© Our Plot on Green Lane Allotments -
Archive for previous years' diaries dating from 2007 can be accessed by clicking here
Just one visit to the plot this week and really more of the same, the mantra at the moment is clear, weed, tidy and burn with little watering in the greenhouse, where the garlic is growing quickly and chrysanthemums producing lots of flower, thrown in for good measure.
We still haven’t had a frost to either sweeten the parsnips or knock back the dahlias so this week half of the dahlias have been cut down and removed along with the ornamental gourds that were growing amongst them. The gourds have been very prolific with some looking exactly like an edible squash variety but we won’t be risking eating any. Dahlia tops have been piled on the compost heap but the question now is what to do with several dozen ornamental gourds?
As for the parsnips if we don’t have a frost soon we are considering cheating by giving them a quick blast in the freezer to try to enhance the flavour.
Lack of frost has meant that the strawberries continue to flower and set fruit. There are still plenty of alpine strawberries to add to our fruit salads, however the morning dews seem to have increased slug activity and the fruits from the larger varieties are now being nibbled or damaged by damp morning conditions.
The garden greenhouse is being cleared to make ready for winter. More garlic cloves have been planted in pots where they will remain until planted on the allotment in spring. As we don’t heat the greenhouse some plants will need to be brought into the house to overwinter. Two of these, a dipladena and a stephanotis, are now very large so finding a spot for them is going to be a challenge.
Containers of pansies are continuing to provide a little welcome flower power and are being dead headed to keep them flowering for as long as possible.
The slowing down of activity on the plot allows more time for indulging in other interests such as an afternoon walk around nearby Nostell Priory Park. The photos taken just didn’t compare to those displayed on our local TV news programme. I have always been really jealous of the intense autumn colours that people manage to capture. My question is – are these photos taken using expensive cameras or by excellent photographers who actually understand manual settings? Or do they cheat as I did with some of mine and enhance them on the computer?
The photos were taken just in time as many deciduous trees and shrubs in our garden (courtesy of heavy rain and strong winds) have now cast the majority of their leaves. These will be left under shrubs to provide shelter for any small creature in need of a cosy winter resting place or to provide a foraging area for the birds. Eventually they will decay and add nutrients back into the soil. The young hedgehog that we rescued last week will be spending the winter with other baby hedgehogs in the safety and relative warmth of the sanctuary. She (we found out she was female) is doing well. Apparently 13 young hedgehogs were taken in last week!
Bird feeders are emptying at an alarming rate as flocks of sparrows descend along with other species of small birds; however all was relatively quiet on Sunday. Alarm calls drew our attention to a sparrowhawk resting in one of our trees fanning out its tail and wing feathers in an attempt to blow dry them. Earlier in the morning we spotted it perched on the greenhouse where it had been caught in the heavy rain. It rested in the tree for about an hour taking full advantage of the windy conditions before heading on its way, no doubt in search of a meal. (Other encounters with sparrowhawks can be viewed here.
Not ideal conditions for the birds, however the heavy rain and winds on Sunday was just what my husband had been waiting for in order to test out his weather station – data for last week is now posted on our new weather blog where the intention is to regularly record our weather and the effect it has on our gardening.
Harvested this week:
A new month and it seems like an entirely different country. Autumn now seems to be heading inexorably towards winter as posts in weather blog show.
We had a surprise awaiting us on our one and only visit to the plot this week. Just
over two weeks ago I mentioned that we had set out a new path which will provide
access to some new raspberries. We decided to use up some grass seed on this and
on other areas of our paths that had bare patches. The raspberries haven’t arrived
yet but the grass has! Nothing seemed to be happening but then the rain came causing
the seed to suddenly spring into action so that on our visit we were greeted with
a very bright green carpet of growth. The greeness – unlike the weather -
It was really just a flying visit to the plot to harvest a few vegetables and make sure plants in the greenhouse had sufficient water. We didn’t even stop for coffee which must have been a first. There is still a bit of weeding that needs to be done but the pull to be outside wasn’t as strong this week.
