Thursday, 23 October 2008

Good Deed - Seed Saving


I'll never forget watching superman II as a kid and just before the baddies smash to earth stuck in a bit of double glazing there’s two southern cops talking about what they are going to eat.

One says "Beanz, Ah can't eat no Beanz, Come out in a rash if ah eat those beanz".

I must have been seven years old although I can't remember much else about the detail of that film that line will stay with me forever as every time I think of beans, that quote registers in my memory.

Beanz - I love em and have grown lots of beans this year.

In the tradition of seed saving I have dried or am in the process of preserving them for next years growing.

I have three varieties of Runners

Red Rum

Two climbing French beans of unknown name (They were kindly given to me from other plot members so will ask them to verify.

One French Dwarf.

Here’s a picture of some I’ve potted up for storage.

And another drying, I’ve used those sachets of silicon you get with new shoes to help draw out the moisture. They work a treat.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008


I recently added one of those web hit counters because I beleived I was speaking to myself, which would be mad, but then again im blogging about vegetables so I probably am, so there you go.

I have begun to get a few comments from people which is reassuring. To be honest I would blog anyhow because I quite like it but it is fun to get some feedback etc.

To my suprise I'm seeing a few from far flung destinations are visiting my blog.

Well I'd like to thank you for looking me up and please do leave a comment or if you blog yourself then let me know because Im a bit of a blog junkie these days too and love reading them.

Manic Sunday

Sunday morning was a little hectic.

Steph and I put together a new bathroom cabinet which was a bit of a nightmare really.

Hundreds of screws and drill holes later we had finished the base unit but it had to be attached to the wall because it only had two legs for the front of the unit to stand on.

Another hour on and we finally finished that job and got cracking with some others.

I put a few pictures up in the bathroom and one of those swivel mirrors.

Then I fixed the TV cable in Max's bedroom and put up curtain poles and threaded his new curtains.

Tidied up and loaded the car with his old carpet and the old draws from the bathroom for the allotment.

After all the domestic chores were finished, I was given permission to pop over the plot for a couple of hours.

The old carpet won’t be used for a while so I dumped it in my gravelled raised bed which is empty at the moment as I'm not brining any plants on.

Then I redug over the bean area again removing even more bell bind roots. I emptied out a bag of manure and spread that over. Think I'm going to pant more onions in this little area. You can't have too many I guess.

After that I dug over the raised bed where the cucumbers and courgettes were and planted a packet of Sutton Broad beans. It said on the packet to wait for November. I personally can’t see a problem doing it now so in they went while I had the time and daylight on my side.

Railway Steve gave me a load of those ten litre plastic water bottles you get in Water dispensers. I sawed the end off these and placed them over some of my winter lettuces. I would need three times as many to cover all my plants but some are better than none.

I used these to cover half my peppers this year and there was a marked difference in the yields and plant growth between those left to the elements and those covered in these mini greenhouses. I’ve also seen Ralph had used those plastic mini tunnels to protect his peppers and chilli's with fantastic results so I will make some of those over the winter months in my garage.
hen I had finished doing that I moved onto the brassica's removing the yellowing leaves which should help reduce the possibility of disease or infection. Some of my sprouting broccoli has begun to produce small amounts of buds and the Calabrese continues to provide side shoots which in my opinion are better than the main head they cropped a few months back. I'm not sure how many more side shoots the Calibrese will provide or when to dig them out. There doesn’t seem to be much advise on this when I Google it. I'm wary of leaving them in for too much longer in-case they start to get infected with some brassica disease that may carry over to future crops so they may get composted shortly. I'm sure it won't harm to wait for another couple of meals worth and you cant seem to buy them at all so I'll keep an eye on them and if any of the Calibrese start to look iffy then I will shred the lot and compost them.

Last of all the jobs I had been putting off all day and for many weeks for that matter. The shed was in a right two and eight and something had to be done about it. So I pulled everything that was strewn across the floor and brushed down the floor which was covered in dried mud and dust. Then I got the drawers I'd brought over from the house and set about finding places for everything again. It only took about half an hour to get everything ship shape again. Doubt it will last though as I have a habit of throwing everything back into the shed before I leave for the day and the kids.........well don't even go there.

Roast chicken was on the menu so I picked some Brussels, dug some Parsnips, took the last of my cabbages and a larger swede before making my merry way home for some well earned grub.

