January at Plot 4

 

There are still vegetables to harvest, the Chard, Cabbage and Broccoli are still looking good and will no doubt make their way into a few soups, or onto the plate with a winter stew. This year I have grown cauliflower for the first time, the Romanesco variety. Cauliflower has become the vegetable of the season, its been like finding an old friend, whether served with a cheese sauce in a gratin, or in a curry, it has become ever present in our diet. The Jerusalem artichokes are also waiting patiently in the ground and will come into their own as the cold sets in, providing an alternative to the ubiquitous potato.

After the festive month, January is time for a new start, a fresh approach. The seed catalogues have started to drop through the door and I’ve started to form a list of potential seeds to grow next year. By the end of the month I hope to have ordered and started chitting my seed potatoes, finalised the seed purchases for the new year, and I think I might start to sow a few peas and broad beans in the relative warmth of the greenhouse.

The cold and wet weather ahead, means the jobs at the allotment will probably be limited to sorting and tidying. Both the shed and the greenhouse need a good sort out, and the whole plot has developed a bit of a scruffy look as the weather and different commitments have conspired to limit my time at the allotment. Still, a new start in January means a chance to rework my time to ensure the plot is shipshape for the anticipation of the growing season.

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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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How can we help birds in our gardens?

One of the great things about having an allotment is having your own bit of the wild in which you can relax and enjoy the natural world. Gardens are increasingly being paved or decked and there is a constant pressure on green spaces in towns. Even in the countryside modern society is impacting on bird habitats; since 1945 more than 300,000 miles of hedgerow have been destroyed. Allotments offer the opportunity to reinstate some hedgerows. As well as providing birds with a place to hide and nest, our blackberry and rose hedge offers a diet of berries and haws to birds and small mammals alike. Hedges can also have advantages to the grower, providing stick supports for peas and beans, as well as defending delicate crops against harmful winds.

Needless to say the birds in our gardens (and allotments) benefit from a bit of additional food at this time of year. So, as well as the peanut wreath I blogged about before Christmas, I’ve hung some homemade seed cakes and fat balls on the trees. As long as you have some bird seed these are easy to make and are loved by birds.

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Fat Balls

Combine melted lard with a mix of seeds, oats and soaked raisins to a ratio of 1:2 fat to dry. Form into balls around a loop of string. Put in the fridge to set, then hang outside.

Gelatin Seed Cakes (makes 6)

  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 4 leaves of gelatin
  • 3 tbsp. golden syrup
  • 4 cups birdseed
  • muffin tin or other mould
  • dash of oil
  • drinking straws
  • baking parchment
  • string/twine

Start by mixing the gelatin with the water and stirring until the gelatin has dissolved completely. Add the flour and the syrup and ensure it is all thoroughly combined. At this point stir the seeds into the liquid mix, making sure that they are well coated. Grease the mould, then place a short length of drinking straw in each section, before spooning the seed mix in and firming the mixture down using the back of a spoon. Leave the birdseed cakes for a few hours to set, then remove from mould and remove straws (leaving a hole in each cake). Allow the seed cakes to dry for a further few hour (overnight is even better), after which you can thread string through the hole and hang out for the birds.20140106-110739.jpg Once you’ve set out bird feeders, why not spend a little time seeing what visits your outside space? The RSPB are running its annual Big Garden Birdwatch on the weekend of the 25th-26th January. I’ll be up the plot to see what visits. How do you help the birds in your garden or allotment?

January at Plot 4

After a month ending in the excesses of Christmas it will be a relief to get back to the plot a little more during January. It’s a month of new starts and beginnings and as such I’ll be spending some of the days when the winter weather prevents a visit to the plot planning the growing year ahead. As yet I have no real plans, no must have new crops; but I’m sure after a few minutes perusing the seed catalogues that will change. By the end of the month I hope to have ordered and started chitting my seed potatoes, finalised the seed purchases for the new year, and I might have even planted a few peas in the relative warmth of the greenhouse.

There are still vegetables to harvest, with the prospect of frosts meaning that our parsnips will have developed their cold induced sweetness. Chard, Cavalo Nero and Broccoli are still thriving and will no doubt make their way into the a few soups, or onto the plate with a winter stew. The Jerusalem artichokes are also waiting patiently in the ground and will come into their own as the cold sets in, providing an alternative to the ubiquitous potato.

The start of a new year offers the opportunity for a fresh look at things, as well as the chance to look back at what has worked in the year that’s just finished. For me this not only means at the allotment, but also across my life. So when I’m planning my seeds and where to put them I’ll be also thinking about how my life will develop in the months ahead. What do I want to do this year? What do I see myself doing this time next year? How can I ensure I have time for mindfulness? I’m not sure of the answers to these questions, but am determined to find some of the answers over the next few months and continue to develop my recipe for a changed life.
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