Thursday, March 30, 2006

Thursday 30th March 2006 - Weather: Bright but very windy!

Well what a perfect day to get to the plot. Although there was a gale blowing, the sun was out and in between the gusts, it was lovely and warm. It is great to finally feel the suns warmth on my face. The plot is looking great. The apple trees (Bismark and Orleans Rinhart) are all in bud, and the fruit bushes are very green. The globe artichokes are still growing. To be honest, they never really stopped! As you can see from the piccy, I have wrapped strong netting around them to try and fence them in as last summer they threatened to take over the world! I have done the same with the cardoon and she really is a monster. I grow the artichokes because I love to eat them, but also they look amazing where as the cardoon I grow only because it is stunning. Last year the bumble bees were fighting over the big purple flower, tunnelling right inside the huge spiky flower. This year I am hoping for lots of flowers. I wonder how long they would last if I cut some and brought them home? I think they would make an amazing table centre piece.

Anyhow, down to business. The plan of attack was to sow seeds. I had a selection with me of flowers and veggies. Up where I grew runner beans last year, by the old plum trees, I am going to grow flowers this year as the beans were scoffed by voles last year...however, the old plum trees are in the process of being cut down by my neighbour! Bit of a worry. Does this mean the voles will be homeless and will move even more onto my plot, or will it mean they will seek dense shelter elsewhere and move onto someone elses plot? I digress...I raked the ground over - lovely stuff! Four years of rotted compost and leaf mould has left me with lovely soft fluffy soil which after the rain and frosts has broken down into an incredibly fine tilth. I sowed Clarkia, Chrysanths, Cosmos and Calendula...all the C's! Then the other side of the path I sowed parnsips 'Gladiator', radish 'Scarlet Globe', spring onion 'Red Barren', turnips 'Snowball' and carrot 'Kingston'. I covered the carrots with fleece to prevent carrot fly damage, and to give them a warm bed so hopefully, a head start! I also scattered a few flat leaf parsley seeds amongst the remaining parsley plants as I guess they will go to seed this year. Looks like I will get a plentiful cutting before then though. Further down that patch I managed to sow another row of carrots 'Early Nantes' and a row of mixed lettuce leaves.

As I worked up and down the plot, I weeded and weeded and my compost heap is filling up nicely. All I need now are a few sacks of hot horse manure to get it going again. I picked the last of the brussel sprouts 'brilliant, and they have been! Filled a bowl! Also picked a pile of sprouting brocolli and pulled the last of the cavalo nero kale. I find this black kale bolts very quickly in spring, where the purple kale is still growing well and fresh looking. I also dug up a couple of rogue parsnips that had started to grow again, but they had a touch of canker, and weren't looking great, so they ended up on the compost heap. I have lots in the freezer so I didn't mind dumping them really.

Down the bottom end of the plot I am planning to grow all of my brassicas this year, so I sowed half a row of kohl rabi, green and purple mix. They are old seed but I thought I might as well bung them in and see if they sprout. I do have some in the greenhouse at home in little jiffy pots already growing, so maybe next visit they will go in and make up the row. I protected the row with a few slug pellets (cringe) and a wire cloche so if they do grow, the pigeons and slugs won't make a meal of them!

The spinach and swiss chard are all in full growth again and I reakon I could have a good pick from both in a week or two. I will use the kale up first as this is going over quickest. Again, I have chard seedlings and spinach seedlings in the greenhouse to go down to the allotment next visit.

No sign yet of any spuds, but it is still early, and rather chilly! Of course there are plenty of weeds growing, but I ran out of time today to see to them. Plot number 2 will get some attention next time. The onions and garlics are growing very well. I am wondering if this plot suffers from white rot like my other plot does. If not, I could get a decent harvest, however, it seems likely to suffer as I stomp from one plot to another, and I know others suffer terribly from it also.

I really do think spring is trying to spring now. As I said, inbetween blustery gales, the sun was warm on my face, and by the time I got home, my cheeks were quite ruddy. Also the birds were really making their presence felt. The ducks from the neighbouring farm were quacking and flying to and fro most of the morning. And I watched a group of wrens in the brambles hopping around for ages. Also, as I was pottering, I unearthered these two doing what comes natural at this time of they year.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Tuesday 14th March 2006 - Weather: overcast with occasional snow showers.

Well, as planned I packed up the car with broad beans and peas and after droping the munchkins at school I headed off to the allotment. As expected, I was the only 'hardened' allotmenteer there. First job of the morning, a cuppa from my flask and survey my kingdom. The ground is really looking good now after a couple of years of digging and getting loads of compost and manure in. The rhubarb is coming along very quickly, I can't wait, just love bubby crumble! Am contemplating covering a crown to force some early young shoots, but it means I need to get hold of a bin to cover them....wonder what I can scavenge.....?

