August at Plot 4

July seems to have whizzed by and the children are eagerly anticipating the summer holidays and a month of enjoying the great outdoors in the summer sun (well hopefully).

There continues to be much to harvest, with the last of the broad beans being enjoyed in salads and pasta dishes. The raspberries have been excellent and we have been able to pick a large punnet or so every other day. With so many raspberries in the kitchen, we’ve been using them in loads of dishes and have the prospect of more when the autumn varieties ripen. The yellow French beans have also started to crop in earnest, and the onions and shallots have been pulled and dried ready for use.

I’ve continued to sow salad and radishes and I’ve also been sowing crops for the winter ahead. Included in these has been Cime di Rapa, an Italian version of purple sprouting broccoli which I grew with success last year. The beetroot already growing is doing well, but there’s still time for one last row, and whilst I’m at it I’ll probably put in another row of Swiss chard. You can never have enough chard. With the autumn and winter in mind, some brassicas will also be going in. I think I’ve missed the boat in terms of sowing purple sprouting broccoli, but I think I’ll try and get some plants to plant out.

We, like many families, are going away during the summer holidays, so one of the jobs this month is to create some kind of drip irrigation system which allows the greenhouse tomatoes to stay watered during our break. The plan is to utilise the water butt beside the greenhouse and a piece of old hosepipe to dribble a little water into the plants over the period of our absence. Needless to say, I think we’ll need to still call on the kindness of allotment neighbours to keep an eye on the plot; not least because many of the crops will undoubtedly be ready for harvest whilst we’re enjoying the Sicilian sunshine.

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This post is contributing to The Garden Share Collective; an international group of bloggers who share their vegetable patches, container gardens and the herbs they grow on their window sills.


July at Plot 4

June has been a really warm month down here on the south coast. We’ve had slightly above temperatures, with occasional heavy downpours. All in all, perfect growing weather. As a result the allotment has flourished, with the crops just about outgrowing the weeds.

The good weather has meant there has been much to harvest. The broad beans have been a roaring success, with literally bagfuls being picked and eaten over the last few weeks. Whilst the original overwintered crop has just finished, the spring sown bean are about to be ready to pick; so we’ll be enjoying these sweet and tasty beans well into July. The strawberries have also been excellent, with a really good harvest of big berries. They too have begun to reach the end, but as they finished the summer raspberries have ripened and are providing us with a great crop. Salads are hard to get germinating when its so hot, but those which had grown have been giving us a constant alternative to the hermetically sealed bags of overpriced salad in the supermarkets.

Over the last few weeks I have been sowing more Swiss chard, as well as some Florence fennel. Hopefully they can get going and provide us with a good crop into the autumn. There’s still time to sow more peas and dwarf beans, so once the potatoes are dug, I’ll put a row or two of each for a late summer crop of fresh peas and beans. This is the month I start to think about the winter, so I’ll be rifling through the seed box and working out which of the brassicas I can sown now to give me a crop when the days are colder and shorter. For a quick fix, I’ll also be sowing some more radishes. They’re so quick to germinate and swell, and they add an amazing heat and crunch to any salad.

The ongoing jobs of watering and weeding will continue this month. I’m trying to be smart with the watering; only watering those plants that really need it, and making sure that they don’t go from drought to flood too much. In terms of the tomatoes, this consistency is crucial to ensure that the fruits don’t split or become diseased. The pumpkins, squashes, cucumbers, beans and indeed tomatoes, all need tying in to their supports as their tendrils and shoots grow in the summer’s heat. This year I’m trying to control the pumpkin and squash growth by training them up a step ladder and around an old parasol frame. The plan is to tie them in every so often, so I can let the plants become big without them taking over the whole allotment!

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This post is contributing to The Garden Share Collective; an international group of bloggers who share their vegetable patches, container gardens and the herbs they grow on their window sills.

June at Plot 4

May, of all the months, seems to fly by. I don’t know what it is, but it always seem to be a month that happens; before you even realise your in it. In terms of the allotment, it’s the month when everything grows. Everything including the weeds. In fact, I’m sure the weeds grow quicker. Still, there are benefits to this growth spurt; flowers emerge, bulbs swell and fruit forms.

Finally the allotment has started to offer us a reliable harvest. The broad beans that I planted way back in October/November have done brilliantly, perhaps aided by the mild winter. We’ve been picking them for a couple of weeks now and we’ve still got lots to go and another row or two developing. Those spring sowings are not quite doing as well as the overwintered variety, but hopefully the warm weather of June will help bring them on and even allow us a cheeky final sowing! Salad leaves have been doing well, although the leaves I sowed in the greenhouse were decimated by extreme heat one day (all shrivelled and crispy). The Swiss chard continues to give us a supply, as does the spinach, although both are beginning to go to seed now the weather hots up. This month has also seen me channelling my inner forager, with nettles for a risotto and elderflowers for cordial being harvested. The elderflowers in particular look like they will give a good harvest, so I must get round to making some more cordial, or even champagne and fritters. Oh yes, and we harvested the first strawberry (from the greenhouse) the other day!

