October 2012 Allotment Diary

posted in: Nature | 0

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“Necessary steps should be taken to protect and preserve the trees and plants, which grow in the areas surrounding factories and other industrial sites.  In fact, it is these trees and plants which, to a great extent, cleanse and purify the polluted atmosphere of such areas.”
Amma (From Man and Nature)
Om Namah Shivaya
Urban Wildlife

The other night we were looking out of our bedroom window onto the street below when we saw a large furry creature trundling along. After a few seconds of wondering what it was, we both realised it was in fact a badger. Now we do not live near open countryside. We live in urban Sheffield. There are a few very large gardens near us, and also the grounds of a big hotel. We think that the badgers must have their sett in one of these places. It was very, very exciting to see it. And to our joy it used the pavements so it was an urban savvy badger!

If you keep your eyes open, then you would be surprised what you can see, even in a town or city. We are lucky enough to have foxes, owls and many other birds around where we live in Sheffield.

Previously , when we worked in an urban wood in London, we ran a course for students about the postive aspects of having urban wooded areas.  Not only did we mention what Amma does in her speech above but we also talked about the benefits to people as a space to enjoy a walk, to breath in fresh air, to see wild plants, birds and insects, to hug a tree and generally to rest in.  Yes we are aware that there are many people out there who cannot see the benefits and class them as an eyesore because they are not necessarily neat, maintained or trimmed.  Or see them only as places for youths to hang out in (but youths also need fresh air and green space!). That is sad and a very narrow view of life.

Nature is continually giving us gifts in these urban settings. Stand in some train or tube stations and you see buddleia bushes, tree seedlings growing out of walls.  You see flowers arranging themselves in vacant bits of land, along the road and on verges.  Birds nest in places you would not expect – birds of prey on University buildings in Nottingham, kittiwake gulls on Tyne Bridge in Newcastle, swans on the canals in London and the small birds we all love in all manner of nooks they find to nest in, such as private post boxes. All are nature’s gift. The trees on the roads which absorb pollution give us shade in the sun, shelter in the rain and colour in the autumn. We hope to continue this topic of urban wildlife next month.

Allotment Diary 
The harvest has finally picked up after a very poor summer, but now it is time for everything to wind down again, as we move into autumn. Most of the plants are getting ready to go to sleep, or in the case of the plants from warmer climate, they just die off.
We have picked 4 nice marrows. The biggest weighs 9lbs! This is a bit too big, and we would probably have been better off picking it sooner. If you leave them uncut in storage, then they can last for months. Once you cut them open to use, then their lifespan is shortened, and you have to use them quickly before they go off. Either that or they take up a lot of fridge space. The others are 6 or 7 lbs which is better (but big enough!).  The marrows come from our courgette plants, we have just left courgettes to grow very big. Then we cut them off with a lot of stalk, and put them in a sunny place indoors until the skin hardens. We also soak the stalk in vinegar, as when they start to go off, the rot always starts at the stalk. Then they go into a cool (but not cold) room to store.
The beetroot has started to come into its own. We have pickled some and dried some already, as well as making dinner from them, and putting them in sandwiches and salads. Apparently beetroot ice cream is very nice, believe it or not. You only put a small amount in the recipe so as to not overwhelm it. We have not tried it yet, but it does come recommended.
Ours temperate climate crops such as peas and cabbage have both done very well, albeit with some slug damage to the cabbage. Our kale, cauliflower, broccoli and spinach are all doing quite well. We have been harvesting kale and spinach.

The 3 pumpkin plants have 1 pumpkin each, which are all turning orange. Our butternut squash looks like it will not produce anything this year, which is no surprise as it is very sensitive to cool weather. We have just been told of a squash very similar to butternut, called harrier, which is a bit more suitable for northern parts of Britain. We shall try this next year and not do butternut, as it is very hit and miss for us up here. Here is a photo of out pumkins. The leaves of the plants have been blackened by an early frost last night.

The soft fruit continues to do well, with both the blackberries and raspberries producing a lot of fruit. One of our apple trees has a good crop of apples on it. Here it is below.

Finally in the greenhouse the tomatoes are doing much better than we thought they would, we have picked quite about 6 lbs so far. The aubergines and peppers have been very slow, but all have some nice fruits on them. The cucumber plants seem to be finishing before the others, but again we have had a few pounds of cucumbers this year off them.
As we finish harvesting crops we are attempting to put green manure down. This means sowing a plant in the space that will not be used as a food crop, but will instead be left to grow and then dug in to increase the amount of organic matter in the soil. The green manure also reduces problems with weeds as it covers the soil and so protects it.
This is also the time of year for making pickles, relishes and jams and for bottling more fruit. We have managed to do some of this recently, pickling beetroot, cucumber, and bottling raspberries and blackberries. We have also dried beetroot and courgette with our vegetable and fruit dehydrator. The courgettes were cut into 1/8 inch wide strips before drying. This means that when they are put into a dish to rehydrate they have to be put in just before cooking finishes, as if they are cooked for too long then they will disintegrate into nothing!

Finally here is a photo of a rowan tree in the Peak District National Park in all its glories laden with berries.

Om Amriteshwaryai Namaha

Richard and Kaivalya

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