Backwards And Forwards Planning ~ That Would Be Gardening Then

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The gardener travels hopefully, always looking ahead. It is the only way to go. But then there are also always ‘the now’ activities, the planning, preparing, nurturing, harvesting, recycling, whichever is appropriate at any given point in the cycle of things.

Knowledge gained from past endeavours – the successes, failures and ‘could-do-betters’ – also informs the way forward.  There can be neuroses too prodding you along – is now the right time to sow for the best mid-summer crop? Will this variety or that one provide the best tasting produce/be easier to grow/need staking or otherwise managing? Is it warm enough/too wet/too cold to plant the seed potatoes? What can I do this year to fend off pea moth/allium beetle/slugs/pigeons/carrot fly? What measures can be taken in case of drought/flood/heat wave? What else can be grown to extend the cropping season? What will best dry/freeze/be otherwise preserved over the winter? Shouldn’t I be making more compost/collecting more leaves/maintaining a cycle of green manure growing/weeding? What would the bees, bugs and butterflies like?

So much to think about for the coming year. And while I’m busy doing that, here are some ‘back-to-the-future’ successes from last summer that are spurring me onwards. Remembrance of things to come…

Lens-Artists: Future  This week Ann-Christine gives us ‘the future’ as her very thoughtful challenge. Please call in to see her evocative double-exposure images. You’ll be glad you did.

Sundowner Bee At The Allotment Cafe

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Can one post too many happy foraging bee shots? I’m thinking not. This particular bee was caught the other evening, enjoying the day’s final tuck-in on an allotment dahlia. I’d gone up there to pick runner beans, tomatoes and autumn raspberries, and to deliver a big bag of compost makings to one of my several heaps.

The dahlias in question have been grown by my plot neighbour Mark. He only grows  flowering plants – and with the sole objective of providing for insect life. Of course these late season blooms give everyone who comes to the allotment gardens a burst of pleasure. It’s as if they have captured the best essence of summer in their petals and want to share it with the world. Blooming lovely.

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Lens-Artists #11  small is beautiful  Amy asks us to show her the little things that give us pleasure, however they strike us.

In the Pink #16

Yesterday ~ A Good Scavenging Sort Of A Day

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The field path to the allotment was a slithery assault course after heavy rain and the wind was bitter, but on the big allotment bonfire-heap-in-waiting there was treasure. On top were slices of a new builder’s pallet that someone had sawn up to make for easier disposal. Well thank you very much. Naturally I had to retrieve these for recycling man and the home wood burner pile. I stacked the pieces by the hedge beside my exit route for later transportation i.e. once I’d emptied my big blue IKEA bag of vegetable peelings on the compost heap; the reason for my visit.

But then once I’d fished out the pallet pieces I realised someone had dumped a mass of garden waste that would be so much better on my compost heap. (Why do people who garden not make compost?) My good fortune though.  I filled the IKEA bag to bursting. And it was during this exercise and under a load of tree prunings that I found the other half of the pallet that had not been sawn up. Yippee! It was just the right size to make the side of a new compost bin. I lugged it up to my plot along with the compost makings. Dug up the last of the carrots and discovered some parsnips. It was then I realised I’d been so busy scavenging and rootling, the weather had sneaked up on me. Over Windmill Hill there was a storm coming in. Just time to slither home across the field, deliver the pallet bits and untangle the sheets that had tied themselves in knots on the washing line. When I took them indoors they were filled with fresh-air smells that made me think of spring.

copyright 2018 Tish Farrell

Did The Earth Move For Me? Not Blooming Likely. More A Case Of DIY

All right I confess. I’m a fraud. I call myself a writer, but in reality I move soil.  Year in and year out I move soil. It has become my lot in life – not only on the home front with The Man In My House  Who Keeps Having Ground Moving Notions, but also on my own time up at the allotment. How did this happen? Was this the plan I had for myself?

This time last year we were busy shifting ten tons of gunky green Silurian clay and the junk of builders past, removing a huge and hideous waist-high flower bed outside our back door. We had lived with it for ten years, but finally it had to go. Ground Moving Man, then became Wall and Steps Building Man – using traditional mortar and the old bricks and limestone lying around to place to build a much neater, narrower raised border, and safer steps to the top of the garden. (Our cottage is built into a  bank).  The effort was as momentous, as it was cunning. The Wall and Step Builder had devised a way of dismantling the old steps in tandem with building the new ones so that we always had access to the upper quarters of our small domain, and thence my path to the allotment. Hats off to you, sir!

Here are views of the work as it proceeded.

