Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Monday 25th June 2007 - Weather: rain rain rain

Firstly, the hernia is now history! Went into Broomfield hospital at 12.30 on Wednesday 20th, and was rolled into theatre at 1.45. The hernia was a lot bigger than the surgeon anticipated and there is some nerve damage, but I am now stapled together (gross) with 18 staples (OUCH!) and am under strict orders to do as little as possible for 6 weeks. Couldn't do keyhole due to the size and situation of the hernia, so will have a large scar at the end of it, but I am healing now, which means by the autumn, digging time, I should be as fit as a fiddle and ready to dig to my hearts desire.
Anyhow, mum wanted to take some salad, strawbs and spuds home with her, so we went up to the plot together and I hobbled around giving her orders. Filled a carrier with International Kidney spuds, picked 2 courgettes, the first yellow of the season, filled a punnet with strawbs, another with raspberries, and cut a huge lettuce. Also picked a handful of peas, but by then I was sore and mum was exhausted, so that was the end of the flying visit. I will have to drag the whole family up there at the weekened as there were several baby courgettes that will be ready for cutting, strawberries and raspberries to pick and salads galore.

Tuesday 19th June 2007 - Weather: hot enough for me to get sunburnt!

Sports day was cancelled - Yippee - so arrived at the plot just before 9am. Todays mission, to weed, seed, clear, plant and harvest everything that I could as I am going to have to be allotment idle for a month or 2. So first job of the day, completely weed the top half of plot number 2. This meant getting inside the brassica cages and having a good clear out. In the area that I had cleared of onions I planted 2 varieties of sweetcorn that my friend John Miller sent me, a rainbow corn and a ruby red corn. Hope they grow well, even to just get a few cobs would be amazing. That would certainly suprise the kids at tea time. To seperate the two corn blocks I sowed 2 rows of Alderman climbing peas, a great variety that can get up to 6 foot tall and produces long pods with 10 or more peas per pod, and a row of lettuces.

Next I hoed around the tomato plants - not something I am very good at, but I figure if I practise enough, I will get the hang of it eventually. Plenty of flowers on all the plants which is a great sign. No fruit yet, but once they start there will be no stopping them. The runner beans along the other side of the tomatos are all through and some are running at long last. A couple of really early ones have flowers so we may get a few beans in a couple of weeks time.

The front end of plot number 2 is all seeds, so I started at the start and hand weeded throughout. At last, a whole row of parsnips. Nicely spaced also, so I won't bother thinning. Little gems and spring onions all growing nicely. Sowed some more salad crops along side the parnsips. The carrots are very patchy, so after weeding I sowed another 3 packets and gently raked them in the gaps. I am hopeful that by all this staggered sowing I will be pulling carrots into the new year. The spring onions and maincrop onions that are planted around the edge of the carrot patch are all growing well, and I sowed 2 more rows of red spring onions at either end of the carrot bed to coincide with the bountiful harvest (fingers crossed) of toms and other salads. Plenty of turnips germinated, along with radish and beetroot. The beets have been really slow to start. I blame the very dry April, however, they are growing fast now, especially with all of this rain, so when my toms are ready, I should have a lovely crop of beetroot to enjoy. The lettuce are turning into monsters. Normally these bolt really quickly as I cannot provide them with enough water, but due to this wettest of wet Junes, they haven't run to seed, and are big enough to feed a family of 10, and I have about 60 of them! As you can imagine, I am eating salads at every meal. Good job I like them. I have a loose leaf, lime green variety which I think was called salad bowl, and a red oak leaf variety which is actully getting a nice heart. There are also several rows of cut 'n' come again leaves and little gems. I have sown more, so again, fingers crossed that when the toms and beets are ready, I will still have lettuce. Pea pods are starting to fill so daughter number ones favourite home grown veg should be ready in a week or so. Oiked out the entire row of spinach as it had all bolted. Don't know why I try such an early sowing of spinach. I shall sow some when we get home from our hols inthe summer at the same time as my oriental greens. The french beans are all covered in flowers so they shall start cropping in 2 or 3 weeks time.