Now Broad Beans 'Red Epicure'. The ground was already prepared so I planted them in 2 blocks of seven. Not many plants, but as I am the only one in this household who likes broadies, it is pointless growing hundreds of them. I would rather save the room and grow more peas and french beans. I had sown the beans in paper pots, and of course the roots had all grown through, but I think they will be okay. I also had to give them all little bamboos for support as where they had suddenly started growing fast as the weather has warmed up a touch, they were a little bendy and if they touch the ground, the slugs will have a field day! Once planted I made a bamboo frame around the plants and wrapped a layer of fleece around the outside to create a tent. This will serve (hopefully) two purposes. Firstly I will keep them snug as it is still pretty chilly at night and they have been hardened off a little, but not really as much as they probably should have been, and it will stop the pesky squirrels and Jays from eating the beans. I plan to keep the fleece on until I have finished picking, and if necessary, I can place a piece of net over the top to stop the birds trying their luck. I tell you, it is a battlefield out there!

Next, peas. Daughter sowed these about 3 weeks ago, 3 to a cell, and there must have been 99% germination success. These were destined for cloche life. Six weeks ago I made a cloche with the old greenhouse roof to warm the soil up. In the middle I had staked into the ground a wire net to support the peas. I planted the peas in a staggered row either side of the netting - 24 blocks of two to three pea seedlings. Once in, the glass 'roof' was replaced and I staked a piece of corrugated plastic at each end. This roof will stay put as peas do not need insects to pollinate them (or so I believe) but the pea moth is a pest and I do loose a lot of peas to these litte wigglers, so hopefully the protection will reduce, or prevent any moth damage. If the peas get frazzled in the sun (if it ever shows itself again!) then I do have some old net curtains and I will make a tent for the peas, similar to the broadbeas, but much closer to try and keep the moth at bay.

The next job was to get the last few spuds in. I still had a dozen Cara and 6 Orla to get in. I have run out of room over on plot 2, so decided I would plant them in a row by the shed at the very end of my plot. The ground is pretty wet there all year round, and right by my waterbutt, so I could pamper them...if I were that way inclined. I also edged the end with a couple of very long pieces of wood that have been hanging around for ages and I had forgotten about.

The, after another cuppa break I put up my supports for the Alderman Peas. These are an old fasioned variety and grow up to 6foot tall so need supporting similar to beans. I used some 7foot canes and pushed them into the ground about 2 foot apart across the bed, then using plastic coated wire I fixed strong pea netting to them. I used stones to hold the net to the ground. I will get the Aldermans sown in the next couple of weeks. I will do half the packet in cells and half the packet directly and see if the meeces ignore them!

Monday, March 13, 2006

Monday 13th March 2006 - Weather: 2 degrees but -9 windchill!

Well, as promised to me, I got to the allotment today. I had a big trug full of garden rubbish for the compost bin and my spuds desperately needed to get into the ground. I know it is a touch early really, but I have to fit these jobs in around life! The spuds were destined for planting on plot 2, gate end, and thanks to the weather, the ground was ready and waiting for me, all nicely broken down and soft. Back breaking work, but I dug my trenches, lined them with the last of my homemade compost from last year and set the spuds. I planted Valor, Desiree, Nadine, Pink Fur Apple, Kestrel, Lady Christl, Orla and Sante. I still have Cara to get in, but ran out of room! They may end up on plot 1 by the shed. Jack came and 'advised' me how to plant my spuds, and that digging a trench was a waste of time and energy, but it meant I was able to weed and get a nice lot of compost into the ground, so I was happy. (Also good exercise in the never ending exercise/diet chore!) This little job took all morning so I poured myself a coffee and went and picked the last of the red sprouts. Although they have produced loads, the sprouts never did get as big as the green ones. Okay for novelty value, but as I am pretty much alone in my love of this veg, I think I will just concentrate on green sprouts this season.

The weather must have warmed up because the weeds are all starting to grow. Plenty of creeping buttercup and forget me nots around. The ducks were making quite a racket today...wonder if something was in the field and spooking them. I am planning to pop back to the plot tomorrow to get my broadbean and pea seedlings in the ground and wrap them up in a duvet of fleece. I shall also try to remember to take the camera and take a few snaps!

NB: Carried out more seed planting over the weekend, but of course, the list is downstairs and I am up. however, I do know I have seedlings of beetroot, spring onions, sweetcorn, bright light chard, brocolli and cabbage. I also sowed some spinach, kohl rabi, chrysanths, I shall have to remember my list tomorrow and fill in the gaps. Lots went down to the greenhouse now to toughen up a bit. The tomato seedlings are now all on their first set of true leaves. The only tomato no-show is a variety called Fuzzy Wuzzy that Ruud in Holland sent me.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Monday 6th March 2006 - Weather: light dusting of snow, cleared by bright warm sunshine!

