1 June 2014

1st of June

It's 1st of June and officially summer!
Things are getting into full swing at the alloment and there have been, in particular, a couple of developments which have made all the (hard) work worthwile.

The peat pot parsnips seem to be growing.

There are no pods on the broad beans yet, but they are flowering. The plants did go in very late as they were a 'spur of the moment' purchase from a garden centre.
There are some flowers forming on the second early potatoes.
The corn is gaining height.
It looks like the apple tree may not face the chop after all, but of course, it's not certain these apples will grow to full size.  
Then there's the flowerhead on the artichoke!

Spinach is growing under the cloche.


Strawberries turning red must be the official sign of summer.

Finally, there was this. A tiny little yellow courgette.
How is the start of the summer been for you (at your allotment, in your garden or just in general)?
Mrs V x

26 May 2014

Instagram snapshots

Here are some snapshots which we have recently posted to our Intagram profile.
You may spot Sherlock Gnome in the middle of the collage. He has been busy working on the allotment and I have a feeling he may be sharing few stories of his adventures on the blog soon. Rhubarb features on more than one photo and I've recently come to the conclusion that it really is one of my favourites from the allotment. Rhubarb is, of course, brilliant  to grow as it is ready to be picked during a time when there is a lack of harvestable produce, but I absolutely love it's taste too. I have not been brave enough to have rhubarb as a savoury accompaniment on a dinner plate, but instead have turned it in to many gorgeous sweet treats: syrup, jam, yoghurt ice cream and a new experiment this year, rhubarb curd.
Everything is coming along quite nicely, even though I was quite worried the heavy rain at the weekend would destroy some of our little seedlings. They seem to be fine, but in need of some weeding. And that's what I'll be doing next.
If you have an Instagram profile, but we don't follow you yet, we'd love to hear from you, you can find us @allotmenteersmrandmrsv.
Hope you are enjoying your Monday!
Mrs V x

24 May 2014

It's an artichoke!

Just a quick note; this is what Mr V noticed growing on our allotment on Wednesday! So exciting x

19 May 2014

Spring update

This is the time when everything grows so quickly in the allotment. Even a day or two seems to make a difference. Therefore a few of these photos, which were taken two weeks ago, may be a little bit of out of date now, but below is evidence of the spring from the allotment this year.


Mrs V x

15 May 2014

Parsnips and Pumpkins

This whole allotment stuff has been bit of a seed(y) business recently; romanesco cauliflower, carrots, peas, spinach, beetroot, Brussels sprouts, parsnips, cucamelons, and, of course, my darling pumpkins have all been sown within the last couple of weeks.

This year we are trying a different approach with the parsnips. Last year most of ours failed, which may (or may not) have been due to the variety: Albions which we had less of did brilliantly, but Countesses failed miserably. Last year, I also got enough of the somewhat annoying 'are you a weed or are you a parsnip seedling' game. Maybe this is the reason for the failed parsnips- I weeded them all, hehe, but I'm not admitting to anything... So this year, we decided to start the parsnips off in peat pots in a propagator. The seeds have germinated well and the little seedlings have now been planted outside. So far they have all survived in the cold and rainy environment.  We cut the bottoms of the peat pots off so that the tap roots don't get stuck. We didn't want to put all our eggs in to one basket, or seeds in a pot in this case, and have sown some directly into the ground too, so I will get to play my weed or seed game again, hehe.  I'll keep you posted.


Then to my favourite subject; pumpkins, pumpkins, pumpkins. I'm sure it's come across that I love growing, cooking and eating pumpkins. And just looking at them. Last year I wrote a little more about my obsession with pumpkins which can be found here.

We are growing 5 different varieties this year; traditional Charmants, tasty Crown Princes, little Hooligans and fascinating Turk's Turbans. The fifth one? Atlantic Giant. I know, crazy. From time to time I've played with the idea of growing a giant pumpkin, but often thought it doesn't really make sense. The pumpkin with it's vine will take a lot of growing space, it will require a substantial amount of feeding, I can't really bring it home (although it would make an interesting feature in the living room..) and will a pumpkin of 100 to 200 pounds even taste good? Aided by a conversation at work, I thought why not and got a packet of Atlantic Giant seeds so the experiment has started!

This year we have trialled with a small plastic greenhouse and so far our experience has been good- our seedlings seem to have enjoyed their time in it and the seedlings are reaching quite heights- have a look at the seedlings our Instagram account here (we finally managed to create an account and I'm now seriously addicted, of course).  Well, I guess this means only one thing: ladies and gentlemen, this is the official start of the 2014 Pumpkin Watch!

Oh yes, there were few gourd seeds sown too.
How do you start your parsnips off? Are you growing any pumpkins this year? Have you ever grown a giant pumpkin? Any tips on how to make them grow giant?

Mr and Mrs V x

21 April 2014

Back on track

Artichoke plants

The last couple of weeks have included digging, weeding, pruning, sowing, planting, raking, strimming and building support structures to name a few activities taken on at the allotment.
To be honest, it has been quite a challenging spring at the allotment so far. Due to the weather everything is late, but also due to life's pressures, we've struggled to find the time to go to the allotment and when we have, it, of course, has been raining. When you dig mysteriously hard ground in an icy cold rain you do wonder whose idea was it to have an allotment. 
Strawberry plants

