The hungry gap is over and it is filled with broad beans! I have had a good harvest this week of broad beans, some lettuce and a few peas.
I harvested 1.4kg of broad beans and 150g of peas. I also pulled up a couple of carrots to see if they are ready yet. They are still small and have forked but at least there are no sign of carrot root fly!
I also pulled up the spinach which had started to flower. This tends to happen quickly in dry weather – I think I need to find a cooler place to grow spinach!
Wow! We have had some dry weather this last month. There has been the occasional shower but this has certainly been a very dry May. Suffice to say a good chunk of my time is taken up with watering the plot constantly!
I have been quite concerned this month about a number of things:
a) the lack of water. I know that we had a particularly wet week in the middle of May but the general trend appears to be on the dry side. Whilst most people will enjoy this I feel that it can’t be a good sign!?
b) the lack of bees. I try my best to have spaces in the allotment with bee frinedly plants, the wildlife pond, the herb garden etc. Every year I start to see bees buzzing around the broad beans, strawberries and chives now that they are out and flowering but this year there has been just a handful. As we make our way towards June there numbers are starting to increase but it still leaves me rather concerned! Has anyone else noticed this?
c) the lack of ladybirds. Aphids are slowly taking over my plot and normally I will see quite a few ladybirds enjoying a feast but this year I have only seen one – so much so that I have bought in ladybird larvae to tackle the growing aphid problem.
d) the lack of fruit set. We had a incredibly warm april which bought out all the flowers on my fruit trees. Out of nowhere in the first week of May we had a particularly hard frost which killed all the blossom on my apple, pear, plum and cherry tree. My strawberries were also hit but have bounced back with more flowers. Generally this means that the fruit I will harvest this year is limited to strawberries, raspberries and rhubarb.
Despite all this we have been working hard down the allotment trying to keep on top of things. I perpetually feel like I am behind but every year it gets a little easier!
Working away down the plot on the first bank holiday weekend, the ground was hard and dusty so when it rained (for 3 seconds) I was quite relieved! Mostly, we weeded the plots. The following weekend we ordered a load of manure which arrived promptly and was put to use covering the lazy bed. The bed was then promptly covered with weed control fabric which the wind took great delight in lifting it all off and depositing it against the fence. Cue two hours of trying to battle the wind and peg it back down with the help of some heavy compost bags, the garden table and a garden bench. Excitingly that weekend I ordered the polytunnel!
The following weekend was a planting weekend. I planted out cabbages, sprouted lentils and dwarf beans. The dwarf beans were torn apart by the wind over the following two days which was slightly heart breaking so have sown some more direct into the soil. I think I need to buy some wind breaks for the plots! My aubergines and celeriac plug plants arrived and they were promptly potted on (aubergines) or planted out (celeriac).
I did a small amount of weeding in the herb garden specifically in thyme square and planted out some borage and bergamot. I also bought and planted a peony and two hostas around the pond.
Thursday 18th saw my polytunnel being delivered and Sam got promptly to work putting it up with the help of our friend David, to whom I owe a bottle of whisky! I helped a little but generally big construction projects go better if Sam and I don’t work together (we argue!). It has taken a long time to put up the structure and even now the cover is not yet on. We have, however, built some raised beds for inside the polytunnel. Hopefully the first weekend in June will be calm enough for us to put the cover on and hang the doors. Whilst Sam and David were working hard to put up the polytunnel, I planted courgettes and sweetcorn on plot 2 and broccoli, red cabbages and swede on plot 1. The lovely deluge of rain during the week before saw my plots turn into mini jungles, the weeds went rampant among the sea of grass. It took me a total of 2 hours to strim and mow all the grass on plot 2 and 3.
The last weekend in May saw a second manure delivery after using up the last one. Sam and I got to work filling the raised beds in the polytunnel and earthing up potatoes.
I have jetted off to Lyon for a work conference (yawn!), where I am currently sat typing this in my hotel room, and Sam went to the allotment to strim the jungle that is the second half of plot 1. Very kindly, Sam’s mum is coming over tomorrow (bank holiday Monday) and I have left a list of things to be done. Hopefully, most of the items on the list will be crossed off. I have also left Sam in charge of the war against slugs and he will be applying the second batch of nematodes whilst I am away!
So May has been rather busy and now that the polytunnel is almost up and finished, I feel like we are starting to get plot 3 up together!
