Tuesday 30 December 2014

Transplanting fruit bushes and trees

It is getting crowded in our fruit patch!

At the back of the allotment we have two apple trees - Chiver's Delight and a Gala as well as a damson tree, all of which are minarette and we try to keep them to six or seven feet tall, as that is what has been laid down as a condition when we sought permission to plant them in the allotment.

Over time, the Gala has shaded out the Chiver's Delight and we have had problems such as this downy mildew.

So, now the trees are dormant, it is a good time to move them. So, the Chiver's Delight has moved down a section (we have 5 sections to the allotment, 4 rotation and 1 permanent) to the other side of the asparagus bed, and hopefully there it will have much more light and growing space. In fact when I dug it out, it's root ball wasn't that big which suggests that it has been crowded out.

Also moving was a blackcurrant bush to where the old asparagus bed was.

To transplant the apple, I dug a hole deeper and bigger than the root ball, and put plenty of manure and compost into the hole, then transplanted the tree, filled in with more compost and earth, pressed down the soil firmly and staked the tree. The blackcurrant was done in a similar way, though these don't need staking.

Jobs also done at the same time were stripping and moving the bean frame to the top section (rotation), and trimming back the lavender and the hazel.

Sunday 16 November 2014

Tidying Up

Today was a day for tidying up the allotment and the garden. Though with the relatively mild weather continuing, some plants are still going!

For instance, one of the jobs today was to cut down the fruited stems of the autumn fruiting raspberries. But, several have still got raspberries on them, which is quite surprising for this time of year. So, some of the old stems got cut and some new growth got pruned back to waist height, and I set about clearing the nettles and brambles instead. There are a few blackberries, but the birds can have those....

Talking of birds, the nice surprise today were several long-tailed tits looking for insects in amongst the minarette apples and the summer raspberries. They really aren't that bothered about humans being about and so it was lovely to get some close views of them as they searched for food.

So, I then weeded the strawberry bed, and the asparagus bed, and chopped the old asparagus ferns down to the ground, putting in some sticks to mark where the plants are. I may be able to harvest one or two sticks of asparagus next year, but the main crop will be the year after.

Back in the garden after lunch, the main task was to stop the ivy taking over the planet! This ivy was taken as a cutting from the ivy growing on the garden wall of our old house back when we moved in 1999, and has gradually been spreading down the fence ever since. But it has ideas of world domination, or at very least the pavement outside the garden and inside the holly bush (ouch!), so a trim was in order. I also took the opportunity to trim back the buddleia as well but the fuschia is still full of pink and purple flowers!

While on the subject of flowers that shouldn't be still around, two of the tomatoes in the greenhouse have decided to produce more flowers, and some appear to be pollenated but I can't see many tomatoes coming before it really does go cold!

Sunday 19 October 2014


In the allotment right now it is the apple season, with plenty of fruit coming from our minarette fruit trees.

These are the three varieties of apple that are grown. For each I have linked to a very informative website http://www.orangepippin.com/

On the left is Chivers Delight

At the front right is a Gala

At the rear right is a Falstaff

These particular varieties are in adjacent groups for fertilization purposes, the Gala and Chivers Delight being Group 4, the Falstaff being Group 3 (although self-fertile itself).

The Gala and Chivers Delight are too close together for comfort now and the lack of light, despite pruning and training, has meant some black spot fungus and downy mildew, particularly on the Chivers Delight. The latter is going to be moved across to the other side of the fruit area so that it is not suffering by being too close to the Gala and the nearby damson minarette tree.

The only thing that seems to be effective against Black Spot Fungus is Diphane-945, which isn't organic but unfortunately is the only spray that is suitable for dealing with this on fruit. It also, like such as Bordeaux Mixture (which is allowed under organic standards) is being phased out due to an EU regulation.....

