Sunday, 21 April 2013

Potatoes Planted!

Shetland Black Seed Potatoes

The potatoes are in the ground and raring to go (hopefully). We are currently running about 3 weeks behind previous years at the allotment, and I guess everyone else is in the same boat. The weather in the last week has been not too bad. It has been sufficiently warm enough to warm the soil enough to enable the weeds to make an appearance anyway! What is depressing is that the weather forecast says that we are still only going to be reaching a high of 10C or so for the next 2 weeks. Furthermore, it looks like we are set to see a couple of frosts next weekend :(

Chitted Potato

In an attempt to catch-up with things a little I did a lot of seed sowing this week. The leeks that I sowed back in February are doing well and need moving. My single dahlia seed is also slowly growing.


The broad beans I planted ages ago are doing well and are in the coldframe. They will hopefully be making their way into the ground this week. I have never grown them before so I am looking forward to seeing how they get on.

Broad Bean Plant

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Back From the Freezing Cold South

Although it has been very cold and windy here in the South Lakes, it has been sunny. I drove down to Kent just after Easter and was surprised to find that it was very very cold and it was still snowing! Despite the prolonged cold weather (it has also rained a lot there) some trees were in blossom, and I spotted some pussy willow and catkins. A trip to London showed that Spring appeared to have arrived in St James' Park (below). However, the orchards around my in-laws house were still showing no signs of life.

Blossom in St James' Park, London

Spring appeared to have sprung in St James' Park

Anyway, I'm back home now and raring to go at the allotment. I drove home yesterday, hoping that I might be able to plant my potatoes at last. Unfortunately the weather still isn't cooperating with me - it decided to rain (the first rain we have had since the 18th March). 

I did manage a quick trip up to the allotment (in the rain) to see what, if anything, was going on. The rhubarb had managed to grow a little in the last 2 weeks, but not a lot. This time last year I was in the midst of making rhubarb crumble, rhubarb chutney, and rhubarb vodka. This year I haven't even been able to harvest a single stick of rhubarb yet :(

Gooseberry Bushes

The leaves on our gooseberry bushes have finally begun to emerge from their buds. The raspberries, currants, and blueberries are also making a valiant effort to ignore the cold. The primrose has finally come to life and is covered in flowers, however I couldn't help but notice that something has been eating it!


The children are back at school tomorrow and I only have a little bit of work to do so, if the weather is nice to me I will hopefully make it up to the allotment and get some seeds sown (I have a lot of catching up to do). I am also hoping to plant my first early potatoes on Tuesday evening. Fingers crossed!

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Leek, Tomato, and Two-Cheese Tart

Wondering what to do with the last of your leeks? This is a really quick and easy recipe - it takes less than 10 minutes to make and just 30 minutes or so to cook. It is also very yummy!

Leek, tomato, and two-cheese tart

 Ingredients needed to make 4 individual or 1 large tart:

  • Puff pastry (homemade if you like, but much quicker if you cheat and buy ready made);
  • A leek;
  • 2 large or 4 small tomatoes;
  • 2 types of cheese - I use Feta and Double Gloucester because I like the contrasting tastes (tangy Feta and creamy Double Gloucester);
  • 1 egg (for glazing);
  • Fresh basil to garnish
  1. Preheat the oven to 190C and oil and line a baking tray.
  2. Roll out your puff pastry to size - I like making individual tarts approximately 10 cm x 20 cm.
  3. Place your pastry on the baking tray and score an edge all the way round the pastry (about 0.5 cm from the edge).
  4. Arrange 3 or 4 thin slices of your 1st cheese (in my case Double Gloucester) on top of the pastry.
  5. Slice the leek, separate the ring of leek and arrange on top of the cheese.
  6. Slice the tomatoes and add several slices per tart.
  7. Cut your 2nd cheese (Feta for me) into small cubes and arrange on top of all the other ingredients (or fill in any little gaps).
  8. Brush a little egg over the top.
  9. Pop into the oven for approximately 30 minutes (keep a close eye on it after the first 20 minutes).
  10. If you want to add a little shredded fresh basil as a garnish.
I like eating this with a green salad.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Miserable March

I can't remember the last time I made it up to the allotment :( I have been frantically working to meet a deadline (this Friday), the weather has been rubbish, and I am really fed up that virtually none of my seeds have sprouted.

