Friday, June 26, 2009

Friday 26th June 2009 - weather: overcast and humid

I know, should I really be back on the allotment again so soon? Yes I should! Due to customers chopping and changing their plans, I had a few free days and where else would I rather be??

After spending the whole of Tuesday weeding, I decided today I would try and get some things planted and picked. First job of the morning was to plant the white sprouting broc that Old Jack gave me. This meant enlarging the brassica cage and strengthening defences because the muntjac family are regularly visiting my plot, leaving little calling cards all over the place. I also planted a row of young pea plants I had germinated at home. These are also in the cage so hopefully safe from hungry pigeons and deer.

Next I weeded and watered my squash and planted a wigwam if Borlotti beans. Again, these had been started at home so are already a good 8 inches tall.

A horrid, hot job next. I trudged the entire length of our allotment site 6 times to collect wheel barrows full of stable manure to put on the compost heap. Worth it though as I planted 2 lovely strong marrow plants in there. Hopefully this hot bed will really get them going.

A picking session next and I gathered courgettes, broad beans, strawberries, raspberries, lettuce, red onions and spuds.

The poor old fruit cage gets some what neglected at this time of year, so the weeds were making a break for it. I do have some weed supressing membrane to get down over the autumn, so hopefully next year this won't be an issue. Whilst in there pottering, a little robin hopped in. He had been following me around all morning, very brave, and flying off with beaks packed with bugs and wrigglies. I was worried he was after the berries, but again, just bugs, and when I left the fruit cage, he came with me. I made sure the door was well secured however....just in case.

I dug my row of garlic and from a whole row....just 4 useable bulb roots. Such a shame. I must remember to plant some cloves in pots in the garden in sterile compost for next year. Garlic and shallots always struggle thanks to the white rot. Don't know why they get such a beating.

Now blight is already showing itself on the allotment site, and I think my spuds my be suffering, so I had to have a spray. Did all the toms and the spuds and hopefully this will keep them going a bit longer. Last year I had hardly any toms thanks to the blight, I don't plan to get caught out again.

Finally I decided to sow some seeds and got in turnips, mixed salad, italian lettuce, radish, beetroot, carrots, mizuna and japanese greens. Next visit I will hopefully get in some florence fennel, pak choi and some more peas.

All being well, when I next visit there will be more broad beans, peas, courgettes, cucumbers, lettuce, spring onions and spuds for picking.

No photos today I'm afraid. I will take the camera next time as hopefully, things will have moved on a pace.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Monday 22nd June 2009 - weather: overcast and humid

As promised, another day on the allotment - such luxury! Once again though, the order of the day was weeding. Plot number 2, the top half which is supposed to be my seed bed was (note I said was) covered in a creeping little weed which I have been told is called Scarlet Pimpernel with its teeny red flowers. As I pulled it up, I discovered 4 rows of carrot seedlings, 2 rows of beetroot seedlings, half a row of parnsip seedlings and half a row of mixed salad leaves. I continued to weed this entire section and now have a clear area ready for sowing spinach, chard, late salad, oriental greens and perhaps a few florence fennel.

Picked another trug full of summer fruits and I plan to make a low cal cheesecake with these. I also spoke to the site secretary whose garden happens to border the allotment site, and she confirmed that there are infact 2 muntjac that are visiting our allotments and making a meal out of our baby plants. So far they are staying near the borders of the site, but they have been on my allotment, so hubby and I are already planning various scarers and netting devices to try to protect our crops. Watch this space!

Lastly, before dashing off to collect the urchins from school, I planted a wigwam of enorma runner beans and 3 yellow courgette plants. I still have some borlottis, peas, brassicas and beetroot seedlings to get in. I have Friday free due to one of my customers going away for a long weekend, so I will be back on site yet again, almost 3 times in one week! Outrageous. :)

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Saturday 20th June 2009 - weather: overcast but warm with a hint of a shower

Weeds weeds everywhere! GGRR. I wish my seedlings would grow as quickly as as strongly as the darn weeds!! Anyhow, I had a couple of hours on the site so the plan of attack was to weed the peas and strawberries. The peas are now in full flower and already there are plenty of slim pods so I think in about 10 days or so I should have my first picking. Something has been eating them though, as soon as they poke through the netting. I originally blamed the pigeons, BUT, as I was a-weeding, I came across a little pile of this.....

