Posts tagged with "vegetables"

One of the reasons I bought a small polytunnel a couple of years ago was to grow aubergines. I absolutely love them but they are difficult to grow outside in the UK. Aubergines originate from tropical regions so they don’t cope well with our changeable maritime climate, not just the rain we get all year round but also the sometimes sharp drop in temperature at night, even in summer. They prefer consistently warm temperatures and lots of sunshine, but then, don’t we all. The sunshine I can’t so much about, but a polytunnel means that they can be grown in an environment where the temperature doesn’t fluctuate so much and they can be protected from the odd week of wet weather.

I first tried them a couple of years ago when the summer was so wet, everything in the solanum family that includes aubergines, tomatoes and potatoes, all got blight, even under cover. I tried again last year when the weather was much better but I’d underestimated how much watering polytunnels need and the plants succumbed to red spider mite. Looks like I’ve got the balance right this year and I’m looking forward to harvesting my first fruits in a few weeks time.

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The courgette glut has started. Maybe I shouldn’t have grown eight plants.

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The rain yesterday gave the allotment a much needed soaking and made the soil beautifully soft for easy weeding.

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As the summer goes on, we’re eating more and more from the garden and allotment and not just this splendid array of multicoloured salad. The strawberries have just finished and we have a bumper crop of blackcurrants to harvest this weekend. We’re getting good portions of mange tout and sugar snap peas every few days and the first small courgettes are on the menu later. We won’t need to buy potatoes, onions and garlic until next year. I’m still picking globe artichokes and made a delicious paella last night.

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I’m growing sweet peas at the ends of the rows of mange touts and sugar snaps. They look lovely, attract bees and smell amazing. Just a couple of small pots that cost a couple of quid are giving a fabulous show with plenty to use as cut flowers for the house.

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  • I’m seriously behind with the weeding but everything’s growing well and getting lots of crops so that’s the main thing.
  • I’m seriously behind with the weeding but everything’s growing well and getting lots of crops so that’s the main thing.
  • I’m seriously behind with the weeding but everything’s growing well and getting lots of crops so that’s the main thing.

I’m seriously behind with the weeding but everything’s growing well and getting lots of crops so that’s the main thing.

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Mange touts ready for picking. Delicious raw, stir fried or lightly steamed. We like this delicious salad recipe from Ottolenghi.

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Planting out leeks

I did these a couple of weeks ago, using my tried and tested method. It looks a bit labour intensive but it’s actually very simple and low tech. The seeds were sown in February in a deep pot and the seedlings planted out when they’ve grown to the size of small spring onions (scallions to my American readers) and all risk of frost has well and truly passed. The ground was dug, then trodden down and raked smooth. I made holes with a broken spade handle up to 10 inches deep, depending on how far I could shove my rudimentary tool into the ground. The seedlings are soaked in a bucket of water then teased out and dropped into the holes. You don’t need to fill them in, just water them - the soil will gradually fall in over the next few weeks as you water them or it rains. The deep holes mean you get long, white shafts on your leeks and the plants get their roots in deep into the cool soil.

I also cover my leeks with fine mesh to protect them from allium leaf miner. This recently arrived pest has wiped out everyone’s alliums at the allotment some years and already this year, I can see other plot holders’ onions showing the tell tale curly leaves that mean they’ve been got at. The nets are supported by lengths of water pipe from a DIY store and held in place with tent pegs. Told you it wasn’t high tech.

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This was actually taken last Saturday but the murky weather this weekend means I’m having a quiet day at home, doing a spot of baking, reading the paper, musing on future garden projects and looking at some pictures I’ve taken recently but haven’t had time to write up.

I planted out two beds of spuds a couple of weeks ago when the soil was quite dry and it highlighted how different soil conditions are in different parts of the allotment. One bed was planted with two rows of King Edwards and a row of Anyas, and was light and easy to work as a result of a good digging over before Christmas and a liberal dose of home made compost forked through in the New Year.

This side of the plot however, is much heavier clay and even with the same treatment over the winter, the soil was hard work to break up so I left it quite rough. I planted a further row of Anyas and two of Charlotte and instead of breaking my back trying to earth them up with the sticky clods, I covered each row with a layer of comfrey leaves and another of compost. This will not only encourage tubers to form but will also feed the soil and improve its texture.

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I used the prunings from the dogwood as pea sticks and now they’ve sprouted. At this rate, I’ll have a whole load of new plants to transplant when the peas have finished.

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