Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Wednesday 9th January 2008 - Weather: chilly but sunny

After a night of gales and rain the garden I should have been working in today was flooded so I decided to nip to the allotment and see what was what and to see if I could continue with clearing the strawberry bed. After a good hours digging I was squelching and sliding all over the place so I decided enough was enough and I came home to sow some seeds in the greenhouse. Now I know I am a tad early and rather keen, but if I don't do these things when I have the time, I end up missing out.

So today I sowed:

Ramata di Milano
Ailsa Craig
Bedfordordshire champion
Brown pickling
Rijnsburger - all onions

Prisma shallot (supposed to be white rot resistant)

Autumn Giant
Bleu de Solaise - all Leeks

What a lot of aliums I hear you cry. Well, I have never grow bulbing onions from seed before, and we eat a lot of onions, using at least 2 pretty much every day and, well, why not.

I then went to the nursery as I knew Wyvales have their seed spuds in and sure enough I had a little potato spending spree coming home with 12 tubers of each of the following: Picasso, Romano, Red Duke of York, Ratte, Pink Fur Apple, Majestic, Epicure, Kestrel and Estima. Seems like a lot, but because I only had 12 of each it means I will have more room for more varieties, and I love to try lots of different tatters. PFA are my faves as they make the best chips and roasties, and kestrel for me last year were whoppers, perfect for baking. They had loads of varieties, and when it gets to planting time, if I have the room, I may do a few more, but with all those onions to plant out at some point, I might not have the room!

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Friday 4th January 2008 - Weather: chilly but bright

As promised, and as Mr Titchmarsh would say, day two. Less digging on the agenda today after a hard slog yesterday.

Firstly I remember the sacks of willow leaves from the back garden and I filled my leaf mould cage. Then, the big one, removing a large part of the apple tree that overhangs the fruit cage. I don't know why we didn't take it out when we built the new fruit cage really. What a job! I lopped out all of the smaller branches, but I didn't really appreciate quite how big the bough was. When I finally sawed through it, it went with a crash. Nothing broken and what a difference. Hopefully there will be more fruit this coming year, and it should ripen quicker as more sun can reach the fruits. Once all of the tree bits were removed, I got into the fruit cage and cut back all of last years fruited raspberry canes, a job long overdue. Lots of lovely new canes so hopefully, another bumper soft fruit year. I did cut a few branches from the gooseberries, red currants and jostaberries, just to open them up a little. I still need to get in there will my hoe and scrape over the ground to cut out all of the weed seedlings - I would dig them out, but raspberry canes are shallow rooted and I don't want to damage the plants. I could do with a good mulch in there really.....maybe I shall take a couple of barrows from the compost heap and spread around in there.

From here I moved to the globe artichokes and cardoon. Such monsters. They haven't died back at all this year and have been in full growth all through the autumn and winter. I even have a few teeny gobe artichokes, but I removed them so the plants don't waste any energy. I keep a metal fence around the globes to try and keep them from flopping all over the beds either side and taking up room. There were plenty of weeds around the globes, that horrid creeping buttercup which infests my plot if I don't keep it in check, so I took the fencing down and got in and got mean with the weeds. The plants looked fab once they were tidy and the fences were put back. I shall give them a sprinkling of pelleted chicken manure in a couple of weeks time, give them a boost so they do me proud this year. The cardoon wasn't quite so bad as he stands alone. I removed the old flower spikes now and any dead leaves and just tidied around the base. Lots of young pup plants around it. I don't use the cardoon for culinary purposes, just for architectural stature. I know it might seem like a waste of space, but I don't mind, and I have plenty of room. Maybe one day I will find out exactly which part it is one should blanch and then have a kitchen experiment.

After a bite to eat I started digging out the old strawberry bed. At the back end of the autumn I moved my best strawb plants to a new position in lovely straight lines! Very out of character for me, me with the wonky allotment. I was left with the old strawb bed, packed full of that bloody creeping buttercup again so I have that to dig through and get rid off. I shall keep any healthy plants and plant up another row as we do love strawberrys in this house, but they had become such a jungle that is was almost impossible to pick the fruits, the slugs and birds had a field day and the buttercup was definately out competing the strawb plants. Did some digging, did some raking, did some levelling, and did some more raking, and before I knew where I was, it was time to pack up and head on the school run. I did gather a lovely big handful of carrots and had a rootle around the Jerusalem Fartichokes and came home with a lovely trug of roots.

Things on the plot are looking really ship shape. I probably won't get back for a week and I need to start thinking about sowing some bits in the greenhouse now - especially things for the forthcoming horticultural shows. I also have big plans for my own back garden. So I may have the odd blog entry about the homestead.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Thursday 3rd January 2008 - Weather: Cold Cold Cold!

So, 2008 is upon us. A new year. What plans for the plot this year. Well, nothing terribly out of the ordinary, just grow as much fruit and veg as I can. I would like to grow melons as I never have a good success rate with them, and I would love a small polytunnel or greenhouse on the plot to grow aubergines and peppers in, but that might be a project for 2009. My main hope for 2008 is to get to the plot more often and keep better order of things. I worked almost full time in 2007, which I know lots of people do, but it meant only getting to the allotment for short spells and during the summer holidays things really ran away from me. The other big thing this year is Marks involvement. He has laid down a challenge to one of my fellow allotmenteers - who can grow the heaviest marrow. Mr Chapman has won this prestigious contest every year for the past 4 years - Mark wants to put a stop to that lucky run. He has been on Medwyns seed site and purchased a selection of champion marrow seeds and he is going to grow plenty using different techniques. Of course, muggings here will have to look after them day to day, and he will get all the glory, but I don't mind. A little healthy competition doesn't hurt.

Anyhow, back to business. I was on the plot by 9am and boy was it nippy. Good job I had 5 layers of clothes on. My main plan for today was to finish tidying and digging plot number 2. Several hours of digging later and the top half of plot number 2 looked fab. The ground crumbled into a soft, friable tilth, so all of my compost adding is obviously begining to pay off.

Next job, Mr Scarecrow. Okay, so he will never be Mr Universe, but he looks much better now. I will try to remember some gloves for him and maybe a scarf as this cold weather looks like it is going to hang around.

Then I tidied the brassicas up. Pulled out all the stumps and the cabbages that had rotted. Why do some do that? Never grow properly, form a ball which then proceeds to rot. Probably something to do with a check in growth due to poor watering, but with my lack of site water, there isn't much I can do about that.

Lastly I had a bag of mistletoe berries saved, so I smeared them all over the lower branches of both apple trees. I know there is the slimmest of chances of any of these germinating and growing, but hey, I have nothing to loose, so why not. The blackbirds were really enjoying all the fallen apples that I leave under the trees.

That took me to 2pm by which time I was knackered and cold so I called it a day. Tomorrow I plan to take a saw with me along with the sacks of leaves in the garden to get my leaf mould bin underway. The saw is because I want to remove one very large branch from the apple tree that overhangs my fruit cage. I also want to edge the lower half of plot number 2 and tidy up the cardoon and globe artichokes on plot 1. Of course, this all depends on the weather. We didn't get any snow at all today, but according to the weatherman, poor weather is set for tomorrow so goodness knows what I will wake up to.