Posts Tagged ‘Perpetual Spinach’

Cracking cauliflower!

July 29, 2011
Caulflower grown on an allotment

Our cracking cauli!

In case you thought I was slipping and had forgotten to update the blog this week … you’d be right!  I really must mend my ways.

I’ll start with the bad news.  Sadly, the missing pea seeds, fork and gloves have failed to turn up.  Clearly another one of life’s little mysteries!  However all three have now been replaced, so it must only be a matter of time before they’re found.

We had a busy morning on the allotment on Saturday.  David was on tying up duties.  It’s a job I hate, but he is an excellent ‘tyer-upper’.  On the other hand, he’ll find a multitude of urgent tasks to avoid weeding, while I’ll happily weed away for hours.  It makes for a good division of labour.

Marian Swede grown on an allotment

The swede are doing nicely

Apart from David restraining the raspberries and sundry other plants and my weeding mission, there’s not a lot to report on the allotment at the moment.  Weeding and picking are the order of the day. But so far, it’s all doing rather better this year than it did in 2010.

The perpetual spinach is amazing as always, and our haul of just over 3kg in one picking was an all-time record.  Our biggest success this week was our first cauliflower though, and it was pretty good – even if I do say so myself.

I continue to be impressed by our onions grown from sets.  The chicken poo pellets certainly worked, along with the weekly feed of ‘worm wine’ or ‘comfrey cordial’.  They are certainly our biggest onion success so far.

Bolthardy beetroot from the allotment

Baby beets!

The potatoes continue to torment me! Growing things underground is incredibly exciting … you just never know what’s there.  I feel like a kid at Christmas who isn’t allowed to peep at the presents under the tree.

The potatoes have just started to die back, so I know it’s too soon to dig them up.  Added to which, our 8 seed potatoes (we don’t really eat potatoes, so they’re a token crop) were planted by our 2 year old granddaughter at the end of February.  And in about three weeks time our little treasure is coming to stay for a couple of days and is on a promise … she will get to dig up ‘her’ potatoes.

So, if I don’t blog next week, don’t be surprised to find I’ve died of curiosity fighting the Maris Piper temptation.  Of course, perhaps I could just dig up one.  She’d never know … she’s not old enough to count … just one … pleeeease …


Mr Neat & Mr Tidy’s Allotment

June 28, 2011

With hot weather forecast, we were up at our Chipping Norton allotment at 8am on Saturday.  Our uncertain weather conditions meant we were hoping the fog and drizzle would pass, and it certainly did.  By 10am it was sweltering!

David was on strimming duty this week.  The edges of the plot were in dire need of a hair cut.  My mission, as usual for this time of the year, involved the ongoing battle of the weeds.  By the time we went home, our allotment was pristine and did indeed look like an example from a Mr Men storybook.

mange tout

First mange tout of the season

I love this time of year on the allotment.  On the other hand, I don’t enjoy this time of year in the kitchen.  When we’re almost ready to start reaping the benefits, I begrudge having to buy vegetables.  However, soon we will soon be in full production, and this week saw the first of the mange tout arrive on the table.

We are more measured with mange tout sowings than we were before.  Having discovered they are pretty horrible frozen and getting heartily sick of them for breakfast, dinner and tea, we now have successive sowings throughout the season.  Reuzensuiker mange tout are prolific croppers!

Young calabrese

Baby calabrese

Our biggest highlight this weekend was the discovery of baby calabrese heads.  We are not good at calabrese!  They generally get to the size of ping-pong balls and start to go to seed.  Of course we’ve experienced this excitement before (several times), but never fail to be filled with optimism at this time of year.  If you are a calabrese guru, please leave a comment if you have any idea what we might be doing wrong!

The first Bunyard Exhibition broad beans and Onward peas are expected to deliver next weekend, and our Greyhound cabbage are forming hearts.  The perpetual spinach is growing like mad, and we have more lettuce than two people and dog can manage.  And of course, the dog of course isn’t big on salad anyway!  So in a couple of weeks I’m expecting to be allotment and kitchen happy.

Don’t forget the calabrese advice – we badly need it.

A well-rotted weekend!

June 13, 2011

We have a system for compost!  Actually we have a system for a lot of things, but that’s what happens when you have a David.

Compost, or ‘compo’ as our 2 year old granddaughter calls it (she is an aficionado of Mr Bloom’s Nursery on CBeebies), is vital to our allotment.  I don’t actually know if Mr Bloom refers to it as ‘compo’, never having watched his programme, but if it gets her interested in growing her own veggies, I’m not going to split hairs.