Rooted and potted strawberry runners have been moved into the garden greenhouse where they will overwinter and be used in spring to take the place of those plants that fail to make it. I hope that we have as good a bounty of strawberries as we did last season. We even picked a few this week along with a gathering of alpine strawberries. I guess these are likely to have been the last.
Water hawthorn -
Although the winter pansies are still gallantly providing a little flower power, the winter jasmine is beginning to flower and evergreen shrubs are in bud the overall impression is a garden preparing for winter.
A few leaves are still hanging on to the magnolia and sambucus nigra but other trees are now completely bare allowing the weakened sunshine to light up patches that are usually in shade. Leaves of perennials such as the hostas are changing colour and dying. Once removed there is no sign that plants are still in residence.
The medlars that we gathered – all ten of them – seem to have bletted. They have darkened and are now soft to the touch so we just need to decide to taste them.
Harvested this week:
Used from store and freezer
In anticipation of keen frosts we cut down the remaining dahlias. We haven’t yet had a frost keen enough to kill the dahlia foliage. Testament to this are the two dahlias growing and still flowering on our weed heap. This year instead of leaving all the dahlias planted in the ground, most have been dug and placed in a heap. The tubers have been covered with straw to hopefully keep the frost out. A large sheet of black polythene covers the whole thing. This not only keeps out the rain but helps increase the temperature underneath. Click here for more.
Strawberry plants continue to set fruit but, before they are ready to be picked, the ones that do manage to ripen are spoiled by the damp conditions. Being mainly water the fruit also has suffered from a little frosting. The strawberries have served us well this year but this is another production line that had come to an end until next season.
A couple of our newly ordered blackcurrant plants – Ben Connan & Ebony -
Beetroot have also been dug and placed in between the rows of carrots which will be left in the ground until required. Like the dahlia tubers, these have been covered with straw. The environmesh that has protected the carrots from carrot fly has been left in place. We have stored carrots in this way for a few years now and it seems to work really well, however it is a first for the beetroot. Click here for more information.
A couple of chilli plants by the plot greenhouse flaunted their ripe chillies, however after my recent experiences as far as I was concerned they could stay there. As chillies held no such bad memories for my plot neighbour he picked them and was happy to take them off my hands.
Garlic planted in tubs in the plot greenhouse is growing really well and that planted in pots in the garden greenhouse has now started to grow. This will be planted out on the plot next year to provide a succession of bulbs.
After a slow start winter onions are also growing well.
Clearing and weeding activities continue on the plot. Although on the whole the soil is a bit too wet to do any major digging, this week we bought a new Honda mini tiller and ‘one of us’ just couldn’t wait to try it out. On the whole our new machine performed well although large stones jam the rotors and tilling has to stop until they are removed. We have a larger rotavator for the heavier work but te new tiller is easier to pop into the car for the lighter digging jobs.
Clearing back the leaves that carpet the soil I noticed that the snowdrops are just beginning to push up their shoots and in the tubs crocuses and daffodils are joining them. I know it’s very premature but it just gives a little glimpse of spring and lifts the spirits.
Meanwhile we are spending more time indoors where we decided to try to make use of our medlars. We settled on medlar and apple jelly. Obviously with only ten medlars we didn’t produce a great deal – just a ramekin full – this was enjoyed spread on plain scones. For more about this click here.
I also bought a couple of hippeastrum/amaryllis bulbs – people just don’t seem to be able to decide what to call them – which meant running the gauntlet of the Santas’ grottoes and Christmas paraphenalia that have invaded the garden centres. Having made it home, I opened one of the boxes with the intention of potting up the bulbs and out flew a bee. The box had holes in the top and the bee must have thought it had found a cosy place in which to spend winter and I had spoiled its plans. Fortunately there is still time for it to find alternative accommodation. My bulbs are now potted and the race is on to beat my sister in having the first bulb to produce a flower.
