Wednesday 21 December 2011

Chicken news & Parsnips dug up for Christmas dinner

Here is one of our Chickens 'Maude' standing on the top of the new fence I put up to segregate them from part of our garden, I think I will have to make it taller (it's already about 3ft/90cm !) or maybe I will build some narrow planters to stop them.
I don't know about your gardens but ours is now a mud bath after all the rain we have had.

It has been a long time since I was last down the Allotment, but the rain, again, has thwarted attempts to much down there.

I have managed a hurried trip or two, over the last 3 weeks, but today the driest for a while, everything is fine, rather dormant now as temps have been in single figures for a month or more. But crops put in are surviving.

Leeks, Onions, Kale, Broccoli & Brussel Sprouts too.

I thought best go and dig up some Parsnips for Christmas dinner to go with the Carrots, Runner Beans & Potatoes harvested earlier.

As we have had some very cold days, the Parsnips will be all the more sweeter for leaving them in the ground longer.

Here you can see another one of our cheeky girls 'Peggy' also on the new fence!

As the nights and the days are much colder we have been feeding them warm mash in the morning, this is made from 'crumb' feed just mixed with warm water to a Porridge consistency, they love it and eat every last bit which is good as the 'Small Holder Range' of feeds contain all they need for good health and strong egg shells.

Thanks for reading/returning. Ian

Sunday 20 November 2011

Allotment news & Result of Pea Experiment

The allotment is still doing well, all of the crops planted over the last month or so, since summer crops had finished, are thriving.

The Onions are getting bigger the Garlic too, Cauliflowers planted recently have taken well.
The Cox's Orange Pippin Apple trees I put in just a week ago have new buds showing on main stem.

Some of the Leeks I planted on the 28th of July are ready to lift, just as well as they are needed for tonight's dinner, so I was glad they had grown so well, must have been the location, where the potatoes had been growing, the well dug over soil made it perfect for the Leeks.

If you remember my Pea Planting Experiment of Nov 2nd, where I planted peas in kitchen roll tubes cut in half.

Well as you can see they have sprouted and are quite tall already.

I'm glad it worked as its a good use of recycling materials.

A week later I planted some Broad Beans in toilet roll tubes, one seed in each tube, stood up vertically.

They too have done well and is almost 100% successful.

When they get a bit taller & stronger, we will plant out under Fleece, to protect them against frost, then hopefully we will have an early crop.

Same goes for the peas, they are a dwarf variety so won't need tall supports, but just twigs and thin branches collected over time.

Thanks for reading/returning. Ian

Thursday 17 November 2011

Busy few days on the Allotment

Well it's been over a week since my last Blog.
Been so busy with other things, but as its winter now, although you wouldn't think it as the temperature is still in double figures, there are very few crops to harvest but some clearing up do instead.

You can tell it's Autumn by the leafless trees in the background.

One of the jobs I put off for this time of year was to put in another Compost Bin (the middle one in pic) the old wooden ones put in 10yrs ago have finally rotted away, so needed replacing.
The patch in the foreground is where the Sweetcorn was growing, now that's finished I have dug the patch over & weeded it, ready for a dressing of Well Rotted Manure as I will be planting 1st Early Potatoes there in the spring.

Another important job was to plant out the 2 Cox's Orange Pippin trees we got from the Copella Apple drink offer via Thompson & Morgan.

They arrived safely packed & I followed the instructions closely, by planting each tree in a prepared hole with well rotted manure, secured to a stake and even pruned
back each branch to about 9" to an outward facing bud.

So hopefully will get a small crop next year, increasing each year to a bumper harvest in a few years.

Chicken News:
At this time of year your Chickens, ours too, will have slowed down laying, or even stopped. But it's important to still give them a good diet, so we give them a daily treat of mixed goodies, here is a bowl of chopped up Bread, Apples, Grapes & Mealworms.
Give them green leaves from Cabbage, Broccoli, Kale etc as well as Corn at the end of the day, to get them through the cold nights.
Thanks for Reading/Returning. Ian

Sunday 6 November 2011

Allotment & Chicken news in November

Another lovely day, it's hard to believe it's November.

I cleared the Kale away and will give the remnants to our Chickens.

So planted out some Cauliflowers in the space left. They were started at home in seed trays and were ready to plant out.

