September 2012

From My Allotment Diary (Sat. Sep. 29th, 2012)

September 29, 2012 by BigGee   Comments (4)

Well I briefly managed to get down  to my lottie yesterday. The toms were waiting for picking in the polytunnel - as I'd suspected. They're still ripening but I fear the tons of green ones will not manage it fully before it's too late - that's an annual "thing" with most gardeners in the UK.

It's so cold at the moment, and although it gets quite warm inside the polytunnel in the day, the temperatures drop over night, which is making the cucumbers very unhappy. Loads of them are full thickness at one end, then they go thin halfway down towards the other end! Some of them look as if they've contracted veggie polio!

I'm still waiting to smell the aroma of a ripe melon when I go in there, but as yet they're stubbornly refusing to go that extra millimetre to fully ripen for me. the capsicum (sweet pepper) plants are absolutely covered in flowers - two months late! No chance of them developing into fruits, although about half a dozen have green immature fruit, but it's far too late for them to amount to anything. Ah well - that's a gardeners lot, shrug the shoulders and start planning for what will be a better season next year perhaps.

imageIt's not all doom & gloom though. Whilst the runner beans are now looking exhausted and are coming to an end, the climbing French beans are making a real fist of it.

Here's a basket full I picked yesterday with the able help of "Her Indoors"! I'm very pleased with them, the "pencil" ones are still lovely and tender and the "Borlotta" variety (on the right of the pic. above) are excellent. image

Not just beans though, the marrows are very respectable, and amazingly, (although we haven't had many), the figs turned up trumps. They've actually ripened and are really sweet. How strange, an exotic fruit like fig manages to come to something OUTSIDE whilst - inside - the cucs are jibbing! Although in fairness the lemon cucs seemed to do better than the traditional long green ones! It's all topsy turvy this year. Lemon cucumbers are a MUST GROW - a fantastic variety - and yes - they look exactly like a lemon but taste like a mild sweet cucumber, gorgeous and just the right size. The colour also adds a little something to the salad!

imageHow well do you know your toms? Here's a selection of cherry types that I picked yesterday. If you look closely there's Sungold, Black Cherry, Gardeners Delight and Golden Sunrise in there. The sweetest? Sungold - my all time favourites - it's the one all the kids go for because it tastes so sweet. Granddads do as well - despite the diabetes!

All in all it could have been a lot worse. Although throughout the summer I've repeatedly moaned in this Blog about what a bad season it's been but  in reality, it wasn't a complete wash out - just much harder work than usual. But we got there in the end. Nature makes sure that's there's ALWAYS something left to grow again next year!

 

From My Allotment Diary (Fri. Sep. 28th, 2012)

September 28, 2012 by BigGee   Comments (1)

A hectic week, but amazingly, no time spent on the lottie. I've got jobs piling up down there (mostly involving WAY overdue weeding & the customary clearing up chores that have come around again for another season), but the weather has been totally unco-operative. So I'm excused and don't feel particularly guilty.

The harvesting is slowing down now & the plot is increasingly looking more autumnish. The polytunnel doors don't need to be opened for ventilation due to daytime sunshine anymore, (what we saw of the sun this year). So the odd missed day is not so important. John my eighty year old doorkeeper no longer opens them when he takes his dog for a walk at the crack of dawn, and I no longer have to go down to close them again. On the downside, on days when I'm on two minds whether to go down or not, it's now very often "not" rather than "must". It's a natural winding down process for the dormant winter season. having said that I'll probably be greeted by hundreds of smiling toms when I go down next!

Time passes by in a blur these days - I know it's an old phenomenon that everyone comments on, but I never cease to be amazed by how much time seems to accelerate after a certain point in your life!

imageIt's been a week of appointments, domestic chores of a business kind and in between we had a day ticked off this week to go and visit our No. 3 son, his partner and our four year old Grandson Cai (that's a picture of him eating grapes with his "Dadcu" when he came to our house last February).

It was his fourth birthday last Tuesday, but we had things we had to attend to, so we had to postpone our visit until yesterday (Thursday). So car packed with his Great-Grandmother, (my mother) our No. 4 son (his youngest uncle) Josie & myself (his Grandparents) we headed off south to Llandybie - I make it sound a long way off, but it's only 40 miles, although I wish he lived nearer.

