Week 83 – Surprise!

I feel much better this week although I’m absolutely exhausted. It’s been a busy week so I’ve only been on the plot twice but both times have been fairly productive and I’ve enjoyed it when I’ve been there.

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I’ve spent most of the week making the final preparations for my mum’s surprise 80th birthday party. The surprise being, lots of her friends, many she hadn’t seen for years waiting outside the venue to greet her as she arrived. The surprise was NOT, as one of my sister’s pupils thought, the fact she was 80 – she knew she was 80, this did not come as a surprise to her. The other thing the surprise was NOT was us all jumping out at her and shouting ‘Surprise!’ – seriously, some people did ask me! She’s 80 for god sake – we wanted to surprise her, not kill her!

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She survived the surprise and it was a great night catching up with friends – some we hadn’t seen for years. Random Cafe provided the buffet and did us proud (obviously!) An exhausting evening from my point of view – who knew organising a surprise birthday party could be so stressful? but totally worth it.

So, before all the madness of yesterday evening, I took some time to go to the allotment and enjoy the peace and quiet. I can’t say I actually did much – a bit of weeding, a bit of pottering, but it was nice to have some time to myself before I started stressing about whether or not the party would go to plan.

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I also spent a very peaceful afternoon on the plot today. There really isn’t very much to do at the moment, just waiting for everything to grow and be ready for harvest. I gave everything an extra long water today as it’s been very dry – thank you Michelle for letting me use your water as my water butt is almost completely empty due to no rain. I am very aware of the amount of weeds on the plot so I decided to make an effort to tackle them today. There always seems to be loads in the strawberry patch so I started there and pulled up a fair few. I ended up over by the pear and apple trees. I’ve had my eye on this bit for a while now. I completely cleared it a while back when I dug up all the brambles from behind the shed but lots of the weeds have grown back. Weirdly, I’m surprised by this. I think I may have the same attitude to weeds as I have to dust: namely, “I dealt with all this 6 weeks ago – do I have to do it again?!” But, of course, like dust weeds come back. So, this afternoon I found myself crawling around under the pear tree digging up stinging nettles, brambles and dandelions. I totally forgot to take any photos so you’ll just have to trust me when I say it looks better than it did.

Only a small harvest today of some  cucamelons and a couple of strawberry/raspberries. The strawberry/raspberry plant has definitely yielded more fruit than the strawberry plant and it’s already produced 1 or 2 offshoots. However, despite not giving us much fruit, the strawberry plant has so many offshoots it’s almost doubled in size. I’m not sure how I’m supposed to stunt its growth but I’m going to have to find out before it takes over the whole plot!

One of the sunflowers has finally flowered! YAY! It’s taken its sweet time but we got there in the end. Still waiting for the other (smaller) one but neither of them had a great start so they’ve done well to survive. I have 2 rogue sunflowers in one of my window boxes at home. I say ‘rogue’ because I definitely didn’t plant them. I can only assume a couple of sunflower seeds from the bird feeder fell into the window box and germinated. Not sure if they’ll flower now as it’s very late for them but we’ll see.

The tomatoes seem to be stubbornly remaining green. Having pinched off a lot of unnecessary growth (and, accidentally, some necessary growth too! Currently on my kitchen windowsill in the hope they’ll ripen.) I have lots more fruit but none of it is turning red like it’s supposed to. I checked Michelle’s tomato plant today and lots of hers have turned red so I’m not giving up hope just yet.

I forgot to show you the shark (which is actually a pirhana) garden ornament Louis bought on our trip to Worthing. Both he and his grandma picked one up but ours has been in the boot of my car since we bought it – I keep forgetting to take it to the allotment. Today I remembered and it’s now in the ground next to the strawberry/raspberry plant and the chrysanthemum.

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Rhubi needs to be harvested again but I haven’t used the last lot I harvested from her so I’m leaving her as she is for now.

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I think I may have broken the spinach. It really doesn’t seem to be recovering. I gave it an extra long water today so I’ll have to see how it’s faired next time I’m there.

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The pumpkins are looking great. There are a couple of big ones. I don’t want to pick any more for the time being as I still have 3 in the shed waiting to be brought home.

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It’s the same for the potatoes. There’s still a whole row in the ground but I still have lots at home waiting to be used I don’t really want to add to the pile. I’m told they can stay in the ground for ages so that’s the plan.

