Guilty Allotmenteers

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The last few weeks have been so busy that our rookie allotment has been left to its own devices, leaving us with two emotions – frustration and guilt.  The sound of the weeds growing and the courgettes swelling has almost been audible from our house, where we have been, preoccupied with other things.

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Aside from snatching the occasional half hour to water the plants in the greenhouse (Peppers, Aubergines & Cucumbers) and pick bunches of Sweetpeas to ensure their succession later in the year, we have been notably absent.

During the swift snatches of time watering and picking, it has become evident that we have missed the allotment more than it has missed us.  Yes, the grass is long and covered in clover, there’s an obscene amount of weeding to be done and recently emptied beds to tidy and re-use, but the veggies and the flowers are flourishing all by themselves.

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The Raspberries and Blackberries are beginning to fruit and the Gooseberries – which were picked young and green last year – have enjoyed being left alone and have swollen into giant purple beauties.  The Sweetcorn, Jerusalem Artichokes and Runner Beans have grown high and the Lettuce, Radishes (at last !) and Onions are ready to be picked.  The Parsnip and Beetroot tops are green and healthy and Pumpkin Corner has merged with the Gherkin bed to produce a mass of huge alien looking stems which are sprawling all over the plot.

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Best of all, are the amount of flowers which are starting to bloom.  Sweetpeas, Dahlias, Zinnia, Cosmos, Marigolds, Calendula, Love in a Mist, Poppies, Nasturtiums and Geraniums are adding colour and attracting lots of beneficial insects to the plot.  The four tractor tyres that we used in the Spring to create four new raised flower beds are now full of plants and the first flowers are starting to come out.  I love it when a plan comes together !

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After our work and other commitments came to an end this week and we were finally free to venture back onto the plot, we as the rest of the country have seen some crazy weather – a heatwave, and then storms – rain, thunder, lightening, hail  – and now the heat again.  The crazy weather will soon abate, and then we’ll go back down to the plot and give it some TLC.  Whether it needs us or not.  I promise.

🙂

 

Plot Gratitude

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Now that we are well into our second year as allotmenteers, I can’t help but notice a smidgen of complacency has crept onto our plot.  Last year – our first growing year – was filled with an almost childlike and perhaps slightly over enthusiastic sense of awe and wonder at our aptitude as growing, well, anything.  Everything was new, and almost like new parents celebrating their offspring’s unparalleled accomplishments, the first of everything was a triumph – the first Strawberry delicious, the first Carrots so ‘carroty’, the first Apple blossom more beautiful than any, ever before, anywhere.

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This year we are greedily wanting more.  Comparisons are being made to before – ruminating over things that grew better then, that weren’t eaten by mice or pigeons, or that didn’t fail to thrive – expectations and disappointments are higher.  Looking at the plot – and in the garden too – I’m ashamed to say I’ve been seeing a list of things to do, and overlooking the things that have been done, that have grown, that have become spectacularly lovely right under our noses.  The heaps of Strawberries ripening in the newly extended bed, the Courgettes miraculously growing plump and ready to eat, the towers of purple Sweetpeas – even more than last year – starting to open, begging to be picked and fill the house with a heady scent.

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As with everything in life, once the first ‘flush of love’ has gone, we can become complacent and stop truly seeing what is before our eyes.  We can never regain the feeling of our ‘first’ times, but we can purposely try and be mindful on the plot and continue to experience it’s gifts with a sense of wonder and gratitude.  We can stop, just for a moment, and use all of our senses to really look at things, rather than through things, and recapture the feeling of awe again.

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In this spirit, we took home our first harvest of the year this week.  It felt so good to return from the allotment with something other than the aforementioned dirty fingernails !  The Strawberries tasted deliciously sweet, and the solitary Courgette will be ceremoniously eaten over the next few days.  As for the Sweetpeas, they are arranged in a jam jar on the windowsill.  Mr O and I smell them every time we pass by.  And you know, when I look at them – really stop and look at them – I do think they may be the most beautiful ones, ever before, anywhere.

