Saturday, May 31, 2008

Saturday 31st May 2008 - Weather: cloudy and humid

What luxury, the chance to spend a whole day on the plot, but with so much to do, a day isn't going to be enough. Anyhow, we filled up both cars with all the plants I had left in the greenhouse and staging area along the side of the house - a selection of squashes, toms, brassicas, beans and corn. Arrived on site and couldn't believe my eyes! Now I have had an allotment here for 5 years and in all of my time I have never known it busy, a few old timers in the early days, but at most there would be 4 of us on site. Well today there was a swarm of activity with 9 members, not including me, all working away, weeding and trying to battle with the slugs and pigeons which are loving this wet, warm weather.

Speaking of slugs, I would just like to point out that everyone on the allotment site was moaning about them! Everyone has lost plants, the ground is covered in shiny slug slime trails and people are trying everything rather than the dreaded pellets, but the choice is, use the pellets or loose your crops. One guy planted 6 courgette plants and they were eaten overnight! I swear the slugs have grazed my parsnip seedlings down as there are slime trails all over the seed row and I was finding them everywhere, small little black slugs and big sticky orange buggers. SHUDDER! I'm afraid I now have a scattering of blue over my plots.

Back on track..... the kids played in the stream, hubby earthed up my spuds and I set to work planting the rest of my tomato plants. They are all looking really strong and most have flower trusses on now. I still have about 30 tom plants but no room at the inn but I'm sure I will be able to squeeze a few in here and there as gaps appear. I also completed the planting of the sweetcorn 'swift' which I have interplanted with a few squash plants. Then finally in this section of my allotment I put up some more bean poles and planted a double row of runner beans 'achievement' and a wigwam of climbing borlotti beans. So, the top half of allotment number 2 is looking great, well planted and currently weed free. At this point, the kids were getting bored, so we all went home for lunch.

I was back on site within the hour and I was alone so could now concentrate on the lower half of plot number 2. Considering all the rain we have had, and bearing in mind this half of the plot borders the stream, the ground was quite dry. I weeded around my Japanese onions which are bulbing up really nicely now - thanks again lovely 'Growmore' who sent me the sets. I did plant half a row of the climbing borlotti beans agains the tomato house as I just couldn't bring myself to chuck them on the compost heap. My leeks were so late in last year that they never really bulked up and had all gone to seed, so I dug those out, such a shame, but in the new gap I planted a large block of sweetcorn 'minipop'. Now I know I don't need to plant this variety in a block as it doesn't need to be pollinated as the baby corns are removed before this, but I had a square of ground available, so a block it had to be. Next to those, as I had another spare patch, I planted a dozen young cavalo nero kale plants. I hope they will be okay as they were terribly small. I shall prick some out into pots to keep at home as a back up - I can always plant them out later in the season as space becomes available.

As I was working away, I heard the unmistakeable noise of a diesel engine, and sure enough, hubby and the kids were back to lend a hand. He had the petrol strimmer so went around massacring the nettles around the shed whilst the kids played in the shed. He then netted my strawberries for me, a very worthwhile job as they fruits are swelling fast and some are already turning pink. Don't want the birdies to get in there first. I am hoping that this is going to be a good year for fruit on the allotment as the fruit cage was absolutely alive with bees. I have never seen so many working the raspberry flowers. Plenty of young fruit already developed. Now all we need is that lovely sunshine back to ripen them.

The broad beans of course are infested with blackfly, and a lovely thick carpet of weeds where I mulched thickly with my own compost - the downside of having a coldish heap, the seeds don't get killed, but it is a small price to pay for the lovely goodness the compost puts into the ground, and these weeds pull out so easily and satisfyingly, and they all end up back on the heap so what goes around comes around. In amongst these lovely broadies I planted a row of brussel sprout plants - I think the variety was bedford. I am getting short of space, so I end up doubling up and squeezing plants in where I can. I then had to just sort out the pigeon proof netting over all the brassica's and that was it for plot number 2. Really chuffed with everything we achieved.

As the afternoon was drawing on I made a start weeding the seed bed on plot number one. The row of parsnips is pretty patchy so I will bung some more seed in tomorrow. I do however have a rather splendid row of spring onions and little gem lettuce. I also noticed the Alderman peas I sowed last visit against the fruit cage netting are poking their noses through the ground. Still plenty to do, still masses of seeds I would like to sow, just not sure where now I have planted so much. I will have to squeeze things in here and there. So the plan is, back tomorrow afternoon for a couple of hours to get the top half of plot number 1 weeded and any seeds sown that I can, then I don't think I will be able to get back for a week thanks to work, but the following week I am hoping to get a good couple of days on the plot... famous last words!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Wednesday 14th May 2008 - weather: hot hot hot!

Had to work for a couple of hours this morning, but as soon as I finished, I loaded my sweetcorn plants and blue lake french bean plants into the car and shot to the allotment. These plants have been hardening off in the garden now for about a week so I am perfectly happy to get them planted out. These plants were all destined for plot number 2 and I am almost doing the 3 sisters method of planting, mixing corn, beans and squashes, but I am not trying to grow bean up corns or anything, however the squash will meander amongst the beans and corns. The corns I planted today were Rainbow Inca, a multicoloured variety that my dear friend from the states sent me, and another trusted variety called Swift. As I have already said, the frenchies are a climber called blue lake. My crowd prefer the frenchies over the runners and I do find them more versatile, but I will be doing plenty of runners also. Each plant had a big handful of my own rotted compost in the bottom of the planting hole, and once they were in and watered, each plant was mulched with a handful of my compost. I am trying to do everything I can to conserve water as we don't have piped water on site so we can only use that which mother nature provides. By the time I left I had emptied 3 waterbutts, however, with the rain that is forecast, I expect them to be full again before I return on Monday to plant out yet more beans, tomatoes, minipop corn, squashes and sow seeds.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Friday 9th May - Weather: glorious sunshine, not a cloud in the sky, 26'c