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I’m so pleased I followed Dan’s advice to deadhead the dahlias. Look how many more flowers we now have. Gorgeous!

Here’s how I left the plot this week. More weeding next week, I think.

 

Week 82

For those of you paying attention you may have noticed there was no blog last week. I normally write the blog on Sunday afternoon and publish it either Sunday evening or first thing Monday morning. Unfortunately, last Sunday I didn’t have the energy to even pick up a pen (yes, I go old school and actually write out my thoughts before typing them up)  I’d been feeling pretty low all week and by Sunday I was, pretty much unable to function and spent the day in bed. The problem with depression (one of the problems!) is, despite me being fully aware a walk down to the allotment and a few hours spent pottering would do me the power of good (it’s one of the reasons I have an allotment) it’s almost impossible to muster up the motivation to get myself down there when I’m feeling low. I’m feeling much better this week and I have 2 week’s worth of allotment news to tell you about.

The first thing I feel I must tell you is I am writing this while drinking rhubarb gin! Yes, it’s finally ready! I removed the rhubarb this week and was left with a glorious pink liquid which, I have to tell you, is bloody lovely. I even have some allotment grown cucamelons in it. As a volunteer at a food waste cafe I was loathed to throw away the gin infused rhubarb so I made a cake with it. I took it to the cafe to share with the volunteers (obviously I couldn’t put it out for the customers) and it was a roaring success – just hope they don’t expect gin rhubarb cake every week. There was even a piece left for me to have a cheeky slice in bed on Saturday night while watching Mortimer and Whitehouse Gone Fishing – don’t tell me I don’t know how to live!

Rhubi is looking good. She’s still producing lovely thick stalks.

This time of year is pretty quiet on the allotment in terms of jobs that need doing. Obviously it’s super busy when it comes to harvesting and in the last 2 weeks we’ve had 7 cucumbers, 4 pumpkins, 6 peppers, spinach, pears, rhubarb, cucamelons, strawberry/raspberries, a few tomatoes and over 7kg of potatoes. Not bad for someone who’d never planted anything 2 years ago.

Last week we made pumpkin soup using a pumpkin we’d harvested that morning. Louis helped, not only pick the pumpkin but also make the soup. We both had some for lunch – it was very nice (and I’m sure it tasted better knowing it was made using one of our pumpkins)

Louis goes back to college tomorrow. It’s been a long summer holiday (11 weeks) and I think we’re both ready to return to a normal routine. We’ve tried to make the most of the last week of the holidays so on Monday we spent the day at Woburn Safari Park. Louis has an annual pass and we’ve been countless times over the years. It’s always a great day out but this time was, from my point of view one of the best because a Red Kite landed in a tree directly in front of us. I absolutely love Red Kites. So much so, when I drive through the lion enclosure I spend more time looking up at the Kites than I do at the lions. So this was a real thrill for me to be able to capture these close up shots, then watch it take off.

We also visited a sunflower farm which was something we’ve never done before. It was a gorgeous sunny day and we spent the morning wandering through a sea of sunflowers with allotment helper no 2 and his 2 year old sister – I’m not sure life gets much better than that!

I spent a few hours on the plot this afternoon – the longest time I’ve spent down there for a while now and it felt nice to be back. I mainly spent my time weeding. It felt like the weeds were taking over so I’m pleased I was able to spend a couple of hours really tackling them – and as an added bonus it was sunny.

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I noticed this in my strawberry patch. You could be forgiven for thinking it’s a strawberry plant but it’s not, it is infact a plant called Blue Mallow which is definitely a weed and poisonous (according to my PlantNet app which I used to identify it) So I dug it up. Which took a lot more time and effort than I thought it would because the root on this thing  was huge (obviously helped by me leaving it to grow for weeks)

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The other thing I did today was prune the tomato plant – another plant which has not benefitted from being ignored for weeks. There were shoots everywhere, so I went a bit bonkers with the secateurs. I may have got a bit carried away because I took a lot of greenery off it. Inevitably I managed to lop off a stem that had baby tomatoes on it but I think it was just the one so, overall not so bad. It looks so much better now – much more manageable. There are quite a lot of tomatoes on there, I just wish they’d hurry up and turn red.

I think I may have killed the spinach. It’s looking very sorry for itself. I suspect it’s lack of water but I gave it all a good soaking today so it may well perk up.

