Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Wednesday 18th April 2007 - Weather: hot and sunny

Well after a cloudy but warm day yesterday, today was sunny but breezy. Fabulous weather considering it is still only April. I couldn't work today as I had to wait in for Argos to deliver our new exercise machine and for British Gas to come and service the boiler. They were both due between 7am and 12noon, and both had been and gone by 11, so quick change and off to the plot.

Jack was on site today, haven't seen him for months. Had a little chat, I meant to ask him for some straw for my strawbs, but I forgot. I could do with getting a bale anyhow as the kids want to make new scarecrows.

Down to business. First job of the day, dig the final bed on plot 2 and get the spinach plantlets in. A lovely row of strong plants. I won't necessarily keep them all, but they do provide nice summer salad leaves when young, then I will pull out plants as I need to space, leaving just a couple for later in the year. To be honest, I prefer the chards as they are more bulky, have a better flavour, and look pretty. There is still planting room in this bed for the other seedlings which are growing away at home in the greenhouse.

Next on the list, watering. I can't believe I am watering in April! Where are those April showers and whoever has them, could we have them back now please?! Still no show from the parsnips, radish, spring onions, beetroot or carrots, but the rocket, salad bowl leaves and turnips are all up. Hopefully a drop or two of water will get the seeds going.

I planted a few runner bean seeds and protected them with glass panes, just to see if they germinate and get away. It will only be another 2 weeks and I will be planting the first half of the main crop. I will plant the first proper batch at the start of May, then a second lot at the start of June. Hopefully this should carry us over. I am going to grow more French beans than runners though as I find them much more versatile and delicious.

The cabbages and lettuce that I planted yesterday are all looking great and perky which is very satisfying.

Back to plot one and I cleared all of the purple sprouting brocolli as it has finished now. I still have the 9star and white sprouting. Clearing the PSB enabled me to get another few rows of spuds in, so today I planted Pink Fur Apple, Maxine, and Annabel. I still have a few odd tubers left which I will bung in when I have a bit of cleared ground, plus 2 or 3 rows worth of Lady Christl, so I need to get the white sprouting out soonish to get them in.

Saddad from the A4all website kindly sent me some Sorrel for the plot - a veg I have never grown before. He sent me Buckler leaf and red leaf I believe, and they were both planted infront of Supersprouts artichokes. The reason I decided to grow Sorrel was due to the TV program The Big Dig, which I am really enjoying. Discussion on the board started and as I love my salads and greens, it seemed like I was missing out on something special. Not any more!

I spent a while tidying up the strawberries, getting out the darn buttercup that seems determined to take over my allotment, and I moved a couple of stray plants. I gave them a good watering so hopefully they don't know they have been moved and they will continue to grow. There are plenty of flowers, so hopefully we will get a good harvest from them. All the soft fruit is laden with flowers and the apple trees are packed with blossom, so, providing we don't get a sudden cold snap, and the bees and other pollinators do their thing, 2007 will be a good fruity year.

As I was leaving I glanced at the globe artichokes, and what do you know, the first globe is forming nicely. Ten days or so and I shall be enjoying that one. And speaking of artichokes, the Jerusalem fartichokes that Supersprout sent me are through and growing.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Tuesday 17th April 2007 - Weather: Overcast but warm!

I worked this morning so arrived at the allotment just after 12noon. The sky was very dark and heavy and it was quite a muggy afternoon. Today's challenge, get those brassicas in the ground. The new brassica bed is on plot number 2 over with the onions. The theory is, the leeks and Japanese onions will be out of the ground by June leaving me ample room for brussel sprouts and brocolli and any other brassicas that I manage to get planted. The garlic and shallots will be around a bit longer, but I don't think they will cause a problem. The only weeds in this area were buttercups and the volunteer spuds that were left behind last year. Makes me sooooo cross when I dig up a potato volunteer and find a huge, gorgeous, damage free spud that would have been super last autumn. Anyhow, I was rewarded with a handful of little new pots - I reakon they were red duke of york. My darling had them with his chop for supper.

