March 2017!

March has been a very pleasant month for me! The weather has generally been nicer and a lot of work has been done on the plot.

This month started with Sam surprising me and doing four hours of hard work and graft on an afternoon off, clearing the back of plot 3 where the polytunnel will go and also strimming all the grass and clearing the area on the second half of plot 1!

The following week Sam was off work trying to use up his annual leave before the next ‘holiday’ year started so spent some more time down the allotment. He completely dug over the raspberry bed on plot 3, removing all the old spent canes ready for new supports and new canes to go in. During the last weekend of March, we set up the support system for the raspberries and planted the new canes! We planted ‘Fall Gold’ ( a yellow raspberry), ‘Joan J’, ‘Autumn Bliss’ and ‘Cascade Delight’.

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Brand new raspberry bed on plot 3!

The weekend of the 11th and we spent most of the day down the allotment, finishing off section E (where the onions and garlic are). We made two new raised beds and bark chipped the paths. We also bought the dog down for the day. Her first day at the allotment with us. She was as good as gold, sitting and watching us work!

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New beds on Section E (for spring planted onions and leeks)
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China, sitting watching us work!

I have also been busy sowing away this month. The first batch of spring sown broad beans have been sown earlier in the month with a second sowing following three weeks after, and I have also sown radishes, spinach, lettuce, chard and leeks in the new seed bed that Sam and I  built. The first batches of carrots, beetroot and spring onions have been sown at the allotment and are starting to poke their heads up.

At home I have sown tomatoes, and further sowing of red cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and lettuces. I am trying to be good and not sow all the seeds at once. I have been sowing the brassicas in batches, 2-4 weeks apart so that I will have a longer season of produce rather than all the brassicas ready in one go.

I have also sown a few flower seeds. Forget me not, poppy ‘Black Peony’ and Salvia ‘Claryssa mixed’ have been sown in the herb garden to get some more colour. At home, Erigeron ‘ Profusion’, Echinacea ‘Pink Parasol’ and Borage ‘White flowering’ have all been sown but the Erigeron didn’t seem to germinate at all whilst the others have germinated nicely.

We had a good going over of plot 1 too, cleared all the weeds from paths and laid new bark chip down as well as making a rather handsome fire to burn all the old rotten wood and garden waste.

The last weekend in March saw us putting in a training support system for our grape (although I think it might be dead!). I planted out some lettuces (bought from Wyevale) and also managed to plant some peas (homegrown) out too.

Further work has been done on plot 3, instead of the back breaking digging of one of the beds we have been using as a rubbish pile, I decided to make a ‘lazy bed’. This was something i saw in one of my garden magazines, where instead of digging over we have simply laid down any Tufts of grass upside down on the area we want as a bed. The large pile of weeds was spread over the bed to even it out.

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The ‘lazy’ bed on plot 3!

We will then finish off the bed by adding a layer of manure and covering with plastic or weed control membrane. This should allow the weeds, grass and any other organics  to compost down. Squash plants will be planted through the membrane so that the space isn’t wasted. I did a similar thing with section E two years ago (before I started the blog) and this seemed to work quite well (I had the biggest squash i had ever seen!) Hopefully we will get similar results this time!

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The enormous butternut squash I had two years ago from my first ‘lazy bed’!

Breaking news…I actually spent some more time clearing the strawberry bed! I manage to get another section of the strawberry bed cleared, weeded and dug up the stray strawberry plants!

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Getting there with the strawberry bed!

I just need to finish off the right hand side (which will hopefully happen next weekend) and then we can line the bed with wood which should hopefully keep the grass from encroaching into the bed!

I feel that it has been a productive March and I hope April will be even more productive! We will be ordering a shed to put up in April and at the bottom of plot 3 will be digging over the ground in preparation for the polytunnel! Exciting times!

But in amongst all this work, I always take some time to stop and look at the beautiful plants that are coming in to bloom all around us!

Have a great April and a Happy Easter!

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This Week’s Harvest – 2017, week 12

We lifted two thirds of the remaining leeks this week. We have to make way for the potatoes which will go in the ground Easter weekend so we have three weekends to lift the rest of the leeks, dig over the ground and enrich the soil in time for the spuds! Weather permitting of course!

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So we harvested 3.25kg of leeks this week. Two thirds have been chopped up and frozen whilst a third have been distributed to fellow colleagues!