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Still lots more pumpkins to harvest and I haven’t even started picking the squashes yet.

The taller of the 2 sunflowers is now very tall and we have a sunflower head. So, I’m holding out hope we’ll see it open while it’s still summer.

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This is how I left the plot. Feeling much more positive this week – ready to tackle any lingering weeds!

 

Week 80 – Holidays!

If I was lapse a couple of weeks ago, this week I’ve been positively neglectful. I’ve been to the allotment a total of once this week and that was for about an hour on Friday morning. To be fair, the reason I haven’t been on the plot is because we’ve been away a lot. We spent the start of the week in Norwich. We had a really lovely couple of days mooching round antique shops with my sister and brother in law. (We also spent quite a lot of time stopping for food too!)

 

On Tuesday we visited Scratby – a seaside town I’d never heard of and based on how many people were on the beach hardly anyone else has either! Unfortunately, within about an hour of us laying our beach towels down it started to rain – heavily enough to clear all but the hardiest of beach goers from the beach. It was one of those really annoying days when within 20 minutes of leaving the beach, we had bright sunshine again, but it looked like it could start to rain again at any minute. So we didn’t make it back to the beach but we did enjoy wandering around and eating icecream.

I really felt like I should visit the plot at least once this week so I met Michelle on the plot on Friday morning. It was a real flying visit – I watered, did a small amount of weeding and harvested some spinach. I’m really pleased with how well the spinach is doing. I chose to grow it this year as I use it most mornings in a smoothie and it freezes really well so there’s no waste.

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Talking of waste, J. (from Random Cafe) and I spent Thursday at a Tesco Community Cookery School. It’s a joint initiative between Jamie Oliver and Tesco to help people involved in projects like ours learn how to make the most of the food donations we receive. We were taught how to make 3 sauces – a tomato sauce, a curry sauce and a white sauce all with the idea of using as much veg as possible. It was a really interesting day and, if nothing else I learnt how to chop vegetables properly (and we were both given a goody bag with loads of neat stuff in!)

Rhubi has made a strong comeback after harvesting. I’ve had a little sniff of the rhubarb gin and it smells great. I don’t think it’s ready yet – I’m going to leave it for another couple of weeks before I try it. I may attempt making a rhubarb and raspberry one next.

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The sunflower finally has some height. It’s pretty tall now but as we’re nearly at the end of August with still no flower it’s all a bit too little too late!

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Cucamelons are still doing well with loads of fruit. All at different sizes too so it looks like I may have a steady supply for my gin.

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No cafe for me again this week as we headed off to Hereford on Saturday morning. We’re staying with our friends, S. and K. who we met on holiday in Majorca in 2009. Since then we’ve been on holiday with them twice and visited them a few times and they’ve been fairly frequent visitors to London/Watford over the years including Louis’s 18th birthday last November.

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We spent Sunday in Stratford Upon Avon. I’d visited Stratford last November to do some christmas shopping and managed to miss half of it! I saw the famous theatre but didn’t walk any further so I completely missed the canal and river. I saw both during this visit – infact we took a boat trip on both of them and it all looked so gorgeous in the sunshine. It was a boiling hot day (to be honest, a bit too hot for me) so we took every opportunity we could to sit in the shade and have a drink or icecream. It was lovely to spend time with S. and K. and just sit and relax with them and watch the world go by. We saw Shakespeare’s house and Louis had his photo taken with a knight.

I am writing this in S. and K.’s garden admiring a very generous crop of (admittedly) green tomatoes. I’m very envious as I have totally failed to tame my tomato plant so mine does not, in any way shape or form look like this one which is incredibly neat and tidy. I must try harder!

Something else which aren’t neat and tidy are the pumpkins and squashes, although, in my defence no one expects squashes and pumpkins to be tidy – they will always be a big jumble and a mess. I have, however done a pretty good job of training them up the ladders. Not loads of fruit yet but, as ever I’m hopeful.

I have more fruit on the strawberry/raspberry plant which, after tasting one I’m just going to call the extra strawberry plant. Anyway, whatever it’s called I have fruit on it which is way better than the main strawberry plant which has produced a pitiful amount of fruit. It has, however had so many off shoots it has almost doubled in size so I’m hopeful that next year we’ll have a bumper crop. There is definitely something about gardeners and optimism!