Next onto plot numero uno. Hoed around the squashes, carefully, and put a tray under my soon to be GIANT MARROW! Again, with all this rain, it could either take over the entire allotment, or rot, but nothing ventured nothing gained. Had a good look at all the squashes and it seems that most plants have flowers and immature fruits. The swiss chard that is on the squash bed is all growing well, no signs of bolting.

Picked strawberries, even those that had only just started colouring up. Better that they come home and ripen rather than stay on the plot and rot if they don't get picked quickly. Then filled up a punnet with raspberries. These have been amazing. Yes, you guessed it, the rain! My fruit cage has worked brilliantly and everything is ripening up nicely. Dug up a sack full of International Kidney new potatoes. These are the Jersey Royal new pots, and they are huge. I should have dug them up about 2 weeks earlier, but at least I don't have to scrub as many for a meal.

By the time 2.30 rolled along, I was sunburnt, knackered, but the allotment was looking grand. All ready for me to leave it to it's own devices for a while, whilst I recover from my hernia surgery!

Monday, June 18, 2007

Monday 18th June 2007 - Weather: Warm but overcast

Only had an hour to play with today as I worked until just gone 1, so arrived on the plot about 1.20, scoffed lunch and headed over to plot number 2. Plan of attack for this hour, dig up all volunteer spuds and clean the last of the overwintering Japanese Onions. I need this area to plant the last of my sweetcorn and sow some more seeds.

First job though was rather gross.....I spotted what I assumed was a dead rat in my waterbutt, however, when I grimly lifted it out using my fork, it was actually a large male squirrel.....so a tree rat. It was flung into the undergrowth to feed any foxes or other critters that fancied it. Bleugh!

Something I am going to do whilst recovering from my operation is study weeds so I know what I have growing on the allotment. Yes, I know I have horse tail, bindweed and nettles, but there is a grown covering, strangling annual beast with pretty little orange flowers. I have no idea what it is! It is everywhere on plot number 2, so that is all coming up. Fortunately it comes up easily and is very satisfying because grabbing a handful clears a large area.

By the time I left at 2.30, this whole area, so a third of plot number 2, was clear and weeded. I managed to fill to carrier bags, one with onions, the other with spuds which is a bonus. I also weeded all around my red maincrop onions and shallots. Looked very neat by the time I walked away.

Sports day has been cancelled tomorrow due to inclement weather, so whatever the weather, I will be spending the entire day on the allotment working very, very hard indeed!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Sunday 17th June 2007 - Weather: Overcast but warm and muggy


Today was a mad dash visit as we had mates coming over for a BBQ and I wanted to dig some new spuds and pick any ripe strawbs. Well, thanks to all the rain and warm muggy weather I have a possitive plantation of weeds! Boy am I going to be busy on Tuesday weeding getting things tidy before my op on Wednesday. I picked nearly 6Ib of ripe strawberries! Almost crazy. Mum will be over on Tuesday so someone else to enjoy them, and the little girl over the road is very keen, so I might keep her supplied for the next couple of weeks. Then I filled a punnet with lovely ripe raspberries. The fruit cage has worked perfectly and the redcurrants are all red and hanging on the plants like rubies.

Couldn't decide what spuds to try really, so figured on Kestrel. One plant yielded only 6 spuds, but 4 of them were HUGE! Hmmm...should have dug them a few weeks earlier it seems. Moved on and tried International Kidney. Now thats more like it. A big bowl full of spuds mostly golf ball size, although a few were fist size. Again, I think I left them a tad long. Oh well, mum loves new pots, so I shall dig a load on Tuesday so she has them at the ready.

Last job was to pick a couple of the lettuce. I picked a soft leafed green called Salad bowl and a firmer red leaf lettuce whoose name escapes me, but it is like an oak leaf lettuce.

When I got home I had the booklet for the summer show. I hope to be able to enter gooseberries, strawberries, raspberries, redcurrants, lettuce, spuds, broadbeans, french beans, peas,rhubarb and sweetpeas. I may enter

courgettes in the 'other veg' section. Just hope I heal nice and quickly to allow me time to gather. The show is on July 7th.