Despite the colder days we still managed to harvest some fruit, as you can see there are still some Raspberries, these are 'Joan J' an autumn fruiting variety.

Also harvested today:
Parsnips & Peppers.
The Parsnips along with Potatoes, Onions, Garlic & Carrots went into Dinner tonight as a Vegetable Hot Pot and was very tasty.

'Chicken News'
Our 'Girls' Hetty, Betty, Peggy & Maud, are seen here enjoying one of their treats, Cabbage, Bread & Cucumber, they just love mixed treats, almost anything goes, chopped Apple, Pasta, green leaves & meal worms all get scoffed at an alarming rate, but shows in the deep yellow yolks the eggs contain.

Just had to show you this photo:

Just look how attentive they are when a treat bowl is on it's way. They just know the sound of an arriving meal.

We have a special earthenware bowl that all mixed treats are served in and they cannily know the sound & look of it.

Thanks for reading/returning. Ian

Wednesday 2 November 2011

Pea Planting Experiment

Don't have much luck with direct sowing Peas. Instead of the usual way of starting them off in lengths of guttering, which I'm sure works well for most, but I'm going to try this idea I had.
Cutting kitchen paper tubes in half lengthways, place the cut tubes in a shallow tray (I used supermarket produce trays, recycle/reuse).

I'm planting 'Feltham First' a 1st early Dwarf Pea variety.

Next fill each tube with compost, mine is home produced, pressing down firmly.

Next place a Pea seed every 1-2", no need to press into the compost yet.
Next cover with a thin layer of compost & water well. They should germinate if kept in a frost free place, mine are in the Greenhouse.
I managed 6 per row, the instructions on the packet says 4-6" apart, but when they have started growing, just before planting out you can separate them by cutting the tube through the compost.
Thanks for reading/returning. Ian.

Sunday 30 October 2011

Allotment & Chicken news

Not a lot done this week as been away for a mini break to Harrogate, which was nice.

But as you can see it has been a lovely dry, blue sky sort of day, sunny at times too.

So did a bit of weeding, checked the crops, the Leeks I put in last week have taken, not grown but still alive.

So as you can see it was a lovely day.

Managed to still harvest a few Raspberries and Runner Beans but I feel will be the last as frost is sure to arrive.

Also harvested a few greens for the Chickens, Kale, Lettuce & weeds too.

The clocks going back means it gets dark earlier now, but our Chickens won't mind.

Here you can see them in their favorite spot, at the patio door expecting food, but as you can see they are looking healthy and fit.

They are still laying an average of 3 eggs a day, I have been told laying slows down and can stop in the winter, due to less daylight.

This months egg count is 100, so hardly slowing down yet. Best month so far was May with 108.

Thanks for reading/returning. Ian

Monday 24 October 2011

Help with planting Leeks

Leek planting is not hard, unless you have clay soil, luckily we have light sandy soil.

The most important tool you will need is a Dibber, no need to go out and buy one, simply cut a length of a brush stave (handle) round off one end and mark at 4" from the tip. I also make a mark at 6" as this is the distance between each hole.

Using the Dibber make a 4" (10cm) depth hole by pushing vertically into the soil, which should be firm, not loose as the soil can fall back in.

Using a ruler, but not essential, make a hole every 6" (15cm) along a string and lower 1 Leek shoot (previously started in a seed tray as in photo) gently into each hole, roots first obviously.

Continue placing leeks in each hole to the end of the row.
Don't back fill the holes with soil at this point.

There shoul
d be at least 10" (25cm) between each row.

When all the leeks are in place, simply trickle water into each hole which will drag some soil back into each hole.

Then water freely over the whole patch.

The Leeks in the background were planted in this way back in July and have grown well, the ones planted today are an over Wintering variety.

Thanks for reading/returning. Ian

Sunday 23 October 2011

Potatoes dug, Onions in, Leeks weeded too

On Friday the weather was favorable for a bit of digging, so I decided to get the last of the Potatoes up.
There were 4 2/3 rows left of the 'Markies' to dig up, out of the 7 rows planted.
You can see them here, it doesn't look like a lot, but in fact this pile weighs 104lb (47.1kg) and the largest single s
pud weighs 1lb 6oz (600g) a plateful of chips in itself!
The revised total harvest is now 157lb (71.2kg)

Last weekend I planted the White Onions out, so today I planted the Reds, another 3 rows, so now we have another 80+ Onions to over winter and harvest in the Spring. Handy as I have already ordered my Onions for Spring planting:
Autumn Gold, Stuttgarter Stanfield & New Fen Globe, all whites from Marshalls Seeds.