  Seriously pleased with how many peppers we have at the moment – there are LOADS! Unfortunately, they’re all green (my least favourite coloured pepper)

So, after doing almost no work on the plot this week, this is how I left it. No more (planned) trips for us this summer although I have been known to spontaneously just jump in the car and see where we end up so it may not yet be the end of our travels. Spontaneous journeys aside I should have more time to really concentrate on the plot over the next couple of weeks so I’m hoping to fit in a major weeding session to tidy the plot up a bit.

Week 79 – Rainy Days and Mondays

Quite a strange week this week, from a weather point of view. As I write this I’m looking out on beautiful sunshine but this morning we had heavy rain (I know this because I was standing in a field trying to sell stuff!) This seems to have been the pattern all week- one minute bright sunshine, the next, storm clouds and downpours. Great for the gardens but not quite so great when you’re trying to enjoy the summer holidays (or stand in a field and sell stuff!)

Unfortunately we’d chosen this week to drive to the coast for a couple of days. Myself, Louis and my mum often take a short break away together in August. This year we chose Worthing in Sussex (a few miles up the coast from Brighton) – no particular reason other than we hadn’t been there before. Our timings could not have been worse! We left on Tuesday morning in glorious sunshine and drove home on Thursday in equally glorious sunshine – the bit inbetween, however was anything but glorious. It rained all day on Wednesday, and I mean ALL DAY – it just didn’t stop. We enjoyed ourselves though, did a bit of shopping, had fish and chips for lunch and wasted some money in an arcade (a visit to the ‘slotties’ is a must when you visit the seaside!)

 

As ever, the allotment was never far from my thoughts so I was pleased to find this book in a local charity shop. It looks like it has some interesting recipes in it – as you know, I’m always on the look out for recipes for the allotment fruit and veg.

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We’d hired a bungalow through Airbnb which was lovely – small but had everything we needed. It did mean we had to tidy up after ourselves and I’m pleased to say I now have photographic evidence of Louis drying and putting away the dishes! Believe me, this doesn’t happen very often.

We’d planned a relaxing couple of days so I took pencils and some paper with me. A few weeks ago I’d bought a beginner’s sketch kit which had 6 sketching pencils and a faint line drawing to use as a guide to draw over. Having had a go with each type of pencil I thought I’d try to copy the picture freehand. This is what I ended up with. The top picture is the faint line drawing and the one underneath is my freehand copy. I haven’t drawn since I was a teenager so I’m actually pleased with how this turned out.

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The other really lovely thing about using Airbnb is the personal touches. You don’t get this when you stay in a hotel!

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I’d popped to the plot on Monday, knowing I wouldn’t be down there for a couple of days. It was all looking good. I noticed 2 fruit on the strawberry/raspberry plant. I think I’ve decided I’m going to call it the rawspberry plant from now on – bit of a mouthful I know but it was either that or rasrawberry which just sounds silly! I picked one later in the week and I’m slightly disappointed to report it tasted exactly like a strawberry.

I met Michelle on the plot on Friday morning. We spent our time harvesting and weeding. I picked cucumbers, cucamelons, tomatoes, a pepper, rhubarb, blackberries, my first ever (slightly disappointing) rawspberry and Michelle gave me a lettuce from her plot.

Something’s eaten one of my pumpkins. Look at it! It’s been decimated. Whatever’s been at it has had a proper good go although, to be fair it has, at least just stuck to the one pumpkin. It’s super annoying when you find all your strawberries have had just one bite taken out them – why can’t they just eat the whole strawberry rather than a little bit of all of them! It’s infuriating. I did a quick online search to try and find out what might have eaten it and it looks like the most likely culprit is a squirrel – because we don’t see many deer, racoons or woodchucks (the other  suggestions) on the allotment! Not sure how I stop it eating my pumpkins. I removed the pumpkin next to the chewed one and it’s now in the shed so at least it won’t be able to start on that one.

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The ladders are working well – there’s one small pumpkin growing at the top of the newer ladder. I’ve had to train the stalks up the ladders by weaving them round the legs – it’s taken a fair a bit of manouevering but worth it because it seems to have done the trick and the plants are beginning to grow up the ladders.

The cucamelons and cucumbers are a continual source of joy! I love the tiny telephone cord like tendrils which wind their way round anything that stands still for long enough. The extra wire and piece of metal I installed a couple of weeks ago seem to have worked – the cucamelons are growing up them. We’ve had so many cucumbers I’ve started to give them away as we just can’t eat them all.

