Monday, 27 August 2012

A Full Day (and a bit)'s Toil, Plus Double-Newt Action

Things looking pretty tidy from the gate
You've got to love bank holidays, that extra day makes all the difference. Saturday was, allotment-wise, a write-off as it rained pretty much all day. It was that fine rain that gets you really wet too. We thumbed our collective nose at the elements and headed to Tynemouth and Whitley Bay for a traipse round the market and second hand shops, and to get some shit-hot chocolates (Salted Caramels and Malbec Truffles both great) at Gareth James and really amazing coffee from Ouseburn Coffee Co. Sunday, however, was a peach of a gardening day, the sun coming out regularly but also disappearing often enough to stop it getting too hot to want to work.

It's great doing the initial inspections when you haven't been down for a few days and things have grown on. "Christ, look at these pumpkins now!" is a common refrain. They are swelling up impressively, it looks like we're going to get about seven really good sized ones from our three plants.

Happily, just as I was about to take this picture a fly landed on the nearest pumpkin, which really helps to get a sense of scale. And, trust me, that was a pretty big fly.

We dug up a couple of leeks from the ones we planted back in May, they've done really well so far. The earthy/alliumy smell of leeks straight out the ground is magic.

Well proud
Kasia harvested some rhubarb, which'll be going to make a rhubarb cake for her Dad's birthday which has been requested after the first rendition was hugely well received. We've got plenty courgettes coming now, which is great. Sliced lengthwise about half an inch thick, brushed with oil, salt and pepper, then grilled on the Le Creuset Grillet thing, they taste amazing. I fancy making some chutney or pickle with them especially as we've got plenty. Got some great recipe ideas from @cookinacurry.

I also planted out some Spanish Black Radishes that had been started in modules, will be interesting to see whether they fare any better or worse than the ones sown direct. I dug over what had been our red onion bed and, after extracting as much bindweed as I could, sowed some Rocket "Astro", Lettuce "Winter Density" and Chinese Mustard "Green in Snow". Also started off some Spinach "Giant Winter" in modules. Thanks again to Tracey at @igrowveg for some sound advice on what to sow at this time of year and to @chaseorganics for having an interesting and unusual selection of seeds that requires much further investigation.

Apart from all that, we were basically weeding and tidying things up a bit. An unused section was fairly heroically dug over by Kasia, a good dose of manure added, and then covered for the winter; we had considered growing green manure, but last time we tried this none of the stuff germinated! We fully weeded this bed, of which I felt compelled to take a picture, being as I don't know if we've ever had a bed so weed free.

Clockwise from top left; a few carrots, globe artichokes, bronze fennel, lettuces, red radishes, parsnips, black radishes and a few kohlrabi. And yet, (almost) no weeds. Yes!

For the first time since getting the plot it feels like we're not totally playing catch-up; we've got a vagueish plan for how we want to do things and what we might grow next year, whereas last year was all about "quick, let's try and dig this over so we can bung something in!". It feels good.

We also took the netting off our Romanesco Cauliflower/Broccoli (is it a broccoli or a cauliflower, or neither?!) and random brassica - we can't quite remember what it is and it's not showing signs of becoming either a cabbage or a cauliflower type thing yet - as the plants were getting cramped by them. Hopefully this won't result in an all-out plunder session from our old friends the pigeons, but the plants are well established now. A couple of the Romanescos are starting to form heads, which is pretty damn exciting.

Mmm, fractal veg
Today, we just managed to get down the plot for a couple of hours to have a go at digging over a previously uncultivated patch before the rain set in. Compared to when we first took on the plot, and it was all just dig, dig, dig, it's not nearly such a chore to do these sections now. The motivation of seeing crops of veg around the place as you go along no doubt helps!


While shifting some knackered old wood away from a path I discovered this guy (or girl, I've no idea):

It's well pleasing to find proper bits of wildlife around the place. I'm guessing this is a Common Newt (lissotriton vulgaris, latin fans), though am happy to be told otherwise. Apparently all newts are protected in the UK and it is against the law to kill, destroy or sell them. Lucky for me then that I didn't do any of these, but just built it a bit of a shelter out of old twigs. Frankly, I wouldn't have known where to sell it to anyhow. 

I checked to see if it was still there a bit later; lo and behold it's mate had turned up. Looks like it's whispering in his/ her ear. Probably slagging off the big eejit with the cameraphone...

What did the Newt say to the other Newt?


  1. Well it looks like you have had a very productive weekend and everything is looking so tidy...even your 'UN-cultivated' section looks good!! You are lucky to have the newts about...they love slugs and snails!!

  2. Yeah, well we've no shortage of newt-food then. I like newts; they seem really neatly turned out.


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