Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Plot inspired dinners

Yesterday I had quite a haul from the allotment.  A large Ram's Kodu Squash, a golf ball sized turnip and about 100g kale. I was so proud of my allotment's contribution, I showed my hubbie what I'd grown and brought home for our dinner.

So last night's supper was chopped up fried sausage, chopped squash, onions, tomatoes fried together for about 20 minutes.  I added kale cut into small strips in the last 5 minutes.  I also added some left over tomato salad dressing as the sauce and some chillie flakes (from home grown chillies that I grow on our bathroom windowsill) and just before serving I add turnip peelings - as an alternative to pasta.  I just stirred through so it soaked up the sauce for about 30 seconds and then served.

Turnip peelings sounds like a waste product but it really isn't.  It's one of the most yummy things you can do with turnip!  First peel away the top layer of your turnip in the usual way and disgard this bit (I feed this bit to my rabbits).  Once it looks all white carry on peeling your turnip but save these peelings to eat yourself.  It's great in salads or in the fried veg dish I cooked last night.

Today, Sam and I went back to the allotment at lunch time.  I got a bit of childish excitement wondering what I'll be going home with today.  I'm a bit short on veg this week as we haven't bought veg for the last few weeks due to lack of planning with our shopping.  So today's haul has been enough salad potatoes to make a potato salad - I'll make home made mayo to go with this.  Also, as I cut back the rat tail radish bush an envelope's worth of rat tail radish for tonight's salad.

I've noticed I'm starting to plan what I'll cook next based on what I'm likely to be able to raid from the allotment and the home veg patch!

Friday, 25 July 2014

Seed sowing in July/August

Last week, I took a day off work to clear the soil on the new side of the plot.  I had some help from a great friend who dilligently sieved the soil.  It is now perfect to sow some seeds. 

Whilst at Hampton Court Flower Show a few weeks back Alys Fowler's advice was that now is the time to grow oriental veg.  So I went through all my seeds looking for the orientals and anything that can be sown now for Sam (my new fellow allotmenteer) to grow.

I gave her a full assortment of everything we could possibly sow right now in my possession. 

Here's a picture of the full selection she chose: turnips, white radish, rocket, beetroot, salad leaves (now that we've passed mid summer the hope is that these will not bolt) and mizuna.  I think we're pushing the sowing window for turnips and beetroot but we'll see. You never know - autum might be mild.  I would also like to get some kohl Rabi and some Kai Laan in the ground before it's too late - I love the sweets stalks of Kai Laan!

When I sow seeds on the plot I also do a second sowing at home in modules just in case the pests eat the emerging seedlings.  On the plot the battle is with slugs, lots of birds, mice, squirrels.  Some allotmenteers have had what looks like badgers dig up their potatoes.  I always garden organically and I've often found when sowing seeds I often don't see them emerge so now I sow things in modules at home, make sure that the main stem is sturdy and then plant on site. 

On the new section, I've also been populating it with seedlings I had ready for growing: leeks, quinoa, chard and orache.  I've also moved some globe artichokes to the plot as once they are established this will be a much better site for them than my cooler home garden.

From my side of the plot we have quite a few things cropping: last of the broadbeans, chard by the bucket load (Fiona, these are the seeds you gave me for Christmas - thank you!), kale and radish pods.

The sweetcorn and squash plants are growing well so a bit more comfrey feed and I think we'll be eating summer squashes soon. Although a pest does like chopping the sweetcorn down so we may not get to eat corn on the cob, but we'll see.  

Please, any suggestions you have with dealing with the pests organically would be very much appreciated.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

My visit to RHS Hampton Court Show

Last Sunday I trekked down to London for the RHS Hampton Court Show.

It was really interesting to see the variety of gardens on display this year. There was a clear theme of meadow gardens. Perhaps that's the brief the RHS set for the competitors. The garden that had this most down to a tee for me was the Jordan's garden which not only featured the meadow flowers mixed with tall grass in seed but also the grains that go into their boxes of cereals. This is a great message and something that is brilliant to educate children/adults with - just after the garden display there were complementary pots of cereal with a dollop of yoghurt - not only beautiful but educational too. See your food growing then eating it!

Other gardens I really liked was The Flintknappers Cottage - A story of Thetford.  It featured flint and products from the area such as hops and other useful plants.

For me, my top favourite garden was this one, pictured here with the recycled metal drums used as plant containers and metal artwork.  There were productive plants like nasturtiums and beans to name but a few.  There was a guy playing a guitar (I think there were several guys who had guitar shifts!).  The garden was called A Space to Connect and Grow.

After the show, you couldn't buy the plants from this space as they were going to dismantal it and set it up in Peterborough at a youth group (by the cathedral I believe if you ever want to track it down).

It wasn't just the edibles in the display that I loved but the thing that was so brilliant for me was the use of the recycled rusty old oil drums with a new life as a plant container.   Brilliant!

This year I didn't find so many gardens that combined veg, herbs, edible ornamentals and pretty ornamentals.  These are my favourites - I love productive gardens. So I was disappointed not to see these.  I would have also liked to see garden displays that would be achievable in a city garden making good use of space with edibles and ornamentals mixed through.  Something I hope they touch on in future years is the use of recycling water such as combining water catchment with clever designs and maybe renewable energy.

Friday, 4 July 2014

Teddy Bear Garland

I made these for my newest niece (just a few months old) but I think my 2 year old niece liked them the most!

Baby Brogues

Here's the latest gift I learnt to make, these were for a colleague who is expecting twin girls.  I've made a few since.  Everyone seems to be having babies!

The Work Allotment has just got BIGGER!

For the last year, I've been sharing half a plot with a neighbour who shall we say last summer was a fair weather gardener.

When I first took on the plot, I would have preferred a whole one but the soil was so rich and it was a very sheltered sun trap that I thought half an exceedingly good plot was better than a whole really bad plot.  I had to remove the weeds which was a lot of hard work, but now I have a really lovely half plot where I am trying to grow the 3 sisters combo of sweet corn, french beans and squash.  I also have strawberries, rat tail radishes (for radish pods), broad beans, abundant chard and kale.  It's all going great but whilst I've been doing all that hard work on my side, my neighbour hasn't been to tend their side since last summer.

I was biding my time till there was no more work to do and then I was going to ask if she was ever coming back and if I could take it over.

This week a colleague needed a break from the office and asked if she could come along with me to my allotment for lunch break.  She loved the allotments so much that she was really enthused and wanted to grow veg, but she hasn't grown it before.

That gave me the push to actually find out if the neighbour was coming back and the good news is she'd abandoned it.  I just wish I'd asked the question sooner!  My colleague will garden my plot with me and I'll share all my growing knowledge with her as we work the plot.  It'll bring back my Master Gardener days with Garden Organic, when I was a South London Master Gardener.

So far I've lent her my veg patch book with post it notes on all the pages of veg we can plant in September.  We've still got half a plot of weeds to dig out but I'm sure it'll be easier this time sharing the hard work.