Tag Archive | Growing cauliflowers

Growing Cauliflowers And Making Comfrey Tea

On Tuesday this week I dug up my cauliflowers, which were a heritage variety called ‘English Winter’, which I sowed in May last year. They stood all winter long and I was a bit concerned that I would just have leaves without the lovely white cauliflowers….but finally in April the cauliflower heads began to form and the result was beautiful large white caulis.

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The ground where they had stood for a year was as solid as a rock and it took me ages to fork the soil over. I then raked a dusting of Blood, fish and bone over the area and then planted the red onions that I sowed back in January this year.

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This week I planted some more cauliflowers that I sowed on the 14th February. They are a variety called ‘All year round’. As usual I walked, danced and jumped all over the area, as cauliflowers especially like firm soil and this helps to stop them from ‘blowing’.   It also helps to add organic matter in the autumn, so it has time to settle.

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After planting the cauliflowers I tread around the plants with my foot and then I cover the cauliflowers with environmesh to stop any little flies getting into the curds when they form.

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I noticed my curly kale is now flowering beautifully. If I don’t need the area straight away, I leave the kale to flower as the bees love it:

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This week I picked our last purple sprouting broccoli, which is quite sad as my youngest daughter loves it….but I also picked our first asparagus of the year which is great.

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When I walked around my plots I noticed my first globe artichoke is forming which is also great….my in-laws love these so I make sure they have the first ones of the season:

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One of the jobs I completed this week was to cut down my comfrey before it flowers, so it doesn’t self-seed everywhere.

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I put some of the comfrey into my compost bins as it is a great compost activator and I used some of it to make an enormous pot of comfrey tea.

Comfrey tea is high in potash as the deep roots of the Comfrey plants absorb the potassium from the subsoil. Therefore it is great for using on most fruits and flowers which is why I have a whole bed dedicated to comfrey plants, which I cut down three or four times during the growing season.  If you are buying comfrey to grow, the experts tell you to use a variety called ‘bocking 14’ which doesn’t self-seed, however I just took a root cutting from my neighbours allotment to get me started and I didn’t have a clue which variety it was.  Self-seeding has never been a problem for me as I always cut it down before it flowers.

To make comfrey tea all you have to do is fill a bucket with the comfrey leaves and stems and weigh it down with a brick and pour over cold water.  I cover it (to stop flies getting in) and leave for approx. two weeks. Be warned, by this time the smell is revolting!  Strain the comfrey tea liquid into another container and put the remaining comfrey in your compost bin. I then put 2 cups of comfrey tea into a watering can and then fill with water.  I use this feed once a week after the first tomatoes begin to form. 

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As I use a lot of comfrey tea, I made mine in a water butt. I put the comfrey into an old curtain and then weighed it down with a brick and I will leave it for a couple of weeks with water covering it.  I always make sure I cover the liquid with an old piece of wood or a lid, as once I didn’t and I ended up with maggots in it!

After two weeks I will remove the comfrey and put it into my compost bin.  The result will be lots of smelly comfrey tea liquid, which is free to make and the plants love it.

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This week I also sowed my wildflower seeds. I had previously raked the area to remove any large clods of earth.

I mixed the seed with dry horticultural sand and then scattered the sand & seed mixture over the area and raked them in.

I then covered them with bird netting until they germinate.

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If they are half as good as the last two years wildflowers, then I will be pleased.

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I also noticed that one or two strawberries have started to form, so I surrounded the strawberries with straw.

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The straw stops the mud splashing on the strawberries but it also acts as mulch, keeping the moisture in and stops annual weeds from germinating. I made sure it had rained before I spread the straw to ensure that the ground was moist.

The bale of straw only cost me £3.40 from my local plant nursery, so it was really worth it. I also had some left over to use elsewhere if I need it too.

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When I looked closely I noticed that a few of my strawberry flowers had turned black….these are the ones that the frost caught last Friday and sadly they won’t turn into strawberries now:

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But not to worry, there are plenty that beat the frost:

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Inside my polytunnel I removed the perpetual spinach that had turned into a triffid …it had gone to seed and was now huge!

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I dug it up and replaced it with a couple of barrows of compost from my homemade allotment compost, ready for my next crops.

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I noticed next to this area, the two rows of carrots had started to germinate with the radish in between that I sowed on the 11th April.

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The lettuces in my polytunnel will also soon be ready.

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The only thing I am disappointed with so far is my tomato plants. I had four greenhouse tomato plants spare, so I put them into my polytunnel. Unfortunately, even in the polytunnel last week’s frost managed to damage some of the leaves which is a shame, but I can already see new growth in the centre so hopefully they will be ok.

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Finally, I planted some lavatera that I have grown from seed. These are the hardy annual type that do not become thugs and they will live and die in one season. They grow to about 60cm high and will hopefully look beautiful and again attract beneficial insects to my plot.

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Thank you for reading my blog today.

I will be back at my usual time on Monday.  I hope you have a good weekend.

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Still Planting And A Walk Around My Allotment

I have usually planted most of my seedlings by now, but as this isn’t a normal year (due to the cold Spring we had), I still have some to plant.

This week I have been busy planting various things and I must say my allotment is getting pretty full.

