The Longest Bean" as part of a pub conceived wager, and doubtless several other allotmenteers will have also been growing runners for show this year. It's not something I'm overly bothered with myself, but a chap called Chris further down our site shows all kinds of stuff.

He recently won 1st* prize I'm told, in a local area show, in a class for "11 beans of 15 inches or more"...Yup...15 inches... or more!

The variety to grow, for those in the know, is apparently Stenner, which is a specialist show bean, and the weapon of choice of the incomparable Medwyn Williams.

I took a wander down to Chris's plot today and snapped this pic of a typical example to show you....One of the ones that wasn't long enough I presume!

* Correction: It appears I did Chris an injustice when I wrote this post, as I have since been informed that he actually won 1st prize, and not the second I have accidentally demoted him to. Sorry mate!

Patience is a virtue they say..........

Since the weather has cooled down, and we've had a drop of rain, several of the crops I have been disparaging all summer have suddenly come to the party. The Runners have revived, as mentioned before, but now the morning glory planted for pollination puposes has also started flowering.

The red Kalibos cabbage, have suddenly started to form hearts, just as I was about to hoick them out to the rubbish heap. I've removed the very outer leaves that were so badly damaged by flea beetles early on, and they now look a lot more respectable.

And even the relucatant raspberries have put on a sudden growth spurt, and started fruiting in a more meaningful fashion.

I might get that trifle after all...........

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.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

As soon as your back is turned......

I've been away for a week loafing, golfing, and touring about Northamptonshire.

I went down to the plot for the first time today since I got back, tidied up a bit, and did some watering. A lot of runner beans and climbing french beans are now destined for the freezer. This is still after "Jim the Sweetpea Baron" next door, -who has kindly been watering for me - has had his share.

Last week the two Dills pumpkins were about the size of a large cereal bowl. Now, five days later, they are bigger than a medicine ball. I had forgotten the camera of course, so snapped this one on my phone, including one of my mitts in it for a size reference.

It's going to be a big old bugger I reckon......(I have sausage fingers if it helps to gauge the scale)

The heatwave seems to have broken here today, so pray God we get some rain tonight.

P.S. The reluctant sweetcorn belonging to "The New Girl", that Dennis and I previously pontificated about, seems to now be flowering OK....That is, as far as I can tell from sea level, as it's about 10ft high and rising....What has she done to it?

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Hotter & hotter........

A couple of absolutely blistering days here this weekend. I managed some allotmenteering on Saturday morning, and some golf on Sunday, which was without doubt the hottest round I've ever played. (Meteorologically speaking that is... golfistically speaking it was merely tepid.)

Just a few pictures to update on things I haven't photographed recently. I was going to shoot another short movie clip, but after all the stills I took (to whittle down to this lot) there wasn't enough space on the card, so that will have to wait.

The pumpkin patch has been completely overrun by Dill's Atlantic Giants, so the other pumpkins and the courgettes are fighting for elbow room at the moment. I'm trying to keep to just two fruits per plant for now, and then further reduce to one each later on. It's a constant battle to keep cutting off new ones though, and to prune the plants back at the borders with the edging shears!

The runner beans, and climbing french beans are doing really well, the sweet corn is just about to start setting cobs, while the onions & shallots are drying off nicely in the sun. The latter have done very well, and I have a scarily large net full of them, even after giving quite a lot away. I think the weather has just really suited them this year.

Have a look at these two rows of cabbages.... Apart from the fact that one is a red variety and the other a green, according to the packets they should be about the same tight, pointed size and shape. The green Hispi are behaving admirably, but the red Kalibos are growing big and open, with no sign of any hearts forming. Why this should be when they have been treated identically I don't know.... Nature can be weird sometimes.... And annoying.

Lastly the sunflowers. About two months behind everyone else's due to being a 2nd try, they are now really starting to get going. None of them should be much more than 5ft tall in the end, so I think they will catch up quite quickly. Flowering supposedly lasts till the first frosts, so there is plenty of time.

Apparently I have to go out and do pub quiz this evening....assuming I didn't entirely fry my brains round the golf course that is.... A good excuse for a bit of dampening down methinks!