Thursday, May 29, 2008


Jam. The first batch of the year. And the first batch that I have been able to make from the allotment's produce :-)

what did I get:

The rhubarb is in small pieces and rolled in a little ordinary sugar. Overall there is about 1 kilo of fruit and I have some leftover preserving sugar, about 700g of it. Hope the proportions are OK.
OK let's get that cooking up.

After about 20 minutes, the fruits is soft and reduced. Mmmmm I can smell the rhubarb and strawberry quite distinctively. I add the sugar and boil it up, 6 minutes it says on the packet.

A short cooling period and it's into piping hot boiled jars:
Rhubarb and strawberry jam. Smallest One tasted the leftovers on some crackers this morning and declared it to be delicious.

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Yesterday I finally got to visit the allotment for the first time in three weeks. Let's say that it was a bit of a shock.
Alright it was a jungle.
A complete and utter jungle.
I kept waiting for some prat to jump out from behind the 5 foot high fennel and yell "Dr Livingstone I presume".
I subsequently spent too much time down there and we had to eat pasta for tea.
Well let's try and make a status report:
So I did as much tidying up as I could but I need to attack some parts with the mattock and shovel, and get the melons planted. We are AGAIN going away this weekend but I hope to do that early Saturday morning.
Promising. I took home:

I didn't have time for piccies, but took some of the jam making (see above).

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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

BIG Gardening weekend! it was a 5 day weekend for me so I broke my back in the garden as usual. But I feel quite vinidcated in all the work I got done. let's make a list:

The tomatoes being planted:



Admired lovingly:
This is what the lottie looked like this week: except that now the tarp has been moved to the "WIll be beans area" and thetomatoes have been planted.

At home, I sowed some more basil (I just can't succeed with that) and Sweet William (I killed the first lot), transplanted some skinny leeks into richer pots, transplanted the broccoli into bigger pots. SO all is looking set up now for the season.
I would like to sow some more carrots and beets but I will probably get around to that next weekend, it won't take long.
happy happy happy gardener (with very sore muscles...)

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Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Had a quick session down the lottie yesterday, while waiting for Smallest one to finish music class. I made a last ditch effort to sow some peas, if it doesn't work this time, bugger it, I think it will be the last time I try growing them.
I do have some carrot seedlings struggling along, but they are very small, I don't know if that is normal or not... anyway I sowed another row of them just to be on the safe side. Also another row of beetroot, which I haven't had much success with so far.
There is still so much to be done, the bed for the French beans is a jungle, but I don't know if I will get it done this weekend, as priority has to be to get those tomatoes out. If I don't manage it, I will cover it with cardboard and the tarp until the weekend after that. At least that will start to kill the weeds, or at least make them less visible.
Some of the beds are looking OK, the spuds are coming along nicely, they will need earthing up again. I weeded the first onion bed, just need to do the second one. I find that to be a really awkward job, mostly by hand, it is quite time consuming. The garlic is tall and strong stemmed, I am a bit worried as one of my neighbours claims you "can't grow garlic on this site". But I might get lucky because I overwintered it, which no one else seems to do here, and it is local stock, I bought it from the farmer's market from my lovely Vietnamese market gardeners who grow it on their site. It was terrific, great big bulbs, so I can't see why it would fail?
I will have more broad beans soon, they are swelling on the plants.

I need to rip out all the salad greens though - they have been there all winter, stunted and now they are taking off but they are tough and bitter, completely inedible. So out they will go, and I think I might replace them with either more carrots (carrots forever!!) or maybe something nice like celeriac, if I can get some plug plants.
Gosh, so much work still left to do down there! The paths still have to be cleaned too, so the pickaxe and shovel are going to get some wear and tear!!

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Monday, May 05, 2008

Last weekend was a long weekend, Thursday May 1 being the Labour Day holiday here, so I took Friday off too. Thursday was a bit grey and drizzly but Friday and Saturday were hot and steamy so I did have some opportunities for gardening.

What I got done:
I built a lasagna bed!! And promptly forgot to take a photo of it. I will try and do that this week. How I did it: I put down a layer of cardboard that I watered. Then on top of that, 2 massive bags of grass clippings that were already getting quite rotten (the smell was impressive). I spread those out with the rake then dumped on top of that a whole bag of horse manure. Raked over again. Then I got a pot, mixed some potting mix and compost and made like a little soil pocket in the bed for each courgette plant. Planted and watered them. 3 days later they seem to be thriving so I have my fingers crossed. It was done in 20 minutes, 4 courgettes, I was quite proud of myself.
I also planted the 3 biggest pumpkin vines, they were just out of control. They went in the 3 Sisters bed that I prepared last week. But the corn, I am waiting for it to be a bit bigger before planting it, maybe next weekend I will do that.
UPDATE: Here is what the finished "3 Sisters" bed looks like after planting all the pumpkins and the corn:

I started edging the plot, bloody hell it is hard work. I finally found the technique, hack away at the edge with a PICKAXE yep working like a bloody navvy, then scoop out all the rubbish with the spade. I filled a wheelbarrow over a length of about 4 metres. so only what, 35 to go? oh crap... anyway bit by bit I will get there.
Finally yesterday I went and netted all the fruit (except the late berries) so the birds don't get the abundant fruit that is forming on the strawberries and gooseberries. My neighbours actually seem to admire my big strawberry plants which pleases me no end.

What is left to do:
I have looked at the 10 day forecast and have come to the conclusion that this "Saintes Glaces" stuff is bollocks this year, they are predicting 20 degrees for the 12 and 13 May. (remember this is the legend whereby there are frosts on St Pancras Day). SO next weekend I am preparing the tomato, pepper and melon bed and sticking them in otherwise the bloody things are going to camp on my windowsills forever. I think that maybe I will try a couple of things and see what works. I am tempted to not dig the tomato area, to put down cardboard, manure and black plastic and plant the tomato plants through that. Maybe I will try that for the first one or two beds and see how it looks. I have bamboo and lots of wooden stakes for the support system.
I also need to sow more carrots and beetroot. And do a first sowing of French beans.

The state of play:
well , the fruit is doing brilliantly, I am very pleased with it.
The weed situation is bad but not hopeless, a good hoeing on a hot day should help out a bit.
There are artichokes forming and I think at least 2 will be ready this week. yum yum, that is a big success in my eyes.

The new rhubarb that I thought was dead has sprung back to life. I gave the older one a compost mulch yesterday.
There are some seedlings where I sowed carrots and beets but they are tiny. I would like to have some this year so I might try a second batch somewhere else.
The peas that were in the (now removed) polytunnel are doing well, those outside have mostly not succeeded. This evening I will sow a few more I think, give them a good compost dressing and cross my fingers.

Weather is warming up marvellously, I even got a bit sunburnt on Sunday morning. SO I am hoping that the summer harvest will soon start to look possible.

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