Is it muntjac poop I wonder? Or even roe deer?? We do have deer in the woods around the site and I have seen muntjac on the allotment. I am positive it isn't rabbit droppings, it was to shiny, black, and almost moulded together rather than individual pellets. So, could something else be eating my young, tender pea plants? More netting was called for so hopefully I will get to enjoy the peas rather than our local wildlife.

As I weeded the strawbs, I also picked and I am pleased with this years harvest. There were no strawbs last year as I have moved the bed the previous autumn. The plants have become nice and strong looking are are all fruiting well. I will take a stack of pots and compost to the plot next visit, (if I remember!), to start saving the runners so I can really thicken up the plot.

Next job was digging the overwintering Japanese onions. As we have rampant white rot on the allotment, I get them out of the ground as early as possible. This year, the onions look great but at least half of the shallots are rotten. I will use them quickly in cooking and store those few that are not rotten for later. I dug one garlic just to see, and it was completely rotten....I might dig then entire row next visit and bin the lot. Last year I had the good intention to grow some garlic in large pots of sterile compost at home in the garden. Did I? Did I hell. I must try to remember to do that this coming autumn.

With that bed clear, I am going to plant the last of my brassicas and get them netted. Jack has given me about 8 purple spouting brocs, and I have some caulis and red cabbages to get in. I may well also sow a row or 2 of spinach amongst the cabbages as my earlier plantings have bolted already.

Finally I picked the raspberries that were ripe, and cut 2 baby courgettes. I could have left them to get bigger, but they are so early and the plants are still so small and weedy, that I would rather the plant puts on plenty of growth so we have more fruits later in the year than it spend all of it's energy trying to develop these early fruits. I also dug a few volunteer spuds and had enough new pots for tea and cut a lovely lime green lettuce.

All being well, I will be back at to the plot on Monday to continue with the boring, but necessary, weeding.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Thursday 4th June 2009 - weather: cloudy but warm

Well, thanks to a regular customer cancelling earlier in the week, I was able to juggle my other gardens around giving me today free to spend on the allotment, and hopefully half a day tomorrow. Glee and joy! My plan of attack for the day, to actually finish a job! My problem is I start something, then spot a weed, or something that needs watering, and before you know it, I have been totally distracted and leave without finishing the job I started.

First job of the day, weed, water and plant my runner bean row. I planted painted lady seeds directly at the start of May, but only half of them germinated. I don't know if the seeds were dodgy, mice scoffed them, or it has just been to dry for them to germinate, so I picked up a pot of growing runners from a lady around the corner and used these to fill the gaps. I have also sown a pot full at home in the greenhouse, so at some point I will be desperately trying to squeeze another wigwam or 2 in.

Next, get the baby sweetcorn in - Minipop. Daughter number one loves these and as they are picked before pollination has taken place, they can be planted closer together, or in rows rather than blocks. However, the patch I had vacant was a block, but it was rock solid so took some digging and chopping to make plantable. I also forked in a barrow full of 2 month old stable manure. Twenty plants, all tucked up and watered. I also finished planted the regular sweetcorn, a variety called Ovation. I had started on a previous visit so only had about 10 to go. I also gave them all a good drink.

By now, all of my waterbutts were more or less empty, so I shot over to the allotment neighbour, who is also the site secretary and asked if I could borrow her hose pipe and fill my butts! She is such a great site secretary and said of course, as often as I need to during the season, so I set the hose up, turned the tap on and during the course of the next 2 hours, filled up my 7 waterbutts.

