Freckledmam


August Almost Gone

Wow, this month has been a bit of a whirlwind! Not only weather-wise, but for the stuff we’ve been up to. Starting with a trip to the vets and staples in B’s leg & camping at a folk festival (getting to sing on the main stage whilst E slept through it –typical!!!) and going on holiday to the Brecon Beacons, so we haven’t had much time to spend at the allotment.

Luckily, the brown paper & mulch has been slowing down the weeds brilliantly, so on my trips up there the weeding hasn’t taken up all of my time. This has meant I’ve been able to enjoy picking the produce with E, B & J. Talking of produce, E has surprised me by picking Raspberries and not only bringing them home, but freezing them so when we had enough, we could make jam. That’s some breakthrough considering he’s doesn’t like to allow them to get off the allotments! Once we had collected enough from our visits, after finding the easiest recipe I could (as I’d not attempted to make jam before) I set about making jam under the watchful (and very safe distance away) eye of toddler management. Sure enough nothing much happening until I looked away to check on a cake I was making and it erupted out and down the front of the drawers. Lovely!

Determined Toddler Brings Home Raspberries!

Determined Toddler Brings Home Raspberries!

Apart from masses of Raspberries, the French Beans have been doing well, Blue Lake in particular, whilst the Borlotti Beans have been fabulous, but I’ll wait until they’ve dried out a bit before I take any off the plants as I like to keep them for dried beans. I hadn’t expected the Squash to take over quite so early in the growing season though, which has meant the Dwarf Beans have been swamped. After starting so strong, they’re now dying from lack of sunlight. Ho hum, one day I’ll manage to find a part of the plot they thrive in.

Bean haul

Bean haul

My Beetroots have been fantastic and I was surprised when J declared (as a lifelong hater of even their smell, let alone touching one) that he would attempt to eat a roasted piece. He did and “didn’t mind it” which is high praise in J language and even went as far as eating another piece the next night. I think I’ll have to keep to the Boltardy variety now he’ll eat it as it’s only taken 18 years to get this far lol

Dug up treasure

Dug up treasure

The Jemmer Courgettes have bloomed really well and are even growing into marrows in the space of a week (as have the Cucumbers), but sadly something has taken a liking to eating the Ambassador variety and left me with nothing but rotting roots. It’s a shame, because they’d grown stronger and faster than the Jemmer variety at home, but obviously must smell nicer or have tastier leaves to a visitor to the plot. The nice thing about the Jemmer variety is that they stick out against the leaves (being bright yellow) so E can tell if any are ready to pick as soon as we get to the plot and ‘manage’ me picking –a  very important job if something is too prickly to pick yourself.

Spot the Jemmer :)

Spot the Jemmer :)

At home, my Jalapeno Chillis have been surviving in the greenhouse throughout our absences amazingly well, considering I expected them to die off without constant pampering. I just watered them well before we left, closed up the greenhouse, left a full watering can in there with them and they’ve fared well enough to produce a second batch of chillis. I’ve put the first batch on a cooling tray and placed them in the airing cupboard to dry out in readiness of being crushed and added to casseroles etc. That should keep J happy. I wonder if there’s a chilli borscht recipe I could make him……….

 

Drying nicely

Drying nicely

 



Who ‘news’ if it’ll work
22/07/2014, 11:33 pm
Filed under: Weeding

The last time I blogged I was fighting the mysterious allotment weed and I’ve continued to do so. With my new job leaving me with rather thick brown paper every week, it inspired me to give smothering a go just to keep the areas in between the plants a tad freer of weeds (or at least make it easier to deal with). So with the brown paper and old newspapers for the bits when I ran out, I started to fill in the parts of the beds that were not in use and to keep them from blowing away, I used the free compost I’d got the other week.

I have to say it hasn’t stopped it totally, but it is easier to deal with and cuts weeding down to a minimum around the courgettes which I hate being unexpectedly spiked by. It’ll definitely help to paper the beds for winter just to keep the work to a minimum in the spring and with the added bonus the paper and the compost will condition the soil.

Sweetcorn bed in progress

Sweetcorn bed in progress

Less prickling this year

Less prickling this year

Beans & Squash happy

Beans & Squash happy

 



Name that weed

So at last the time is upon me and E has started pre-school. He’s loving every minute, I can’t get use to the quiet and not having one of my constant companion by my side & B is missing her little brother with a passion and has taken to guarding his toys for him until he returns. Going to the plot is a lot quicker and I stay a lot drier without E watering Mummy to get me to grow a bit taller, but I have taken the first load of Rhubarb to make the first Rhubarb crumble of the season and start making E’s pink ice – Rhubarb Cordial.

