Sunday, 16 March 2014

Sunday On The Allotment - 16 March - Spring Is Coming

St Ives Cornwall Allotment - 16 March 2014
At last - both time and weather have allowed me to get back out to my allotment on the edge of the Penwith Hills. I'd forgotten how much I enjoy it.

Spring is very much in the air - and I can't wait to get things in and growing.

But - a misty day today - while the rest of the country basks in sunshine - West Cornwall is shrouded in fog.

After the Winter storms and rains - the plot is in fair shape. We have really well draining soil.

Seed Potatoes - Charlotte
The first rows of seed potatoes are in. After a wonderful crop last year - which we have only just finished eating - I decided to stick with the same varieties.

Charlotte first earlies and Wilja second earlies.

Looking forward to potato salads in June.

Broad Beans - Aquadulcia Claudia
My broad beans - Aquadulcia - sown back in November - are looking a bit bedraggled after all the foul weather we've had in Cornwall.

But past experience shows that these tough little plants will grow on well as things warm up - and deliver a tasty early crop.

Won't be long before they need staking up.

The perpetual spinach - to my surprise - is still growing well - it was sown way back in June 2013. I picked a nice harvest for Sunday dinner. This has proved a real winner - and it freezes well when I have a surplus - so I'll be sowing more this year.

Pea Seeds - Hurst Green Shaft
My final job of the day was getting some peas sown.

This year I'm sowing a variety that I've grown before - Hurst Green Shaft. After a terrible crop last year I'm hoping for better results.

One thing that I'm planning to do is protect the plants with some horticultural fleece.

Strong winds are a constant problem on our site - so this should help.

More news from my St Ives Cornwall Allotment soon - as Spring and another year unfold.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Sunday On The Allotment - 6 Oct - Clearing and Crops

St Ives Cornwall Allotment
At last - the arrival of some decent allotmenting weather in Cornwall  - and I hope - elsewhere.

I headed out in the sunshine to my plot beneath the Penwith Hills.

Lots to do - one key "lesson learned" from last year is that time and effort invested in October and November - before the worst of the weather closes in - pays dividends in the Spring.

Autumn Allotment Crops
As ever - one of the main jobs today was clearing weeds. I have a number of beds that need clearing for Autumn sowing. But I'm a great believer in prioritisation - so today I focussed on my Autumn and Winter Crops.

Clearing the other beds can come later - I've got carrots, spinach, cabbages and leeks that I hope to be harvesting between now and Christmas - and beyond.

Winter Cabbages
Once I'd weeded my Winter cabbages they were looking pretty good.

I've been growing them under a net cloche to protect them from pests.

The threat from butterflies and caterpillars has now passed. But our perennial allotment pests - bunny rabbits - remain.

So the cabbages are now safely back under cover.

Allotment Crops - Leeks
My leeks were not looking so good.

Partly due to my neglect - I haven't done anything since they went into the ground in June.

They were choked with weeds - mainly chickweed - and soaking wet - as the weeds were blocking airflow through the crop.

Allotment Crops - Leeks
Once weeded - they were still looking a bit sorry for themselves - and like spring onions in size.

But I firmed them back into the soil and replaced the cloche - hopefully they will dry out and grow on.

As ever - we will see.

Autumn Crops
Finally I gathered in my crops for the day. The last of the cucumbers and the first of the Autumn carrots.

Plus some Pumpkins - which I'd hoped to grown on through October to Halloween. But when I tried weeding - they all just fell off the plant - so ready for harvest.

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Sunday On The Allotment - 29 Sep - Autumn Crops

St Ives Cornwall Allotment
Out to my St Ives allotment this morning to get more work done - despite the mizzly conditions.

Autumn has most definitely arrived in Cornwall.

The Summer plants are starting to fade - although there are still some good crops to be harvested.

Borlotti Beans - Firetongue
I've deliberately left some of my French Beans - particularly the Borlotti variety Firetongue - to grow on to produce beans for drying.

I had a glut of beans last month - so harvested the pods - filled the freezer - and left the rest on the plants.

These are now harvested - podded - and on a tray in the kitchen to dry for storage.

Perpetual Spinach
I've also harvested a good crop of Perpetual Spinach - sown in June and grown under a net cloche.

That is all now cooked and in the freezer - looking forward to some nice Autumn meals.

The plants are still looking good - so I'm hoping for further crops.

Green Manure - Caliente Mustard
Now is the time to start thinking ahead towards next years sowing, planting and - hopefully - harvesting.

Last Autumn I sowed Green Manure - Caliente Mustard in my cleared beds - which provided ground cover to exclude weeds. It also protected the soil and reduced the amount of nutrients washed away by the Winter rains.

Green Manure - Caliente Mustard
This worked well - so I'm doing the same this year. I weeded, hoed and raked the bed to level it.

Then simply scattered the seed and trod it in. Should germinate in a couple of weeks.

