November at Plot 4

The weather this October has been really warm. As a result the allotment still has flowers blooming and on my last visit the ivy was awash with bees buzzing away.

October has still offered produce to harvest. The last of the raspberries have now been devoured, or are left for the birds to feast on. Our apples this year haven’t been the best, so only a few of the later apple variety have been available to use in dishes like those in my favourite five apple recipes. The plus side of an apple crop which has fallen or rotted on the tree, is a bumper windfall for the birds, with thrushes, blackbirds and starlings all gorging themselves. We have managed to harvest the last of the pumpkins and squashes, using them in risottos, cakes and to accompany many dishes. The Jerusalem artichokes are starting to be dug too. I love the nutty taste they bring to dishes, such as this Jerusalem artichoke purée. The Swiss chard is also looking resplendent in the autumnal sunshine, and has been a great addition to the kitchen too.

This time of year is great for planting out onions and garlic for overwintering, and even broad beans, given the mild autumn we’ve had so far. I usually plant a crop of each of these at this time of year, then another sowing in the spring. This helps with the successional cropping next year, but also allows for different varieties to be grown easily, and utilises space which otherwise would be left bare.

November is the last chance to get a few jobs done, until the weather turns for the worse on a more regular basis. The leaves that have fallen all over the allotment need sweeping up in order to make leaf mould. Although leaf mould contains not many nutrients; it makes a great mulch which, with little further attention other than a little watering in dry periods in summer and the occasional turn, also makes a good addition to any compost. The birds will soon need a bit of help with food too, so I’ll be putting up some feeders and using the old sunflower heads to fill them with seeds. It will also be time to make another bird food wreath.

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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.

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October at Plot 4

September, with the start of the school year and my work to develop a local bakery in the heart of my community, has sped by. If I’m honest, I’ve neglected the plot a bit. I’ve been there a fair bit, but have been harvesting crops and just enjoying the space, rather than getting on with the jobs I should have been doing. Consequently, the start of October is necessarily going to be a busy one.

 

There is still a lot to harvest, the autumn fruiting raspberries are still going, as are the blackberries. The beetroot have been a great success and have been used in a range of dishes recently, including this delicious slaw. The squashes are also ripening nicely and I look forward to harvesting the first of the fruits in the next day or so. Squashes to me, are the archetypal autumn vegetable and also one of the most versatile one. They can be used roasted for gnocchi or pasta dishes, in soups, even in cupcakes. The last of tomatoes are ripening too, so I’ll be using these in various dishes, as well as preserving a few too.

At this time of year there is little to sow. I’ve sown a few rows of late lettuce, now that the days are a little shorter and the heat has diminished a little. I’ve got a number of brassica plants and leeks to plant out in the next day or so, although not sown myself they should bring a harvest later in the year.

The autumn tidy up is the main job this month. There’s paths to tidy, greenhouse to clean out, fences to fix, beds to be dug; the list goes on. With the cold weather coming towards the end of the month ahead, I’m also going to make sure I have enough firewood for the log burner. The allotment is a great place to spend time, and having a warm shed to pop into for a hot cup of tea, or just to warm up, makes being there and getting jobs done all the easier.

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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.

September at Plot 4

August has seen some scorching weather, but also unseasonably cool and wet days. The slightly odd weather and the fact that we’ve been away for a decent portion of the month, has seen some super growth by veg and weeds alike.

August has offered much to harvest. The beetroot have swollen to a good size, and the French beans have been plentiful, giving us a load of different dishes, including a new found classic – tagliatelle with pesto, green beans and new potatoes. Last year’s cucumber monster has reared his head once more, and we have an ongoing supply of the coolest of vegetables. The soft fruit this year has been amazing; raspberries have followed on from the strawberries, and now we have a bumper crop of blackberries to devour. Our early apple tree has been laden with fruit for a while, but they have just become ripe and we are inundated in apples. The trouble with having an early variety of apple like Beauty of Bath is that they don’t store well, so I’ve been bottling and making to use them as well as I can.

A new row of salad is due to be sown in the next few days, and I will sow more  Cime di Rapa too, as the first few rows have been decimated by the weather, pests and (if I’m honest) a little neglect on my behalf. I’ve failed to prepare properly for the winter period, so may have to source some kale and other brassicas from somewhere to fill a gap or two. In the greenhouse the tomatoes, peppers and chillis are doing their own thing, but I’ll look to sow some salads as space becomes available.

As I mentioned, our trips away from home during August have resulted in a little wild growth, and as a result there are many jobs to do in September. One of the major jobs is to prepare ground for the autumn/winter growing period. Depending on my success in finding crops to pop in, or sow, this may also involve the sowing of green manures. I’ve had little success in the past with these, ending up on one occasion with a mass spreading of rye grass across a section of plot, and failing to remove it all properly. However, this year if I have space, I’m going to revitalise the ground with a green manure. Any ideas which work best?

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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.

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.