I planted 14 red cabbage and 14 cabbage 'Greyhound'. These are a bit of a cheat as I bought these as already growing plantlets from the nursery. I have completely failed 3 sowings of cabbage this spring, so rather than get left behind, I spend a whole five pound note and treated myself to these. Twenty eight cabbages for a fiver must be good value? I have sat here for ages trying to work out how much each cabbage would cost, but my maths fails me....never did get my o'level in it.

In between these 2 rows I planted Oak leaf lettuce which I had started at home in the greenhouse. Hopefully they will have been harvested long before the cabbages become big.

Finally I planted my cauliflowers 'All the year round'. I have been told that these are a good do-er, and as I have struggled with summer caulis, we shall see.

Everything was watered in, a little lime was scattered and the netting was erected. Have to say, GREAT netting! I brought some net from the aquatic shop for £20. It is netting to cover a pond to keep herons and cats out. Don't ask the measurements, I forgot to look, but it came in a large bag, with 16 or so pegs, it was double the width of my allotment and hugely wide, meaning I was able to net the brassicas in one easy swoop. Definately going to pick up another one when I am there.

Everything that is in and growing, is growing well. The 'Fortune' peas that I planted a couple of weeks ago are coming on well, and the Swiss Chard 'Bright Lights' has overwintered beautifully and will keep us in greens until the spinach grows.

Time was pressing on, so a quick harvest before hot footing it to school to collect the nippers. Picked the last of the purple sprouting brocolli, took my first harvest from the 9 star perennial brocolli, picked my first ever amazing cauliflower and gathered some rhubarb. Considering I was only there for two and a half hours, I think I achieved a lot. Next visit I am going to get the last of my spuds in now that the PSB has all finished.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Friday 13th April 2007 - Weather: overcast but lovely and warm

Adding a couple of photos of the pond. It is now in the final stages and is as twee as can bee! I think my darling would like it to be slightly more grown up, but I like it to be fun, and once the plants all grow I think it will look more settled. (It is the floating plastic ducks he dislikes, but they are the childrens!) At the very front, before the new turf I have raked the ground hard, top dessed the grassy area and reseeded it. The area was quite bald anyhow due to an old climbing frame we had there, and after all the work, what was left of the grass was in pretty bad shape. I will post a photo in a few weeks once this all greens up and the pond plants start to grow.

To the left of the pond as you look at it is a boggy area which now has 2 gunneras planted. The dark looking soil is actually upturned turves that were left over. They will help keep the soil in place whilst everything roots, and will break down and enrich the soil for the bog lovers. At the base is a slate retaining wall. The gunneras are covered in old fern fronds at the moment just until no more frosts are threatened.

To the right is the pot on it's side full of pebbles which has water trickling from it. Here we get the sound of running water and the pond receives some oxygen.

The leaping green fish was mums, given to her by nan, and now it is in our pond looking rather splendid I think. Some of the plants we have are marsh marigolds, a selection of different iris, including a varigated one which I received from Shirlton on the a4all site. There are a couple of reeds, couple of lillies, arrowleaf, umbrella leaf (I have no idea what those two's proper names are) and a few other bits and bobs. I would like the whole back shelf full and at least another 2 waterlillies, but they don't come cheap, so will keep my eyes peeled on things like Freecycle and sales.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Easter Weekend 2007 - Weather - splendid!
This is a little add on to the usual allotment stuff just to mention our new and improved pond at home. We have really done the majority of the work over this Easter weekend. We had a small pond (I will have to try and find a photo), but it really didn't work for us. The fish struggled as room was tight, I wanted much more planting, and the space around it really wasn't being used to it's full potential, so, out with the old pond, and in with the new!

