The Allotment Wife


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Raspberry surprise

These last couple of weeks, we’ve been patiently waiting for our autumn raspberries to turn red so we can pick them before the birds do. However, it now appears they’re actually Autumn Gold raspberries so they don’t turn red at all – Allotmenteer Fail! So yesterday, we picked as many as we could and I have added them to the apple and blackberry crumble I’m making for Sunday lunch today (blackberries courtesy of the hedges hereabouts, and apples courtesy of our neighbour and our own apple tree at home!).

Autumn Gold raspberries

Sad to say, the autumn raspberries are a bit bland (lack of sun possibly?) so a crumble is the best place for them. We’re thinking of having red autumn raspberries next year to give us a clue as to when they’re ready to harvest – though I fear the birds will be keener on those.

However, as you can see, there are plenty more yellow raspberries to come:

Soft fruit

Whilst there, K took out the cornflowers which are all but over, and planted sweet williams ready for next year.

Sweet Williams

Earlier in the week, I took out all the sweet peas as they were definitely over, sadly. However, the asters and cosmos are  doing well so I have picked those for home – the asters last absolutely ages in a vase, I must say.

Asters and cosmos 1 Asters and cosmos 2

In veggie news, the beetroot and leeks are doing well:

Beetroot Leeks

So we’ve managed to gain a pretty good harvest, all in all:

Harvest

Have a great Sunday!

Anne Brooke Books


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Tidying Up

A good tidy up round the allotment today. Plus K cut down the sunflowers that are now over and I staked the chrysanthemums as they’re starting to fall across each other.

Chrysanthemums 1 Chrysanthemums 2 Sunflower head

Funny how last year I would never have had the confidence to even consider staking anything up and would have had to get K to do it or at the very least ask for help. Now I go ahead without even worrying about it, gosh! Anyway we have taken some of the sunflower seeds for growing on next year, and left the rest for the birds. That seems fair. Monty Don would surely be proud of us1

I’ve also planted a leucanthemum for more autumnal cut flowers which I picked up at the Wisley Flower Show yesterday. I really love the fluffiness of them, and the soft yellow colour is great.

Leucanthemum

Here’s our harvest of peas, a courgette, two beetroot, sweet peas, a geum, asters, cosmos, dahlias, cornflowers and coreopsis:

Harvest

And here are the flowers in their vases at home:

Vases

Happy Sunday!

Anne Brooke Books


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A Second Spring?

Post the Allotment Show, we’ve done a good tidy round and weeding on the allotment today. The sunflowers are still looking happy and – amazingly! – we have a foxglove in bloom. Hmm, must be really confused then!

Foxglove in bloom Sunflower

Whilst there, I planted some more foxgloves in the space where the scabious used to be as it wasn’t doing very much. I’m hoping these foxgloves will be ready for spring, but who knows!

Foxgloves

K also moves some perpetual spinach from the brassica bed and gave it its own kingdom where the potatoes were:

Perpetual spinach

Meanwhile, the autumn raspberries are doing wonderfully and they now have orange berries, gosh! How many of those we’ll lose to the birds has yet to be seen though …

Autumn raspberries 1 Autumn raspberries 2

Today, K dug the rest of the onions up, and we harvested runner beans, one small courgette, dahlias, sweet peas (though they’re almost over now), cosmos, cornflowers, coreopsis, geums, and that one foxglove:

Harvest Onion harvest

Here are the flowers at home:

Vases

Happy Sunday!

Anne Brooke Books


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The Annual Allotment Show!

Big excitement this week as we all started preparing for the Allotment Show which took place on Friday. K and I went up to the allotment Thursday evening to prepare, and decided to put our golden beetroot, potatoes (for the heaviest potato competition), runner beans (for the novelty veg and longest runner bean competitions) and onions into the show, together with a variety of flowers, including coreopsis, marigolds, dahlias, cosmos and cornflowers.

