Blossom

Like most of the country we’ve been subjected to a very cold April. That’s so unusual for down here, but amazingly it doesn’t seem to have adversely affected any of the fruit trees outdoors.

One of the glorious pear trees

However, the citrus trees are still firmly undercover in the greenhouse

The Orange tree

The benefit of that is the whole greenhouse is filled with the heavy scent of their blossom fragrance. Sadly smell-o-vision doesn’t exist as it is truly amazing.

Lastly, the very first early potatoes that i planted about a month ago-Home Guard are just starting to appear.

Definitely spuds and not weeds!!

Here’s hoping for warmer weather soon and perhaps a drop of rain too to help things along

Start of another year….

Finally a day neither cold nor wet so ideal for a quick trip up to the plot to see what’s what and pick a bit of veg.

Firstly, excitingly there’s the first sign of fresh growth coming on our tiny, new Pomegranate tree

Tiddler of a tree

It’s overwintering in the greenhouse as although hardy it’s only small so want to give it chance to get established. It’s living in there with our three citrus trees, all of which are doing very well too….

Orange, complete with slowly ripening fruit

Lemon, with no fruit

They went in there at the end of October and have been loving it so far anyway!

Also a couple other tasks done today-

Gooseberry pruned back

Our main gooseberry, which must be nearly 10 years old now, had a nice trim. Centre opened up, all dead/old/unproductive shoots removed.

A Rhubarb crown lives under here…

And our oldest rhubarb crown is going to be forced for the first time this year. It’s living under the red bucket and that’s just a bag of stones on top to stop it blowing over or away. Not tried forcing before so will be interested to see whether the experiment works or not!

Finally our seed potatoes for this year arrived. Six varieties, with three completely new ones this time. Hopefully come March the ground will be drier and the weather warmer so they can go in.

Just a few pears…..

A combo of Invicta, Conference and Doyenne du Comice

About 20lbs (9kgs) picked from the trees this morning, representing roughly 1/5th of the overall crop. Quite what I’m going to do with them all I’ve yet to decide but first they must ripen of course. Like our apple crop these are at least one month early and at least 6 weeks for the Comice variety. Pretty extraordinary really.

These were picked as my plan to do some digging was curtailed by the impossibility of getting a fork into the ground. All our water butts are now empty too meaning we could desperately do with at least some rain to refill them and soften the ground a little. There’s no sign of anything imminent though. Having said that crops like the aubergine and tomatoes are lapping up the sun and warmth. As to are our hops which i shall endeaveour to remember to take a photo of next time I’m on the plot. Can’t live in Kent and not grow hops! Though i don’t use mine to brew with, i do know that the annual Green Hop beer has been brewed by those that do. Check out the link below if you would like to know more-

https://kentgreenhopbeer.com/about/what-is-kent-green-hop-beer/#:~:text=What%20is%20Kent%20Green%20hop%20beer%3F%20Kent%20Green,that%20are%20normally%20lost%20when%20hops%20are%20dried.

Sadly the usual annual opening beer festival featuring these amazing brews has like most other events bitten the dust this year but can only hope we’re in a position for it to return next instead.

Apples

James Grieve apples

Here’s just some of the apples picked yesterday, some from the floor where they’d been blown off by the very strong wind and the rest from the tree. This bag held about 9lbs (4kgs) worth and there were two others similar. This particular variety is James Grieve, which should be maturing in September but which we’ve been eating since the start of August. In fact, we’ve had apples from July on our Cox’s Orange Pippin!

Quite extraordinary really as we’d usually harvest late September and into October but the weather, as we know, has been so extreme this year, normality has gone out of the window! Our allotment site is surrounded by apple and pear orchards and i can see the farmer getting ready to harvest too.

During the recent heatwave we experienced temperatures very close to 40 degrees here with the so called tropical nights too. I’d read something recently suggesting if the current pattern of hotter, drier summers continues here in Kent, we’ll lose the ability to grow the traditional fruit the county is known for and move increasingly into Mediterranean type production instead.