We created a much larger pond - 12 foot long and 7 foot wide. I don't know how deep! There is a large shelf at the back of the pond for marginal plants. This is about calf deep. Then the deeper part at the front of the pond is about mid thigh deep.....this is on 5 foot 3 inches tall!
The original pond was edged with brand new sleepers, but although this kept the kids out, it did look very unatural and made the pond dark. This time we have edged the pond with turf around the front and slate tiles around the back.

To keep the pond clean we have a UV filter and a pump shifting the water through it and then back out again through a pot filled with pebbles. This gives up the trickling sound that I wanted, and helps oxygenate the water.

We have a few plants in there - mostly plants that have been given to us, but I plan eventually to totally fill the rear shelf with greenery. I also have 2 small waterlillies. Again, want more, but these don't come cheap so will have to bide my time.

I will add more photos tomorrow, as I did all the planting up today, and forgot to take any snaps!

Monday 9th April 2007 - Weather: Glorious!

Oh what a beeeeeeee-utiful day! This Easter weekend has been splendid. I was up with the lark today - alarm went off just after 6am and I was on the plot just after 7am. I wanted an early start as I only had until noon as the old boy was off to Southend to join in with all the other bikers. Amazingly for me, not only did I keep notes, but I also took photos!

The broadbean plants that I set out last visit are looking great. All upright and rigid. I still had about 18 seeds left so inbetween each plant, I planted 2 seeds. Hopefully the voles/mice won't get them.

No show of parsnips or radish sown last visit, but that was only 10 days ago...although I thought the radish might have been up by now. I decided to take advantage of the slow growing parsnips, and following on from the half a row of radish that I sowed inbetween the rows of 'snips, I completed the row with a sowing of Lettuce 'Little Gem'.

The sweetpeas that I planted on plot number 2 all looked nicely settled in, and I have now planted a row of Peas 'Fortune' inbetween. I am trying to make much more use of every available space this year. In front of the sweetpeas/peas I forked over a bed the entire width of the allotment and raked it level. The ground is very wet still. I then constructed a 6 foot high netting support and sowed a 4 seed deep bed of Peas 'Alderman'. I will start another batch of Alderman off in the greenhouse in a couple of weeks time to try and get a more continuous crop of peas. I always forget to sow more peas, and they are so great, but so short and sweet.

More digging. Next to the parsnip bed, again on plot 2, I dug over another bed. This is going to be the carrot bed. I plan to broadcast sow my carrots within this bed and will do a packet everytime I visit the allotment. I had about half a packet of Carrots 'Early Nantes 2' so they went in today. I then sowed a row of Spring Onion 'Toga', a red salad onion, along the edge of the section I had just sown carrots in. I am hoping that this will help reduce the carrot fly, but again, trying to make maximum use of every square inch of space! The carrot bed is about 6 foot wide and is the entire width of the allotment so it should be able to take a fair number of carrots....well that is the plan! I will cover them with fleece to also keep the carrot fly off, but I forgot to take scissors to the plot, and my new fleece is waaaaaaay to wide and long so I want to cut it rather than waste it. As this whole bed is only going to fill gradually, I did sow a short row of Radish 'rainbow mix' at the very end.

Getting exhausted now, but I dug another bed, same dimensions as the carrot bed. I did dig this entire plot in the autumn, but as our soil is pretty heavy and wet, it really compacts down, so I find it needs forking through before sowing seeds, especially for the root crops. This is a busy bed! In here I sowed half a row Lettuce 'salad bowl', a whole row of Beetroot 'Detroit and Bulls Blood', half a row of Beetroot 'Opolski', sent to me in late winter by Super Sprout, and a whole row of Turnips 'Purple Top Globe'.

No more digging now - flagging. I tied in the bamboos for the runner beans. I know this is still very early, but if I get all of these jobs done early, when the time comes to plant, if I am short of time, I can get more done. I must say, getting the bean poles in for me, always makes an allotment look 'proper'!

