Down on the Allotment

What's happening down on the allotment? An intimate account of a passionate veggie grower.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Comfrey Tea

 I found a lovely big patch of Comfrey when I was out and about last weekend.  Comfrey tea is a wonderful plant feed if you don't mind a bit of a pong around the garden. 
 Pick a bag full of Comfrey leaves and submerge them in a bucket of water and hold them down with a brick or a stone.  The leaves will break down in a couple of weeks into a foul-smelling but nutritious plant food.  Provides nutrients for growing fruit, veggies and flowers at this time of year. The concentrated liquid feed has to be diluted before use. I use 1 cup full in a watering can of water.
Oh... and I have to find a safe place for this bucket of rotting comfrey... Leo drinks out of anything during this hot weather!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Triumphs and Disasters

 Lots happening at the moment. These beautiful Purple runner beans Aeron Purple Star from Gwilym at the Aeron Vale Allotments are looking great! A real triumph!  Very fleshy but completely stringless!
 This is my first time at growing Oca too. Different coloured tubers were planted and it seems as if the stems are different colours too. Oca is a small tuber growing under ground. Awaits.
 Sad to say, I think all of my lovely leeks are being nibbled by leek moth :-(  Despite buying a pheromone leek moth trap this is the worst year ever. Disaster..

Way back in the Spring when I planted my climbing courgette 'Black Forest'  some nibbling slug munched away at the entire growing point in the middle of the plant.  Just 3 leaves were left and no shoots at all.  There was a good root system developing and the plant had started to grow well.  So... I left it to see what would happen.
 Well, just look at it now!! Pinching out the growing tip has resulted in 4 different growing points for this climbing courgette instead of just one.  I am supporting all these leaders and see just how many courgettes will grow on one plant.  This makes sense really when it is well known to pinch out the growing tip of plants to make them send out more side shoots.  I'm building a big stick tripod over this courgette to see what happens.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Growing Pumpkins

 My lovely Queensland Blue Squash are really enjoying the heat at the moment.  Once the flowers have been pollinated the pumpkins grow rapidly with the right care and attention.
 On a warm sunny day, this female flower will open for pollination.  You can assist nature here by hand pollinating with a fully ripe male flower. Gently touch the pollen from the centre of the male flower on to the female.  If female flowers are not pollinated then this little fruit will just turn yellow and die.
 Don't forget that along the pumpkin vines as they trail along the ground are these little roots. 
 They make their way down into the soil, so you can feed and water your plants at this location as well.
Pumpkins are greedy feeders, so keep them well fed and watered while the weather is warm.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Summer Pudding

It's that time of year again!

 Soft fruit is just so forgiving in any garden. You really don't have to do anything more than pick it once a year!
 I searched around the bushes, shrubs and fences in the garden and managed to put together this little melange of Summer fruit.
 This particular blackcurrant bush has taken a few years to find its feet.  It was a transplanted gift from someone when they moved away.  These are just so enormous they could even be Jostaberries - a hybrid between blackcurrants and gooseberries. I will have to find out.
Just a few blackberries are ripe too. One blackberry at the end of each floret is ripe first when all the others are still green.  There were a handful of blackberries too.

So line a pudding basin with white bread slices then lightly cook the fruit with some sugar and wait till the fruit just softens and some juice comes out.

Spoon this fruit and juice into the bread then cover the top with a couple more slices of bread.  Put a plate on top and weight it down in the fridge for at least 24 hours.


Bon appetite!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

More from Hampton Court

 This was such a striking and novel idea for a show garden from Ocean Spray... a pond full of cranberries!
 Grown mainly in the USA these little berries are harvested in water. This was a really striking display at the RHS Hampton Court Palace Show this week.
 I particularly loved this display from Seeds of Italy.  A collection of accordions displaying a variety of Italian vegetables.
 Will you still love me Tomato? or Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Zucchini...
 or how about growing your own curry?  An interesting selection of fresh curry ingredients from Plants4Presents. Grow your own, turmeric, cardamom, ginger, chilli or curry leaves. Fascinating.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Royalty

 These lovely Royalty dwarf beans are just so beautiful that I decided to plant them outside the front of the house in a raised bed right on the pavement. It is funny watching people walk past the house and try to work out what sort of flowers I was growing!
 I first obtained these seeds at the Lost Gardens of Heligan in Cornwall many years ago. During a visit to the gardens I spotted some dry plants discarded on the compost heap... so they were 'liberated' to a new home.  Royalty are an old English variety said to be favourited by Queen Victoria herself.
 Beautiful purple flowers and plant stalks, followed by these dark purple beans.
 Really very prolific and quite tender.
I had the first picking yesterday, completely stringless and lose their colour back to green when cooked. Completely delicious!

