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• Sunday, January 13th, 2019

It’s been a fairly nice Sunday morning and, since as it was warm enough, I have been able to go to the allotment to do a bit of digging. There were quite a few people doing the same, taking advantage of the dry weather to clear their plot a little bit more.

Garlic

As I was digging I noticed a lot of earth worms, which I try not to hurt as I disturb their ground. Unfortunately, there is a lot of couch grass on the plot which is very invasive so most of my effort consists in removing that weed. I also took the time to take a look at the garlic, which has grown well in autumn and which should be over-wintering nicely during the cold weather.

A little bit at a time is the best advice I can give when it comes to keeping the plot in good stead without hurting your back. And regular digging and weeding goes a long way to keep it tidy.

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• Friday, January 04th, 2019

Last week I noticed that some of my roses were still blossoming, more precisely the yellow Golden Celebration rose was in bloom. I’ve always enjoyed English roses and in particular the David Austin’s roses.

The varieties that I have enjoyed growing include Shropshire Lad, Teasing Georgia and Jude the Obscure. I used to have a beautiful crimson William Shakespeare rose in a previous garden but it doesn’t seem to be available in their catalogue anymore. It looks to me like recently they have re-focussed their selection on yellow and pink coloured-varieties as opposed to crimson.

I have heard that David Austin Senior has passed away recently, his lifetime dedicated to the perfection of roses with the most successful introduction of new varieties of spectacular Old English roses in my view. The legacy will live on and I look forward to enjoying newly planted roses in my garden such as Claire Austin and Etoile de Hollande (both climbers) this year. Something to rejoice for the summertime…

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• Tuesday, January 01st, 2019

Today has been a fairly mild day for this time of year. In fact I have noticed a bumble bee flying in the garden and it also seems that some bulbs such as daffodils are already starting to emerge from the ground.

Red Cabbage

This morning I went to the plot and I saw that I was not the only one busy plotting there as it was a pleasant day. I set about trimming the edge of the path with my spade and weeding as I go along. This is a task that will keep me busy for a while this winter.

I harvested some red cabbage from the plot, which I slow cooked with red onion, balsamic vinegar and cranberry sauce (useful left-over from Christmas dinner). At this time of year it’s good to be able to harvest some vegetables since they are in rather short supply and cabbage is indeed a great winter crop.

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• Wednesday, December 26th, 2018

It’s been a while since I have written anything in my garden blog. I have been so busy this year with my allotment plot that there hasn’t been free time for much else. But it’s been an amazing gardening year and if you had told me how much time I would be spending on the plot I might have been sceptical about my ability to carry on as an allotmenteer.

New allotment plot

Tackling a 10 pole allotment plot from scratch is quite a challenge particularly if the plot is totally empty. No rhubarb, shrub, shed or compost bin occupying the empty 5 x 40m narrow space. So I shall endeavour to make an account of my first year on the plot so that it may inspire others to give it a go too. A satisfying first year it has been with great successes and some disappointment.

We’ve experienced  such hot weather this year here in Cambridgeshire and the rest of the country that the months of July and August proved tricky in terms of watering the vegetables and just keeping things alive. But 2018 has been a good year for growing tomatoes, peppers and sweetcorn in particular. Chatting with my fellow plot holders encouraged me to grow a lot of different tomato plants.In fact I was given small plants from varieties such as Money maker, Roma, and Aisle Craig from friends.I grew these alongside my own plants from varieties of Gardener’s delight, Sungold, and Zebra green tomatoes which got started on my windowsill in March.

But we most enjoyed a variety of tiny cherry tomatoes called Coyote. I obtained the seeds at a seed swap event taking place in Cambridge early in the year and I believe this was an open-pollinated variety seed collected by a fellow amateur gardener. A total of 30 plants carefully staked, watered and fed rewarded us with a bounty of delicious tomatoes, many of which I cooked into a coulis and stored in the freezer. Such a bountiful gardening year it’s been, and on this cloudy Christmas day as I open my presents and find 3 pairs of gardening gloves I look forward to another fruitful year on the plot.

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• Sunday, January 03rd, 2016

I have seen mushroom growing kits in the UK before but this Christmas I was given a kit which was suitable as a gift since the marketing on the box was fun and smart.

Mushroom growing kit

Mushroom growing kit

It was easy to use, simply cut a cross in the plastic area of the cardboard container and then spray with water each day. Success was guaranteed or a replacement box would be supplied.

In my case it only took 5 days before the mushrooms started to grow. Since the box was purchased in France the mushroom variety is Pleurotes jaunes, i.e. pleurotus or oyster mushrooms. Within 6 days we had 2 huge yellow oyster mushrooms which we cut and ate as in an omelette. They had a subtle nutty taste.

It seems that one of the mushroom reached maturity since we saw a lot of spores had flown around the box but fortunately I don’t seem to be allergic to spores.

My friend also bought a kit for herself (a pretapousser.fr box) and started hers at the same time as I did so that we could compare notes. Hers started to grow later but she had lots of small mushrooms. I don’t know what predetermines whether you get 2 big mushrooms or lot of small fungi but you do please let me know!

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• Saturday, June 30th, 2012

Today we discovered a splendid water garden located in Norfolk near Oxborough where it seems a school fete was on.

Gooderstone Water Garden

The Gooderstone Water Gardens include four ponds as well as river walks along the river Gadder in an area which used to be marshland. On this sunny day we enjoyed strolling around this English garden where campanulas (trachelium and portenschlagiana), geraniums of various colours and lysimachia puntata were at their best.

