Sunday, March 28, 2010

Friday 19th March and Tuesday 23 March 2010

A double issue this time as we have been without internet access for a couple of weeks, thanks to the local 'travellers' wripping up the copper telephone wire linking our village to the outside world. However, back with you all now, and after 2 visits in close succession, I finally feel like I am getting on top of the plot.

Our newest, and now, biggest problem are the muntjac deer. We had signs of them last year, droppings and mystery vanishing crops, but now they seem to have really made themselves at home, eating green manure, emerging broadbeans and sweetpeas, overwintering greens and salads. Rumour has it, there is a cull going on in the area, but whether it is true or not, we will have to wait and see, so deerproofing was the order of the day. Now, in my humble opinion, an allotment should be a place for recycling, reusing, and making do. I am certainly not going to spend upwards of £100 per plot, netting them in. So, as you can see from the picture, I made do with some scaffold netting I had been given. It isn't pretty, but it does the job. I have the same amount again which I will erect once I have planted my squash and corn plants. This area is for beans, peas and salads. Apparently, those in the know tell us that the muntjac don't eat onions, spuds or rhubarb, although one of the allotmenteers on site reakons their emerging bubby had been munched away to nothing! And there was me thinking it was toxic. Once the net barracades were in place, I went and checked with the site secretary, whose garden also backs onto the site, to make sure she didn't mind, and she had no objections at all, agreeing that if we don't protect our crops, what is the point of having the allotments.

During my coffee break I watched a mad March hare in the corn field next to the site, 2 woodpeckers zipping about, an array of small finches and tits along with the usual black birds, starlings, crows, jays and magpies, and this rather handsome fella had a stroll around, squarking away. We are very lucky, our allotment is like a nature reserve, and I am sad that the deer might be shot as I love to see them, but they are just so darn greedy.

Now my seed area was safely netted, I put up my bean poles, just so I had an idea how much room I had to play with, then sowed a row or little gems and a row of radish down the middle of the poles. I went on to sow a large block of peas, carrots, parnsips, and more salads. I still have lots of room for more beans, peas and so on.

Next job, clearing my strawberry bed. I have quite a large strawb bed now with a mixture of varieties which I have been given, or purchased over the years. It means I have a good long harvest, and a mix of size and flavours of fruits. However, a constant weed issue in the strawbs is creeping buttercup. Thankfully, due to the rain, the ground was good and soft and I was able to do a really thorough weed. I will scatter some rotted manure around them next visit, but I ran out of time on these two days.

My cardoons and globe artichokes reside alongside the strawbs, and as you can see from the picture, the cardoon clump looks fab. I had given the 'doons a good deep mulch of manure before Christmas, which I didn't do to the artichokes, and don't they look poorly? I weeded thoroughly around them, cut away dead and yucky leaves, and gave them a mulch. Hopefully it isn't too little too late as I do love my artichokes, if not to eat, then just for the globes and the way the bumble bees bury themselves in the purple flowers, getting drunk on their nectar.
Along the top of this allotment are my bulbs, daffs and glads. I also usually plonk in a few dahlias grown from seed (and they have just germinated in the greenhouse for this year), but I also decided to sow a mix of other flowers amongs the bulbs, so I weeded and raked the area next to the daffs, over the glads, and mixed together a packet of cosmos and cornflowers and broadcast sowed them. I will take poppies and nigella next time to finish the row. I do love flowers on the allotment, just a small area, but it brightens the plot, and it gives me lots of flowers to cut and take home, hence I have sown 4 packets of sweetpeas in the greenhouse at home to be planted out on the plot...I suppose I will have to net those to protect them from the darling deer. :(

Spuds were next on the list. I have Bambino, Internation Kidney, Maris Piper, Rooster, Dunbar Standard, Pink Fir Apple and Asparges. Of course, always way to many tats and not enough room, but I did manage to get the Int Kids, Maris, Rooster and Asparges in. I shall get the rest in over Easter. I did chuck a nice layer of rotted manure over the spud beds once they were planted. Well, it seems foolish not to as the stables next to the site is providing us with so much lovely manure now. I also put some in my compost heap for good measure.

From here, onto my bubby, sorrel and Jerusalem Fartichokes. A funny thing, what are us allotmenteers like? I don't like the fartichokes, nor do my family, but they were a gift to my from a dear friend who I got to know through the Allotments 4 All forum. Her name was Sarah, her user name Supersprout, and she had cancer. Within a week of her sending my the artichokes, she had died, so I grow them in her memory. Like the cardoon and globe artichokes, they do reward me with a magnificent wind break, and lovely bright yellow, sunflower like flowers. The sorrel was also a gift from a chum on A4All, Saddad, and I have Buckler leaf sorrel and broad leaf sorrel. I don't use it as much as I should to be honest. It has a lovely fresh, lemon flavour, so I am planning to feast on it this year. And my rhubarb was also a gift from Hyacinth on A4all, probably 8 years ago when I first took on my allotment. All three were thoroughly weeded, docks are a problem down this end of the plot, and then I caged in my bubby, better to be safe than sorry, and them gave them all a good top dressing of manure. A bumper harvest from all three hopefully.

That was it, time had run out. I was pleased with what I had achieved during my 2 visits, and I even had a gossip with Hillary and Caroline.
At home I have sown a selection of chillis and tomatoes, which are now germinating quickly, leeks, celeriac, sprouts, cabbages, brocolli, a deep tray of cut and come again to live in the greenhouse, dahlias, pansies, evening primrose, hollyhocks, kale, caulis, broadbeans, adzucki beans and soldier beans. There are probably others, but I can't remember, and it is nearly 11pm, so I am not going to venture down the garden now.
Next visit, hopefully, will be over the Easter break when I should get the last of my spuds in and dig lots of manure into the area where I will grow my squashes.

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