The Leeks I planted out in July are doing well and look fab, weeded them and cleared the patch alongside ready for another batch of Leeks to plant out as a successive crop. Hopefully will get those planted in the next few days, weather permitting.

They will go well with all the Spuds dug up in Leek & Potato soup, lovely.

A surprise harvest today too:
Runner Beans

The late warmth & rain we have had helped to get an extended & in the case of Strawberries a second crop.

Thanks for reading/returning. Ian

Sunday 16 October 2011

Clearing, Planting & Harvesting still

Yesterday this patch still had the Peas, Dwarf French Beans, Climbing Bean frames, Purple Beans & the Purple Potatoes were here too. But I managed to clear all that away and plant out the late Onions, approx 40 White ones, will plant a few rows of Red too soon.

But was surprised to be still harvesting fruit this late in the year, see below.

Todays Harvest:
Dwarf French Beans
Purple Potatoes (just 3 left in the ground)

And another 14lb of Markies Potatoes.

The Markies Potatoes, from Marshalls Seeds are described as 'it excels as a chipping potato and is considered by some 'chippies' to be even better than Maris Piper' now that's some recommendation.

I can agree it does perform very well Boiled, but best Baked, Fried or Roasted.

Markies also have a good all round resistance to disease & viruses.

I dug up 2/3 of a row here which weigh 14lb so I expect the yield to be approx 20lb per row, I planted 7 rows so total yield should be approx 140lb (63.5kg) not bad from an initial 4kg purchase.

The other important job to do at this time of year is have a Bonfire, all the weeds, dry foliage and dead woody plants (soft plants etc go in the compost bin) go on the bonfire and when all burnt down the 'potash' can be dug back into the soil.

An important tip:
If you are planing a Bonfire, always construct on the day of burning. If you pile up foliage over a few days then set light to it you might be Barbecuing some wildlife too.
At this time of year small creatures especially Hedgehogs might use your bonfire pile as a place to hibernate, so always check underneath.

Thanks for reading/returning. Ian

Sunday 9 October 2011

We made it finally, to harvest veg for dinner

I planned to dig up the rest of the Markies Potatoes today, but Network Rail started to replace the train tracks this week and access to our Allotment site was limited as we have to cross the tracks to get there.
Anyway about an extra mile detour and we made it. But limited us on what we could carry back, so sacks full of Potatoes was out.
But we did manage to harvest the following:

Runner Beans
a Strawberry
and Tomatoes

When putting waste veg in the Compost bin I disturbed a fat Frog, I hope it's so big because it's full of Slugs.

I'm hoping to put a pond in soon, if we get our Bathroom facelift done before Xmas I will be using the old bath as a pond, so hopefully a colony of Frogs & Toads will move in.

Anyway as I said we did manage to harvest plenty, here you can see the Peppers, Tomatoes, Courgette, Kale & Pak-Choi, these will be used in a Stir-Fry meal.
The lone Strawberry, there are a few more coming after the warm spell last week, will be scoffed by someone I'm sure.
But because of the railway line work I will have to put off digging the Potatoes until next weekend.

Thanks for reading/returning. Ian

Wednesday 5 October 2011

More Potatoes dug and a Bonfire too

Now it's October and the first few days were as hot as the height of summer, so some crops are still producing and some like this Strawberry, are having a second later crop which is a bonus, we also have a 2nd crop of Runner Beans.

Today's harvest:
'Markies' Main crop Potatoes
'Charlotte' 2nd Early Potatoes
Runner Beans and Raspberries

The 'Markies' in the bucket weigh 9lb (4kg) and are what I dug up from less than half a row,
I planted 7 rows so estimate the yield to be 140lb (63.5kg) which is very good.

Here you can see the 'Charlotte' potatoes, the last to be dug up this year.

I used my favorite 'Joseph Bentley - Potato Fork' to dig these Spuds up, the long, blunt end, flattened tines are ideal to lift without spearing, the wooden shaft & handle lend a traditional feel and is so comfortable to use.
I even use this fork when turning over the soil and does the job quickly too.

