It's amazing what you may find when clearing a plot. These Mullein Moth caterpillars were found when we were clearing Plot 19. The caterpillars are brightly coloured, unlike the adult moth which is a dull brown colour and easily missed on brown foliage.
We left the catterpilars alone so that they have a chance to eventually hatch. The female lays batches of eggs between May and July on species of Verbascum and cultivated Buddleia plants.
If you would like some more information on the moths there are a couple of sites here:
If you have planted sweetcorn for the first time, you may wonder how to look after it and how to tell if it is ready to harvest. Here are some handy tips.
You should have planted your corn in blocks, rather than rows. This is essential for proper pollination. Once your corn has started to grow and produce fronds, you are well on track for a healthy crop.
You can feed the corn once it is established. Just throw some Growmore or equivalent general fertiliser on and water in if it doesn't look like rain. As the corn ripens, The fronds at the top of the cobs will turn from golden to brown and then a deep chocolate brown. The fronds as seen on the picture below have just started to turn. Wait until they are fully chocolate brown before you do the next test.
When you think the corn may be ready, usually around early to mid September, carefully strip back the leaves of one of the corn cobs a few inches (whilst it is still on the plant). The kernels should be fully formed up to the top of the plant and look nice and plump. Now stick your nail into one of the kernels. If the juice runs clear, they are not ready. If the juice is milky, they are ready to harvest.
When the corn is ready and harvested, make sure that you eat it or freeze it straight away. The longer it is left off the plant the more taste you lose. I know people who put their pan on to boil before they go to the allotment, pick the corn and go straight home to cook it. Far and away the best thing to do. But don't get chatting and leave your pan to boil dry:-)
Freezing is simple; just strip the leaves and fronds from the corn, blanch the cobs for a few minutes and then either freeze them whole or strip the corn off the cob with a sharp knife and freeze the kernels. This is a handy way to add a handful to salads and stir fries at a later date.
Do you like to forget your plot in winter or do you like to prepare for next spring? Here are some jobs that can be done on those cold, crisp mornings in winter.
Order and prepare manure
You can order manure now or up to the end of February. If you lay some cardboard on the soil first it will rot down with the manure. If you leave the manure on the surface, it will protect the soil below from the harshness of the winter.
If you want to spread some around early, decide where your potatoes are going and dig some into that area. The winter frost will break down the soil making it perfect to plant your potatoes in the spring.
Stack the rest and cover it for the rest of the winter. The cover will protect the manure and help it break down.
Make sure you don't spread manure where you will plant root vegetables. They won't do well in freshly manured ground. Brassicas also don't do well in freshly manured soil; they need soil with a good coating of lime. You can do this in late winter or the spring.
Make a runner bean trench
If you are planning to grow beans, the manure will improve the structure of the soil. Try making a runner bean trench. You can fill it with kitchen scraps, compost, manure and old plants. This will rot down nicely and help to retain moisture for your beans.
Overwinter onions, garlic and broad beans
Some plot holders don't grow much over the winter, but overwintering veg can make good use of empty space and they will be harvested before you need the ground in spring. You can put the veg in the ground as late as the end of November so now is the time to think about doing it.
Harvest your existing veg
Kale is usually cut and come again so you can harvest it regularly and it will keep growing. Leeks will sit happily in the ground until you need them. Sprouts usually do well after they have been exposed to frost making them perfect for your Christmas dinner.
Otherwise, relax and enjoy a break before the fun starts again next year.
Everyone is saying a spiralizer is set to be the new, must-have kitchen gadget. I bought one recently from Lakeland. But what does it do and what vegetables can you spiralize?
Most models available work in a similar way. All you do is attach raw fruit or vegetables to the ‘teeth’, then turn the handle to push the vegetable through a choice of blades to create vegetables ribbons, or noodles in a variety of thicknesses.
There are a few vegetables that spiralized brilliantly, including root vegetables like carrots and swede but also courgettes, cucumbers, squash or pumpkin, or firm fruits such as apples and pears.''
