Wednesday, 26 December 2007

Allotmenticity - The Legend visits No87

The Legend that is Alvin Stardust displays his love of the soil by digging a few spuds during his last visit to the Midlands. There you go Matron!
I hope everyone has had a Merry Christmas. I went down on Xmas Eve and dug a few Maris Pipers and Kerr Pinks. They were great. No sign of them suffering by being left in the soil.
I also noticed that the lettuce I sowed under glass in the filing cabinet drawers have come through, despite the amount of frost we've had of late. Amazing!

I hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas and a Happy New Year.

See you all again in 2008.

The Captain.

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Allotmenticity - Tuesday 20th November

I had the honour of "Spud Man" Mr C come down last week to unearth the first of the Maris Pipers. "The King of The Chippers" and we weren't disappointed. A fabulous tray of spuds headed off to the awaiting deep fat fryer repleat with fresh oil. We also dug a small square of Kerr Pinks and were rewarded with a huge bag of pink beauties.
Have you ever seen a gardener so well dreesed in a suit and tie???
I'm cooking for "The Legend That is Alvin Stardust and His Trusty War Horse" after rehearsals this week and they are keen on tasting some "Jewels of the Land". Having steamed a selection the other night I don't think they'll be let down.
Trouble is I'm now getting into the Xmas gig glut and time at No87 is becoming rarer. I don't have too much to do in terms of the ground, although I have got the felt for the shed roof, and will be picking up my glass panels soon.
But those taters are pretty damn good!
It's been suggested I sell bags alongside the CDs at the gig! Food for thought!
Rehearsals tomorrow then the gigs begin.
Later everyone.
The Captain.

Sunday, 4 November 2007

Allotmenticity - Sunday 4th November

Having been reminded by a couple of friends that I haven't blogged for ages I am suitably chastized and so here's my latest update from good old No87.
I've been delayed by gigs, rehearsals and a terrible bout of "The Runs" which lasted forever, but I'm happy to say has finally subsided. However I did manage to get my Isle of Wight garlic in my prepared bed. Can't wait for the final product as the quality of the bulbs I received by post (in a shoe box) was brilliant. Also you can see the shallots (on the left) which also came and which I will be planting tomorrow. I pulled the last of the fancy Italian Lettuce which although only small was really tasty and I've got some more carrots to pull before they get too eaten.
I think tomorrows visit might have to include a strimming session as it's getting a bit bad around the edges. Ooops!!!
I'm digging up some great King Edwards and looks like I'll be into the Maris Pipers soon as I've got advance orders from the band for some produce. I might set up a stall next to "The Legend That is Alvin Stardust" merchandise table!
I ordered 2 rolls of Black plastic weed suppressing material. but have yet to receive it due to a problem with a shall we same nameless courier, which is known by 3 letters beginning with D and ending with L!!!!!
What an interesting end to the F1 season. Ah well. better luck next year Lewis. I would love to see all the drivers in a race where every car has the same engine, tyres and no fancy computerised nonesense. Then we'd really find out who was the best drivers.
Come on The Reds! It was great to be down on No87 when they played at The Villa. You can hear everything from the plot and after a loud start, they soon shut the Villains up! Priceless!!!
I changed my phone recently to a Nokia N95 which has a 5 megapixel camera. I took the photo of the Garlic with it. I have to say I'm impressed and the music player is brilliant too. Technology!!!
OK that's me done for today.
Back again soon,

The Captain.......says Salut!

