Sunday, June 26, 2011

Friday 24th June 2011 - weather: bright and breezy

A whole day, yes, one whole day all to myself at the allotment, between school runs of course. So that is roughly five and a half hours. I kid myself that in such an acre of time I can get on top of all jobs and have time to chat to any lottie friends that arrive. Of course I didn't.

Thanks to the wonderful rainfall the weeds are all growing fast and out competing my desired veggies. Plan of attack, begin on plot number 2 at the brassica end and work my way up, then across to the top end of plot one and work my way down to the shed.

The brassicas are mostly planted through weed supressing membrane, an exercise I would recommend to anyone who has a plot and doesn't have enough hours in the day to visit as often as they should. The brassicas love the cool, damp earth and the complete lack of competition from weeds. However, I didn't have enough membrane at the plot in the spring to cover the entire area, so there were sections that needed some TLC. I oiked out the failed Japanese onions, loosened the soil and planted all of the spare, unlabelled brassicas that I had knocking around, roughly another 15 plants. I sowed a quick crop of radish between these brassicas. I weeded through the sweetcorn and was rather disappointed to see flowers forming, and the plants are only about 3 foot tall. Does this mean no sweetcorn for us again this year? Finally the beans, a mix of borlotti, climbing french and runners. I am not a neat allotment holder, I don't really do straight military lines and strict veggie varieties in rows, so my runner bean canes will by a mix of colours, shapes and sizes and will look a picture as it all comes into bloom.

I had already sorted the toms on an earlier flying visit so straight to the squash area, another area with 75% weed supressing membrane in place. At long last the squash seem to have greened up and taken off. They have really struggled with the dry this year, but thanks to the rain, they are now away and going mad. The Speckled swan gourd is clambering through the blackcurrant bush, the courgettes are covered in baby fruitlets and the Atlantic Giant pumpkins already have set baby pumpies. The mini corns are growing well, surrounded by sunflowers which are shooting up for the heavens. I have left the last few broadbean plants in the ground for these pods to really get huge so I can freeze them for winter soups and stews. More beans here, just runners, but these are mixed with the cucumber plants, all sharing the canes and netting. The rocket sown a couple of weeks ago has germinated and is duly being eaten by flea beetles but the lambs lettuce is up and doing fine and the corriander is up, although patchy, but I don't need masses. In the gap where the failed rocket failed I sowed a row of carrots. I had sown another patch of mini corn seed direct, but the mice really enjoyed them leaving a bare square, so I filled it with lettuce plantlets that I had sown in modules at home.

The kids patches are doing great but number one sons patch was looking a little nude as we had consumed all of the lettuce so I weeded and sowed a row of carrots and a row of radish. Plot number 2 is now filled to the rafters with young plants and seeds.

Over to plot number one. A few weeks ago I sowed a row of wallflowers along the daffodil line, and there is a row of seedlings, but I am unsure if they are weeds or the wallflowers. I shall have to keep an eye on them. The netting came off the strawbs as they have almost finished now and I weeded through them. This took an age as the mares tail was thick, as were the dandelions. The basil seed I sowed directly, just because they were excess seeds and it has been so hot I thought why the hell not, are now growing like crazy so I think I will make a huge batch of pesto in the autumn and freeze it like Ina Garten from the Barefoot Contessa does. The perennial salad plants, also sown direct, are growing really well and are lovely and peppery. They should overwinter to give us light pickings.

As the day was marching on I went and picked the raspberries, goosegogs and currants. I say this every year, but Glen Ample are the best rasps and grow so well in the dappled shade of my apple trees. I also cut the grass on the patchs, which was appreciated by my lottie neighbour Caroline.

That was it, time was up. Looking over the plots I realize I will have to dig up and chuck out the globe artichoke plants as they haven't produced any flowers for the last 2 years, and as I am the only one who likes them, I think I will just buy, or acquire, one plant to replace the half a row of tired plants. The cardoon hasn't grown as tall this year as previous years, but blame the drought. The insects won't care though as there are plenty of flowers and those thistles are packed full of nectar and pollen and the bumble bees get quite drunk dancing from flower to flower. I have a few empty areas on plot number one to fill and I have plenty of seedlings and young plants in modules at home which can start going in as they get large enough and I have ordered my Japanese onions, garlic and shallots from Unwins which should arrive late summer early autumn, so I will have to remember not to fill every square inch so I can squeeze them in.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Tuesday 21st June - Quail diary (and tortoise update)

Again, slacking on the quail news. So, what news. All is very happy in the quailarium at the moment. We are getting between 8 and 11 eggs daily, there doesn't seem to be any bullying from the chaps, the girls all look very prim and proper with hardly any neck feathers missing and they are all in tip top health. This batch of birdies, unlike the lot that the fox set free over winter, just adore lettuce leaves, which is great as I do have quite an abundance of lettuce on the allotment as I am hoping to grow a constant supply to supplement the tortoises hunger and the guinea pigs taste buds. I throw in a few leaves in the morning and they descend on them like a pack of hungry wolves. I just wish the kids were as keen on their greens. We have had one cull so far, so from 16 birds in the quailarium to 15. It was a chap, a very, very noisy chap. The neighbours don't really complain about the noise, but the lady next door but one did mention that she could hear one even when her windows weren't open. Of course, when I suggested that hubby do the business and make the noisy bugger oven ready, there was shock and consternation. Welcome to the world of animal husbandry. As I keep explaining to people, I adore my birds, but they aren't pets, and thus I personally don't name them. The gals provide lovely eggs, and the boys are delicious gently roasted with some allotment veg.

As for our hatchery department, today is day 0 on the incubator and these are our own 7 eggs from our own gals, not bought in eggs, or given eggs. Fingers crossed. The Bobwhites were a failure. Just one chick and it is THE most skittish, insane, mad and crazy chick in the world, ever. But you don't know these things until you try. Just gotta hope it's a girl.

