May 2017!

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:'Well, when I've tried everything and it still hasn't rained, I wash the car.'

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?

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A rare bumblebee in amongst the chives!

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.

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All this lovely blossom  was hit by frost!

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!

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Lazy bed has been covered with weed control fabric ready for squash plants to go in!

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).

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Aubergines have arrived and been potted on!

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.

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The pond is starting to come to life again with self-seeded california poppies flowering!

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.

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Polytunnel frame has gone up – just need to put on the cover and the doors!

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.

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Potatoes have been earthed up with the new delivery of well-rotted manure!

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!sunshine

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!

I hope your May has been a good one!

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January 2017!

It’s a miracle – I have finally started on sorting out the strawberry bed on plot 2! For those of you who have read my previous posts you will know that I have been meaning to get this job done for the last 4 months! Well I finally started! To be far the work you can see in the picture below was started at the beginning of January and I haven’t done anything since but that is because the ground has been either too wet or too frozen to work (at least that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it!)

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Started the strawberry bed!

The large pear tree has been pruned this month. The tree had gotten out of shape and I cut off about a third of the main branches to try and restore the tree to the right shape. The centre of the tree is still a bit congested but I am conscientious of the fact that I have already taken away a good number of branches  and don’t want to take away too much in one go!

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The shed on plot 1 was given a good clearing out. All the dust and debris has been swept up and everything arranged neatly in the shed! All our tools were given a thorough cleaning and all our shears, loppers and secateurs were sent away for sharpening. The guy who did it did a wonderful job removing nearly all of the rust! Apologies for the fuzzy photo – it was raining and my regular cameraman had to ‘work’!

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Shed is nice and tidy and all the tools have been cleaned and sharpened!

I also managed to plant up two new strawberry beds which will eventually replace the big strawberry bed on plot 2. The new beds have been planted up with ‘Cambridge favourite’ and ‘Lucy’.  A large barrel has been put over one of the rhubarb clumps so that we will have some delicious forced rhubarb in the next few weeks!

Other than that, as I said before it has been rather cold and wet and the ground has either been frozen or sodden so I have only ventured to the allotment to feed the birds. Mr Robin has become quite reliant on our supply of food so I make sure that we get down there once a week to feed him. I even treated him to some mealworms this weeks!

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Feeding Mr Robin!

We had to do some checking on the autumn sown broad beans though as we were quite worried about them after the cold weather we had.

Luckily, they have mostly managed to survive! Some have  frost damage like the plant in the picture above but I am hoping they will recover whilst approximately 20% have completely died. I did cover with fleece to begin with but the plants started pushing against the fleece and this made the frost damage worse so decided to do away with the fleece. Hopefully this is the end to the seriously cold weather and we can look forward to slightly warmer temperatures!

I did, however, manage to do some sneaking sowing of some red cabbage seeds yesterday. Probably a bit early but I just can’t help myself! I can’t wait for the sowing season to begin (I am getting a bit fed up of leeks, parsnips and squash!)

Hope you had a good January and you all stayed nice and warm!