In the totally unscientific example of our own garden the evidence for this being the case seems compelling. Or grape vine, olive tree and citrus trees have been lapping up the sun and heat and are powering away. Actually have proper, fully grown olives this time. Also, very close by we have the likes of Tattinger moving in and planting their new vineyards. On the allotment we’ve managed to grow fully ripe, full size Aubergines outdoors.

Is this year a one off though? Only time will tell i suppose. In the meantime, there’s a vast amount of apples to be consumed! Cheers.

Loads of goodies….

I hurt my back somehow during the week and it’s been giving me some gip on and off ever since. But the show must go on as they say so spent a very hot morning watering, weeding, planting and picking. Any regular readers of my blog will know our plot has no shade whatsoever so it was tough going. But all our winter veg is now in and can spend the rest of the year happily growing away ready to be consumed later on. Now I’m feeling the effort quite a lot in my back as I lie on the sofa typing this out but when you bring home stuff as good as what’s in the below photograph then can’t really complain!

Here we have tons of gooseberries once again, plus the first blackberries of the year, some pink currants which are absolutely delicious, some spinach and a rather large courgette masquerading as a marrow as I forgot to pick it! I’ve also got some more potatoes and the last of the cherries too but they’re camera shy so not in the photo this time. That’ll keep us going for a few days!

In other exciting news we have a new hosepipe woohoo. An expandable one that fits neatly away into a little bag when not in use. Like so many things in life you end up wondering why you didn’t buy one sooner and make your life a lot easier.

Away from the allotment i’ve planted up a pot of groovy succulents. I’ve always liked them and hopefully these will grow out and cover the pot over the next year or two. Photo to come next week once they’ve grown a little bit and opened out. Also i’m trying to grow a pineapple. I believe it is starting to root but again the photographic evidence will need to wait until i’m certain.

Now It’s time to sign off, go and enjoy the sunshine and look forward to a bbq and few beers this evening. Cheers!

The joy of summer fruit….

For some people its the strawberry (with or without cream), for others it’s the raspberry and whilst we grow both at the allotment, for me the epitome of the summer fruit season is the cherry. There’s something deliciously decadent about plucking it from your own tree, the fruit warm from the sun and immediately eating it (purely to check it’s ripe of course).

Here we have the variety Sunburst, from my original cherry tree which is now about 12 years old. Having spent the first 5 years of its life living in a pot on our patio, it didn’t react well to being moved. But after a lot of time and effort nurturing it through some difficult times it’s now bearing fruit (quite literally). Pounds and pounds of the beauties with our three newer trees all starting to produce too.

Strangely my late father-in-law didn’t like cherries, but thankfully he did like another of the summer classics, the gooseberry.

Here are both Invicta and Red Hinnonmaki (and a few raspberries) also freshly picked this morning. The Invicta is such a heavy cropper we never fail to get less than 30 pounds of fruit off it each year. And of course it’s hassle free to grow. Just a bit of a prune every year a quick feed and that’s it. Why gooseberries aren’t more popular I don’t know as not only are they great to eat they also make delicious white wine too.

We’re now back as a two person plot as my mum is now out of self-isolation and coming up once a week. Thankfully her demonic obsession with weeding allows me to do plenty of other things now like digging the spuds, lifting garlic and onions and just all the little tasks you never seem to find time to do. I’m pleased to have her back and she’s pleased to be back.

Is there anything better than feeling the sun on your back as you enjoy the fruits of your labour, watch the bees and butterflies gorging themselves and just feel the peace and relaxation that growing your own stuff brings.

Truthfully I don’t think i could ever be without my allotment now. Until next time, happy growing (and eating).

First spuds…

Hooray, today saw the return of the summer after a bit of an early June dip. Very nice as the rain was to water the allotment it felt good to feel the sun on my back again. The only thing about the sunny weather is our site has no shade whatsoever so being on there anytime from about 11.30 onwards can be quite challenging. So up nice and early and into the greenhouse before it gets hot enough to melt steel!

