Tag Archive | Growing Melons

A Lot Of Hardwork!

I love this time of year as the harvesting of crops is finally slowing down at the allotment after a very busy summer and I can finally carry out some other jobs.

A couple of weeks ago I started to remove the old, unproductive raspberries from my plot and I laid a new path next to the area.  I have finally dug up the rest of the raspberries now and the area will provide another bed for me to use next year:

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The weed suppressant in the middle of the raspberries (in the first photo) covered the grass that I sowed a few years ago to walk on.  I covered the grass for a few months to kill it, so I could just easily dig the grass into the ground.

Weed suppressant kills the grass and weeds well, except for bind weed which just skims the surface and ‘pops’ out at the side.  However it does make it easier to just pull most of it up, though I will have to make sure I hoe this area every week during the growing season to weaken it, in the hope I can eventually kill it.

For those of you that don’t grow organically, ‘glyphosate’ does kill bindweed easily, though I choose not to use chemicals.

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After digging the area over I topped it with some of my homemade compost and I laid some paths so I don’t need to walk on the soil that I plant into and I was very pleased with the result:

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As I had a few spare slabs I also laid a path between my woodland area and my strawberries.  This area was a real pain as before I only had a small path made of weed suppressant that I struggled to walk down.  I also finished off a path next to my water tank, which will also make things easier for me:

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If you read my blog a couple of weeks ago you will remember I stripped the green tomatoes from my outdoor plants as I was worrying about losing them to ‘tomato blight’.  I put the tomatoes in my mini-greenhouse at home and they have been ripening well:

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….And I have been busy at home making lots of tomato sauce to use in spaghetti bolognaise, pasta sauces. pizza sauce etc.

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And it is a good job I did remove the tomatoes when I did, as ‘blight’ did strike a week later and you can see in the photograph below how it very quickly affected the few remaining tomatoes that I left on the plants.

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I dug the tomato plants up quickly, removing any remaining tomatoes and put the foliage into my compost bin.

The stems and leaves of tomato plants that have ‘blight’ can be added to your compost heap, as the spores won’t survive on dead plant material.  Do ensure that you remove every last one of the tomatoes on the plants, as the blight spores survive in the seeds….SO DO NOT COMPOST THE FRUIT. 

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I dug the area over where the plants had been growing and forked in some manure.  I again split the bed up with some old weed suppressant, so I could easily walk around the bed without treading on the soil…and this was another bed completed for the winter:

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Another area I have concentrated on this week is outside my polytunnel.  This area used to be a real problem area as it looked unsightly with a few slabs, crazy paving and couch grass and the area was full of weeds.  So last winter I removed everything from the area and laid weed suppressant, with woodchip on top and it looked lovely.

However, this is how the area looked again last week:

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Unfortunately, the weed suppressant I used was just not up to the job and the weeds had grown through it!

I bought this weed suppressant from our allotment shop and it was a different sort to normal.  Weed suppressant is sold in different grades and this was obviously a low grade, but as I have never had a problem with their weed suppressant before, I just never gave it another thought….that will teach me not to check.

So I had to remove all of the wood chip and lay some more (better quality) weed suppressant and then put the wood chip back……I have got to say it was really hard work!  Hopefully this will work this time.

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A couple of weeks ago I picked my saved pea pods from my pea plants and left them to continue to dry for a couple of weeks in my kitchen on trays.  This week Mr Thrift helped me to ‘pod’ the peas so I can use the seeds next year.

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I store the seeds in an envelope in a tin, which will be placed in a cool, dark place.

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Finally, the first of my melons from my polytunnel was ready this week.  They are a variety called ‘outdoor wonder’.

The melons aren’t really big, but they are really sweet and delicious.  I grew them last year for the first time and I know I will be growing them every year from now on.  According to the packet they can be grown outdoors, though I grow them in my polytunnel just in case we have a bad summer:

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That’s it for this week.  I hope you have enjoyed reading my blog.

I will be back next Friday as usual.

  I hope you have a good week.

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Homemade Cleaners and Homemade Cabbage Collars

I don’t really know where to start today.  After I had a rest last weekend (as I felt under the weather) I have been working in ‘overdrive’ mode ever since and I have achieved such a lot.

  The rest obviously did me some good.

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At home I made some more dishwasher liquid, using the soap nuts that I bought a few years ago.  I use the liquid for two washes and then I use a ‘value’ dishwasher tablet for one wash and this seems to stop the grease from building up inside the dishwasher.

You can read about how I make the liquid here.

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I also made some more ‘multi-purpose vinegar spray’.  I use this to clean down my work surfaces in my kitchen, our table mats, my cooker hob, etc.  It is really cheap to make and it lasts ages, but more importantly I know what goes into it.

All I use is distilled white vinegar (which most supermarkets sell for approx. 45p a bottle), and a few drops of ‘Tea Tree Oil’ (which I buy from Wilkinsons).