Like April, May can be a busy time for gardeners and allotmenteers! Frosts are becoming less frequent and by the middle of the month we can be reasonably confident that our more tender veg can be planted out and beans and squash can be sown direct in to the ever-warming soil!
Sowing, Planting and Harvesting!
It is particularly busy time for planting and sowing now that summer is nearly here!
All your beans can be sown now; runner beans, climbing beans and dwarf beans and peas. Watch out for the dreaded pea moth laying her eggs in June and July on peas which are sown now.
Squashes and other cucurbits such as courgettes, melons and cucumbers can be sown direct outdoors in May or started off in pots indoors if there is still a chance of frost.
At the same time, sweetcorn can be sown now both outdoors and indoors. They will be an excellent companion crop to squashes and climbing beans
Continue to successionally sow root crops for continual harvests including beetroot, carrots and this moth is really the last chance to sow parsnips!
Brassicas such as winter cabbage, broccoli, late season Brussels sprouts, cauliflowers and kale can be sown now for harvesting in Autumn/winter.
Don’t forget to sow other brassicas such as radishes, turnips and swede. These root brassicas still require protection from pigeons who loves to strip the leaves!
Salad leaves and other crops that add pep to your salad including spring onions, swiss chard, spinach and lambs lettuce can be sown now. Where necessary remember to keep sowing successionally so you can enjoy salads all summer long.
For your herb garden, tender herbs such as basil, parsley and coriander can be sown now too!
Chilli peppers, sweet peppers, aubergines and greenhouse tomatoes that were started back at the beginning of the year can now be planted out into greenhouse and polytunnel borders.
If you have ordered sweet potatoes then they will be delivered this month ready for you to plant out. Make sure you plant out after all chances of frost have passed.
Any courgettes, cucumber and sweetcorn you started in April will be ready for planting out from the middle of the month onwards.
If you haven’t been able to start brassicas off from seeds then you can plant out brassica plants bought from your local garden centre or any of the online retailers.
Salad leaves and other salad crops such as radishes, swiss chard and lettuces will be ready to harvest now.
Early peas and broad beans may be ready to harvest this month
Rhubarb will continue to crop this month as will asparagus if you are lucky enough to have this delicious crop.
Towards the end of the month, early strawberries will be starting to ripen. Make sure you get them before the birds or slugs!
If you planned ahead, last year you may also be harvesting spring cabbages and cauliflowers!
Jobs on the plot
As the weather warms and we start to make the transition into Summer, your crops will be growing strong – as will the weeds. Watch out for any late frosts in the first half of this month depending on where you live.
Protect young and tender plants from any late frosts. Keep an eye on the weather forecast, if the temperatures are set to plummet over night protect with cloches and fleece and earth up potatoes to protect the shoots.
New sowings and young plants will be vulnerable to pests especially slugs and snails who are looking for an easy meal. Put down barriers and traps to stop these critters in their tracks! Apply predatory nematodes and predators such as ladybird larvae to keep the pest population under control and fit brassica collars round newly planted brassicas to stop cabbage root fly.
Sow catch crops such as fast growing radishes and lettuces between slower-growing crops like brassicas to make good use of the space and keep weeds at bay.
Hoe off annual weeds as they appear but when you see perennial weeds in your patch it might be better to dig these out by hand and remove as much root as possible otherwise they will just come back. Also make sure you get up any volunteer potatoes as they could be a reservoir for blight!
Harden off your tender plants before planting them out to acclimatize them to outside conditions.
In the fruit garden, thin out raspberries where necessary so they don’t become overcrowded and prune almond, peach and nectarine trees. Remove strawberry flowers from very young plants or any that appear to be struggling and as the fruit starts to ripen on older healthier plants, protect them from pests.
In the polytunnel or greenhouse, any tomatoes you have already planted may need staking or tying in as they grow and any side-shoots removed. The temperatures can get quite high under cover so make sure you open vents and doors on particularly hot days remembering to close them again at night when temperatures drop.
Keep your plot well watered especially if there isn’t much rain or you grow your plants in pots. Rising temperatures can cause the ground to dry out fast. Where possible apply mulches that keep the moisture locked into the ground.
If you have ordered plug plants, then they will be arriving on your doorstep. Get them potted on or planted out as soon as possible. Suppliers send out these plants at the best time for planting.
Heat oil and 25g of the butter in a large pan over a medium heat. Add the onion and cook until soft and translucent, about 4-5 mins. Stir in the rice and cook for a further 2 mins. Turn up the heat and add the wine, let it bubble to evaporate the alcohol.