Friday 10 October 2014

Autumn is here

Over the past week or so, the weather has turned properly autumnal. Lots of rain, and windy at times, but still warmth in the sunshine. There are still some really nice blackberries in the allotment, along with the autumn fruiting raspberries down the bottom of the plot. Picked what I presume will be the last of the mini and large sweetcorn, the kernels of the large one going into shepherd's pie at the weekend.

Couch grass is a problem, and a fari amount of time has been spent trying to get rid of it, first from the strawberry bed as this was replanted (still coming back though!) and now from around the fruit bushes and trees.

Can't wait until the first parsnips are ready, you could I suppose eat them now but I prefer to wait until they've had some frost, they do taste better - it is not a myth! Salsify is the new vegetable for this year, no idea whether it will taste good or not, but you can deep fry it as chips!

Still picking apples, varieties are Chiver's Delight, Gala, and Falstaff - all minarette varieties with the Gala ones being very late, in fact most of them are still not ripe yet. All the Chiver's Delight are picked, with about half of the Discovery so far. Pears are nearly all eaten - mostly Comice , with only two Conference this year.

Wednesday 24 September 2014

Harvest and thinking ahead

At this time of year, you can't walk in the allotment without finding something pick and eat!

Over the past week there was:

Raspberries (late fruiting)
Beetroot, Apples, Pears, Courgettes,
Broccoli, more Potatoes, Runner Beans.

The beetroot have been boiled with a little salt and pickled in wine vinegar - I read that the salt helps draw out the flavour and stops the water inside the beets from diluting the vinegar, thus increasing longevity.

(The wine vinegar was bought in an amazing deli in Ashbourne, Derbyshire)

Having cleared the onions and beans a month or so back, these beds have been dug over and plenty of compost put onto them - the worms and rain will take it down into the soil over winter - and then winter onions have gone where the beans were and winter cabbage will be going where the onions were.

Next month, the parsnips will be starting to come into season, along with the salsify, the leeks will be a little while yet, and there will be more apples, the remaining pears, pumpkins, more broccoli and cabbage and carrots.

Monday 25 August 2014


At this time of year the freezer is creaking with the strain of having to contain all the soft fruit from the allotment!
Now, I personally don't play any part in the jamming process, picking yes but after that it's all my wife's doing. (see  http://cashandcarrots.blogspot.co.uk/2013/08/blackberries.html for more about this)

And it's award winning jam, well the local pub's annual vegetable show anyway!

There's plenty of books (see http://cashandcarrots.blogspot.co.uk/2011/06/our-allotment-bible.html for one of our favourites) on the subject of making jam and I also don't want to give away any trade secrets, so I won't go through the process here, but suffice to say it is delicious, and varying quantities of strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, blackcurrants, rhubarb and damsons are used to make what ends up being sufficient jam for all year round use and a few for presents for others.

Little and Large Sweetcorn

In the allotment we grow both the full size sweetcorn and the mini ones, the latter are really quite useful for putting in stir fries - and cost effective as well! They freeze no problem, no preparation required, just bag them up.

Copyright Michael Smart 2014
It is really important not to let them grow too big. in fact, they are ready to pick only a day or two after the little yellow tassles appear. Letting them grow on only gives them an impossible hard centre and they don't taste great either if too big!

They are alway sown into peat, degradable, pots and then they are planted, pot and all into the our brassicas section of the allotment. A bit of manure and/or compost around them doesn't hurt, although you don't manure straying over to the rest of the brassica plot.

A strong wind can knock them sideways, so we plant them in blocks rather than rows to help protect them.

We don't put them near the big sweetcorn though, these were planted this year near the runner and french beans.

For stir frying, you can throw them in whole or cut lengthways down the middle, either which way about 10 15 mins in the wok with other vegetables should ensure that they are cooked.

Copyright Michael Smart 2014
Again, these were planted in peat pots and with plenty of compost. It is often preferable to give these a head start in the greenhouse or under cover.