Distilled white vinegar is great as it’s cheap to buy and cuts through grease and dirt and is antibacterial too, so it kills most germs.  It does smell when you first spray it, but the smell doesn’t linger and no one will know you have used it.

White vinegar is milder than malt vinegar and dries odourless.

I mix the vinegar with a few drops of Tea Tree Oil which has anti-fungal, anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties too.

This makes a fantastic natural multi-purpose cleaner and it lasts for ages:

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I also decided it was time to add a couple more shelves in my pantry, in the hope that I can store more food in there (instead of our bedroom, which isn’t very romantic).

I bought a couple of cheap shelves from B & Q, put them up in a couple of hours and then painted them with some leftover white paint that we had in our shed.

I am very pleased with them and I will fill them when I do my next ‘big’ shop:

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At the allotment the poached egg plants (Limnanthes) are looking beautiful lining my centre path.  They are providing a much needed early source of pollen for the bees and it is wonderful watching them.  There are also loads of ladybirds around the flowers, which is brilliant as they are such a beneficial insect to have around the plot, eating any aphids that come my way.

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I don’t know if I mentioned this before, but at the beginning of the year I contacted Leicester City Council and asked them if I would be allowed to keep bees at my allotment.  As I have four plots, I have ample room and I had spoken to my allotment neighbour who thought it was a brilliant idea and he was quite happy for me to do this.

I wanted to make sure it was ok with the council (who I rent the plot from) before I spent money on a bee keeping course and equipment, as my garden at home is not big enough.

Unfortunately, Leicester City Council said I can’t keep bees at my allotment plot because bees are classed as ‘lifestock’ and the rules say that lifestock cannot be kept on their allotment plots, but more importantly to them – keeping bees would cause ‘health and safety’ problems.

I was dissapointed, but I felt there was nothing more I could do.

But to my surprise this week, I have found that some bees have now set up home in one of my leaf mould compost bins….I find this really amusing and I wonder what Leicester City Council would say to that?…..surely this causes a health and safety problem?

It’s nice to see that nature doesn’t bother with health and safety regulations….if it did then mankind would be in a mess!

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This week at my allotment I have been ‘earthing up’ my potatoes.  It is a job I hate as I find it really hard work….it’s the only time I wish I had the strength of a man!

‘Earthing up’ the potatoes helps to protect them from any late frosts and it also increases the length of underground stems that will bear potatoes. 

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I have also been planting things at my allotment this week.

I planted red and white cabbages first:

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I make my own cabbage collars to avoid the cabbage root fly from laying eggs at the base of my plants.  The Larvae are white, headless and legless maggots and they feed on the roots of brassicas.  This will cause your brassicas to either grow weakly or just wilt and die.

The following year, cabbage root fly will emerge from the pupae which overwintered in the soil.  This is a good reason to rotate your crops each year.

Cabbage collars cost between £3 or £4 to buy a pack of 30.  To save money I make my own by cutting out a square of thick cardboard and then cutting a cross in the middle where the stem will go.  As the stem grows it can expand because of the cross in the middle.

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I place each collar around the stem and it will stop the cabbage root fly from laying it’s eggs and eventually it will just decompose into the soil.

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At the allotment this week I also planted the last of my peas and mange tout that I sowed into guttering on the 21st April.

The birds love the tops of pea shoots at my allotment, so I make sure that they can’t get to them.

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I also planted out some more spring onions and some beetroot that I started in newspaper pots…

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…And a pumpkin plant that was getting a bit too big for it’s newspaper pot.  It is a bit early for planting out tender plants in this area, as it’s possible to get frosts here until the end of May.  However, I have planted it in my old compost area and surrounded it with glass for protection, so hopefully it will be ok:

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Another job I did was put a new sticky paper and ‘lure’ into my pheromone traps, in the hope that it will attract the male codling moths and plum moths.

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You can read about the codling moth here.

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I also started planting in my polytunnel.  I raked in some blood, fish and bone over the new compost I added a week or so ago and as the ground was so dry I dug holes for the plants and filled them with water and let it drain away before planting into them.

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I planted four melons which are a variety called ‘Outdoor Wonder’.  I planted them last year in my polytunnel and they were a great success, so I thought I would have another go this year.

‘Outdoor Wonder’ can actually be grown outdoors but I thought I would have better results growing them in my polytunnel.

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Below is a photograph of one of the melons I harvested last year and they tasted lovely:

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I also planted my gherkins, peppers and basil…

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…and some more lettuces:

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Every year I like to try something different, e.g. last year I grew the melon I wrote about above and a couple of years ago I tried growing shark fin melons:

You can read about my shark fin melon plant here and here.

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….And this year I have decided to have a go at cucamelons.