Here are our potatoes, beetroots and onions:

Potatoes, beetroot and onions 3 Sept

And here is our flower harvest:

Show produce 3 Sept

This time, for the flowers, I took kitchen towel and plastic bags – so I could wet the kitchen towel and keep the flowers as fresh as possible. I must say that paid off really well, and none of the dahlias lost their petals on the journey home (shock! Horror!) so I have starting using damp kitchen towel as standard now for getting the flowers home.

Whilst there, we also looked at our lovely sunflowers, and thought: why not? We could get them home somehow and work out how to put them into the show – surely it’s not beyond the wit of allotmenteers! Here they are:

Sunflowers 1 3 Sept Sunflowers in recycling bin 1 3 Sept Sunflowers in recycling bin 2 3 Sept

And yes, once we’d struggled to get them home that night, the only place we could store them was in the recycling bin, which we half filled with water!

Astonishingly the sunflowers survived the night, though sadly our heaviest potato fell out of the bag on the way home and split in half – oooh nooo! Must remember to use stronger bags next year …

That night, K prepared the onions, potato and beetroot, and I spent a fun half hour cleaning and measuring the runner beans. I put the horseshoe shaped one to one side for the novelty veg category. The following day, I found a strong box, filled it with bubble wrap and put all our flower entries (bar the sunflowers) in vases in it for carrying purposes. Makes mental note to get more suitable vases for next year’s show, though I did buy a last minute pair of lovely recycled vases at Tesco which were very cheap and look great, so maybe more of those. I only had one accident with the flower-box preparation and didn’t break the vase, so go me, indeed.

Working out what to do with the sunflowers was fun too – in the end we filled a Brabantia bin with damp kitchen towel and bubble wrap, put more damp kitchen towel round the stems and tied them together in the bin. Getting them into the car was fun, but not as much fun as it was for our fellow allotmenteers when we arrived at the hall, ha! If there was a category for tallest exhibit, I’m sure we would have won it, mind you.

And the show was full of lots of lovely produce, including beetroot, carrots, courgettes, dahlias, flowers, potatoes, marrows, a huge pumpkin, lettuce, runner beans, novelty veg(!), onions, parsnips, soft fruit, squashes, sweetcorn, top fruit (i.e. apples etc) and of course miscellaneous, plus some lovely fluffy sunflowers I was really envious of.

Beetroot, with our Golden Beetroot on the left 4 Sept Carrots 4 Sept Courgettes 4 Sept Dahlias 4 Sept Flowers with ours at the left front 4 Sept Heaviest potato with ours on the right 4 Sept Largest marrow 4 Sept Largest pumpkin 4 Sept Lettuce 4 Sept Longest runner bean with our short one on the left 4 Sept Novelty Veg 4 Sept incl our horseshoe runnerbean Onions with ours at centre back 4 Sept Parsnips 4 Sept Potatoes 4 Sept Runner beans 4 Sept Soft fruit 4 Sept Squashes 4 Sept Sweetcorn and leeks 4 Sept Top fruit and Miscellaneous 4 SeptSunflowers 4 Sept

Here are our entries of dahlias, coreopsis, cosmos, cornflowers, golden beetroot, longest runner bean, marigolds, novelty horseshoe runner bean, onions (on the white plate) and those sunflowers in the bin:

Our coreopsis 4 Sept Our cosmos and cornflowers 4 Sept Our dahlias and coreopsis 4 Sept Our golden beetroot 4 Sept Our long runner bean 4 Sept Our marigolds 4 Sept Our novelty horseshoe runner bean 4 Sept Our onions 4 Sept Our sunflowers 1 4 Sept

And the judging began! We were traumatised so went home for a pizza as we couldn’t take the angst, LOL. When we returned, all of our entries had been totally outclassed by the amazing produce of our fellow allotmenteers (though we have made lovely soup out of the veggies!), but astonishingly, our sunflowers won 2nd PRIZE in the flower category! Honestly, we’ve never been so thrilled in our lives!

2nd prize for sunflowers in flowers comp 4 Sept 2 2nd prize for sunflowers in flowers comp 4 Sept 3 2nd prize for sunflowers in flowers comp 4 Sept 2015 1

And the Best in Show category was deservedly won by R & S for their excellent beetroot:

Best in show beetroot 4 Sept

Definitely a cause for BIG celebrations all round, and the post show party was wonderful too!

