Tag Archives: Garlic

Busman’s Holiday

Took the day off work on Friday to head off to the RHS Hampton Court Flower Show. Yes, I took time off from tending plants to go… and look at plants. When you love what you do, this is what happens. I also like the show at Hampton Court much more than Chelsea, which tends to turn into an endless mass of people elbowing you in the sides. The little old ladies being the worst perpetrators. I also have a soft spot for Hampton Court Palace as I spent a blissful year there doing my horticultural/ garden design training. Nice to be back in my old stomping grounds.

Stunning & inspirational

Stunning & inspirational

Scott came along quite willingly and we had a good wander about, sampling gin, foods, and possibly more gin in the ‘Growing Tastes’ tent. We also picked up some more seed garlic from The Garlic Farm, which will go in the ground in a couple of months. Scott acted as my own personal plant attendant when I left him to nap in a shady spot while I bought plants. I generally make a rule not to buy things at flower shows, things are often available elsewhere and for much cheaper. I try and confine myself to taking photos of plants to help me remember names of varieties.

One to remember!

One to remember!

With the ornamental beds finally clear and under control (I’m making this sound like an advert for zit cream), I would really like to fill the beds with  mix of perennials. My impulse purchases that day were a few Salvia patens with stunning blue flowers and several Cosmos atrosanguineus (Chocolate Cosmos) with their lovely cocoa scent. Neither are particularly hardy, but I do love them. I did also see lots of lovely orange Achillea millefolium in the show gardens this year, so I’ll add them to my wish list.

Lovely orange Achillea in the foreground.

Lovely orange Achillea in the foreground.

Now, with my head full of ideas, I really should sit down and make a final list. In a year’s time, our allotment will end up looking like this:

IMG_5759

Heh.

 

Planting Plans: Root Veg

As the snow drifts past the window, it’s yet another weekend where I can’t do much with the allotment, other than dream of warmer days. I don’t need it to be tee shirt weather, just warm enough so I don’t have to Penguin Walk for twenty minutes on slippery pavement to get to the plot.

My weekends haven’t been completely idle, I’ve nearly finished watching the second season of Downton Abbey and have done rather a lot of seed and plant ordering online.

As things begin to arrive, I find myself sorting though and contemplating this year’s planned endeavours. The root vegetables are very possibly my favourites,  not just because they do so well for us, but because there’s such variety to be grown. Last year was really about finding out if we could grow anything at all. As we’ve managed to do that, I now find myself wanting to grow more things we couldn’t otherwise get or afford to buy on a regular basis. The next few posts will be all about our great Planting Plans.

Last year, due to the necessity of having to clear the plot first, we planted our garlic rather late in February. While we got a nice crop midsummer, the size of the bulbs left something to be desired. This year we planted in late October and already we have green shoots poking through. We bought a collection of bulbs from The Garlic Farm which included Elephant Garlic, Lautrec Wight, Iberian Wight and Tuscany Wight. I’m not sure if I’ll be 100% sold on the Elephant Garlic, as I like my garlic strong enough to blow your face off. We shall see.

Planting Garlic.

Planting Garlic.

We grew some rather boring, run-of-the-mill white onions last year. While their impressive size gained us some nods of approval at the allotment association’s annual show, they do take up a lot of space on the plot and are so easy to buy. This year, we’re going for flavour over size and are trying Red Gourmet shallots. Scott makes the best sausage and mash I have ever encountered, so some fried shallots would be a great addition to that.

This year our allotment will be orange carrot-free. Along with the very successful Purple Haze carrots we grew, we’ll be trying out Dragon Purple. I bought the Dragon Purple seeds from The Real Seed Catalogue. Hopefully, carrot fly will be less of an issue this year due to the purple colour throwing them into a state of confusion. Also, I’ll be better about netting the carrot seedlings.

Beetroot is another repeat crop, this year I’m trying Solo. A good friend has supplied me with a beetroot hummus recipe, which I really want to try out. The first crop last year did quite well, but the second crop never really got a chance to grow before the colder autumn weather set in. I’m determined to get a second crop this year, just have to make sure not to leave it so late.

New this year, it’s leeks and  parsnips. I’ll be growing Musselburgh leeks from young plants as I’ve had to accept starting masses of things in our tiny flat is just not feasible. Baby leek plants are one crop that will be ordered in this year.  I will be doing the parsnips from seed however, growing the traditional Tender & True variety.

