Allotment Newsletter - Week 37

week 37 on the allotmentWell, I planted my onions out this week, all 300 of them!...

That's 150 JAPANESE SENSHYU and 150 WINTER RED ONION SETS. I ordered them off ebay and if you want to do the same, just use the search facility on the website. They cost me 4.50 pounds each. To prepare the ground, I turned the soil over and spread pelleted chicken manure at a rate of 2 handfuls per square metre. I then watered the area, so the pellets swell in size. A couple of days later, I turned the soil again to get the pelleted manure into the ground. Using my hoe, I then created rows of light, airy soil to plant my onion sets into. The onion sets were planted with 5 inches space around them, they were then watered in.

Does overwintering onions work? Well, I've never done this before, but, if you get the right onion sets, I suppose there should be little risk. The idea is to get a little growth over Autumn, then a dormant winter. The onions should start to grow again in spring, so you may get a slightly early crop. The main advantage to overwintering for me is that I won't have a mad rush to prepare the ground in Spring. I'm starting to think of my allotment as a year round food resource, rather than shutting it down for Winter as I have done in the past.

Is 300 onions too much? Possibly, but if they last a year, then 3 onions a week isn't a huge amount. Lot's of onion Bhaji's (made with free range eggs too), also the base for soups, stews, casseroles and more.

Also planted out some garlic. I've read that "Isle of Wight" garlic is good for overwintering. I did plant out some garlic from the supermarket, but it's a bit hit and miss apparently, so I ordered 10 bulbs of "Isle of Wight" purple from a supplier on ebay. I now think 10 bulbs was a bit optimistic and I could probably do a year with 5 bulbs (each bulb has around 10 cloves), but you live and learn. I used the same technique to fertilise the ground for my garlic. Turn in pelleted chicken manure and create rows of loose soil with a hoe. Water in.

Onions and garlic don't need a lot of water, but if we do have a dry spell for a few days, I will water thoroughly. One downside to overwintering is that the water is turned off on our site so I may have to resort to my water butts. Then again I live in Bolton, near Manchester, so not having enough water is not a problem I'm accustomed to.

We have 5 chickens and we get 4-5 eggs a day. That's a lot of eggs for two people and they tend to build up. Having thought about this, we're trying a three course meal strategy. We may have an egg or two for breakfast and then we have an evening meal around 6 or 7pm. I've decided to grow salad in the greenhouse with the intention of being able to have fresh grown salad any day of the year. For starters, we can have egg mayonnaise (not made our own mayonnaise yet as we have a massive jar of Hellmans to get through). Could also do a salad nicoise with a few hard boiled eggs in there. You can use eggs in main courses e.g ham & eggs, omlettes, egg fu yung (with home grown beansprouts). Eggs can also be used in desserts for custard, egg custard tarts, zabaglione, ice cream (with cooked egg custard). So, rather than giving eggs away, we're trying hard to incorporate them into meal times.

Many allotment holders seem to struggle to eat all they grow. Having an allotment means throwing out a lot of modern ways and adopting practices your great grandmother would have been familiar with. Learning to make jam, chutney, sauces and ice cream are all par for the course. I try not to freeze much as I think that defeats the object of growing fresh, organic food.

This week, I also sowed spring cabbages and perpetual spinach in plug trays. They have just started to come up and I'm going to turn over some ground to accomodate the cabbages. I'm going to plant out about 30 to overwinter. They should be ready in early May. I was going to plant out the perpetual spinach too, but I've realised that I don't have enough space and I don't want to be lifting nets and applying slug pellets every two minutes. So, I'm going to plant the perpetual spinach in large trays which will be kept in the greenhouse or cloche. I also ordered some Pak Choice an Lamb's Lettuce seeds off ebay which I intend to plant in compost in six packs in the greenhouse.

I need to dig up my spuds too. The foliage has died off now and I'm going to store the potatoes in sacks in my cool outhouse. I planted King Edwards in April, but they are very small. I'm looking at planting Winston next April. This is a second early which grows in a few months. It grows large and is good for mash, baking and chips (like King Edwards). I'm also going to try to get my hands on Ratte seed potatoes which are the favourite of Raymond Blanc and other top chef's. Apparently makes great potato salad and steamed new potatoes.

Another great place to get seeds is www.realseeds.co.uk. They don't sell F1, just heritage/heirloom, so you can collect your seeds to plant next season. I've been a little disappointed with the tomatoes I planted this year, a heritage called "Amish Paste". I wanted a tomato for sauce and Amish Paste is great for that, but the yield hasn't been good. So, for next season I'm going to order "Grushovka" for the greenhouse and "Aurora" which I'll grow outside, I may also plant "Latah" outside too. I also intend to order "Special Swiss Sweetcorn" from Real Seeds as I want to start collecting seeds for next season and I planted F1 sweetcorn this year. Speaking of corn, I'm also going to order some seeds (off ebay) for popcorn. I'll need to plant well away from the sweetcorn to avoid cross pollination, but I like the idea of growing my own popcorn.

I've harvested my peas now and I've been very impressed with the ones I planted which are called "Alderman". They grow very tall (up to 10 feet) and the peas are large marrowfat type. You can make soup, or boil up and have with chips and fish. They taste nice in fried rice too. I'm going to be growing these again next season but I'll plant out a lot more. To prepare beds for peas, dig trenches (next to support, I use chicken wire), and fill the trenches with compostable material like veg peelings etc. You can plant out in April/May (or earlier) next year.

I'll hopefully be harvesting some sweetcorn next week, so I'll have to look up some good sweetcorn recipes.

Thank you for taking the time to read this.

Ian

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