Monday, 8 October 2007

Allotmenticity - Monday 8th October

After a hard rehearsal yesterday when I didn't get chance to visit No87, I took the opportunity to nip down this morning in beautiful sunshine. I picked this bunch of carrots from a row I sowed in one of the raised beds and they are fabulous. Really sweet and very tasty. I'll definitely try a few more rows next year.
I also dug a good sack of King Edwards which are very tasty too.
Matron, I'm undecided about whether to leave them in or not. Some of my neighbours leave them in until next year and are still digging them up as they plant the new seasons. (Although with her Cissyness and Mr C being Irish, I don't think they'll get chance to be in there too long.)
I've got the hessian sacks and have put a good bag away, but you have to make sure you keep them in the dark as they go green really quickly.
Thanks for the message FrogPrincess. I went onto Ebay and bought some black ground cover sheets. Got a BOGOF deal too! Also ordered a Bread maker from Amazon. I'm fed up having to trek over to Sainsburys for a loaf 'cos I hate Tescos bread.
HERE'S A TIP! If you've got a Nectar card and use the internet to shop, go on to and log on, (you need to be registered, so if you haven't already, do so, it's worth it) then go to the Nectar eStores section. If you use Amazon or Ebay you'll get points when you buy stuff. There are certain restrictions but it mostly works. Ebay is Buy It Now items. But "What Do Points Make?!!"
Our water is turned off next week so I filled up my reserve tank ready for the winter. I'm intending trying some salady stuff under glass and have an idea for a remote watering system. I've got a load of old hosepipe, which I'm going to cut into lengths the size of my raised beds and lay alongside where I sow the seeds. I'll seal one end and make lots of holes in the pipe. Then I can insert a funnel in the other end and pour water in which should then irrigate the area under glass without having to move the cloches.
"Call Me Mad"!!! Well, it's worth a try!
I've collected seed pods from the Pak Choi and Coriander which both flowered and went to seed. I might try some of that under glass as an experiment.
And as for Lewis Hamilton...... perhaps he did that so it would make for an exciting last race.
But the Reds ARE BACK! So all's well again.
And that's all for today.
Just had a trip to Great Yarmouth cancelled, Thank God, so I may get chance to have a couple more hours down on the plot this week. (Can you believe they got the year wrong!!!!!)
I despair.
The Captain.

Sunday, 30 September 2007

Allotmenticity 30th September

Hello again Allotmenteers. It seems like ages since I've had chance to sit down and update my blog about No87. Finally I've got a window of opportunity, so here we go.
I've started digging up my King Edwards as can be seen in the photo. The grass mowings in the trenches seems to have done a good job of keeping the scab away, and the addition of compost has certainly added bulk to the soil. I finally bought some hessian sacks and have already filled one with about 2/3rds of a row. They do taste great as well. There's another row yet, and then Mr C's favourites Maris Pipers.
The onions I sowed are doing well, and I'll protect them with cloches as it starts to get colder. Evidently it's difficult to get hold of Japanese Onion sets around here according to a couple of my neighbours. Possibly because of the bad year we've had with our Onions so far. My sets just curled up and rotted.
I'm getting some lovely Spinach regularly now which is great, and I'm freezing lots of Parsley and Coriander. My filing cabinet drawers have been full of salad greens, so I'm really pleased I didn't take it down to the dump after all.
I've managed to get a car space where the old shed was, and the next plan is to dig over the rest of the top section and get some fruit bushes and trees and a few flowers to brighten up the entrance. The Sunflower is a dwarf one but has a huge head.
The figs are still on the tree, but I'm not sure how they'll be now the weather is changing.
Oh and I managed to get one lovely bunch of Gladiolis. Fingers crossed the Lilies might make an appearance next year.
I'm thinking I might spend a while turning over the area I've had covered, ready for next year. I can compost the grass, and save a bit of time when it's spud sowing.
I've been recommended a place that does large black plastic sheets, so I may look them up. I've also got to re-felt the shed roof sometime soon before winter, and as my diary is starting to fill for Nov-Dec nows a good time.
As for my interests, Man U continue to frustrate, but Lewis Hamilton is still "The Boy". "Go Lewis!"
I think that's up to date, so until next time,
The Captain.

