Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Monday 24th April 2006 - Weather: Overcast but warm

Wow the birds were noisy today, and a swan flew over....gotta say, I wondered what the hell it was! In the distance I could hear a whoop whoop whoop noise and it got steadily louder. I thought aliens were about to land, and then I saw her - gorgeous, pure white, elegantly flying above my head and the noise that she was making as she flapped those huge wings was astounding!

Anyhow, down to business. Main job of the day really was to get the tomato house roof on. Following on from others, I now have a roof over a wooden framework in which I grow my toms. The theory behind it is as no rain falls onto the tomato plants, blight spores carried in the rain do not infect the plants. Also humidity around the plants is almost non existance, so again, preventing the start of blight. Last year we had a HUGE crop from all of our toms, so I am keeping everything crossed for the same result this year - especially as we have just run out of frozen tomato pulp!

Thankfully I had a couple of long sheets of clear corrugated plastic for the roof which I screwed down and then using some thick green netting, I created a guttering to collect any rain that falls into a bin. We have no tapped water so I really need to collect every drop I can. Obviously I used plastic sheeting inside the netting to catch the water, the netting just provided the gutter shape until such times as I can scavenge some gutter pipes.

Very pleased with the tom house, so I weeded around the spuds and earthed up the first 2 rows that are poking through. Then Jack came over. He kindly gave me 2 huge beetroot to try which he grew last year and then stored in a clamp on his plot. (I baked them in the oven this evening wrapped in foil for a good 4 hours as they were monsters! Have never tried cooking them this way but it was recommended. I will post back how they were) He also gave me a nice new tap for my water but as some nice creature at some point chewed the tap up and then with use, the handle turny bit has snapped off. It is still useable, but very hard and hurts! Hubby will have to undertake that massive job at some point as the whole butt needs emptying, the top sawing off as it doesn't have a lid but is a sealed unit, fixing the new tap, and then making a lid and repositioning the butt so it can collect maximum water.

Now the maintenance was complete I planted a row of lettuce, sowed 2 rows of beetroot 'red ace' and sprinkled a patch of candytuft seed in a bare patch in the brassica patch. I also planted a row of Bright lights swiss chard over on plot number 2 to create a hedge along the elderberry boundary.

The rain and warm sunshine had really moved things on. My garlics are standing tall and strong and I can see the autumn planted onion sets are begining to bulb up. As I mentioned, the spuds have started coming through, some quicker than others, and I have a lovely strong row of mixed lettuce leaves growing. The seedlings I planted over the last couple of weeks have all benefited from the rain and are all looking lush. Of course the grass paths are now in full growth so I really must look into getting a cheap little petrol mower to just run around the edges. The boarding around my plots is helping but over on plot number 2 I am currently next to a vacant plot so the path is hardly used, so of course the grass is like a meadow! I wonder if I could ask Jack to walk along it with his mower for me....I could give him some petrol money....I will have to ask.

Roy has given up his allotment now as he has had 2 replacement hips and is wobbly on his feet and is worried that if he were to fall over, knowing how quiet our site is, he could be stuck for some time. Apparently a young couple have taken over, but I am yet to see them. Of course, I miss a lot of people as they work their plots at the weekend, whereas I am a week-a-day allotmenteer.

So, the plan for my next visit, which will be sometime week commencing Monday 1st May, plant my runner beans and give them a fleece wrap for a week or two; plant a few tomato plants and use the greenhouse roof cloche to protect them for a week or two; plant a selection of squashes and give them pop bottle cloches for a week or two, to protect them from the weather and the constant march of the slugs; earth up spuds as necessary; and sow more salads and peas. My sweetcorn hasn't germinated yet - but hopefully it will by the weekend, and that will go out in about 14 or so days, along with the rest of my squashes and tomatos. Now somewhere in all of this I need to erect a few bamboo wigwams as I have lots of unusual beans germinating and nowhere to grow them!

Friday, April 21, 2006

Friday 21st April 2006 - Weather: bright and sunny!

What a perfect day to spend on the allotment! Lots to do so as soon as the kids were tucked up safely at school, I shot off to the plot and was there just before 9am. As usual, I was alone but Jack was next door in Loretta's garden cutting the grass and Ken from the other side of the site came over and mowed his paths.

Glad to report the slugs and the pigeons haven't decimated all of my newly planted brassica's.....yet! So, first things first, get planting. So much to catch up with so I knuckled down and cleared all of the old bolted cabbages and sprout plants and got them onto the compost heap. I forked the patch over, raked it down, and planted number one daughters 'Mini-Pop' sweetcorn. These are the baby corns that you pick before they are mature. I know it is still early, but then were becoming pot bound so I wanted to get them out, but as a safety measure, they have a lovely fleece duvet to keep them cosy. Next I planted a dozen white haricot beans. Again, early I know, but they are snuggled up alongside the apple tree and I put pop bottle cloches over them to keep them warm for a week or so. In went a dozen celeriac seedlings, still tiny and I forgot to put any slug protection down, so they might be all gone already!

