Seeds and Star Wars (Star Trek?)

Just one visit to the plot this week – a very pleasant hour this afternoon in the sunshine. I had a box full of kitchen scraps to go in the compost and it was my turn to put the shared bins out for collection in the morning so I headed down at about lunchtime today. It was an unexpectedly sunny day but quite cold. We’ve had the first proper frosts this week (I’ve had to scrape the car a couple of times before heading off to take Louis to college) and quite a bit of rain so the ground was pretty soggy (my new boots aren’t looking quite so new)

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After I’d put the bins out and chucked the kitchen scraps into the compost I had a quick wander round and quickly realised there’s not much to do so I decided to have a look through the seeds I have in the shed with an eye on thinking about what I might grow next year.

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So, it turns out I have quite a few packets of seeds! I have onion, leek, cauliflower, onion,  chard, onion, pepper, pumpkin, onion, carrot, brussel sprout and onion seeds.  Oh – and did I mention I have onion seeds?!  I have no idea what posessed me to buy so many onion seeds but I reckon I could fill my whole plot and overspill in to my neighbour’s plot if I plant them all. Anyway, I organised the seeds into sowing order – most of them can’t be sown outside until January, but that will come round quick enough. There was also a packet of green manure seeds in there but some of you will remember the nightmare that was the green manure bed from last year so they are staying firmly in the shed!

I came across a box of garlic while I was in the shed. I haven’t tried growing garlic yet and I like the idea of producing my own as I use it a fair bit in my cooking and it would be great to use fresh cloves I’ve grown myself. I also remembered the jar of dwarf pumpkin seeds Michelle gave me which I’m looking forward to growing next year alongside the more standard pumpkin varieties.

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I also found this box of funky veg. J. gave me it last year and I didn’t get round to using it. I thought it was just purple carrots in the box but when I looked there were 5 packets of seeds in there for things like yellow courgettes, striped tomatoes, red brussel sprouts and multi coloured chard ( no onions! YAY!) A couple of years ago, the cafe had a donation of purple potatoes (they were a novelty for Halloween) I took a bag but when it came to it I just couldn’t bring myself to eat purple potatoes, it just went against every instinct I have. (I suspect lots of people felt the same hence the amount donated to the cafe!) I’m hoping the fact I’ll have grown these myself will change how I feel about strange coloured vegetables but we’ll see.

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While I was there I spotted lots of activity on the chrysanthemum. 2 butterflies and loads of bees. Not sure what type of butterflies they were but they were beautiful and so lovely to see on the flowers.

Yesterday, Random Cafe catered a local Sci Fi Palooza. No, I didn’t really know what a Palooza was either – turns out it’s a gathering of scifi fans, some of whom come dressed as their favourote scifi character. At one point I found myself serving a cup of tea to a guy in a full Star Trek uniform (I’m actually impressed I was able to identify the costume!) I’m not sure if that means I’ve peaked or hit absolute rock bottom in my life but it was certainly a new experience for me! I’m not a sci fi fan atall (did you guess?) Despite this I found I had Star Wars cookie cutters and some Dalek cake decorations in the cupboard which I used to make these.

I came across this on the plot today. How sad is that? All that’s left of the cucamelons!

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No change on the plot this week and no real plans for the coming week apart from popping down to bring the bins back in.

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London, Leeks and Ladders

Louis’ been off college this week and I was hoping to spend some time on the allotment with him but, as it turned out we didn’t manage even one visit. I spent about an hour there this morning while Louis was still in bed (flippin teenagers!)

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My sister and nephew visited from Leeds at the beginning of the week and we spent a day in London. I grew up in a London borough and even though I still live just a 20 minute train ride away from central London I don’t go in very often but when I do I’m always reminded how much I love it.

After looking round some very weird and hugely expensive clothes shops my nephew insisted we visit we walked to Covent Garden. There is always something going on in Covent Garden – that day there was a sword swallower and a guy with a dancing skeleton puppet.

