Something in the Air

As I left the house early to go for my morning run, something immediately struck me. It wasn’t the grey sky or the drizzly rain, but the air itself had a feel of autumn. We’ve just entered the golden month, the month when bountiful harvests fill fridges, freezers and pile up on dinner tables. Meanwhile, the burnt oranges and yellows of summer’s late floral arrivals are happily holding court in the garden; heleniums, sunflowers and rudbeckias all vying for our attention. 1 Collage

But autumn? I don’t remember seeing the invite for this brooding guest, yet here he was.  2 Collage

I’m still hopeful for that last burst of summer to finish tanning my squashes, ripen my tomatoes and bake my beetroot. 3 Collage

But if this is the change, I really can’t complain. The allotment has done me proud this year, stretching my knowledge and filling my tummy. And the goods are still coming. Last night I harvested the first corn on the cob, and before Soph got home, I’d boiled it, eaten it and hidden the evidence.

Think I got away with it. 😉

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And So It Begins…

We’ve been harvesting bits and pieces from the allotment over the past few days and so I’ve had a busy weekend in the kitchen. The first of many I suspect! We harvested the first of our pak choi which went into a stir-fry; the first of our cabbages, a beast of a specimen which will probably feed us for the next month; and the first of our perpetual spinach which I blitzed into a green smoothie along with some coconut milk, banana and apple – a perfect energy boost after my Pilates class this morning.

cabbageI also baked some Rhubarb & Ginger Muffins with the last of our garden rhubarb. I was hoping to post the recipe today but it still needs perfecting. Mind you, Ade has already demolished six of them so they can’t be too bad!

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I dragged Ade away from his revision this afternoon (his RHS exams are looming so you might not hear much from him over the next week or two!) and we went for a walk by the canal. The hedgerows are positively brimming with elderflowers at the moment and I’m eager to use them in a recipe. I initially thought I might brew up some elderflower champagne but all the recipes I’ve looked at involve buckets and demijohns and other apparatus that I don’t have, plus I’ve been warned about exploding bottles, so I might just stick to a simple cordial recipe this summer and progress to champagne next year if I’m feeling brave!

We also had to visit our neighbour’s allotment as they’ve gone away for a few days and have entrusted us to keep their plot watered until their return. Their plot is at a different site to ours, so after our watering duties were finished, we were keen to have a nose around.

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Then it was up to our plot for a final check. Things are really beginning to flourish. The mangetout will be ready any day now and the garlic won’t be far behind.

mangetout

And so it begins…

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And We’re Off!

Working with the RHS at Regent’s Park last Thursday, it was clear that spring was now upon us. I was greeted with an oasis of yellow trumpets all heralding in the new season!B_6yN6AWMAA-gGZ

And when I arrived at the plot this weekend, there were two things I was immediately delighted to see: 1) The polytunnel was still standing, and 2) the daffodil bulbs I planted last autumn were now rewarding me with their beauty. Being the old romantic that I am (that’s right folks, inside this withered and battered old gardener beats a young, foolish heart), I saw the opportunity to cut several blooms and present them to Soph.  With the windowsill episode firmly behind us, this was a chance to earn myself some brownie points… and boy did they work! That very evening, the love of my life (not now, Monty) took me out to dinner.  But we’re getting a little off topic with talk of springtime ardour.bra 3

Flowers look wonderful in their natural state, growing happily in borders, woodland or on your allotment. However, with so many daffodils bursting through, I’m sure Mother Nature didn’t mind me cutting several to take home with the excuse of romance.

Flowers cut, I was all too aware that the jobs on the plot are growing week by week. After a freshly made coffee from the stove in my shed and another cheeky treat from the local baker, the daffodils gave me inspiration to do something rash: create a new flower bed. Not only for extra colour and to coax in the wildlife, but those bursting buds could cover up a makeshift windbreaker I erected several weeks ago out of corrugated iron, as although it’s doing it’s job, it’s not the prettiest of things.

Excited by this ‘Eureka’ moment, I made haste and sacrificed one of my bedding paths that runs adjacent to the windbreaker.  Removing the weeds, turning the soil and adding some well rotted organic matter, I got things going and planted thirty plus gladioli bulbs with a little top dressing to finish off. This should do wonders for the late summer season, but I need to think about what to plant for spring and early summer… hmmm, I’ll let you know on that.

Moving on, I turned to the main job: planting my early brassicas – broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower. They’re the first thing I’ve planted on the plot this year, and it was a long time coming. I removed the weeds, carried out secondary cultivation and consolidation, added some fertiliser and began planting.  A fresh bed is always pleasing to the eye, but seeing all my early brassicas out on parade wearing their brassica collars and standing to attention filled me with great pride!bra4However, the final lashings of winter aren’t quite done and I’m expecting a few more cold spells, and although brassicas are hardy, they’re always grateful for that extra protection.  As I sit and write my weekend instalment on Plot 23d, there’s a bed full of brassicas tucking down for the night under the cover of their fleecy cloches.

Agents of Field are off and running, let the 2015 growing adventure commence!! AdeSignature