Midsummer allotment update

In the new clearing I planted out sprouting broccoli and some tomato plants which my dad had found growing wild on his allotment. Oh I also planted some cabbage seedlings my dad had going spare too.

You can see how big those rhubarb leaves are getting here.

Young tomato plants and sprouting brocolli plants next to a big rhubarb

In the smaller enclosure where my chard is growing strong (and peas didn’t) I planted my kale and brussel sprout seedlings. I also planted a butternut squash and some tomatoes.

Photo of young plants growing under netting

I put some courgettes and butternut squash into a little patch of not-very-well-dug-earth left by the last (attempted*) occupiers. *My plot is ‘half’ a full length plot, which was given up when the previous occupiers realised it was too much work to do the whole thing. There’s 3 of them splitting their plot, so I guess I’m doing well to have almost half my allocation in operation.

Courgette plants with baby cougettes on them

I managed to find a spot at the end of a potato row to plant out a couple of the kale plants earlier, and they’ve come on really well already. Proves that keeping the seedlings in the modules too long stifles their development. Since the potatoes aren’t fenced off I just made individual enclosures for these plants. Don’t laugh, you should see the state of the brassica’s my neighbours didn’t net up!

Two little kale plants in chicken wire enclosures

The beans have climbed right up their stalks in the 4/5 weeks since I pointed them out next to the new clearing. In the foreground here are Romano beans grown from my dad’s seed. I’ve grown up on these beans but it is hard to find them in the shops so I’m so glad to have my own source now. At the other end of the row are some runners which Gill gave me and some spinach plants in between them.

Tall green beans

In case you don’t think all the wonderful things I’ve harvested are motivation enough, I also get to enjoy this beautiful view from the entrance of the allotment.

View over the allotments and fields with electricity line running overhead

This is looking south-west over the countryside between us and Milton Keynes. The allotments run down the right-hand side of this path up to the electricity pilon. The little tank about half way down the path is where the water tap is.

First summer vegetable pickings

Although there is still a lot of work to do (largely because it is my first year), the early/middle summer time is rewarding because we’re starting to harvest the vegetables I’ve grown.

Here’s my first potato!

Freshly dug potato with plant still attached

Not that it is hard to grow potatoes: I found one plant growing in a bag of stones I’d cleared away when digging.

Potato plant growing in a bag of stones

We were already eating our potatoes but the most exciting moment came when we pulled up and cooked the beetroot. They’re an interesting tubular shape instead of the typical round ones.

DSC 0090

One of our favourite dinners, which Han originally drew my attention to in The Cranks Bible, is grilled beetroot and halloumi with steamed green beans. This every day dinner became quite the celebration the day we made it with our own beets. The dressing is balsamic vinegar, olive oil, roasted cumin seeds and a drop of tabasco, in case you want to try it yourself.

Our own green beans weren’t ready yet (a long way off) so these were shop bought, along with the halloumi (goat rearing and cheese making are even further away!).

Plate of beetroot, green beans and grilled cheese on a table

The next thing we harvested, and which kept on coming until December, was Swiss and Rainbow chard. I first discovered this vegetable thanks to the Hackney Growing Community‘s veg box we used to get. Here are my first pickings of leaves lying on the netting which is suspended over the plants to protect them from birds.

Rainbow chard leaves lying on green netting

One of the dishes I love to make with chard is this tart, from a recipe on Helen Graves’ food blog. That delicious looking crust is made from carrots and oats (see my comment for the amendment I make to use olive oil instead of butter).

Close up photo of a crusty tart

Weeding, clearing and the reason for fencing

There is still a LOT of work to do during the summer. Those little brassica seedlings I was growing on my windowsill at home are quickly outgrowing the modules and I need to clear some more ground to put them in.

The problem isn’t actually so much the clearing of the ground, but the fencing it off to protect it from the little animals who want to dig under the veg, and so that you have something to attach netting to, to prevent birds pecking at the plants from above. I learnt this was necessary from my allotment neighbours, and from my own observations, evidence shown later in this post.

I recruited North to help with the job of clearing an area which had become overgrown with weeds since we rotavated. I guess we didn’t spread the manure thick enough.

Here’s just some of the weeds we cleared: some piled up in the unused quarter of the allotment (left) and others dumped on top of the manured but unused corner eighth (right) .

Pile of weeds in long grassesPile of weeds on top of manure

Between us, in a few hours, we had this 3m2 area weeded, cleared of manure and fenced in. In the middle of that little pitch is a rhubarb plant which survived us rotavating over and ignoring it for a while since it was hidden amongst weeds.

To the right of the new clearing is a row of beans that are just starting to climb, and then 3 rows of potatoes.

Square pitch of soil enclosed by green fencing

I didn’t bother to fence or net up the potato plants because I didn’t think any thing liked to eat them. Turns out this is true, but it doesn’t stop them digging under the plants anyway.

Something dug this big hole in my potato plant ridges, found a potato, had a little nibble and discarded it. I filled the hole in but it dug it out again and once those potatoes were gone it found another row to dig under. I have no idea what it was. Rabbit? Fox?

Photo of a hole dug under potato plants

Something else liked to dig between the stawberry plants. Well I’m guessing it was smaller, since the hole was. Later in the summer I found these little woody pellets around the hole. They were dry and broke up into sawdust like stuff.

Photo of a whole in between strawberry plants

Any ideas for what they are or what deposited them? Please add your suggestions in the comments.

Dusty pellets on soil