I was lucky enough to find a jam making set in the discounted section of the supermarket a couple of months ago, so now have an alternative to using my clothes horse. It can sit on my worktop and doesn’t get in the way in our kitchen, so a lot easier when waiting for the juice to drain.

As well as making pink ice, I popped into the school the other week for an hour to get the little ‘uns gardening. As you can understand I couldn’t take photos, but armed with a variety of recycled milk cartons; yoghurt pots and mushroom boxes; compost; and my leftover seeds I had a whale of a time with very excitable toddlers. I’d only taken seeds that would be interesting for little ones (such as Squash, different coloured French Beans, Borlotti Beans and Giant Sunflowers) and we set about planting away. Needless to say everyone wanted to help with the watering the seeds, which was interesting with a very large watering can, no rose and lots of enthusiastic babs trying to tip it up, but now there is a fence decorated with lots of different types of plastic containers. It was so nice to hear them getting excited at the idea of growing something and cute comments like ‘I’ve just planted a Dragon Bean’ gives you a whole new outlook on Borlotti Beans. For 3 & 4 year olds, I was quite surprised at the high level of sharing of seeds & equipment, listening to instruction and consideration gardening brought out in them. It really was enjoyable to be a part of and hopefully given them the gardening bug lol .

I’ve been taking advantage of the nice weather today to go up to the plot. My, how quickly weeds can grow and if only veg could grow that quick, I’d have gluts all year round!!

Seriously though, I am getting tired of weeding a particular weed that loves my plot and I wonder if you readers can identify it for me. It grows along the ground, twists around everything and has deep straight roots, which break off too easily. I’ve spent years trying to weaken it by keep digging it out, but to no avail. I’m even considering weed killer, but if you folks know of a eco/toddler/dog/veg friendly way, I’ll try it.

Name that weed

Name that weed

Name that weed

Name that weed



What a difference a week makes

We’ve been on holiday in lovely Cornwall last week so before we went, E & I were at the plot for most of a day, planting most of the things that have got too big or could die in the greenhouse (and we need the room for the next lot of seeds). Four hours is a long time for E, but he has taken to going to the water tap, filling up his toy watering can and watering the whole of the plot. It keeps him occupied for ages.

So before we went, we had one bed with Sweetcorn (both Minipop and Early) in it;

Sweetcorn version 1.0

Sweetcorn version 1.0

One bed with Cabbages (Red Drumhead & Pixie which are covered by fleece as it was the only thing I’d got to hand to protect them from the Cabbage White Butterflies that kept flying over), Turnips, Parsnips & Radishes;

 

Bedded

Bedded

And one bed with Chives and Beetroot in, along with half the overgrown Red Cabbages from last year (which I’m having to leave in until the Courgettes are ready, or the Council complains the plot isn’t being utilised enough).

Beetroot cloaked

Beetroot cloaked

I also planted some Sweetpeas which I’ve managed to germinate from some seeds that must be at least 5 years old. I honestly didn’t think it’d work, but did it to humour J.

Old Sweetpeas

Old Sweetpeas

All got watered in by my fine young assistant with the hose, so we went off with fingers crossed that there would be no frosts for the rest of this Spring.

At home, we re-potted the Chillis before moving them into the greenhouse and planted some Cucumbers (Masterpiece & Bush Champion F)1 and Courgettes (Ambassador F1 & Jemmer F1). I gave them a good dowsing with water and shut the greenhouse door hoping that it wouldn’t be too hot & sunny either, so they’d have a fighting chance.

Chillis

Chillis

So after a lovely holiday I got back all anxious over my plants as there had been conflicting weather reports for back home, depending on which TV/internet weather channel you used. Some said they’d be a hard frost and others said there’d been none at all, so it wasn’t until we got back that I could find out how they’d faired.

The only ones that looked a bit ropey was the Sweetcorn at the allotment, so we’ve planted some more at the same time as our Borlotti Beans and Blue Lake French Beans.

Beans & Sweetcorn the Sequel

Beans & Sweetcorn the Sequel

At home someone had been eating the Giant Sunflowers, so I moved them to a different part of the garden, after re-potting them.

Sunflower Meal

Sunflower Meal

The Courgettes and Cucumbers had come through nicely and as we’d got room, I started some Squash – a couple each of Autumn Crown F1; Winter Waltham Butternut & Gold Nuggett. Here’s hoping they come through like the Courgettes.

Some of the Courgettes & Squash settled in nicely

Some of the Courgettes & Squash settled in nicely

 



Button Moon Inspired Gardening
03/04/2014, 11:15 pm
Filed under: Basil,Rosemary,Sage

That title says it all if you are of a certain age lol.