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We also saw this amazing display of pumpkins. I have never seen such an enormous pumpkin. I have just done an online search (honestly? I wasn’t sure the pumpkin was real because it was so big) and it turns out the giant pumpkin was grown in Hampshire by 2 men who have been growing pumpkins since they were 11 years old. The display is inspired by Cinderella, it took 20 people to manoeuvre the pumpkin in to place and it weighs a tonne. It was on display until today and its seeds are going back to Hampshire to, hopefully produce more huge pumpkins. Unfortunately, it doesn’t say anything about what they’ll do with the flesh – imagine how much soup you can make with a tonne of pumpkin!

On the way home from London we popped in to a charity shop near my mum’s house. My sister and I love a rummage in a charity shop for a bargain and I did quite well in this one thanks to my sister’s eagle eyes. She spotted both this allotment cookery book and a pair of boots which happened to be my size. I’ve only had a quick flick through the cookery book but it looks pretty good. I wore the boots to the plot this morning and they’re perfect. Being snow boots they’re going to keep my feet nice and toasty over the winter months. Michelle pointed out they look far too clean but I don’t think it will take too long before they’re filthy.

It was Halloween this week and although we no longer do the trick or treat thing anymore Louis did enjoy trying on the killer gorilla mask in Morrisons on Wednesday.

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We’ve had a couple of frosts this week so Michelle advised me it was time to cut back the dahlias. It felt quite brutal!

My other (plot) half made an appearance this morning. I very rarely see him in person, I just know he’s been there by the obvious changes on his plot (and the scary birds he leaves in the shed!) so it was nice to catch up. He picked some cauliflower and broccoli and gave it to Michelle and me. So dinner this evening was cauliflower cheese made with allotment cauliflower. It’s the first time I’ve ever made it so I’m well chuffed with myself. Just need to decide what to do with the broccoli.

I decided to harvest a couple of leeks and a spring onion. The spring onion’s nearly as big as the leeks. I’m not sure if this means my leeks are pitifully small or I’ve grown enormous spring onions?!

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The only other job I did on the plot today was move the ladders into the shed and take down the cucumber/cucamelon structure. I really want to be able to use the ladders again next year as I felt they really helped to contain the pumpkin and squash plants and stopped them invading the rest of the plot but I’m worried they’ll be damaged if I leave them out over winter. So, they’re safely tucked away in the shed ready for next spring.

The chrysathemum still looks amazing – huge, but amazing. I’ve decided once it’s finished flowering I’m going to move it to the far corner of what was the pumpkin patch. There really is nowhere else I can think to put it where it won’t be in the way.

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Here’s how I left the plot today. It all looks really empty with the ladders gone and there’s not really very much to do down there for the next few months so I may not be writing the blog quite as regularly as I have been up to now. I will, maybe update every few weeks depending on what’s happening.

Week 89

Not many opportunities to make it the plot this week due to all the rain but I managed a couple of visits.

Louis had an unexpected day off college on Tuesday so we spent the day in Beaconsfield with helper number 2, his mum and baby brother and sister. We visited the model village which Louis and I hadn’t been to since he was about 3 years old. It was actually much better than I remembered. We were really lucky with the weather – one of those gorgeous, cold but sunny Autumnal days.

I made a flying visit on Thursday with a huge bag of kitchen scraps for the compost. I picked them up from a lady who had messaged me through a website called ‘ShareWaste’. It works very much like Freecycle – you register on the site either as someone who is willing to collect waste or someone who can donate it. Then you use the site to find people in your area. Anyway, I collected a huge bag of kitchen scraps which are now happily rotting away in my compost bin not a landfill.

I met Michelle on the plot this morning. Gino was there aswell and, as ever when I talk to Gino I learn something new. This morning I got a lesson about dahlias. He told me they will keep coming back every year, all I have to do is cut them back to about 6″ and they’ll re-grow and flower again next year. This is great news because I love my dahlias. To be honest, I hadn’t even thought about whether they would flower again so it’s nice to find out they could be with me for years.

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Talking of flowers – the chrysanthemum is in full bloom! At last! It looks amazing. To think it started off as a tiny, non descript plant in a pot and has grown into this I still find almost unbelievable. I still need to think about moving it to make way for the water butts but it’s going to have to wait until it’s stopped flowering.

J. from Random Cafe gave me this bag of Alliums this week. I think I have to let Louis plant them again don’t I?

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The grass on the paths has grown really well. Still a few bald patches but generally the seeds have taken well. Gino commented, this morning the grass was looking a bit long. I don’t have a lawn mower so I took a pair of shears to it (I know, totally ridiculous, right!) I’m not sure it’s made much difference but at least I know it’s been cut!