Saturday, 1 September 2007

Allotmenticity - Saturday 1st September

After last weekend's trips to Trentham Gardens and then Lincoln Castle it's back to No87 for some work. I recently found the gadget pictured on a website and have found it very useful. It's good to turn the compost over and this helps to pull the stuff from the bottom and circulate it.

£10.00 from I'm not usually bothered about these sort of things, but for once I think it's worth it considering I couldn't work out a way to make one myself.
I'm working on the car park at the top of the plot where the shed used to be. There's loads of stone buried under overgrown grass so it's a slow job. You can just see the Glads in the background and although I'm not a big flower fan they are looking good.
The draws from the filing cabinet are full of leaves. They really have come on quickly and I'm glad I didn't get rid of them now.
The Grape Vine in the rear of the shed is settling in well. I dug a large hole and lined it with plastic before I filled it with compost. There's a lot of nettles and brambles still in the ground so hopefully it will keep the roots at bay.
I dug the last of the Earlies, Arran Pilots, and they are fantastic. No sign of any problems and great tasting. I think I'll definitely go for them again next year and possibly a row of second earlies. I'm waiting for the maincrop now. King Edwards first. I need to get some potato sacks. I've seen hessian advertised so maybe I'll give them a try. I've also ordered Garlic and Shallots from the Isle of Wight which will be delivered in a couple of weeks. I'm looking forward to the Garlic as I tried some when I was down there sailing and it was an excellent taste.
Hopefully the weather will keep fine for a while so I can get some more work done on the car park.
Its the Big Band at The Jam House on Wednesday night so I'll be getting some preparation done for that.
I don't think Man Utd deserve a comment at the moment, but "Come On The Reds"!!!
Happy Allotmenteering,
The Captain.

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

Allotmenticity - Tuesday 21st August

I decided to transplant some of the Spring Cabbage seedlings now they are big enough. I've been lucky so far with all my other brassicas that there isn't any signs of Club Root, but just to make sure I used the same process as before. I dig out a large hole where I'm going to put the seedling and sprinkle in a good handful of Lime. (By handful I actually use a scoop). Then I fill the hole with the compost from Compost Corner and finally plant the seedling in the centre. In effect it doesn't have any contact with the soil and is surrounded by a Lime barrier. It's worked so far, so why change?
I'm having good results from the copper bracelets. I keep finding slugs with huge slime trails which go up to the ring but then stop. I then scoop them up and add to a bucket of salt. Die you B******s Die!
The fancy "Country Boots" I bought have given up the ghost. Not a good purchase really, so I did a quick "parf" on the web and found the wonderful pair of Wellies at Screwfix for £9.99. I added a flash to the photo for effect. They've even got a re-inforced toe-cap. Hopefully they'll last longer than their predecessors.
Oh and I've found 7 Gladioli flower stems! One minute there was nothing and within 2 days whooosh. I'll photograph the full colour results when they bloom, and send them to Barry Humphreys or should that be Dame Edna?
What's happening with Man U? Come on guys a goal or 2 wouldn't go amiss!
And it's Open-air gig time this weekend with "The Legend that is Alvin Stardust". We're at Trentham Gardens, Stoke on Saturday and then Lincoln Castle on Sunday. Fingers crossed for the weather.
Let's Rock,
The Captain.