Once the wine has reduced, begin adding the hot stock a ladle at a time over a medium heat, allowing each addition to be absorbed before adding the next and stirring continuously. The rice should always be moist, but not swimming in liquid. The process of adding and stirring should take about 16-20 mins, depending on what kind of risotto rice you use.
Bring a pan of salted water to the boil and blanch the peas and beans for 2-3 mins. Drain and set aside. Remove the risotto from the heat and stir in the remaining butter, Parmesan, peas and beans with some seasoning before serving.
April was really off to a sunny start with temperatures of 18 degrees in the south west!
I did quite a lot of work in my own garden the first weekend in April so that Sam and I could actually sit outside and start enjoying the lighter evenings but as always at least one day a week is reserved for the allotment.
We took the ‘mother-in-law’ around the allotments (not really the mother-in-law but for want of a better word) and she really liked the plots although thinks we are completely bonkers for taking on so much! Fast forward to the actual work we did, I dug up the newly planted strawberry plants on plot 1, laid weed control membrane over the bed and then re-planted the strawberry plants through it. This will save me the headache of constant weeding and stops the strawberries from being able to root runners! I then bought some straw and have placed that round the strawberries. This acts as a mulch, keeps strawberries clean as they develop and has the added benefit (or so I am told) of reducing slug damage.
Sam and I also got to work digging over Section D where the potatoes will be this year. We removed the very last of the leeks and dug over the ground ready for new raised beds on that section. This is the last part of plot 2 that needed raised beds in and then the structure of plot 2 would be complete! The weekend of the 8th saw us actually build those raised beds and set them in the ground (slightly wonky but hey, it doesn’t have to be perfect – just functional). Weed control membrane was laid down for the paths and then covered with bark chip. Fast forward to Easter weekend and Sam had the lovely (hard) job of planting all the second early and maincrop potatoes.
Over the last three weeks, spring-planted onions have slowly been planted out in Section E and a variety of lettuces have been planted in the same beds. I have also sown a number of sowings of spring onions and beetroot but the seedlings don’t seem to get very far. I think this is more to do with the soil than with the seeds. Unfortunately, no matter how much compost or manure I add to the soil, it is always hard and dry! Yesterday I decided to sown my next lot of spring onion and beetroot sowings in the old wicker carrot planter where the soil is much nicer!
Section A on plot 1 (where the beans and peas are going) is starting to come to life. Pea and bean supports have been put up ready for plants. Two lots of pea plants have been planted out, one at the beginning of April and one at the end, and I have sown a further rows of peas direct which I hope will give me successional harvests of peas. All the broad beans have now been sown and the broad beans I planted back in November are flowering! Unfortunately, the frost we had last week has caused some of the tiny pods that were developing to go black! I guess that means I will be waiting a little longer for my first harvest of broad beans!
The Thursday after Easter, my dad came up and built me a new shed! We have treated it, painted the inside and can now store some of our tools on plot 3 instead of having to traipse all the way over to plot 1 every time we need something (or have forgotten to get something)! It is not as big as the one we originally inherited but hopefully with a lot of love and care it will last us for quite a few years (I am hoping for at least a decade!).
And shock! I finished tidying up the strawberries! I can’t believe it! I had to remove quite a lot of runners that had rooted and then moved some plants so there wasn’t such a big gap in the middle like before. We will be putting raised beds around the strawberries which should make it easier to weed, harvest and generally keep tidy – a job for May! I am so glad to finally get this off the to-do list! The strawberries are already showing lots of flowers so with a bit of luck I am in for a good harvest again this year. It is probably the last really good harvest I will get off some of these plants as they are 3 years old (some are new runners which have been moved). They will probably be left for another season and then the bed will be cleared for something new. By that time, the strawberry plants on my other plot will be nice and big and producing lots of strawberries!
We have also lined the beds around the pond with wood. The Californian poppies from last year have self-seeded and I decided to leave them there as they are such pretty flowers. I have also sown a white-flowered borage at home, and hope to plant them into the ponds beds and herb garden in the next fortnight!
For those of you who follow this blog you will know I have two friends who love to come up and help out on the allotment (often helping me get the hardest tasks done)! This last Saturday they came up and helped Sam and I to finally move the pile at the end of plot 3. The pile was dug up and moved to the lazy bed where it should hopefully compost down, and then we cleared the back of the plot of brambles, nettles and bindweed. Here we laid a thick mulch of dead leaves and then laid weed control membrane to hopefully stop all the weeds from coming back. We will cover this area with bark chip and next winter we will plant currant bushes here. We also marked out where the polytunnel will be going with bamboo canes and string and now that we have a nice (relatively) flat surface, I can order the polytunnel!