Onions 'Stuttgarter'
Having an allotment is meant to be a relaxing a hobby for us, not something to stress about. Our approach has always been keeping the plot low maintenance and growing easy(ish) crops to ensure the time we can spend there meets the needs of the allotment. Therefore, we took a step back, looked at the process as a whole and went and got a rotavator. What a difference it has made!
While some may say it's cheating, it is not that much easier than digging (my arms have never ached this much) but it certainly makes things quicker and that suits us! The only question that remains is why did we not get one earlier? The longer days have meant being able to sow seeds after work and couple of days of sunshine at the weekend really boosted our morale. But nothing is quite as exciting as when things start to grow. I had a similar 'brick wall' experience as with the artichokes, but with the bleeding heart this year.
The work over the last couple of weeks has made the allotment look better than ever before and it's a good starting point for this season to carry on with sowing seeds, planting seedlings, maintaining the tidy state of it and continuing with our building projects. As a result, the allotment has once again become the oasis of calm, our sanctuary of happiness and most of all, one pretty nice place to grow vegetables and spend time in. We are back on track.
Gooseberry plant
Mrs V x

15 March 2014

Dried Borlotti Beans

A reader asked me last week what happened with the borlotti beans. Oh yes, the borlotti beans. I have to admit, I have completely forgotten to cook with them or write about them. Not to worry though, they are safe and sound, dried in a jar and have not gone to waste.
With drying the beans, I did what I most often do: went with the flow. I left the pods on the vine picking them as they started to turn to dark purple in colour meaning they had started to dry out. I placed them to the basket in the picture and left the basket to a cool, dry and airy place for couple of months. The pods had dried out nicely with the beans rattling inside, however, the pods had started to turn quite yellowish brown which worried me slightly. I started to pop the beans out the pods and turns out the beans seemed absolutely fine. Now they are waiting to be cooked in a jar. Italian bean stew at the weekend, maybe?
Have you grown your own borlotti beans? How do you like to cook these cool looking beans? If you have any good recipes, please share in the comments!

Mrs V x

9 March 2014


Today, there was little bit of this
followed by this
and it was repeated multiple times.
In sunshine!
Results: 3 of 14 beds dug over, loganberry moved from the berry border to live next to the shed for support reasons and the bleeding heart was planted to a sunny position.
Mrs V x

4 March 2014

Sherlock Gnomes

From plans to actions- Mr V spent his day off on purchasing seed potatoes, picking up some manure for the rhubarb and having a small bonfire at the allotment. The whole time he felt like someone was watching him.. until he spotted a pointy red hat from the corner of his eye. It could only be one thing- our plot is no longer a place where only the hooligans grow, but a home to a gnome. Sherlock Gnomes will be looking after the plot when we're not there. I have a feeling he will have many tales to tell.

Mrs V x

2 March 2014

Start of the season

Having had to listen to months of endless rain I suddenly realised it's March. March! And we haven't started the new season- not even one bed has been dug over. Needless to say, the rain has hold us back and we are well behind compared to previous years. Despite the fact that it is pouring down as I type, I decided today would be the time to look into the future and to start the new season. I dug out the draft plans made in November, reviewed them with Mr V and draw up a list of seeds we need to purchase.

There won't be that many changes to the vegetable varieties we grew last year, but of course, there will be a few new additions; fennel, rainbow beets and peas. Well, we did grow peas last year, but they failed completely due to lack of support structure. Also, this will be the first year we (hopefully) get to taste our own artichokes. Quite excitingly, the new pumpkin variety we will be growing is Turk's Turban. They look wicked and will be adding colour to the pumpkin choir of Crown Princes, Charmants and Hooligans. We also got some unusual seeds as a present, which will add some excitement to the vegetable growing but more about them later.

The vegetables which didn't make it to this years growing list include first early potatoes and green French beans; first earlies due to the current weather and the fact we adore second early Charlottes which will get double the growing space than last year and green French beans due to the fact that the purple ones won the bean growing competition with producing the heaviest and tastiest crop last year. There won't be garlic or broad beans this year either; doubt nothing would have come out of them had they been planted in November.

There are some building projects on the horizon too; the plan is to build a new compost bin and a new back fence from old pallets, a support structure for the loganberries and peas have to be put together (although recently I thought I may try using branches from the apple tree for the peas) and the herb haven will experience a revamp.

Something strange has happened to me over winter; previously I have only concentrated on growing vegetables with having a few flower plants here and there to attract bees to the plot, whereas recently I notice myself adoring pictures of stunning flowers, planning where I could have them at the allotment, maybe there should be an area for some cut flowers too.. Feeling all exited I even picked up a bleeding heart tuber (Dicentra Septabilis) today. Watch this space.

Oh yes, and after having a few drinks in Bruges at the weekend we thought we'd get a new little mascot for the allotment: I present you the Gnome.

Now, if only the rain would stop..

Mrs V x

(Photos from previous years and Bleeding hearts from Gran's garden)

18 February 2014

Checking up on the allotment

After the terrible flooding and horrendous winter storms in UK made the international news, many of our friends in Europe have expressed concern over how our allotment is doing in the horrific weather. I’ve found this very sweet. The allotment has been very little on our mind, certainly not a worry while considering the bigger picture. However, when the sun (!)  came out on Saturday, we thought we would pop over there to inspect the damage. And all was pretty good over there.
Surprisingly, the shed was still there. (Unfortunately as I was sort of hoping to get a new shed hehe).
We must have done quite a good job with attaching the ground cover fabrics on the (what was) courgette and butternut squash bed last spring as the high winds had not made any difference to it.

The ground cover fabrics had flown here and there on the other beds though, although the pools of water had assisted in them not flying away.
I'm planning on using these branches pruned from the apple tree as growing support for peas this year- could it work?
Seeing something growing in an otherwise very bare allotment always makes me happy; the warm weather has fooled  the artichoke into growing early.  

And it wasn't the only thing showing signs of life; check out the rhubarb!
Mrs V x
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