Apparently, they look like grape sized watermelons that taste like cucumbers with a hint of lime and they are supposed to be really easy to grow….I will let you know.

You can read about cucamelons here.

I sowed the seeds on the 10th April and I planted two of them this week in my polytunnel:

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I will let you know how they do in my polytunnel and if the ‘Thrift’ household likes the taste of them.

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The polytunnel is fully planted for the moment, but I’m sure I’ll squeeze some more plants in somewhere as time goes by.

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I have been picking a few leaves from the salads in the above photograph and some radishes from my polytunnel and this week I picked our first spring cabbage.  I know it’s silly, but I still feel excited when I pick the first of each vegetable when it’s ready to eat.

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To finish off with, I noticed a couple of things at my allotment this week:

First my watercress that I sowed a couple of weeks ago has appeared.  You can read how I grow watercress in a pot here if you are interested.

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And secondly I have flowers on three out of four of the clematis I planted to climb up the old swings that are no longer in use.  They will be better in a couple of years when the plants are more established, but for now I am happy with a few flowers:

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Thank you for reading my blog today.

I will be back on Monday at my usual time.

 

Slabs And Planning For Next Year

My poor old allotment shed has been sitting on a bit of a slope for the last eight or nine years and unfortunately this has caused my shed to lean to one side, like a crooked house.  So this week I have been preparing a much better base for it to sit on, by laying slabs that I have recycled from a path I don’t use anymore.  Mr Thrift helped me to dig up the grass to prepare for the slabs and he helped me to lay four slabs, I managed to lay six more on my own the next day and on Wednesday my brother in law (who has the plot next to me) helped me to lay the final six and I was very grateful for their help.

Unfortunately, as I was laying the slabs on a slope, I needed to keep digging the soil from underneath each slab to ensure they were straight.   I must admit I did find it so hard at one stage that I started to wonder why I do things like laying slabs, instead of staying at home painting my nails and watching day time TV….but I suppose that just isn’t me.  I am now very proud of my square of slabs.

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Tomorrow I will attempt to move my shed over to the new slabs, again with help from Mr Thrift and my brother-in-law.  I pray it won’t collapse in the process.

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Between slabbing I have been preparing for next year by planting my overwintering onions and spring cabbage.

The overwintering onions that I planted in 2011 were not very good at all.  This was due to a fairly new pest called the Allium Leaf Miner (you can find details of it here).

In 2012 I planted seed sowed onions instead of sets, as I had read that they produce slightly stronger growth and after planting them I covered them with environmesh.  These onions were much better and I was very pleased with my crop:

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I’m not sure if the seed sown onions made a difference, but the environmesh definately stopped the Allium Leaf Miner, so this year I have planted them in exactly the same way:

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I also planted my spring cabbages this week:

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I prepared the beds for the spring cabbage and the overwintering onions by just raking in some blood, fish and bone a week or so before.

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I have also been clearing away the old plants in  ‘Calendula Alley’ next to my polytunnel.  The plants gave a beautiful display of flowers that all self seeded from the previous years plants.

I grow Calendula as they are great for attacting beneficial insects to my allotment, such as hoverflies, bees and butterflies and as an extra bonus, the petals are edible and look really pretty scattered into salads.

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It’s quite sad when the plants have finished flowering and it’s time to clear them all away for another year, but at least I can add them all to the compost heap.

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I covered the area with weed suppressant to prevent any weeds from growing:

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I am amazed to say that my outdoor tomatoes are still producing lovely, juicy fruit.  I am unable to freeze or preserve any more of them due to our building work, so I am giving bags of them away to anyone that wants them.  I have never managed to go this late in the season without them succumbing to the dreaded tomato blight, but this has been an exceptional year.  You can read about tomato blight here.

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The variety of tomato I grew was ‘Outdoor Girl’.  This week I have saved some of the seeds ready for next year.  There are different ways to save tomato seeds but I find this way easiest:

 All I do is chop the tomato in half and scrape out the seeds and spread them on a piece of kitchen towel.

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Allow the kitchen towel to completely dry out for a few days and then roll it up and pop it into an envelope ready to store it in a cool, dark and dry place.  Next year I just rip off a few seeds and plant them into compost with the kitchen towel still attached and it works a treat.

Please note:  Do NOT save seed from ‘F1’ varieties as they will not come ‘true to type’, which means you can’t guarantee what you will actually be growing.

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My allotment is still producing, but things are definately slowing down.

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One lovely thing I harvested this week was my first melon from my polytunnel.  I have never grown melons before and thought I would give it a try this year and I am very pleased with the results.  I have seven melons from two plants.  The melons are actually an outdoor variety called ‘Outdoor Wonder’, but I thought I may have better results planting them in my polytunnel.

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The melon was delicious and my daughters loved it, so I will definately grow melons again.

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I hope you enjoyed reading my blog today.

I will be back on Monday at my usual time.