We had a lovely day with him. He didn't mind the lateness of our visit for his birthday because he got two parties for the price of one! It only seems like yesterday when we were going to visit for his third birthday. You can't help feeling that another Grandchild is growing up at a tear and we seem to be robbed of the time we would like to share with him during those years. It really hammers home how fleeting those years are. Our two Granddaughters Bethan & Eleanor by our No. 2 son who lives in Birkenhead (120 miles north of us) are now 15 & 16 - young ladies that have left their "childish" years well & truly behind - where on earth did that time fly off to?

Anyway, got back tired but happy last night only to find a mini panic had broken out in The Chat-Shed, because of a glitch that had developed in the "weather widget" programme. It's a habit of mine to check my e-mails & activity in The Shed last thing before I go to roost for the night. Although tired, like a fool, I couldn't resist having a peek to see what the problem was - bad idea! Once you get involved you can't leave it alone can you? So with a weary body & numb brain I got to Nod a lot later than I had intended, but at least I'd resolved the problem.

This morning I'm cursing myself for not ignoring the problem, going to bed & then getting up early to sort it this morning. Will I ever learn? Probably not - can't teach an old dog new tricks and all that . . . . can you?

From My Allotment Diary (Tues. Sep. 18th, 2012)

September 18, 2012 by BigGee   Comments (2)

Autumn has come early to these parts. Almost overnight the plot seems to have gone over from summer harvest to sleepy mode. The leaves on the trees are turning a subtle brown & yellow, the runner beans no longer have flowers and what's left on the plants are not long and lush anymore, but the pods seem to be becoming "dwarfed" and tougher. In fact most of my summer crop is either showing signs of going to seed or is becoming thicker & tougher. The only exceptions seems to be the winter crops & the weeds - especially the chickweed. It seems to be as vigorous and  tender as it was back in the spring!

I haven't been down on the plot much over the last week. It's a combination of not feeling very well and suffering considerable joint pains, and by extension not very energetic. I've also been hampered by the cold. It's not pleasant gardening weather here. The polytunnel is the only thing that still demands attention (weeds excepted - but they seem to have won the battle this year anyway). Watering & feeding the toms, cucs and melons etc. is still an on-going chore.

It's been a season of separation. The wheat and the chaff has been well and truly separated. The keen gardeners have plodded on as usual (with lots of moans), the "fad" gardeners have disappeared over the horizon and those betwixt and between have surrendered to the weeds! Our allotment site, in general, looks more like a derelict waste ground than a thriving allotment site. Many have just given up on the season and I wonder how many will still be around for next season!

I get the distinct feeling that the "grow your own" food fad is on the wane - I desperately hope not, but there are signs that the reality of how much hard work veg. gardening is, and how much dedication is needed has set in all over the country after a season like this. The hardcore lovers of the smell of the soil and it's produce will always keep going, however, those who have taken up the hobby in a fit of enthusiasm and the need to be a part of a modern trend seem to be falling by the wayside.

This morning I got a message from my mate Dave (tig2dave on this site). He tells me that a similar gardening social networking site to our own here in the Gardeners Chat-Shed has closed down.

imageGardenersclick was probably the biggest site of it's kind. It was a site that benefited from the dosh and posh support of the BBC's Gardeners World, but it seems the plug has been pulled on it, I guess it's because of dwindling support. we've seen a similar trend here, but being run by poor enthusiasts like myself The gardeners Chat-Shed will go on for as long as I wish it to - not being dependent on outside forces. The Gardeners Click site had been going since 2008. About a year before The Gardeners Chat-Shed.

A great pity - but a sign of the times perhaps? There's always a home here for the lost souls. We'll welcome them with open arms and no hard feelings!