A wintery before:

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During the synchronised step demolition and rebuilding (pretty good work for a retired plant pathologist):

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After – a bit heavy on the limestone perhaps, but we had it on site, which is always a bonus when you live on a road where deliveries can be tricky:

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Most of the clay spoil and erstwhile builders’ rubble that had been hidden behind the steps and in the bed was barrowed round the front of the house and tipped into a Hippo Bag. This natty item is sent through the post in return for some loot. You fill it with 1.5 tonnes of stuff, and then a truck comes and cranes it away. Ideal for people who live on a busy main road, and have no room for a big skip. We had several of these handy mega bags.

Meanwhile up at the allotment I was dismantling a forty-year old allotmenteers’ spoil heap the size of Everest, and using the substance, which only vaguely resembled compost, to make new raised beds and terraces on my polytunnel plot.  I shifted probably sixty barrow loads, and all with the aim of creating (ultimately) a NO DIG gardening system. I know this may sound mad.

The year before I had started clearing the plot by slicing off the neglected, weed-choked surface and piling the turves into pallet bins in the hopes that one day they would decompose into something usable. This was in no way compatible with the principles of NO DIG, but was my quick and dirty method of checking the buttercup, couch grass, and dandelion infestation. After learning the error of my ways early last spring, I gave it up for covering the remaining uncleared ground in layers of cardboard, and tipping a good six inches of spoil heap soil on the top. He Who Builds Walls and Steps then knocked up a few raised beds. (Those of you who come here often will know all this.)

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This year I find that ants have been busy in the horrid heap of weedy turves, and the ensuing soil is usable, so am now repatriating it to the areas whence I cleared it two years earlier. So good on the ants, but more earth moving required.

Meanwhile, the notions of NO DIG, also require the seasonal application of deep layers of compost to the surface of all beds. The only problem with this is making enough compost. You need tons and tons. However, last autumn I made an effort and amassed material in bins and heaps all over my two plots – wherever there was space in fact. And now these need digging out, or at least turning.

NO DIG, it seems, does not mean the end of wielding forks and spades – not by a long chalk. So there we have it – ‘my days’ career’ as a young Kenyan farm wife once described to me her life of endlessly hauling things about.

And back on the home front  this year we have already dug up the front lawn and replanted the bank beside the road. And we have dug up the back lawn and moved more soil so He Who Builds can now branch out into shed construction, though we did at least have two strong young men come and lay the paved concrete slab from which said edifice will arise. I am told it will have a curved roof.

The arrival of the shed will next dictate the remodelling of the back garden flower beds. All of which makes  me feel as if my  life is founded on shifting ground; the strata beneath my feet in perpetual motion and always needing to be somewhere else, and in some other shape. Perhaps one day all the earth in my vicinity will be in the places where we actually want it – no more moving required. Then perhaps I can give up the fraudulent writer posture and finish off a book or two; return to mental heaving and lugging, re-shaping and visualising, create the content and structure exactly as I want it – and all this without heft of spade or putting on my wellies. Perhaps…

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copyright 2017 Tish Farrell

Last Year At The Allotment ~ Seasonal Highlights

Now is the time of year when gardeners head for their seed catalogues and start making plans for the growing season ahead. Seed potatoes must be ordered, and preparations made (i.e. brain put in gear so as not to miss appropriate time slots) for crops that must be sown early. It is also a good moment to review which of the last year’s crops grew best, and most importantly, which we most enjoyed eating.

Actually all the produce was delicious. We had loads of Early Onward peas, courgettes and salad greens. Beans thrived – French, borlotti, fava, runners, and Cherokee, as did the globe artichokes, raspberries and Swift sweet corn. In the polytunnel the Black Russian tomatoes, and yellow cherry variety were the most prolific. I also grew some very good pink onions in there, and thus saved them from alium beetle attack which did a lot of damage in the outdoor crop.

There’s still stuff to eat on the plot too – Brussels sprouts, Italian broccoli, Tuscan kale, parsnips, and early purple sprouting to come.

And now as I look at these photos, I sense the horticultural sap rising. Soon it will be time to go out and get growing – all over again. For the gardener’s work is never done. Yippeeeeee!

 copyright 2017 Tish Farrell

Thursday’s Special: 2016 Retrospective   Please visit Paula for her own fine retrospective, and be inspired.

Yesterday, Coming Home From The Allotment

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Hard to know which of us was on mind altering substances – me, my camera, or the Wenlock Edge Sky-painter. Perhaps all three of us. Anyway, I was tramping along the margins of Townsend Meadow, having been to the allotment for a trawl of Tuscan kale and cabbage tree greens. It was around 4 p.m. but already going dark, and I had paused briefly to watch three little girls bouncing so joyously on their garden trampoline in a hectic communion of after-school-steam-lettingoffness – when it suddenly occurred to me to turn around. And this is what I saw. It took my breath away. So of course I had to snap it and pass it on.