I brought a big old tub of pelleted chicken manure, so the onions, garlic, rhubarb, daffs, peas, broadbeans and globe artichokes all got a couple of handfuls. Should give them all a nice boost.

Last job of the day - harvesting and just standing back and looking at how things are going. The purple sprouting is almost over now, but the white sprouting and 9 star broc is just starting to take over. Also I have 2 caulis, which I am thrilled about as I am yet to succesfully grow cauliflowers on the allotment. Fingers crossed they keep growing. The globe artichokes didn't die down at all over the winter, and the cardoon suffered in the drought last summer, but in the autumn it started leafing up again, and that to has been loud and proud all winter through. The daffs are coming to an end - they have been a joy, and provided me with over 8 vases of cut flowers for the house. I have gladioli in the ground next to them, so heres hoping they do as well.

As usual, saw so many birds, and heard even more! There was a lot of shooting on the farm first thing, getting those pigeons I imagine. But when all was quiet, woody woodpecker tap tap tapped all morning through!

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Friday 30th March 2007 - Weather: wet and windy!

What a miserable day! bbbrrr. However, I had given myself the day off and promised I would spend some serious time on the allotment, so off I went.

First job really was sorting out the brassica bed as a lot of the cabbages and kale had gone to seed and some purple sprouting had finished, so out they came and I started digging. Back breaking work! Because I tromp the ground down on the brassica bed during planting to keep them growing tough, the ground was like concrete. However, I got it smashed down and weeded and I planted a double row of 'Red Epicure' Broad Beans. As I am the only fan of broadies, I don't mind growing fancy ones. I harvested a carrier bag packed full of purple sprouting, and I am glad to report I have 4 cauliflowers, the nine star perrenial broc is starting to head up and the white sprouting has lovely little flowers coming, so the greens should keep going well into late spring. That is the one thing about the seasons climate changing, the 'hungry gap' doesn't seem as long.

I still have loads of spuds to get in, so the next plan was to try and dig another area and get another 2 rows in. Two rows of 'International Kidney' potatoes are in to join the 'Kestrel' that I planted a couple of weeks ago. This leaves me with Pink Fur Apple, Vanessa, Lady Christl and Maxine to get in. I have no idea where yet! I always over do it with the spuds.

I cleared 60 leeks to make room for the potatoes, and this year they are fab. Thick and strong and no sign of rust - the air circulation must be much better up the far end of the allotment. I still have about 50 leeks in the ground over on plot 2, but there is no rush to clear them as I don't need the space at the moment. However, that will be the brassica bed, so their days are numbered.

Over on plot number 2 I forked over an area so I could get 2 rows of 'Tender and True' parsnips sown. I feel like I am very late with everything, but the cold and wet has held me up. Still, things always seem to catch up. I also sowed a short row of 'Big Ben' Radishes in between the 'snips to go with the early cut and come again lettuce that is growing in a trough at home in the greenhouse.

The final job was to plant my sweetpeas. I am determined to grow a few more flowers on the plot as they look great, cheer me up no end, encourage all the good bugs, and give me pretty flowers to bring home so I had a selection of sweetpeas germinated and growing strong in pots at home, and they are now planted up against netting on plot number 2. I also have 20 giant yellow sunflowers in pots at home in the greenhouse as I would like to do an entire row of them like you see in France.

I was hoping to get up there today (Wednesday) with the urchins, but they weren't terribly keen, so I did some pottering in the greenhouse - potted on some red hibiscus I have grown from seed, and spinach, gave everything a good watering and then continued digging the new pond! I will post photos of the ponds progress over the weekend as fingers crossed, by then the sand and lining will be in.

Last piece of news for now - finally I have an appointment to go to the hernia clinic on 3rd May. Hopefully they will decide what to do about it and then I should get a date for the operation. I can't imagine it will be this side of the summer, so by the time I am layed up for a couple of weeks, hopefully things will be quiet on the allotment. Anyhow, mum is coming to stay, so I shall have to boss her around and get her doing my weeding for me.