When I arrived at the allotment this morning and checked the shed this is what I found

Something’s had a nibble on the sunflower head I left in the shed last week. I forgot to take a photo before I tidied up but there were sunflower seeds all over the shed floor. We think the mice (?) may have been in the bag of straw aswell so I moved it so it’s hanging from the ceiling. I fully expect the mice to still be able to reach it but at least I’m giving them some sort of problem solving activity! The sunflower head has gone into the compost bin and I have a nice tidy shed again.

The other thing I put in the compost today was my bamboo toothbrush. We switched to bamboo toothbrushes about a year ago in an effort to reduce our plastic waste.  When it comes to disposal, you just cut the bristles off and chuck the bamboo handle into the compost. I’m not sure how long it takes to rot down but it feels good to not be adding more plastic to landfill.

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Here’s how I left the plot this week. Half term for us next week. Not really sure what our plans for the week are but it will, hopefully involve at least a couple of trips to the plot. Admittedly there’s not much to do on the plot at the moment but I’m sure I’ll find something for us to do.

 

 

 

Week 88

This week has been all about furniture. I’ve been looking at replacing my dining table for a while now and I finally found a second hand one I liked which I picked up this week. The old one is in mum’s garage (I have plans for it!)

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I also decided this would be a great time to change my bedroom around. My bedroom doubles as my craft space and I haven’t been happy with it for some time so I picked up some second hand furniture that I felt fitted a bit better than the wardrobe I was using. I then had the incredibly frustrating job of trying to get rid of a perfectly good wardrobe that nobody seemed to want. After countless messages from various people all week it was finally picked up by a lovely lady this afternoon – such a relief it’s gone! 

So, after a week of huge upheaval and climbing round bits of wardrobe in the hall, everything is back to normal and I have a much more useable craft space. I even took some time to paint it to match the rest of my bedroom.

With all this furniture removal, this week hasn’t left me much time for the allotment and I’ve only been down there once and only for a couple of hours but it was quite a productive couple of hours. And what a gorgeous morning I chose!

Like last week, it involved quite a lot of clearing and harvesting. I harvested the last pumpkin and cleared the rest of the plant. The bed is now empty with just 2 ladders looking a bit weird with nothing growing up them. The pumpkin is in the shed with 2 others mainly because I just don’t have the space for them in my kitchen (I have a very small kitchen!)

 The cucamelon and cucumber plants have also been pulled up and are in the compost bins. The cucamelon plant really surprised me. I thought I’d just pick the last few cucamelons before I dug the plant up. There were loads on there – it took me ages! They were hiding all over the place. Even as I was pulling it out of the ground I kept finding more. Almost a whole punnet full – which is loads when you remember how small cucamelons are. If I’m honest I’m not sure I’ll grow cucamelons again next year. They were definitely fun to grow but I don’t really know what to do with them. They are nice pickled, according to a quick Google search and they go well in a salad but, apart from that there’s not much else. I have a few in the freezer so I may add this latest haul to them and use them in my morning smoothie.

I also dug up the sunflowers from the same bed. I chopped their heads off (not as gruesome as it sounds!) put the stalks in the compost and made a sunflower smiley face – well, you have to, don’t you?!

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I know I said I wasn’t going to harvest any more rhubarb but I just couldn’t resist. That’s definitely (almost certainly!) the last Rhubi harvest this year.

 I was hoping the chrysanthemum would have flowered by now but it hasn’t. It’s so close, I can see the pink petals all folded up inside. Maybe next week.

The dahlias are still looking gorgeous with so many flowers on them – I really wasn’t expecting them to flower as much as they have. I really don’t know how long they’ll last so I’m just enjoying them while they’re there.

After all the clearing this week both compost bins are full. I haven’t turned them for a while but if I want some decent compost out of them I’ll have to get in there and move it all about soon. It’s a difficult job though because I have to use a fork to reach the bottom of the bin but then the length of the fork makes it really difficult to turn the compost over. Ideally I would like a compost bin that looks like a tombola bin so you just turn the handle and all the contents spin but they’re super expensive so, for now I’ll have to stick with my very awkward fork procedure.