As with last month, there’s been a lot of sowing going on.  Various crops haven’t taken a liking to the heat in the greenhouse on some of the days, or my erratic watering, and have suffered as a result. So, I need to sow some more climbing beans and peas. I also want to get some dwarf beans started; they’re a family favourite, but have somehow got through the seed ordering and sowing net. Outside, there’s more rows of carrots to sow and I’ve got some great purple cauliflower to sow too. Towards the end of the month it will be time to sow Florence fennel seeds too. These delicious bulbs cost so much in the shops, so I’m hoping to grow them at the plot successfully and save myself a few quid.

A lot of the jobs for this month are related to keeping the crops growing. So weeding, watering, mulching and general maintenance of the plants will be a key job. The warm weather we’re due means it’s time to plant out the ever increasing squashes and courgettes. I’ve prepared the soil already, but will add a bit more organic matter before planting them out. Hopefully, we’ll be enjoying a plentiful supply of courgettes and winter squash well into the latter part of the year. In addition, we have discovered a big leak in our pond which means that most of the water has drained out. The newts and a few tadpoles seem to be happy enough in the remaining concentrated soup of a pond, but I think if we can reline the pond all will be a lot happier! Any ideas on a cheap way to get a suitable pond liner?

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This post is contributing to The Garden Share Collective; an international group of bloggers who share their vegetable patches, container gardens and the herbs they grow on their window sills.



May at Plot 4

April is one of my favourite months. It’s the time of year when the garden, the allotment, everything is growing. We’ve had some cold and wet weather, but its been pretty sunny of recent weeks, and the sun has started to transform the plot.

The month that has just finished is the first of the year to have new produce to harvest, as well as the stalwart that is Swiss chard.  Only the other day we were able to pick the first few delicate broad beans.  I love harvesting the first of these beans, sliding my finger along the shell and opening it to reveal the lime green beans in their silken bed. To be honest, the majority of the crop is not quite ready, but my wife and I couldn’t resist a quick nibble on these sweet treats. We’ve also be harvesting a few radishes (the globe variety grown in boxes in the cold frame) and the first of the salad leaves.

I started sowing with enthusiasm during April, and this will continue into May with beans, peas, beetroot, chard, fennel, cavalo nero and cime di rapa all to sow. Every year I get excited by the coming of spring and good weather, sow a load of seeds and then have too many plants, then end up with a glut. I’m determined this year to sow successionally, so I’ll be curbing my enthusiasm and only sowing a few seeds every few weeks. This way I aim to keep the crops coming, but not have them coming out of my ears!

I’ve pretty much completed the big winter jobs at the plot. I’ve managed to get the fence fixed, water butts sorted and have even managed to construct a netted protection frame for some of the crops. During May I need to create another of these netted cloches, but without a doubt the major job for this month is weeding. The crops are growing, but so are the weeds. So battle commences again for the year!

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This post is contributing to The Garden Share Collective; an international group of bloggers who share their vegetable patches, container gardens and the herbs they grow on their window sills.


April at Plot 4

March has been a bit of a mixed bag at the allotment. We’ve had barmy, sunny, spring days; but also frost nipping at the young shoots of growth. I’ve started sowing then had to wrap things up as it became colder and colder. Its been a stop start spring. All this has meant that I’ve not really got myself sorted in terms of planning where I will plant everything, and even now I’m a bit behind the digging. On the plus side, after 9 years of having the allotment I have finally finished creating a fence around it all. The wonderful and free resource that is pallets has been my supporter in this task, and I’ve even used pallets to create a vertical salad planter.

The plot is still producing, though only a few of the vegetables from last year are ready for harvest at the moment. There is still Swiss chard of course, and we’ve used the last of the root vegetable supply recently to make some super delicious Homemade Root Vegetable Crisps. Perhaps the star of the show has been the increasingly frequent emergence of the ‘Allotment Salad’ on our plates. Its been a delight to sit down at lunch (once or twice outside even) to a vibrant salad of fresh leaves from the allotment. Teamed with a mustard dressing, they have really given this month a lift and convinced us it really is spring.

As I mentioned above I’ve been sowing with earnest and the tomatoes in particular are really developing well; they’ve been pricked out to one plant per module and I’m looking forward to potting them on during the month ahead.  I’ve already sown a few peas, but the majority of them have been snaffled by some small rodent visitors to the greenhouse. I decided to grow them in the greenhouse in order to avoid mice digging them up outside, but it seems I’ve been thwarted and they have followed the seeds into the glazed warmth. Not to be deterred, I’ll re-sow this month; and will do so in raised lengths of guttering to add a further obstacle into the path of my rodent friends. Whilst at the fabulous Weald Allotment shop I picked up some new 6ft tall climbing peas (a heritage variety called Telephone) to give a go. It will be interesting to see if we get many of the harvest peas home this year, they’re usually grabbed and devoured at the plot by the family before they get a chance to be put in the pot. April is also the time to start to sow winter squashes. They’re hungry crops, so need a good amount of manure and other organic matter to be put on the bed before they’re planted out later in the year. We’re going to sow Crown Prince again this year; but also a couple of Italian varieties, Pumpkin Marina di Chioggia and Pumpkin Padana. This selection should keep us going into the winter months. What winter squashes do you grow?