We had a lovely barby, the food was great and between us all, we scoffed a big bowl of berries. Looking forward to Tuesday and hopefully I will be able to list exactly what is what and what isn't whatting!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Tuesday 12th June 2007 - Weather: hot and humid

I arrived at the allotment at lunch time today as I worked all morning. Todays main job was to get the fruit cage netted completely as the redcurrants and goosegogs are all colouring up and I would hate to loose them all to our feathered friends. I splashed out and bought 'posh' netting which is non rot and was folded rather than rolled up and stuffed into a little bag. This net cost £9 a time, and I used 3 in total, but fingers crossed this is permanent now. It all went together much easier than I thought and looks very professional!

I just had time to pick yet another 4Ib of strawberries and my first punnet full of raspberries. That was it. All I really had time for. On the way out of the site I filled my trug with onions as I really want to clear that bed now so I can get the next lot of sweetcorn in and another sowing of salads.

My next visit will be a whole day, next Tuesday. I will then be in hospital having my hernia op on the Wednesday, so really I won't be doing much on the allotment for a while. I will however drag the family up there so they can work and I can boss them around. Fingers crossed I heal quickly and can start pottering again quite soon.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Tuesday 5th June 2007 - Weather: Glorious sunshine!

Can you believe it, I am back at the allotment again. Will wonders never cease. Thing is, with my hernia operation now looming, I need to get everything done before I am out of action. Todays visit didn't start until lunch time as I worked in the morning. I lifted 2 half rows of my Japanese onions as I really do need all of that space now for sowing and getting my last 2 batched of sweetcorn in. I am really pleased with these onions. Growmore from the Allotments 4all site sent them to be at the back end of last year when Marshalls let me down and couldn't fill my order. There must still be 150 on the allotment to lift. I also have shallots bunching nicely now and red onions which were maincrop sets, and they are now growing quite quickly. I never have any success with maincrops as the rot gets to them quickly, but I thought they were worth a go as I got them reasonably priced in our local nursery. Any tiddlers are pickled in a sweet and spicy mix, for just a short time - we don't like soggy onions that taste just of vinegar. Oh, just to say, in the gap that I cleared I sowed half a row of little gem lettuce and I planted half a row of beetroot seedlings. These seedlings were a gift from a newbie on site. Funny being given excess plants from a newcomer, but he has been gardening at home for over 40 years, so extending by having an allotment. He sowed an entire pack of beetroot seeds in one tray and after he had planted out 4 rows he couldn't stand to just bung them on the compost, so he passed them on to me. I don't know how they will do, I have planted beetroot seedlings out before, but these were quite congested. They had a good watering. Who knows, a bonus crop!

Next I had to deal with yet more onions. These are Bunton's Showstopper (I think) onions that I grew from seed at the start of the year. They have been quietly growing in the greenhouse so today I planted them around the edge of my carrot bed. I have never grown maincrop onions from seed, I can't imagine these little mini plants ever bulbing up into proper onions. However, by being around my carrots they should put of the dreaded carrot fly, plus if they don't grow big, I will have plenty of salad onions, and if they do, well good stuff!

From here, back over onto plot number one. I cheated and brought 2 honeydew melon plants yesterday, so they went in under my glass tunnel. I also puchased a Beefsteak tomato plant called Big Boy. Well with a name like that how could I leave him behind! The squash bed is really filling up nicely now but whilst there is room I made a wigwam to plant some climbing drying beans up. Fancy name which I can't remember, but they want to climb and they should be well away long before the squashes cover the ground.

Last proper job of the day, start to get the netting on the fruit cage. My darling has agreed that the cheap netting you get in a roll from the garden centre is weak and a right royal pain in the bum to unravel and use, so we have brought a slightly more expensive, and only about £1.50 more expensive, netting. It comes folded and is thick and strong so no trying to untangle, unroll and wripping. The one pack we had covered way over half of the cage, so I will pop back tomorrow and get another pack....or 2, to finish the job.