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I started by planting some more cauliflowers.  As usual I prepared the ground by raking in some blood, fish and bone a couple of weeks ago and then just before I planted them I trod over the area and jumped and danced on it.  Brassica’s all need firm soil and you may remember that I also did this with my brussels a few weeks ago.  One of my readers (Paula) said I had invented the ‘Brussell Sprout Stomp’, which made me laugh.

One of the main reasons for cauliflowers ‘blowing’  (loose heads, where the curds don’t grow together) is the soil isn’t firm enough.  So I suppose you could now name the dance ‘ The Cauliflower Stomp’.

I covered my cauliflowers with environmesh:

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This week I planted my ‘outdoor’ cucumbers.  They are a variety called ‘Burpless Tasty Green’, which I have grown for a few years now with great success.  The skin is slightly prickly so I do peel them before eating.  They taste lovely, with no hint of bitterness, which some cucumbers have.

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I also planted some more spring onions, as we eat loads of these and I like to make sure we have some available for a long as possible over the summer…

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…and some beetroot and parsley:

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Finally, I planted some Nasturtiums next to my runner beans.  These are great companion plants as they attract blackfly.  The blackfly prefers the nasturtiums to the runner beans, so the nasturtiums act as sacrficial plants.

Nasturtiums next to my runner beans

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The broad beans in my polytunnel are still producing some lovely pods for picking…

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…and I had a lovely surprise this week as I found my first two strawberries ready for picking.  I took them home and me and my daughters all savoured the lovely, juicy, sweet strawberries together.  There really isn’t anything that tastes as good as freshly picked strawberries.  If you have never eaten homegrown strawberries, you really do not know what you are missing as they taste nothing like supermarket strawberries, that are only bred for a long shelf-life.

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Now we have had some warm weather and some rain, things have begun to grow nicely.  I had a walk around my plot yesterday and I noticed a few things.  The dahlias that I grew from seed have begun to flower:

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The apples and plums are beginning to form nicely:

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My second early potatoes have begun to flower:

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My spring cabbages are finally ‘hearting up’:

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The first peas that I sowed this year are nearly ready:

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My polytunnel is growing well:

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And the lavender that edges both of my paths, is nearly in flower:

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The bees will love the lavender after my poached egg plants have stopped flowering.  When I stand amongst the poached egg plants there is still such a buzz of activity there:

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Finally I thought I would show you what I do with lettuces after I have picked them, if I don’t use them all at once.  After taking off the few leaves I need at the time, I pop the rest of the lettuce into an old pot full of water.  Just like flowers in a vase, the lettuce stays lovely and fresh for quite a few days.

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I hope you enjoyed reading my blog today.

  I will be back on Monday at approximately4pm.

Blackberry Cordial & General Allotment Jobs

Today at the allotment I weeded around my brussels sprouts and my spring broccoli.  I removed any yellowing leaves and then tied them to the supports that I had put in to the ground.  This will help to stop them from rocking around in the wind over the winter.

I also examined my ‘Cape Gooseberry’ plant that was growing outside.  You can see in the picture below that it is only small and I doubt I’ll get any fruit off it, before the first frosts come.

In my polytunnel I have two ‘Cape Gooseberry’ plants that I also put in the ground at the same time.  In the photograph below you can really see the difference the extra protection of the polytunnel gives.  They both have loads of fruit on them.

After this I cleared away the cornflowers that self-seeded around my pond.  They gave a wonderful display earlier in the year, but now it was time to tidy them away.

I had almost forgotten that I had grown some ‘Aubretia’ plants around the pond.  I think they will look pretty in the spring.

Today also I pulled back the ‘environmesh’ that covered my cauliflower plants and was pleasantly surprised to find the cauliflowers, which were ready to be picked.  You can see the cauliflowers I picked in the picture below.  I weeded and cleared the area where the cauliflowers were too.

When I got home I chopped the cauliflowers up and washed them in salt water.  I then blanched them for 2 minutes and put them on trays (as this stops them from sticking together) and froze them.  Tomorrow I will bag them up.

Following on from my post last Friday regarding child poverty, (which you can read here), I have another cheap and easy recipe.

At the moment there are loads of blackberries around.  So I thought I’d use some to make a homemade Blackberry Cordial.

Because the blackberries were from my allotment, I worked out that this cordial only cost me 16p to make and it has no chemicals or preservatives in at all and tastes really nice.

Blackberry Cordial

2 cups of cold water

2 cups of granulated sugar

300g blackberries (fresh or frozen)

2 tablespoons of lemon juice

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Make the sugar syrup by putting the water and sugar in a saucepan and heat on a low flame, stirring all the time until the sugar has dissolved and you can see no sugar crystals on the back of your spoon.

Add the blackberries and lemon juice and then turn the heat up and bring the mixture to a boil.

Simmer for 5 minutes.

Put the whole lot through a sieve and then cool the juice.

Dilute the cordial to your taste.

Serve cold with ice

This cordial lasts approximately 3 days in the fridge.

My daughters friends came for tea tonight, so I served the cordial with lots of ice and different fruit in a bowl and it looked very special for them.  I left them a ladle so they could help themselves.  Most of the fruit was homegrown.

Thank you for reading my blog today.