Getting the sunflowers home was equally entertaining as getting them there, and they are now in pride of place at the front door:

Sunflowers at front door 1 Sunflowers at front door 2

Happy allotmenteering, everyone!

Anne Brooke Books


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Is my courgette a marrow?!…

A nice, relaxed, pottering week at the allotment this week – which is great for me as work has been fairly nightmarish (is that a word?…) and the days very long, and I just needed to have some me time. So a big thank you to our allotment for being a chill-out zone Big Time.

And it’s proving amazing how quickly things grow. I did a mini-harvest on Thursday and decided the courgettes weren’t worth picking yet, and then on Saturday, here’s what I find:

Veg harvest

You can see the scale of it next to the normal sized courgette in the trug. I’m not even sure if courgettes can turn into marrows (maybe someone out there will enlighten me …) but it’s as near as darn it, that’s for sure. Alongside them, we have more potatoes, runner beans, and the largest of the golden beetroot, whose leaves I’m also saving for salads.

Our runner beans are also going for it – we’ve now stored five or six little bags in the freezer, after blanching them, and will probably have enough to get us through the winter once they stop cropping. I’m going to leave a few of them unharvested though in an attempt to enter the Longest Runner Bean competition at the Allotment Show in September – that should be fun!

Meanwhile the sunflowers are continuing to do their stuff and at the moment are the tallest ones on the allotment, well gosh!

Sunflower 2 Sunflowers 1

The cosmos, coreopsis and dahlias are looking good too:

Cosmos and coreopsis Dahlias

And of course, the bees are loving all these blooms – speaking of which, I was a bit worried as a bee flew into the shed as I was shutting it up, and I couldn’t get it out. But K told me that it would find its own way out in due course, as they’re used to this sort of thing. And as my husband is a secret Bee Whisperer (every time we have a trapped bee, he leans in close to it, whispers “be gone, little bee …” and strangely they always obey!… and, yes, this is true!!), I am reassured …

Here are the harvested flowers – dahlias, sweet peas, coreopsis and cornflowers – and ultimately at home in their vases:

Flower harvest Vases 1 Vases 2

Have a great and relaxing Sunday

Anne Brooke Books


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It’s showtime!…

… or nearly anyway … The date of the Allotment Show is now set for Friday 4 September at 5pm, with judging from 5.45-6.30pm, and then it’s open to all until 7pm. After which we collapse into a heap and consume lots of cheese and wine (sadly none of it grown on the allotments, LOL!).

Last year, K and I were very new at the whole thing so we just enjoyed the produce and the company, and loved seeing the lovely H (well done again, H!) walk away with the top prize, hurrah! This year, we’re going to be very brave and try to enter one or two things – maybe some onions, the runner beans, and some flowers if there are any good ones around on the day.

Onions

You may remember that I planted some special show chrysanthemums a while back, but there’s no sign of any buds yet (sob!) so I will have to rely on the dahlias, or possibly a second wind for the coreopsis. I fear there’s not a vase large enough for the sunflowers!…

Anyway, I did pop into the allotment during the week, and harvested some courgettes and absolutely loads of runner beans. There were far too many for the two of us to eat so – with a vague folk memory of my mother blanching things for the freezer many lightyears ago and the help of the trusty Interweb thingy – K and I blanched them and have stored them in the freezer, go us! Basically this means that we put the runner beans into boiling water for 2 minutes, and the thickly chopped courgettes for one minute, and then plunged them into a big bowl of ice cold water. After drying them off, K then put them into portion-sized sandwich bags, and sucked the air out with a straw. Yes, we really are that strange, but it works like a dream!

Back at the allotment today when I did a hoe-round and K did the watering. Nothing to plant at the moment, but I did gather up the dead rhubarb leaves and kick away all the mole hills so I hope I’m doing some good.

The peas K planted last week are doing well, as are the Brussels sprouts.

PeasBrussels sprouts

The Peruvian Ground Apple has recovered too, and is okay as long as we keep it well watered.