All plot holders scratch their heads trying to find new things to do with spare courgettes. Forget spaghetti, this year it’s all about ‘courgetti.’ Use the thin noodle attachment on the spiralizer to create long twirls of pasta-like vegetable noodles. Simply boil the spiralised courgette for 20 seconds, then top with ingredients of your choice (see my new recipe for courgetti with mushrooms).
Other fruits and vegetable ideas from BBC Good Food:
Raw carrot ribbons, made with the slicing blade, add texture and crunch to a salad or slaw. Or, you can stir-fry the carrot ribbons for a couple of minutes with garlic and coconut oil for a healthy side dish.
Use the thicker noodle blade to create sweet potato curly fries, toss in a little oil and bake until crisp.
Coleslaw will never be the same again, add texture with apple noodles; just make sure you toss in lemon juice as soon as the apple noodles come out of the spiralizer to prevent them from browning.
To cook or not to cook?
Naturally, cooking your courgetti is a much speedier process than boiling bags of weighty pasta: ''Most spiralized vegetables can be eaten raw or cooked. Some vegetables, such as aubergine, can break up when cooked, but most will hold their shape if gently boiled or stir-fried.
If you're looking to cut back on carbs, pack in the fruit and veg and maintain a healthy weight this gadget could transform how you cook. The difference between 100g of pasta and 100g of courgette is about 300kcal and the cooking time is considerably less.
Jean Price - Plot 4
It's always great to hear about our members activities outside of the allotment and Anne Earnshaw (plot 16a) and Debbie Bedford (plot 6b) both contacted me this week to tell me about activities that they are involved in. You may be interested to hold the dates:
Ann Earnshaw - Sale Arts Trail, Artist Takeover:
To those of you who enjoyed the Sale Arts Trail these last 3 years and came to our home, we thought you would like to know what is happening this year. The Arts trail itself is now a bi-annual event and there will be no "trail" this year but there is an exhibition called "Artist Takeover" which will be held at the Waterside Arts Centre in Sale on Sunday 11th June from 10:30 - 5pm.
I will be selling my cards, mounted images and framed work . This year I have put my images on quality art canvas and glass. They look beautiful .
If you can't come on Sunday you can view my work at home, Carnforth Drive Sale call 07891 605 215
I am also at the following venues this year:
Alderley Edge Cricket Club Summer Fete with 'Simply Cheshire'
Sunday July 2nd 1pm - 5pm
Alderley Edge, SK9 7HN
Wilmslow Art Trail 13th , 14 th and 15 th October
My new website is:
Debbie Bedford:- National Garden Scheme:
I am opening the garden for the N.G.S. On Sun.16th July (praying it will be dry)
It will be open from 1-5pm at 34 Stanley Mount, M33 4AF.
I should be getting some posters soon so I will put them up on the notice board.
This is a late 'pop-up'opening and I need to generate as much publicity as I can, so pass the word around to your friends. All welcome. There will be teas and home-made cakes.
Admission is £3 for adults and children go free. (Sorry, no dogs)
See more on the National Garden Scheme here:
Paul Price - Plot 4
Do you ever get confused over what to sow where and when? Crop rotation, once you get the hang of it is pretty straightforward. All you need to remember is what veg belongs in what group and then where you grew them last year. Most people do a 3 year rotation with 5 different plant groups. The more ambitious use a 4 year plan, but let's keep this blog to 3 years. The RHS has a good guide and here is a section from it:
How to do crop rotation
Divide your vegetable garden or allotment into sections of equal size (depending on how much of each crop you want to grow), plus an extra section for perennial crops, such as rhubarb and asparagus. Group your crops as below:
Section one: Potatoes
Section two: Legumes, onions and roots
Section three: Brassicas
Section one: Legumes, onions and roots
Section two: Brassicas
Section three: Potatoes
Section one: Brassicas
Section two: Potatoes
Section three: Legumes, onions and roots
You can read the full article here:
Jean Price - Plot 4
Well, it’s getting to the end of January and it is very cold with frosty mornings and hard soil. So, its a good time to be thinking about the condition that our soil is in. The secret of a successful harvest is getting the soil in the best condition you can.
One of the best ways of conditioning the soil is introducing organic matter in the form of animal manure, which adds nitrogen, garden compost, which adds slow release nutrients and leaf mould which improves drainage. I know a lot of you have thought about improving your soil already because of the working parties that we have organized this month to help shovel the deliveries of manure that we have had (with more to come).
