Extending the season

One of my regular friends down on the allotment is my Swiss chard Bright Lights. Hardy as you like this will stay all over Winter then re-grow again in the Spring and last right up till May next year. Very pretty, one of my favourites.
So many different things are still ripening on the allotment, when Autumn really seems to be looming fast! Here is one of my butternut squash, has a few more days to ripen fully.

I bought this packet of Acorn Squash in the USA last year. It is a bush variety called Table Queen, and although I planted it much later this year than I would have liked, it produced one fair sized squash. I do like the bush varieties as I am limited for space in my garden, and if I have a productive plant it takes up only a fraction of the space that a trailing variety will.

These are Numex Twilight chillis. I saved seed from my BBC Gardeners World trial last year. They are fiercly hot but make wonderful decorative indoor plants right up till Christmas.

Finally, I decided to grow one sweet potato in a pot in the greenhouse this year. They did wonderfully well in the open last year, so I wondered if I could extend the season a little as they seem to die back at the first sign of cold.

I Don't Do Flowers, but..

You just cannot believe the perfume in my greenhouse at the moment! Aaaaahhhh. A couple of years ago I brought back some Ginger Lilly roots from Madeira. Last year they grew lots of green leaves but no flowers. I kept them cool and dry indoors over the Winter and..
Hey presto! 5 foot tall and they smell divine! Can you imagine the most wonderful tropical perfume of gardenias or jasmine? Heavenly.

Strange Happenings

Had a fantastic time sailing round the UK on board QE2 on her 40th Birthday celebrations. Literally millions of people turned up on the River Tyne to welcome us into Newcastle, on the Mersey to welcome us to Liverpool, on the Firth of Forth to welcome us to Edinburgh and on the River Clyde to welcome us into Glasgow 40 years to the day that she was launched at the John Brown shipyard in 1967. It was Rule Britannia, Land of Hope and Glory and Jerusalem all the way! Here is my friend 'Hamish' - he is a movie star and he lives in Scotland.
Meanwhile back on the patch these banana shallots have ripened beautifully. I will leave them out in the fresh air to dry completely, this is very important if you want them to store for any length of time. Instructions on how to string onions will follow in the near future.
These hyacinth beans have exceeded all my expectations! I took seed from a visit to Virginia USA last year and was not at all sure if they would do well over here. Wonderful purple flowers followed by spectacular shiny purple pods. Will try to allow these to ripen to save seed.
Strange things happening down on the allotment at the moment. Apple blossom and strawberries flowering at the end of September? ... spooky.

Garden Guardians

I'm off now for a week's holiday on the QE2. She's 40 years old next week and she is spending her Birthday in Glasgow on the River Clyde where she was built. Southampton tomorrow, then Newcastle, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Liverpool and back home. Parties, celebrations, fireworks all the way. Someone is going to pop in to caretake my plot while I'm away, and Buddy is going into prison... I mean a hotel.

Cheeky pumpkin

I spent the day hard at work down on the allotment today. First trip to a local farm to buy two straw bales, then down to the riding stables to load up with a heap of hot horse manure. My pumpkin patch has pretty much dried up now, and my biggest pumpkin was this one. It started life with this 'big hole' in the side and grew up and developed these two 'cheeks' either side of it.... let's leave it to your imagination.. shall we?

After having bagged up all my summer compost, I set to work clearing the garden and building a new compost heap, layers of kitchen compost, straw, grass cuttings, horse manure and garden waste. I sprinkled the layers with some sulphate of ammonia just to really get it going. Watered it well with a bucketfull of re-cycled tea and coffee.... and covered with 3 carpets. The garden is looking pretty tidy at the moment, I have an aching back but I am well pleased.

About sloes

Sloes are the small fruits of the blackthorn tree which is often used in hedging. It's sharp, spiky branches forming a dense thicket. Many British hedgerows have thorney plants such as hawthorn, blackberry or roses. The small white flowers bloom in March and the sloes ripen in October. Sloes have a bluish-black colour and a soft bloom on their skins. They are far too astringent to eat, but they make the most delicious fruit liqueur.

Sloe Gin - Day 3

As directed this bottle has been 'agitated' daily to mix the sugar and liquid. I am surprised that the colour has come out so quickly, I look forward to drinking a small glass after my Christmas Dinner!

Sloe Gin!

I did something today that I had always wanted to do, but never got around to doing it - making sloe gin. After a bit of research on the net I came up with a useful website sloe.biz with a few recepies for sloes. These are a plum related fruit you will find in English hedgerows this time of year. The recepies state that they are better after the first frost has been on them... but I couldn't wait! As we speak I have a vat of sloe jelly cooking on the stove.
The instructions begin with "buy a bottle of gin and drink half of it"... so far so good. Fill up the half bottle with sloes until you have about a wine glass of space at the top. Pour in sugar. You have to agitate it every day for a week, then every week for a month to mix the sugar. It may be about ready for Christmas, but is better if left for next Christmas (oh yeah??) Supposed to taste like port wine. Lets wait and see.

Growing Mushrooms

Well, I bit the bullet today and sowed my mushroom spawn. Inside the packet shown on the previous blog there were two envelopes of spawn. The directions indicated this was enough for about a square metre so I just used one envelope.
I decided to grow them in a box in the garage where the temperature is stable and it is completely dark. I firmed down some well rotted horse manure and sprinked the stuff on top. I am pretty sure that the mushroom spawn (which would be a microscopic fine powder) had been stuck on to grains of rice - that's what it looked like to me. Fork in the spawn into the top few inches of compost, water in and cover with wet newspaper. Wait for 10 days..... more to follow.

I want to grow mushrooms

I thought I'd try something new down on the allotment. I am not quite sure where I will grow them. I have a plentiful supply of well rotted horse manure and I can read the instructions on this packet of dry spawn.
I have a nice dark garage with plenty of space and I might grow them indoors there, or I could heap up the manure in a corner of the garden. Does anyone have any hints or tips for me?

What's in the trug today? - Part 2

My beefsteak tomatoes are just beginning to ripen. It seems as if I have had a wonderfully long season this year. The first ripening at the beginning of June and it looks as if it will go right up to October or November this year. The varieties here are 'Marglobe' and the yellow 'Jubilee'. The latter is from the USA and has been awarded the 'all America seletion' which I might assume is the US equivalent of the RHS Award of garden merit? Does anyone know?
I hope you all understand the fascination with my compost heap. All summer I have been mixing and turning, this is a combination of lots of hot horse manure and lawn clippings. The heat produced was something incredible. I think I am going to bag this up for use, and start a new heap.
I spotted these the other day. I had planted about 9 varieties of climbing beans, these are 'lima' beans. I haven't grown these before, I'm not really sure what to do with them. I think they are like a white butterbean when shelled. Can anyone shed light on it for me?

I wasn't terribly impressed with my outdoor cucumber arch this year. I grew about 5 varieties of outdoor ridge cucumber. Not very prolific and didn't grow very tall. The same varieties in the greenhouse have been fantastic. I think I'll stick to the indoor varieties like Telegraph next year.

I just planted out some Winter spinach seedlings this week. I find it more reliable to plant seeds in modules in the greenhouse, then grow on to a fair size before planting out. I think these are the old reliable 'Popeye'.