Peruvian Ground Apple

Sad to say, the one almost-ripe autumn raspberry of last week has been taken by the birds, but there are more on the way (no doubt to feed the birds again!):

Autumn Raspberries

On the flower front, the gaura are looking good, but they’re not great in vases so I’m leaving them where they are.

Gaura

And the echinacea is very pretty too:

Echinacea

Here is our harvest of potatoes, runner beans, courgettes, sweet peas, coreopsis, dahlias, cornflowers and a geum:

Harvest

And, as you can see, I’ve run out of vases at home, and am having to make do with wine glasses! The buddleia came from the garden as I accidentally cut a branch off when deadheading yesterday.

Vases 2 Vase 3 Vase 1

Have a great weekend!

Anne Brooke Books


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A Pioneer Raspberry

A lovely sunny morning on the allotment today – here is a picture of the plot for you:

Plot 1

As you can see, the sunflowers on the left top of the picture are getting very tall indeed and are some way beyond their canes, but none the worse for it. Their companion runner beans aren’t that far behind them either.

Runner beans and sunflowers Sunflowers and Runner Beans

Whilst there, I did my usual hoe round, but not many weeds now it’s high summer. K also planted some peas to join the ones he planted a couple of weeks ago, which are doing fine. We’ve had a grand vegetable harvest today of red and white beetroot (red on the outside and red & white inside), a courgette, runner beans and potatoes – so that will keep us going for a few days at least.

Vegetable harvest

The huge surprise of the day is that we have one autumn raspberry, hurrah! Just the one, but hey it’s crop, isn’t it? Not quite ripe yet, but getting there …

Autumn Raspberries Autumn Raspberry

Meanwhile, the gauras are looking fantastic:

Gaura

And the flower harvest is a selection of cleome, gaura, sweet williams, dahlias, cornflowers, coreopsis (and sweet peas which I forgot to take a picture of) …

Flower harvest

… which look very nice in the vases at home:

Vases

Have a very happy weekend!

Anne Brooke


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Cleome claws and odd apples

We found a Yacon (or Peruvian ground apple) in the garden centre this week – it’s a type of squash which is apparently tasty and low in calories, so we’ve planted it and we’ll see how it goes. It’s certainly a statement plant, though what exactly it’s trying to say is anyone’s guess.

Peruvian ground apple or yacon

This week, we’ve also composted more green garden waste, which the compost bin is eating away nicely, and I’ve done my usual hoe round to keep the weeds down. Earlier in the week, K brought back some potatoes, the first of the runner beans (hurrah!) and the rest of the stunted carrots.

Potatoes, carrots and runner beans

He also picked the first of the blackcurrants, and has made ice-cream, which is utterly fantastic, I must say. It’s odd how we’d never buy blackcurrant ice-cream in the supermarket (because it tastes so bland …) but the home-made stuff is just brilliant.

Blackcurrants

Meanwhile the courgette is coming along nicely, though I didn’t bother picking any more rhubarb as it started to rain quite heavily.

Courgette

On the flower front, we have sweet peas and cornflowers doing well, plus a good harvest of cleome – which has thorns!! Who knew?!? – gaura, astilbe, scabious and coreopsis.

Sweet peasCornflowersHarvest

Here are the flowers at home in their final places. I didn’t bother with the dahlias this time as they only last one day, tops, so there’s no point picking them!

Vase 2 Vase 3 Vases 1

Happy Sunday, everyone.

Anne Brooke


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Carrot Fly Chaos and Runner Bean Delight

Oh dear me, I fear the dreaded carrot fly has laid waste to our carefully tended crop of carrots, alas and alack. K brought back some carrots last week and they are poor stunted little things, though still quite tasty. We’ll gather the rest of the crop at some stage and see what can be made of them. It’s such a nuisance that you can’t tell when the carrot fly has visited as the foliage still looks fine. If we try for carrots again, then we’ll have to put some fleece round them as a barrier as the carrot fly can’t fly more than a couple of feet above the ground – so that might work.

