Tea on the Plot

We took a mid-week opportunity to visit the plot to tend to the runner beans that have been causing me some anxiety. For some reason our beans are turning crinkly and growing in an ugly branched fashion. I initially thought they had been caught by a cold spell but I’ve been growing them in succession and every little seedling that pops up proves to be a disappointment.

Not quite every seedling – some shine.

I planted two varieties of seed, a hand me down from Lynn’s dad that has been in existence for decades and a saved variety from the Sheen plot which is probably a version of Wisley Wonder. One of them seems to produce half way decent plants and the other doesn’t.

I’ve planted loads more seed and now can only hope for the best, or perhaps try and buy some plants in from the garden centre.

Lynn in the meantime was down on her hands and knees trying to capture the wonder of the onions with her phone.

It’s hard to do justice and this photo just doesn’t evoke the same sense of pride.

Lynn has claimed the onions as her own, along with the other plot success – peas. The plot failure on the other hand is always referred to as “Angela’s carrots”.

Hardly fair.

The peas are pretty wondrous though. The plants are vigorous and healthy and the peas are a delight.

A lovely sweet pea must be about the best thing to come out of an allotment (maybe second to purple sprouting broccoli?), and they cook up marvelously with a handful of Arran Pilot, prepared in the garden shed trangia and eaten on the plot while surveying our land.

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Dashboard Dehydrator

I got quite carried away last year and came very close to investing in a £100 dehydrator for converting my courgette glut into dried stock granules. As it happens the glut never really arrived so I had a lucky escape and am happy to plough my money back into seeds for next year.

Dashboard Dehydrator

The harvest has been a bit light again apart from the chilli peppers which have gone positively nuts. I don’t have quite enough to go in search of a cheap Stockli but I do have enough to try out my new freebie dashboard dehydrator.

I spotted the idea on lifehacker but it originally came from the tangled nest. Seattle dashboards probably get to higher temperatures but despite pretty overcast conditions for the last few weeks the chillis do appear to be drying out. They also look pretty jazzy.

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To be or not to be – that is the question

The Organic question at least.

I’ve been somewhat troubled down the plot recently.

Black Fly Stunted Beans

For example, what is it with the blackflies this year? I whipped my broad beans out really early, in fact almost before I’d had the first crop, because the flies were depressing me, but now the runner beans have got it bad. Since when have runner beans suffered with black fly?

I’ve tried soapy water but they appear to be sticking two fingers up at me.

Then there are the tomatoes. Watering is a bit of an issue at the moment. I just can’t get to the plot more than twice a week and that is just not enough for under cover, grow bag enclosed tomatoes. I went last week and had to perform assorted resuscitation techniques on some very withered plants and then went to the garden centre in search of life support machines for neglected crops.

Water timer

I came back with a battery operated timer system, which, so far so good, seems to be performing the necessary miracles. Its linked up to my sprinkler system and saturates the greenhouse for 30 minutes every 24 hours. Perfect antidote to my neglect but also provides the ideal conditions for proliferation of Phytophthora infestans or Blight of the dreaded variety.

I’m going through the same thought process as allotment blogger who is wondering whether to go for a prophylactic spray with copper or sit still and remain principled.

I’m not sure how I feel about copper, it may well be your everyday sort of metal but how does it sit on a plateful of lettuce and tomato? It brings to mind plaques, fatty tangles and early onset dementia. Possibly best avoided.

Maybe bugs and fungi aren’t all that troublesome after all. I have a feeling that I may have ingested a pea complete with maggot on the plot this evening and to be fair, it was rather delish! Now if only I could stop picturing the pulsing grub I could remain fine and principled.

These peas that I mention were the much anticipated 10ft telegraph poles (or some such) and have proven to be a big let down. 4 plants out of maybe 50 seeds, sown on 3 separate occasions, grew to the giddy heights of 3 ft and produced merely a garnish of greenery for todays tea.

Late June Pickings

It might have been somewhat more impressive than a garnish if it had not been for the holes, and creepy crawlies emanating from said holes.

I don’t want to say too much for fear of Lynn reading this after I’ve fed her but the only gigantic thing about these peas were the maggots feeding upon it. I’ve never seen the like before. I had to squash one before relegating it to the bin and the effects were “medical” to put it politely.

