Saving seeds

Despite today’s rain, I went along to the allotment this afternoon to see what was up. The apples have now all been harvested though there are several bags sitting waiting to be consumed. The courgettes are still coming slowly, there are handfuls of raspberries each week and there are winter brassicas waiting their turn. But most of the harvesting is now over. So today I planted some autumn onion sets and overwintering broad beans.  I did take a photo:

WP_20181007_16_43_58_Pro[1]That’s an onion bed with anti-bunny wire netting.  I admit it’s not very exciting but it excites me to think that next year’s onion crop is lurking beneath the soil and that there are broad beans in the bed next to it. There’s nothing like thinking about next year’s crop to get you through a damp dreary Sunday.. unless it’s looking at seeds:

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These are my saved seeds from the pink pea plant. This was a heritage variety – Pea Salmon Pink – which I originally picked up at a seed swap event a couple of years ago. They have lovely flowers and a very unusual growing habit, with the peas all growing at the top of the plant. Oh and the bees seem to like them too:

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You can’t buy these beauties and I was worrying about what would happen when I ran out of seeds, so decided to try and save some. Those in the picture are the result. I’ve dried them out carefully on a sunny windowsill and put them away in a labelled envelope. While I was at it, I saved some sweet pea seeds too. Crossed fingers they will grow ok next year. Now that is almost more exciting than sowing next year’s beans and onions.

..it’s not just winning, it’s about taking part

..really.  It was the allotment annual show on Saturday.  I thought I’d better enter some of our plentiful produce, although I wasn’t expecting any prizes.  I entered:

courgettes and runner beans, apples and rhubarb, raspberries, some not quite ripe yet tomatoes and a big vase of flowers. I knew the rules were all about perfection and submitting identical specimens. I had checked with the organisers whether unripe tomatoes would count – they said ‘no’ but thought I’d try anyway.  We could have entered our monstrous marrow, if only it hadn’t been carved, stuffed and eaten by musicians a few weeks ago, or possibly some of the stunning peas, but they have all gone now

 

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It was all about joining in though, so I did my best with what we had. I was delighted that we won three prizes!

My first ever allotment prizes.  I was a little chuffed. Then I brought all the vegetables that hadn’t won any prizes home and the musicians turned them into an allotment feast:

WP_20180915_13_02_23_ProIt was a very satisfying day.  Really it was about taking part but we will be proud to have those rosettes adorning our shed until next year.

 

Allotment harvest

I was along at the allotment this afternoon to bring home a harvest. Up until now, I’ve tended to bring home a few vegetables at a time but today it felt like a real harvest. In preparation, I took my bike along. I still can’t actually cycle though the arm is improving every day but I knew that I could walk with the bike and it would act as a handy pack horse.  As usual, I forgot to take any photographs of the vegetables but we collected up a huge pile of potatoes, almost all of the onions, two huge bags of apples (a branch had collapsed off one of the trees – they are not quite ripe but should be cookable), three more marrows, six courgettes, six white turnips some runner beans and a handful of autumn fruiting raspberries.  Here are a couple of photos of the allotment from a few weeks ago when the peas and beans and potatoes were in full growth:

We shared our spoils between us. My share fitted nicely in the panniers of my bike:WP_20180819_17_14_50_Pro (1).jpgenabling me to get a very heavy load home.  We had the turnips in white sauce for tea. I’m going to have to organise a jam and pickle making session for the marrows and apples soon but haven’t quite found the time.

At the allotment, I had leant my bike against the compost bin – it has to go somewhere – and while my back was turned, a family of ladybirds moved onto the bag I had brought for the potatoes – along with some less pleasant blackfly:

WP_20180819_17_02_03_Pro.jpgI was tempted to bring the ladybirds home, but moved them all onto the marrow plants instead to continue their blackfly munching.  We also spotted a huge frog in the compost bin. Something rather larger – we don’t really want to know what – has been helping itself to some of our broad beans and leaving plum stones lying about but it is good to know that there is at least some helpful wildlife on the plot.

Fig

I have a fig tree in a pot, given to us for our silver wedding by a much loved and much missed cousin. Every year I worry that the winter will finish it off, but every year it has survived:

WP_20180804_12_13_47_Pro[1]It even made it through the snow this year, when we had more snow than I can ever remember in Edinburgh. I think it may be the twiggy things you can see in this picture:

WP_20180301_07_48_59_Pro.jpgBut this summer, what with heatwaves and such, it has not only survived but is producing actual figs:

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How exciting is that? I’m not holding out for a fig glut, but you never know.

Meanwhile we had our first ripe tomato for tea last night:

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We ate it with some chopped garden cucumbers and a little salt and vinegar, to accompany a Friday night Indian takeaway.

We should really be working our way through the courgette and broad bean glut but last night we were all too tired. Today I’ve just harvested the last of the broad beans from last autumn’s cardboard experiment and will do something improving with them:

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Here’s how they looked in the autumn, planted through the smiley cardboard, and in the spring after all that snow:

Hard to believe but the changing seasons and the surprising survivals are what makes it all worth it.