The weight of this haul is 14lb (6.3kg) and was about 2/3 of a row, I planted 2 rows so estimate the yield to be about 45lb (20.4kg) not bad at all and very tasty potatoes they are.

And last but not least, here's a punnet (approx 1lb/0.45kg) of Raspberries harvested only 2 days ago, so as you can see the Autumn Raspberries are still cropping.

One other thing that has to be done in October is a Bonfire, all the weeds that have been left to dry, the potato halums and other foliage when burnt can be dug back into the soil, a good source of Potash.

Thanks for reading/returning. Ian

Sunday 25 September 2011

Potatoes dug up and Garlic planted

A fabulous day today and if the forecast is right a late summer too.

Plenty of harvesting has been done this week, but the Climbing French & Purple Beans have finished, so I dismantled the frames & put the foliage in the compost bin, I did leave the roots in the soil as a nitrogen fixer.

I dug up the last of the Early Potatoes Hunter & Anya.
We have had a really good yield of these, each bucket contains about 10lb from 6 plants of each. So I estimate our total yield is 50lb of Hunter and 35lb of Anya.
Will be digging up the 2nd Early Charlotte over the next few days, will calculate the yield when the last ones are dug up.

This raised bed is where the Mange Tout frame was, as they have finished and the frame dismantled, we planted some Winter growing Garlic.
7 Rows of 3 varieties:
Bella Italiano (Italy)
Avignon Wight (British)
Edenrose (French)
These should be ready to harvest by late Spring 2012

So been another week of harvesting:
Beans & Beetroot
Carrots & Courgettes
Parsnips, Peppers & Potatoes
Raspberries & Runner Beans
Sweetcorn & Squash
Tomatoes too.

Thanks for reading/returning.Ian

Sunday 18 September 2011

Final Harvesting of some summer crops

Well I couldn't do my usual Blog last weekend, because the main gate onto our site had the lock Superglued and couldn't be opened. It turned out to be an unhappy plot holder who objected to the locking gate, but superglue softener & a blow-torch sorted the lock out & entry was gained the next day.

Here are Maud & Betty two of our ex-battery Chickens just being nosy again.

But here is the harvest from today:
and Tomatoes

The Pumpkins have done well on the Manure heap, but as the foliage had died back it was time to harvest these too, the largest one weighs 2.5 Lb (1.1 Kg).
Certainly enough to make a tasty soup.

We also harvested some Sweetcorn cobs, but some had been attacked by Mice we think, not unusual as it has happened before.

Earlier in the week, I dug up the last of the 'Bleu 'D' Artoise' French Heritage purple potatoes, they have been a great success, and are best as Boiled, Baked or Fried, we have been told they are good for Mash too but haven't tried that yet. When boiled they turn greyish, but when fried the purple/blue colour is retained and look lovely on the plate. The other Potatoes shown here are the 'Markies' main crop. They also make great Chips but I'm a bit disappointed with the yield, I'm growing 'Cara' again next year as they do have a high yield.

Thanks for reading/returning. Ian.

Sunday 4 September 2011

A forest of WEEDS! But I won

I decided to weed the Potato patch today, because the weeds had taken over a bit because of the rain we've had lately, but mainly because I will be digging them up soon for winter storage and need to cut back the dying Halums.

It took me almost 3 hours to clear the 7 rows of Markies (main) and 2 rows of Charlotte (2nd early) you can see the results below.

But while I was weeding I disturbed a fat Toad, it's nice to know they are patrolling and hopefully eating the Slugs.

Here is today's harvest, in alphabetical order:
Potatoes (Markies)
Some of the above were included in tonight's dinner, I can highly recommend Markies they make lovely Roast Potatoes.

I know some of you like 'Before & After' pics, so here it is.

After removing the dying Halums, I earthed them up again to cover any spuds near the surface, we don't want any green (poisonous) potatoes.

I did leave a few un-cut that were still in green leaf so still growing, will check on these regularly and hope blight doesn't cause a problem, all is OK so far as I do try to grow resistant varieties.

I will now leave them there for as week or two so the skins harden ready for lifting & storage over winter. Will have to hope for a dry day so I can lift, dry and store.

Thanks for reading/returning. Ian