April 2017!

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.

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Overview of plot 1

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.

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Strawberries have been planted through membrane and mulched with straw!

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.

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New raised beds in section D!

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!

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Strawberry bed has finally been cleared!

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!

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Pond beds have been lined with wood! This will stop the grass from creeping in!

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!

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Large pile has been removed and (mostly) leveled out. The polytunnel was marked out but unfortunately the bamboo canes snapped. Membrane at the back for currants next year!

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!

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Straw put in potato bags to cover potato shoots and protect from any further frost.

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!

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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!

 

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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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2016 – A review!

I can’t believe how quickly this year has gone! It doesn’t feel like too long ago that I was sowing all my tomato seeds and here I am preparing to sow them for this year! It has been a roller-coaster year with some successes and some failures!

The weather this year has been strange, warm weather in April and then a relatively cold few summer months with it really heating up in August and the warm weather lasting all the way though til the end of October! It has thoroughly confused the vegetables.

Overall, I am rather happy with how this year has gone. As always I feel that I didn’t quite get as much done as I wanted to but then I always overestimate how much Sam and I can get done in a day.

Most of our focus this year has been plot 2. With plot 1’s structure being finished at the beginning of the year, we have only needed to pop over to sow, plant, water and harvest and as all the beds are raised we only needed to do some weeding once a month which has made for a pretty low maintenance plot! So we have moved onto plot 2 where we have worked at putting in the final structure. I have played around with where I want beds and what I have wanted to do but in the end it has come together relatively well. It still isn’t finished but there is only a few things left to do to get it together.

The wildlife pond was finished earlier in the year and we have been lucky that the frogs have moved in quickly. I am really proud of our pond and during the summer months it was absolutely beautiful! We finished off our orchard and have sown grass seed around the trees which took amazingly well. We did have to remove the old apple and cherry tree as they weren’t productive and the apple was diseased!

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The wildlife pond in the height of summer!

All the beds on plot 2 have now been marked out and we have constructed raised beds on half of them. The other half will hopefully be completed early in 2017. Not only do we find raised beds easier to manage but on plot 2, they will also help us keep nice clean lines where the grass meets the bed!

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Raised beds are being erected on plot 2

Plot 3 has started to come along nicely! We only took it on last January and I had quite a lot I wanted to accomplish. As those of you who follow this blog know, I wanted to get a polytunnel erected at the end of the plot but I didn’t get time to do that in the end so I am hoping that we can get the area cleared before the sowing and planting starts in earnest!

We did get our herb garden up and going, complete with bird feeding station, and we got one of the beds dug over and producing sweet potatoes! The shed was cleared out (twice) and we have set up a nice little stove so we can enjoy some nice hot cups of tea and coffee when we are working hard in the cold. All in all we got about half the plot dug over and productive.

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The herb garden was dug over and more herbs will be planted in 2017.

I thought that having the three plots would be too much to handle but in actual fact it hasn’t been too bad. As all the plots gradually come together I am finding I have much more time to concentrate on growing the plants instead of playing catch up. And in fact, this year is the first year where I have ended it feeling slightly ahead of the game (and slightly impatient for the next season to start!)

In terms of fruit and veg we as usual, have had successes and failures. Redcurrants, raspberries and strawberries have been fantastic this year. I have had half a freezer full of these lovely red berries as well as plenty to eat fresh with my breakfast in the morning! The strawberries were amazingly productive, so much so that I was finding that half the yield was rotting on the plant before I could get to them. I hope that the plants are as productive next year although they will becoming into their third season so I expect some decline in yield.

All other fruit I have tried to grow this year has not been very productive. Mostly I put this down to the weather as I don’t think I could have improved the situation much but I have been proactive this winter by making sure everything gets a good mulch so they will have a good start to 2017.

On the veg side of things, my proudest achievement would be the sweet potatoes! I am really happy with the harvest I got. There are many improvements to be made but for a first try it was a good start. Potatoes have also been good this year – I ended up with far more than I need so next year I will be planting less seed potato! Onions, garlic and shallots were also productive this year and I also managed to dry the onions properly so that, so far, we have had very little spoilage.

Beans that I have grown for drying were fantastic this year. I have plenty of borlotti and haricot beans which I have been using in soups, stews and will be using to make my own baked beans. Runners beans also produced a good yield, despite the plants toppling over as did the broad beans.

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The tower of runner beans collapsed but luckily the plants kept producing for a few more weeks!

