Allotment Journal: Weekly update

After a few weeks of summer rain the sunshine has finally returned. However, the mornings and evenings are becoming much, much cooler and daylight hours are dwindling, meaning this years growing season is starting to come an end.  Saying that, we still have a number of crops on the go. These include

The Borlotti beans..

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Although they’re looking rather tragic (the wig-wams are crudely propped up with bamboo canes and the foliage is beginning to die back), lovely plump beans have formed inside the brightly coloured pods. We plan to let these exquisite beans dry naturally on the plant so they can be stored for winter use. Ideally the pod should shrivel and turn an unsightly shade of pale beige! At this stage the pod is ready to harvest.

However, if there’s the risk of frost, all pods should be harvested immediately, shrivelled or not… simply pick and dry out at home.  I’m going to keep a close eye on the weather. Me and these beans have already been through quite a lot, and I don’t want to lose this crop at the final hurdle. Currently we are enjoying a spell of warm sunny weather, but as we all know, the English weather has a tendency to suddenly turn.

Pears….

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This variety of pear is Doyenne du Comice and is typically ready to harvest at the end of September. However, this summer because we have enjoyed a long spell of warm weather, enabling harvesting to be brought forward by a couple of weeks.

This dwarf pear tree has produced an outstanding crop of large pears. We are so pleased because last year we didn’t harvest a single pear, they all dropped from the tree during the ‘June drop’.  One branch is so heavily laden with fruit it’s touching the ground. So I decided to pick a few pears to ripen at home. I’ll leave the rest to ripen naturally.

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On plot one, there is a blackthorn tree growing in the hedgerow on the perimeter of the site. It’s large and its branches overhang our plot. We have chosen to leave these overhanging branches for two reasons. Firstly, it provides a much needed canopy that shades us from the scorching summer sun and it also provides cover when it rains. And secondly, it produces the most incredible bitter blue-black fruit, the sloe berry.

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These berries are usually ready to pick in the autumn after the first frosts but they have come early this year. A combination of warm weather followed by a huge douching of rain has led to a bumper crop, that’s ready now. Below are the berries I picked this week. They’ve gone straight into the freezer until we’re ready to use them.

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These berries aren’t typically eaten in pies or puddings because they are so astringent but they are used to make the most delicious liqueurs, such as sloe gin or sloe vodka, or as I did last year, sloe jelly, which was served at the Christmas lunch.

To make the liqueur, prick the fruit, add some sugar and pour over gin or vodka. Store in a dark cool place, gently shake the bottle or container daily for about two months, or longer. This is a true winter warmer, ideally placed in a hip flask and sipped whilst out on a lovely crisp, dry winters day walk. Heavenly!

Leeks…

We do a love a leek, so this year we are growing loads and we’re trying a number of different varieties, some of which will overwinter.

I have no idea what the variety of leek is below. They were kindly given to us by a fellow allotmenteer called Barry, we fondly call him ‘Barry Leeks’. We planted these leeks in mid-June under firm instructions from Barry to dig a trough….

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So a trough was dug…… Barry and I have a very different methods for growing leeks, and I have to say I won’t be digging trenches again. I found the trench aesthetically WRONG! Sorry Barry. And I’m not sure it’s going to produce a different product.

Anyway, fast forward three months and this is what they look like now! They are ready to dig up and eat as and when we need them.

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On plot two we planted our Bleu de Solaise and I snuck in a row of experimental Bulgarian Giant leeks.

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The Bulgarian giant leeks are tender so they won’t over winter terribly well, so we will dig those up in the autumn. However, the Bleu de Solaise are hardy and actually benefit from a good frost. These can be dug up through out the winter in to the spring.

Strawberries…

The strawberries are starting to flower and fruit again. I’m not sure how sweet these strawberries will be, but we may be able to use them to make jam.

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And the plants are also shooting out runners.

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These runners form new plants, but rather than allowing them to overrun the current strawberry bed, we place these runners in small pots of compost, whilst still attached to the parent plant. Once the runner plant has grown some new leaves this indicates the root system has established sufficiently for it to be detached it from it’s parent. At this stage the new plant is ready for transplanting to a new strawberry bed.

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These are some of the runners I have potted up.

And finally….

Back at home I’m slightly obsessed with saving seed..

Dill seeds

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The Cinnamon Basil is flowering and I plan to collect the seed

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Lavender seeds

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And the Magenta Mountain Orach.. it doesn’t taste too good but it certainly adds a splash of colour

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Posted in Allotment Journal

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