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Sown direct in June – Dwarf French Beans, Peas, Globe Artichokes, Carrots, Broccoli, Kale, Cauliflower, Swede, Beetroot, Radish, Mange Tout, Lettuce

Planted out in June – Dahlias, Geraniums, Marigolds, Cosmos, Dianthus, Zinnia, Tomatoes, Aubergine, Gherkins, Peppers, Courgettes, New Zealand Yams, Cucumber, Runner Beans

Harvested in June – Strawberries, Broad Beans, Courgette, Sweetpeas, Radish tops (for rabbits !)

🙂

Into the Unknown

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Sometimes on the allotment – for us rookies especially – it’s difficult to tell who is friend and what is foe.  This was true this week, when giving the plot a thorough weeding, mowing and trimming, we came across several visitors we weren’t sure if to admire or to send packing !

The first two were flowers – or should that be weeds ?  Tiny delicate blue flowers have appeared all around the plot, and have become a lovely companion to our Poached Egg Plant in the flower border.

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Secondly, these gorgeously fragile looking purple flowers have sown themselves along the edges of our space, and seem far too beautiful to be weeds – what are they ?

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And lastly, whilst digging in one of the ‘raised baths’ this fellow reared it’s alien looking head.  A shiny, hard coated brown pellet with a disconcerting rotating head, it’s apparently a brown moth pupa, which is commonly found in soil.  Whether it’s a friend to allotmenteers we don’t know !

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On safer ground, we were also able to admire more familiar favourites coming into their own this week.  The lush dark green foliage and deep purple flowers of Comfrey, Strawberry flowers in the bed we extended last year, and our first Rose of the year in bloom.

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Out of our unexpected visitors, only the moth pupa got the heave-ho – out of fear that he may be a crop destroying baddie – and he was only moved to the edge of the plot !  The blue and purple flowers remain.  They may be ‘weeds’ but they’re so pretty, who are we to judge ?

What unexpected visitors have you had on your plot this year ?

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Borage Bother

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The Borage on our plot has been a Rookie success so far, but this week we noticed a spot of Borage bother.  While the characteristically brilliant blue flowers are in bloom, the leaves of the plant have gone a decidedly unhealthy looking dusty white.  A bit of research has shown that this is likely to be ‘powdery mildew’ which often strikes Borage grown in shady and damp conditions (as ours is).

The question is – what’s the best way to treat this unwelcome visitor ?  Google suggests a drink of milk, a compost tea or even a sprinkle of fresh urine might do the job !  With Mr O poised at the flower border ready to do his duty, do you know of a better treatment for powdery mildew ?  Answers (gratefully received) on a postcard please !

🙂

Rookie Rhubarb & Ginger Jam

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I’ve been trying to figure out what to do with our allotment grown Rhubarb for the last few weeks, as Mr O can’t eat the stuff.  I settled on jam, as I figured I could eat this at my leisure, or give it away if it turned out, well, like jam.  After doing a bit of research, I combined a couple of recipes to make what I can now proudly call ‘Rookie Rhubarb and Ginger Jam’.  Here’s what I did.

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Rookie Rhubarb and Ginger Jam – ingredients (makes approx 4 jars) :

1kg sugar
800g Rhubarb (this equates to around 9 sticks of varied length and width.  I somehow managed to come home with exactly the right amount, something I fear I wouldn’t be able to repeat !)
1 tbsp lemon juice
125g root ginger
150ml Certo (liquid pectin)

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Cut the Rhubarb into half cm chunks, and layer with the sugar in a large pan.  Leave this overnight, until all the juices are drawn out of the Rhubarb and it resembles Rhubarb soup the following day.

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The next day, add the lemon juice and the root ginger (peeled and grated).  Cook on a low heat for 40 minutes until it resembles a brown, glossy, sweet smelling stew.  Then boil up for 5 minutes until the setting point is reached.  If using liquid pectin this is added at this point, then the jam is boiled for a couple of minutes until the setting point is reached.  I used Certo for the first time in this recipe (normally relying on the cold saucer in the fridge technique with varied success rates) and it worked really well.  Pour into sterilized jars and label with pride.

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Eat with a big spoon !