In late winter I'll cur it down - then either dig it in or add to the compost bin.

Allotment Crops
All in all a satisfying and enjoyable weekend on the allotment.

And some lovely crops to eat !

More news coming soon.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

St Ives Allotment - Summer Crops

St Ives Cornwall Allotments
After a slow start to the growing season - due to the exceptionally cold Spring weather - things are now looking pretty good on my plot.

Lots of plants starting to come through. Potatoes are lifted and stored - soon I'll have more crops.

Enjoy the pics - click on each to enlarge.

Allotment - Cucumbers
The first cucumbers are appearing - ready for first picking in a week or two I think.

Allotment Growing - Courgettes
Some courgettes already picked (and converted into ratatouille) - more - probably lots more - on the way.

Allotment Growing - Carrots - Autumn King
Carrots - variety Autumn King - coming on well for an October / November harvest.

Allotment Growing - Pumpkins
Pumpkins starting to swell out - hopefully will be ripe and ready for Halloween.

Allotment Growing - French Beans - Blauhilde
French Beans - variety Blauhilde - flowering nicely.

I also have Firetongue Borlotti Beans growing - slightly behind but flower buds appearing.

Looking forward to the harvest - must start emptying the freezer !

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Storing Potatoes

The Potato Harvest is coming in - and unlike last year I've got a really good yield.

So time to get them safely into storage - so that we can enjoy them over the coming weeks. Also - one of the reasons why I grow stuff - to save money - as we can cross spuds of the shopping list - hopefully until Christmas at the earliest.

The potential problem with potatoes is that they may sprout, turn green or rot in storage - so its worth taking a few steps to keep them in good condition.

Drying Potatoes For Storage
Step 1 - get them dried out - preferably in full sunlight.

I lifted mine the evening before a day forecast to be hot and sunny - and was rewarded with a nice morning as predicted.

I spread the spuds out on a tray set out in the sunniest part of the garden and left them for a few hours.

Potatoes - Fork Damage
Step 2 - remove any tubers that are damaged - either with "fork damage" - inevitable when lifting the crop - slug damage or anything else.

There is a danger that these will be susceptible to rot and spread this to their neighbours. Keep them for consumption in the next few days.
Potato Sack
Step 3 - Transfer the potatoes to hessian sacks - then store somewhere dry and dark - mine are in the garage.

They should then store ok for a few months - but do keep checking the sacks regularly. If one potato starts to rot this can quickly spread to the others - potentially ruining a whole sackful.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Sunday On The Allotment - Winter Cabbages

St Ives Cornwall Allotment
Out to the allotment on a lovely warm sunny summer morning in St Ives Cornwall.

Today's main job - planting out my Winter Cabbages - raised from seed and nurtured in the greenhouse for the last two months.

I'm trying two winter-hardy varieties - Tundra and January King. It will be nice to have something growing on the plot through Autumn - and something to look forward to for Christmas and beyond.

Winter Cabbages - Tundra - January King
The seed packet for Tundra showed some huge healthy looking cabbages growing away covered in snow and sheets of ice.

Conditions like that are rare in Cornwall - so I have high hopes for my little plants.

But - as ever - we'll see. I'll post progress reports here.

Winter Cabbage - Tundra
Before planting I added a bit of my home-made compost to each hole, watered.

I then popped each plant in - pleased to see good root development - and watered again.

St Ives Allotment - Winter Cabbages
Finally - I covered the row with a net cloche - to provide some protection from pests - including butterflies, pigeons and rabbits.

My summer planting is now pretty much done. So I can sit back and enjoy for a bit - and look forward to the next harvests. Coming soon - Courgettes, Cucumbers and French Beans.

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Saturday, 10 August 2013

Harvesting Potatoes

St Ives Cornwall Allotment
Potato harvest time has arrived - long awaited and anticipated since I started preparing the ground last October.

I planted two varieties this year - Charlotte First Early and Wilja Second Early. Chosen because they are two varieties that I like to eat and taste great. Also chosen because I wanted to avoid the worst ravages of potato blight by harvesting early - so I avoided maincrop varieties.

My plot and our allotment site as a whole seems to suffer badly from blight. I'm not sure why - we get plenty of wind - maybe its the damp Cornish weather.

Potato Bed
I lifted the last of the Charlotte potatoes a couple of weeks go - so this week it was the Wilja. After looking really good for weeks they were struck by blight about 10 days ago - and it spread fast. I cut off all the foliage and binned it. Blighted potato haulms should not be composted as this risks spreading the disease and storing it up for next year.

Potato Harvest - Wilja Potatoes
I was really pleased with both the yield and the size of the spuds - enough to keep us supplied in the kitchen for several weeks. Also a surplus to share with our neighbours - which is something that I enjoy.

Two beds cleared - one more to go - then I can move on to preparing the beds for the next crop. Under my crop rotation system they will be sown with peas and beans - starting with Broad Beans sown in October.