Monday, 20 October 2008

LABP08 Festival

I went to work on Saturday morning. Something I don’t like doing because weekends are reserved for family/fun time.....yeay......and keeping up with the household admin/chores......boooo....

What with the credit crunch and so many colleagues up shirtz creak I decided it was probably not a good time to try and get out of it and so I made my way into grey old London Town (actually the sun was out) at stupid o'clock in the morning to assist in the migration of several thousand trades from one platform to another and provide liquidity reports from our sub ledger. The good news is that it went positively and I got paid for it.

How much of that last paragraph does the average green fingered blog reader understand? and What has that got to do with allotmenteering.....Burger all, except that if I can convince my wife I wouldn't have had that extra cash if I hadn't been to work she may let me spend it towards a rotivator, and it won't disappear into the dreaded savings account where it will be saved up for the impending rainy days or Steph's next assault on Bluewater shopping Mall.

Saturday the 18th October marked Leigh Allotments Autumn Potato bake party. I made it up there with Max just an hour before they were to begin.

Lots of other plot holders had been collecting combustibles for the fire and the pile was pretty impressive. But nobody was there so we decided to take down our bean wigwam.

I managed to pull the canes from the ground and cut the string which bound them together. Max was on bean duty; he dutifully sat down and ripped them off the stalks making three tidy piles of beans, beanstalks and the odd bits of string.

I began digging up the overgrown the bean area, it had become quite weedy because the wigwam design doesn’t lend itself very well to easy weeding so I had pretty much just snapped the bell bind as it began twining up the canes to keep the growth down. There was a mass of bell bind roots which I knew would be there. It took a good three quarters of an hour to dig over and remove the majority of it which was a long time considering it was a little more than a metre squared.

Anyroads, by the time we had finished clearing up the beans into the compost heap several thousand people had arrived for the event of the year. Robbie William's had flown in from LA and was warming up his vocals for the "BP08" Baked potato festival.

The pyrotechnics team were setting up the laser display to be headed by Jean Michel Jacques no less.

Unfortunately we had to turn away 6960 people because we only had a few baked potatoes and not enough sausage rolls to go around. Robbie and the lights fantastic got lost somewhere in the departing masses so we were left with thirty or so plot holders, a few visitors and a rip roaring bonfire.

Still it was nice to catch up with several people I hadn't seen in a while and Max won a pair of Bart Simpson sunglasses in the Childs raffle so he was well chuffed. Everybody agreed that Robbie was infact a nob with a silent k anyhow. The baked potatoes looked suspiciously like supermarket bought but I didn't eat there anyhow as my lovely wife had cooked a special meal of monk fish and curried mussels with some of my home grown leeks and celeriac. YU-um

Dammit - Mouldy pumpkin

The last of my pumpkin pickings had a couple of tiny little bites taken out of it over the plot a so I picked it and have had it on shelving in the garage.

I took a look at it last night and was disappointed to see that the fruit has begun to go bad. The two areas with the bite marks have dark bruising and the top has done a little brown and is soft to touch.

Such a shame as Max was going to take this one into school to carve it for Halloween. I can't give him the mouldy pumpkin for Halloween carving. It would make for an authentic living dead zombie pumpkin with ooze and flies buzzing around but I don’t think his mates would be too impressed though. So I'll do the right thing and keep the seed from my putrid fruit and cast the remains into the compost heap.

I have another, but that one is a picture of health even though it was picked several weeks before.

It’s a small hundred weight with a fantastic shape and I was really looking forward to trying a few recipes’ I've seen on vegbox. It's only fair I give him that one as he's been telling his school friends about his amazing pumpkin he's going to bring in. So no more home made pumpkin ravioli until next year.


I've had another good clear out on the plot.

The cucumber finally got it. I had one last large gherkin sized fruit which went into the swag bag.

The two remaining courgette plants had half a dozen strange shaped fruits that were curly, thin at the stem but fat ended. They were begging to be picked so up they came.

The peppers under the large water bottle cloches were stripped off still green. The plants are not going to survive that long and something ate half of one last week so I'd rather have green peppers that half eaten or frost blackened ones.

My late peas provided forty or so pods. I really had no expectation of these at all given they went in so late.

Dug up several parsnips for Sunday’s dinner. I'm loving these and they just keep getting better.

