Wednesday, June 21

June allotment plot

Copyright: Original post from Our Plot at Green Lane Allotments author S Garrett

Monday, June 19

Ready Steady Berry

13 June
 Last week our harvests were dominated by calabrese and strawberries. The main centre heads of the calabrese had grown very large and we were pleased to see that having removed the centre heads of earlier plants there were now some sideshoots developing.

The strawberries are fruiting well and keeping us busy picking but the fruits are smaller that usual which I put down to the really dry weather. We try not to water strawberries when they are fruiting as it can spoil the flavour but with some plants seeming to struggle I may have to relent.  I have already given the alpine strawberries a good watering.
15 June
The hot weather has meant that watering has been one of our main tasks at the moment. We had a couple of days away in County Durham and so it was a case of watering before we left and watering when we came home.

Many of the redcurrants are ripe and so on Sunday I picked the first punnet. After picking it was a case of finding a spot in the shade to destring them before taking them home.
WE also picked the first of our courgettes.
The salad leaves growing on the raised bed in the garden now are suffering an aphid attack and so will be cleared but fortunately we have lettuces growing on the plot. We uproot lettuce and pop the plant into a bucket of water to keep it fresh as we use it.
Despite their battering the cornflowers are still producing cutting and bee browsing material.
18 June
As our berry picking time is beginning I have put together a video tour of our allotment berries. It's about 11½ minutes long and if you are interested in listening to me rambling on you will need the sound turned on.

Saturday, June 17

Growing Perfect Vegetables

This month I was sent a copy of Square Foot Gardening - Growing Perfect Vegetables to review.

I must admit I feel that the title is deceptive as the book isn't really about growing vegetables, its focus is on when to harvest your crops. Neither does the book restrict itself to vegetables as fruit is also included.

The Square Foot Gardening Foundation is 'a nonprofit organization that operates an extensive outreach network to bring Square Foot Gardening and vegetable gardening to countries with hunger issues'. It's base is in the USA and so unsurprisingly the book leans towards an American audience and the vocabulary used reflects this. The book refers to collards, eggplant, zucchini, cilantro and scallions - names which many UK readers may be unfamiliar with. Fortunately the book is well illustrated and so this shouldn't cause a problem.

The book aims to explain how to determine when fruit and vegetables are at their optimum 'ripeness' for harvesting or buying. The term ripe seems rather strange when applied to vegetables but in the first chapter it explains that ripe is 'the stage of growth or maturation in which any fruit or vegetables at its ideal point to be eaten'. 

Chapter one discusses ripening in general exploring how different crops ripen using different mechanisms and why certain fruit and vegetables should not be stored together. Did you know that apples and oranges should not be stored together?
The second chapter focuses on individual fruits and vegetables and covers, how to determine whether a crop is ripe both for home grown and when buying fruit and vegetables. It also has advice on how to store harvests to extend their shelf life. Towards the end of the book is a summary chart
Although the book is produced by Square Foot Gardening the book doesn't limit itself to crops that can be grown in square foot boxes and so the book is still appropriate to those growing using more conventional methods
It also covers more exotic crops - some of which I have never heard of - Jicama?
The main pages contain a chart for optimal planting and harvesting times that usefully base the timing on likelihood of frost rather than calendar months.
This means that the charts are relevant to the UK even though the book is written for an American readership.

In summary I found the book to be interesting and it will change the way I store my fruit and vegetables.  No more mixed fruit bowls!

The publishers are offering a giveaway copy of Growing Perfect Vegetables. If you wish to have your name included in a random draw with a chance to win a copy of the book, please let me know by adding a comment to this post. The closing date for entry to the draw is midnight on Saturday 24 June. The draw will take place on Sunday 25 June and the winner will be announced on this blog. I will allow two weeks for the winner to email me their mailing details which will be passed on to the publishers who will send a copy of the book directly to the winner. In the event that the winner fails to get in touch a second draw will take place.

Unfortunately the draw is open to UK residents only.

Wednesday, June 14

Aphid hunter

Monday, June 12

The harvests are starting to improve.

The gale force wind and rain - a very bad weather combination for us and the plants - kept us away from the plot for most of last week. Such times make clear the benefit of growing some salad crops and herbs at home in the garden.

We have picked salad leaves and radishes most days to add to lunch time sandwiches but as these are picked and eaten quickly, they are rarely photographed.

Our harvest again this week has been made up of similar things to last week. We are enjoying our calabrese and have more than enough to share with my sister.
Despite the weather the strawberries are continuing to ripen well.
The rain actually did me a favour as I was contemplating whether or not I should water the strawberry plants. I don't like to water when the plants have fruit ripening. Again each container below contains a different variety.
We harvested a couple of autumn planted onions. As many had been blown out of the ground by the gales it was more a case of picking a couple up.

Finally we still have a supply of cut flowers in spite of the cornflowers being almost flattened to the ground by the winds.
The fully open, white rose is an unknown variety rescued from an unoccupied, overgrown plot opposite to ours. The flower bravely held its head above an ocean of weeds. The offending plot is in the background of the following photograph.
The sprig of nigella broke off in the wind and so many flowers were still in bud. I was quite surprised when the buds opened as the young flowers were a very pale blue. As the flower ages the colour becomes much deeper. The flowers below are on the same sprig.
The rose below also changes colour as it ages, from a pale pink bud ...
 ... to a white mature flower.
The rose bud and roses above are Jacqueline du Pré which has a beautiful perfume. It is planted in a bed at the edge of our allotment and attracts people who walk past the bed to stop and bury their noses into the flowers
Finally we decided to empty the potato bag that had been in the garden greenhouse. In an attempt to harvest some early, new potatoes three Casablanca seed potatoes were planted on 2 March. 
They had produced a small harvest but we think maybe the potato bag wasn't watered sufficiently - a case of out of sight out of mind. It may have been a small harvest but it was very tasty. I wonder whether the potatoes planted in air pots in the plot greenhouse will perform any better.

I am linking to harvest Monday hosted on Dave's blog Our Happy Acres

Saturday, June 10

Battered but possibly not beaten

If you watched Martyn's video in my last post you will have seen that the gales of last week left their mark on our allotment.

On Friday we ventured onto the plot with a degree of trepidation, the main aim to try and ameliorate some of the damage.

We started with the cornflowers. Ironically the previous week a plot neighbour had commented on how lovely they looked swaying in the breeze.  Now they no longer swayed gently but were still full of flower which were being visited by a battalion of bees. Remedial action was decided on and a framework of hazel poles constructed. 
It's hardly a thing of beauty but it will hopefully enable us to continue harvesting some flowers and the bees to continue foraging.

Attention next turned to the outdoor tomatoes. Now these were not prize specimens to start with. They were left over from the best plants chosen for the greenhouses. They had hung around awaiting their fate and consequently were rather leggy.  Although the plants were laying flat the stems were not broken and so I supported them using canes. They will never look brilliant but if they survive the dreaded blight they should provide some fruits.
Initially we thought that the newly planted sweetcorn had been wiped out but, although some of the plants were broken, some had perked up a bit. They look rather tattered but it's possible that some of the plants may still grow.
What do you think?

Copyright: Original post from Our Plot at Green Lane Allotments author S Garrett