Over the years we’ve experimented with all sorts of different things in the greenhouse, from aubergines to melons, but this year decided to scale it back to bare essentials, 6 different tomatoes and 2 cucumbers. Having been grown initially on my mum’s balcony, here they are in their new home and very much enjoying it they are too!

Tigerella, Bumblebee Mix and Alicante

Magic Mountain, Amateur and Moneymaker

The cucumbers who’s names I have temporarily forgotten!

Elsewhere I’ve finished planting out the squashes, done vast amounts of weeding again, sown some leeks and kale and have done the first test dig of the Arran Pilot potatoes. Although they’re probably a couple of weeks from being fully ready, I’m super impressed with what I found earlier. No hint of any disease or slug, eelworm attack whatsoever. Just good looking potatoes which I’m lookin forward to tucking into later on.

First tatties

Now it’s time for a well earned rest……..

So phenomenally dry….

It has apparently been the driest May since 1896 and I can well believe it. I have a proper weather station in our back garden and as you can see, the overall rainfall recorded here for the month is 0.8mm.

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Unsurprisingly this had led to our plot being bone dry as far down as I can get with a spade. Thankfully though the dryness has coincided with my ability to go and water as much as required and nothing has suffered (except me lugging endless watering cans backwards and forwards!). I would usually by this stage have switched to the hosepipe but i unfortunately broke our extension reel and it’s replacement has yet to arrive. However its not all bad as it allows for the targeted application of different feeds to different plants and they all seem to be thriving under that watering regime as can be seen-

Here we have the Invicta gooseberry, James Grieve and Cox’s Orange Pippin apples all producing large fruits.

It’s not all getting up early and watering before the full heat of the day comes though. I’ve also planted out our sprouts- three different varieties: Brigitte, Clodius and an entirely new variety for us this year, Red Bull. Here they are safely under their net to protect them for a while.

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And lastly of course we grow stuff to eat and here’s the bounty I collected this morning-

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The last picking of the rhubarb, the first picking of the overwintered White Lisbon spring onions and finally some asparagus. I was watching Gardener’s World last night and Monty mentioned the luxury of having your own asparagus. And indeed, he’s right, many times I question whether having a bed is worth it or not and then for a few brief weeks, the glory that is freshly picked asparagus becomes reality and all the effort, expense etc falls away as the unrivalled taste is experienced.

So, onwards to June now, the month of my birthday, but more importantly the month of the strawberry. Farmers predict a bumper crop and looking at ours I have to agree. Hopefully the sun will keep shining and they’ll be the best we’ve ever had.

Cheers!

Fruit

Hello again, time for another blog.

I’ve seen on a couple of other people’s blogs that the cold weather this week past has given them trouble. Thankfully although plagued by a chilly wind, we had no frost so everything has remained alive hooray. The memories of a late frost a few years back which killed my grape vine still haunts me!

Anyway, so after another bone dry week, I spent a good hour watering everything this morning. It’s damn hard work with a watering can but I prefer it to the hose this time of year as I like to feed certain plants and not feed others.

Whilst watering our new strawberries (being grown in tubs whilst we consider where they’ll actually go), I spotted that we have fruit!-

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A couple of weeks and they’ll be ready. Elsewhere on the fruit front, the pink currant we put in about four years ago and which has been close to being removed each winter due to lack of productivity had bucked it’s ideas up this year and is flourishing-

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I’m not sure how easy it is to see on my photo, but it’s loaded with currants.

We also definitely have Tickled Pink apples coming on our new tree-

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I’ve seen some debate about whether you should remove the first year’s fruit in order to allow the tree to focus on it’s root system instead, but I prefer to keep them on then eat them! I’ve not had any issues doing that with every tree we have so i’ll definitely continue doing that,

All the other fruit trees, in particular our fantastic cherries are literally smothered in baby fruits so i’m hoping we’ll get a bumper crop this year.