What a lovely day! Sun sun sun all the way. Is this our summer? If so, hope it lasts. Anyhow, didn't get on the plot until about 10 as we had daughter number ones assembly. A lovely show about healthy eating. Expected to see a few people on the plot as it was such a delicious day, but alas, only Joe turned up around mid morning. Today the car was full of plants to get in. No digging or seed sowing planned. First to get in, brussel sprouts followed by cauliflowers and lettuce. The lettuce are being interplanted with the brassicas and I think that will work well. As I extended the brassica bed, of course I had to extend the netting cage which is a palava. Whoever invented net needs shooting as it tangles and twists. At least it was a still day so it didn't blow all over the place. Once the cage was sorted I went on to plant a row of bright lights swiss chard. Next in, sunflowers. Trying to grow a few more flowers this year, I have the room if I am sensible with my space, and they kids love them, I love cutting them to bring them home, and of course, I can enter them in the horticultural show in July and again in September. So, to add to the sunflowers, I planted 2 rows of dahlias that I have grown from seed. I never have a great deal of luck with these, so fingers crossed they do well. There is a lady on our site and she grew some lovely dahlias from seed last year on her plot, so I figure if she can, so can I. Of course, I don't really water once plants are established, so that could go against me, but we shall see. I planted 4 mixed gourd plants as they were trying to take over my greenhouse and that was all I had time for really. I gave everything I planted a really good watering, which completely emptied my big waterbutt on plot 2, and I'm ashamed to admit, I sprinkled a few 'wildlife friendly' slug pellets around - if I didn't, there would be nothing left by the next visit.

As I still had about an hour spare, I went into the fruit cage and had a good weed, there are trillions of dock seedlings to get out, and whilst in there I noticed that the redcurrants are already dripping in fruit, as are the gooseberries. I then finished clearing the last of the brassicas that had gone to seed and we still hanging around. On inspection of plot number one I noticed I have a lovely row of rocket and little gem lettuce seedlings all up. Also plenty of marestail, but I deal with that as I weed, it doesn't drive me potty like it does some.

Next visit will be next Wednesday and I shall be taking my sweetcorn, some more lettuce, and a small selection of tomatos which have been hardening off nicely in a cosy corner of the garden. I also hope to sow some more seeds, but if we don't have any rain before then, I may lay off sowing as the ground has a hard crust at the moment.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Thursday 1st May 2008 - Weather: Sun, hail, wind, rain, thunder and more rain!

Whatever the weather, today was destined to be an allotment day. Dropped the kids off and was on site by 9am and the sun was shining, there was a light breeze, and all was well with the world. Plan of attack today, just get both allotments absolutely ready for this growing year, get the last of the spuds in and sow sow sow like crazy.

I finally finished clearing the last weeds from the old strawberry bed, mostly creeping buttercup which seems to the be the thug on our site, and them planted a row of Pink Fur Apple spuds, Ratte and half a row of Estima and half of Majestic. So relieved to have gotten those in. If I had to go home then, I could have gone home happy as I was starting the worry that I would never get them in.

From there I raked over last years spud bed which had been dug once as the spuds were lifted, and then again in the winter so the soil is lovely and crumbly and raked down to a very fine tilth. I started to do some sowing and got in parsnips 'Gladiator', rocket, beetroot 'Detroit', radish 'French Breakfast', spring onions 'Lisbon', lettuce 'Little Gem', flat leaf and culey leaf parsley and some carrots whose name escapes me as I brought them in France.

I now wanted to get my red cabbages, purple sprouting broc and lollo rosso lettuce in on plot number 2, but the weather decided I should cower in my shed. Hail, rain, strong biting cold wind, then more hail lashed around me. I thought it was lifting, so I should over to the plot and started planting, only for the heavens to open and for mother nature to start lobbing ice cubes at me. But, I had started so I planned to finish, and I got wet through, but the plants all went in nicely and I am being much more generous with the spacing this year as I think half of my problem with low yields on some crops is because I try to cram too many in. I figure that I will get just as big a harvest from 5 well spaced plants as I would from 10 cramped plants, possibly more. I also plan to plant my lettuces inbetween the various brassicas rather than dedicate lashings of room for them in the main plot. At the front of the bed with the cabbages in I sowed a row of the dwarf bean 'Ying Yang'. In theory, they won't take up a lot of space and crowd the cabbages. Anyhow, as I planted my brassicas the darned pigeons started gathering above me in the trees, so once they were in I got busy with my netting and by the time I had finished the pigeons would have to get training from the SAS to break through and get to my greens!

As they day was pressing on I finished up by weeding and raking the top end of plot number one and tidying up the now finished daffs. The glads planted in amongst the daffs are just starting to poke their noses through Hopefully they will put on a good show this year as they are for mum as they are her fave flower. At the end of their row is a gap where I have some small white alpine strawberries, so I scattered a few cosmos seeds there, I love cosmos and it is a funny little space, no good for veggies, and just right for flowers. I weeded amongst the strawbs in their new bed and am pleased to report that at least 75% of the plants have flowers on so although I expect a smaller than usual harvest this year as all the plants were moved in the autumn, I should still get a good picking of fruits for the children. By the time I had finished, both plots looked great. I won't be back now until next Friday by which time I will have finished hardening off a few more crops to get in and I want to sow more peas as the first batch sown a couple of weeks ago are all through and growing away.

I just love this picture. This is Red Duke of York shoing his nose through the ground. Such a lovely purple leaf. I have a feeling it turns completely green as it matures, but for now I am loving these purple sprouts.