My folks turned up with a punnet of Castlemorton Common sloes at the weekend. I noted last year how early the sloes were ripening but this year they’re on rocket fuel. This lot were found on Saturday at a service station on the M40 near London; if you can find them in a service station, you can find them anywhere. Get picking!
Sloes can go in the freezer until you’re ready to use them. The rule for sloe gin / sloe vodka is 4 parts booze, 2 parts sloes, 1 part sugar, or find the recipe here.
I’ve been concentrating my harvesting efforts elsewhere. We pulled out first carrots this week, a minor personal achievement given that last year not a single one germinated. They’re knobbly, hairy, multi-coloured and brilliant. With them the first baby leeks, pale jade and pungent.
I wanted to clear out the green patch to make room for the new seedlings, so up came the beetroot. Truth be told, I’m not keen on our beets – so earthy that you might as well be eating soil. But they’re pretty enough and they’ve kept me in beet tops since May.
The first corn of the year has been plucked! The rest still need a bit of sun to tip them into ripeness but this one was boiled for five minutes before being bathed in salted butter. Perfection.
But down to business. It seems that the wet August has been bonanza month for the slugs and bugs. At least 20 slugs went into the compost yesterday after they were discovered nestling in the folds of chicory and chard. They were MASSIVE, dark grey with orange edging around their sucker pads. Even the greenhouse isn’t safe, the seed trays proving themselves to be a refuge for molluscs and a nursery for caterpillars.
So I set to making a brassica protection system, mostly to guard against Cabbage White butterflies (and their offspring) but also to ward off said slugs, birds, whitefly and even the fox. First, we need some bamboo hoops.
Then some super-fine mesh. This claims to keep out everything, including the smallest of whitefly.
Put them together and we have…. a rickety cage of sorts! It’s not as sturdy or attractive as some you can buy, but it’s loads prettier than blue water pipe-based cages that are endemic across the allotment.
I planted out the winter greens that were sown just a few weeks ago – mustard greens, winter lettuce, kale, mustard spinach. They’re still tiny so I’ve kept lots of seedlings back, just in case.
Matt’s brassicas have been re-netted, although they’ve already been eaten by some critter or other. The race is on: whose brassicas will be best?
Ripped out: Chioggia beets, bright lights chard, thinned the chicory to see if it will hearten up
Planted out: red kale, mustard mix, mustard spinach, winter lettuce
Also: re-netted Matt’s brassicas, protected the cavalo nero, mustards, lettuce
All looking good! – Have to say though I have the super fine mesh and if you leave the tiniest way in those darn white fly are in!
Yes I am not convinced either! I used the advice of Alys Fowler in the Guardian to get this type of netting. Apparently she plays bike polo with a friend of ours, odd but true.