 

From My Allotment Diary (Sun. Sep. 9th, 2012)

September 9, 2012 by BigGee   Comments (1)

I got woken up this morning with a phone call from my dear old neighbour Johnny "Boxer" (Johnny Lewis). Johnny is over eighty and an ex boxer himself, however, his biggest claim to fame is that he was Dick Richardson's trainer. For all the older ones that may read this, Dick held the European heavyweight title from March 1960 to June 1962. He was one of a quartet of outstanding British heavyweights in the 1950s and early '60s, along with Henry Cooper, Joe Erskine and Brian London, who held out the possibility of a British heavyweight world champion. Richardson defeated a number of top heavyweights in his career, including; Ezzard Charles, Karl Mildenberger, Bob Baker, Brian London and Hans Kalbfell. Mildenburger went on to fight Mohammed Ali.

Without wishing to turn my Allotment Blog into a boxing fan history blog, I'll explain. Johnny is one of the kindest, most interesting and colourful characters anyone could meet. He's a London Welshman, who spent a big chunk of his life working at his family's dairy in London - as many people from this neck of the woods did many years ago.

Johnny, with his "Steptoe & Son" Cockney accent and amazing tales also trained Dick Richardson at the gym in Blackfriars London, Dick become a British & European heavyweight champion. These days Johnny's retired & has returned back to his family's roots here in Aberaeron. He only lives a few doors away, and we spend a lot of time together (as you may have guessed boxing & rugby form the other two parts of my trinity of interests - gardening being one of the three!).

Johnny calls in regularly for a chat and some local gossip, he also pops down my lottie on occasion in the summer - where he'll spend a few hours having a cuppa & telling me all about his adventures and haunts in London. Apparently he went to school with the Kray twins, and also frequented the same places and mixed with the same people in those boxing circles.  - so you can imagine the tales that get related to me! For my part I provide a bit of company, a listening ear and veg. for him and Jan his wife in their old days! If you'd like to see the "Brawl in Porthcawl" involving Johnny & Dick back in 1960 - where more fighting happened after the fight than during it - then click HERE. Sorry I'm off on a tangent again!

ANYWAY he rang me this morning to ask if I had clothes on! When I said I was just getting up he told me to go around to his as quickly as I could to watch the Dawson/ Ward fight with him on TV - because it was such a good bout.  Unable to refuse, I got dressed and went down. The timing was bad, because Josie & I had planned to go down the allotment this morning - to lift the last of the spuds. We had a bit of a panic on because we'd heard that rain had been forecast for this afternoon. In fact as I write - it's pouring outside - on schedule.

imageNo probs though, we got the spuds lifted, and along with the ones we lifted yesterday we now have three sack-fulls in the garage! It's been surprisingly good - all things considered. I planted six 40 foot rows of Winston, Kestrel, Charlotte & Pink Fir Apple with a row of Mackies & Picasso (the last two are main crop). As those who read my blog here will remember, blight struck early and ALL my spuds had their haulms removed six weeks ago. On top of that the bottom end of the potato patch was flooded three times during June. However they prevailed, and whilst the crop in the flooded part are a little bit small, and there is the occasional tuber that's been affected by blight, all in all I'm reasonably satisfied.

Whilst we've had an abysmal season overall, the last month has not been too bad & I've found that some things have really perked up. The polytunnel is producing well, with a good crop of toms, cucumbers, aubergines & melons.

Outside the Kelsae onions came up trumps (Stuttgarter not so good - but passable). The courgettes (some of which are now marrows) are also having a late spurt!

imageHere's a few photos:

Here's the "marrow" or overgrown courgette - you choose! Also the aubergine that was hiding at the back of the polytunnel but "Hawkeye" Josie found and got pricked in the finger for her efforts! Plus a couple of Kelsae onions.

Here's moi with his babies!

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A pair of Kelsae - not quite Medwyn Williams size, but the biggest on our allotment site.

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Better than most poison chemical offerings at your local supermarket!

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The courgette/ marrow.

How big was it? See the next photo:

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This big!

How much did it weigh?

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This much!

Thankfully the rain held off not only long enough to get the spuds home, but also long enough to get "Big Bertha" out to rotovate the whole of the potato patch where the spuds had been.

All in all a brilliant day. Mission accomplished and home by 5.30pm. Thanks to Johnny Boxer I got an early start, saw the boxing. Spent a lovely hour with Johnny AND managed to drag Josie down to the plot where between us we polished off all the work that needed doing!

