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Allotment Diary

A summer update 2021

The weather in the UK goes from the ridiculous to the sublime, in the blink of an eye

Between April and May the weather was less than desirable, it was raining, blowing a gale and it really wasn’t the weather to be sowing seeds or doing anything at all with regards to gardening and growing your own.

End of April

I really didn’t do much until the end April looking back, and this consisted of sowing some seeds into some seed starters.

Compared to last year, this year I was very late when it comes to sowing seeds, but that’s ok, the weather was rubbish and in my opinion, it was too cold for germination to have taken place.

After a cold snap, then a rainy spell, the weather picked up in May where we enjoy a very hot spring. After that, it’s been relatively mild with a splattering of rain here and some warm weather there.

Heading into the summer

It’s been a classic British summer, with the weather delivering a mixture of hot, cold, wet and wind in varying degrees and lengths. This has been good for some plants, and not so good for others.

Fruits

Strawberries

The strawberry beds are doing absolutely fantastic. Earlier in the year, I cultivated a few extra strawberry to help fill them up and increase ground cover, and it’s most certainly paid off.

I’ve also been diligently removing weeds and any dead foliage to help keep things tidy.

The flowers have been magnificent and all being well, I should be picking some strawberries very soon – assuming that the slugs don’t go to town and have a right old knees up.

To keep the birds away, I’ve adopted something that I do with the onions and that’s tie string from one corner to another and through the middle of the bed.

The idea hear is that the string puts the birds off from landing, and thus will not attack the beds. It works superbly with the onions as they do tend to pick out the bulbs, either for fun or because they would like to use them to build a nest – but can’t.

Rhubarb
(with some autumn and spring raspberries thrown in)…

Rhubarb is great because it basically looks after itself, and provides great ground cover. In the rhubarb bed, I planted both spring and autumn raspberries to help with ground cover, and also to make the most of the bed.

As is tradition, we’ve made many a crumble and we got into the tradition of adding port to the crumble mix to make Rhubarb and Port Crumble.

The wind totally battered the bed, and there was alot of rhubarb that had to be picked, so I decided to make some Rhubarb Gin, for the very first time and it was delicious! I usually freeze any left rhubarb, but now instead – I’m drinking it.

Spring and autumn raspberries

There is a stark difference between the spring raspberries and the autumn raspberries, for reasons thus far unknown. The autumn raspberries are much more upright, fuller, they have new growth and berries a plenty that have started to ripen.

They’ve ripened up slightly earlier than last year which is unexpected – I would perhaps put that toward the warm and wet weather we’ve experienced.

The spring raspberries look a bit sad if I honest, I’ll need to look up as to why that could be. I wonder if it could be the ground conditions, but I’d like this be to be just as full, if not fuller if possible.

Gooseberry bushes

These gooseberry bushes have been in pots for the last few years and earlier this year I planted them into a bed to give them room to grow. Generally speaking they are very young plants and growth has been steady throughout the year.

When we had the snow earlier on this year, this affected new shoots, but it looks like they have been able to recover from this. The fruit yield is slow, but I put this down to the stunted growth from the colder conditions we experienced in the first half of the year.

I may experience with taking some cuttings and growing more of these fruit bushes.

Alpine Strawberries

The alpine strawberries were first growing around the base of the shed where they had grown naturally in the ground, but started to get in the way.

I moved them to a different bed and I’m using them as ground cover for where red currants and black currents grow. These strawberries have produced a lovely spread baring in mind they’ve been uprooted and placed somewhere new within the last 12 months.

Alpine strawberries are quite the delicacy, they’re very small, but absolutely bursting with flavour. They’re great in granola, but can add a twist to many cereals in the morning.

Vegetables

Runner beans

It’s been a few years since I’ve grown runner beans, and now I’ve started growing them again, I can say that I’ve missed them. I’ve built an archway out of bamboo and they’re growing up against that.

