October 2021

18th October: We are well into Autumn now, and the leaves on trees and shrubs are beginning to colour up quickly, and the red of Hawthorn Berries and Rosehips glisten when the sun catches them

On our allotment site, the Bonfire plot sports a neat circle of stones, as it sits ready for the next lot of prunings to arrive, some of which may well be mine. Gary found the last few pieces of slab buried under a dense section of Bramble hedge.

It is definitely the time to clear up on our plots and around our gardens, and my compost heaps are absolutely bulging, although the contents will sonn settle down as they start to rot into luscious dark brown compost, making space for still more greenery and shredded paper to be added

We also now have a proper, official Committee, to work in partnership with our local Council in the management of our site. It is uplifting to see the changes that have already been brought about over this past year, through the work of volunteers, with untended and derelict plots being brought back into cultivation, either by their existing tenants or those recently joining us, and the whole site being much cleaner and tidier overall, yet still leaving space for wildlife to exist alongside us.

Harvest Monday this week is a little thin, as I have been away for several days, but here is whatever I have:

Now this is one harvest I haven't grown myself, as I mentioned last week, but i had reqests to see these huge Butternuts, so here they are, with a medium sized one alongside for comparison. They are a variety called Butterfly, which I shall certainly be trying myself next seaason!

There is a neat sized Crown Prince there too, plus this week's acquisition;  Shark's Fin Melon, or Malabar Gourd. This is traditionally used to make soup, with the gelatinous texute of Shark's Fin. I couldn't say one way or another, but I do know that black seeds are numerous and very good roasted

 

Basil is still growing well, both in th polytunnel, and in the pots at home. Pesto is a real favourite, and stores really well in the fridge, as long as the surface is proteced from the air by a good layer of oil. 

It is great stirred into pasta, dolloped onto pizza or added to anything needing that taste of Summer. I have several stored: Nasturtium and Walnut, and Parsely and Peanut, to ring the changes

Yes, more Cucumbers! I was surprised at how many smallish ones were hiding in amongst the dying foliage. These are nice and crisp, so will soon be eaten. One huge one, that had secreted itself don behind the wooden edge of the bed, looks as though it may be useful for seed collection too, If so, it will mean I have masses to share next year , as I already have enough packed away for my own use

Taking out the Cucumber meant I could reach the row of Carrots sown back some months ago. As you can see, they are just fine. I shall use these up first, before the outdoor ones, as that will then clear that bed completely

Other harvests have been modest: Rocket (of course!),  Khol Rabi, Leeks, and .... Dahlias !

Out On The Plots This Week:

I weeded over the bed where Garlic and Shallots will grow, took the net which will cover them home to wash, and untangled the green net from the gigantic Daubenton's Kale. Its trunk is about 12cm in diameter, so itwill be a mission to dig out for sure! A generous application of compost and Blood Fish & Bone, and the soil will be ready for planting again

I am finalising the planting plan for next season, and evaluating the Forest Garden area, which currently looks very scruffy. I'll let you know the outcome of this next week. It is a large area, which I want to be useful, so I need to consider both which crops have been successful and how I can widen productivity a little more

 

In The Polytunnels This Week:

The main job has been to remove and chop up the massive West Indian Cucumber plants, which I managed yesterday while it was pouring with rain. It is always so loud on the cover of the tunnel! However, at least I can see what I am doing there now and can start to prepare that bed for the Winter. I have some worm castings to add to the soil, which I hope will boost nutrients. Not used this before, so I am interested to see its effectiveness

The Lettuce and Corn Salad planted out is growing well, and will give me a bit of a succession of salad leaves during the colder months

I now need to firm up the plan for next year for thes unercover areas, to ensure the space for tender Summer crops will be available when needed, and the new table-staging I am thinking of using won't need moving about too often. I also have to take inot account the size of the cloches I plan to use this Winter, to afford extra protection to very early crops so that the best use is made of these

At Home This Week:

Not having been here for more than half of the week, I haven't done a great deal, although before I went away I at last managed to clear the kitchen floor of vegetables!! I did think that was the end of the Cucumbers, but as you know, more were there to welcome me home, so there is a tray of Cucumbers  on the floor again now!

I have however, now brought in my Citrus trees. I have a Calamondin Orange, a Mandarin and a Kumquat, all of which look very healthy and hopefully should flower over the Winter. Usually I am out at around midnight on a really frosty nilght wresting with large muddy pots by torchlight,to get them under cover, but this year I managed things at a more sedate pace,

The trees are by the tall glass doors, under the roof windows, so have plenty of natural light, so can now sit out the Winter in comfort, alongside the half hardy Phlebodium fern, which has recovered from its drastic repotting earlier this year and is now looking very good

I've been giving some thought to my front garden at home, which hasn't looked its best this Summer. The Lavender bushes have outgrown the space and lie across the small lawn, which has acquired a large number of Dandelion plants, and the Valerian is so large it makes ot difficut to fully open the front door. It really does need a makeover, and this seems a good time in the year to start to explore different ideas. Once the Lavender has gone, it will be easier to see the size of the space, which is a very sunny, dry area, shaded slightly by the low front wall. Ideas will come to me, most will go again and some will eventually form a plan!... at least I hope so! 