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Trimmed and cleaned!
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Chopped leeks, laid out on a tray to be frozen

This Week’s Harvest – 2017, week 11

This week down the allotment as well a the many other jobs I did, I gave the rosemary bush on plot 1 a much needed hair cut. About a third of the bush was cut away (mostly dead wood) but some of it had lovely fresh growth and I couldn’t bare to burn it so I cut off the fresh stems and bought them home. I will keep some fresh for cooking this week otherwise I will dry the rest and store it.

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I harvested 55g of fresh rosemary!

What to do this March!

March is my second favourite time of year! To me, the new season is finally here and the likelihood of me being able to get outside on the allotment is higher! Birds are flying around making their nests and the tadpoles are hatching! It is also time to start sowing (mainly indoors) and planting!

But as exciting as all that is, it also marks the start of the hungry gap! Harvests are dwindling (I myself am down to leeks and rhubarb) and we have a couple of months to wait until we get the new season peas, broad beans and the first of the strawberries! Now is the time to plan for the hungry gap next year by making sure that those essential crops are included in your allotment/garden plan!

Sowing, Planting and Harvesting!

Sowing is really starting to get underway now especially under cover. Frosts  are still likely so tender plants will still have to wait and even the semi-hardy varieties may suffer if there is a particularly cold snap!

  • Tomatoes can be sown this month. Sow them indoors so that they get a head start for the season. Tomatoes that will be planted outdoors won’t be planted outside possibly until mid-May but sowing now means you will have big strong plants ready for planting.
  • Peas and broad beans can be sown now outside. Remember to check your soil conditions before planting outside as peas and beans can rot in waterlogged soil and hungry mice will be on the look out so cover them with netting or chicken wire to stop those pesky rodents! If in doubt, sow indoors and transplant when seedlings are strong!
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Sow peas but watch out for those pesky mice!
  • Root vegetables such as beetroot and carrots can be sown this month.
  • Salads and lettuces can be sown now to help fill the hungry gap in April/May. If you are sowing outside seeds may take longer to germinate in cold weather. Spinach and chard can also be sown outside now.
  • Brassicas such as summer cabbage and cauliflowers can be sown now and if you are thinking about the winter and hungry gap harvests you can sow Brussels sprouts, sprouting broccoli and kale.
  • Next winters leeks can be sown now in a seed bed and in a few months they can be lifted and transplanted to their final positions.
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Leeks can be sown in a seed bed!

 

In March we can start thinking about planting tuberous plants and some fruits.

  • Plant strawberry plants now and there is still time to plant bare-rooted  raspberry canes.
  • Onion sets can be planted out towards the end of the month or they can be started off in trays of compost now and planted out later in April. Watch out for birds who will pull the sets up!
  • You can plant new rhubarb crowns now but you won’t be able to harvest the fruity stalks for the first year and only sparingly in the second year to allow the plant to build up energy! The same goes for asparagus crowns if you are thinking about starting an asparagus bed. Asparagus is an excellent hungry gap crop!
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Asparagus crowns can be planted now if you want to start an asparagus bed!
  • First early potatoes that have been chitting can certainly be planted now and second earlies towards the end of the month. Watch out for frosts and make sure any foliage is covered up to avoid frost damage.
  • Jerusalem artichokes can also be planted towards the end of the month for those lovely sweet tubers in the winter.

Although we are heading into the hungry gap, March still offers a few delectables which can be harvested from the garden.

  • Brussels sprouts may still be cropping if you planted late seaon varieties but will be finishing this month
  • If you are a lover of chicory, then this can be harvested now too.
  • Spring cabbages, cauliflowers and Sprouting broccoli can be harvested now.
  • Leeks are still in abundance in my allotment but you will want to get your leeks lifted soon as they will start to flower soon.
  • Parsnips that are still in the ground can be harvested. Once the weather starts to warm up, the root will start to put all that sweet goodness into producing flowers and seed so don’t forget to eat them!
  • If you have planted hardy lettuces over the winter then you can still harvest these for a delicious salad.
  • If you force rhubarb then you will be harvesting these delicious pink stems now!
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Leeks and forced rhubarb can be harvested now!

Jobs on the plot

March is a busy month with Spring getting into full swing. When you are not admiring the daffodils and crocuses there are plenty of jobs to get done around the plot!