The dwarf beans could have been better but I let them get crowded out by weeds which is something I will work to avoid next year. Peas were dreadful – most of them didn’t germinate properly or were eaten by pigeons. Some of you will know that I tried to do an experiment to combat the pea moth but due to the poor performance of the peas I din’t manage to complete it.

Brassicas have been relatively good. Cabbages have certainly grown well this year – my only problem is making sure I use them before its too late – better planning needed on my part. Squash and courgettes did not perform as well as last year but again I think this is partly due to the weather and partly due to a foot root that the plants seemed to suffer from. I wasn’t sure if it had come from my water butt as it was really dirty (and not a proper water butt) so I had my dad come up and install proper water butts which I will clean regularly to stop this from happening again.

Sweetcorn suffered from  similar problem to the squash and the few cobs I did get were eaten by rats before I could get to them – need to ensure that next year I keep the rats away!

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Rats ate my sweetcorn and ripped up all the plants.

In the greenhouse, the tomatoes seemed to be doing well until blight struck. However, I managed to save the fruits and got them to ripen on the windowsill by placing a banana next to them to encourage ripening. Peppers didn’t really produce anything and the aubergines, although produced fruit, were eaten by slugs before I could harvest them! The cucumber was semi-productive but not as much as I expect a cucumber to be.

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Using a banana to ripen my tomatoes after they were struck by blight!

Celeriac didn’t work again, it either bolted or was hollowed out by slugs although we did get a semi decent harvest of beetroot, chard and lettuce. Parsnips were good as usual but the carrots all got carrot root fly!

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Carrot root fly damage to all my carrots! Managed to save some of them to enjoy on Christmas Day!

All in all there has been ups and downs and some lessons learnt! I think that 2016 has been the best year so far for me and I hope that 2017 will be even better. I have lots of plans for the year ahead and I hope that the majority of them work out!

I hope you have all had a good year and I wish you every success in 2017! Also a big thank you to all those who have helped me in the allotment over this year and to those of you who have followed this blog!

new-year-2017

 

 

October 2016

This month has turned cold yet still sunny and I was on the look out for frosts everyday! My butternut squash were ripening in the sun and my sweet potatoes were romping away but I knew I had to get them in before any frosts arrived!

The beginning of the month saw a lovely delivery of well-rotted manure which I immediately put to good use. I have been really trying to make sure all the beds are dug over, manure added and then covered for winter this month leaving me all of the remaining winter months to concentrate on clearing and structuring the rest of plot 3.

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Manure delivery!

We dug over the garlic bed and winter shallot/onion beds and then constructed raised beds ready for the garlic and shallots to be planted at the end of the month. Although the drizzly weather last Saturday stopped that from happening and Sunday we were at the Farmers Market so garlic, onions and shallots will be planted first thing next Saturday!

When making the raised beds, we always build the bed first, then position the whole structure and bash it into the ground with a heavy mallet. However, this time we discovered just how uneven our plot is! For some reason, which I don’t think is anything to do with me, the path between my plot and the neighbours angles steeply downward toward my plot. (I am not sure how that came to pass as it only does that towards the end of the plot and not at the top.) Anyway we decided it would be best to try and build up the soil around that area to level off the path. It will take a long time for the path to level off and for the grass to grow (and hopefully our efforts won’t annoy our neighbour) but it should make things like wheeling the wheelbarrow and mowing the grass much easier for everyone! Sam also put a wooden barrier along one side of the pond beds (where we had previously had plastic lawn edging) which again will help with keeping everything tidy and making it easier to mow the grass.

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On plot 1 we replaced the rotting carpet we used a weed control by the bramble stump. It was no longer being effective at preventing the weeds and we frustrating had to pull it up in 1cm strips as it had completely disintegrated! We replaced it with weed control membrane (the permeable plasticky stuff) which will hopefully last a bit longer! I purchase some stump killer sachets to kill off the bramble once and for all! I have applied the stump killer but now just waiting to see if it works!

All the pumpkins were harvested the first weekend of October, followed by the butternut and honey bear squash in the middle of October. I am not happy with the colour on the squash and am sure they are not quite ripe but the slugs had started hollowing out one of the squash so decided it best to bring them in and try and further ripen them on the windowsill.

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A selection of squash ripening on the windowsill!

The third weekend in October, I came down to the plot to find the leaves on the sweet potato all black. I know this is frost damage so decided now was the time to dig up the plants and find out just what kind of harvest I had. As you have probably seen from my previous post I was quite happy with my first try at growing sweet potatoes but there were many lessons to be learned and I will hope to do even better next year!