We also admired the sways of astrantias, lambsears, astilbes, with white achilleas in the background.
This is a peaceful and refreshing garden where huge weeping willows, birch trees are mirrored in the clear ponds. more…

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• Sunday, February 05th, 2012

Today in my fen garden we have had 4 inches of snow, as predicted by the weather forecast. There is not a lot to do in the garden other than clearing the path and feeding the birds. I also tried cleaning my greenhouse with the snow, as I read on the internet that it was an easy way to clean the glass panels. However I think that I will still need to use Jeyes cleaning fluid in the Spring to desinfect the glass panels.

Snowy garden

The deep layer of snow makes everything look even and peaceful. I hope that the crocus which were starting to sprout don’t get too damaged by the heavy snow. Similarly the echium which I have left in a pot covered in fleece may not make it through this winter.

Today Spring seems far away as the cold weather front is expected to persist in East Anglia in the week to come.

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• Sunday, January 29th, 2012

This is the start of a new gardening year for me as I rummage through the 2012 garden seed catalogues and plan my sowings for the year ahead. Today I went to my local garden centre and I bought some first early potato seeds, which are a variety called Swift, as well as a salad potato variey called Ratte which is highly appreciated in France. I have never grown the Swift potato variety before and I hope to get better result with this type of early crop which is supposed to be good for boiling as well as new potato.

Ratte New Potatoes

Last year I gave the International Kidney variety a try – they are the equivalent of the Jersey Royal new potatoes. Unfortunately the yield was not so good last year and this could be due to the dry weather which was not so favourable to a healthy growth of the tubers.

Last Spring I also grew a first early potato variety called Epicure, which is a typical Ayrshire potato but again the crop was not particularly outstanding.

On the other hand the main crop variety which I grew last year was Kind Edward, and the yield was good except that they did not store so well in the shed compared to previous years. The reason for this could have been the exceptionally warm autumn and winter which we experienced and this goes to show that no two years are the same with gardening. Certain crops will perform differently given certain conditions.

For now I have stored my potato seeds in a cool dark place ready for chitting in a few weeks time.
By then I will need to have finished digging the vegetable plot in time for planting my seeds in March. Speaking to fellow gardeners in East Anglia it seems that many of us are not yet done with the digging which makes me feel better.

Half way there with my muddy wellington boots and my fork I paused to contemplate the barren soil in anticipation for an abundant forthcoming harvest season.

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• Friday, February 11th, 2011

Gardening in February always starts with some ungrateful tasks such as cleaning the greenhouse and fixing the water butt (which collapsed on the floor due to the amount of ice in the worst of the winter cold). However the sense of anticipation of the new season to come has kept me going on a grey and blustery weekend.

Top of the agenda was pruning the red grape vine which is climbing alongside my shed. I had to borrow a ladder and started to cut down the excess of shoots back to 2 buds. I have also managed to secure a plastic bucket on my rhubarb with the help of a few stones – which offers a basic alternative to fancy rhubarb terracotta pots designed for forcing the vegetable.

I have also pruned my blackcurrant and redcurrant bushes and weeded the base of the bush. Hopefully when the wind eases off and weather allowing I shall be able to feed my bushes a sprinkling of sulphate of potash. This should help them get a kick start in Spring and stimulate the bush to produce a good crop of fruits.

Getting on with the digging is a key task at this time of the year, as I start looking into my sowing plans for the year taking into account plant rotation. I actually found a few rotten beetroots which had been missed from the harvest in autumn, as well as a few baby carrots which I have managed to use in a beef stew. I also wish I had harvested the last of my celery stalks earlier as the plant didn’t fare well in the cold and snow.

I have observed a few crocuses starting to emerge and I guess a warm spell is all they need to burst into blossom. The garden looks like a battle field with the vestiges of faded flower heads, worn out lawn and broken plants seemingly struggling in the wind.

As I contemplate my bare garden and consider alternative crops and flowers I really look forward to the Spring to come.

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• Wednesday, August 18th, 2010

East Anglia has received its fair share of rain in the last month or so and it certainly feels like a new season is approaching.

Cucumber in the Greenhouse

Cucumber in the Greenhouse

In between showers and cloudy/wintry days I have been able to harvest my first crop of potatoes from a variety called Red Duke of York. The 2010 crop was not as bountiful as previous years due to the extremely dry weather which we experienced at the beginning of the summers and the late spring.

My tomatoes are ripening nicely in the greenhouse and also outdoors. In fact I have been busy feeding the plants with organic tomato feed as these plants are rather greedy. I had a nice crop of cucumbers in the greenhouse but it’s coming to the end as some of my plants have really dried out. I haven’t had as much success with peppers as I have in previous years and I am not sure of the reasons why. There is a possibility that I have overfed the plants and encouraged them to grow leaves as opposed to flowers. The peppers are still small and green but this could be due to the fact that this is a different variety from my usual favouriate Tasty Grill Red F1 Hybrid variety.

I have managed to cope with my courgette glut by sharing my crop and also using them extensively in risottos and in roast. My courgettes are truly relishing the wet weather and it is showing. Likewise the lawn is starting to recover from the draught which completely burnt out the green expanse of grass.

I will have to keep an eye on potato blight and tomato diseases if the wet weather continues for too long. The gardening season is not over for me yet as I am preparing my final sowing of beans and lettuces to come.