Jeff - Plot 19:
Well, it's the end of an era for the grotty garage which used to stand at the bottom of the allotment. It has been there longer than anyone can remember. We have people on the allotment that have been here nearly 40 years and it was there when they arrived so I am guessing that it was about 50 years old. It all happened pretty fast, and those of you who know me well, know I don't often do fast:-) This is how it happened:
At the end of March we had a call from Trafford Council to say that they had found some money in the budget to demolish the garage. It had an asbestos roof and the walls were crumbling and so it had to go. The thing was, it had to happen before their financial year end which was the beginning of April so we had no time to lose. We arranged for the demolition people to take away the garage pretty quickly and then had to move fast with the replacement because we had the contents of the garage stored all over the place. I managed to locate a container and had it painted green. We knew that we would have to have it delivered via the cemetery as they could not get it in any other way. So, the tricky part was to coordinate with the container and cemetery people because obviously, we could not have it delivered when there were funerals going on.
Thankfully we managed to get a day that suited everyone and the container was delivered without any drama. It was lifted over the cemetery hedge with a crane and dropped into place. Then the poor driver realised that he couldn't get out of the bottom gates and had to back up all the way to Marslands Road. It was quite a feat as the track is quite narrow. All the contents are now back in the new storeroom and I hope you agree that it looks far smarter than the prefab garage did.
Jean - Plot 4:
Our shallots were fabulous last year and it all happened by accident. We put our order in with Marshall's for a couple of packs of Roderique Shallots, thinking that they were shallot sets, but in fact they were shallot plants. We were pretty surprised when they arrived to see that they looked more like lots of spring onions rather than shallot sets but we decided to give them a go. We are so pleased that we did as they turned out to be the best shallots we have ever grown. They are banana shallots, so called because they are long rather than round. I prefer these as they are very easy to peel, unlike their round cousins. Unlike their cousins, you don't plant them singly and then harvest a bunch; you plant them as a bunch and harvest that bunch. Anyhow, we were so please with the results that we decided to grow them again and I thought I would share their progress with you.
We got the delivery a couple of days ago and the photo on the left shows how they look when they arrive. The first thing is to separate them up into clumps of 4 - 6, which isn't difficult as they are more or less delivered like that. I try to get clumps of 5 as I think that it is a good number to grow.
The next step is to pot the bunches up into 3 - 4" pots as you can see in the right hand picture. I did that today and I will let them settle in the greenhouse for a week before hardening them off and planting them on the allotment. I really hope that we get the same result as last year as they were fabulous. I plaited them up and they lasted right through the winter. I will let you know how we go on with them in a later blog. Wish me luck:-)
Gary - Plot 16b:
Someone commented about how fabulous my fennel looked last year so I thought I would share what I did. I think I was just lucky as I didn't do anything special but here goes:
The seeds I used were Kings Fennel Rondo F1 which can be sown directly into the ground or in modules. Kings say that fennel doesn't like root disturbance but starting them off in modules worked fine for me. You can plant anytime from April to May. I have some growing on the windowsill in the conservatory as we speak. Last year I potted them up into larger pots before I hardened them off outside. I then just planted them on the allotment, 25 - 30cm apart and let them grow, keeping the weeds at bay and keeping them well watered until the plants were established. As the swollen stems start to develop, it's a good idea to gradually build earth up around them to preserve the whiteness and flavour. I harvested the leaves from July and bulbs from September and October. I may have left some to get a bit too large, but live and learn. The only other bit of info is that I planted them where I had grown onions the year before, but I am not sure if that is relevant.
Unlike the fennel in the herb section which is grown specifically for its leaves, this fennel is grown for the bulbous plant base which can be used chopped raw in salads, braised as a vegetable or added to casseroles. It has a mild aniseed flavour with a texture much like celery. I love it grilled on the BBQ and you can find my recipe (with a little help from Jamie Oliver) on the "Vegetables and Sides" page of the Recipe section of this website. Happy growing!
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