There have been a few disappointments this last though, the frosts did some damage in our plots, the first early potatoes were hit quite hard. They are grown in bags and I didn’t get the bags filled up with compost in time! There is still some green foliage growing so have placed straw in the bags to keep them warm and protect from any further frosts and we will see if they recover!
Some of our plants around the pond were hit hard! The ‘Bleeding Heart’ and the flowers on the Heuchera have really been affected. The buds on the grape had just started to open up but I think the leaves have now died! It seemed to withstand the frosts really well last year but not so much this year! And also there seems to be a cat digging up my allotment! It dug a hole in the soil in my seed bed, destroying my brassica seedlings and it dug a hole in my parsnip bed!
Despite this, April has been a rather productive month! There is still a lot to get done in May. The polytunnel needs to be bought and erected and there will be a lot to plant out but I am looking forward to the month ahead!
I hope you have been able to enjoy your gardens and allotment this month as much as I have! Although I hope your muscles don’t ache as much as mine!
I have been formulating my battle plans against the slug army and as a first wave of defense I will be deploying my infantry into battle – the nematodes!
So what are the nematodes?
The nematodes that I will be using are phasmarhabditis hermaphrodita, the nematode that you can buy as part of the ‘Nemasys’ range.
It is described as a facultative parasitic nematode. This basically means that the nematode itself does not absolutely rely on a host to complete it’s life cycle. It can also live on rotting vegetation and dead invertebrates which coincidentally is probably where you will find a lot of slugs! It’s life cycle is quite simple; it finds a slug host to infect and once inside, it release bacteria which kills the slug. The nematodes then feed off the decomposing corpse whilst reproducing and producing the next generation to go off in search of more slugs.
The nematodes are already present in my soil but their numbers are generally insufficient to control the estimated slug population in my allotment. Adding more nematodes to the soil bolsters their numbers and helps to reduce the slug population. The nematodes will die back to their natural levels again when there are less slugs to feed off.
The benefits of using these minuscule worms is that they are biological control, so no nasty chemicals are used which could adversely affect other organisms and they are slug specific. This means that slugs (and snails) are the only organisms that will die! They also don’t accumulate up the food chain and have nasty effects on slug predators such as frogs and hedgehogs!
So my first batch of Nemasys slug killer has arrived and it has been sat in the fridge for the last couple of weeks (you should store it in the fridge upon receipt). This weekend , I went down to the allotment, mixed up the nematodes into the correct amount of water and applied this to the beds I think are most likely going to see slug damage.
The first bed was around the pond. I have lost many a plant there due to slugs and my hosta is having a hard time sprouting leaves as the slugs eat them before they can fully open! I also have two more hostas I want to plant out but am unwilling until I see a reduction in the number of slugs!
The second bed I targeted is the main strawberry bed on plot 2. With flowers starting to show on my strawberries it won’t be long before the fruit start developing and if I act now that should give the nematodes time to do their job! I also have watered the nematodes into the Jerusalem artichoke bed as I lost all but one of the shoots that grew last year to slugs!
I have another packet of nematodes arriving from my supplier slightly later on in the season. This packet will mainly be used on the potato beds and if I have enough left, the brassica beds. Slug damage is a big issue for my potatoes as last year I threw away a third of my maincrops away due to these slimy pests! Hopefully these nematodes will reduce the amount of damage I see this year.
So I have released my foot soldiers out to do battle with the gastropodic enemy! Only time will tell who the victor will be!
April is a busy time for most gardeners and allotmenteers! The sowing season is upon us and with Easter happening this month, there is also the tradition of planting out your chitted potatoes over the Easter Weekend!
Sowing, Planting and Harvesting!
The sowing season is upon us and if your ground is not ready and prepared for your new sowings and plants then it really is time to get a move on!
Peas and Broad beans can be sown now. These will crop a little later than those that were sown in the Autumn or back in February. French beans (dwarf or climbing) can be started this month too but better off indoors as if sown outdoors you will have to watch out for those sneaky frosts!
Root vegetables such as beetroot, parsnips, salsify, scorzonera, turnips and carrots can be sown this month. For successional crops of carrots and beetroot sow every three-four weeks.