Anway, after putting in a fair few 6 am starts (giving me an hour to work before getting the children up) and working when I have finally persuaded them into going to sleep, I only have 1 paper left to edit - yay! Which means that: 1) I will meet my deadline, 2) I might be able to go to the allotment tomorrow :D

PS Would someone remind the weather that it is Spring?

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Digging Up the Last of My Winter Crops

Last of the Curly Kale and Cavolo Nero

I am being rather naughty, in that I am supposed to be working. But hey, it is 10 pm - I don't want to be doing that! Anyway, in between frantically working I have managed to squeeze in a couple of visits to the plot. The last of the curly kale and cavolo nero has been dug up to make way for planting the potatoes in a month or so.

Whitefly on Kale

Inspection of the kale revealed that the underside was home to lots of these cabbage whitefly (Aleyrodes brassicae). Although they hadn't done any damage they are definitely a pain, and are not something I want hanging around. According to this fantastically named blog post - Shoo (White) Fly Don't Bother Me - they don't like garlic. There is a recipe for a garlic foliar spray on the aforementioned post, which they supposedly hate. I think I might give it a try myself this year. If that doesn't work, maybe some guests will check-in to my insect hotel (now installed on the shadiest wall of the shed) and kindly eat them all for me :D

Last of the Leeks

I also dug up the last of my leeks. These are destined for Winter leek soup and a leek, tomato, and 2-cheese tart (which I will hopefully get the time to post about soon). 

I would like to say thank you for all the lovely comments people have left recently - I am sorry that I haven't replied, I really have been super-busy with work and I will reply very soon (hopefully tomorrow). Back to work for me now :(

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Pruning Autumn Raspberries

The weather has been beautiful up here in the South Lakes. It hasn't rained for at least 2 whole weeks (the first extended run of dry weather since 2011) and on a couple of days it has been quite warm - according  to my car we hit the heady heights of 12C on one day last week. I have a deadline to meet at the moment so am a little busy, however I have managed to squeeze in a couple of quick trips to the plot. 

After watering the seeds I have been sowing over the last couple of weeks, the first job on my list was to prune the, very prickly, autumn raspberries...

Autumn Raspberries Before Pruning

Autumn Raspberries After Pruning

The Royal Horticultural Society recommends cutting Autumn raspberries down to the ground in February, well I just managed it, pruning mine on the 28th. As you can see it looks a lot tidier. As well as cutting them back I also put a layer of compost on the top. I was pleased to see lots of new canes poking out of the ground (below). These plants didn't bear much fruit last year, I am hoping they will be a little more generous this year.

While pruning I was pretty amazed to see a Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui) butterfly fluttering around the plot. 

New Growth on Autumn Raspberries
Green Shoots - New Canes Appearing on the Autumn Raspberries

Monday, 25 February 2013

Has Spring Sprung?

Print by Alyssa Nassner at Small Talk Studio
No Matter How Long the Winter, Spring is Sure to Follow by Alyssa Nassner

I thought that Spring had sprung last Tuesday. After a frosty start the sun came out and the birds were tweeting away. I went for a long walk and the air had started to smell of Spring, and we even heard a woodpecker in the woods. What's more, in the afternoon it was so warm that I was able to sit outdoors without a coat for the first time this year! Unfortunately it all went a bit downhill after that, with a couple of hard frosts, an Arctic wind, and snow showers over the weekend. It's at about this point of the year that I get a little bit desperate for some sunshine. On the plus side, it is now nearly light when my alarm goes off at 6:50 am, and the increasing light has woken me up on a couple of mornings - this is a yearly breakthrough for me as I really struggle to drag myself out of bed when it is still dark.

I blogged about the illustration above by Alyssa Nassner (Small Talk Studio) last year. I think its lovely and just looking at it cheers me up and reminds me that Spring really isn't too far away (22 days to be precise). Sadly, this print is no longer available to buy :(

The primula's have been out for a couple of weeks now. I particularly like the colours of this one. This week  I have lots of work to do, however I am hoping to get time to prune the autumn raspberries and keep an eye on the seeds that I sowed the other week.