Finally, the potatoes. Three different varieties this year which are Charlotte, Salad Blue and Highland Burgundy Red. Charlotte is a repeat for last year, as we grow masses of tarragon in the herb plot and we absolutely love French potato salad. Salad Blue and Highland Burgundy Red are coloured varieties, which will be a great cooking experiment. I’m hoping they will retain some colour, as the idea of blue and red chips makes me smile. It’ll also be an interesting experiment to see how these varieties deal with the ravages of blight, which are endemic on our allotment site.

Salad potatoes.

Salad potatoes.

So that’s just the root veg so far, there’s still the rest of the plot to go through. The brassicas are the next big contender, as many of them are still providing for us even now and we should really grow more of them. Then there’s the squashes and fruiting vegatables to consider, which is harder to think about at the moment. They’re such quintessential summer plants, but I still see the vision of them, even as I watch the snow fall.

Autumn Tidy

The days are getting shorter, the mornings nippy-er and I’m feeling sleepy-er. Must be the oncoming winter, that or I just need to get to bed earlier.

However, the recent cold nights have put an end to many things at the allotment. We’ve harvested the last of the squashes, courgettes, onion and summer carrots. The faded plants are cleared out and the beds weeded one last time. It’s a happy time weeding, knowing that when we come back in a week, the beds are still weed free!

Happy Pumpkin.

Happy harvester.

With the fridge and freezer packed with of lots of lovely veg, there’s still more to come off the plot. Our late sowing of carrots is looking fine and I’m hoping they’ll supply us for the next couple of months. Especially the purple ones, my favourite by far.

Final carrot crop of the year.

The winter crop of kale, sprouting broccoli and winter cabbage is looking good and safely netted to keep the marauding pigeons off. They got slightly hit  by white fly, but nothing to cause real concern. I have to confess, every time I look at that patch, I’m still stunned we started all that from just four little seed packets. Old hat to some people I’m sure, but I’m still basking in the allotment newbie glow of Actually Achieving Something From Seed.

Winter crops galore

I don’t really thing of this time of year as anything but harvesting, but there are things that we can get a head start on. For us, it was getting our garlic crop into the ground. This time last year, the plot was choked with weeds and all our efforts were just put to clearing it out. We planted garlic in late January and got a decent, albeit small crop. I’m hoping an early start will pay off by giving us larger bulbs to harvest next summer. Already looking forward to covering all our meals with lashings of stinky, tasty garlic.

Garlic in!

Normally, I tend to dread winter, but this year it’s such a different feeling. There’s still the slight sadness in seeing the lushness of the summer fade, but the anticipation for next year is already building. I’m looking forward to the cold winter days planning for next spring. Bring on the short days and nippy weather, I’ve got planning to do. In between all those wintertime naps of course.

Reaping the Rewards

Well, it’s been a brief hiatus recently. I have been to the plot fairly regularly  but not doing masses of work there, just harvesting really. It’s great, it must be what it’s like for those celebrity chefs that “grow their own” veg. Sadly, the reality is that I did all the work myself, not the hired help of my imagination.

Basket of goodies.

I certainly haven’t been the only one enjoying the bounty of our hard work. My parents came over for three weeks in September and it was a joy to cook for them using the produce from the plot. The oven roasted potatoes cooked with duck fat, sea salt and fresh rosemary was a big hit. Sweet carrots, steamed with a pat of butter and a touch of ginger were also appreciated…

I think the best reward from the plot yet has been taking my parents there and seeing them enjoy the allotment as much as I have over the last year. My dad loved taking photos of all the birds found on the allotment site, while my mum got stuck in, helping me weed and harvest. I dearly wish they could come there with me every week, it was tough seeing them fly back to Canada.

Proud parents.

With the recent wet weather, I got slightly panicky and we dug up the last of the potatoes and the remaining summer carrots. Four carrier bags worth of potatoes will be keeping us and several friends well fed for the next little while. However, it’s been our outstanding carrot crop that has been making me puff with pride this year. We have gotten our fair share of Rude Willy Carrots, but also some fantastic beauties. Silly willies or not, they all have tasted amazing, a sweetness I’ve never tasted in a shop-bought carrot.

Beaut!

The first frosts have yet to set in, so there’s plenty more harvesting to do. The last of the squashes and courgettes have yet to be collected. As the cold weather really sets in, there’s plenty still to do. With no hired help (sigh) the final clean up will need to be done and there’s still garlic to go in yet. Before we really start into that though, we’ll munch another sweet carrot and take a moment to saviour the joy of our hard work and the rewards it has brought.

Crazy for carrots!

Hits and Misses: The Hits

On to the positive! I have been amazed at how much is growing despite the low temperatures. I realise ripening may be an issue later, but I’m hoping we’ll get a final summer surge for September and October, hopefully starting this weekend. Also, with all the rain, the pressure has been off slightly with having to keep up with the watering. As much as I can, I often pop by the plot after work to potter about for a bit. However, work has been very busy of late and I’ve been glad that the necessity of going to the plot regularly to water has been reduced.

