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Autumn Fruit

September 29, 2014

autumn raspberry

I was lazy about watering my autumn raspberries this year and after months of dry weather the result was a poor crop.  So this weekend I lifted the entire row out and cut the stems back to 20cms. I thoroughly weeded the bed and forked in plenty of 6X- a commercial organic fertiliser which is six times richer than farmyard manure. The roots of raspberry canes are very near the surface of the soil which probably explains why deprived of water they performed so badly. They are now re-planted and have been given a good soak which I will do regularly throughout autumn before mulching with leaf mould in a month or two.



A friend brought a delicious jar of  jam she’d made from two bags of mixed fruit from the supermarket freezer section and why not ? it’s simply frozen fruit.  Inspired I rounded up all the small bags of blackcurrant stashed in my freezer but decided to leave other fruit for puddings. So it’s not mixed fruit but I followed her jam making expertise which is err on under sweetened and don’t worry if it’s a bit runny.


1 kilo of currants defrosted and the juice of 1/2 a lemon and 1 pint of water added to the preserving pan. You need to cook the fruit until it’s just split open otherwise the currants will be hard in the finished jam. I added 750 grams of granulated sugar that I’d heated in the oven for ten minutes and stirred until it had dissolved. After 20 minutes of boiling it just about wrinkled on an ice-cold plate from the freezer and made 3 pots of very tasty jam.



Autumn on the Allotment

September 22, 2014

I love the look of this gone-to seed globe artichoke and it will be great food for the birds …


Incidentally these artichokes are easy to grow from seed but they must be allowed to form substantial plants before planting in the ground. I have had two attempts and each time lost them to slugs so now four healthy plants in the cold frame will be nurtured in pots till next June/July.

With summer over it’s relaxing on the allotment with all the hard work completed and many of the beds cleared and fed. It’s also very pretty at this time of year with nasturtiums, French marigolds, Californian poppies and Cosmos ‘Sensation’ blooming away…


The second crop of climbing French beans planted in mid-July is looking good.  Before planting I dug a trench and filled it with comfrey leaves before pulling the soil back over and then I gave it a good soaking. The beans were sown at home and came through in less than a week and were planted out on three tripods and here they are…



This butternut squash was spotted lurking under a mass of nasturtium flowers….




Two rows of Spring onion White Lisbon were sown this weekend direct in the soil at the end of two beds…DSCN3201

I’ve gone on a bit about dahlias this year last year it was hydrangea and I’ve no idea what it might be next year and below is a neighbour’s patch of dahlias on the allotment.


He left them in the ground last winter and to his surprise they survived.  But it was a mild winter so best to follow the advice on the blog below on growing and caring for beautiful dahlias


There are the usual suspects in the vase below plus the blue-green leaves of Euphorbia wulfennii to add a bit of substance…DSCN3227

Green Tomatoes

September 15, 2014


I’ve been willing my allotment tomatoes, all 2.5 kilos of them, to turn red but gave up when someone arrived with a huge quantity of ripe red plum tomatoes (she does have a greenhouse). I set to and made green tomato chutney and added a Madras spice which gave it a fantastic flavour.


600 g  green tomatoes

1 large onion

250 g of sultanas

250 g brown sugar

1 tblsp Madras curry powder

half tsp of chillie flakes

500 ml malt vinegar

Wash the toms and discard any with blips and roughly chop them. Put in a heavy-based pan with the chopped onion and the rest of the ingredients. Cook gently till the sugar has dissolved then simmer for an hour-it may take longer and should not be too wet – a thickish chutney consistency is what you are after. I started with these quantities to experiment with the Indian spice and will now make more.




My other succesful recipe this week was a thinly sliced cucumber pickled to eat as a relish with an Indian meal. I peeled a large cucumber and a shallot and sliced them both on a mandolin on the finest setting.  Then I added 2 tblsps of rice wine vinegar, a teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of sugar. Memorable.



I rather liked these huge and bold green nasturtium leaves mixed with Sedum ‘Autumn Glory’….


…and the flowers look very pretty in a short cream pot.

Onions and Garlic

September 8, 2014

Cool temperatures are required in the early stages of growth for onions so I find mid- October is the best time to plant sets but you can get ahead and order them in now.  Keep the bulbs in a cool dry place and discard any that are soft or damaged. Plant too early and there’s a risk they’ll bolt in the spring and form fat necks that prevent them growing into decent sizes.garlic

Garlic can be sown mid-October too and does best in an open sunny position in light soil with very low levels of nitrogen. Best to avoid the beds that beans were growing in since their roots have nitrogen forming nodules and avoid the bed that grew tomatoes because of high nitrogen feeds.

