Monday, May 06, 2013

May Day Bank holiday allotment sunburn

What a glorious May Day bank holiday. The sun has shone, the birds have sung and BBQ's have been lit far and wide.

I have had two visits to the allotment since my last blog entry and the allotments are starting to look shipshape and well planted at long last.

Radishes and cut and come again salad leaves are up and growing, as are my International Kidney and Salad Blue spuds.  The onions, shallots and elephant garlic are all loving the spring sunshine and are growing quickly with strong green shoots.  Half of the elephant garlic are from my own stock of cloves harvested last year.  I will be interested to see if there is any difference in yield, if not I will save my own again this year, the plan being that eventually I won't need to buy in.  Elephant garlic grows well for me as it doesn't seem to suffer from onion white rot as they are related to leeks more than onions.

The Jerusalem (f)artichokes are poking through, grown in memory of an old Allotments 4 All chum, (Sarah) Supersprout who sadly left us all several years ago.  We aren't keen, but they are good in winter stews and soups.  The rhubarb is a trifid, but it is always is.  It gets a good winter top coat of manure and is eternally grateful.  I am going to make a large batch of curried rhubarb chutney which sounds curious but tastes devine and is a firm favourite of the brother and sister in law.

I planted a row of peas which are growing well and a double row of purple mange tout which are growing away quickly and the sweetpeas are climbing up the wigwam.  The top fruit is smothered in flowers so we should have a great crop of currants, rasps, jostaberries and goosegogs.  The apple blossom is ready to burst, any day now as there are masses of tight, pink buds.

I have canes up ready for the climbing beans and have planted lettuces all around the edges as they will be long gone before the beans start romping and I have planted a giant sunflower at theends of the canes. Definately trying to grow more pretties this year.  I have directly sown some climbing french beans but they aren't braving the spring air yet.

I still have a few leeks in the ground but am using them up as quickly as I can before they all run to seed, just gotta find 101 recipes to use them up in new and exciting ways.  I have planted green curly kale and bright light swiss chard along with purple sprouting brocolli,cabbages and spring onions.  I have sown carrots, parsnips, beets, turnips, swedes, lettuce and kohl rabi.  So all that is left is for me to finish clearing last years pumpkin patch and I will be ready to plant toms, squash and sow whatever else I have to use.

So there you go, an overview of both allotments. It is all going on at this time of year, the greenhouse is bursting at the seams with young plants, desperate to get out but waiting until the risk of frost has passed.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Saturday Spring Sunshine

What a beautiful day, not a cloud in the sky. Once the boring chores were done, I was deposited at the allotment for a few hours.  My neighbours Rosemary and her husband and Tracy were already on their plots working hard. It is amazing how the temperatures have risen as the trees are all smothered in young green buds, the weeds are growing and the birds are singing.

First job of the day, planting a row or young pea plants and then a wigwam of sweetpeas.  It is so lovely to see plants growing on the plot at long last.  The onions all have green shoots and the elephant garlic is really growing thick and strong.  The rhubarb is getting big, ready for it's first pick next weekend and the currants already have flower buds.  Joy!

Next over to plot to and I raked the area I dug last week and created a lovely fine tilth.  I sowed some litle gem lettuce and then put a cloche over, just to help things along.  In open ground I then sowed a row of pingpong ball style carrots, parnsips, red salad bowl lettuce, cylindrical beetroot and radish.  I also sowed long rooted carrots in the two crates that I filled with compost last visit.  Yay, the first seeds are in.

Now it was back to digging and by the time I left I was practically down to the tomato house, very satisfying.

Once home, after prepping dinner and filling the washing machine, I then had an hour in the greenhouse and pricked out a tray of cos lettuce, pixie cabbage, pruple sprouting brocolli and some californian poppies.  They were all moved outside to the cold frame to harden off and make room in the greenhouse as I want to put the tomato plants and squashes up there to toughen up and slow down as they are growing at high speed in the warmth of the conservatory.

Happiness is a greenhouse full of seedlings.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Sunday 14th April 2013

What a glorious day. At last, I do believe, spring is springing.  The daffs are finally open, the buds are bursting on the apple trees and the weeds are growing.  All is good.  I really lost the will to work the allotment last year, everything seemed to fail, but already this year, I am loving the plot and have a good feeling.

I was up with with lark and left hubby at home in charge of the dog and kids.  I don't think he could quite believe I was deserting him but I needed to really get on top of things, and the forecast for the day was good, and boy was it lovely, so I took full advantage.