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My haul of sweet potato ‘Bonita’ 

Jenny and Adam joined us down the allotment in the fourth weekend which was very appreciated! They are very hard workers and always get done twice the amount I have planned. The old onion bed was dug over, divided up into smaller beds and the soil was manured.

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Onion beds divided, dug over and manured by Jenny and Adam!

The sweet potato bed was also dug over and manured and they gave Sam and I a hand with constructing and placing the new raised beds on the old potato plot! As a thankyou, I sent them home with quite a bit of veg which I hope they enjoyed!

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Potato beds made, manured and covered.

Sam and I dug over all the old squash beds as well, manured them and covered them ready for beans next year. I also thinned out the hazel as it was getting a bit crowded in there.

As I said this last weekend was a bit drizzly ad I didn’t feel in the mood for hard allotment work so instead we had a quick clear out and tidy of the shed on plot 3 and then a nice little visit to our local Wyevale garden centre for some allotment shopping! (Sam wouldn’t let me look at the Christmas stuff though!)

All in all I am starting to feel a little ahead of the game and hope that with all this prep work now, I won’t be rushing around trying to keep up next year! (Well at least I can dream!)

August 2016!

I have spent less time down the allotment than I would have liked this month but other responsibilities have come first.

The worst thing to happen this month is that my tomatoes all got blight!…Again! The plants were a lot less crowded than last year and I tried to make sure there was good air circulation but still the blight came! I had lots of lovely green tomatoes and managed to get about 5 ripe ones. Wasn’t sure what to do about the green ones as I still have a mass of green tomato chutney from last year which is yet to be eaten so put them in bowls in a sunny spot at home and placed some bananas next to them in the hope that they would ripen. Thankfully, so far, it’s working! I think I will be left with some green tomatoes but not as many as first thought and surprisingly, none of them started to rot from the blight which goes to show that things can be saved! I started with three bowls of green tomatoes and now have just one bowl left to ripen. The fruits are not as sweet as if ripened on the vine but still nice enough for using in passata.

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Very ripe bananas next to my ripening tomatoes and my first Uchiki kuri squash!

The second worst thing this month was that the rats got to the sweetcorn again! What annoys me the most is that they tore half of it down and didn’t even eat the cobs!!! I thought I still had time to erect barriers to stop them getting at the corn but my timing was off again! I did manage to harvest a few cobs that looked ready but on removing the husks, could see they were perhaps a week off. Some were not to bad though! Mostly the corn kernals had not developed as well as I would have liked and I assume this is down to bad pollination.

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Rat damage to the sweetcorn!

The tower of runner beans became the ‘leaning tower of beansa’ over the month until a strong wind finally knocked it flat – my fault for not making sure the supports were sturdy enough! The plants still appear to be alive  so will leave them as is and continue to pick the runners which are cropping aplenty.

Moving on from this, the old broad bean and pea plants were cleared away and the bed has been partially dug over ready for the garlic and winter onions to be planted in October/November (Some dog or cat has left a nice little smelly present for me on the soil – not impressed!). The weeds have already started poking up again so will need to have another go over! The second early potato bed had the rest of the potatoes dug up and then was dug over.

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The fallen tower of runner beans
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Broad bean bed has started to be dug over for garlic in the autumn

The inside of the fruit cage has, once again, been half cleared of bindweed, the raspberries have been thinned and tied in to their supports. The currant side of the fruit cage has not been treated with as much tender loving care but will be one of my first jobs of September!  The grape has grown very well this year and I am hoping that it will survive the winter and give me a few bunches of grapes next year!

We also got a move on with starting to clear the new polytunnel area. We completely cut back all the raspberries and removed all the long dead grass, gave the grass paths a serious mowing and start to dig through the mound that had piled up. Weeds went into the incinerator and the soil has gone into the compost bin for use next year. There is still a lot more to clear but it is looking a lot better than it did. I have priced up some polytunnels and have decided what we need. I am all ready to click the buy button but we want to make sure the area is cleared first and we don’t want a dismantled expensive polytunnel lying around the allotment for anyone to pinch!

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Raspberry bed on plot 3 has been cleared

We have had some visitors in the form of cabbage white caterpillars! They were promptly removed from the brussel srpouts and left on the bird feeder! Luckily no lasting damage has been done! And on the subject of pests, my aubergines are finally starting to crop, forming the loveliest little aubergines but the damn slugs keep nibbling them! The three resident frogs in the polytunnel are not doing their jobs! Although I’ll let them off as the slugs that are around are bigger than the frogs (I think they are mutant slugs!).

