Planting out seed potatoes

I know what you’re going to say. Isn’t it very late to be planting out seed potatoes? Especially first earlies? Especially an extra early variety such as Abbot?

You’re right, of course. But circumstances have conspired to keep us away from the plot: major works on the flat, snow, rain, Andrew’s condition, a kite flying weekend … Life, basically.

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Sowing French climbing beans in deep root trainers

Purple and yellow climbing French beans growing up bamboo canes

Our climbing French beans were such a hit last year, that we were definitely keen to sow them again.

They were relatively easy to grow, looked great, tasted great and were even better with the recipe we found for preserving them. What more could you ask for? More beans, of course!

Learning from last year

We decided to stick with exactly what we did last year – Suttons’ colourful climbing mix.

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The start of our chilli trials

Apparently, 2018 is the year of the chilli. When we went to Glee, the trade show of the garden industry, last September, several companies were featuring them.

Here’s part of the Thompson & Morgan display at Glee which has what we thought was a well-designed heat indicator.

A Thompson and Morgan chilli seed display with clear heat indicator

We thought we would take the opportunity to do our own mini trial of a few varieties of chilli to see how they perform.

Sowing the seed

Here’s Andrew in the greenhouse, explaining our trial and sowing the first seeds: Continue reading

Our 2018 gardening year begins

Andrew with his new Hawes watering can

We were finally able to make it down to the greenhouse on the Easter weekend. But have our new tubers survived the long wait to be planted?

Major works at home kept us occupied for most of March. Not only that, snow and freezing temperatures made visiting the plot or the greenhouse even for a short while impossible. As a wheelchair user, Andrew can’t move around as readily as most of us, which means that his body temperature drops fast – something he’s not always aware of until it’s too late, which can make him very unwell.

And so the plants and tubers we ordered have had to wait – some survived better than others.

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Recipe: Roasted pumpkin wedges with oca

Roasted pumpkin with feta and oca on a bed of salad leaves

All too soon we’re down to our last pumpkin. We grew Invincible, a variety with an unusual bluish flesh and a lovely creamy flavour.

Ok, so ours didn’t turn out as dramatically blue-grey as on the seed packet. They were more of a pale green. But the contrast with the orange flesh is very pretty.

Pak Choi and Pumpkin

We didn’t get a huge crop and were through our harvest before we knew it. So how best to savour the last one? We put the call out for suggestions on social media.

On Instagram, Katrina from the Homegrown Garden suggested a curry with chickpeas and green peas.

Meanwhile on Facebook, Don suggested a popular eastern Mediterranean dessert.

A screenshot of Don’s suggestion of using the pumpkin to make a Mediterranean dessertHe suggested cutting the flesh into 1 inch dice, making a stock syrup with cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg to flavour, then poaching the cubes until the pumpkin is cooked. Leave the pumpkin to cool in the syrup, he advised, then drain and serve with natural yogurt, creme fresh or cream.

Then Darren from Allotment Notes told us on Twitter to ‘oven-roast that bad boy until the edges go all crispy and caramelised and then stuff it into your face until the juices run down your chin’.

Screenshot of Darren’s suggestion on TwitterWe liked all of those suggestions. If only we’d asked while we had more pumpkins!

Perhaps it was Darren’s descriptive turn of phrase that persuaded us to try the roasted pumpkin route. We thought it would allow us to create a tasty supper that would put the pumpkin centre stage and allow us to show off the attractive contrasting skin.

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A shelving unit for the shed

A view of the shed from across the plot with Andrew sitting inside surrounded by parts of the shelving unit

You know how it is, you get a new shed and think you’ve just built a Tardis. Look at all that space, you say. Oh, the possibilities.

Perhaps you will put in two (maybe even three!) easy chairs and there you will sit, making tea and bacon rolls over a camping stove, admiring your beautifully manicured allotment.

Perhaps there will be a Welsh dresser (painted a heritage colour) behind you, a rug on the floor. Perhaps George Clarke will drop by to admire your handiwork over a chilled glass of something fizzy.

And then all of a sudden the shed is full of stuff. And not chairs and Welsh dressers, either. It’s all the stuff that didn’t previously have a home: rakes, hoes, bamboo canes, spades, my fork, our little draper cart.

It’s full of bags with potatoes because we finally dug them up since we now had somewhere to store them.

And then there are the plastic bags with all the sundries we’d either had to bring with us every time or hide in the compost bin. Plant pots, string, tubs of fertiliser, bottles of tomato food, hand tools. And it now takes five minutes to find my gardening gloves because I can never remember which bag they’re in.

Time to get organised!

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Growing oca or New Zealand yam

If you’re growing vegetables and you haven’t tried oca (also known as New Zealand yams), you’re missing out. They’re easy to grow, easy to cook and super tasty!

Sandra kneeling by the oca bed holding a bunch of freshly harvested oca

When we took on the Quest For Veg plot, one of our goals was to grow unusual produce. So when we spotted oca in the Thompson and Morgan catalogue last year, we didn’t hesitate – even though we knew nothing about how to grow them, how to cook them or what they would taste like.

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Our 10 allotment growing New Year resolutions

Or what we learned in our first year on the plot.

In no particular order:

1. Don’t over plant

July sown Beets

Beets packed in with not much space to get in to harvest and weed

In a flower garden over-planting may help, on some occasions, to give you a better display. But vegetable plants need their space.

The Quest for Veg plot is not quite a half size plot. So, conscious of our limited space, we were tempted to try to squeeze things in. But our aubergines were swamped by the courgettes and potatoes we planted too close to them, and they produced hardly any fruit. Similarly, the radishes we were growing in our raised bed were overtaken by a pumpkin and either bolted or failed to grow.

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We have a shed!

It has taken us longer to get to this stage than we thought when we first took on the plot. But we are now the proud owners of a customised Topwood Robin shed.

Our new shed

Our new shed

 

We need to give a big shout out to Sandra’s mum, for a generous birthday present donation to the Quest for Veg project. And to our good friends Richard Anderson and Keith Boxall who immediately and enthusiastically volunteered to help build it. One’s a landscaper and the other’s an engineer, so it’s probably one of the best put together sheds going!
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