Don't you just love it when a plan comes together and it stays dry to finish things off!

Right I'm off now to enjoy the evening watching Scrum V on the telly. Even the rugby is good this weekend with the Scarlets at the top of the Robo Pro 12 League - it doesn't get much better for simple souls like me - with just three interests when it comes to hobbies!

From My Allotment Diary (Mon. Sep. 3rd, 2012)

September 3, 2012 by BigGee   Comments (1)

Today on the allotment it was like a spring day. It was calm, quiet, not too warm and very pleasant. What made it feel even more "springish" was the fact that Phil my plot neighbour had cleared a bed, dug it over & was planting peas! Yes I know it's late, but I guess he'll get something for his effort before Jack Frost visits. Besides the plants were in pots and about six inches high already. I also had a fit of madness and got Big Bertha out to rotovate quite a large area where I'd dug up some potatoes; so with the smell of fresh soil, bare patches of earth & bright green new plants it really DID seem like a spring day. Even the birds seemed confused! They're starting to sing again after their summer moult. Have you noticed how there's hardly any bird-song in August?

So with a spring mentality I thought about how horrid the season has been & how much we all moan about it - so a short term resolution was quietly made to stop moaning about the weather (although I DO hear we're to have more rain tomorrow). Instead I decided to be positive, get out my mobile phone camera and take some pics for the regular readers of my Blog. (Sorry about the quality, it never was a good idea to stick cheap cameras into mobile phones, but it has to be said - it's very convenient)

Right - first stop the polytunnel. Everything in there seems quite happy - despite a painfully slow start. Over the last month everything seems to have perked up and started catching up. In fact the toms are doing very well - unlike last year, when they had a bit of a set-back when they got roasted under the polythene, when - due to a bit of confusion - the doors weren't opened for a few days. They didn't like it! Leaf curl and pouting plants was the result!

This year the cooler weather seems to have suited them better under polythene, and they look exceedingly healthy. A bit slow to ripen, but hey! How often DO tomatoes ripen early in the UK?

Here's a snapshot of a big truss of Sungold cherry toms. Green I know, BUT I have picked quite a few orange ones - honest! (Sungold are meant to be orange by the way!).

THE sweetest cherry toms yet bred I believe. It's a job to stop picking them off and eating them like sweets when I'm pottering around.

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Next up -

Good old reliable Shirley - every wise gardeners' favourite. Forget the watery tasteless Moneymaker (that everyone seems so intent on growing these days). Here's a REAL "proper" tom with a proper tomato taste.

Look how uniform and sizeable the fruits are - beautiful! Despite the moans about the season's weather offerings.

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A new one for me this - it's called Black Cherry (a freebie packet of seeds from the front of a gardening mag. The fruit is actually a dark purple/ chocolate colour. NEVER believe the word "black" when it comes to plants - it usually means purple - as the aubergines called "Black Beauty" will testify! But black sounds good & exotic doesn't it?

I haven't tasted these yet. They look nice, they're very prolific and rather large to be classified as "cherry" toms. Perhaps it's my TLC that's making them bigger than they should be (I don't think!).

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This next one's called Golden Sunset. another freebie packet of seeds off yet another gardening mag! Pure yellow (all original wild toms were yellow by the way - red is a bred colour). These are full sized. very pretty and again a good cropper.

Taste? Untried by moi - as yet. Incidentally, I'll reproduce this Blog entry for the next Newsletter, by then I should have tasted everything! In fact I could have tasted this one before now, but No. 1 son called last week and I threw in some ripe Golden Sunsets for him - but forgot to taste one myself. I'll see him again before the end of this week  so I'll get some feed-back.

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Fed-up of seeing toms yet? Sorry, but I've got a few left to go.