This year my onions were medium-sized but a good enough crop to take me up to Christmas. If you have an abundance of onions or garlic then you could follow the instructions below and plait them to store.

Filling-1A crop of Borlotti beans Lingua di Fuoco have turned from a dramatic mottled cream and pink to a crisp papery brown shell and are ready to make into a favourite River Cafe recipe ‘Fresh borlotti with rocket’.


Place 200g podded beans in cold water with 2 crushed garlic cloves and 4 sage leaves. Bring to the boil and cooked until soft about 20 minutes.  After draining cover the beans with a French dressing and toss together with a handful of rocket leaves.

DSCN3158A small vase of Japanese anemone the pink hybrid A x hybrida ‘Max Vogel’ and the white A ‘Honorine Jobert’. Both are good late summer plants happy at the back of borders where they may need support to keep them upright.




September 1, 2014

This is my first year growing dahlias and I love them and want many more varieties next Spring. Even if picked at the tight bud stage they open when in water and this weekend I filled several vases with dahlias, Cosmos ‘Sensation’ and French  marigolds for a big family celebration.


I also picked a vase or two of the last of the Hydrangea….



There are some serious dahlia growers on my allotment site and several of them claim to leave the tubers in the ground over winter. I’ll do the same with my first row covering them with a deep mulch in December.

Ruby chard and Swiss chard bought as small plugs five weeks ago are doing well and will crop until Christmas and beyond.  A tray of six modules each contained at least five small plants at the four-leaf stage and these are now filling a bed. Sowing at this time of year can be a bit hit and miss with seeds slow to germinate and buying plugs is a really great option to fill the ground fast.


If you are anywhere near Bovey Tracey in S. Devon next weekend don’t miss a festival starting on friday 5th September. There will be concerts on friday and saturday, craft for sale both in the town hall and in the gallery at the Devon Guild of Craftsmen and food stalls filling the streets. This part of the South West has some of the regions best food producers plus some very talented craftsmen, painters and print makers.

For more details check it out here:



Late-Summer on the Allotment

August 20, 2014



After a huge weeding session this week a green manure Phacelia tanacetifolia was sown into three small empty beds edging the paths. It’s very pretty and winter hardy and should flower this autumn to be dug in next spring.  It’s good for adding humus to poor soils and will keep the weeds down.DSCN2501


Flat-leaf parsley can be sown now for a winter supply and will crop for two years. Coriander also does well sown in late summer and is less prone to bolt than from a spring sowing.



I have a row of very healthy plum tomatoes T. San Marzano with no sign of blight- they just need more sun to fully ripen.



A  blackberry ‘Merton Thornless ‘ planted against the allotment shed is producing enormous juicy fruit.

DSCN3095 Dahlia ‘Night Queen’ with African marigolds was picked for a crazy patterned jug.  I’m saving as many dahlias as possible for a family event in ten days time.

Clerodendrum trichotomum

August 13, 2014


DSCN3070The Clerodendrum trichotomum has been stunning this year and on warm days the garden is flooded with an intense perfume from the flowers. I pruned it hard last autumn to restore the shape and it seems to have loved the cut back. Next to it is a huge shrub rose Rosa rubrifolia with the grey-green leaves set off by the huge pale orange rose hips and the two together look lovely.


In a neighbour’s garden Japanese wineberries are extremely decorative with their arching stems covered in soft bright red bristles. The fruit is sweet but rather bland but they look very lovely against an old stone wall.


Seeds of White Nigella ‘Love in a Mist ‘ sown four weeks ago has come through in the cutting bed and when the flowers have dried out the seeds will be re-sown. As a hardy annual these will survive the winter and be ready to bloom early summer next year.



My experiment with the compost activator has worked.   This was the full bin six weeks ago before pouring on the mixture …


And here it is last weekend albeit with a few egg shells and twigs still visible but worthy of using….



I guess the hot weather helped spur it on and the fact that I resisted adding new kitchen waste for the last six weeks allowed it to fully break down. I repeated the trial on a large conical bin on the allotment which was full to the brim and it has halved in quantity so the same excellent results.



My four dahlia plants are smothered in buds and will be ready to pick over the next week or two.




I rounded up the last of the purple sweet peas, cerise cosmos and a few mustard flowers from the dill plant.


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