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

Allotmenticity - Tuesday 14th August

Well after a few hectic days travelling the country I've finally managed to grab a few minutes to catch up with events at No87.
Last week was beautiful weather and so I got a start with the new Compost Corner. I've slimmed it down so I can fit a cold frame in on the end of the shed. The remaining compost will be distributed around the plot as necessary. I did a trial run with the Gazeebo and it fits perfectly in the "Corporate Entertainment Area" at the rear of the shed.
I've converted the Filing Cabinet that looked like the Monolith from 2001 into 4 small salad beds and a large deep cold frame kind of thing. I'm considering trying some Horseradish and maybe Ginger in it. I broadcast sowed some exotic salad leaves and they're already through. Obviously they like the enclosed space. I've got some Spring Cabbage ready to transplant which I'll do when it stops raining.
As I mentioned last time, the Fig tree has exploded into life again and is full of fruit. I read somewhere that the 2nd fruits don't do well, but with the 1st lot just dropping off on their own maybe it might be 2nd time lucky.
Her Cissyness and I played with the Big Band at
Laurance's surprise 60th birthday on Sunday at our favourite restaurant "The Boathouse" in Sutton Park. It was fantastic and a great time was had by all.
A special mention to Rikki "The Polish Princess" my fellow crew member whose birthday it is today. "
Szczęśliwy dzień urodzenia" Mrs P.
And finally to the 3 "Gazeebo Girls" who came down yesterday and had such a great time. I now know what Keith Floyd and Rick Stein went through trying to cook in a gale!!! Still Paella will never be the same again. Cheers Girls!
Happy Allotmenteering,
The Captain.

Monday, 6 August 2007

Allotmenticity - Monday 6th August

What a beautiful weekend down on No87. I've been trying to make the most of the great weather before the gigs start kicking in and my free time gets less.
I've pretty much cleared the old shed away. I think there was enough wood to make 3 sheds, what with all the patching and strengthening that had been done over the years! Whilst clearing some of the rotten wood I came across this Beetle. It's about 1inch or2.5cm in length and not too bothered about running away! Any ideas what he is?
Seeing as a lot of the top growth on the first 2 rows of maincrop spuds has died back I thought I'd check out their state. We've had a lot of people saying they'd got Blight on our site, but judging from the King Edwards I dug from just a tiny spot about a foot square I think they're going to be ok. I passed them on to Mr C the "Spud-Man" for his comments. First impressions seemed favourable!!!
I've got some more Figs on the tree again. The first lot all fell off which I put down to the cold snap we had, so this time I'm hoping they might hang around long enough for a few to ripen.
Does anyone have any experience with Figs?
And I'm pretty chuffed with the Broad Beans I've sown as a catch crop after the Arran Pilots. They've got loads of flowers on, and I'm spraying regularly with the nettle stew. Boy that stuff pongs!!!
I've got some ideas for improving Compost Corner with new panels, the shed needs the roof re-felting, and I'm under pressure to get the Gazeebo up for a soiree some time soon. Trouble is, I'm off down to the Isle of Wight at the weekend with "The Legend that is Alvin Stardust", then back on Sunday for a gig at my favourite restaurant in a marquee.
No pressure there then!
And finally well done to Lewis Hamilton and my team Man Utd for both winning at the weekend.
So until next time,
The Captain.

Wednesday, 1 August 2007

Allotmenticity - Wednesday 1st August - Going, Going, Gone

As I said in my previous blog my next task was to demolish the old shed at the top of the plot to make space for a car . Well here's the proof of my endeavours. The only thing left standing is the filing cabinet which hopefully I'll find a home for. I made 2 trips to the tip and it looks like there's at least another 3 or 4 to come. I'm recycling a lot of the old wood to make a new Compost Corner and with a bit of luck if the weather stays fine I should get most of it done. It's a shame we're not allowed bonfires as I could convert most of it to potash.
Onwards & Upwards,

The Captain.

Tuesday, 31 July 2007

Allotmenticity - Tuesday 31stJuly

"The early worm catches the bird!!!" I made an early start the other morning, and there sitting on my shed was the Kestrel. I crept down the next plot and managed to get a few shots. It just sat there and looked at me before finally flying off. "Brilliant!"
I'm keeping up to date with weeding and I've sown some more Spinach and Coriander in the bed where the peas were. A lot of the Lettuce are starting to bolt now, so they are bulking up the compost bins. I opened one yesterday to be eye to eye with a little mouse. I'm not sure how I feel about this as they can be a real pest although I don't really want to spend time trying to catch it.
I'm in the process of reshaping the plot. I want to demolish the old shed at the top and make a space to put the car and also redesign Compost Corner as it's pretty old and all the original pallets have rotted. I plan to use some of the wood from the top shed to build the sides although most of it is bound for the tip. (Pics to follow)
I read a piece in Celia Brooks-Brown's blog about the green Tomato-like fruit on her Potatoes. She wasn't sure what they were. Well exactly the same thing happened to me the other day and I asked my neighbour Ken as I spotted the above on some of his spuds. The answer is leave them alone. I found this explanation on another website:

