Archive for June, 2009

screaming

A bit off topic, but having just treated a worker with a broken leg, I have to ask myself why it is that I always run TO screaming and not away. Surely this is not a natural survival trait.

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Final finishing touches before the big day…

After a miserable week I forced myself down to our plot to give it a good mow.

A quick mow later, I realised that wasn’t going to do the trick.  So out came the strimmer.  A ten minute mow down the allotment became oh so much longer as I found more jobs.

By the end of today, I’d dug three beds for the main crop potatoes – it’s a bit late, but we’ve got nothing to loose.  I also dug a small bed for our mint collection (we had three different varieties, apple mint, pineapple mint and moroccan mint) and planted up some of the chilies we’ve grown from realseeds.co.uk.

Lots of weeding later, things were looking much tidier and I decided to risk a new technique I’ve heard about but never seen used – mulching the ground around the plants with grass clippings.  I’d got plenty because I’d just mown the paths, so it was a pretty handy substance to use.  The idea is to stop the weeds from getting too much light and any surface water is kept deep underground near the roots where it should be, instead of evaporating.  We have clay soil, so if you left it bear it would set and crack – but with plenty of rain recently, I’ve now locked all that moisture in.

I got a fair few strawberries too – just over a kilo.  That’s £8.40 saved!

Unfortunately it seems our brassicas have got the attention of the local pigeon population or butterflies, but I’m not too worried as I’m not a big fan of brassicas.  There is however an infestation of white fly which I have to do an awful lot more with.  I’ve got an ‘organic’ pest spray which deals with whitefly, so everything got a liberal dosing.  The asparagus was also being attacked by asparagus beetle!  There are different ways of dealing with asparagus beetle – I prefer to chop it down to the stem and burn them so I can stir the remains into the compost.  There are chemical ways or even use your fingers to pick them off, squash them and remove the little eggs they’ve laid.  The newest shoots – probably the last this year – have been picked and as I type, making their way comfortably into my stomach.

Saw a few lizards around, not as many this year as last so I’m thinking I’m going to need to put more straw down as it seems to keep them happy.

Only two weeks to the big day now, so everything will probably be ready to harvest the moment I pop off on my honeymoon!

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Counting the cost…

Since the start of this year we’ve not really harvested a lot, mainly because there hasn’t been a lot to harvest and we weren’t intent on keeping a crop all year round.

Now we’re apparently in summer, we’re starting to crop.  So I’m going to try and assess what we pick and see how much money it saves.

For comparison purposes, I’m going try and compare like with like.  All our products are organic, so I’ll be comparing them with organic prices.  My fiancee disagrees on this because she wouldn’t buy organic in the shops – mainly because of the price, but I say there’s no point in comparing apples with oranges.

So we’re starting from the start of this week where we have harvested around 4 bags of mixed salad at £1.29, two lots of strawberries at £2.40, potatoes at 42p and rhubarb at £7.19.

I was suprised by the rhubarb prices – after all the stuff I’ve got is much thicker, juicer and tasty.  It’s currently £5.49 a kilo in the shops and the stuff I’ve got is lovely.  Organic strawberries are £8.40 a kilo currently.  Some of my fellow allotmenteers have been getting three kilos from their plots and I salute them.  Thankfully I’m getting just enough for a bowl each per day (that’s about a punnets worth)

So far, in one week, I’ve harvested £17.57 worth of food.  My allotment is less than a tenner a year, but I’ve put in plenty of effort so far – I’m sure if I worked the same length of time on the same rate I am on at work, I’d be running a heavy loss, but that’s not the point.  If I was in a gym, I’d be paying £40 a month for the same sort of work out and I’d have nothing to show for it.  Plus because it’s organic, I’m guarenteed to have less in the way of pesticides in my diet and it’s fresher.  I picked my salad at 6:30 this morning for lunch.  The supermarkets can’t beat that (though I’m aware it may only be a difference of hours…)

Which reminds me, better plant some more salad…

Another shock is that I’ve had over 25mm of rain in the last three days.  My waterbutt is for the first time overflowing

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Spent a rather nice evening in London with a couple of friends – with the wedding approaching it seemed timely to finish the project I promised my fiancee (or at least beat my friend ben into getting it sorted for me…).  The good news is it looks like a success and working well.