Recognise this one? That's right "Gardeners Delight" & a delight it is too! It crops like crazy with bright red (largish) cherry tomatoes. It's sweet, but not as sweet as Sungold, but it's got that strong old fashioned tomato flavour - a well named variety - "Gardeners Delight"

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At the other end of the scale a "Beefsteak" variety. This is Black Krim. A wonderful heirloom variety with a fantastic taste that dates back to the days of the Crimean war. The perfect sandwich tom. It's often erroneously cited in seed catalogues as being from the "island of Krim" in the Black Sea - that's a load of twaddle! One gets it wrong and they all fall in the trap by copying each other! It actually comes from the Crimean peninsula in Ukraine (in Ukrainian, Крим, pronounced /krîm/, similar to "cream") "Krim". I also have Ailsa Craig - but it was camera shy today!

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My brazen melons showing off their tights! A pair of cantaloupe melons - can't wait to go in to the tunnel one day and just get bowled over my the aroma of a ripe one!image

Same again from a slightly different angle. I have about four or five coming on the same plant. If I think it's flagging (as the season is going on a bit) I might have to sacrifice one or two to get the others up to size & ripe.

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Meanwhile a little further down the aisle of the tunnel is the Marketmore cucumbers they're busy proliferating - as they always do. We make the same mistake with cucs as we do with their cucurbit cousins the courgette. We all forget how prolific they really are! The word "glut" was invented for this family of plants with runner beans in close pursuit!

Marketmore work fine outside - if the weather is FINE. This year they're having a little treat out of the cold and in the polytunnel.

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And now to the big outdoors! The runner beans are doing exceptionally well at the moment, after a real touch and go start. As usual my favourite variety Armstrong is strutting it's stuff. Closely followed by Polestar this year. I compare at least one variety against Armstrong every year - it's been my supreme champ for years. We'll see how Polestar fares against it this year. More reports on spuds & runners in my next news-letter.

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HOWEVER what Polestar HAS kicked up for me is this "sport"! Runners are famously promiscuous. Would you "Adam & Eve" it? The mother is a green podded Polestar, but this little baby obviously has a different daddy - thanks to a long ranging bee perhaps?. It's purple podded - all the other plants are producing the usual green pods. It tastes better than the other Polestar, and is slightly darker green (not purple) - when boiled. I've taken three pods to try. The rest will be kept to produce seed. Next year I'll sow them well away from the others, in isolation, and hopefully, if they come true I'll have a new variety. It'll be called "Aeron Purple Queen" or maybe "Aeron Black Beauty" - remember what I said about the licence that growers use to name things "black" when they're actually purple?

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Here's a closer view of my little beauty!

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And here's the rest of it's half brothers & sisters!image

Not so good for onions - except for what's left of the Kelsae variety. The seeds for these is expensive & the result should be about three times the size of those in my picture! there's always next year!

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Quite amazingly a lot of gardeners say they have difficulty growing Florence Fennel at the best of times, because of our UK weather (Florence being a tad warmer normally). However, against ALL the odds my Fennel has thrived in this wet summer!! How strange is that? the total opposite to what I expected!

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Here's my late crop of peas. The first 2 or 3 batches were a total disaster - not least because a flaming mouse overnight pinched a whole tray of 80 peas that had started to sprout. It found something a tad deadlier when it came back the following night! This late crop seems to have got it's act together! perhaps they'll be ready to pick for Christmas dinner!

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The good ol' rhubarb ALWAYS comes up trumps - regardless of the weather. That's not such a mystery - it originates in Siberia! It grows wild on the banks of the Volga & here on the banks of the Aeron (joke)!

This one is the variety "Victoria" - an old and popular favourite with gardeners since the days of Queen Vic.!.

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The other (sweeter & more readily forced) variety that I have on the patch is Timperly Early.

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And here is my trinity of French beans growing on wig-wams. The one on the right is a Borlotta, the other two are a yellow "Kansas Wax" and a variety I call "Barry Beans". I'll explain why again (no room here - it's a long story) they're a flat podded French Bean variety.

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So that's a quick tour of my allotment in pictures this September.

Overall, I can't grumble, it could have been a LOT worse - it wasn't as much fun as usual, but we pulled through (eventually). When I consider that I had three floods during the month of June, during which time the lower end of my plot was under 18" of water, with all things considered, the recovery has been nothing short of miraculous! Perhaps the Spirit in the Sky hasn't totally given up on one of hiss sinners after all!!

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