Today I needed to re-pot some of the herbs I’ve managed to grow from seed so they could live in our kitchen. So that they could be easily accessible (really, who is going to go traipsing out in the dark on rainy days or if you’re rushed and got an obstacle course of a Border Collie & a toddler???); moveable for cleaning purposes (bearing in mind I am clumsy and pots like to jump out of my hands when being transported); and if possible reuse something, I turned to an idea I saw on the internet of using 4 pint plastic milk containers. [BTW I had been looking on the internet for ideas for building fences out of pop bottles, so they could act like a glass fence as well as a wind break and plot barrier, but gave up on that when I realised 1) I had nowhere to store the huge amount of bottles needed without J having an understandable meltdown and 2) it would take ages to collect enough, bearing in mind we don’t drink pop very often anymore.]

So on with the photo tutorial

Use empty 4 pint plastic milk containers. Make sure you clean them as you don’t want a bad milk smell in your house! I used a normal pair of scissors to cut through the top and cut down the non-handles sides to the 2 pint mark. Trim so there are no sharp or jagged edges.

Make the drainage holes. Either by the Blue Peter method of plasticine and a sharp object, or in my case a parasol hole and a screwdriver (taking care to only make holes in the plastic).

Part-fill with soil/compost

Make sure you fill the back prior to potting your plant, as you won’t be able to get your compost or hand round afterwards.

Mark up your plants. I tried a china graph pencil, but I’m not sure J would see it, so left the craft foam tags in each pot. Don’t forget to place your pots on something. We’re using two plastic trays mini malt loaf cakes came as they fit 2 milk containers in perfectly.

 



When life gives you a flat tyre…..grow potatoes!

My car has been having a bit of a strop recently, including a slow puncture, which resulted in getting a lovely local tyre company come out and having to change the tyre. E loved it – well he would, as anything mechanical is fab at the moment. For me, the best bit was being cheeky and asking to keep the tyre to use at the allotment to grow Potatoes in and being given 3 tyres. As I explained to J, as he helped take them to the plot, the tyres will be good as when the Potato plants start growing and need covering up, I can just put another tyre on top and add more soil. Much better and would last longer than the potato bags that literally disintegrated in one season.

Tyre placement

Tyre placement

Potato placement

Potato placement

Ready to grow

Ready to grow

 

 

After taking E to the recycling centre on Thursday to fill up bags with free soil improver (not that he noticed, as he was too excited waving at all the bin men in their trucks coming into the depot) the whole clan went to the plot yesterday to spend a lovely day weeding beds and planting seed Potatoes (which one of our lovely friends had left over and kindly gave us) in the tyres.

Sunbathing & Weeding

Sunbathing & Weeding

Seeds sown

Seeds sown

 

We also ended up planting some Radish, Parsnip and Turnip seeds directly in one of the beds and having to removing Raspberry shoots that had popped up at the base of the raised bed they’re planted in – I honestly didn’t know they’d send shoots down instead of just along, so I had to cut them out and plant them in the raised bed to fill where we’d had a few canes die off.

I was also quite surprised by the stumps of the red cabbages we left in over the winter growing so much. Looks like we’ve got a glut of Spring Greens this year :)

Good going Greens

Good going Greens

I’ve now got to rearrange this year’s plot plan as all the Broad Bean plants have come through the winter. I had been warned that only a low percentage survive if planted outside in the Autumn, so I‘d planned on the basis of most or all being wiped out, but my little seeds defiantly beat the odds to all grow, so I spent the time that J & E went to buy my Mother’s Day present (a snazzy set of screwdrivers I’d asked for btw) putting up canes and attaching the plants to them.

Weathered Beans

Weathered Beans

I now have the lovely dilemma of where to put some of the other plants that are going great guns in the greenhouse and on the windowsills of the house.

Talking of which we spent time out in the garden today, J giving the lawn its first cut of the year, E playing & generally helping J & myself, B sunbathing and myself repotting the Sweetcorn (and rehoming them in the greenhouse), trimming back trees etc and weeding the lawn. A fantastic way to spend Mothers’ Day. I guess the family that gardens together……. ;)



Toms, Toilet Rolls & Tickling
16/02/2014, 2:53 pm
Filed under: Broad Beans,Sweetcorn,Tomatoes

 

We’ve been making the most of the lovely warm, dry weather by being in the garden today. Our Tomato seeds have all come through and before their roots got too long and entangled, we set about potting them on.

Toms sprouting

Toms sprouting

 

Much to J’s annoyance, I’ve been collecting the empty toilet rolls for a while so I could fold part of them over to make a base and make them into little pots. They aren’t very stable just folding them (but they’re less likely to collapse when they need planting) so having them close to each other and standing them inside a recycled biscuit box helps to keep them upright. It’s also watertight so I can put it on our windowsill inside without worrying. I don’t think my family members realise how useful a little Christmas present of a box of biscuits is!