The fox proofing seems to have done the trick and the furry tailed fiend hasn't been seen for a couple of weeks. Mind you, the people round the corner have hens now so maybe he has bigger fish to fry....

Tortoise news for those who know. Tom and Bertha are doing great. Tom badgers and shags poor old Bertha regularly. However, we have dotted around various obstacles and there are lots of mature shrubs that she gets in and he can't find her so she can have a peaceful sleep. Travis, our tropical boy (or girl, the vet has never been sure) lives happily with the couple and they all put themselves to bed every night, all cuddled up in their wooden penthouse. They have a feeding board so they can all clearly see the fresh food which is out in the full sun so they can eat and bask and generally behave like teenagers and sleep, eat and shit just where they stand. The three of them are eating me out of house and home and I come home most days from work with a bucket full of mixed weeds from peoples gardens. I also gather lots from the allotment for them. In the autumn, the apples will fall from the trees...I wonder if they will scoff them? Tom is still a toe biter, and Bertha drew blood on number one son's finger when he was hand feeding her. But they are great and I love them all. I am such an old hippy at heart. :)
Tuesday 21st June 2011 - weather: bright but very windy.

Another flying visit, a little earlier than promised in my earlier post, but I had half an hour before I had to begin the school run/mum taxi service, and I really fancied some new pots with my salad, so I swung by the allotment. It is amazing what you can achieve in a very short space of time. I tied in and removed all extra shoots on my tomato plantation and am pleased to report that there is a smattering of baby toms on most plants. HOWEVER, I am less than pleased to announce that I think my lottie neighbour already has blight on her spuds. Eeek. So early!!

After the tomato job I dug 2 Kestrel plants up and furtled around in the soil and found over a dozen decent sized spuds. Not bad considering the drought, and they are such a lovely potato, definately to be grown again next year. I am just digging up a plant as I want the spuds, so with this current wet spell, the tats are just getting bigger and creamier by the day. I still have International Kidney, Maris Piper and another....whose name escapes me. I also grabbed a handful of fat pea pods, 2 beetroot, a handful of broad beans, 3 perfect spring onions (better, plumper and whiter than I have ever purchased or grown before), and an asparagus spear. I had a late lunch on site, 2 strawberries, a handful of white strawbs and a bigger handful of raspberries.

Before dashing off, I quickly weeded around my only successful onion patch. Looks like we will have some decent sized onions even after the complete lack of rainfall when they needed it most. If only the reds would catch up, but I think they have had it.

Promise I won't be back on the allotment until Friday...promise.
Tuesday 21st June 2011 - weather: changeable

Sorry dear readers, I have been slacking with the Blog. Of course, since my last entry I have been to the allotment numerous times, however, I haven't had the chance to do any full days, lots of hours here, half an hours there, but no dedicated time. Life has just been a rollercoaster with family events, animal husbandry and work work work.

So, to recap. The allotment is so very grateful for the recent rainfall. For a brief spell, East Anglia, our region, was in an official drought. Farmers had to ration water on their crops, rivers and streams were running dry and trees started shedding leaves like autumn. Now however, lawns are again green, crops are pert and blowing in the breeze and the weeds are growing quicker than I can oik them out. I have sown a lot of seed on the plot as I am determined not to have bare patches or miss out, so I have rocket, dill, coriander, lambs lettuce, Kohl Rabi, dwarf french beans, radish and carrots all sown direct and starting to germinate thanks to the rain. I have also sown seeds at home in modules to fill in caps and so far have beetroot, turnips, chard, spinach, florence fennel, french beans, lettuce, purple sprouting broccoli and pak choi. At home, already growing as strong plantlets I have leeks, lettuce and an array of brassicas. I also have a few straggly tomatoes and squash plants that I may just poke in around the edges rather than compost them. So, the theory behind this sowing madness is that everytime I dig up a potato plant, for example, I rake the soil down, give it a light feed, then plant something immediately in its space.

Things are growing well on the plots. The toms are big and bushy and desperately need their side shoots nipping off and tying in. The sweetcorn plants are growing fast now thanks to the rain, as are the brassicas. In fact, I am planning to start harvesting some of the purple kale now before the horrid white fly strikes. The squash plants still look a little weedy, but they have time and once they get going, there is usually no stopping them. We have had a few courgettes already and there is a baby butternut developing nicely. The raspberries have been a joy, as they always are. Glen Ample is a really good, large berry, sweet and delicious. I have a few unamed strays that have wandered onto my plot from surrounding plots, and they all come a few weeks later which is perfect. The strawbs were okay....we started picking them weeks ago, but because they were so dry, a lot were small and seedy. The first flurry were devine and I noticed there are still flowers and fruits, so hopefully now we might get a late picking.

Directly sown seeds are patchy, aren't they always, but the gaps soon fill either with the same plants, or I fill gaps with other things. The parsnips are big and busy, but from a short row, I think there are only about a dozen plants. The carrots are all patchy, but I just keep sowing those as we don't mind them finger thin or arm thick. The spring onions and beetroot which I sowed in modules in very early spring and planted out and fab and we are already enjoying the thinnings. We have had our first few feeds from the peas, but the marrow fat style have out performed the petit pois varieties. Again, I have sown more directly and they are through and romping away. I will sow more of those directly. In fact, I will continue to sow right into August with the faster growing and hardier crops as I have found on our sheltered site, things grow almost 12 months of the year.

I have taken Friday off work to spend the entire day on the plot, so I will have my trusty camera to show off my labours. I shan't have to water which will be a relief, but I know the weeds are growing thick and fast thanks to these wet, warm, bright days.