Be-eautiful Borlotti

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Well I simply couldn’t miss taking part in Yvette’s inaugural Friday food challenge over at Powerhouse Blog. So here you have them, my favourite beans, caught at the allotment in a sunset glow. Not that they need external aids to enhance their beanificent beauty. Not for nothing do the Italians call them: Borlotto Lingua di Fuoco –  Fire Tongue.

I love everything about them. I love growing them. I love the way their pods change colour through the summer – from green to deep claret. Then, as picking time draws near, the leaves turn yellow, and start to fall, revealing hanging rows of glowing pods.

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But the best bit is shelling them. You never know what colour they will turn out – pea green, cream with pink speckles or claret with creamy streaks. Every bean is different.

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I usually freeze them freshly podded, or you can dry them. Freezing means they are quick to cook, and you don’t need to do the overnight soaking necessary for dried beans. They are highly nutritious, mineral and fibre-rich, and can be used in soups, or to make baked beans. I use them mostly in re-fried bean dishes. This simply involves mashing up a batch of cooked beans with fried onion, garlic, and a few chopped tomatoes, then adding seasoning, chopped parsley or coriander, plus spices of choice (I use chilli and cumin), turning all into a shallow, heatproof dish, topping with cheese, and putting under the grill for 10 or 15 minutes. We eat this by itself with a salad, or as a side dish with just about anything savoury. A poached egg on top would also be good.

You can find out how to grow borlotti beans HERE. Then pop over to Yvette’s for more vegetable offerings:

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copyright 2016 Tish Farrell

August’s Changing Seasons: Fruitful

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Who wouldn’t be tempted by such a perfect apple? I came upon it yesterday  as I was leaving the allotment. It’s growing on an very old and lovely tree that every year puts on its own magnificent Garden of Eden of show. We allotmenteers share the apples. They are crisp, juicy, sharp and sweet all at once. I don’t know the variety.

It’s important to  keep tabs on the crop though. The window of opportunity for gobbling is brief since the apples don’t keep very well. I’m already thinking that they might be good in Tarte Tatin that most delicious of French classic deserts.  I usually use Coxes Pippins later in the year, but since this August feels so autumnal, it’s an excellent excuse to make it sooner. I have a deep cast iron frying pan, which works a treat, both for the initial caramelizing of the apples on top of the cooker, and the final cooking with added the pastry lid inside the oven.

I should also say these apples have the most delicious fragrance too – lemon crisp. They anyway sum up August for me: the garden’s rich harvest.

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Changing Seasons: August  Every month around the 20th Cardinal Guzman posts a Changing Seasons challenge. There are two variations to choose from, so follow the link for further instructions. They are easy-peasy.

Does My Beehind Look Big in this?

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Up at the allotment the globe artichokes we did not eat earlier in the summer are flowering, and the Red-tailed Bumblebees think all their breakfasts have come at once. In fact they’re trying to scoff them all at once too. The flower, after all, is a VERY BIG thistle. This makes me wonder if the huge expanse of ultra-violet attractant doesn’t over-stimulate the foraging impulse, thus explaining the manic bee rootling  that has them scrabbling, bottoms up, through the petal forest to reach the sweet stuff beneath.

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Those with longer legs seem to cope best, but I’ve already had to rescue two. They seem to become mired in the petals. Either that or they’re simply spaced out on the sugar rush.

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Macro Monday over at Jude’s

Never Mind Van Gogh’s Sunflowers: How About A Courgette? Or Maybe Even a Blooming Potato?

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During the recent heat wave I managed to get myself across the field and to the allotment by 7.30 a.m. It was wonderful up there – full of birdsong and humming bugs and bees. (Note to self: must do this more often). All the vegetables were flowering full blast, and so instead of watering and weeding, I started taking photos.

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The courgette (zucchini) plants had broken out into multiple suns – each one big as a dinner plate.

And then I spotted the potato flowers – I think they’re the French salad variety called ratte. (I couldn’t locate my plant label for spud leaves). Anyway aren’t they rather lovely?

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Then behind the potatoes the runner bean flowers were busy making the first beans of the season (thank you bees):

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And behind my polytunnel the Lark sweet corn was tasseling:

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So much excitement up at the allotment, and all before breakfast. Who’d’ve thought it.

 

P.S. This post was inspired not only by my vegetables, but also by Jithin at Mundane Monday #69, and Jude’s edible Garden Challenge. Please visit them for more inspiration and some very excellent photography.