The black fly has been rather prolific and I’ve had to give them the odd spray to help keep on top of them. Spraying is quite a controversial topic, but for ease and convenience I have resorted to using an off the shelf bug spray. Next year I’ll try and mark time to not use such chemicals.

The beans themselves have made a fantastic change – shredded, boiled until soft and mixed with butter really does conjure up childhood memories.

Beetroot, leeks, cabbage, cauliflower and pak choi

I actually grew all of these in the infamous toilet roll seed starters, which you can read how to make here.

Having adopted multiseed method, for both the leeks and the beetroots I can honestly say that the beetroots have turned out better than expected – for the life of me, I can’t remember what variety they are, but they’re the long type. The leeks have established themselves well, and I know that these will take longer to grow.

It’s the same with the cabbage and cauliflower. These will take longer to grow and establish themselves and I’m hoping to pick these toward the end of the year.

The pak choi went mad! I didn’t actually get much pak choi and I ended up pulling it out because it seemed to just take over.

Red onions, brown onions and garlic

Looking back, I was very lucky with the onions and garlic this year. I planted them a couple of months before the second hit of snow and it because of that I think they were established enough to get through that.

I kept the bed relatively weed free as I understand that they don’t tend to like too much competition and the produce has been pretty good as a result. I’ve picked them and they’re currently hanging in the shed to dry out.

I really must learn how to do garlic and onion plats to hang them – they can look really appealing.

Tomatoes

I had around 40 tomato plants, all of differing varieties including gardener’s delight, cherry tomatoes, plum tomatoes and run of mill ordinary tomatoes and they did unfortunately get the tomato blight.

The mixture of the warm temperatures and the wet conditions have most likely brought this on. I had to uproot the plants and put them aside. Very sad, and unfortunately, it’s quite common in these conditions.

Next time I will most likely do the research and look to grow something that’s blight resistant. These kinds of seeds can be more expensive, however, I think it’s probably worth it considering the trouble blight can bring.

Potatoes – dig versus no dig

I am conducting a little experiment with the potatoes, with one half being no dig and the other being grown how I usually grow them, and this is in a trench. You can read more about the experiment here.

On the first glance, I have to say, the no dig potato tops look in better shape. They’re less leggy, there are less weeds and the mounds are much more defined. These traits were the opposite for the dug potatoes in comparison. I guess I will really only know after I dig them up in a couple of weeks.

These potatoes did start to get some blight, most likely from the tomatoes so I’ve cut the tops off to limit any further damage. With any luck, the tubers in the ground should ok.

Video

So that’s everything, you’re all up to date – how are things on the plot where you are? I’d love to know in the comments below.

Categories
Recipes

Rhubarb Gin

For years, I’ve been freezing Rhubarb, when really, I should have been drinking it.

There’s lots of recipes online on how to make pink rhubarb gin, and they’re all pretty much the same.

There's gin and then, there's rhubarb gin


If you start off with a 70cl bottle of gin, by the time you’ve added the sugar and the rhubarb has released it’s syrup, you’ll end up with around a litre of fluid, if not just over that, so with that in mind you’ll need a container that will hold that much fluid, which is quite sizeable.


Ingredients

  • 900g Rhubarb top and tailed
  • 70cl gin
  • 300g of granulated (or caster) sugar

Directions

  1. Wash and chop the rhubarb into thumbs and add to the container with the sugar. Stir, shake and mix the sugar and rhubarb together so that the rhubarb is well coated – leave overnight.
  2. The next evening, add the gin and give everything another good shake and stir. Leave in a cupboard for around 4 weeks.
  3. Using a funnel and a coffee filter, run the liquid into a new container. This is not totally 100% essential in my opinion, but it does produce excellent results.

Enjoy with a tonic of your choice and a slice of lemon 🙂

What gin infusions do you try? Do you know of a variation of this recipe? If yes, I’d love to know in the comments below.

Categories
Allotment Diary

Cutting Grass

Is there anything more satisfying than seeing some grass being cut?

Well – sit back and enjoy!