So to the compost system … our allotment started life with 2 compost bins.  One evolved into the shed four years ago.  One compost bin was never going to be enough, so the single compost bin was divided in two.  Are you with me so far?

But two compost bins were still not enough.  We needed a third to allow the compost to rot down properly.  Of course we could have speeded the process up by turning it or using an accelerator, but turning it was difficult in the limited space, and we wanted it to ‘bake’ naturally.

Compost bin using tote bag

Tote bag recycling for compost

Compost bin 3 or the ‘compote bin’, was created from one of those handy tote bags used by builders merchants for ballast and sand etc.  David made a wooden frame (took him about ½ hour) from some old pallets and secured the tote bag to it.  Viola!  Compost bin 3.  That little invention actually got us the ‘letter of the month’ in a Grow It magazine!  The prize of some dome-shaped cloches was appreciated by the local primary school’s gardening club.

Turning the compost in a tote bag is challenging, so the system was born.  Each year we fill up bin number 3 – the tote bag.  The following summer, the contents of bin 2 are moved to bin 1.  And the contents of bin 3 are moved to bin 2.

These Herculean efforts ensure well rotted compost to enrich the soil each year.  We never have enough compost, despite collecting compostables from the neighbours in return for our glut veg, but there isn’t much we can do about that.  We produce a lot of vegetable waste from the kitchen, grass cuttings from the lawn, and copious amounts of shredded paper from the copywriting office.  Combined with the allotment waste, we fill the bin to the top each year (before it rots, that is).

Home made compost bin

The compost bin and shed evolution

It’s not that complicated really, but it does take effort.  Last Saturday was ‘compo’ moving day, and we weren’t relishing the thought! The reality is of course, it doesn’t take a lot of time.  The sun was shining and we couldn’t have had a better day for it!

We had a shopping trip to fit in on Saturday, so our time up on the allotment was limited.  But the rest of the leeks are now in the ground, some weeds were removed and we returned home pleased with our efforts – just before it rained!

The highlight of the week, ‘compo’ apart, was the first harvest of our perpetual spinach.  It is faring much better this year, having been planted straight in the ground.  The first picking yielded two big bags of luscious greens.  The drought, and our subsequent watering, means our brassica plants are looking better than ever before.  We’re looking forward to some even bigger and better harvests.

Peas, paraffin and planting

May 3, 2011
peas eaten by mice

What's left of the peas!

The pea attack culprits are definitely rodents!  No pigeon could possible get through our Fort Knox netting and we’ve lost about 60% of the 2nd lot of peas planted a fortnight ago.  They seem to take them when the sprouting pea is about an inch high and eat the pea seed from the bottom, discarding the rest.

So it was time to dig out the paraffin, give the replacement pea seeds a soak and get them in the ground.  This is meant to stop the mice (or bank voles possibly) eating the seeds, as they are not too partial to the taste of the paraffin.  I’ll let you know if it’s a success.  And if this doesn’t work, we’ll be back to growing them at home and transplanting.  So much for my labour and time saving plans!

Did I mention we had … RAIN?  Late in the afternoon of the Royal Wedding Day, the skies grew dark and we heard the rumble of thunder approaching.  Although heavy, it only lasted for an hour or so, but it clearly refreshed the allotment and we swear some of the plants had grown overnight!

Most of this weekend’s activity was given over to planting.  More beetroot and perpetual spinach were sown and the first wave of lettuce and brassicas are in the ground.

Back here at allotment central, more seeds were sown in modules and the tomato plants potted on.   The tomatoes  have now been promoted from the window ledges to the plant house.  With a frost expected this evening, we’ll have to remember to bed them down for the night.

Cosse Violette French Beans

Cosse Violette Purple French Beans

Having cleared the windows sills of the tomatoes, they are once again full up with plant pots!  This time it’s the Cosse Violette French beans which are being cosseted.

I’d never thought about growing French Beans until we had our allotment.  Even then, they were an impulse buy.  I was wandering round Lidl (great place to buy ground coffee for espresso!) and happened to spot them on a seed display.

The seeds were obviously not of British origin. The instructions on the packet clearly stated … not to be planted before May 10th!  Four years on  this still amuses us.  Is May 10th a significant day in the bean calendar?  What happens if we get a frost on May 11th?  Anything’s possible here in Chipping Norton.

We appear to have … a carrot!

June 9, 2010

This is clearly a case of copywriting cutbacks.  Two weeks of blogging being rolled into one.  Or is just a case of extreme tardiness?  Whatever the excuse, this is the tale of the past 2 weeks on the allotment Chezjoie and David!