I made dinner – dinner being potato wedges and chili & garlic beef burgers.

Take 500g of lean minced beef in a bowl, add a finely chopped red onion, two red chilis, two cloves of garlic, a tea spoon of paprika, some random herbs and spices (corriander would work nicely) as they had nothing else to hand and combine in a bowl with a medium free range egg.  If you use anything else than free range, it’s quite possible you’ll die of guilt.

Split into six nicely sized burgers, put in oven at around 180-200’c for about half an hour.  The burgers will be the same colour all the way through, except the bits of chili and red onion, and it’s done.

Whilst this is going on, thinly slice some potatoes (about 5mm thick or so) the thinner they are, the quicker they cook and eventually brown then burn.  Either spray a baking sheet with oil then put a layer of potatoes on then spray again, or put potato slices in bowl, drizzle with a good quality oil and mix up until they’re all coated.  I wouldn’t use much oil.  We added some seasoning including some spice herb mix that we also used in the burgers and stick in the oven for as long as you can or they go crispy.

Put in white rolls, add dollop of tomato chutney and some wild rocket leaves or lettuce.

Twas fantastic.

After a fairly restless sleep I got back home and collapsed on the sofa.  Having exhausted the sofa lying about option, I made my way over to the lottie to see what the lay of the land was after all those storms last night.  You’ll see pic one has the darkened skies making their way over.  As I type, it’s starting to rain.  The 2nd pic shows my first official harvest.  I’ve pulled a few potatoes a few weeks ago but it’s my first real pick of the lettuce and strawberries as well.

I expect to be harvesting some broad beans in the near future as well as much rhubarb!

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Blackfly on Broad Beans

Unfortunately the warm weather has seen a large infestation on our allotments (not just mine) of blackfly.  Fortunately my runner beans aren’t affected (I’ve seen one or two) but the broadbeans are crawling with them.

There are a few ways to deal with blackfly.

Apparently companion planting with marrigolds can produce good results – there is something about the smell they don’t like, but if you’re infested it’s probably too late for that.

Plant in November rather than spring, you’ll get an earlier crop and miss the black fly season

3rd is making up a weak solution of washing up liquid and water, and spraying daily.   I did this a couple of days ago and I’m seeing good results, my broadbeans however are pretty bad.  I’m not sure I’m going to see an awful lot of improvement.  Shame, it’s the first year I’ve grown them.  I’ll probably go for a November planting next year.

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Around the plot

Down the lottie today I was bitten to death.

However I did get some pics of the different sections so you can see an overview, and there’s a few more pics of the finished raised bed from yesterday which I also planted a bit in.

We now have cucumbers, another courgette, my applemint (restricted by a bottomless pot which is a long pot with the bottom knocked off – the roots don’t tend to go very deep in mint so it’ll restrict its spread for a bit), a left over tomato, last of my leeklings (that’s a bably leek to you), spagetti squash and some sown from seed brussel sprouts (yuk!!)

Pics in a gallery format below

First pic (top right) is of the strawberry bed which is somewhat infested with couch grass (twich) as well as strawberries!, next is the harlow carr 3×3 imitation and finally another pic of the three sisters bed

2nd row new bed with plants, next houses our mangetout, cabbages, a sorry looking cucumber and some more brussels, last pic on second row is our fruit area.

3rd row is of my other runner bean bed with more fruit, and lollo rosso, next pic has cold frame and asparagus bed, last pic on that row is our beans, additional strawberries and rhubarb bed.  I’ll be moving the rhubarb at the end of the season into trenches in front of the blue boxes – it’s unmanageable in the manure beds now.

Final pic is my pond and first line slug defence.  There’s often a frog in there now and I’ve noticed a definate reduction in slugs in the locality.  Good job mr frog!

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