 

In this coming week I aim to give the soil in the seond Onion bed a good layer of compost, plus some Blood, Fish abd Bone, before planting the Shallots and Garlic. The constantly damp, miserable weather doesn't make this an attractive job, but it really does need doing, as does the rest of the fruit tree pruning.

Also, the polytunnels both need a good weed, and the greenhouse at home needs some attention before the bubble plastic insulation goes in, I much prefer to do this before any plants are brought in, so really need to get on with that

Bulbs need planting!! I have sorted them now into which is going where, I just need to find the time to get them in the ground!

I also have some Agapanthus plants coming, which I would like to plant in the pots along the drive, so if they arrive, another job will immediately need doing! Part of the front garden renovation already underway!!

I hope you are all enjoying the Autumn colours around, and I look forward to being back next Monday!

 

info@alittlebitofsunshine.co.uk

 Comments and suggestions are most welcome, and I shall reply as soon as I can

And if you'd like to know more about Harvest Monday, look at

www.ourhappyacres.com

11th October - Here we again, in a mini-heatwave, with unseasonably warm Autumn temperatures, but this time we do get some rain from time to time, making life a bit easier for us growers. It has been the strangest of years so far, but as always, some crops have thrived, while some have not. My lack of Squashes has been offset by other plot holders' generosity, and on the bottom of the stairs I have a beautiful Crown Prince and two Butternuts weighing nearly 7lb each, with a slightly smaller one in the kitchen. Thank You to John, Sam and Paul. I shall not be short of Squash thsi Winter after all!

It has been  avery positive week for our site, with our first official Steering Committee in place, working in partnership with our local Council to manage plot occupancy and waste disposal  AND when we had our huge amount of green waste collected this quarter, it was completely uncontaminated by plastics or other refuse. A huge achievement for our massive site, with over 300 plots. 

Harvests have been variable, as to be honest I have still be ploughing through last week's pickings, but here is Harvest Monday beginning unusually with a non -edible :

Earlier in the year, I got a tray of rather decrepit-looking French Marigolds from a Garden Centre, being given away as they were due to be thrown away. Most of the plants were dead but enough recovered to grow and give a beautiful show of colour alongside the Tomato plants on the plots.... and they are still going strong! I have cut some to enjoy at home from time to time too. A free harvest for sure!!

Moving on to more traditional harvests...

A surprise harvest, this. Yes, I was expectng Carrots, but the packet indicated they were Autumn King!!  When I saw the broad shoulders,  I imagined good long roots, but these are clearly not that shape at all, more like Chanteney!!!

They taste really good, but the two rows won't go nearly as far as the large ones would have done

For the past couple of weeks I have said the Cucumber harvest has come to an end, only to have more grow....and here are still more! In total, I have given 47 to other people and have lost count of the number I have eaten, or made into pickles or relish. A very successful harvest indeed!

Other harvests this week have included French Beans, Rocket, Khol Rabi, Cabbage and Dill

Out On The Plots This Week:

Thank you to everyone who offered advice on growing Celeriac, which as you can see, has been successful so far. Taking off the outer leaves as the get discoloured or droop horizontally seems to be helping too, possibly as they lose less water with fewer leaves, but I am only guessing there. They will get a further feed of Blood, Fish & Bone in the next couple of days, as I shall be adding some to the soil of the adjoining bed, as I am getting this ready for Autumn Onion sets

 

The end of this bed is occupied by two huge Daubenton's Perennial Kale plants. These have numerous side growths that could possibly be used for cuttings, although it is a little late in the year really. I do have some other plant on the nextdoor plot though, so I shall not lose them altogether. They do take a lot of water from the soil, so it is not ideal trying to grow Onions so close to such enormous plants

Other Kales are thriving, safe from Pigeons under netting, and the wood mulch added to their soil seems to have increased their rate of growth

In our Lane on site, we had a major clear-up this week, finishing cutting back the meadow area, burning the vast pile of tree prunings and rotted wood from plots across the site, taking the plastic and metal waste to the local Recycle Centre, removing some of the Stinging Nettle roots and creating a flower bed along the roadside, fenced with some of the discarded materials. This took hardly any time at all to fill, with Teazels, Columbine, Ox Eye Daisies, Hollyhocks and Foxgloves and Buddleia transplanted within minutes.