  • As I have already mentioned, harvest your winter veg. Many winter veg are biennials and will start to put their energy into flowering as Spring advances. You will also find you need the room for spring-cleaning crops!
  • If you can sow crops now then weeds can grow now! Start as you mentioned to go on by keeping your beds weed free! Getting weeds out when they are young will stop problems getting too big later in the year! Also get the ‘volunteer’ potatoes out now, those small tubers that have been accidentally left in the bed. If left, they will could disturb rows of newly sown seedlings. They also carry the risk of spreading blight if left.
  • If you have established strawberry beds then they are likely to need some attention now. Give them a good haircut getting rid of any dead and browning leaves. Clear any weeds from the bed and to protect the plants from slugs and further weeds, you can invest in strawberry mats which you can place around the crown.
  • Give perennial herbs a good tidy up as well, sage and rosemary can be given a trim and mint and chive clumps can be divided and re-planted. Now is also a good time to plant out any new hardy perennial herbs.
  • If you can, empty a compost bin ready for the season ahead. The season is likely to generate a large amount of garden waste which will fit down into a nutritious hummus for your plants. Spread the compost made from last year’s waste over your beds either as a mulch or in preparation for new plants.
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Empty a compost bin for the year ahead!
  • Give any perennial herbs, flowers, fruits and vegetables a good mulch and top dressing of fertiliser to help them for the coming season.
  • If you have a peach tree that is currently in flower, you can aid fruit set by hand pollinating the flowers. The cold weather can lead to lack of pollinating insects so for a good harvest you can use a soft paint brush to gently brush the flowers when they are fully open.

Indoor jobs

Although we are moving back outside for a the new season there is still plenty of indoor sowing that can be done, whether that is in your house or your greenhouse so on those rainy days you can still be getting something done!

March Recipe

Rhubarb and Apple crumble 

Ingredients:

  • 750g forced rhubarb, cut into 1 inch chunks
  • 3 eating apples, peeled, cored and cut into slices.
  • 100g granulated sugar
  • 85g butter, cut into cubes
  • 140g plain flour
  • 50g rolled oats
  • 50g flaked almonds
  • 50g Demerara sugar

Combine the rhubarb and sugar in a saucepan and heat on a low heat. Stir the rhubarb occasionally and cook for 15-20mins. Pre-heat the oven at 200°c

Whilst the rhubarb is cooking, make the crumble topping. Combine the butter and flour in a bowl and rub the butter and flour together to form fine bread crumbs. Once all the butter and flour is combined mix in the rolled oats, flaked almonds and half the sugar and put to one side.

 

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Once the rhubarb has cooked but is still holding its shape, take off the heat. Layer half the apple slices along the bottom of a oven proof dish. Lay half the rhubarb mixture over the apple and then repeat with the rest of the apple and rhubarb. Spread the crumble topping over the rhubarb and apple layers. Finally, sprinkle the last half of the sugar evenly over the top of the crumble.

Bake the crumble in the oven for 30 minutes or until the top is golden and the rhubarb mixture is bubbling. Serve hot with custard of ice cream.

I hope March brings good weather for you all and we all get the opportunity to get outside and into that fresh spring air!

This Week’s Harvest – week 10, 2017

Another week, another post about harvesting rhubarb and leeks! It is literally all I have in the allotment (I apologise if I bore you – its the best way for me to keep track of what I am harvesting)!

So I harvested 1.25kg of leeks this week, all to go in the freezer to use of the summer, and 1.27kg of forced rhubarb, which will also be stewed and frozen into two batches for crumble or pie another time!

That is it for the forced rhubarb now as will let the crown rest for the remainder of the year. My other (non-forced) rhubarb crowns are growing quite well and I will soon be inundated with rhubarb and not enough ideas with what to do with it!

I am also acutely aware that other than the leeks, which will be cleared this coming weekend, I don’t have anything else to harvest in the allotment! Now is the time to plan so that this time next year my allotment will still be producing plenty!

This Week’s Harvest – 2017, week 9

This week I have continued to harvest some leeks to go in the freezer and have had another crop from my forced rhubarb!

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We harvested 900g of rhubarb this week which went into a lovely rhubarb crumble again!

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And we harvested 820g of leeks, 4 of which were given to Sam’s mum which was a lovely accompaniment to the trout dinner that she served us yesterday!

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A nice surprise!

So I have a busy weekend this weekend, what with Sam’s birthday and making over my mum’s front garden, and I have had today (friday) off so that I could fit in a day in the allotment.

All week long I have been hoping the weather forecast would change from rain to sunshine but I am just not that lucky!

So feeling a bit down Thursday afternoon on my way home from work knowing that I wasnt going to get to do anything down the allotment! I get in and Sam greets me with ‘I have a present for you!’ I am expecting chocolates or something but instead he hands me his phone with a picture on it…

Remember the part of plot 3 where I am going to put the polytunnel? That bit I have been meaning to clear for the last six months?

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Well Sam spent the afternoon completely clearing it (after buying a new petrol strimmer)!