The Hits

As I mentioned in my previous post, the early potatoes have been patchy, but the main crop potatoes have been beautiful, full and healthy. Full to the point of needing no weeding, other than a quick tidy around the edges of the bed. I can’t wait to dig those up and see if the foliage growth gives all it’s promising now.

I’ve often read that beet seeds can be quite temperamental when it comes to germination. The seeds I sowed about three months ago have done very well. We thinned the seedlings out and used the leaves for salads, the last collection even giving us a couple of baby beets. Well, maybe not even baby beets, more like embryonic beets. Perfectly tasty anyway. Encouraged by their success, I’ve sown another row else where for a later crop.

Wee beets.

The garlic has been looking quite rusty from all the wet weather, but the onions, so far, have gone unscathed. I worried they would start to rot with all the wet, but having mounded up the beds seems to have paid off. They’re meant to stay in the ground for sometime yet and to only be pulled up as they’re needed. I’m glad they’ve kept well so far, otherwise I’d have to do a marathon Onion Tart Making Weekend!

Happy onions.

In the legume corner, we have the contenders; the lightweight French beans and the heavyweight broad beans. The French beans have germinated well and are working their way up the netting. They’ve done so well, that I’ve sown a second lot of purple beans on the patch the cucumbers were originally suppose to occupy. If the peas continue to struggle for much longer, I may even add some beans there. The broad beans suffered a touch of black fly, but pinching out the tops and the resident ladybird population have worked their magic. I don’t really consider myself a fan of broad beans, but I can’t deny their reliability.

Beans, beans, the musical fruit…

Over in the ornamental area, along with the bumper crop of sweet peas, the sunflowers have been growing strong. No flower buds yet, but I’ve already had to stake them to keep them upright. I have no idea how many seeds we sowed in that patch, but I’m happy some have survived in the end.

Strong sunflowers

Super smelly sweet peas.

I think I may have to book mark this post for myself, to read again and again. For when it all starts to go wrong again, I will need to be reminded that it does go right sometimes.

Hampton Court Flower Show Shopping

I always swear to myself that I will never purchase things at flower shows. I know that it’s almost always possible to get the same stuff; whether it’s plants, tools or decorative doo-dads, at much cheaper prices elsewhere. I did first break this rule at Chelsea Flower Show this year by buying a couple of hand tools from Burgon and Ball. Okay fine, it was several hand tools, but they’re sooo nice.

Scott and I had a lovely time at Hampton Court Flower Show today and utterly abandonded my “no buying things at flower shows” rule. Well, we certainly spent far too much money. I have managed to justify all of it, of course. I love the Hampton Court show, it has a great variety of things there, isn’t wall-to-wall with people like the Chelsea show and has lots of Grow Your Own stuff (hence the purchases). I also have a special love of the Palace, as I spent a year there doing my landscape design diploma, and wish I was still going there twice a week now.

Hampton Court goodies.

I bought some seeds, two of carrots to fill in the bed when the early potatoes come out and some more French Beans to fill in where the cucumbers were going to be. The peas are struggling terribly and may need filling in as well. Also, I love French beans and welcome any possible “glut” I may create with planting these.

I also got four cucumber plants and two Jalapeño plants to replace those lost in The Great Plant Die Off of June 2012. I easily justified the purchase of these, as I’ve been hunting for a supplier of veggie plants with absolutely no luck. So many suppliers are completely sold out, I guess I wasn’t the only one to suffer big losses this year…

We have been having great success with the Lautrec Wight garlic we planted in January, so the display from The Garlic Farm was irresistible. I got four seed garlic bulbs, their Softneck Pack which includes Solent Wight, Iberian Wight, Early Purple Wight and Albignesian. I’m looking forward to planting them up later this summer for a vampire-free year next year.

Don’t be fooled by its small size, that garlic will blow your head off.

I also loved the display from Eagle Sweet Peas, I’ve bookmarked their website and plan to order some seeds from them for next year. Our own sweet peas have been growing like crazy, despite the wet weather, and I’ve been picking them as often as I can to prolong the flowering. This has lead to virtually every room in our flat smelling of sweet peas, which is utterly divine.

Eagle Sweet Peas

Masses of sweet peas!

I’ve come home with lots of excitement and enthusiasm for what to do next year. Even though the weather has been rubbish so far, I’m hoping next year will be better and I can crack on with all the things I want to do. Even if my wallet won’t thank me for it.