Whilst this was going on, I started the next job that I had started on another visit and hadn't finished, and that was planting the last of my tomatoes. I had 6 to go, and 2 chilli plants, so they were quickly in, and all of the plants received a nice watering. I still have about 10 plants at home, but I think I might grow them at home in the greenhouse and around the garden so if blight strikes like it did last year, I will still have some fruit. I must get some Bordeax powder to dust the plants with to try and give them some blight protection. I am growing some Ferline plants which are supposed to be blight resistant, but I know last year, even the people that grow that variety lost their plants to blight quite early on.

Yet another area that I had started on another visit was the squash section. I trundled off and filled my wheelbarrow with more manure and set about planting some cucumbers and melons. I do still have marrows and courgettes to plant, but these were only sown about 10 days ago so are still only very small, they can go in another day. I plan to plant 2 marrow plants in my compost heap, so a job for tomorrow, if I have time, will be to completely top my compost heap up with manure and make 2 soil planting holes. I will leave an area free for compostable material, or I might start piling the green waste in the large skip sack I have so I can chuck it all on the heap at the end of the season. Anyhow, I watered all of the squashes, the courgettes already have flowers so I reakon we will be harvesting in the next couple of weeks.
Next on the agenda was to dig up last years spinach. It has done really well and I have been picking up until recently. To be honest, I could have probably harvested a bag full of leaves, but I was being very focused and needed the area clean to I could plant my leeklets. I always miss the boat with leeks and plant them so late I never get great big beauties, so this year, I cheated and I brought 2 trays of leeks from the local nursery. I had these all planted when an allotment neighbour asked me if I wanted some leeks as a thankyou - you see, my waterbutts were all filled by now, so I stuck the hose in her waterbutts to fill them as like me, hers were dry. I accepted the leeks and now have 3 lovely rows of robust little leek plants, all watered and looking sturdy.
I now had a lazy job to do, but a pleasant one. I picked the strawbs. Not masses, and I will have to add a photo tomorrow, but over a pound in weight of lovely dark red fruits. There are plenty on the plants also so I think this is going to be a great year for the strawbs. Infact, I think this is going to be a good year for all of my fruits as the raspberry canes are absolutely smothered in young fruits, as are the gooseberries and currants. The apple tree had a rest last year and hardly produced a sinlge apple, but already this year the branches are weighed down with young fruits. The rhubarb has also been spectacular and I have not only frozen some, given some away and sold some at the WI market, but I have also made 10Ib or my curried rhubarb chutney. The plants are just begining to thicken up again, as I did leave them with only a couple of stems per plant, and I reakon if we get the rain that is predicted over the weekend, this time next week, I will be bringing it home by the armfull.

Did I mention in a previous post about my home made mini greenhouse I constructed? I used my old greenhouse sections and a sheet of corrigated plastic for the roof. Inside I planted an aubergine plant, a couple of pepper plants and a couple of cucumber plants. Well, everything looked a little wilted due to the heat, but I gave it all a good soak and kept the lid off for a while, and by the time I put the lid on again, everything was looking great. Hopefully I will have a successful harvest from there. I do also have 2 cold frames to use, but the area I want to use them is still weedy. I have some melon plants, aubs and chillis that need housing, so yet another job for another day. I must get a move on or summer will be over!!

By now, the end of the day is looming....well 3pm and I have to collect the children from school, so I planted 5 cauliflower plants in my brassica cage, and I must take a moment to say how fantastic the brassicas look this year. When I first had my plot, I had great sprouts and cabbages for a couple of years, since then, rubbish! This year I put down some weed supressing membrant and planted a selection of brassicas through that. I don't know if it is the damp, coolness, warmth or what, but they are growing very rapidly, and big and strong. I will have to take the camera tomorrow and take a photo to show off.
I spent the last 10 minutes weeding amongst my strawberries before heading for home.
All being well, and the weather permitting, there should be a follow on from this tomorrow.