I pick them when the tassles are brown and shrivelled, the problem is that you are never sure when they are ready unless you open them, a sort of Schrodinger's Sweetcorn! (in any case cats, Schrodinger's or otherwise aren't welcome in the allotment!)
You are supposed to open one, pinch one of the kernals with your finger and if it is milky white it is ok, but in general most people know what a ready to eat sweetcorn should look like. Don't open the leaves on one and leave it on the plant, woodlice and other bugs will get in and make their home inside.

To cook, boil for about 10 minutes or so, it's easier if you are doing portions to chop them into pieces before cooking as to try and chop up boiling hot sweetcorn is not the bext of ideas!

Wednesday 30 July 2014

Fish and chips - a variation...

For 6 months of the year or sometime a little more, we have home grown potatoes. I have noticed that they are much denser than shop bought potatoes, jacket potatoes take 8 or 9 minutes to cook rather than 6 in the microwave.

They also make fantastic chips! Now, I know some people are wary, with perhaps good reason of deep frying food, both from the health side of things but also from the danger that a chip pan can present if not used correctly.

However, I always:

- watch the chip pan like a hawk during the warm up phase
- dry the potato chips thoroughly - water is not a good idea in a hot chip pan - it will spit and fizz
- test with a chip every so often to see whether the fat is hot enough - it is ready as soon as a chip put in starts fizzling straighaway
- toss the chips regularly to ensure even cooking and that they do not stick together or burn.
- keep watching to ensure safety, and turn the cooker down to lowest heat near the end or even off if using electric, the heat from the hob will keep the oil hot enough to cook with.
- remove the pan from the hot ring and ensure the cooker is switched off at the wall before serving.

If the pan does get too hot, it will start smoking. If this happens switch off immediately and remove the pan carefully from the heat. Allow to cool for a few minutes and then resume on a lower heat.

There is usually enough residual heat if using an electric hob after the chips are done to fry some courgettes and/or onions while you serve the chips and fish.

The fish is usually white fish, often cod or haddock, but ling, hake, coley, or pollock is suitable depending on taste, budget and how you regard the stock of fish in the ocean - cod and haddock being more over fished than the others.

The fish is coated in egg and done in breadcrumbs, in this case gluten free ones, in the microwave (if you are lucky enough to keep chickens on your plot then even the egg can be "local"!). The whole dish is served with baked beans though peas, mushy peas etc can be substituted. The advantage of using baken beans is that they can be quickly popped on a plan on top of the dish used to cook the fish in the microwave - as I said you don't want to be distracted from watching the chip pan.

Best carrots ever!

Some while ago I mentioned that we were growing carrots in a tyre stack.

The tyres came from a local tyre and exhaust place, as they have to pay to have them disposed of, they are grateful to anyone that can take them away for free!

The advantages of growing them in this stack are that they can have a very deep layer of soil and compost to grow into and that they are high enough up to be out of the way of carrot flies, who probably aren't able to get through rubber anyway!

So, some were picked for Sunday lunch.....

As you can see they are of considerable length! They are also completely whole and have no tell tale black marks from carrot fly infestation.

Sunday lunch also included the beetroot, peas, broad beans, runner beans and potatoes and a courgette, all from the allotment!

Friday 18 July 2014

Summer harvest

Plenty of vegetables and fruit to harvest now, makes it all worthwhile, doesn't it!

An awful lot of blackcurrants (with more to come!)
Some raspberries (I think going away during their most productive time meant that the yield was down. Also I think some of the bushes are getting a bit tired.)

More broad beans, peppers from the pots in the house

And lots of onions!

Now the sun's out and things are warming up,  the sweetcorn and the courgettes are doing well

Wednesday 4 June 2014

York Festival of Ideas - Food Security - Food and Farming on Radio

 York Festival of ideas running during a good part of June has several talks on food production ,security and distribution and sale.

Two programmes I listen to regularly are the Farming Programme
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006qj8q- on at the rather early hour of 5.40am , but you can podcast or listen again,

and the Food Programme,

 on at 12.30pm on Sundays. Both programmes have a lot of good information about food production, sustainability, small producers and retailers.