I didn’t manage to line the strawberry bed with wood as I didn’t have time to finish weeding the strawberries (I’m terrible for starting a job and not finishing!). We did line the potato bed instead! It’s now ready and waiting for some organic matter to be dug in!

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Potato bed has been raised!

I didn’t have the time to clear the herb garden so will move that onto the to-do list for September! I also didn’t get time to prune the apple and pear so will now have to leave it until the winter.

We have switched into clearing mode now, clearing away the old plants and get ready for the new. Whilst there is still plenty to  harvest, we are only four months away from a new season and we need to get ready! I have had a good old sort out of my seed tins, throwing away anything that didn’t work last year or is too out of date! I get a lot of seeds from gardening magazines that I don’t end up using so have sorted through these and will be giving them away to friends/family/strangers in the street for them to use instead!

And not to be beaten in the gardening game, my Dad decided that he was going to cultivate some plastic in his garden! Here where the results!

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My Dad’s back garden!

Yes those are gorillas and yes everything is fake!

Have a good September everyone!

 

Jobs for August

August can be an exciting month as those greenhouse crops should really be starting to be ready. The tomatoes should be ripening and the peppers and aubergines growing! However, whilst I am periodically checking the ripening of my greenhouse crops, I do have a few jobs that I want to do this month!

Raise/Line the strawberry bed with wood.

Grass is constantly encroaching on the strawberry bed and the line of my bed is no longer straight and orderly. This is a problem with most of the beds and I will need to devise effective barriers to prevent the grass and weeds from claiming back what we have spent so long on producing! So, as the strawberry bed is one of the smallest – we thought we would started there and will be outlining the bed with wood!

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Would like to give the strawberry bed a neater appearance by ‘raising’ it!

Clear the rest of the herb garden

Half the herb garden is covered with wild strawberries and they need removing. I am absolutely sure they will be back in no time at all but we do need to clear them temporarily so we can get the rest of our herbs planted. It is quite a thick mat of strawberries so is no mean feat to get rid of them!

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Strawberries on the right need to be removed!

Continue burning and removing the waste piles at the bottom of the garden.

Sam will be continuing on with burning any waste that can be burnt and we will remove any left over non-combustibles to the tip! We will also need to start clearing the site ready for our new polytunnel!

Buy the polytunnel!

I would love to get the polytunnel erected before the windy autumn and winter set in and August/ beginning of September will be the best time to do that so I need to get a jiggy on and buy the polytunnel. I think I’ll be needing to get the tape measure out…

Sow green manure

The onions have been harvested, the second early bed is slowly being emptied and the broad beans will not be far behind so to make sure we get a good structure into the beds, improve soil and to prevent weeds, I will be digging over the beds and sowing green manure seeds. This time, however, I won’t be digging in the green manure in February, we will dig in approximately Oct/Nov and then pile on rotted manure on top of that. The beds will then be covered over the winter and left to the worms!

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We used green manure in the beds last year…

Prune the Apple and Pear tree

Both the apple and pear tree are really odd shapes and most of the apples on the tree look black and diseased – not good – so I will be giving them a trim this month to encourage fruiting spurs and get a better shape as well as removing the diseased fruit. This will only be a light trim as the main prune will come in the winter!

And as ever…general maintenance of the plots. Just need to keep mowing, weeding, trimming and watering!

Sam’s Challenge! – Part 1

 

Sam, my partner, got a book for Christmas titled ‘ Grow as much as you can eat in 3 square feet’. I think he has seen this as a challenge rather than the advice it is meant to be so he has decided to try and see how much he can produce from a 3ft square raised bed.

So that I can keep my symmetry on plot 3 (I need to have my symmetry!), a second raised bed will be put in as well which Sam will also use.

The wood has been bought and cut for the raised beds and now just needs to be constructed, positioned and filled. This would have been done last week but we had the wrong size screws!

Last week, we used Dobies Garden Planner to plan what and where Sam will be planting. He is mainly going to grow veg he likes that I don’t, or try heritage varieties of some veg.

Here is a look at Sam’s raised bed plan:

sam's plan

It looks quite packed but some of the plants will be vertically growing. In the bed on the left, Sam plans to construct a bamboo ‘cage’ over the bed for the runner beans to climb up. and I offered some advice, about moving the brassicas next to beans to benefit from the nitrogen that the beans produce. He will have summer squash growing under sweetcorn and will use the sweetcorn as a support for some climbing beans.