Potting on toms

Potting on toms

 

We also potted on E’s Broad Bean experiments, which he now reckons look like dinosaur plants. Let’s hope they grow big for him!

Dinosaur plant

Dinosaur plants

 

As we’d re-potted so quickly (and we weren’t cold) we planted some Sweetcorn seeds. I’ve found Sweetcorn seems to like our allotment, so this year I’m planning on growing more plants and for the first time I’ll be trying to grow normal sized Early Extra Sweet F1 as well as Minipop. E loves Sweetcorn of all types and really likes planting (AKA tickling) the seeds, as they are a larger size and his little thumb is the perfect size to use as a dibber for them.

Tickling Sweetcorn seeds

Tickling Sweetcorn seeds

All done

All done

 

 



Starters orders
04/02/2014, 5:33 pm
Filed under: Basil,Broad Beans,Chillies,Lettuce,Rosemary,Sage,Tomatoes

 

January/February are hard times to garden with a toddler. Going up to the allotment means getting cold, squashing the air out of the mud up there and trying to get him back in the car, whilst removing muddy layers and wellies. Not easy on your ears or anything else. Add to it a toddler who’s got a cold and it’s a nightmare. So this year I’m seriously thinking I might try the ‘no-dig’ method.

So yesterday I started our gardening for the year – inside. I decided to give the old primary school method of growing Broad Beans a try, so that E could watch them grow and know what the seeds he ‘tickles’ get up to before they appear above ground. So out came some glass jars and (because we don’t have any sugar paper in the house) some dampened kitchen roll and voila – the perfect way for E to grow some of the Broad Bean Aquadulce seeds we had left! Already after less than one day two of the seeds had ‘split their coats’ as E told Grandma, so here’s hoping they keep him updated with news on a daily basis, or else they’ll get one of his stern talks.

Old School

Old School

With my back feeling OK today and the weather being nice, we decided to start some other seeds off today as well. The fact J & I had watched a programme on TV last night pointing out Tomatoes should be started in February, just added to my enthusiasm to get cracking. So, after taking E to a singing & reading session this morning, I found myself in the local DIY store to buy some compost (as none of mine is ready) with E leading the way. We were quite in luck as the compost was knocked down to a third of its price & meant I could buy it and a triple pack of men’s gardening gloves for J, which were also in the sale. He’s been moaning for ages that he needed some new gauntlets for pruning, after losing one of the pair, so it’ll make his day.

E helped to fill the pots,

Pots at the ready

Pots at the ready

‘tickle’ the seeds in,

Tickling

Tickling

write & put craft foam markers in and cover them over,

Covered & Tagged

Covered & Tagged

before giving them a really good watering in.

Watered

Watered

As you might make out from some of the photos, we planted Basil, Sage, Rosemary, Little Gem Lettuce (all ‘green stuff’ according to E in his explanation to Grandma) in pots and Jalapenos Chillies & Tomatoes (both Black Cherry & Alicante) in trays. All of which are now nicely warm on the windowsill.

Cosy

Cosy

 



Nothing going on….
27/01/2014, 4:59 pm
Filed under: Broad Beans,Rose

Despite the howling winds and freezing cold weather, the rose in the garden is still in bloom.

Blooming Heck!

Blooming Heck!

It almost seems like a little bit of nature giving me hope that things will get better, as I’ve fell and hurt all my hands and bruised my right-hand side – just after getting the signing off from the physio for my slipped disc.

We haven’t been up to the allotment recently, as not a lot can be done with the claggy soil and the council are cutting down some of the trees up there, so warned us not to do any work in January as it might be lost. Fingers crossed that having a middle plot will save the veg that are still up there and the planted Broad Beans under the fleece, eh?



Deck the halls with muddy boots
24/12/2013, 2:26 pm
Filed under: Carrot,Leeks,Parsnips,Raspberries

I took E up to the allotment today after popping into town to pick up some soap flakes to make his day tomorrow (as according to E, it always snows on Christmas Day). We went to pick up the Carrots for Santa’s reindeer and the Parsnips & Leeks for Christmas dinner. E was in charge of pulling the Carrots (and replanting any tiny ones that came up by accident)

 

Cushy job Carrots

Cushy job Carrots

 

 

whilst I was told to dig up the Leeks and Parsnips, as they were in a very claggy part of the plot – management material already m’fears.

 

Muddy Parsnips and that's after a clean up!

Muddy Parsnips and that’s after a clean up!

 

We were both surprised to see one of the Raspberry stems sending out a shoot at this time of year, even though we shouldn’t have been as the summer rose and magnolia bush at home are flowering.

 

Wrong season Raspberry

Wrong season Raspberry

 

Anyhow, we hope you all have a Merry Christmas and have a wonderful New Year to come.