Friday, 19 June 2009

Heatwave sparks growth spurt!

A "Heatwave" in this part of the world have made for perfect growing conditions on WTA in the past few weeks. The heat has jolted the cucumbers (Marketmore)and pumpkins (Crown prince) into life, while the onions and cauliflowers have been reveling in the warm soil and air. The first carrots (Parmex) have been pulled and swiftly eaten with some fresh rocket and spinach.

WTA lost another 8 square meters of turf on the weekend . The newly available bed was quickly filled with golden beetroot seedling and a dozen climbing French beans. It's a relief to see less and less lawn to mow and more and more vege in its place!

I've chosen "White lady" Runner beans (Marshall's seeds) to plant in the far bed where grown celeriac and Romenescu broccoli have been grown for the last few years. WTA has never had any runner beans on it in my time and I'm hoping that they will help fix some more nitrogen in the bed. The runner been poles went up and the runner bean seedlings went in Sunday.

The arrival of the first Autumn seed catalogues through the letter box this week was a stark reminder that in the allotment game you've always got to be thinking 5 to 6 months ahead. Marshalls Seeds autumn catalogue has some interesting stuff and the folks from Dobies have also sent a neat "autumn" catalogue. Watch out for for a seasonal "catalogue review/ roundup on this blog in the next few months.

I've gone with JBA Seed Potato Merchants for my "Christmas" seed potatoes this year.
A 2.5kg pack of Ulster Classic seeds set me back £7.95 while a 2.5kg pack of King Edwards set me back another £7.95. The plan is to plant out the seed potatoes in overturned sods of turf from the newly dug bed and let them do the work in breaking down and cleaning up the soil. Some disappointing first and second early harvests have still got me guessing as to what went wrong but also hoping that my later potato crops will have some hefty returns - especially come December.

Going on advice seen on BBC Gardeners' World from Alys Fowler, my courgettes were planted between sweet corn (Incredible F1). Both crops are looking first rate and the planting scheme looks brilliant as well as being a fine use of plot space. The first courgettes have a superb buttery taste that just doesn't seem to be the mass produced shop brought varieties. Tossed on a barbecue grill with onions or done in the form off a Mediterranean salad a la Jamie Oliver, fresh allotment courgettes are a summer delight.
Grow well...

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Let the harvest commence!

Now swarthy Summer, by rude health embrowned,

Precedence takes of rosy fingered Spring;
And laughing Joy, with wild flowers prank'd, and

A wild and giddy thing,
And Health robust, from every care unbound,

Come on the zephyr's wing,
And cheer the toiling clown...

John Clare (1835), The Rural Muse

A strong lemon-coloured sunlight is streaming across WTA as the day draws to a close here. WTA has had plenty of attention this weekend. Saturday morning was spent mowing the grass and today has been a combination of weeding and planting out calabrese (Belstar), Purple Sprouting Broccoli (Red Arrow?), Brussel Sprout (Eliclipse) and Leek seedlings (Autumn giant). There just about no better place be when the weather is like it is today in Old Blighty. Saturday and Sunday have been incredibly warm, providing ideal growing conditions.

The Hearing Scientist has been today's guest gardener on WTA and has starred by planting out about 100 leeks seedlings I grew from seed earlier in the year. The Hearing Scientist runs an amazing English country garden, soft fruit orchard and quality country wine making operation, so taking time off to help on WTA goes well above and beyond the call of duty. Leek planting however is big stuff around these parts however. The Welsh icon is a favourite around here. Leeks are superior eating straight out of the ground and need little real preparation when it comes to cooking. Throw them in a pan with some virgin olive oil, saute and then add some lemon juice and you have some fine country eating! They're also a good onion substitute when onion stocks have dwindled toward the end of the winter. While the Hearing scientist dibbled away, and and mass planted leeks, I was able to get on and weed a section of bed I had placed under netting a few months ago to protect some Autumn Raspberry canes cuttings I planted straight into the ground late last year. I thought I chance my arm at starting my own soft fruit bed on the cheap and it looks like I could have some 'starters' with about four of the nine canes I put in starting to sprout.

WTA is already producing food. I harvested my first early potatoes (Swift) last week and got enough for about three meals. The harvest was a little disappointing but a couple of the local farmers who grow spuds for a living reckon 'first earlies' are never really up to much as far a big yields. Still, what I did get was great eating. What did didn't get in yields from Swift 'first earlies' was made up by harvesting first early spuds from some stray plant springing up from tubers I had missed in last year's harvest. During my weeding I came across a number of "stray" Winston 'first earlies' and ended up with with about 1 kilo of spuds technically planted over a year ago! Talk about taking foraging to a new level!

WTA, like all horticulture adventures, is a work in progress. Right now the 'work' is removing turf and turning more of the plot over to the ongoing production of organic veg. The less grass, the less mowing I have to do and the less energy (mine and fossil fuel!) expended. There is also the matter of a few hundred seedlings - Kale, Runner beans, Romenscu, Golden Beetroot, and more cauliflowers! I sowed a few months ago that are now begging to be out!

In the meantime, I'm partaking in the "grow your own" revolution - enjoying a glass of home-made elderflower wine, and eating some of The hearing scientists' English, home-grown strawberries...Grow well!