The tomato plant was continuing to go rogue! Despite the bamboo canes I’d put in next to it, when I checked it this week it was growing out not up. Michelle to the rescue! Michelle appeared from her shed with a tomato growing support thing. It’s 3 plastic canes with some connecting pieces. I’ve stuck it into the ground around the tomato plant and pulled the stalks up through it. I hope this will encourage it to grow vertically from now on.

Rhubi is flourishing. I’ve harvested quite a lot from her in recent weeks which is noticeable in her size. I’ve started to notice thicker stalks coming through though so I think the thinning out I did a few weeks back was the right thing to do. I made another rhubarb crumble cake with her for the cafe this week. This is becoming a firm favourite and, after some feedback I added a lot more rhubarb this time.

I couldn’t work out why, in mid August I feel like there’s not really much to do on the plot at the moment. Chatting to Michelle I realised it’s because we haven’t had to do much watering. We’ve had so much rain we haven’t had to worry about making it down to the allotment to water every day. While this is great it does mean more weeds and, although not massively obvious in the photos I’m a bit ashamed of how weedy my plot is at the moment – something I must tackle next week…or maybe the week after!

Here’s how I left the plot this week. Another short break for us this week – this time to visit my sister and brother in law in Norfolk. Here’s hoping the weather is a bit better than our time in Worthing.

 

Week 78 – Happy Birthday!

I have been very lapse this week and only been down to the plot twice. In my defence we’ve had a lot of rain over the past few days and where I would normally try to make it down there at the weekend we’ve been away celebrating helper number 2’s 18th birthday!

His mum had organised a surprise stay in a hotel with dinner on Friday night and breakfast and afternoon tea on Saturday. We all had a great time and helper number 2 was genuinely surprised to see us all standing in the hotel restaurant, singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to him when he arrived on Friday night. He even bought me a drink on his birthday – I’ve been telling him for years, as soon as he hits 18 he needs to buy me a Jack Daniels! The bar didn’t have any Jack Daniels (shocking, I know!) so he bought me a gin instead. Happy 18th Helper number 2!

I harvested more rhubarb this week.

I wasn’t at the cafe this week due to the above birthday celebrations so I didn’t make any cakes with it but I did make…rhubarb gin! Depending on which recipe I go by it either has to be left for about 4 days or 4 weeks. My feeling is to leave it for 4 weeks. It’s already started to turn a gorgeous pink colour.

After helper no 2 weeded my sweet peas on the plot, it turns out I have them in my window box at home. These were the flowers I bought on my way home from Oxford. I had no idea there were sweet peas in there. They’re so pretty.

The peppers are doing marvellously well. We’re going to get loads of peppers this year.

Louis picked a cucumber this week. We’ve eaten a few so far and they taste great. Still loads left on the plant.

We’re starting to see the squashes growing. All the sunshine and rain seems to be doing the trick.

The cucamelons are just brilliant. I noticed they were starting to grow past the structure I’d made and I felt they needed a bit more height so I searched through the pile of rubbish (I  always seem to have a pile of rubbish kicking about don’t I?!) and found a piece of stiff wire. I’ve attached it to the top of the wooden structure to add a bit of height. I also made use of a piece of metal I found and stuck it in the ground next to the plant. It’s hard to see in the photos, but the plant has already started to twirl itself around both of these. I’m hoping this will give the plant more room to produce more fruit.

I spent some time this week straightening the edges of the main path – I know I’ve been talking about doing this for weeks. I also know it doesn’t look that straight but I’m pleased with how it turned out. Now I just need the grass to grow.

As  mentioned earlier, we’ve had a fair amount of rain this week and a lot of it has been really heavy over a short space of time followed by gorgeous sunshine. This means rainbows!

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Only a short update this week – I should be packing as we’re going away for a few days. This is how I left the plot this week. We’re going to struggle to make it down there much over the following week – hope it’s going to be ok without me!

Week 77 Harvest

We’re just over half way through our summer holidays (only another 5 weeks to go until Louis goes back to college) and we are now, definitely in harvest season. This week we’ve picked blackberries, our very first cucamelon, pumpkins, rhubarb, pears, cucumbers and spinach, some of which  I’ve given to friends, some I’ve baked with and some has been stored for future use.

