Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Friday - weather: Beautiful, glorious, sun drenched day. BLISS.

Happy Good Friday dear readers. Have you had any chocolate yet? I haven't received any Easter eggs this year, which is fine as I am just going to explode one of these days if I don't loose some weight. However, mother dearest brought me one of those cup and saucer planters for the garden as well as some other bits and bobs and we are having all of his family over on Bank Holiday Monday for a boozy BBQ so I don't need any Easter Eggs. Ooo, and no photos today, forgot the camera. However, I will be back on the plot on Royal Wedding day as I have no interest in watching it and have plenty to get on with on site.

Being a public holiday, and being so gorgeously sunny, we had a long lie in, then headed off to the allotment at 12ish. We had our trusty disposable BBQ and some big bangers and french bread, so all was well with the world. Hubby's main job of the day was to sort out our new mega water tank. Mine was to plant a bit more and water water water.

I planted a block of lollo rosso lettuce, a row of spinach beet and a row of true spinach. I helped the children sow some carrot seeds on their plots and they gave them a good water. I then planted a row of giant sunflower plantlets. Is it too early for sunflowers? Are they really that tender? They grow around my bird table all year round and with this tropical weather, I fear I have been lulled into a false sense of summer, frost free security. So, being so dangerously carefree, I also planted 3 courgette plants, 2 green, 1 yellow BUT they are all under cloches so all being well, they will survive. Also, they have been living outside in the garden for the last 2 weeks so they are well and truly hardened off.

Whilst pottering, I spotted our site secretary and I took full advantage and asked if I could use her hose to fill our waterbutts. She was more than happy as she wanted a hand getting the hose out and across her huge garden, across the stream and onto the plot so you scratch my sunburnt back, and I'll scratch yours. Two hours later, the monster tank was filled, as were most of the other waterbutts. That should see me through until we get some rainfall.

The strawbs are smothered in flowers, so next visit, first job, try to erect some sort of netting to keep the birds and deer off. The apple trees are also weighed down with blossom and the scent is heady. Picked a load more rhubarb as it is trying to take over the world, and my allotment and smother the pea plants growing nearby. I shall use it all and make an array of rhubarb cakes over the weekend.

Another good four plus hours on the plot, a lovely BBQ and a serious case of dehydration that can only be cured by a couple of very long, cold beers. Homeward bound.

Sunday 17th April 2011 - weather: hot hot hot!

What glorious weather. Is this it though? Is this the 'Great British Summer'? As lovely as it is, and boy is it lovely, I really would love some good, long, steady drizzle for a good few hours just over the allotment as it really is becoming an arid dessert. Not good for germinating seeds.

Visited the old plot with the family today. Never sure how that is going to pan out. Hubby isn't a gardener, but loves all the tinkering around, building, dismantling type jobs. The kids get bored, sometimes quickly, sometimes slowely, but usually they want to head for home after an hour or so. Well let me just say, after a perfect six hours, yes reader, you did see that correctly, SIX HOURS on the allotment, we all headed for home, happy, sun bronzed and exhausted.

Number one daughter has decided that she would like to try and grow some veggies. This is a first. She has never shown any interest in the allotment, but chose some celeriac plug plants when we visited the garden centre over Mothering Sunday weekend. So, first on the agenda was finding her a spot on plot number 2 and teaching her how to plant plants. She quickly filled her little square with celeriacs, chard plants and spring onion seedlings. Number one son's plot is already well established with peas and lettuce growing quickly, so he added spring onions and chard to his patch also.

I weeded, watered, weeded, dug, earthed up potatoes and planted chard, spring onions and cabbages. Meanwhile, Mark rebuilt my tomato house giving it an even larger corregated roof than ever before which means not only will I be able to harvest gallons of rainwater, but also provide my tom plants with a warm environment which remains almost blight free even when everyone else on the allotment site have it.

We had a lovely BBQ lunch which the children were in charge of, something that keeps them entertained for a good hour and the local, meaty bangers are so delicious that it was a pleasure to sit in the shade and rest for half an hour.

Just as we were packing up, Darren, the fella who has the plot at the top end of plot number 2, and coincidentally, his son goes to school with my daughter, arrived with a HUGE water tank. Jealous? I think so. However, he told Mark that there was another identical tank just waiting for collection on the way to Maldon, so of he and daughter trundled to collect it. Whilst gone, number one son and I deer-proofed plot number 2 with that orange plastic netting that you see around road works. That should keep those muntjac off. We also harvested some purple sprouting broc, rhubarb and leeks. The garlic plants are growing really well and the broadbean plants that overwintered are smothered in flowers, although they are still only about 10 inches tall. There are flowers on all of the fruit canes and bushes and the apple blossom should open any day.

