Catch-up: alliums & halloween

There’s lots to catch up on, both in what I want to post on the blog and also what I’ve got to do on the allotment. My bad back is pretty much fixed and I’ve been down the plot to plant some over-wintering onions (radar) and some garlic.

Onions in the bed

Onions in the bed

These have gone into the South side of the plot, which I’m keeping as beds. The North side is going to go into one big plot, which should keep the maintenance down, and as recommended by the allotment officer.

When I was down there I collected the last fresh produce of the year: a single pea-pod and some beetroot. The beetroot went into the halloween roast dinner, and we found out the younger daughter likes it.

scary daughter

scary daughter

That’s not the last of the produce from the plot. I’ve still got the sage to cut back for Winter, and I’ve a few onions and shallots still to use. And there’s a couple of pots of jam. I’d prefer to be in a better position in the run-up to Winter…

I also brought back the last flower, an English Marigold, and some seed heads of both English and French Marigolds. Since my daughters haven’t auto-reset their body clocks to GMT, we were up very early this morning saving the seed.

last flower of the year

last flower of the year

saving seed

saving seed

Prepping for the FEDAGA allotment show

There’s been a few days of good weather in Edinburgh, and today’s been sunny as well. After handing over the daughter when her mum got back from Motherwell, I nipped down to the plot to retrieve my secateurs, then home to prepare some garlic for FEDAGA’s 57th annual flower and vegetable show. I’ve also entered some blackcurrant jam (27/07/09) and the rhubarb and ginger batch from Beltane. All 3 categories seem competitive, so I’m not expecting to win anything. I’m just chuffed that I’m able to exhibit in 3 categories (up from 1 last year).

For my first year growing garlic, I bought a hardneck variety pack from the Garlic Farm on the Isle of Wight to see which would work well. I chose hardneck ‘cos they’re more suited to harsher climates. The Purple Moldovan and Chesnok Wight went in at the end of October and the Lautrec Wight went in in March.

I had no experience of what garlic looks like as it grows, so it’s been in the ground too long. And with the wet Summer, most of the October-sown heads swelled so that the outer layers of skin have burst, or even rotted in the ground. I’d say this first year has been a qualified success: it’s worked out at about 50 pence per head, I’ve not got any plaits of garlic (you’d need softneck for that, anyway), I’ve now got to deal with a garlic glut, and I have three small, well-shaped heads of Lautrec Wight to exhibit at the show.

For tonight’s tea we had apple and blackcurrant crumble. Apples from a colleague’s tree had a good fresh flavour and low acidity. Add a few blackcurrants from my plot, let the daughter help measuring the crumble ingredients and you have a perfect dessert… Does that bode well for the allotment show? Hope so.

Last of the broad beans

Two quick visits to the plot today. I took the daughter on the first one, and she was fantastic. Second one I got bitten to death by the midges…

Picked the last 250 grammes of broad beans (that weight is when they’re podded but not yet shelled). The daughter picked some blackcurrants and redcurrants and I’ve bought some strawberries, so it’s Summer pudding tomorrow. That’ll be after a main course of egg fried rice with spring onions, peas, broad beans, mushrooms and carrots. The onions, peas and beans are from the plot.

I also have a glut of turnips, but suspect they’d not work well in the stir fry :) They’ll go with a massive haggis that she who knits bought from costco.

Managed to blanch 175 grammes of the beans for freezing, but worried about the amount of energy that it’s taken to prepare them. Next year I’ll sow beans every two weeks for eating fresh and have a patch from which I can pick and freeze a significant quantity.

Recieved two courgette plants from a neighbour.

Sage and hyssop seem to have settled in OK: the sage is standing proud; the hyssop has started to flower.

Wildlife count: 1 teeny-tiny frog, 1 grasshopper, plenty of spiders, way too many midges.

Currently have 1 empty bed, 3 empty half-beds, and 2 empty 1/3 beds. I’ve also got spaces where I have to build 2 new beds.

Oh yeah … and Go Bradley!.

