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Well, it’s plain for all to see, I’ve neglected my blog. Last year was a difficult one which, after injuring my ankle twice – once in April (when the growing season really kicks off), and again in September (harvest time). I didn’t do much growing at all last year, my allotment went to rack and ruin, and the garden was just a non-starter.

Then we moved 70 miles away to a new house. Which, of course, has a fabulous (and somewhat bigger!) garden. But, I no longer have an allotment.

My new garden has two, yes TWO potting sheds, and a Victorian-style greenhouse. Perfect. So, I’m going to start off from scratch, again. But I really positive about this. The previous owners were real gardening folk and the garden is in almost immaculate condition. I will need to wait for a full year before making any huge changes so that I can see, quiet literally, what comes up. I know that when we viewed the house there were various perennials that have since died down over winter. I’ve no idea what spring delights we have, although already I am starting to see daffodils, tulips and crocus plants emerging.  This also means that most of my fruit and vegetable growing will be done in containers, but that’s fine for me.

I’ve ordered some raspberry canes x 10, variety Tulameen. I’d be interested to know what success other growers have had with this variety. I have ordered some (cheap on offer x 25) strawberry plants, variety Aromel, and also some cheap Cupid runners x 12.

I’ve picked up a big back of King Edward seed potatoes, and a small bag of International Kidney. I’ve also ordered some mimi salad potatoes. I’ve got some spring planting garlic, a handful of shallot sets, a horseradish thong, and some asparagus crowns. I’m going to start all these off today in the greenhouse, and chit the potatoes. Whilst I eagerly await my fruit plants!

So, whilst the sun is shining, and the snow seems like a distant memory, I’m going to get started on my new project!

I need to ensure better protection for them next time around I think.

I suspect birds are the culprits, although mice are also suspects. It’s disappointing, but, too late to remedy it now. My peppers have taken off now though, and I have plenty of various types of tomatoes that are swelling, and will hopefully start ripening soon.

My sweetcorn is also doing better now.

This afternoon I harvested all my onions and garlic. Potatoes have mostly been harvested too. They were utterly delicious.

Some beans are ready now as well. I’ve picked a few to see how they taste.

The absolute winners of the plot are the courgettes though. The white ones in particular (Trieste White) from www.RealSeeds.co.uk have done spectacularly well, and I have ended up with 5 white marrows because they swell so very quickly. I have been away on holiday for a week and came back to a huge stash of white marrows. The Italian courgettes are also plentiful, but dont seem to swell to marrow-size so easily.

So, I’ve been looking up recipes for Marrows. I have plenty of jam jars left over from the fruit jam making so I am thinking Marrow Jam, Marrow chutney, and Marrow pickle!!!!

I harvested enough blackcurrants to make some jam, so here’s the recipe:

I had 1lb 10oz of blackcurrants

so, an equal quantity of caster sugar – 1lb 10z

1.5 pints of water.

Remove all the stalks from the blackcurrants and stick in a large, deep saucepan. Add the water. Bring to the boil and then simmer for 30 minutes.

Then, lower the heat and add the sugar, stirring over a low heat until all the sugar has dissolved. Bring to a rapid boil and boil for about 8 to 10 minutes. Check for a set by spooning a small amount on to a very cold plate and leaving to cool briefly. Then, push the jam it with your finger. If the surface wrinkles it is ready. If not, leave to boil for a minute or two longer.

When ready, remove from the heat and skim off any scum on the surface. Leave to cool for 5 or 10 minutes before pouring into warm, sterilised jam jars. Seal immediately and leave to cool completely before attaching labels.

I got 4 small jars of jam with the above quantity!

Enjoy.

We went fruit picking on the plot on Sunday. I’d been itching to go and pick some fruit for about a week because I knew that there was plenty ready.

So, my husband and two children and I went over to the allotment armed with a few baskets to collect fruit.