In terms of other vegetables, there are exciting developments with the runner beans, which now have actual beans on them – though too small to harvest yet.

Runner beans 1 Runner beans 2

The courgette is also growing apace, so I’ve moved the marrow further away – I hope it survives the trip. This leaves the courgette still fairly near the coreopsis, but that might be okay. Its leaves have patches of white on them, but I don’t really know if that’s a bad or a good thing – will have to look this up at some point. We also have an unknown squash growing through our potato patch, so will wait with interest to see what it turns into!

Courgette Unknown squash

Turning to flowers, the cerinthe is coming along, and the coreopsis is totally abundant, hurrah:

Cerinthe Coreopsis

We also have a couple of dahlias, freesias and the red geum (Mrs Bradshaw) – though some of the dahlias are crawling with black flies so I have sprayed them to within an inch of their lives and will hope for the best.

Dahlia 1 Freesias Geums

The last of the lilies are looking good, the penstemon is coming along, and the sweet peas we abandoned near the compost are refusing to be lost (hurrah!) and are doing their own thing entirely, so we’re letting them do it … Good for them is what I say!

Lilies 1 Penstemon Sweet peas 1

So, this week I’ve been clever and brought my trug from home for the harvest, which has been: sweet peas, lilies, cornflowers, coreopsis, freesias, a dahlia and a few sweet williams (not so many of those now). I also took some of the spinach seedlings (at least I think that’s what they are …) from what is now the brassica bed and have potted them up, as you can see. It appears to be the case that everlasting spinach never ever dies, LOL … The veggie harvest is beetroot (including our golden beetroot), potatoes and the biggest lettuce in history. That should do us for the week then.

Harvest 1 Harvest 2 Harvest 3

At home, I’ve allocated the flowers to vases in the best way I could think of, and the house looks lovely with them in it.

Vase 1 Vase 3 Vases 2

Have a lovely weekend!

Anne Brooke Books


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The first of the summer flowers

Very rainy at the allotment today, but we had our raincoats and hats so kept out the worst of the wet. However, I think I should have worn my wellies, as my old walking shoes don’t keep out the rain, sadly. Today, K sorted out the compost section so the slats are now removed and we can use the bins instead. A lot of what is in the old compost appears to be just soil, so we’ll bring the soil sieve down at our next visit and sort it out. It will be easy enough to put the soil back on the allotment – and certainly easier than the 2 days it took us to de-weed and de-bramble our front garden at home!

Anyway, the exciting thing for me is the allotment flowers are on their way for sure now. Today, we have alliums large and small, foxgloves, geums, lilies and Sweet Williams.

Alliums Foxgloves Geum Lilies Sweet Williams

Meanwhile in the veggie area, the rhubarb is growing back apace, hurrah. I’ve not harvested any today as I want to try to make a rhubarb and orange cake next week so I’m saving it for that.

Rhubarb

We’re still letting the asparagus go to seed now, and so far the carrots are surviving against the dreaded carrot fly (fingers crossed, eh!)…

Asparagus bed Carrots

We’re also very pleased with the lettuce, and in addition the runner beans and sunflowers have put a bit of a spurt on.

Lettuce Runner beans with sunflowers

And the soft fruit area is now a veritable forest of hope – we’ll have to net it pretty dang soon though!

Soft fruit 1 Soft fruit 2

Today there is also exciting (well, sort of!) news as I have planted some chrysanthemums that I’m hoping to display at the allotment show in September, if they’re any good, that is. I’ve never done this sort of thing before but it will be nice to have a go if we can, as we did enjoy last year’s show very much. I foolishly forgot to take a pic of them, but I will try to remember next time.

I’ve also planted cornflowers, a scattering of marigolds (Naughty Marietta – we love that name, but sorry, no pic yet!) and more beetroot (which you can compare with the older beetroot next to it below).

CornflowersBeetroot 2 Beetroot 1

Finally, here is the harvest of small alliums, Sweet Williams, lilies foxgloves, lettuce and beetroot, plus the cut flowers in vases at home:

HarvestCut flowers

Have a great Sunday.

Anne Brooke Books