Monday, July 07, 2014

Hampton Court Palace Flower Show

I am just so pleased that the RHS Hampton Court Summer shows are really taking note and reflecting the growing interest in edible gardening. This amazing vegetable garden celebrates 50 years of the RHS Britain in Bloom campaign which champions the power of community through gardening.
 This garden really put a smile on my face.
 Any carefully designed flower garden would be pleased to have such a striking, structural feature like these leeks! I just wonder when they sowed the seed and how they managed to get them to this size in July!!
 Something I've not see before is this display of floating Cranberries by Ocean Spray.  Quite a striking exhibit using this floating mat of colour in a garden. Quite a memorable exhibit.
 A fascinating exhibit here from Plants 4 Presents in a display of ingredients such as Turmeric, Cardamom, Chilli, Curry leaves, Kaffir Lime and Basil.  Such an inspiration to source fresh ingredients next time I think about making a curry.  Fresh, home grown turmeric is just amazing!
 Just so heart warming to see so many school children in groups at the show today.  There is hope for the future of horticulture if these little people carry on the tradition.  The schools' scarecrow competition had a theme of the First World War.  I was particularly taken by this brave 'scare pigeon'
 Or how about this one?
Lest We Forget.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Fresh Greens

 My Hurst Greenshaft peas have been ready for some time but today was the first opportunity I had to pick, pod and eat them.
 Even though some of the peas had been ready for quite a while they were all fresh and healthy.
 There wasn't a hard, school dinner bullet to be seen!  Tender and sweet every last one.
enjoyed with my very first courgette Black Forest climbing courgette.  The plant is only small so I don't want to stress it by producing too much fruit just yet. This one grown in a large pot on a patio and up a trellis.   This was delicious! first of many I hope.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Strawberry Jam

 It has to be done!  This time of year the strawberries are right in season, fresh, ripe and reasonably inexpensive.  Not the easiest of jam to make because they are very low in pectin and acid - the two crucial ingredients for a good set.
 I used Jam Sugar.  Equal quantities of strawberries and jam sugar.  This sugar already has apple pectin and citric acid added.  I also added the juice of a couple of lemons just to be sure.  Leave the strawberries in the sugar for 24 hours with nothing else added.
 Next day, the sugar will have drawn out lots of juice from he strawberries and released what little pectin there was in the strawberries.  No water has been added at all, this juice is just from the strawberries.   I then mashed about a third of the strawberries with a potato masher - just to give the jam a bit more consistency.
 The jam must reach 102 degrees C to achieve a set.  I usually ignore any written cooking times because different fruit, levels of pectin and acid vary so much it is impossible to say 10 minutes or 2 hours. 
 I always do it this way.  Put a clean plate in the freezer for 5 minutes to get cold.  Drop a teaspoon of jam on the plate and put back in the freezer for 5 minutes to cool.  The above photo is not set yet.
 You will keep having to repeat this process every few minutes or so until the jam begins to set. You can see here it wrinkles when I draw my finger through. Don't forget the jam will continue to cook just a few minutes longer when you turn off the heat and cool it for 10 minutes.
I sterilized these jars in the oven, and made sure they were still warm when I poured the warm jam into the jars.  I sealed the lids immediately so that as the hot air cools inside the top of the jar, a vacuum is formed.  Bon apetite!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Can You Dig It?

I just laughed my socks off when someone lent me a CD of comedy songs called Can You Dig It?  An amazing comedy talent here, songs written about growing your own. I can't recommend this highly enough.  If you want to listen to their adventures about Derek the Evil Pigeon... get yourself a copy!

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