Wednesday 30 January 2008

Blogging Buddies

If you know me then you'll know I like to keep myself to myself - I'm not usually the sort to go round introducing myself or leaving comments on other people's websites. But this blog is nearly a year old now and it's high time it had more than three readers (even three may be a little optimistic I think!). So I've been on a mission this week to get myself noticed a bit more, by e-introducing myself to some other veg-growing bloggers, and begging and scrounging for mutual links left right and centre.
So if you're reading this, please also take a look at some of my new-found blogging friends, especially Gnome (who said some very nice things about my pictures here), Pumpkin Soup (a lovely neat, organised and efficient blog the likes of which I can only aspire to) and Hedgewizard (what a hilarious and engaging writer - be sure to read the unfortunate story of his pond, Jan 24th!). The links are all over there on the right, and the list will continue to grow I hope!

My 'blogging' new year resolution is to post little and often, so they will be more focussed and not so daunting to sit down and write! Hopefully it'll make labelling easier too; no point tagging every post with "digging, weeds, slugs, potatoes, beans, rain, compost, lettuce, courgettes, sweetcorn, asparagus..." - you get the idea!

So that's your lot for today. Except for this picture of a rather strange sunflower which I never got round to posting last year. Siamese sunflowers, anyone? This plant (which was supposed to be a "tall single") produced several 'conjoined' heads like this!

Tuesday 29 January 2008

Looking back

I just thought I'd recap with a list of what we grew last year, what worked, and what didn't, for the record. Here goes...

ONIONS - from sets, a good crop.
RED ONIONS - from seeds- did not work; very low germination rate and lost the seedlings among the weeds!
SPRING ONIONS - zero germination. What did I do wrong?!
CARROTS - got lost among the weeds too and did not grow well at all - too small to bother eating.
PARSNIPS - very low germination but a few grew well. Lost them because I forgot to mark the row, but I may find them yet!
ASPARAGUS - no harvest first year, eagerly awaiting this spring!
STRAWBERRIES - a mediocre but delicious harvest, quite a lot of slug damage.
POTATOES - did very well; more potatoes than we can eat! A little scab, but nothing to worry about.
RUNNER BEANS - did very well, couldn't eat them fast enough!
BORLOTTO BEANS - couldn't compete with the weeds (I've got a climbing variety this year which might do better) - only ended up with three pods!
FRENCH BEANS - ('Delinel') struggled against the weeds a bit too but did well - very productive.
DRYING BEANS - ('Canadian Wonder') mediocre crop, all infested with bean weevils!
SUGARSNAP PEAS - needed better support; mediocre crop but delicious!
MANGETOUT PEAS - needed better support; mediocre crop and some pea moth caterpillar damage.
SWEETCORN - one mini cob on a six-inch high plant! Couldn't have expected much better though considering how late I planted them!
SALAD GREENS - little gems and 'mixed lettuce' did well despite being rather crowded. Rocket went straight to flower before I could pick any. Chard and perpetual spinach did ok, though also too crowded. Watercress, landcress, corn salad, iceberg lettuce and lollo rossa did almost nothing. Perhaps I shouldn't have sown them all directly outside, but all that transplanting can be such a faff... Will try watercress in a washing-up bowl this year to keep it wetter. Nasturtiums were fabulous!
BEETROOTS - got some leaf for salads but the roots were rather small.
TOMATOES - blighted from the moment I planted them out. No crop.
CUCUMBERS - planted late and grew VERY slowly - one gherkin-sized cucumber!
RADISHES - could have had a good crop if I'd had the guts to taste them! Slightly slug-nibbled.
COURGETTES - (yellow and green) really good crop.
PUMPKIN - only got one pumpkin for our efforts but still well worth it!
CABBAGE - slugs ate the lot.
BROCCOLI and CALABRESE - slugs ate the lot!
KALE - greedy slugs!!
SWEDES - didn't really grow; we got plenty of leaf but the roots are tiny. I've heard everyone has that problem on our site - I wonder why...
TURNIPS - slug-damaged but a fairly good crop.
LEEKS - slow to grow, but doing well. Only a few 'cause the cats kept digging in the seedlings...

Biggest successes: onions, potatoes, courgettes, french beans and runner beans, sugarsnap peas, salads.
Biggest failures: Tomatoes and cucumbers, all the cabbage family, carrots, sweetcorn.

Thursday 24 January 2008


Sorry I've been quiet over the winter but hey - the allotment has too. Here's a quick recap of the few things you've missed.

I did plant a whole load of winter/spring cabbages, kale and calabrese (broccoli), but the slugs got them all despite my best efforts! I managed a small patch of turnips, which we're harvesting now, but they are a bit slug-nibbled too. I need a better strategy this year...

Our row of leeks are still developing nicely. I should have marked the parsnip row, because the leaves have all died and now I can't find them! Whoops.

We harvested the onions in September and stored them in string bags in the kitchen - we're still using them now, though I think ideally they should be somewhere colder, as some of them are starting to grow!

I need to find a better storage solution for our potatoes too, which we are still eating. I kept them inside the house in boxes but they're sprouting much too soon. I'm afraid the mice will get them if I put them outside... Suggestions welcome!

We picked our pumpkin in October - a fine specimen! Yes, just the one, but it fed us for about two weeks! We had pumpkin and potato stew, lovely pumpkin and rosemary pasta, and 'lantern soup' which has pumpkin, sweet potatoes and haricot beans. I wanted to try a recipe for pumpkin gnocchi too, but didn't have the time.

We dried our 'Canadian Wonder' kidney beans, and a handful of borlotto. The harvest wasn't great for either because of the rather large bramble that came up in the middle of the patch, so we only got a jarful, but I wanted to see the experiment through anyway. However, I checked on them after a couple of months to find THIS!

Blasted bean weevils ruined the whole lot! (Then suffocated slowly to death in the closed jar - haha!) I'm not sure if it's worth trying dried beans again. My only hope is that a different variety might be less attractive to them - they went for the red ones but not the borlotto...

It's January now and I'm planning for the year ahead, having learned plenty already from experience over the last ten months! I'm glad I can get an earlier start this year, and I'll be writing all about it again from now on.

For now I'll leave you with a couple more pictures from last year:

A sleepy bumblebee hiding in one of our sunflowers in late September.

And the one and only truss of tomatoes that grew on our blight-infested crop. They're 'red pear', hence the shape. Sadly though, they never turned red!

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