Bagged the last couple of squashes. These will be for my little one Jenson, who loved them last time I was eating one he came over and practically ate half my dinner.

Lastly I pulled a celery for some crunchy peanut butter snacking with a glass of full fat milk. (Who said Celery had to be healthy)

With the exception of the peas which are flowering like crazy and hold loads of sugar snaps waiting to fatten, all the cucurbits were on their last legs so I ripped them all up, removed all the string and supports and threw them into my compost heap.

Summer crops are officially finished apart from the beans which are turning papery brown in their pods for storing. I'm going to tear them down on Sunday and dig over.

Friday, 3 October 2008

Quick visit

Michael popped around my house yesterday afternoon. He's got a plot half way up/or down the site depending on which entrance you take. He's going to be doing a bit of painting and decorating for our living room.
After he'd taken a look at what we wanted hime to do we popped over the plot for twentry minutes.
He was going to get some beans but his like mine have pretty much gone past their best so he's going to let them fatten up and keep the seed now too.
I decided to cut my last pumkin. It had a couple of little bite marks on it, I think maybe a mouse or something had a go at it so I snipped it off. It not the biggest of pumpkins in the world but I have another at home so thats plenty.
I also cut a cabbage for tonights dinner. Only two left now that have hearts, I have another four but they wont be ready until spring :O(.
Mike was over planting out his overwintering onions with his wife. I gave him a bit of netting as his was a little short for what he needed. Then I pulled a Swede for Michael and we went home.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Changing seasons

I don’t think I have previously appreciated the switch from summer to autumn like I am right now. This year it’s been all too apparent given all the time I now spend out side and the efforts I am putting into growing my own.

When you are an office worker it can sometimes go practically unnoticed until the day its gets a bit chilly and you put on a jacket for the first time, the heating may go on occasionally, the garden becomes something you can see from your back window but you rarely venture out there. You keep your head down only noticing he days like Halloween or Guy Fawkes Night, then onto Christmas.

This year I'm noticing the slow down in growth of plants, the shedding of leaves and the falling of fruit from trees. The birds are silent and the air becomes earthier as the flowers retreat. The mornings are darker and the evenings shorter. Too bloody short to pop over to the plot after dinner and the kids are tucked up for a couple of hours....grrrr...

Since the weekend I have been to the plot for a grand total of twenty minutes on Tuesday to check on the onions and garlic, which I'm happy to say, has, in the main part, begun to emerge quite nicely.

The place seemed different now though.

It was quiet and I was on my own which was unheard of a fortnight ago. Save the foxes which seemed over the moon to have finally reclaimed their playgrounds as they weaved in and amongst the paths, through the plots and into their dens of over grown brambles. Only stopping to stare at the intruder walking up to his plot.

At 18:20 PM, the sky was a heavy grey which was rapidly darkening as the night claimed the day.

Gone were the tomatoes ripening on the vines, what's left are those who left them to their blighted doom.

The runner beans are long, no doubt stringy and fat with their crimson beans. I bagged several fat pods for seed saving.

My Defender F1 courgettes which have served me so well are now down to two plants, I cropped another four before laying the ones in my raised beds to rest in the composter. Nobody is getting these courgettes mwwwwar, they are all mine, mine I tell you.

A quick check on the winters;

The Brussels sprouts are doing very well indeed. A couple more weeks I think then we can begin eating these.

The Caulis have enjoyed the extra rainfall and have doubled their leaf growth. A couple I planted in the summer are heading and will be taken home at the weekend.

The Parsnip growth isn't looking too bad at all. I've had a few already which where ok, but now want to let some frost get at them as it is supposed to improve their flavours.

Somehow I planted way too many Swedes. Neighbours and Friends beware, what else am I going to do with forty Swedes.

Two more cabbages are ready. These beauties are delish. I refuse to blanch and freeze them because I don’t like eating mush so we have eaten a lot of cabbage.

My last Pumpkin is no world beater. I would say the size of a basketball which is plenty enough especially as we have another sitting in our garage.

I had one decent sized squash; the skin has turned a creamy magnolia colour which must have meant it was time. So I bagged it up. There are three smaller fruits on the plant although I don't hold out much hope for them.

The Calabrese is hardly in Food Factory mode providing but it provides a side vegetable for a family of five once a week.

So that'll be Sunday sorted then. Meat and ten vegetables Allotment style.