The broad beans have flowers on now so I removed the fleece jacket and replaced it with chicken wire. I am hoping that this tight fitting prickly wire wrap will keep squirrels, mice and birds off the beans so this year I can get some! The peas under the glass cloches are now nearly a foot tall and have flower buds appearing. Hoping for an early picking as they have been kept so warm. The other peas that were sown direct have now germinated. It looks like the mouse or vole has had some, but I sowed thickly to compensate for losses. I really don't know what to do about these little furry critters. I don't like to trap them on the allotment, I figure the cycle should work if I don't interferre, but these little whiskered pests don't seem to appreciate my lenience.

The strawberry plants are now all in flower and had lots of bees buzzing around so I weeded around them and did my usual trick, planting 'Bright Lights' Swiss chard in amongst them. Well, it seems like such a waste of good planting areas! I also weeded and tidied the rapsberry canes and around the rather spiteful gooseberry bushes. Looks like it could be a good year for berries as already there are masses of flowers and teeny immature fruitlets. The apple blossom hasn't opened yet but I am sure it is only a matter of days. The apple trees at home aren't in flower yet - only the cherry trees are.

I marked out the bed that the main 'tender and true' sweetcorn will go because if I don't, I am likely to plant in it and then have a panic on when I have 60 plants and no where to plant them.

I sowed carrots 'early nantes', beetroot 'detroit', radish 'french breakfast', lettuce 'australian yellow leaf' and spring onions 'white lisbon'. I then squeezed in a row of peas down at the bottom of the plot when I planted an emergency row of spuds. Another row of lettuce plantlets were planted in between the brassicas - they should be long gone before the brassicas are big enough to cause competition. I also sowed some dwarf french beans called sprite. They were given to us by one of his workmates, and they went out of date in 1998 so I have no idea if they will germinate or it the mice will just scoff them all! However, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

On to plot number two. The onions and garlic are looking fab. Really pleased as the white rot on plot number one really takes it's toll. I weeded around them and up around the daff bulbs which are now going over. There are a couple of rogue ones - smaller flowers, more white with dark orange trumpets. They smell gorgeous and the buzzy things were having a great time. I had to carry out some minor repairs to the runner bean/tomato house and now we need to sort out a roof for it. It needs to be clear to let in the light, but not let in the rain. This is the only way I know to reduce the risk of blight.

I picked a carrier bag full of purple sprouting brocolli - a really good value crop, a pile of rhubarb, the last of the red kale, some lettuce and a couple of spring onions. By 3pm my hands were sore, my legs aching and I was gasping for a cuppa as my flask had been emptied at lunch time. Bag again next week as I have lots more seedlings to get in. I really need to keep on sowing and planting and harvesting as things are ready.

On the wildlife front, the male mallard duck is still around - he came for a chat when I first arrived, then flew up into his tree stump and watched proceedings for a while. Plus I had the great satisfaction of squishing many, many slugs! Some whoppers and lots of tiddlers. Every little helps. A coot was wandering around the site - wish he would eat the slugs, and the Jays and Magpies were making a real racket in the woods.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Good Friday 2006 - Weather: wet start, brightening up by lunch time

Today my darling offered to spend some quality time with the children so I could get to the allotment for a couple of hours. I had lots to plant, and also as I haven't been for a few weeks I really wanted to check out what was going on up there.

I assumed, being Good Friday it would be quite busy on the site, and sure enough, Jack, Geoff and another couple were busy working away. Traditionally, today is spud planting day, but as I had already done that, for me, today was cauliflower planting day! I cleared the last of the celeriac and celery - the celeriac went into the trug to come home, the celery went onto the compost heap, raked the patch and then got all of my caulis and purple sprouting brocolli planted. Now, I like to make the most of my little patch of mother earth, so planted in between the brassicas I planted two rows of lakeland lettuce which I had started at home in modules. They will have been picked long before the caulis and brocs do their thing. The nine star perrenial brocolli is putting on some serious growth now. I guess it will start cropping this summer/autumn and continue for a couple of years. As I busilly planted I could hear the gentle cooo cooo of the pigeons, all gathering for front row seats at the Brassica Brasserie, so a very Heath Robinson netting structure was rapidly put into place. Just hope it is secure enough! I forgot my camera so have no pics, but will pop down again over the weekend just to see how they are going, and will take some snaps then.

I planted a couple of rows of Red Bull beetroot which I started in the greenhouse in the little peat jiffy pots, just as an experiment really. I didn't have time to get the spring onions in, but I did sow another row of mixed lettuce leaves to try and keep a nice frsh continuous crop over the summer and into the autumn.

I check the peas which I planted a few weeks back and covered with corregated plastic and extra fine netting, and they are all up with is great! Fingers and toes crossed I have out witted the Vole family for now. I lifted the corregated plastic, but left it at an angle, keeping the young sprouts cosy, and protected from the dissapointed pigeons! We also have a friendly pheasant on the site, and of course he will graze away quite happily on all the young plants! And now, to join the zoo, there appears to be a pair of mallards nesting in an old tree stump behind my shed!

As I left I noticed a nicely spaced row of radish are up - I will have to either fleece them to keep the flea beetle off, or use a dusting of derris powder. The garlics are looking lovely and strong and I have some potash to sprinkle around them next visit. Also next visit I need to remember to take a battery drill, mini step ladder and some screws as my tomato/bean structure has bowed in the winter winds and needs shoring up. It will be fine - I am a dab hand at inventing protective growing structures that all the old fellas laugh at!