Elsewhere, the blackberry is now starting to flower-

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It is without doubt my favourite allotment plant. It was so tiny when we got it, it had to have a little fleece jacket on and now it’s a magnificent specimen that gives us a huge crop of the tastiest blackberries imaginable year after year after year. As an aside, the netted structure directly behind the bush is our new allotment neighbour copying us and putting up a fruit cage. However, unlike us, he hasn’t concreted the supporting posts in which he will unfortunately find isn’t wise on such a windy site. I have tried telling him but I believe he’s Russian and neither his English, nor my Slavonic language skills are sufficient enough to get across what I was trying to say. Sign language hasn’t helped either! Still he seems a friendly chap, very keen and hard working. Hopefully he’ll stay a long time and make a success of it.

Finally on the fruiting developments, here is our first orange blossom of the year-

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Not the greatest of photos but hopefully we’ll have some nice oranges again off the tree. It’s one third of a citrus trio consisting of it, a Yuzu and a lemon tree, but is the only one to have ever fruited. The lemon has never really come to anything and it’s a challenge just keeping it alive, but a challenge we’ll keep facing until we have success.

Away from the fruit, all six potato rows are through and powering away now. About a month and we can start digging the Arran Pilot. I’ve also now planted out all our beans, one runner and two French varieties and the broad beans I planted a while ago have now been uncovered and although looking a little squashed from the cloche are all looking healthy and strong.

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It won’t be too much longer now until I start filling my greenhouse, but that’ll have to wait until another blog.

Until then, stay safe and happy growing!

 

 

Weeds!!

After barely a drop of rain all April, the last few days of the month saw a complete change which turned our plot into one that was so hard I had trouble getting any tool into the ground, into one now nicely soft. For the weeds that I had been keeping under control by hoeing this meant bad news as could finally get into the ground and get them out root and all. Apart from putting netting over our strawberries and giving the lemon tree a much needed iron feed, weeding was the only job i did today. It truly is back breaking work, but also strangely satisfying seeing them all out and lying in a big heap. Of course others will now take their place but for a short period of time the whole site is devoid of every unwanted interloper.

Surely it has to be one of life’s great mysteries, how the unwanted, unloved, uncultivated weed successfully grows each and every year, whilst the nurtured, pampered, mollycoddled plants you actually want to be growing often completely fail, or limp on unsuccessfully until you do the decent thing and put them out of their misery! Our site is surrounded by sycamore trees and without fail every year, literally hundreds of tiny saplings are happily growing away on our plot. Each year we dig them out and so the cycle continues. Without a doubt they made up the bulk of what i removed today. I love trees and I love sycamores especially, but not when I want to be growing something edible.

Talking of which, the spuds I planted about a month ago are starting to come through-20200502_103957_resized_1

These photos are obviously taken pre-weeding lol20200502_104005_resized_1but show Arran Pilot (not a new variety of course but a new variety for us) and our favourite Juliette. No sign of the Wilja yet. I absolutely love growing spuds and of course eating them. They never cease to amaze me how a tiny seed potato can grow into something so productive. I entrench mine. Way down. Nearly two feet, plant into a layer of compost and Growmore, then back fill. Saves on earthing up I’ve discovered and also gives enormous yields. Digging the trenches is always tough but rewarding when the first crop is dug.

Elsewhere we have gooseberries happily growing away-

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This will be our main source of them this year as I took a plant out over winter and replaced it with a new variety. The new one is doing well but it’s only tiny so won’t fruit this year.

Also, our earliest Clematis is now starting to flower-20200502_104630_resized_1

it grows up and over the arch we put in to signify the joining of our original plot to the additional half plot we then took over.

Lastly, the broad beans I planted a few weeks ago are coming along nicely-20200502_104034_resized_1

and the ones I sowed direct into the soil alongside are starting to appear. Can’t be bad for a first effort.

Until next time, stay safe and happy growing!