At last I was able to get out into the back garden and feel the sun on my back! I have been itching to get out there for weeks, but every time I plan a day, leave it clear, forget about the housework and chores, the ground is either frozen solid, covered in snow, or it is raining! Today however, even with a light, granular dusting of snow, I was able to get out and finish off preparing the garden for this year. I cleared the deck as I had been stashing broken pots and other odds and sods there, and then started on the garden. I edged the lawn, which makes such a difference. Also, so many weeds already. Little tufts of grass and chickweed, but it was easy peasy weeding as things are only just starting to show, so the beds are quite clear. There are plenty of lovely crocus up and about, and a small smattering of snowdrops. I really should get some more as they are a joy, but I like them best en-masse, so it looks like I might have to save my pennies and invest in a large order.

I pulled up, quite easily, an old red stemmed cornus which was quite close to the front of the bed close to the pond. I am trying to take back a few of the shrubs, and there are cornus bushes everywhere as they root so readily, wherever an old tip has touched the ground, a new plant has grown! I also pruned back the variagated acuba which keeps threatening to take over the garden. I am pleased to say that after it's rather radical haircut late last summer, it has made lots of new young fresh growth within, so I am planning to keep nibbling away at it to keep it close to the fence, a lovely backdrop for the dahlias and mecanopsis which are infront of long as the thick compost mulch I gave them in the autumn was enough for them to survive the worst of this winters weather.

The next plan was to tackle the pond. The weeds needed tidying up, leaves dredging from the bottom and the waterfall needed a little clean out. It wasn't to bad, however, we appear to only have 3 goldfish left. I know that horrible ginger Tom cat sits on the edge of the pond fishing....if I catch it....anyhow, we are going to try and create something beautiful, but cat proof to put over the pond. Netting is just so ugly...maybe something ingenius with bamboo, who knows.

One great thing about these windy winter days is it blows all the dead twigs from the weeping willow onto the lawn, so I raked all of those up and already the garden looks great. I noticed that the angelicas and dicentras are all up, hope we don't have a really cold snap as I don't want to loose them.

That was it for today - only did a half day shift, but achieved a lot. Finished the afternoon by watering the plants in the greenhouse, which are all coming along wonderfully. The Fushcia cuttings that Mary gave me are all growing rapidly, and the broadbeans that I moved from the conservatory to the greenhouse have really made a lot of growth. I really do need to get them in at the plot next week!

Just a quick little addition, once again, mumma hamster has 8 little babies. I gave them their first major clean out today as 9 hamsters in a confined space is SMELLY! They are all adoreable, and we would love to keep them, but between them, the fish, the giant stick insect and the antfarm, I think I have enough to clean out and feed and look after.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Thursday 2nd March 2006 - Weather: Snow flurries, hard frost, -1

What a cold week! Yesterday I visited one of the gardens I go to with the intention of digging the veggie patch but the ground was frozen solid, and even with the sun on it, it was still rock hard when I left. Instead I cleared and weeded along the long conifer border as the conifers had provided enough protection for the ground to still be soft. I then weeded and swept the patios and steps. A good, hard mornings work.

I am feeling harrassed at the moment after decorating number one sons room at the weekend. I don't seem to be able to get a handle on the house and it seems to be a constant tip, but today, finally I made some headway and the house is now looking straight again. The conservatory is looking great at the moment. A couple of weeks ago I picked up 4 Hyacinth bulbs from the garden centre round the corner for just 5 pence. Well, just look at them now! The scent is amazing and I know they probably aren't as tall as they should be, but for 5pence!
Here is another beauty, my Bird of Paradise. I have had this baby since I was a child, and for the last three years it has rewarded my nearly 20 years of patience with flowers. I adore it! And another conservatory triumph for me was when late last summer, my huge monster banana palm rewarded yet more patience by producing a hand of fruit! Unfortunately the summer was coming to an end, so temperatures fell and daylight hours became less and less so only a few of the fruits developed and ripened, however, as you can see, they did, and I had the great pleasure in eating a home grown, fresh and naturally ripe banana!

Of course, this is an allotment Blog, and as yet, thanks to the weather, there hasn't been much in the way of allotment chat. Well, I popped to the plot during the afternoon to see how things were doing, and I am pleased to say that it is all looking very straight and organised. Still loads and loads of crops there, and everything is growing still, even through the snow! So, home I came with a pot full of brussel sprouts - green Brilliant and purple Red Bull, and a handfull of purple sprouting brocolli. Really am hoping to spend all day up there next Tuesday and get in my 2 batches of broad beans and 2 batches of peas.