We didn’t make it to the plot for our usual Tuesday visit because Louis and I  had volunteered to deliver a Random Cafe buffet, although, to be fair it was raining so we wouldn’t have been able to go anyway. While we were out I picked up a bottle of gin to make some rhubarb gin. I haven’t started the process yet because I realised I have nothing to actually put the gin and rhubarb in!

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We did make it to the plot on Wednesday instead. My helpers picked the first cucumbers – 5 in all with still lots left on the plant. The pair of them spent ages foraging for blackberries. Despite me hacking at the brambles every chance I get we still have more than enough blackberries and my 2 helpers did a grand job of picking as many as they could reach. I also picked some more when I popped in on my own on Sunday evening (can you ever have too many blackberries?!) They’ve all gone into the freezer as I’ve learned from past experience they don’t last very long even stored in the fridge. I’ll be researching new recipes for them this week – hopefully I can find something new and exciting to do wth them.

I saw this lovely idea on Pinterest a little while back and really wanted to replicate it on the allotment. I acquired some petal shaped stones and here are my first 2 flowers. I absolutely love the idea of the path but can you imagine how many stones I’d have to find so I’m sticking with the odd flower dotted about the plot for the time being.

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I finally found time to install the new ladder on Thursday. I’m so pleased with the end result. It’s gone in above one of the pumpkin plants. This was slightly more complicated as the plant was already quite big and I had a bit of a struggle to trail the stalks up the ladder – the whole point being they grow up the ladder and not across the ground. The process of actually securing the legs in the ground was made much easier due to all the rain we’ve had recently. I was able to simply push the legs into the soil with very  little effort. I think they look great!

I spent an hour or so at the allotment on Saturday morning with Michelle. I mainly just weeded and took photos but I also picked our first cucamelon, although it would be more accurate to say I caught our first cucamelon as, while trying to see how many tiny fruits we had, I knocked it off the plant. Look how cute it is! I’d read they taste like limes but this one definitely tasted liked a cucumber.

I also picked 2 pumpkins and some pears. I don’t like pears (it’s the grainy texture – really doesn’t do it for me) so I took them to the cafe. Other people really like pears!

Talking of the cafe – on Saturday we celebrated our 2nd birthday. Michelle very kindly picked some gorgeous dahlias from her plot which looked lovely on the table (when we’d finished we left them with the community centre staff so they are now making the reception area look pretty)

The birthday celebrations were a great success – lots of cake, including a wonderful rainbow cake made by one of the volunteers and an incredibly positive speech by the deputy mayor. Happy 2nd birthday, Random Cafe!

We continued the celebrations at the pub on Saturday night so it came as a bit of a shock when I was hangover free and able to attend the local bootsale with J. on Sunday morning. We always enjoy wandering round the bootsale but this week was especially fun as we both found lots of great bargains. Nothing gardening related apart from this book which, having had a quick flick through looks like it could be quite helpful.

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After some advice from both Michelle and J. I pinched off the tomato plant this week. It had a lot of growth on it and was looking decidedly leafy. The idea is to pinch off the smaller shoots, thus leaving more energy for the larger, more established shoots which in turns means bigger tomatoes over a longer period – quality not quantity. That’s the theory anyway – we’ll wait and see if it works. The first photo is what it looked like last week and the second photo was taken after Michelle and I had attacked it pinched out the extra shoots!

As you can see from the photos I already have one ripe tomato. On Thursday it was more of an orange colour with a green top but by Sunday it was a wonderful bright red. I left it on the plant hoping some of the others will follow its lead so I can harvest more than one.

I had a quick visit to the plot on Sunday evening to water everything and take some photos. I walked into the shed and was confronted by this!

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Seriously, I nearly had a heart attack! Although when I realised what it was I had a quiet chuckle to myself. I messaged the allotment group to say what had happened and Richard, my allotment other half apologised for scaring me but was happy to know it worked and hopes it scares the pigeons as well as it scared me! (not sure it’s going to scare many pigeons in the shed though, Richard!)

Rhubi’s looking good. I removed quite a few rotten stalks from underneath – I had no idea they were there until I pulled some stalks off. I wonder if, like the tomato plant removing these will improve the quality of the remaining stalks?

I harvested a few stalks and made another rhubarb crumble cake – this time I added a little bit of crystalised ginger to the mix.

This is how I left the plot this week. Happy with the progress over the last few days.