Friday 30 May 2014

Allotment Update 30th May 2014

It has been a very wet few days here in Yorkshire so it has been very difficult to do any work in the allotment.

The parsnips from last year have been uprooted and composted as the space is now needed for broccoli, not that much of it has germinated this year. Germination in general has been a bit of a problem, with various brassicas and peas and lettuce not coming up. /rant What is wrong with them, you give them heat, light, loving care, water and they ignore you! /endrant

(I am getting into HTML at the moment, so apologies for the computer syntax creeping in there....!)

I have clipped off a number of mildew laden shoots and leaves from the Chivers Delight minarette apple tree, this will need moving come the winter as it is getting crowded out by the much stronger Gala one. I will have to go over with Diphane again (see http://cashandcarrots.blogspot.co.uk/2014/05/mildew-and-blackspot.html 

The grass is getting much too long so strimming may be coming soon. I might try just clipping it and laying it out to dry (ha!) to turn into hay for the guinea pigs (they are the main reason we do let it grow a bit on the side paths)

The potatoes will need earthing up, I have already put straw under the strawberries after doing what seems like a never ending task of removing couch grass from the bed. There are plenty of blackcurrants coming and the bees were busy this morning on the raspberry flowers. 

Beans will also be going out underneath the swing frame http://cashandcarrots.blogspot.co.uk/2013/07/recycling-in-allotment.html

Saturday 24 May 2014

peas on earth!

We have peas!

I was getting a bit worried that they hadn't germinated, but they are coming up!


I am not sure when it is going to stop raining! Seems like every day has some rain, and so I haven't been up to do much meaningful work in the allotment recently.

One job I have done though is to space the fruit bushes out a bit. The two minarette apple trees and the damson tree have been getting rather crowded by blackcurrants and raspberries and I think last year this, combined with the poor cold start to the year, caused them to have problems. We had blackspot fungus on one of the apples and the damson crop was much reduced, with quite a few of the fruits getting mould. There also seems to be some kind of insect that is laying clear sticky egg sacs on the damsons which is really annoying as left unchecked these seem to burrow into the fruit, damaging the skin and the whole thing goes mouldy.

So, last weekend my youngest daughter and I set to and cleared a bit of ground to extend the fruit patch and then we dug some holes, filled them with some lovely compost from the bottom of the compost bin, and then carefully transplanted two blackcurrant bushes, and several raspberry canes into their new homes, making sure we kept as much of the rootball and associated earth as possible, and made very sure not to damage them.

A week later, and they seem to have taken hold, and the rhubarb that we also split down is and replanted a chunk is sprouting already.

Thus, the two apples and the damson have a lot more growing space, and it is currently clear of weeds etc. So we'll see how they get on.

Current crops are parsnips, a bit of green sprouting broccoli, some sprouts, as well as the occasional tomato and pepper from the plants in the house. Yesterday I had to buy an onion for the first time in 18 months! There's still some green beans in the freezer, and dried kidney beans in a tub, as well as 4 bottles of the parsnip wine I made last year.

Saturday 17 May 2014

Mildew and Blackspot

A couple of problems have occurred with one of the apple trees and one of the pear trees, the Conference one, the Comice appears to be ok.

The apple appears to have a form of mildew

The pear has blackspot fungus, which it had last year and I thought that I had cured it.

Unfortunately for the organic side of things, the only thing that is available for dealing with it is Diphane-945, but needs must. Pears always seem to look a bit droopy and unhappy even when there is nothing wrong so I want to deal with this again this year. Although I want to do everything I can organically, I am not so strict as to not use something when really needed.

Anyway, both the apple and the pear got a dose of Diphane-945 the other evening - suitably late on so that there were no bees or other beneficial insects around. Another dose in a couple of weeks or so.