I finally cleared plot number one and finished putting up my bean poles.  Plot number one looks great and has rhubarb, onions, garlic, sorrel and jerusalem artichokes in front of the fruit cage, then in the middle of the plot there is the fruit cage packed with Glen Ample raspberries, gooseberries, currants and jostaberries, then there are 2 apple trees, an eater and a cooker.  Beyond the fruit I now have a cleared area with the bean poles then there are few last leeks and the spuds that I planted a week ago and finally the strawberry bed with a hedge of daffs, glads and annual flowers.

By now, several other members of the allotment fraternity have arrived and are enjoying the sunshine and birdsong.  I do love it when there are other people milling around. We aren't a very sociable lottie but it really feels productive and spring like when you see other people digging and planting.

I headed over to plot number two, a plot that we pretty much left to its own devices last year so it was looking pretty weedy, however, the soil was so lovely and fluffy, the digging was a breeze and the dreaded creeping buttercup gave up its anchosr relatively easily.  I started at the top end, furthest from the stream.  Up this end I have some stowaway raspberry canes that have breached the path between me and my neighbour, so I have a little cluster of sweet, autumn fruiting rasps.  Tight against the path, smack bang, top middle, there is a black currant bush, a remnant of the plots previous ownership, Bernie who passed away probably 8 years ago now and I inherited his plot, and a couple of fruit bushes.  It has teeny currants that are sweet, but they are teeny and a pain to pick, so I tend to leave them for the birdies.  Then at the other end against the path is a small fenced off area which James used to garden.  As he has lost interest, I have put to storage crates there and filled them with compost and into these, I am going to sow carrots.  Hopefully the soft soil will encourage nice long, straight roots and the height will prevent carrot fly from being a nuisance.  I dug and cleared about two thirds of the first half but by then I was knackered and decided to call it a day.

I will be back at the weekend and by then I reakon the apple blossom with be bursting, the fruit bushes will be in leaf and I will be planting my pea plants.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

23rd March 2013 - not missing in action

Well dear, dedicated readers, I am not missing in action, I am still here, in cyber gardening space.  2012 was a dreadful year on my allotment, and I know I am not alone, I know many gardeners and farmers suffered thanks to constant rainfall.  I mananged to harvest a handfull of squash, runner beans, peas and lettuces.  The tomatoes got blight very early in the season, the spuds all rotted in the ground, as did the onions and garlics.  The brassicas tried hard but just sat in cold, wet ground.  We managed to get some loose leaves from kales, spinach and chard but even they weren't keen to grow very fast.

On the livestock front, Mr fox once again decimated our quail family, even after some serious reinforcements, so we made the decision to give up with our feathery friends.  We still have our three tortoises, Tom and Bertha who are in hibernation, and Travis who spends winter indoors under a heat lamp, Leccy, our Bearded Dragon, Crystal, our Corn Snake, two rabbits and one lone guinea.  We have however added to our brood and we are now the proud parents of a 19 week old black labrador, who I am totally besotted with.  In fact, he is lying next to me now, snoring and twitching, no doubt dreaming of running through the woods, chasing squirrels.

So, the gardening year of 2013 has begun, and already it is starting on the wrong foot. Here in Essex we are still waterlogged and seem to be under almost constant snow.  Yet again this weekend we awoke to a covering of the white stuff.  I looked back to this time last year, one of my last posts, and I was harvesting rhubarb and caulis and had so many things growing already.  This year, the rhubarb hasn't even poked it's nose out of the ground and I am having to start everything off in the greenhouse, conservatory and on windowsills.

I have plenty of tomatoes germinated and potted on, I also have a tray of young lupins potted on and a tray of cowslips that need pricking out.  My penstemen cuttings have survived the winter but my pelargonium cuttings didn't.

I am waiting for chillis, aubergines, various herbs and flowers, brassicas and squashes to germinate.  I have sown some cut and come again salad in a trough in the greenhouse, and the same with baby carrots to see if I can get a harvest whilst I wait for the allotment to warm up.  I have also planted 80 onion sets into cell trays to get them started as my Japanese onions have all rotted in the ground on the plot.  Still have masses to sow, but I need to make some shelves up for the greenhouse as I have no room left for anymore trays.

So, my first post for a year, and I hope this year will be better than last so I can enjoy working on the plot and blogging all about our muddy adventures.