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 Here’s how I left the plot this week. The grass is looking decidedly long – I might have a go at cutting that next week. Apart from that it’s going to be all about preparing the site for winter.

 

Week 87

We’ve had yet another wet week here so, again this is going to be fairly brief. The water butt has gone from nearly full to the brim to overflowing!

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This week has been all about clearing away for winter. I’ve cleared the tomato plant as it had definitely come to the end of its life. I didn’t realise the tomato plant’s roots would be that long – they were huge!

I must have left the tomatoes a little too long as some of them had started to rot on the vine. Not sure if this is caused by a frost or something else but whatever caused it they are, obviously inedible and have gone in to the compost bin.

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Despite the rotting ones I still managed to harvest quite a few which are now on my kitchen windowsill slowly ripening.

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I also cleared the peppers. They did quite well this year thanks to another hot summer. I’ll definitely be growing these again next year – try and grow some red ones though,  I think.

I would have had a couple of strawberries to pick except this little blighter got to them first! I even caught him in the act.

I also started to clear the remaining pumpkin plant. I’ve left the last pumpkin in place (hoping it will grow a bit more) just removed some of the stalks and leaves. All great for the compost!

The chrysanthemum is about to flower! It’s covered in buds which look like they’re about to burst open. I need to move it at some point to make space for the waterbutts but I’ll wait until it’s flowered. I have no idea where I’m going to move it to, because look how much it’s grown.

I’ve dug up all the, we think sunflower seeds from under the squash ladder. It pained me to do it really but they’re no good under there. I’ve moved the bird feeder to the trellis – the idea being it’s a space for flowers so if the seeds fall there and germinate it’s not a problem, I can leave them.

The sunflowers and dahlias still look amazing.

It was too wet to take my helpers to the plot again this week. Instead, I took them out for icecream. Louis found ‘Bruce’ in a charity shop and I just had to let him buy him – well, he went so well with his t-shirt!

The only thing we harvested this week were 3 cucumbers. Not bad for mid October.

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I know I get excited about cucumbers but the really exciting news this week was Random Cafe was nominated for an award. Every year Watford holds the ‘Audentior’ awards night and we were nominated for the ‘Pride in Watford’ award and we only went and bloody won it! We had such a great night and we’re all so proud of J. for starting the cafe and putting her heart and soul into it. A very well deserved award.

Here’s how I left the plot this week.

Week 86

This is going to be a really quick catch up this week as I’ve hardly been on the plot due to so much rain. The up side of so much rain is the water butt has gone from almost empty to nearly full to the brim!

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Despite the terrible weather this week we’ve had some cracking sunrises.

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When I have been on the plot all I’ve really done is harvest. All the usual – cucamelons, rhubarb, tomatoes and strawberries (well, one strawberry!)

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There are still loads of tomatoes left on the plant – still waiting for them to ripen. The stalk on my windowsill has finally turned red though.

As this time of year is all about harvest I thought I’d share with you some of the things I do with the fruit and veg I’ve grown. Obviously, lots of it goes into cakes for Random Cafe and this week I baked extra to make up for not baking last week. I made a rhubarb crumble cake with, what I think will be the last of the rhubarb this year. I was told it was the best one yet which is always lovely to hear.

I had some rhubarb left over and I also had some pears which I’d picked last week (again, the last for this year I think) I don’t like pears so I’ve never baked with them before but, in the spirit of Random Cafe I didn’t want to throw them away so I thought I’d experiment with them. I made rhubarb and pear crumble cakes (basically the same as the rhubarb crumble cake just with some pear added and cupcake size rather than one large cake) They were lovely! (even if I do say so myself!)

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I also made bread pudding for the cafe this week (see above) This has become a staple because we receive so much bread. I follow a vegan recipe which means I use apple sauce instead of eggs which, I think makes it much more moist. I started to make the bread pudding and realised I had no apple sauce. I was all set to pop out to the local shop to pick some up when I remembered I’d picked some apples at the allotment last week. They’d been sitting in a bowl on the kitchen side since I’d picked them so I peeled them, roughly chopped them and chucked them in my food processor thingy and whizzed them up into a sauce. Perfect! No trip to the shops needed and I saved some food.