Friday 16 May 2014

Green data centres

Working in IT, you are conscious of the amount of energy your computers, especially your servers use. The trend over the past few years has been in virtualisation, where multiple virtual servers sit on one physical server and by extension cloud services, where racks of such servers are hired out to multiple companies on an upon-demand basis.

The articles below considers the energy efficiency and environmental impact of such data centres


Tuesday 6 May 2014

Allotment report

Lots of things to do in the allotment and back at the house. All the potatoes are planted, most of the onions, parsnips, carrots in our tyre stack, hopefully out of reach of carrot flies. Mice may have eaten the first row of peas but we have more growing in the greenhouse.

Early potatoes growing well, but had to be protected from the frost at the end of last week.

Back at the house, we have had a tomatoes or two from our now 4 year old tomato plant. Lots of things are in pots but not much has come up yet, not sure why the broccoli isn't showing yet.

Peppers in the house

posted from Bloggeroid

Saturday 26 April 2014

The vegetables that came in from the cold.....

I haven't been on the blog recently for several reasons, one is that I have been spending a lot of time actually doing the allotment, rather than sitting in front of a computer screen writing about it, but the other is that I spent some time in Moscow recently with friends.

Whilst I was there I visited their dacha, which they refer to as their "country house". Thought the countryside (which is mostly forest anyway) is a rapidly disappearing commodity outside of the MKAD (Moscow outer ring road), as lots of dachas get thrown up with no planning rules and no restrictions.

Anyway, our friends grow fruit and vegetables as best they can given the short growing season, and the fact that the land around the dacha is really just forest floor which is very unsuitable for growing. So, they have created a lot of raised beds, and got a glass house (which needs repair due to the weight of last winter's snow crushing it), and have grown quite a variety of fruit and vegetables, such as cucumbers, apples (which are attached close to a single stem plant) and salad plants.

Although not suitable for directly growing, the forest is good for mushrooms (гриб), which every Russian seems to know which are safe to eat and which aren't, and go out every autumn to pick and preserve.

Mushrooms are preserved in brine rather than vinegar, and often with a variety of other things such as lemongrass. Similarly cucumbers grown as gherkins are again preserved in apple vinegar or salted water. Beetroot is salted, diced and mixed with salted potatoes and beans. All quite delicious if you are into pickled and salted dishes. Cabbage is preserved similarly to German sauerkraut although other cabbage options are available (not to my taste!). They refer to the standard cultivated white mushrooms by the French word champignon.

Up to a third of Moscow's population have some form of country plot or house ranging from something similar to our allotments right up to 4 and 5 storey mansions and beyond!

Most vegetables, fruit, ,milk. meat etc come from much further away from such as Estonia and more southerly former Soviet states such as Georgia, Ukraine and so on.

Monday 17 February 2014

I am now trying to blog post on my new tablet, which I got online for about £40. A little quirky at times and doesn't handle all apps and games, even occasionally hides apps! However for the price and general convenience it is fine. Also using Bloggeroid from the Google Play store, which works much better than the actual Blogger client.

posted from Bloggeroid

Sunday 9 February 2014

Winter Pruning

I managed to finally get some allotment time when it wasn't raining!

Today's job was winter pruning of an espalier apple tree that we have on the back fence of the allotment. This apple tree produced a lot of fruit this year and I hope I haven't exhausted it for this year.
However, it does need keeping on top of for training on the fence and is roughly laid out as follows
              |                |                         |             |
              |                |                         |             |

This is simplified, there were some more sticky out branches and perhaps another vertical.

Now, ideally you would want
 ----------------- |---------------------

It's a bit too far gone I thing for that however I think I can get  some more horizontals higher up, and the existing verticals which I have left in have fruiting buds

So, I have chopped a quarter off the highest (middle) vertical, back to a bud on either end, and taken out a few of the other straggly branches to neaten the tree up but I didn't want to go too far for fear of weakening it at this time of year when it is starting to bud. I have also tied some of the verticals a bit better
                          |                         |                |
                          |                         |                |
So, next year it will get further neatening, and over time I should build up the training along the fence.