"Occasionally gardeners are surprised to find small, round, green, tomato-like fruit on their potato plants. These fruit are not the result of cross-pollination with tomatoes. They are the true fruit of the potato plant. The edible tubers are actually enlarged, underground stems. Normally, most potato flowers dry up and fall off the plants without setting fruit. A few flowers do produce fruit.
The potato fruit are of no value to the gardener. Potato fruit, as well as the plant itself, contain relatively large amounts of Solanine. Solanine is a poisonous alkaloid. The small fruit should not be eaten. Since potatoes don't come true from seed, no effort should be made to save the seed."

So now we know! Oh and the purple cabbages in the row of Greyhounds appear to be Red Cabbage. Obviously the seed packers at Suttons have the occasional lapse of concentration or maybe the odd joke with the punters. So I've got half a dozen Red Cabbage for next year, provided they manage to avoid the phantom Cabbage stripper. I've stepped up the Nettle Stew spraying and watering and so far it does seem to be having a positive effect, especially on the recently sown Broad Beans. They're following the early spuds as a catch crop and are really dong well.

I've picked some of the Rocket and Mustard Greens I got in one of the mixed seed packets given to me by Mrs Moose. They are so tasty, especially the Mustard Greens. It's like have a spoon of Colemans on a green leaf!

Well it's time to make a move. I'm borrowing a Volvo estate to take the wood to the tip today. I've had my bowl of porridge so I'm ready to rock.

Captain Tongo reporting for duty,

Over & Out!

Sunday, 22 July 2007

Allotmenticity - Sunday 22nd July

Well I'm finally back on Plot 87. I've just spent a fantastic week sailing in the Solent with 2 very good friends, Skipper David and The Polish Princess, aboard the yacht Bonamy. We set off from Port Solent and went to Lymington, Poole, Studland Bay (where we caught 9 Mackerel and ate them from the Barbie within 2 hours, now that's fresh and they tasted unbelievable!). We then sailed to Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight in a force 7 (Yes I did say SEVEN) gale. Well that WAS an experience! I'm not sure if the word "exhilarating" sums it up correctly or just Scared Out My Bloody Wits is better. Still we arrived safely. The next day was brilliant with hardly any wind and I actually took the helm and we sailed to Priory Bay which can be seen in the top photo at sunset. The final day we went back to Port Solent and saw a dolphin just off Portsmouth.
The weather was great all week, so image my surprise when I was caught up in an hour and a half of standing traffic on the way back because the M40 was flooded. It was as if the world was coming to an end when I finally got back to Birmingham. Torrential non-stop rain.
Fearing the worst I visited plot 87, but everything was fine. No flooding and all the seedlings and cabbages doing really well. The only thing is the Coriander is in full flower (2nd picture).
I must admit I'm puzzled as to why the Greyhound cabbages I sowed have included a couple of purple specimens. Lovely colour, but is this normal? More to the point can I eat them?
And specially for Primrozie my friend from the US, I've added a photo of the Nettle Stew. As you can see I've used an old water tank like you find in the roof and used a large green garden bag. (An onion sack would be better) This is then punctured with a knife and suspended in the tank.
I've picked a heap of peas which I've frozen and some of the good Hispi cabbages.
So it's dinner tonight with fresh Spinach as well as Spuds.
Bye for now,
Happy Allotmenteering,
The Captain.

