Monday, October 20, 2014

couch grass clearance

The cosmos is still really going for it but autumn has definitely arrived.....

Which means that it's time to get to grips with the couch grass.
Back in April, I did a bit of rough digging on the middle section of the plot. The ground was like concrete but I managed to break it up a bit. I chucked down some piles of well rotted horse manure and covered the whole section with black plastic. Then I cut holes in the plastic and planted through it squashes, courgettes, dwarf French beans, cucumbers, tomatoes and sweetpeas; all of which did really well and produced bumper crops.

Now the crops have been cleared and I can clearly see my trio of most tenacious weeds.

The docks and bindweed have
Dock sneaking out
taken advantage of any tiny gap in the plastic, even forcing themselves through the neckhole of a pop bottle. A part of me can't help to be impressed! Isn't it a shame they don't make good eating? The couch grass, though weakened where deprived of light, has redoubled it's efforts along the edges.

I will dig this area now and remove roots as I come across them; maybe border the edges with wood. I plan for this area to become 'no dig' beds in the future.
The docks grew like crazy where the plastic was split

No Dig systems sound so easy but the truth is that couch grass and bindweed will quickly overwhelm them, strangling plants both above and below the surface. The ground needs to be 'cleaned' of perennial weeds first.

Horseradish growing in pipe

In other news, the horseradish in the pipes seem to have taken well. Here at the stoney end of the plot I have planted my elephant garlic and some wallflowers this week. I will edge this bed with daffodil bulbs. Apparently, couch grass hates daffs! (Who knew? ) and won't encroach the bed past them. What's more, a host of bobbing daffodils to greet me will be a welcome sight on a cold February morning.

A less welcome sight is this poor dead rat. I hoped that a fox might come and remove it but no, looks like I'm going to have to overcome my squeamishness and move him myself. What does one do with dead vermin these days? Bury it? On a plot where you grow food? Insights and sage advice gratefully received!
Gorgeous globes

Friday, October 10, 2014

September End

As September came to an end I had a look around the plot.....

mint at the stony end of the plot.
The stony end.
This strip, at the southernmost end of the plot, is where generations of plotters before me have chucked all the stones as they were working the rest of the allotment. It is impossible to dig here with anything but a small hand fork. On the plus side this area is free draining and the stones retain the suns heat. I have decided, then, to make this my herb bed with a few self seeding annual flowers thrown in.
I love horseradish sauce. Seriously, I could eat it straight from the jar with a spoon. It's ridiculously easy to
Horseradish growing in pipe
grow....too easy in fact; horseradish is a real thug and will take over the whole herb bed if I let it. This year I'm trying an experiment. I have planted it in 2ft long lengths of pipe. This will hopefully mean that I get long, straight roots (which is the part you use to make the sauce) and will prevent the plants from spreading all over the place.
squashes, plastic and pop bottle.
 Squashes and pumpkins
I lost my vines to powdery mildew a few weeks ago. Planting through plastic (while waiting for the couch grass to die) makes it hard to water. I did 'plant' pop bottle funnels by each plant and I have plenty of good sized fruits. Unfortunately, they weren't quite ripe when the mildew struck and so how well they store remains to be seen.
globe artichoke year one
We've had a long old summer here in London.
September has been the driest on record with high temperatures and plenty of sunshine. I got off to a late start in the spring when I took on this new plot and so it follows that seeds sown late will flower late. As the plot should be winding down for winter, I am being treated instead to a spectacular show! The globe artichoke is more than 5ft high and has thrown out a dozen buds.
Also the cosmos, sown a little late, has waited until now to flower. These sweet peas just won't quit! I stopped picking (and watering) at the beginning of the month to allow seeds to develop for next year but they just won't stop flowering and the scent as you brush past is just amazing.
sweetpeas still flowering

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Cucumber Pickles

 I harvested the last of the cucumbers and used two different recipes to make sweet pickles and sour dill pickles....
cucumber glut to be processed

The first recipe was this one for sweet dill pickles. I do these as slices and they are very popular with Little Flower who will pop a jar and eat the whole lot  while doing her homework....better than sweets I s'pose!
Little Flower's pickled Qs
250 ml white wine vinegar
1 dessert spoon of mustard seed
1 dessert spoon  of dried dill
130 g ordinary white sugar
250 g sliced onions
450 g sliced cucumber.
Put the sliced onions and cucumbers in a bowl and layer with salt.
Leave for four to eight hours, rinse well, strain and turn out onto a clean tea towel to absorb any excess water.
Put all the other ingredients in a saucepan and bring to the boil.
Simmer for 5 minutes before adding the cucumber and onions....allow to come to the boil again and immediately spoon into hot, sterilised jars and seal with vinegar proof lids.
Leave for at least six weeks before scoffing.
My mum prefers sour pickles. They're not easy to find in the shops but I found this recipe online by the wonderful Delia Smith.
I left the onions out (mum doesn't like them) and I only had dried dill available but apart from that I stayed true to Delia's recipe.
Now I just have to wait THREE MONTHS to try them and tell you how they taste!
Dill pickles