Wednesday, 28 September 2011


It is always the simple pleasures in life that mean the most,and now added to that list is eating home grown vegetables. It was a  few weeks ago that Fiona said to us that we should be eating the spinach as it was ready.

The way to pick the spinach is work your way down the row and take one or two outer leaves from each plant, by the time you have finished, you will have gathered quite a large bunch of glossy green spinach leaves, I work on the basis that you should have 8oz 225g per person.
If you pick spinach this way the plant won't suffer and will continue to grow, with fresh new leaves appearing from the centre.

We have been eating the spinach for a while now, which is no hardship for me as I love it, I cook the larger leaves and use the younger smaller leaves in a mixed green salad.

The Borecole is a different matter as I had never tried it before, so again when Fiona cast her expert eye over our allotment, she mentioned the the borecole was ready to pick, I explained my reluctance to do so, as stupid as it sounds the plant looks so lovely that I don't want to spoil it by harvesting the leaves.

It has to be done though and you treat the borecole like you would spinach and just cut the outer leaves leaving the inner leaves to keep producing, Fiona said that the flavour improves once there has been a frost, but with the gorgeous weather we've been having the last few days, that seems a long way off.

The good news is, I love borecole it was delicious, which is a relief as we have plenty of it, but the greatest pleasure is still, watching it grow.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Shed - Noun: A simple roofed structure used as a storage space or a workshop.

Although the delivery of the Shed was promised early afternoon, I knew with the certainty of any previously disappointed home delivery customer, that it would arrive considerably later that the agreed time. So when the driver rang me at 5.30 to say he was 30 minutes away I was not the least bit surprised. I gave him directions to the allotment and said we would see him there.  Our friend Ed had kindly offered to come and help us unload.

The Shed man was friendly and cheerful despite being on his own, and having to make 13 deliveries in one 
day (with us being the 13th.) before making the 2 ½ hour journey back to his depot.

Having delivered of us one shed I casually asked how long he thought it would take us to build, his response was “about an hour”.

Well he is either deluded, a liar or has a strange sense of humour because it's now 4 days later and we still haven't finished.

Following instructions is never easy, but once we'd identified the various sized battens we could make a start. Floor first, then frame with double door. Steve and Ed accomplished this the first night.
The next evening (it had to be evening as we both work) we put up the wall panels. All this takes time as neither of us are the handyman type and distinguishing what screw to use took up most of the time.

The next stage was the roof....unfortunately we had not done a thorough job of ticking off the inventory and therefore found we had no roof battens. Slightly stressed I went in search of spare wood. There was no need as there are allotment angels in the form of Fred and Janet.

Fred , it turns out is one of those people that can do just about everything, not only did he have wood of the correct dimensions he also had know-how !
So whilst Janet made us a cup of tea, Fred and Steve put the roof on. There were also a few gaps where the shed sides didn't quite meet, Fred was able to make them disappear with a hefty swipe from his mallet.

By the time the roof was secured and we'd put in the perspex window it was dark , so we left the felting of the roof for the next day and hoped it wouldn't rain overnight.

We spent the next day finishing off.
We decided to insulate (I use the term loosely), by lining the shed walls with left over bubble wrap, we have then lined the walls with Hessian, the effect is very pleasing, plus the shed smells lovely.

I already had a small camping stove, I think I may have bought it the week we got the allotment, and we have brought an old table and few chairs from home.
As we were building our shed.......I really should stop calling it that, because although I may use it for potting up, or storing a few garden tools, it has become apparent to us that we will use more to sit down and have a cup of tea in, and we are anticipating guests as it will take many 'cuppas' to repay Fred and Janet for all their help and kindness to us.

Monday, 12 September 2011

So far so good.

It's been about six weeks since we took over allotment 43a, and I am amazed how things change, and yes I know we are there to grow things but when you actually see how the vegetables evolve and develop it is truly a wonder how fast the process is, and I am sure I could see the difference from one day to the next.

The spindly donated cabbages have now become large healthy and robust, and their little hearts are almost full.

The January King cabbage, has grown blue green leaves slightly ablush with purple, , the leaves are large, in my mind preparing to protect it from the worst of the winter weather, where not even a severe frost can harm it.

We have already eaten some of the spinach, grazing from the outer larger leaves ,leaving the inner leaves to continue to grow,and produce a new crop.

The Beetroot looks on the face of it to be thriving obviously, we don't know what’s going on underneath but the tops look nice and we have harvested some of the smaller leaves to add to a salad.

The Black Tuscany Kale and Borecole look healthy enough, but in all honesty I don't know what they are meant to look like, and as I've never had Kale I'm not even sure that I like it.

The Leeks that we have grown in clumps, so far,appears to be more successful that the traditionally planted ones, but time will tell, and the lettuce are so good that I wish we planted more.

Today we have planted Winter peas and Purple Sprouting Broccoli, we also succumbed to an offer we couldn’t refuse, Quince bushes at £3 each from our local garden centre, flourishing specimens already with fruit on.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Duck Day Afternoon.

The torrential rain forced us to have a reluctant day off from the allotment, but there is always plenty to do at home.

We have a garden which is always at it's best in Spring, although this year we have managed to keep colour going all summer long, it is definitely a shadow of it's former glory, so it is at this stage that we allow our ducks to have the freedom of the garden.

We have five ducks, a pair of Indian Runners, and three White Campbells. They have a large run and also have access to a 10 acre paddock behind our house, but there is nothing they like better than rummaging around the garden, and take great pleasure in foraging in the flower beds for slugs, and snails.

If they did this in the Spring I would not be pleased, but now with the decidedly autumnal weather I am happy to see them on their search and destroy mission.  Especially as they provide us with the most delicious eggs.

In 2009 the results of a study which cost over £300000.00 showed us that ducks like rain.
It took researchers three years to conclude that after being offered several alternative water supplies,
ducks preferred standing under a rain shower to a dip in a pond.

Anyone who keeps ducks could tell you this, their joy of rain is palpable, so instead of working on the allotment we stood in our kitchen watching our ducks revel in the rain.


Sunday, 4 September 2011

Pond's Progress.

Just when I thought my Birthday couldn’t get any better I got the best surprise ever.
A frog in our pond sitting there quite happily, surveying all around him.

Although we built the pond to attract Frogs I certainly didn't expect results so soon, so seeing him made me feel honoured that he had chosen our pond to inhabit I just hope he stays.

We tried to make the pond as attractive as possible to Frogs, they are secretive animals so we have planted perennial plants which hopefully will make them feel safe and secure.

We looked at providing four basic needs, shelter. moisture, food and a place to breed.

We have placed logs and old sleepers around the edges, and also partially buried a five inch diameter drain pipe so there are plenty of damp hiding places.

As for the food, frogs eat moths, snails, flies and beetles, we have these in abundance on our plot, also when the water is balanced or dechlorinated there will be water beetles, pond skaters and we already have resident water boatmen.

Frogs like shaded and plant filled ponds. The pond is shaded by the neighbours apple tree and as soon as we filled the pond we put in Floating Pennywort which is not only an oxygenating plant but is also evergreen and Elodea Canadensis which is oxygenating and not too invasive. We added some Duckweed from our own pond.

Hopefully we have the balance right and he or she will stay.