Carrot seedling

A carrot!

Now this carrot … please don’t get excited … it’s only A carrot.  Just the one!  And it’s finally popped its head up after all those weeks of waiting.  On the downside, this isn’t one of the ‘Good Life’ carrots, but one of the conventionally sown seeds.  But it has given me fresh hope that perhaps soon, we might have a few more to boast about.  By the way, I hasten to add this picture is a close up and these are not huge great clods of soil!

Bandaged toes

Not the best for digging!

The Bank Holiday weekend gave us extra time to enjoy the allotment and the opportunity to get some much needed planting done.  Our first job was to strip last season’s Perpetual Spinach of its final offering and empty the beds ready for this year’s crop.  In our rotation system, roots follow brassica so these beds were destined for a good digging over.

The warm dry weather has meant the ground has become quite hard and even getting the fork in was challenging.  Digging in solid earth is difficult at the best of times, but since having some minor toe surgery 2 weeks ago, I’m confined to flip flops or open-toed sandals … not the best footwear for wielding a fork!

Swede plants

Swede progressing well

The weekend was tinged with sadness when I found, while digging out the spinach, a dead mole just sitting in the top of the soil.  I will admit to coming over all ‘girlie’ and upset, because I was sure I had caused his demise and stabbed him with the fork.  David kindly came to my rescue and removed him (or her).  He showed no signs of having been stabbed, much to my relief (the mole that is … not David!), but we did hear the ‘Rat Man’ had been putting down poison on the plots, so wonder if perhaps he was an unintended victim.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen a mole before … in real life anyway and he was really quite beautiful.  I know they’re pests and not the gardener’s best friend, but I couldn’t help but feel sad to think he’d spent his last hours hiding under the spinach.

A week on and we were back at the plot.  There is still no advance on A carrot in the original beds and I am close to admitting defeat.  On the other hand, the carrots sown conventionally a few weeks later seem to understand the rules of engagement and are sprouting nicely, thank you.

Alderman pea flower

Our first pea flower

We’ve reached quite a heady stage with the allotment now.  It is (or was a few days ago) almost weed-free, all seeds sown, all plantlets happily growing in their new beds … and we don’t have anything to do!  The spring greens (or early summer ones) are being harvested as we need them … the contents of the totebag compost bin has been transferred, and packed up nice and tight in one of the wooden bays, ready to mature until the autumn.

Well OK, the Cosse Violette French beans are scheduled for next weekend’s planting along with 2 more courgettes! But what to do with the spare time? Gluttons for punishment that we are, our thoughts are now turning to applying for Allotment Number 2!  Unlike most places, there is no waiting list for the William Fowler Allotments in Chipping Norton, so we wouldn’t be depriving anyone else.

But of course, if I can only find time to blog every two weeks, do we have time to recover another wilderness?  Will our hearts rule our heads or will reason and logic prevail?

Perpetual spinach and 5 ft peas

April 19, 2010

What a glorious weekend we had, and what better way than to spend a few hours of it up on the allotment.  Needless to say, the William Fowler Allotments were a hive of activity, with everyone busy on their plots and enjoying the sunshine.  It seems like only yesterday we were surveying the barren wastes of the snow-covered landscape!

Perpetual spinach

2009's Perpetual Spinach - still going strong!

The highlight of the weekend was picking the first of our perpetual spinach since November.  We discovered perpetual spinach quite by accident when we got a job lot of seeds from eBay in 2008.  I’d tried to grow ‘proper’ spinach in the past with no success, so was a bit dubious.  But to our delight, we found Perpetual spinach (leaf beet) is amazing stuff.  The baby leaves are delicious in salad and when bigger, the flavour of the cooked leaves is spectacular.  It is easy to grow and, unlike spinach, doesn’t bolt or need huge amounts of water.  What’s more, it has a productive lifespan of around a year!

This year’s perpetual spinach seedlings are currently growing in newspaper tubes in plant houses.  Although we’ve tried planting them straight in the ground, we’ve not had a lot of success.  Last year we planted them in modules, but they were incredibly delicate and hard to transplant.  So we’re back to our old tried

Newspaper plant modules

Homemade newspaper modules for PS

and tested newspaper method, and looking forward to getting them in the ground in the next couple of weeks.

If you’ve never grown ‘PS’ before, we can thoroughly recommend it!  Planted in early April, you can expect to pick the leaves from late May until early winter, when it goes into a dormant phase.  By the beginning of March it starts to grow again, and can be harvested until the end of May or beginning of June when it goes to seed.