The local Pheasants were keen to explore the cleared area, helping themselves to some late Blackberries as they wandered around, and the Green Woodpeckers enjoyed feeding in the short grass areas

In The Polytunnels This Week:

The newly planted  crops are growing away nicely. This is the next crop of Khol Rabi, green ones this time rather than purple, and it has doubled in size this week. The Lettuces have all survived transplanting, and the ones with the extra layer of rotten woodchip mulch are looking especially good. Those with worm cast mulch were much smaller to start with, so I shall have to wait and see how they get on in the next few days. the idea is that I can roughly compare the effect of the two soil improvers. I do hope neither of these Lettuces bolt, like the last ones did!

The Pak Choi are absolutely romping away. They have certainly been a great success this year, and these in the polytunnel have grown really quickly too, and are not showing any signs of bolting so far. Hope that lasts!

This Summer there are lots of plot holders growing this for the first time, and it is proving really popular. Saves even more on food miles, which has to be a good thing. The wider the variety of crops we grow, the fewer we are likely to buy of course

The Chillies are still ripening slowly, and now that there is a better air flow, having moved the pots last week, they should be fine. The remaining Sweet Peppers are also changing colour, and I hope to be able to harvest them next week

 

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Cucumber production has now slowed right down, which is to be expected with early morning temperatures down to about 4C, and much shorter days. The Divas have no further fruit to come, so I can take the plants out now, but the West Indian ones have a few little fruits still growing, so they can stay for another few days. I watered them well this morning, so they might fill out a bit faster now

The Nasturtiums are growing lots of lovely succulent leaves, which will be soon be used for a large batch of pesto, which will keep well in the fridge, along with another batch with Basil as a base.  Growing this under cover keeps the Nasturtiums free of caterpillars and blackfly, and having fertile soil increases leaf growth

 

At Home This Week:

Most of my time at home has been spent working through next year's sowing and planting plan and dealing with crops as they are harvested. Yesterday my neighbour Theresa gave me two carrier bags full of Apples and Pears from their garden, which I shall be turning into Apple Sauce and frozen sliced fruitas soon as I get a chance. Very grateful for the gift, especially as the Apples at the plot seem to have left the trees all on their own, in fact left the plot too!! Never good when you come down to find all your top fruit gone, but this more than made up for it, so Thank You!!

The Cucumber mountain is now tranformed into pickles and relish, and I had a go at making some fermented Khol Rabi pickle, inspired by Dave of Our Happy Acres (see link below) Not sure this is to my taste, but it is now in the fridge with a lid on the jar, which I have been told will stop the fermentation process. I'll see what it tastes like in a day or two. 

I am gradually working my way through the remaining tree pruning, a snip at a time here and there, but I shall have to make a concerted effort with the trees in the garden before leaf fall... far less clearing up that way! 

Other jobs include of course the planting of Onions, Shallots and Garlic, which I hope to get finished this coming week, and the everlasting clearing of weeds from the paths, plustaking down the last of the beans sticks and covering that bed to protect the soil for next Spring's crops

I hope the end of this season is going well for you, whether it be out on an allotment or in the garden at home, and that you enjoy some of this Autumn sunshine

See you next Monday!

 

info@alittlebitofsunshine.co.uk

 Comments and suggestions are most welcome, and I shall reply as soon as I can

And if you'd like to know more about Harvest Monday, look at

www.ourhappyacres.com

4th October - Can't pretend it is still Summer now as it gets dark much earlier, and night time temperatures are well down, even down to 3C a couple of nights back. Definitely time for the Autumn clear up, at the plots, putting away beansticks, cleaning pots before storing them to use next year, and the continual flling of the compost bins with all the plants cut back or taken out now. Wet weather at least means I don't need to water anything outside, but of course reduces the times working outside in comfort is possible

Harvest Monday has all sorts of goodies in the basket though, so plenty to keep me busy in the kitchen

There are still Sweet Peppers ripening... made a big batch of sauce to go with meatballs or squash, good with pasta

Beetroot is now all up and ready to turn into a couple of jars of pickle and some spice relish. Some were quite woody so they are in the compost, chopped small to help the break down more quickly. Last year I left some in the ground, and when I came to pull them up they had be gnawed by rats, so this year I decided to harvest the remaining ones all together

The late sowing of Carrots have some sweet roots ready to eat, which together with some Celery stalks and some Onions from the big bag in the garage, made a decent batch of mirepoix, frozen in portions to freeze. Good to have to hand as a base for all sorts of things, especially when Tomato suace base is added.

Aubergines have given up their last harvest for this year. They were chopped and added to a Beef Madras, with of course several portions now in the freezer. It has been a busy week for cooking

French Beans are still growing well, although not for much longer, and the most recent picking joined some Chicken & Mushrooms in a casserole. 