The tank is huge. Will there ever be enough rain to fill it? On the upside, it is in a metal cage so I am going to grow my cucumber plants up it. Well, why waste such a valuable growing space?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Wednesday 13th April 2011 - weather: overcast and breezy
Quail Diary
No allotment news today, only quail news. The kids and I ventured out and visited Barleylands Farm in Billericay this morning, and as we were about to walk out of the front door, a movement caught my eye, and yes, chick number one had struggled free from it's egg in just 10 minutes flat. Joy. Another was almost home free, so we were expecting to arrive home to 2 new chicks in total, but no....we arrived home to be greeted by 5 little quail chicks all squeeking 'mumma' at us. It looks like one range, 2 white and 2 bumble bees. There is still one egg with a crack in it, and one with no movement at all, so fingers crossed we get at least one more babe. Pictures will follow, but my computer has the dreaded back screen of gobbledeegook death, so I am using he who must be obeyeds pc and I can't work out how to do the pics on this one....technofear Eddie Izzard would say.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Friday 8th April 2011 - weather: absolutely gorgeous.
(That phrase always makes me think of Gregory's Girl)
Number one son's school was closed today, an early start to the Easter break, so after a quick visit to the supermarket, the two of us headed to the plot. I knew his patience and tollerance wouldn't last long, so I listed the jobs and we knuckled down. He played in the stream whilst I planted around 40 white onion sets and 40 red onion sets in the patch spare after my rows of spuds. (Just want to quickly point out before anyone starts referring to me as a bad mum or calling social services, the so called stream at the allotment is little more than a ditch which is dry for at least 8 months of the year. I refer to it as the stream to glamourise my time on the plot.) His boredom by now had set in, so we now attended to 'his' patch - a small square over on plot number 2, about half the plot wide and about deep enough for maybe 5 rows of smallish veg like Little Gem lettuce. He weeded it with me looking on, then together we planted a row of marrow fat pea plants all along the little fence that edges his patch. He then planted 10 butterhead lettuce in 2 rows. He carefully watered them, and sin of sins, we scattered a few wildlife friendly slug pellets. (Again, just want to point out that I hate using slug pellets of any sort, but if I don't during spring, I have nothing to harvest come Summer. I didn't use any the other week when I planted my young cos lettuces under the coldframes, and the very next visit, 4 had been completely munched down to the ground, as had my sweetpeas, and you could see the slime trails everywhere. GGRR) Before we left I noted that my 2 rows of radish between the spud rows were up, as was the patch of mixed salad leaves, also between the spud rows. The Jerusalem Fartichokes are poking their noses through and the fruit bushes, trees and canes are all smothered in blossom. We harvested a monster bag full of rhubarb which is destined for the freezer and gathered a lovely bundle of white and purple sprouting brocolli. Now, we really could do with a drop of rain to get the seeds going, but watching the Countryfile week weather report (yes, I am writing this on Sunday), it looks like East Anglia is going to stay dry for another 5 days so a mid week visit with my watering can might be called for.
Egg watch - 2 days to go (again, this is Sunday evening) until hatching. It would be lovely if all 7 eggs hatched so we could have the makings of a flock again. The three first borns for 2011 are huge, Pip in particular, but she/he was born 48hours before the other chaps. We have ringed them with fetching baby pink rings, and when we know if they are boys or girls, we will mark their rings. This will hopefully mean we can keep our gene pool nicely mixed, no dodgy incest thankyou very much.

The quailarium has been re-fox proofed, as much as possible in a suburban garden. Lots of chicken wire and wooden boards, tight frameworks and locks on the doors. I wonder if those sonar cat scarer things also spook foxes? Might investigate, although we have a new garden visitor, a little hedgehog and I would hate to put him off. As soon as hatching begins, I will update and bore you all rigid.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Friday 1st April 2011 - weather: ummm, I can't remember!

A flying visit to the supermarket, then one of my customers meant I didn't arrive at the allotment until 11am. Not to worry, it is all looking so shipshape on site, I want to brag, but alas have nobody to brag to.

I realised last visit I had cocked up my rotational plan so my greens are going to have to languish in the same bed as last year. However, last year they were down the bottom end half of plot number 2 and this end they are at the top end half of plot number 2...clear as mud? I have limed the ground and relaid the weed supressing membrane. I have grown the best brassicas since I started using the membrane. Whether it is because there is no weed competition, or whether it is because the plants have a cool, damp root run, I have no idea. Mind you, as smug as I am, I still can't grow successful caulis. Such a shame as I love them so. The white sprouting is making up for the lack of creamy curds though and again I picked a bag full. The purple sprouting plants have sat for at least 12 months looking lush and static and they were about to be pulled out by their shirt tails when I noticed the first sign of 'sprouting', so they have been repreived. I planted a row of red curly kale and re-netted the brassica plot, a somewhat frustrating, and earing slinging job. I lost a pair of opal earings on the plot a year ago when they were whipped clean out of my lobes by some windswept netting.

The rhubarb is growing like a triffid so it was radically reduced in size and will next be found taking the form of a crumble or pie. It has to be said, a good top dressing of slightly rotted manure is very late winter or very early spring gives it such a good kick up the bum. I am going to split a couple of the crowns this autumn as they are becoming huge, but I don't know if I really need anymore bubby plants hogging valuable plot space. I may plant them around the back of my shed where I am currently planting all of my spare fruit bushes that I strike from the prunings and then can't bear to bin.

I planted a row of young mixed salad leaves which I had grown in plugs and I must start direct sowing some little gem now things are starting to grow.

I pottered around, had a chat with Jack, sorted out my canes ready to put them in for the runners and then headed for home, picking the last of the daffs for a vase. The schools Easter hols are looming so goodness knows when I will next be down, if the ankle biters have their way, it won't be with them, but planting and sowing is reaching fever pitch so I think I will have to come up with some suitable bribes.

Just to show you how I spend my 'down time, here are my seedlings to date. In the conservatory are my tender babies, toms, chillis, peppers, aubs and squash. In the greenhouse, semi hardy and those that just need hardening off, so brassicas, beans, lettuce, etc. Then on the garden table are those which are as tough as old boots, peas, broadbeans, celeriac, lettuce, leeks and so on. Begining to think I need a better social life.

The quaily babes are doing great. I am constantly amazed at the rate of growth. Today (Monday) they are 10 days old, and they have their adult plumage, apart from on their heads which always seem the last to turn. They are very cute. Pip, the first born, is a thug, is huge and loaths being handled. James, the range, is placid and doesn't mind being held, and is also huge (he may also be a she). Migit, the last babe is still by far the smallest, and she also dreads being held.

The second batch of eggs have only 7 days to go. It would be great if we had all 7 hatch.