The raspberries were in absolute abundance. In fact, some of them had started to shrivel and wither away with over-ripeness. The gooseberries were also quite plentiful. It turns out that we have several varieties – a golden type and a small red type. I think we managed to collect about 2lbs worth, which considering we haven’t actually done anything on the fruit plot other than keep it tidy – well, it’s a miracle! The raspberries – think we have about 3lbs – they are currently being stored in a very large saucepan in the fridge.

The real stars of the show were the blackcurrants though! I collected nearly 2lbs of blackcurrants, which doesn’t sound like much, but, considering I didn’t even know we had many good fruiting bushes over there, AND we haven’t really protected any of the fruit bushes from birds, it’s quite remarkable!

There is a huge redcurrant bush over there with plenty of fruit on it that I am looking forward to harvesting when ready. Plus plenty more raspberries and gooseberries. I think we’ll also have some blackberries from the prolific brambles that reside there.

It’s all looking good! I even harvested a bowlfull of blackcurrants from a small bush in my back garden that I’d forgotten about!

Now I’ve got lots of jam to make!

See here http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2008/jun/29/food.agriculture

Thankfully I’m not affected by this, nor any of my fellow allotmenteers on our site. But, it seems to be a pretty widespread problem and very upsetting for those affected.

How could this product be allowed to be used?

I’ve decided to try and grow some bedding plants, rather than buying them ready grown from nurseries or garden centres. I went a little overboard with the seeds (as usual!) and also bought some hardy perennial plants to mix in and provide colour early on next year. The seeds I’ve sown so far are:

Catanche (hardy perennial)

Evening Primrose (hardy perennial)

Osteospermum (hardy annual)

Nicotiana (hardy annual)

Night scented stocks (hardy annual)

Phlox Phlox of Sheep (hardy annual)

Dwarf wildflower mix (hardy annuals)

Italian White sunflowers (hardy annuals)

Geranium Splish Splash (hardy perennial)

Briza Maxima (grass) (hardy annual)

Delphiniums (hardy perennial)

Verbascum Southern Charm (hardy perennial)

Honesty/Lunaria (hardy annual)

Cosmos – two varieties Daydream and Gazebo mixed (hardy annual)

Marigolds (hardy annual)

Nigella (hardy annual)

Californian Poppy (hardy annual)

Double trailing petunias (hardy annual)

Cerinthe (hardy annual)

Lupins Dwarf Lulu mixed (hardy perennial)

Nasturtium Milkmaid (hardy annual)

Penstemon True Blue (hardy perennial)

Agastache (hardy annual)

Eustoma/Lisianthus (hardy perennial)

Calendula Sherbert Fizz (hardy annual)

Ox-Eye Daisy (hardy perennial)

Oriental Poppy Coral Reef (hardy perennial)

Primula Japonica (hardy perennial)

Veronica getianoides (hardy perennial)

I’m also trying some tropical plants – Tacca Nivea/Bat Plant, Gloriosa Lily and White Bird of Paradise.

The cosmos has germinated already and it was only sown on Friday! The geranium has also germinated which is great because it can be notoriously difficult to germinate from seed and its only taken two weeks. All the annuals sown two weeks ago have germinated too. It’s going well so far. I will update in a week.

I’m battling with slugs on my plot at the moment. I’ve found some organic Slug/Snail killer from Growing Success. It seems to be doing the trick so far.

My broad beans do have some black fly on them, and I’ve experimented with some organic insecticde made from plant extracts.

However, I thought I’d take it one step further and try some more natural prevention and have a crack at plant husbandry. So, I bought a pack of a dozen marigolds from a garden centre and planted them alongside my tomatoes. It is thought that marigolds help stave off whitefly, and, apparently tomatoes seem to grow better alongside them. I shall keep an eye on the progress and post it here. Fingers crossed…..

I also planted two butternut squash plants amongst the fledgling sweetcorn plants to make use of the space and to help suppress weeds around the base of the corn as it grows.