Summer bounty

Hectic, hectic month on the plot. Tidied up, built a raised bed, planted seeds that I’ve germinated in my new greenhouse, moved stuff around on the plot… and over the last few days I’ve been harvesting and preserving produce. I’ve made cordials, frozen beans, preserved some garlic in extra virgin olive oil, eaten loads of vegetables, and the biggest success has been today’s strawberry ice.

strawberry granita, with a helper

strawberry granita, with a helper

The girl is helping out so much. She loves it, and she’s getting the hang of the plot. Yesterday a pal joined her and she delighted in showing him around. I was so proud when they were watering the peas, she moved along the row whilst the pal was static.

kids looking intently at a bug

kids looking intently at a bug

And here’s her lovely grin

lovely grin on the girl, who's standing in front of the blackcurrant bushes

lovely grin on the girl, who's standing in front of the blackcurrant bushes

By the way, we love her frog t-shirt. And this is a frog in our garden — a benefit of letting the grass grow long.

a frog in our garden

a frog in our garden

As usual when there’s a situation where nature is running its course , I’m reminded of a Summer haiku by Issa:

Don’t worry, spiders,
I keep house
casually

Good news, bad news, grubby hands

Last week was very windy, and I was worried about the peas and beans. I also put up some netting over the strawberries and redcurrant, so I was a bit worried that the net would act as a sail and get blown away.

Success: The sun’s out this week and everything’s looking much better. Nothing got blown over and the stakes I put in for the broad beans have kept them upright; elderflowers ready (not that I did anything to manage the elder tree); strawberries warm and tasty; garlic progressing nicely. OMG blackcurrants! A lot of these are coming through…

Less good: the overwintered vegetables haven’t come through. Out of 60 onions I planted, only one has survived (although I did munch on a couple of shoots in February). A slightly better rate for the broad beans but still quite poor (3 out of 21 survived).

Which reminds me: transplanting has been a great success. I moved one onion, three broad beans and the redcurrant and all of them have taken to their new homes. Forgot to move the rhubarb this year, so that’s something for the Autumn.

The last piece of bad news is that the French beans didn’t work, and only a couple of fragile sprouts came through. The under-planted lettuces are going great so I don’t think the soil is deficient. Perhaps just wrong conditions for germinating, so this morning’s activity with the daughter was getting some more beans into modules. It’s a little late in the year, but we’ll see how it goes…

the daughter helped put French Beans into modules

the daughter helped put French Beans into modules

calabrese, fennel, French beans

calabrese, fennel, French beans

the daughter's grubby hands

the daughter's grubby hands

Phoenix centre garden cleanup

Had a very productive morning in the playgroup garden, assisted by Stephen and Gavin. Perhaps assisted is the wrong word for it: they did the graft and I faffed around with habitat piles, rakes and compost heaps. All the nettles are now gone and there’s a decent view from the kitchen window, so I think there’s more scope for the kids to get outside during the playgroup sessions.

View from the kitchen before the cleanup

View from the kitchen before the cleanup

View from the kitchen, after the morning's work

View from the kitchen, after the morning's work

Plenty much vegetation outside the window

Plenty much vegetation outside the window

much clearer view of the window after our efforts

much clearer view of the window after our efforts

A respectably-sized compost heap

A respectably-sized compost heap

For the record, it took three of us 2 hours to

  • prune the trees outside the kitchen
  • pull the ivy off the kitchen wall
  • cut back all the weeds around the edge of the garden
  • attempted to discourage people climbing over the fence by piling prunings across an ad hoc path
  • found a Peppa Pig football and 2 tennis balls
  • built a compost heap

Free seeds for bee-friendly plants

As part of Science Week (6-15 March), the British Science Association is giving away free seeds for bee-friendly plants. You can order your packs from www.saveourbees.org.uk, then find a space and plant them!

This is a nice website: it has a specific purpose and does it well. There’s also good feedback on the site activity and I see that in the last 10 or 15 minutes there’s been about 50 new orders.