He will trying salsify which we have never grown or eaten before, a yellow pattypan squash, fennel and will have a go at trying to successfully grow pak choi (I am yet to be successful!). He will also be growing small carrots such as ‘Chantenay’ and ‘Paris Market 5’ as the raised bed won’t be deep enough for the longer carrots.

It will be interesting to see how this develops over the next year and to see what the yields are like!

A Finished Allotment? – Plot 1

Ok, so maybe the title of this blog is a little misleading as i doubt an allotment plot can ever be finished but, excitingly, after 3 years we have finished putting the structure of our first plot together! And what a lovely weekend to finish it! It was so lovely and sunny this weekend that you could almost imagine it was summer!

So a history of plot 1…

When we got the allotment plot in May 2013, we just concentrated on getting as many plants into the ground and didn’t really think much about the structure of the plot and how we wanted the allotment to be. We essentially had a blank canvas to work with and with little or no research on our part we just started willy nilly putting plants into the ground.

allotment1
Our allotment was a blank canvas. The first thing we did was to dig trenches for potatoes (far right ).

Realising that I hadn’t really though much about structures and plans I set about trying to draw up some plans that incorporated what we had already done. The original plans include 4 very large beds with a greenhouse at the back. We did actually manage to get a greenhouse for free on Freecycle and we managed to put it up without too many problem – just a few broken panes of glass!

Having dug over two of the four beds, I had done some further research and decided that raised beds were the way forward for our plot and also decided that they should be a much more manageable size of 8′ x 4′ so it would be easier for us to be able to reach into the middle without having to step on the soil and compact it.

I made these changes to the plans about July/August so decided to work from the back of the plot first so the crops could finish cropping at the front of the plot. We went to work marking out where the first raised beds would go. I had seen an interesting idea on pinterest using wine bottles as a way to build raised beds. So i decided to start collecting wine bottles to do this! 100 bottles of wine and some hungover colleagues later… i had enough bottles to build to two beds.

DSCF9110
One of the raised beds out of wine bottles!

I soon realised, after bashing so many wine bottles into the ground, that as much as i liked this idea maybe using bottles for all my raised beds was probably not such a good idea (and I think I was endangering my colleagues livers)! So this idea was abandoned for traditional wooden raised beds!

Unfortunately, some severe winds in the winter of that year, crushed our greenhouse to a pulp! There was broken shards of glass and twisted metal all over the allotment! So that was the end of our go at having a greenhouse! It was removed from the plan!

Starting in Spring 2014, I finally had a solid plan – all raised beds with three very deep raised beds for parsnips and carrots! The greenhouse was replaced with a small gooseberry bed and a seating area to one side. We were also going to put some small raised beds at the back fence for peas and/or flowers.

We appropriated a large crate from our work which became our first deep raised bed for carrots! We were also given some salvaged wooden doors from friends who were giving up their allotment plot and two of these doors were used to make the second raised bed for parsnips!

From here, our raised bed design started to take shape and by the end of the 2014 all but three beds were built. Most of 2015 found us focusing on plot 2 but we attacked plot 1 with renewed vigour at the start of this year. After winning a fruit cage from Grow Your Own magazine, we decided to expand the gooseberry bed and added a blueberry bed next to it. The fruit cage is easily put up and taken down every year and is stored in the shed over winter so will go up over the fruit bed in the next couple of weeks!

The first raised bed survived two seasons before rotting away, so with heavy hearts, this was taken apart a couple of months ago and put on the bonfire pile! We have decided not to replace it with anything but have instead increase the size of our seating area!

 This last weekend we really worked hard to get the raised beds finished! We used a broken bookcase as a raised seed bed which we dug in on Saturday and finally, we built the last deep raised bed, with the last of the old doors – 2 years after we got them! A job that has been on my to do list since 2014 can now finally be ticked off!

All the carpet and weed control membrane has been laid down around the beds and bark chip has been laid on top of that! We have refreshed the bark chip over the whole of the plot and I have to say I think the plot looks good!

So I am going to stop waffling on now and show you the photos of my ‘finished’ plot!

There are still a few things that I would like to do including painting the shed and getting some much needed colour into the plot in the form of flowers! I would also like to install a better water butt system but for now I can just sit back, enjoy my achievements, and just get on with the actual gardening!

I almost can’t believe the difference!