I’ve always gone for the maxim: “one for me, one for the pigeons, another for the grubs, slugs and others”. Unfortunately the latter are having more than their fair share and I also have a few more mouths to feed.

Which leads me back to the original question, to be or not to be?

More pondering required.

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Spring Panic

Absolutely stunning spring morning, shamefully wasted away in bed, and then followed by an afternoon trip to the plot, accompanied by a flurry of soggy hail – my favourite.

I’ve slipped into my usual March panic. The year is galloping along and I feel as though I must be behind. Surely I should have seeds bursting from the ground by now. As it is I haven’t even got round to sorting my seed packs into planting order.

If I bothered to check out last years progress I’d probably remind myself that there isn’t really much advantage to be gained from planting early. The carrots never germinate and all late sown seeds come into there own in late April/early May. I’ve still got that white rabbit panic though: “I’m late , I’m late”.

The purple sprouting broccoli has sprouted at last, the pigeon netting did the trick and I managed to pick a whole buckets worth of the delicious treats.

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Month in Pictures – October & November

Month in Pictures - October and November 2008 

October and November were such washout months that I hardly got to the plot at all. When I did go down, the place seemed just a little too grim for photography and so here I am, left with a tiny handful of snaps with which to rustle up a double “month in pictures” montage.

The winter roots were a success and I did manage to get a few bean and flower seeds to dry off enough for storage before the deluge came and never went.

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Identification Challenge

My parents visited again this weekend and while I was spoiling myself with another half marathon attempt, they were perusing the seed aisles at Wisley.

Here’s my share of their finds:

Assorted Squash

It’s a pack of 10 assorted yet edible Italian squashes. The seeds were packed together so there was hours of fun trying to identify 10 unique varieties. I could seperate 5 distinct seed types before bundling the remaining into a large nondescript pile. I still haven’t  a clue what any of the seeds are, I’m assuming that the large seeds give rise to the larger squash and maybe the bent seed is the crookneck squash but I suppose I could be completely wrong.

I’ve labelled them with the vague impression that I may treat this as an identification puzzle. There is a very slight possibility that I may label my sowings properly this year and eventually manage to marry seeds with fruit and then if the pigs fly, I might save the said seeds and be full of enlightenment this time next year.

Or not of course.

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Month in Pictures – September 08

Month in Pictures - September 2008

It was a bit of a struggle to find enough for photos for Septembers month in pictures. What a wash out it’s been. I’ve hardly made it to the plot at all this month.

I’ve started saving a few seeds and amazingly some of them have even dried out enough for storing. In the specimen jars I have poppy, blue mist, foxglove and sweet peas. The first two self seeded everywhere and almost all plot holders would call these weeds but I love them and can’t bring myself to yank them up when they blossom in the middle of my semi-pristine rows.

It’ll look like Flanders next year.

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Gardeners Question Time

I haven’t been down to the plot for a few days so there was a good quantity of produce waiting for my arrival:

6th August Harvest

Doesn’t that look delicious? In addition I filled a canvas sack with more beans and a stack of chard but it didn’t look quite so photogenic.

Laptop Lunch - No 10

I’m going to make herbed summer squash and potato torte, a recipe that came from SmittenKitten, the best food blog I have come across so far. Honestly, you should take a look, it’s left me excited about cooking. I’ve made the irresistible lime meltaways already (see todays lunch) and will be trying out the chocolate hazelnut biscotti just as soon as my new food mixer arrives.

But I’m digressing, here are the questions:

Is this ready to pick?


It’s an aubergine obviously, and I’m sure you’ll want to know the variety but I forgot to look at the seed pack, in fact I’m not sure the seed pack still exists. Shakti insists it’s one of those especially special thin and delicious aubergines that I have never heard of, but I suspect she just wants me to start picking them so she can have one. I was expecting them to swell to mammoth proportions at some point. Anybody got any views on aubergines?

Final question is, what is this?

Stray Squash

This is a massive plant that has self-seeded in the entrance to my green house and is doing a fine job of blocking my access. I let it grow out of curiosity and now it has turned into my most productive squash. Trouble is, I don’t know what it is. I’m wondering if it might be butternut squash as I had plenty of seeds kicking around and it is shaped correctly even if it is the wrong colour.

Anyone know if butternuts start off green, or is it a summer squash that needs to be devoured right now?

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