One of the big jobs last month was to finish the fence around the plot, but it does leave me with the task of painting it and also tying in the blackberry so that it is easily managed when the fruits form in the months to come. One of the last construction jobs to do is to create another cover to prevent birds eating the brassicas. I’ve got some old blue piping and I’m going to be constructing a hooped design to hang netting on. Hopefully the birds will then not compete with the mice for the amount of crops they can eat! As the soil warms up, so do the weeds and so one of the big jobs over the next few weeks is to give the plot a good weed and try to keep on top of those perennials which I don’t really want reappearing. The potatoes will go in to, although I think I’ll wait until the end of April for the majority of them, planting them in 15cm deep trenches about 5-6cm apart.

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March at Plot 4

February has been a pretty rough month here on the south coast. It seems its rained for most of the month and the allotment is wetter than ever. Still, the last week of the month has brought glimmers of spring and I’m writing this sat in my light filled kitchen with thoughts of seed sowing and the spring preparations in my head.

We are well and truly into the ‘hungry gap’ and I’ve only been able to harvest a bit of produce from the plot. The Swiss chard continues to be a stalwart and has provided us with many a meal over the last few weeks. The rocket and other salads have also been gracing our plates, recently teamed with a rather delicious tartiflette made by my wife. We still have some Jerusalem artichokes in the ground and they need to be eaten before they begin to sprout and start growing again. However hard you try you can never get all the tubers out of the soil, so you’re guaranteed a crop next year. Many of the artichokes have gone into a beautifully creamy puree to accompany fish or grilled meats.

Hopefully we have had the last of the winter storms and the weather will be warming a little; I’ve rebuilt or reglazed the greenhouse too many times this winter, and the greenhouse is bound to fill up this month as sowing starts with earnest. I’ll be sowing tomatoes in the greenhouse, bought from the fabulous Franchi Seeds (a little more pricey than some seed companies, but the packets are always packed with seeds and they have a great range of varieties so justify the few extra pennies). Like the celeriac of last month, the parsnips need a good length of growing, so I’ll be pre-germinating some seeds this month before sowing in plugs in the greenhouse.

Last month’s rain has meant that many of the jobs I wanted to get completed in February have not been finished. I potted up some strawberry runners at the end of last year and have been gifted some strawberry plants too. So, I need to prepare a new strawberry bed by digging in some manure and compost to give the plants the best start possible. Strawberries are such a good crop to grow, as they cost a bomb in shops, and are pretty simple to grow. Apart from protecting them from the birds later in the year, the only problem is managing to get them home to use in meals, rather than being picked and eaten there and then. Its not just beds for strawberries that need preparation, once the wet soil drains a little I need to dig in compost and manure and prepare the whole plot for the growing season. In particular, I’ll be piling manure onto the squash patch, so when I plant squash out later in the year they will have an abundant source of organic matter to gorge themselves on.

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This post is contributing to The Garden Share Collective; an international group of bloggers who share their vegetable patches, container gardens and the herbs they grow on their window sills.

February at Plot 4

The year has started with unusually wet and mild weather for this time of the year. Indeed, yesterday it was announced it has been a record wet January in this part of the country. The plot is really quite damp, with our clay soil almost impossible to walk on, let alone dig, and puddles forming everywhere!

We’ve been still managing to harvest the last of the tenderstem broccoli, often used with penne, tomatoes, anchovies and chilli, in a version of this Cime di Rapa dish. As well as broccoli, we’ve been enjoying cavalo nero, chard and the final few apples. The apples were cooked and topped with a crumble like the one on the Blackberry and Apple Crumble I blogged about in the autumn.

February is the month when I’ll be starting to sow seeds with a vengeance. On the list are some more sweet peas (I started some off a few weeks ago) and celeriac. Celeriac needs a long season of growth, so will benefit from an early start in the greenhouse. I love this root, but have never grown it and am really looking forward to using it later in the year to make remoulades and soups. It’s also time to sow some more salad leaves; started in the greenhouse, but hopefully put out as the weather improves.

This month is one of the last months to get general jobs done at the plot. The tool shed is in need of a tidy and before the rush for seed trays in the Spring they need to be cleaned and organised. I also plan to use this time to finish insulating the shed, which my brother and I started last week. In true allotment style we reused some leftover insulation from my brother’s house extension, and intend to try to complete the job using reclaimed and recycled materials to skin the shed interior and protect the insulation. The final seed purchases will also be made; there are a few varieties in the Franchi Seed catalogue which I fancy giving a go this year.

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This post is contributing to The Garden Share Collective; an international group of bloggers who share their vegetable patches, container gardens and the herbs they grow on their window sills.