And Cucumbers are still growing, albeit slowly, and I managed to pick some Dill to accompany them into the jars of pickles

The first of the Lord Derby Cooking Apples are ripe. These don't turn to fluff when they are cooked, so are very useful for all sorts of things. This week was Apple Beignets, which came out rater well. This was something my Mum used to cook, using eating Apples slightly past their best, or windfalls, so these were a lovely memory of childhood. 

 

The Oarsman Leeks planted in the polytunnel have really thrived, and given me a fairly early crop too. Leek Quiche is on the list to make tomorrow. Rain is forecast so it will be a "kitchen day", and there is certainly plenty to do!

Also this week I have had Black Tuscany Kale, plenty of herbs, including of course Rocket, Raspberries and masses of Dahlias, which look  really cheerful in their vases at home

Out On The Plots This Week:

I have pruned all the smaller Apple and Pear trees, just leaving the huge Lord Derby Apple and the monster Plum tree to deal with... oh, and the Bramley tree too. How could I forget that one, huge as it is? No fruit this year thanks to those late frosts, but hopefully next year will be better

Everything is growing steadily thanks to all the rain, although I thnk it will be  abit late for the Swedes to make large roots like they did last year. I sowed it a bit too late for that really, so must try to remember in time next year. The Romanascus are huge plants, so I am hoping they start to develop those lovely lime green heads soon, and the Celeriac is definitely going to be large enough to use. And as for the Winter Cabbages, they are hearting up nicely, and looking amazingly healthy

Rain of course also equals weeds, and both the Leek bed and the Cauliflower bed are in need of attention, so I  really must make time to deal with them before the weeds take over, as they can do ever so quickly. I have to hope for a few drier days, as weeding when everything is wet is not a pleasant job

 And there is still that one bed to prepare for the Shallots and some Onion sets too, another job best done in the dry. I am thinkng I might take out the huge Daubenton's Kale plant at the end of that bed to give more space for Onions. I have some growing over on the other plot now, in the Forest Garden area, and they seem well established. I certainly don't need both lots! Seems  a shame, but I have to make the best use of every bit of space, plus it shades the bed it is in now being so large, meaning anyhting planted close to it doesn't really get enough light. OK, I've talked myself inot taking it out!

In The Polytunnels This Week:

Firstly, they are once again two tunnels, as I have taken off the net joining strip, this year before it got torn in the gales. It does seem off having only six metres long space, not one of thirteen metres! Much warmer though

I have take out the spent Aubergine plants, and lined up the large pots with Chillies in them on that bed, so that I can use the door again. It gives me an idea of how many pots I can accommodate next Summer too, which is useful

In the other tunnel, surprisingly there are still a few Cucumbers growing, so I haven't cleared the plants away yet. In the bed opposite, the contrary Lettuce plants have all gone to seed, so they came out this morning. The Khol Rabi is definitely ready to harvest, so I need to start using these, to make space for Winter crops. I would like to try a few Onions sets under cover to see if they will be ready nice and early. These Autumn planting varieties are not day-light dependent for bulbing up,like the Spring ones, so they might do well. Worth a try at least

 

At Home This Week:

As well as being busy filling the freezer, I have been out in the garden chopping back the Backberries growing behind the greenhouse yet again, and taking out the long prickly growth waving out of the Fuchsia hedge too. It is a horrible job, but hopefully that will be the last of it until next Spring

I also cut the Privet hedge at the far end of the garden, and put in a wire mesh fence to both discourage visiting cats and ensure my own cat can use the garden safely too. She hasn't been outside much before she came to live with me three months ago, so it has been lovely to see her enjoying all the new experiences. Rain came as a bit of a shock!! Yesterday's achievement  was to climb into the old Apple tree and lie on a branch thinking she couldn't been seen. She does like dabbing her paws in the pond.. I haven't told her there are fish in there that weigh more than she does... she'll meet the eventually..... 

I am ploughing on with the seasonal jobs, the most pressing of which, apart from finishing pruning the fruit trees on the plots and in the garden, is to sow the Perpetual Spinach in the polytunnel and sort through the seed tins to see if I have any seeds of really early Peas I can stat off in modules, and any Winter Radish seeds too

And if it stops raining for long enough, I can cut the grass in the garden. I managed to find a dryish spell to deal with the grass on the plots thank goodness. Maybe later in the week?

Hard to beleive it is October already, the weeks are going by so fast it almost turns into a bit of  ablur

Hope to be back again next Monday, with no spare Beetroot in the kitchen, and that bed ready for planting Onions and Shallots

 

info@alittlebitofsunshine.co.uk

 Comments and suggestions are most welcome, and I shall reply as soon as I can

And if you'd like to know more about Harvest Monday, look at

www.ourhappyacres.com