Rainbow Peas

All my lovely multicoloured edible peas are now in full bloom:

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and some purple flowered beans:

wp_20180704_21_12_28_pro1.jpgAnd the sweet peas are also rather good:

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Red runner bean flowers and rainbow chard in the background too

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WP_20180704_21_11_13_Pro.jpgNow we just need a little rain

Cucumber frame

I finally got round to building my second lego brick raised bed. The first one is doing well:

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with tomatoes, lettuce and Swiss chard all looking fairly happy. The sea shell is supposed to stop people from poking their eyes out.  I planned the new raised bed so that my trusty plastic cloche will fit over it, making it into a kind of cold frame – or perhaps a cucumber frame, which I’ve always had a strange fancy for:WP_20180622_20_12_40_Pro

My seed house already has its maximum three cucumber plants.

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The strange thing about this year’s cucumbers is that I sowed two varieties: green ones, Marketmore, and yellow Chrystal Lemon. Only four seeds germinated and I assumed they were all the same, hoping that they would be the Chrystal Lemons as they are so good. It seems though, that I have two of each.

I don’t know what happened there but it does mean that I have one spare green one to plant in the new raised bed. I’ve also put in a courgette and some very small basil seedlings

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This will be slug paradise of course but I’m hoping that the frogs that inhabit that part of the garden will work to keep them under control*

Meanwhile summer vegetable production is seriously under way. The allotment has been producing rhubarb and the first strawberries. From the garden, we’ve had a garden salad, including the first cucumber and the first red onion:

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And today I spotted the first mange tout peas:

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*and by the way, I discovered that they don’t like cider. My experiments with cider filled slug-pubs caught a lot of fruit flies and one snail in the course of a week so that didn’t work.

 

Peas

The last couple of days’ rain has brought on some new growth and the peas are finally romping away. I’ve been enjoying the way their tendrils grasp at whatever passes near them:

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They go where they choose, often attaching themselves to a nearby plant:

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This one attached itself to a neighbouring onion. My mixed and overcrowded planting often leads to these happy relationships.

 

Garden lego

Years of experience playing with lego, as a child and as a parent, paid off this evening as I set out to make a new raised bed in the bit of the garden where the conifers used to be.  I’ve used up all my spare wood, so this time I turned to bricks. We have rather an excess of bricks, dug up from the front garden when I turned it from a car park into an actual garden – see here

So I got my lego building skills together and constructed a new bed and filled it with compost and some manure that was sitting in a bag waiting to be used:WP_20180608_16_49_54_Pro.jpgThe main occupants for the rest of the summer will be tomatoes, planted out, along with some lettuce and rainbow chard seedlings as catch crops:

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I had planned it so that it would fit exactly under my big cloche and so could be used as a sort of cold frame:

WP_20180608_16_44_30_Pro.jpgBut the tomatoes don’t fit under the cloche. I may make another to the same design and put something smaller in it.  I wanted to make a temporary bed so that I can do something else with the space in the autumn.  I could use this design from a family legothon a few years ago:

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but that would require a space ship, two swimming pools, a post-box, a tiger, an American flag a Hippogriff, a dementor and several other Harry Potter characters (our lego sessions were always a bit random). I’m not sure how practical that would be…

I’d better stick to more mundane garden fantasies.  I’m still thinking about an orchard – I read in a book somewhere that an ‘orchard’ consists of at least 4 fruit trees. Well I have four already (3 apples, one plum and a cherry in the front garden but not sure it counts as it is not in the same space). So if I planted a couple of pears and maybe another apple, it would definitely be an orchard. But that will have to wait until the tomatoes have ripened.

 

Allotment wildlife

I had a little post-work wander down the allotment this evening. It’s been very dry, although a little cold and we were worried that the newly planted brassicas and peas might have succumbed to drought, or beasts of some kind. I am pleased to report that they have all survived, so far. They are well protected from rabbits and pigeons, and maybe slugs:
WP_20180524_18_57_19_Pro.jpgI gave them a good soak and hope they will hang on until they are a bit bigger and able to withstand whatever they need to withstand. There are two purple Brussels sprouts and four purple sprouting broccoli plants under those plastic covers.

I checked on the pea seedlings, which also seem to be withstanding the drought, rabbits and slugs. The seeds did not all germinate but I planted a few extra seedlings from the garden to encourage them along a bit. The allotment peas are Carouby de Maussane and the heritage pink pea – pictures here to remind you what they will look like in a month or so and to encourage the seedlings:

Then I watered a bit more round the plot, did a bit of weeding and found this beautiful ladybird, enjoying the weeds:

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On my way home, I saw the resident allotment fox. Apparently she also has cubs but I didn’t see them.

Hoe Hoe

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I took a hoe to the allotment today. I bought this for my first garden twenty-five years ago and hardly ever use it. The raised beds in my garden don’t really need a hoe as I can reach them easily with a trowel or fork. Also my vegetables tend to be planted so close together that there isn’t room to get a hoe between them. The rest of the garden is mostly ‘wildlife friendly’ (ie untidy) so I don’t weed very much.

But at the allotment, my friend, the allotment-holder, is much more sensible about spacings and the plots are much larger so I’m hoping the hoe will be more useful there.

And the title of this blog is a little reminisce to days when a very small member of the household used to love the book Everyday Words by Jo Litchfield. This book had a picture of a garden with various things to spot: snails, slugs, bees, ants and, our favourite, the ‘hoe hoe’.  There were plenty of snails and slugs in our garden but we never used the hoe hoe. You know who you are. Here is one now in use for you, with love.