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All the rubbish has been moved to the rubbish pile for us to take to the tip and he cleared out all the brambles. There is still remnants of the pile we created but that can be easily moved.

And you know the extra half plot that we have taken on…yep he cleared that too!

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He strimmed all the grass so now I can get straight on with putting down flower beds!

So with that lovely little surprise I could enjoy my Friday off without worrying about not going to the allotment this weekend!

And he has kindly agreed to work down the allotment this week (on his week off) to clear more of plot 3 and get it ready for planting!

He is such a good boyfriend!

 

February 2017!

This month started off reasonably well with a lovely bright sunny albeit cold day down the allotment. Sam and I got to work on plot 1 removing our old rotten seed bed ready to replace it with a nice new one. The seed bed was made of an old bookcase which was broken and we decided to make as much use of it as possible instead of chucking it down the tip.

We also took down the fence between our half plot and the other half plot as we have agreed to take on the back plot. Sam want to keep bees there and I want to have some lovely flower beds and nice little area of nature.

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Taken on the back half of the plot!

All the parsnips were harvested and both the parsnip bed and carrot bed were prepped ready for seed to be sown in the coming weeks. I also had time to weed the flower bed and discovered an abundance of bulbs were coming to life.

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All the bulbs are coming up!

I mulched the rhubarb bed and cut off some pieces off one rhubarb crown as a few friends wanted a plant or two. The last of the brassica beds were dug over and covered ready for the beans to go in this year. We also managed to create quite a pile of rubbish so a trip to the tip will be in order!

Luckily we achieved quite a bit on plot 1 that weekend because the following weekend we had to stay inside. It was cold and snowing so apart from feeding the birds nothing got done on the allotment. I was also in the throes of a cold and feeling rotten so decided to rest!

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Still made it down to feed the birds!

Fast forward to the weekend of the 18th and I was back out in force on the allotment. Sam built the new seed bed which looks rather good and I got to work trying to tame the back half of the plot. Two things I learnt: a) the lawn mower is broken and b) you can’t tackle 125 square meters with an battery powered strimmer! Garden fail!

So I settled for spreading more bark chip on the paths to keep those pesky weeds at bay and I had a good weeding session in the pond beds so they are all ready for planting to get that luscious spring colour. I hope this year to get a few more herbaceous perennials in the border.

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Pond beds have been weeded!

Some of you reading this post may already know what happened the following weekend. A phone call from the allotment officer led to the discovery that my shed had been killed by Storm Doris!

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Dead Shed!

Luckily I don’t think we lost any of the contents of the shed although a few things were broken! I am glad we had another shed on plot 1 where we could put all our stuff. So the Sunday was spent dismantling the bulk of he shed and burning it! I created a pretty awesome fire – it was so good that I started inviting other people to burning their garden waste on it!

I also made the discovery that the frogs are back and breeding and have left a lovely blob of frog spawn in my pond! I am hoping that more frogs will breed in the pond but it is always positive to know that you have created a lovely environment that animals can call their home!

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The frogs are back!

I did not finish tidying the strawberry like I had planned but hey whats new there! There is always March…

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One day I will finish this!

I hope that Storm Doris didn’t cause too much destruction to your plot and am wishing you a happy Spring!

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This Week’s Harvest – 2017, week 8

So with March around the corner and having a plot full of leeks I have decided that it is time to start using them in earnest.

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Still have loads of leeks to use!

So I decided to start harvesting them yesterday. I only harvested 5 – 2 to use for my potato and leek soup and 3 to freeze. After all the leeks were cleaned and trimmed, I had a nice yield of 500g.

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Slightly over zealous with the trimming – 500g of leeks this week!

Over the next few weeks I will be harvesting the rest of the leeks, mainly to freeze so I can enjoy my own leeks in soups, casseroles, pies and risottos all through the summer!

Destructive Doris and Wildlife Wonders!

Sorry whilst I was resting at home with a damaged rotator cuff, I got a phone call from our allotment officer Debbie. “One of the tenants has informed me that your shed is leaning to one side. I think you need to go down to the plot and prop the shed up!”

Sorry I hurry down to the plot to right the shed and this is what I found!

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The shed has been completely ripped off the base and deposited upside down by Storm Doris!

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This was pretty much the only damage to the entire site! Just me! As you can imagine I was not a happy bunny!

However, whilst surveying the rest of the site and righting the bench, which had ended up half in the pond, I was amazed to discover that there was a beautiful mass of frog spawn in the pond!

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The frogs are awake and breeding! In my pond! Well that certainly cheered me up! I can replace he shed but there is nothing better than knowing that I’ve made a pond the frogs want to call home!