The forecast is set for rain all weekend with thunder and lightning, then some more rain for pretty much the whole of next week. With this in mind I made the decision to pull the garlic yesterday while the soil is still dry.
I grow my garlic from saved seed garlic that I have kept going for many years, it’s a big strapping hardneck variety called Red Duke and it’s one of the best I’ve ever grown. I’m very pleased with the harvest, nice looking bulbs with no sign of rot. Leek rust on garlic leaves has been present on other plots for a few weeks now, it only really took hold of my garlic this week and there’s still plenty of green on the leaves. There’s a touch of allium leaf minor action on some of the garlic stems, I picked off the little cocoons and set the bulbs aside to be used first in the kitchen. As usual, I will keep the biggest and healthiest bulbs back for replanting in November.
It was cold and frosty this morning, a fresh new year, very fresh indeed. My early morning routine is pretty much the same each day, I let the chickens out of the coops and fill up their feeders, on a cold morning I defrost the drinkers too. I don’t keep my chickens on my allotment, there’s not really enough space as our site and plots are on the small side, I’d worry about them too much anyway so I chose to keep them in the garden at home.
My chickens are also on lockdown, an outbreak of bird flu (becoming a regular occurrence at this time of year) means they’re not allowed to free range and have to be kept in a covered enclosure away from wild birds until it’s safe to let them roam again. Luckily my walk-in roofed runs are adequate for keeping my flock safe and unwanted creatures out. When I catch them sulking about the situation I tell them they’re lucky they can still mix with their friends! I will properly introduce my feathery friends on the blog at some point.
I popped to the allotment this afternoon to do a spot of light hand weeding and grab a celeriac and some carrots to go with dinner. The ground was slightly frozen in places but the weeds pulled up easily enough. I love how clean the ground looks after weeding, wrapped up warm I really didn’t feel the cold and it felt good to be doing something on the plot.
The leeks are one of the disasters of last year, thanks to leek moth and allium leaf miner. I gave the stronger looking plants a chance to see if they’d improve and some have but others really are just mush waiting to happen now, one small tug and they’ll disintegrate. I’ll be lucky to get a small batch of soup out of this lot. On a positive note I have fallen in love with celeriac after growing it for the first time. Looks aren’t everything, it’s true, for this rather ugly-looking vegetable is absolutely delicious roasted, I like slicing it up thinly and cooking it as crisps.
My dad was on his plot today, he popped over with Jess the Border Collie to say hello from a safe distance before heading home.
Jess edged her way to the shed to check if I had any biscuits…
It’s Christmas Eve, the big day is almost here! Today I picked the veg from the allotment for Christmas dinner. Yesterday a months worth of rain fell on already saturated ground and the wind really picked up too, it did sound rather scary outside late last night. Sadly many homes across the UK were flooded, another great big kick in the teeth from 2020.
Enough depressing news, back to the veg.
The sprouts and carrots were a breeze to pull up but the parsnips were a bit stubborn as they usually are, the squelchy ground really didn’t help but I managed, plus I didn’t need many due to having a very small Christmas this year.
I spent a couple of hours at my allotment today which was absolute bliss in the sunshine. I managed to get quite a bit done, partly because I was the only one there (no chit chatting) and the weather was mild and pleasant which stopped me tucking myself up in the shed with a hot cup of tea. Well I did have one, it would be rude not to.
I finally took the carrot fly barrier down, I’ve been meaning to for a while now but you know how it goes, time just runs away and all that. There’s still plenty of carrots in the ground, maincrop Autumn King overwinters very well on my plot with minimal slug damage so I try to keep some back as long as I dare and hope some will make it for Christmas dinner, which by the looks of things is going to plan. The slugs have been very polite this year.
The cosmos is finished now after a couple of hard frosts, I’m sure the seeds have already dropped to bring more lovely blooms next year so I pulled the dead plants up, gave them a shake for good measure and chopped them up in the compost bins using some hand shears.
Another job I’ve been meaning to do is move the gooseberry and blackcurrant bushes over to my raised bed allotment (Plot 11w), the reason for this is to make life a little easier with regards to weeding. Bindweed is a nightmare on Plot 5, particularly where the fruit bushes are at the moment, also an annoying creeping weed (Creeping Charlie I think) from the lawn/car track running alongside the plot grows through the boundary fence. Both weeds strangle the fruit bushes because I cannot get in to weed them properly, well not without losing an eye which is not a good swap for happy berry bushes in my opinion.
The gooseberries were moved to their new position today, I was careful not to transport any bindweed roots or creeping weed with them.
The light was fading fast by the time I’d finished moving the gooseberries, the blackcurrants will have to be moved another day.
The raised beds on Plot 11w are taking some time to completely fill up, I’m getting there slowly, just concentrating on one bed at a time. Homemade compost has been set aside to mulch the larger beds on Plot 5 as I clear them, so I’m having to buy in compost to top the raised beds up. Next year I should have access to free homemade compost/mulch from the pallet bins.
Yesterday I planted 60 garlic cloves from bulbs harvested in summer, into one of the raised beds. I like to set the cloves out before planting, once satisfied with spacing (approximately 6 inches apart) I plant each one into the soil around 1 – 2 inches deep, pointy end facing up. The green shoots should appear in January, something to look forward to in what can be a long and dreary month.
My favourite garlic to grow is Red Duke, a hard neck variety with a hot spicy flavour. This variety has not let me down so far, even when covered in leek rust. Being a hard neck variety, Red Duke produces a curly flower stalk carried high above the leaves in summer which is known as a scape, snap them off to help the development of the bulbs but don’t just throw them on the compost heap! They’re edible and have a lovely pungent garlic flavour.
I always feel like I’m on top of autumn jobs when the garlic goes in, does anyone else feel like that? There’s still a bit of clearing and mulching to do on Plot 5 but an enjoyable amount of work for a sunny dry day.
Before I left for home I pulled up a sprout tree (it was already on the floor thanks to the August storms) and a big celeriac to go with our Sunday dinner. Believe it or not the sprouts are meant to be a short variety growing to only 2ft, I think I’m feeding them too well!
It’s so satisfying preparing the veg for our Sunday dinner knowing it came from the allotment and garden, carrots, parsnip, stored potatoes, sprouts and celeriac. All utterly delicious.