This is what Rhubi looks like after, what I should think will be her last harvest this year.

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The other positive from growing our own food is Louis is learning where food comes from and taking more of an interest in what he eats. He even made his own lunch this week. I heard strange noises coming from the kitchen on Thursday evening and found him chopping peppers, tomatoes and cucumber (all from the allotment) for his salad. He’s helped me make his lunch before but this is the first time he’s made it all by himself. His knife skills need a bit of improvement but overall he did a great job.

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Michelle has gifted me some sunflower seeds from her dwarf sunflowers. I love the dwarf sunflowers – they were so cute. So we’ll be able to grow some of our own next year. I think one of my jobs in the next couple of week will be removing the seeds from the 2 sunflowers I have.

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I need to start planning what I want to grow next year. I may try courgettes again – yes, I know I spent the whole of last year complaining about them but they are such an easy vegetable to grow because they get so big so quickly. Pumpkins and squash – obviously but I’d also like to try aubergines and maybe chickpeas. I also need to think about improving the soil for next year (I will not be growing green manure!) This is how I left the plot this week.

 

 

 

 

 

Week 85

It feels like it’s rained all week but there have been enough dry periods for me to make some decent progress on the plot.

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I popped in on Tuesday lunchtime just to take the lid off the water butt, but I ended up staying for about an hour, weeding. Due to all the rain the weeds come up so easily but also, due to the rain there were loads of them! By college pick up time it was raining again so instead of the allotment, I took my helpers  for milkshake and cake. Maybe next week it will be dry enough to take them to the plot.

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I felt it was time, this week to clear the butternut squash bed. I harvested the remaining 3 squashes and put the plants in the compost bin. I’d picked up some coffee grounds from Starbucks this week and, on Michelle’s advice I dug them into the soil under the squash ladder. While clearing the area under the ladder I discovered the problem with hanging the bird feeder there – lots of the seeds had dropped down and germinated. There were lots of new shoots under the ladder. I removed as many as I could find and dug the coffee granules in. I’ve left the ladder there for the time being until I decide what I want to grow there next year.

I spent some time clearing the pumpkin patch aswell. There were only 2 pumpkins left on the plants and when I moved the smaller of the 2 I found it was being eaten by a whole host of little creepy crawlies so that’s gone into the compost bin along with most of the plant. There’s one pumpkin left which I’ve sat on the ladder strut to keep it off the ground and hopefully avoid the same fate of the smaller pumpkin.

I picked all the remaining peppers. Some were very small but they won’t grow any more so they all needed to be harvested.

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I also picked a few cucamelons and a few of the tomatoes that have ripened. There are still a lot of tomatoes on the plant, I’m not sure if they’re going to ripen or if we’ve run out of time but I guess I’ll find out.

The dahlia is still producing flowers and makes me smile every time I see it.

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The chrysanthemum is enormous and has buds on it. According to what I’ve read online I can expect it to flower any time from now on and they should continue to flower until christmas. My plan is to move the chrysanthemum plant from where it is so I can set up the row of water butts along the side of the shed but, from what I’ve read, I may have to wait until the new year, after it’s finished flowering before I do that. I also have no idea where I’m going to put it.

Rhubi, as ever is looking very healthy. Again, a little bit of research tells me if I harvest her at this time of year, I have to do it sparingly. So, I think one more harvest and I’ll leave her alone for the winter.

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Aswell as the work I’ve done on the plot this week I’ve also done a bit more work on the chest of drawers I painted last week. I wasn’t entirely happy with the final look and I felt it needed a little more colour so I bought some yellow paint and painted the handles. I’m so pleased with how it turned out (and, yes I know I still have to paint the feet!)

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The plot is starting to look a bit empty – all the potato plants are gone, the spinach bed is empty and now the squashes and most of the pumpkins have been cleared. We’re really starting to wind down now and it will soon be time to think about what I want to grow next year. I’ve been beating myself up a bit recently about how messy my plot is and how many weeds I have on my plot so I thought it would be useful to look back and see what the plot looked like a year ago to see how far I’ve come. So, a year ago this is what the plot looked like. I hadn’t even started digging the extension! It’s great to see how much I’ve accomplished in a year and makes me feel a bit better about how messy the plot looks at the moment.

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Here’s what the plot looks like this week.