Salads leaves such as land cress, chard, spinach and lettuces can be sown now ready for those delicious summer salads
Brassicas can be sown outdoors into a well-prepared seed bed or where they are to crop including early season calabrese, late cropping sprouts, kale, cauliflowers, and summer/winter cabbage. Sprouting broccoli should be started now too. It needs to be sown approximately a year before it is due to be harvested.
Leeks should be sown by the end of this month and spring onions can be sown successionally every two to three weeks to give you a continuous supply.
If you have always wanted to have an asparagus bed, then now is the time to start one. Remember not to harvest in the first couple of years and only take a few in the third, after that you will have asparagus to enjoy year after year!
Spring-planting onions and shallots can be planted out now.
Jerusalem artichokes can be planted out in April. They produce beautiful sunflower type flowers throughout the summer and earthy sweet tubers in the winter
Second early and maincrop potatoes can be planted out now. Traditionally, they are planted out on the Easter Saturday (which has now passed) but if you are a little behind, not to worry, they will soon catch up if you are a few weeks late.
April firmly sits in the hungry gap but that doesn’t mean you can’t have offerings in the garden.
If you already have an asparagus bed you can start harvesting from around St George’s day up until the Summer solstice.
If you are a lover of chicory, then this can be harvested now too.
Any remaining winter savoy cabbages,cauliflowers and leeks should be harvested this month to make way for new crops and Sprouting broccoli and spring cabbage is in full swing during the month of April
If you have planted hardy lettuces over the winter then you can harvest these for a delicious salad along with any new sowings or radishes, leef beet/chard, spinach and other salad leaves that may be ready now.
Rhubarb should be cropping well throughout April.
Jobs on the plot
April is busy, busy, busy what with all the sowing and planting but be sure to remember the other jobs that might need doing:
Hoe off any weeds that appear in your vegetable beds. The days are longer and the temperatures are warmer which means weeds will be growing quickly. Control weeds whilst they are still small and before they flower and set seed.
Pests can often start to appear this month especially aphids. These pests should be controlled and removed in whatever way you see fit (chemical, biological or mechanical) before their numbers get too great.
Support your legumes! Build bean and pea frames to support your pea and bean sowings that you will make this month. Bean frames can be bought from many retailers or you can make your own from hazel sticks or bamboo canes.
Watch out for those frosts! Keep a close eye on the weather forecasts and if it looks like the temperature is going to plummet over night then bring tender plants in or protect them with fleece.
In the fruit garden, feed blueberries with a liquid feed or mulch with ericaceous compost to help get them off to a great start. Grape vines and kiwi fruit should also be fed and mulched with general garden compost or well-rotted manure. Keep an eye out for any fruit tree pests and deal with them quickly remembering not spray chemical controls on trees in blossom.
Train and tie in blackberries against a fence or using a wire support system. Mulch thickly around blackberries and raspberries.
Clear out polytunnels and greenhouse to make sure there is room for new sow plants. Also make sure you are removing any dead or diseased foliage so that rots can’t spread.
If you have planted first early potatoes in a polytunnel or grow bags then make sure to earth up the foliage as it grows..
Thin out young seedlings to make sure that plants have room to grow and aren’t competing with one another for food and light.
You still have time to trim and tidy up any perennial herbs such as thyme, rosemary and sage.
If you have tomatoes growing indoors or in a greenhouse, don’t let them get pot bound. Make sure you transplant the tomatoes into a bigger pot ready for planting out in May.
If some of your seeds have been unsuccessful then take a trip to your local garden centre and buy some replacement plug plants.
Cook the potatoes in a large pan of boiling water for 8-10 mins until tender, then drain and keep warm in the pan. Season the chicken with ground black pepper. Heat the oil in a large non-stick frying pan. Gently fry the chicken with the onion and garlic for 5 mins until both are lightly browned. Turn over the chicken once and stir the onion regularly.
Pour over the stock, add 2 sprigs of tarragon and bring to a gentle simmer. Cook for 5 mins, then turn the chicken, add the asparagus and cook for 3 mins more. Chop the remaining tarragon.
Stir the crème fraîche and tarragon into the pan with the chicken and heat through, stirring, for a few secs. Serve with the new potatoes
I hope you all have a good April and for those of you who will be celebrating the religious holidays, Happy Easter, Happy Passover or just Happy Holidays!
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’.
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!
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.
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!
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!
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!
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!
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!
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!
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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!
Rhubarb and Apple crumble
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.
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!