Planting and sowing were on this weekend’s agenda.  With low night-time temperatures forecast this week, we’ve had to take a few precautions.  The swede seeds have been sown and watered, and covered with cloches for a bit of added protection.  The first beetroot are in, again covered with a cloche. Last year we lost everyone of our early beets, and were unsure if they’d been eaten by the birds or rotted in the ground.

Alderman peas

'Peatopia' for Alderman Peas

We grow our peas and mangetout at home in half pop bottles – a more manageable version of the guttering trick.  Despite being in the plant houses, many of the seeds failed, but it does get very cold here in Chipping Norton!  However, the survivors were planted out this weekend and we have some interesting ‘Peatopia’ structures gracing the beds.  As well as the ‘climbing frames’, we’ve taken the precaution of rigging up some net cages to protect the young pea plants this year.  The pigeons took a great fancy to them last spring, so we’re not taking any chances.

I’m easily seduced by seed catalogues and gardening books!  When I saw pictures last year of a little man picking peas from plants which were as tall as he was, I decided these were a ‘must have’.  So this year’s varieties are Alderman (5ft tall, if the seed packet can be believed) and Early Onward.

Meanwhile back at the ranch, there was much more sowing to be done.  The plant houses are back to full capacity again and the runner beans and sweetcorn are underway.  We’ve got more plants than usual this year, as we’ve grown extra to be donated to Team Attitude at Altitude’s charity fundraising plant sale on May 3rd.

I’m not sure we’ve got a lot to do next weekend on the allotment! But no doubt we’ll find  something to occupy us for a few hours, even if it’s just sitting on the ‘patio’ enjoying a cuppa and admiring the fruits of our labours.

8th August – Broad Beans Galore!

August 9, 2009
WORD-right's Broad Beans

WORD-right's Broad Beans

Saturday morning dawned bright and clear – ideal conditions for working on our allotment (William Fowler Allotment Trust, Chipping Norton).  We didn’t rush, it was a Saturday after all, and we finally arrived up at the plot about 9.30.  Much to our surprise, there were only two other people on our section … we had expected it to be ‘rush hour’! 

At last the weeds seem to be slowing down, even the rampant bindweed which seems intent on taking over the entire plot.  I work on the assumption that every time I yank some out … I’m winning the war!  But considering it hadn’t been weeded in a fortnight, it was remarkably under control. 

Ripened onion strings

Ripened onion strings

Saturday’s mission was to strim the paths and edges (David’s department!), while I dug up the remainder of the onions.  Last year, onions had been stolen from some allotments when they’d been left to ripen on the ground.   We decided not to take any chances, and so we take our onions home, where they cure nicely in the plant house. 

Most of Saturday’s efforts focussed on harvesting.  Always a very satisfying job!   We’ve been gradually taking some of our 2nd sowing of broad beans – Bunyard Exhibition – for a few weeks now.  But the remainder were just about all ripe for the picking.  With nearly 5kg in weight, there was a lot of podding and blanching to be done when we got home!  The freezer will soon be groaning under the weight of all our home grown veggies. 

As ever, the perpetual spinach was ready for its weekly ‘haircut’.  We’re picking around 1kg a week at the moment.  As it keeps well and is quite delicious, we don’t mind the glut, which is just as well as we’ve already had more than 6kg since the middle of June! 

Our Cosse Violette, a climbing French bean, is starting to produce a reasonable crop.  The deep purple beans turn green when cooked, which is a great shame – they are the most stunning colour when raw! 

Saturday was a red-letter day as we picked the very first of our runner beans.  We were late planting them and the weather hasn’t been kind, so these are probably a month behind last year’s crop.  Having grown Enorma last year, we opted for a different variety this year and went for Red Flame.  We were disappointed with the Enorma, although the growing conditions were far from ideal in 2008, which might account for it!  It’s early days, but the Red Flame plants are covered in flower and the first beans look beautiful.  We’re trying to work out the yield (and quality) we get from different varieties, and hope this will help us in future seasons. 

Although not on the allotment, time had to be allocated at home to planting.  This seems to be like a full-time occupation!  Because we want to make full use of the allotment, our goal is to grow a continuous supply of fresh vegetables.  This weekend’s planting consisted of spring greens, Durham Early cabbage and some Winter Density lettuce, which should all be ready in March or April.  We planted them in module trays and will transfer them up onto the allotment when they’re large enough to handle … and we can find some space! 

For the first time, we’re also having a go at growing some winter salad leaves: Winter Purslane, Lambs Lettuce, American Land Cress and Endive … to name but a few.  If anyone has any experience of these, I’d be delighted to have a few tips!

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