 

Week 76

Another week of extreme weather here in the UK. We’ve had thunderstorms, rain, ridiculous humidity and the hottest day of the year so far, which, of course was the day we’d arranged to travel to Richmond on public transport! Very pleased to see the side of a London Overground train with ‘#EveryLoveMatters’ on the side of it but not quite so pleased to spend 3 hours travelling home in boiling hot temperatures. Richmond is lovely though and we’ll definitely go back – but maybe wait for a slightly cooler day.

I started the week by visiting my local nature reserve. I pay an annual membership fee to be able to visit it and this was my first visit this year. It’s an amazing place and one of my favourite places to just sit quietly. It’s also the place where I’ve seen kingfishers the most often. I love kingfishers and I often forget how privileged I am to have seen them so many times. I didn’t see any kingfishers this time but I did see a heron, loads of little egrets and a woodpecker, and, much like the allotment 2 hours passed incredibly quickly.

I took my 2 helpers to the plot on Tuesday afternoon. We left it until a little bit later in the day this week due to the heat and, because I didn’t want them collapsing from heat exhaustion, I didn’t work them too hard! The whole plot needed a good water and when they’d done that I showed them how to weed properly using the hoe.

We then set about harvesting some fruit and veg. I showed them how to dig up potatoes. We dug up LOTS of potatoes! I kept telling them we had enough potatoes but then I’d turn round and find one of them had dug up another potato plant. Helper number 2 took some home. I’ve been cooking with them all week and I took a bag full to the cafe this week and we made wedges with them.

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We then had a go at the blackberries. Again, we found lots. There were loads more we couldn’t reach but we were pleased with our haul. They’ve gone into the freezer to be used next time I do any baking.

 

Next, we pulled some rhubarb stalks. I made a rhubarb crumble cake with them. I found the recipe online – I wanted to find something to do with the rhubarb other than crumble, and it turned out surprisingly well. I took it to this week’s cafe where it sat alongside a courgette cake made by one of our other volunteers. The courgette cake was really tasty – definitely on my list of things to make (shame I’m not growing courgettes this year!)

While we were there I remembered to remove the boards from the ladder above the squashes. It seems to have made a difference, now the squashes are seeing more sunlight they do seem to have grown – well, I think so anyway. No squashes on the plants yet  – we have flowers now though. The photo on the left was taken on Tuesday, the day I removed the boards, the photo on the right was taken 5 days later – removing the boards was a good idea!

The chrysanthemum seems to have exploded with growth! I guess it really likes the combination of lots of sun and rain. I’ve decided I may have to move her, though. My original idea was to position the water butts at the back of the shed but the more I think about it the more I realise what an utterly ludicrous idea this is (I know right, not like me at all!) I think, having to walk all the way round the shed to fill the watering cans is going to slowly drive me bonkers. There is no other route to the back of the shed unless I move the pear tree which is totally not going to happen! So, my plan is to move the chrysanthemum, the strawberry/raspberry plant, the greenhouse and anything else in that bed to clear enough space for the waterbutts. This will make the water much easier to access but means I’ll lose a bed, a bed which, to be fair  mainly has flowers in it. I really like having flowers on the plot and, of course without them we would have no fruits and vegetables so I will find somewhere else for them to go.

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We definitely have at least 2 cucumbers and around 6 pumpkins so far – one of them is pretty big.

We have quite a few peppers – all green and all quite small. But look at what’s happened to the biggest one – it has stretch marks! Michelle and I were laughing about peppers having stretch marks until I googled it and found that’s exactly what they are! And, like humans they happen when the flesh of the pepper expands faster than the outer layer. I can’t leave it there like that, showing its stretch marks to the world – I’ll pick it the next time I’m down there.

I haven’t mentioned the leeks or spring onions for a while because, quite frankly they’re not really doing very much. They are definitely growing and, while I don’t expect them to do anything as exciting as jumping out of their beds and dancing round the plot they’re really not doing much of any interest. I can’t show you fruits or flowers on them, they are, in effect just leaves sticking up out of the ground. Obviously, if they do ever start dancing round the plot you’ll be the first to know but please don’t hold your breath!

The cucamelon has grown beyond its support, with quite a few tiny cucamelons on its stems. We’re all waiting excitedly for them to be big enough to eat since finding out they go very well in gin!

Here’s how I left the plot this week. No definite plans for next week really. The area behind the shed needs to be cleared (again!) so I may start the job of moving the waterbutts but we’ll see.