Both allotments are looking great now. I have plenty of carrots and radish germinated. The spinach has all bolted, but the swiss chard is looking lovely, and to be honest, I prefer it. I will oik out the spinach next visit and sow something else there. The peas have pods, so do the broad beans, so a couple of weeks and they will be ready. Hopefully there will be fresh pickings around the time of my op so mum can take the kids to the allotment for a gathering session. The highlight of the harvest, sheer extravagance.....I picked the last 3 spears of asparagus, a beautiful globe artichoke, and 1Ib 8oz of ripe, sugar sweet strawberries. Honestly, nothing is better!

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Saturday 2nd & Sunday 3rd June 2007 - Weather: Hot!

Two visits over the weekend, get me! Saturday was baking hot, so after we had finished all the chores for the day, I popped up to see what effect the rain earlier in the week had made on the plot. Well I will tell you what effect it had. It made the weeds grow! It also filled out the strawberries nicely and I was able to pick a punnet full, filled the salad bowl lettuce out, so one of those came home, and started fattening up the Japanese onions, so half a dozen of the largest came home.

I needed to get in some calabrase and sprouts, but until the onions all come up, I only had room for the calabrase. It did make me weed around the red onions though and they are starting to come on nicely. It also meant I had to dig up my garlic, all of which was rotten. Blasted white rot really got to the garlic early this time. I am definately growing it in troughs this winter. Some of the garlic is useable, so I will crush it all and freeze it in icecube trays for use throughout the year. The elephant garlic looks great though, but of course, this is a leek rather than a garlic, so in theory, shouldn't be affected by the white rot. Out of all the Japanese onions, only 7 that I could find had started rotting. Am really hoping the rest will be okay, but they will all be cleared soon enough as I do so need to the space now.

Some of the tomatoes I planted last visit have caught a chill and died, but that isn't the end of the world as I still have lots at home. I must try to be more organised next year as I really did let them get a little to tall before getting them in the ground. And I should have wrapped fleece around them all for a few weeks like I did last year, but I forgot.

Still only 1 parsnip!


I got up bright and early today, 6.45am the alarm went off and I was on the plot just after 7am. It is a lovely time to get up there but the birds do make a racket! Quite a misty start to the day, bodes well for the afternoon. Replaced any iffy tomatoes and planted the rest. I do still have 7 seedlings at home which I will grow in the greenhouse for a later crop. I also planted another batch of squashes, but I still have loads at home. Last year I had more toms that I could cope with, this year it looks like the turn of the squashes! Picked another 2 courgettes though. I am thinking....sly old fox me, that I will leave one of the courgettes just to get huge. Why I hear you cry? Well, in September there is the village show, and one of the competitions is for the heaviest marrow. The same chap, from our site, has one the cup for the last 4 years, and he is very quick to brag about it. Well, he has just put his marrow plant in and is waiting for it to settle down and start to flower. I already have a couple of immature fruits on the courgette plant. What do you think? Shall I sacrifice having any more courgettes just to try and grow a heavy marrow? I do have lots of other courgette plants in the ground, so I won't go short. I shall have to ponder this one.

Weeded, weeded and weeded some more. The plots do look great after a good weeding. The paths could do with a cut, but I don't have an old petrol mower to do this. I will have to look in the local rag and see if I can pick one up cheaply. I really can't afford to buy a new one.

Sowed some more carrots, MORE parsnips, more salad, more turnips and more sunflowers. Once all the onions come up and I have planted the other sweetcorn that are in the greenhouse at the moment, I will have room to sow more things. I did have to dust the turnips, radish and rocket with a little Derris because the flea beetles are turning them into net curtains and making them look very poorly.

Shortly before I left Laurette, the site secretay came by. Apparently the deer have started becoming a big pest in her garden and she asked if I had lost anything which seemed odd. I have noticed some of my french beans seem to have been grazed, and some of the salad, but I assumed it was slugs. She is convinced it is the deer, so maybe a touch more netting will be in order. Especially after I checked my pea plants before leaving, and some of those not covered by net had been grazed!

Later on we popped to a local nursery and I get some new netting, a tumbling tomato for my basket at home, a beefsteak tom and 2 honeydew melon plants. Fingers crossed I will be back on the allotment on Tuesday afternoon and will start to gather up all the larger onions and get that bed ready for the sweetcorn.