Sunday, 8 July 2007

Allotmenticity - Sunday 8th July

Welcome to the new addition to the No 87 family of tools. He's called Joe. (Birmingham Calling!) It's been difficult to find the gaps in the weather just lately, but the good thing is we don't have a problem with drainage down here, so I'm quite confident that the spuds will be OK. I've already had some very tasty early Arran Pilots. I'm sowing Brad Beans as a catch crop each time I dig them up. Pic 2. The cabbages hopefully seem to be free of Club Root. Now whether that's down to the liming, the fact I planted each one in a cocoon of compost I'm not sure. It will be interesting next year when they go onto this years spud patch.
The up and down weather has caused the Coriander to flower as can be seen from picture No3, but I've had great success with the Parsley and the Cos Lettuces are fantastic.
The Peas are doing great and now starting to form good pods. I've learnt that it's not a good idea to grow them up either side of nets as they quickly grow into each other and it makes picking them difficult. I've also gained an attractive newcomer to the pea patch. Could this be my entry into the drug trade!!!
I've sown some Spring Cabbage and also some more carrots, Tarragon and some Rocket and Mustard Greens so the production line continues.
With a bit of luck I might be doing a bit of sailing in the next week or so, but I'll have to get some work done before that.
Well done Lewis Hamilton, shame he couldn't win but another podium!
Until next time,
The Captain.

Wednesday, 20 June 2007

Allotmenticity - Wednesday 20th June

Just a quick addendum to yesterdays blog. As it was such a nice day I thought I'd nip down and grab a photo of the new nets kindly provided by Nursevon. As you can see they look very tasty. I also wanted to update the view from Compost Corner over the plot. It's amazing the difference from the first photo taken 4 months ago!
And finally I've managed to capture the Kestrel who pays his daily visit. He gave me half a chance by hovering nearby.
I used some of the Nettle Stew to spray on the Brassicas. PHEW!!! That stuff stinks, but hopefully all the pests will think the same and stay away.
OK that's all for now folks, off for a snifter.
The Captain.

Tuesday, 19 June 2007

Allotmenticity - Tuesday 19th June

Don't speak too loud but it's stopped raining! What with Father's Day and the recent deluges of biblical proportions it's been rather difficult to get down to No87 but finally I've managed a couple of hours. Boy do those weeds love a drop of rain! Also the peas have come alive and I've just picked a good lot for a couple of lunches, along with 1 new potato plant as you can see in the orange bucket. I'm going to have to be more careful with the fork as somehow you always manage to spear a couple of the precious ones!
The rest of the spud crop has really shot up now with the recent rain and the brassicas seem to have settled in now. There's a bit of pest damage but thankfully mostly on the end of the rows. Father's Day brought a sprayer so I've given the lads a good soaking of B&Q "Death to Bugs" which will hopefully help. I'm going to try the Nettle Brew I've made as well so all you Organicheads out there calm down. The turnips are really ready now as can be seen and I'm thinning the carrots. The one failure has been the onion sets which caught something that curled the leaves and really stunted their growth, so I've boldly ripped them all out and used the bed for some Tarragon seeds, more carrots and I'm looking for Spring Cabbage. The Raspberries and Strawberries are great and I've had a couple of punnets worth which considering they were abandoned twigs when I started is pretty good. tasty too!
Big congratulations to Mike & Anna on the new Cox, Rebecca Shelley. Looks like a headache on the way wetting her head!
Thanks to Nursevon ( The nets are Brill. Photo to follow!) and The Frog Princess for the comments it's great to know someone out there appreciates my waffle.
Also thanks to M&S for there kind remarks about my use of their bags.
A voucher might have been nice!!!
And sad to hear of the death of Bernard Manning. Although he was not liked by some people, I can only say that I worked with Bernard many times and found him one of the most kind & generous guys you could meet. These people who spend their life whingeing on about Political Correctness should remember this country was built on a sense of humour and God help us if we ever lose it!!!
Moan over!
Curry night calls,
Until next time,
The Captain.