Organic matter will never fail to improve the structure of the soil and help with water drainage. We have a good supply of leaf mould which is free for our society members and I know that many of you compost waste products too. A sprinkling of chicken pellets help to give a big boost to the soil microbes. It smells a bit rich but it’s worth it.
It’s easy to enrich your soil; just pile the organic matter on the soil and then fork it in at a depth of about 6 – 12 inches. If you already have plants such as rhubarb or fruit trees etc., just fork the matter around the plants. No need to dig it in. One of the first things you will notice is that your worm population increases. Worms are wonderful things for growers because they naturally aerate the soil.
You should see a marked improvement in your harvest. So as soon as the ground thaws and you feel like a dig, make sure you dig in some goodness too!
Jean Price - Plot 4
Did you have problems with your leeks this year? We did, and so did a lot of people that I have spoken to. Quite a few allotment sites in Trafford think that they have been affected by Leek Moth, for the very first time. Leek moth is mainly a problem in southern England but it is spreading north. Here is what the RHS have to say about it:
Common name Leek moth
Plants affected Leek, onion, shallot, garlic
Main symptoms White patches on leaves, with young plants rotting and dying. Small caterpillars may be seen in the plant tissues
Caused by Caterpillars of a small moth
What is leek moth?
The adult leek moth is an inconspicuous very small (5-6mm) brown moth. Its larvae (caterpillars) feed on leeks and similar crops.
Damage from leek moth caterpillars appears as;
The female moths can be prevented from laying eggs by covering susceptible plants with horticultural fleece, or an insect-proof mesh such as Ultra-Fine Enviromesh. Crop rotation should also be practiced to prevent potential build-up of moth populations under the fleece. Look for the white, net-like silk cocoons on the foliage and squash them.
None of the pesticides currently available to home gardeners for use on leeks and onions will give effective control of leek moth.
Leek moth has two generations during the summer with larvae damaging the plants;
When fully fed, the caterpillars are 11 mm long. They come out of the plant and pupate within net-like silk cocoons that are spun on the foliage.
Adult moths emerge in autumn and overwinter in sheltered places.
There is a much more detailed study here. leek-moth-project-kdunn.pdf
Sheila Taylor - Plot 30a
I really recommend making good use of the leaf mould.
Firstly I used barrow loads of it as mulch for the raspberries, blackcurrant and gooseberry bushes. I had a load of manure delivered in February and put loads of it where the potatoes were going to be planted. It was only half a load, but as I have half a plot, there’s plenty for next year as well. I hardly ever dig, except when digging things up, so it just went on top of the soil. I just planted the potatoes underneath it. It was pretty fresh, but they didn’t seem to mind! Then more barrow loads of leaf mould went on top of the manure - loads - and all the work was left to the worms.
I earth up the potatoes as they grow. Result - absolutely gorgeous soil, and the only digging was harvesting a really good crop of potatoes.
Do use this free and useful resource.
Paul Price - Plot 4
In the summer newsletter I told you about growing Salsify, also know as the Oyster Plant, a vegetable that we haven't grown before. Well this week we started to harvest it. It looks pretty strange with small roots growing from the main root, a bit like a hairy parsnip! The roots damage very easily so after a disaster with a fork, I used a spade to carefully lift them out of the ground. The problem is, if you damage them, they quickly lose their moisture and shrivel up.
They are a bit of a faff to prepare (so Jean tells me) as they discolour very quickly once pealed so it's good to have a bowl of water with a little lemon juice in to plunge them into. Just quickly peel them with a potato peeler, trim the tops and bottoms and that's it. They will sit happily in the water until you are ready to cook them.
The first ones we tried were roasted at 200C (gas 6) for twenty minutes in a little olive oil with a couple of crushed garlic cloves, similar to how you would roast parsnips. They were delicious! Neither of us care for parsnips as we find them too sweet, but we both loved these. Next time I will cook them in a little butter and wine to bring out the oyster taste. We will definitely be growing them again next year.
Plot holders cogitate and ruminate about allotment life.
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