Categories
Allotment Diary Main Crop Potatoes Maris Piper

Dig vs. No Dig: Potatoes

It’s potato planting season and this year, I’ve decided to have a little bit of an experiment to help satisfy my own curiosity.

I’m yet to go full on No Dig, but I have been doing a lot reading and for the most part it’s making total sense to do so.

The No Dig habits I have picked up have been paying dividends the most notable is keeping the beds covered to help keep the weeds down. The second being to hoe little and often, again to keep the weeds at bay.

Now I’m dipping my toes into the No Dig method for real and I thought I’d have some fun by pitting No Dig potatoes against potatoes grown in a more traditional method.

I’m not just looking at returns, I’m also looking at how convenient it is too.

The potatoes I’m growing are Maris Piper potatoes, which are a good all round potato, and are a main crop.

The first thing I did was split my potato bed into two – one side being for dig, and the other for no dig.

Growing No dig potatoes

Finally, keeping all of that cardboard from all of those online deliveries paid of.

For the no dig side, I laid down some cardboard, of which we had accumulated quite a lot over the last few weeks, and emptied a few cans of water onto the cardboard to stop it from flapping around, and to flatten it even more.

Then started to empty the compost bin on top of the cardboard. There’s no technical ability required – and it was good to get stuck in and burn some calories. I was sure to leave a border of cardboard as well to stop weeds coming through.

I then spaced out the potatoes about a trowels depth apart, and planted them about a trowels depth into the mound.

I took a lot of cues from Charles Dowding’s “How to grow potatoes without digging?” video below. It’s a fairly straight forward method to be fair and it’ll be great to see if they turn out the same (or similar). I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

Growing Dig potatoes

I’m not too sure if “dig potatoes” is even a term, but we’ll just use it for the sake of this post. 🙂

I first dug a couple of deep trenches, which were about a spits depth (a spits depth is a fancy term meaning a spade deep), making mounds either side of the trenches.

Much like the no dig potatoes, I spaced them around a trowels depth apart.

I then dug a hole for each potato and planted it into the trench. I then watered each of the sides of the bed generously.

As they grow, for the no dig bed, I’ll add soil from the compost bin, and for the dig bed I’ll move earth from the sides of the mounds into the trench – and this is really to help protect the shoots from any frost damage that may occur.

The weather is still a bit on the cool side, so the likelihood of the frost causing damage is still a possibility.

And now we wait. I’ll keep you posted on developments, but in the meantime, I’d love to know if you’ve grown potatoes in different ways and how you’ve got on with them in the comments below. 🙂

Categories
Allotment Diary

Age UK Mobility: Simple gardening tips for those with limited mobility

I’m delighted to have taken part in an article with Age UK Mobility offering some gardening tips on how those with limited mobility can get the most out of their gardens and green spaces.

The article can be found in the link below and it’s packed full of advice. Be sure to check it out 🙂

Categories
Recipes

Rhubarb and port crumble

Rhubarb and port crumble

  • Servings: 1
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

There's rhubarb Crumble... And then there's Rhubarb and Port crumble!

When someone suggested adding a few shots of port to the rhubarb mix… I was intrigued.

Ingredients

  • 450-550g of rhubarb cut up into thumbs
  • 90g of sugar, either caster or granulated will do
  • Approx. 3-4 tablespoons of port to taste
  • 130g of flour
  • 65g of butter
  • 50g of soft brown sugar

Directions

  1. Combine the rhubarb, caster/granulated sugar and port into a saucepan and bring this to a simmer. Keep on a simmer for around 10-5 minutes and once soft, take off the heat and allow this to cool.
  2. Combine the flour, brown sugar and butter into a bowl and work with your fingers until everything is of a breadcrumb consistency.
  3. Pre-heat an oven to 200C – 180C fan – gas 6.
  4. Add the stewed rhubarb to a pie or crumble dish of choice.
  5. Spread the crumble mix over the top evenly.
  6. Bake in the over for 30 minutes or until golden brown.

Serve with cream or topping of your choice 🙂