Harvested this week:
Used from store and freezer:
Just one visit to the plot this week, not really to do much work as again the weather hasn’t encouraged us to venture outdoors much. We have been lucky in that we haven’t suffered the flooding experienced by some areas but the strong winds make working outdoors an unattractive proposition. The rain has ensured that the soil is still too wet to work on.
Fortunately the only damage – if it can be called that – caused on the plot by the gales was the environmesh being blown off the carrots. We have so far escaped lightly. I just hope that isn’t tempting fate too much.
In the plot greenhouse the garlic is really racing ahead and the chrysanthemums are managing to provide more than enough cut flowers for the house.
Strawberry flowers still haven’t been blackened by frost, which must be a record, but any fruit produced fails to ripen. Some alpine strawberry fruits have turned red but have brownish patches which makes them less than appetising. The stray dahlias are still flowering on the heap of weeds and other plants that should by now have also succumbed to frost are continuing to survive.
We haven’t completely gone into hibernation – in the garden the banana plants have been cut back and covered with straw for winter protection. The debris was taken to the plot for composting. Overgrown hebes at the front of the house have also been severely cut back in the first stage of their complete removal.
Streptocarpus plants that have provided colour in the garden greenhouse over the summer months have been cut back and half have been brought into the house to overwinter. The greenhouses isn’t heated over winter and so we will also need to find a winter home for a dipladena and stephanotis. They were house plant size when they arrived in the greenhouse but after being potted into much larger pots they have now achieved small tree proportions.
All three hippeastrum/amayllis bulbs bought last week are showing signs of coming into growth although my two are still lagging behind my sister’s bulb.
So what exactly do gardeners do when they can’t garden?
We have turned our attention to cooking and baking using some of our stored booty. Squash and tomatoes have been used to make soup which was enjoyed with home made bread rolls and apples have been turned into pies, some of which have been frozen.
The Peasgood Nonsuch gathered from the tree in the garden have been particularly successful in storage. Having been determined to use beetroot for something other than pickling we tried roasting some yellow and white roots and this was definitely a success. We haven’t yet tried roasting the red varieties which could prove more messy!
A little more worrying are signs that the mild weather seems to have encouraged one or two stored potatoes to produce shoots – just hope that this doesn’t set a trend. Some of the stored onions especially the white variety are also showing signs of stress. So fingers crossed that we managed to retain a supply through winter.
Harvested this week:
Used from store and freezer:
With the ground really wet and soggy after so much rain there isn’t really very much that we can do on the plot. Our footsteps are accompanied by a squelching noise wherever we tread. The best favour we can do for the soil and grass is to keep off.
At least a weekly visit to the plot is essential in order to gather some vegetables, pick any chrysanthemums and make sure the garlic in the plot greenhouse hasn’t dried out – although at the moment there seems little chance of that happening.
During our weekly visit we did manage to burn a few weeds that had somehow managed to dry out and I also even managed a little weeding although my gloves did end up thickly coated in muddy soil by the time I had finished.
Still the frost hasn’t appeared to have done its worst in spite of some low temperatures. (see our weather blog). Many flowers that have usually by now disappeared or turned to mush are soldiering on.
Plants are continuing to make the journey from the garden greenhouse into the house where window ledges are being prepared for them. A selection of fuchsias have joined the streptocarpus that were brought in last week. One which was still flowering has been promoted to house plant status.
Leaf shoots are growing strongly on my hippeastrum/amaryllis bulbs but my sister’s bulb has already started to develop a flower bud so her bulb is still ahead in tAhe race to produce a flower.
In spite of the time of year a venture outdoors reveals that many bulbs – daffodil,
crocus, hyacinth and snowdrop -
With little else to compete for attention the fatsia is producing its amazing flower
stems and as usual I can’t resist taking a photograph -
Harvested this week:
Used from store freezer:
Used from store: