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.

20170430_165225[1]
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.

20170430_165321[1]
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.

20170430_165929[1]
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!

20170430_165826[1].jpg
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!

20170430_165937[1]
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!

20170430_165958[1]
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!

20170430_170008[1]
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!

20170422_143742[1].jpg

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!

 

Advertisements

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’.

20170326_143350[1]
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!

20170326_143413[1]
New beds on Section E (for spring planted onions and leeks)
20170326_143446[1]
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.

20170326_143358[1].jpg
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!

20150809_110624[1]
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!

20170326_143844[1]
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!

20170326_143632[1]

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!)

20170103_144327[1].jpg
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!

pruning-2-jan-2017

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’!

20170129_0903381
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!

20170122_1038411
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!

 

What to do this January!

January is a time when we all look at our gardens, allotments or veg plots with fresh new eyes! It is likely to be very chilly outside but there we still be some of us outside finishing our winter jobs and if we are lucky enough to have finished all our winter jobs then we will be tucked up inside reading through the seed catalogues and planning for the year ahead!

Sowing, Planting and Harvesting!

If you are already thinking about sowing seeds this month then there are a few things you can start to get underway:

  • Chilli peppers, aubergines and greenhouse tomatoes can be started towards the end of this month to give a long growing season.
  • Microgreens and sprouting seeds can be started anytime to add that lovely crunch and zing to winter salads
  • Onions can be started from seed this month, whether they are exhibition onions or not.
  • Salad leaves can be started for growing on the windowsill or under cover if you are looking for that salad hit after a heavy festive period!
20151214_060424[1]
You can start sprouting seeds at this time of year to add that extra crunch to salads.

Now is the time to think about your fruit garden and replenishing, replacing or extending your stock.

  • Plant bare rooted fruit trees and bushes now whilst it is still cold before the leaf and flower buds open in the spring.
  • Bare rooted strawberry runners and raspberry canes can be ordered and planted now.
20170108_112350[1].jpg
Plant your bare rooted strawberries!
  • Dormant rhubarb crowns can be planted now or old ones can be lifted and divided to keep them productive.
  • If you didn’t get a chance to do it in the autumn, you can still plant garlic cloves if conditions are dry. Garlic needs the cold conditions of winter to form cloves. Don’t plant cloves when it is wet otherwise they will rot in the ground.
garlic plants 3 jan 2017.JPG
Garlic still has time to be planted if it is dry

There can also be plenty to harvest this time of year if you have planned accordingly:

  • Brussels sprouts will still be cropping depending on variety. These delicious little buttons aren’t just for Christmas!
  • Winter cabbages and cauliflowers can be harvested now.
  • If you are a lover of chicory, then this can be harvested now too.
  • Jerusalem artichokes can be lifted now although remember to get all the tubers out of the ground otherwise they will come back next year.
  • Kale, winter cabbages and winter cauliflowers are all ready to be harvested in these winter months
  • Leeks are a staple in January, with plenty of Potato and Leek soup (recipe below) being made during these cold days.
  • Parsnips are ready to be harvested with the cold frosts making these root vegetables even sweeter. They can be stored in the ground until needed but beware of frozen soil!
  • If you have success with swede then they can also be harvested this month (mine were decimated by pigeons)
DSCF9100
There are still things to harvest!

Jobs on the plot

It is good to make sure that the plot is ready for the spring when sowing and weeding will start in earnest. These next couple of months are the best time to try and get a head of the game by performing some routine tasks:

  • In the fruit garden, consider applying oil-based winter washes to trees and bushes to kill off over-wintering aphid eggs and make sure apples, pears, currants, gooseberries, autumn raspberries and blueberries are given a good prune to encourage new shoots and keep their shape.

pruning-2-jan-2017

  • Try not to let compost heaps become to cold. Turn the compost pile to encourage further decomposition and clad the pile with layers of cardboard or cover with carpet or polythene.
  • Make sure you move any vegetables, fruits and herbs in clay pots to a frost free place in the garden or cover with bubble wrap to stop the pots getting frost damage and breaking!
  • Practice good hygiene and rinse out any pots and trays you plan to use prior to the sowing season. It is also worthwhile to sort and tidy your shed and sharpen your tools ready for the new season!
20170103_121004[1].jpg
Tools should be cleaned, sharpened and oiled to prevent rust!
  • Whilst having a tidy up, cleaning down any greenhouse glass and polythene sheeting on polytunnels to ensure maximum light levels can reach your plants. Insulate your greenhouse and polytunnel if very cold conditions are forecast.
  • Make sure that all guttering is clear of leaves and debris so you can efficiently save water. Install more water butts if possibly to make the most of the winter rains.
waterbutt jan 2017.JPG
Install water butts and make sure guttering is clear!
  • Protect plants from pesky pigeons who will be on the look out for a brassica feast. Make sure that cabbages, cauliflowers, sprouts, broccoli and kale are covered with netting stretched tight to prevent them from being eaten.
20170108_1001201
If you don’t protect your brassicas from pigeons, they can strip the leaves off the plant like my brussels sprouts!
  • Don’t forget to do any winter digging on dry warmer days. Don’t work the soil when it is wet as you will ruin the structure of the soil. Turn over the soil with a fork and leave the big clumps on the soil for the frost and the worms to break down. Or you can work some well-rotted manure into the soil ready for planting later in the year.

Indoor jobs

It is often so cold in January that even the best intentions get put aside in favour of a nice hot cup of tea and some biscuits (I like a chocolate hobnob or two)!

  • Now is the time to sort through seed tins and discard any old and out of date packets of seed. Make a list of what plants you want to grow this year and search through the seed catalogues to find the best varieties for you. Remember that you can make use of any extra, in date seed packets you no longer want at any of the seed swaps that happen around the country. Who knows what you may find in return.
  • As well as seed swaps, potato days are also being held around the country this month and into February. This is a brilliant opportunity to go any look at a wide variety of potatoes, more varieties than you can find in a seed catalogue! There will also be opportunities to meet other like minded people and join your local National Vegetable Society or allotment association at these events.
  • If you buy any potatoes remember to save your egg cartons so you can start chitting potatoes. Pop the potatoes in the egg cartons with the eyes facing up and place in a cool, light location such as a windowsill. You will soon see little shoots sprouting from the tuber. Also remember to save your empty toilet roll tubes for sowing seeds in. These are great, free biodegradable pots which are perfect for starting off peas, sweetcorn and beans in.
20160305_150412
Use egg cartons to chit your potatoes!
  • Make a detailed plan of your plot and plan where plants are going to grow making sure you consider crop rotation where possible to stop the build up of pests and diseases.
plot-2-and-3-mini-plan
Plan where your crops are going to go next year!

 

January Recipe

Potato and Leek Soup

Ingredients:

  • 2 large leeks, sliced
  • 50g butter
  • 50g flour
  • 200ml milk
  • 1 litre vegetable stock
  • 500g potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • salt and pepper to season
  1. Add the butter to a large pan and heat until melted. Add the sliced leeks to the pan and cook for 3 minutes in the butter until slightly softened.
  2. Add the flour to the pan and mix together so the flour combines with the butter to form a type of roux. Stirring continuously, cook the roux for 2 minutes.
  3. Slowly start adding the milk to the pan, stirring continuously until the mixture thickens. Add the vegetable stock and potatoes and bring to the boil.
  4. Once the soup is starting to boil, remove any scum that has formed and then turn the heat down to a simmer and partially cover. Stir occasionally until the potatoes are cooked through and the soup has thickened slightly. Serve hot with warm crusty bread.

Hope you have a happy and productive January! I know I’ll be working away down the allotment. At least I have got my little kettle and gas hob to keep me warm with cups of tea!

kettle jan 2017.JPG

Oh and the biscuit tin!

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!

20160623_194847[1]
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!

20161023_1547282
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.

20160925_1301271
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.

IMG_1802
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!

IMG_1797
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.

20160824_073728
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!

20161106_carrots-harvest-rot-fly
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

 

 

Jobs for December

I can’t believe it is December already and 2016 is nearly over! Where does the time go?

I doubt much will get done this month what with Christmas looming and mad rushes to buy Christmas presents and Oh Yes! I am hosting everyone for Christmas dinner this year! (and Christmas Eve dinner and Boxing Day dinner!)

So the ‘To-Do’ list is short this month!

  • Harvest Brussels sprouts and parsnips for Christmas dinner
  • Order new strawberry runners (or get them for Xmas? – HINT family members!)
  • Draw up the allotment 2017 plan
  • Organise the seed boxes
  • CLEAR THE STRAWBERRY BED!!! (I will get this done before the year is out!)
  • Enjoy Christmas!!
  • Get lots of presents!
  • Eat lots of food!

I think that pretty much covers it!

I hope that whether you are celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or not celebrating at all, you have a lovely warm December and a very Happy New Year!

amazing-happy-holidays-clipart-jpeg-uaamrz-clipart

 

Jobs for November

November is normally a month when I really do start to retreat into the house and last weeks weather was so drizzly and wet I thought the weather had finally turned. However, the forecast for the next week is showing more sunshine and higher temperatures than normal so I will probably won’t be retreating into the house just yet especially when there is still quite a lot to do!

Plot 1

To be fair, this is the easiest plot as it is all raised beds. Half the beds are manured, covered and put away for winter and the ones that aren’t are still semi productive! Mostly this plot needs tidying and a bit of weeding so not many jobs to do this month on this plot!

  • Tidying and clean out shed
  • Stock take of all tools, fertilisers etc
  • Tidy up the rhubarb bed, lift and divide one crown and mulch the remaining crowns
  • Plant new strawberry plants at top of the plot
  • Weed the paths and lay new barkchip
DSCF9110
The bottle-lined bed will be the new home of my strawberry plants for the next three years!

Plot 2

We managed to get quite a lot done on this plot last month and the structure is almost complete. My aim this month is to try and finish putting all the structure in (except for the leek bed which is still in use) and get it ready for next year!

  • Plant garlic, onions and shallots,
  • Dig over old bean bed, split bed in 2 and manure
  • Put in raised beds on the old onion and bean plots
  • Clear out polytunnel
  • Tidy up strawberry bed (been on my to-do list for three months now!)
  • Tidy up fruit cage (again!)
20161023_1547491
Raised beds to go on the old onion bed and the bean bed (at the back) needs digging over!

Plot 3

There isn’t much that I plan to do on plot 3 this month simply because I want to get the other two plots up to scratch before I embark on finishing clearing plot 3. Plus half of it is covered in piles of weeds, rubbish and wood that needs burning!

  • Weed herb garden and finishing mulching
  • Oca may need harvesting this month
  • Bonfire!
20160925_1301271
Left hand side of the herb garden needs weeding and mulching!

If the weather turns cold and wintery at any point this month then I will be hiding away and not much will get done but fingers crossed it holds for a bit longer! Every bit I can get done now is something I don’t have to do in the spring!

Jobs for September

I love September, I think it’s my favourite month – not only because it is my birthday this month – but because there is a real beauty in it. The days are getting noticeably shorter and slightly colder yet we still get some lovely sun! The leaves on the trees are staring to colour and turn golden and you can really feel the change happening all around you. I get quite excited because it reminds me that it won’t be long until Christmas and then after that our new growing season starts yet the days have not got cold enough to be grumpy about it! I really enjoy taking stock of everything I have achieved over the summer, my successes and failures and also getting down and dirty by digging everything over ready to start anew in the spring!

However, I don’t have time to be idly sitting by watching the seasons! Due to not much getting done in August, my September job list is quite long. What with my birthday , mini break to Cornwall and a work trip away for a week I don’t imagine that I will be getting many of these jobs done. But I can always try!

1. Strawberry bed

img_1811
Strawberry bed needs some serious TLC!

The strawberry bed needs clearing again! Although I started it, the weeds have run rampant through the patch. After ‘Gardener’s World’ two weeks ago and Monty advising us to tidy up the strawberries this is top of my to-do list. I may get one more good harvest out of these plants before I rotate to new plants so it will be a good idea to get them tidy and looking good before the winter sets in!

2. Clear the right side bed of the herb garden

This was supposed to be done in August but we didn’t get round to it. Also, the ground is exceptionally hard and I am hoping for a good bit of rain to soften the ground before I attempt to dig it over. I have a few plants I want/need to get into the bed soonish so it will be a job I need to get on with!

img_1813
Right side of the herb garden needs digging over!

3. Finish digging over unused beds.

Both the summer onion bed and the broad bean bed are finished with and need digging over. The broad bean bed will also need some well rotted manure incorporated into it as soon as possible as we will be planting garlic, winter onions and winter shallots (all of which need to be bought this month) in it end of October/beginning of November. The summer onion bed and the raised potato bed will have green manure sown in them to get some well needed nutrients into the ground!

As I am a little late posting this, Sam and I have already dug over the broad bean bed and divided it into two smaller beds ready for the alliums.

4. Polytunnel

We still need to finish clearing the area for the polytunnel, buy the polytunnel and put up the polytunnel and I don’t fancy doing this in the throes of winter so if we don’t manage to get this done by the end of September, it will be shelved until next year.

img_1819
Polytunnel space needs clearing! It actually looks tidier than it did!

5. Fruit cages

Both fruit cages need weeding. Whilst I tidied up and weeded the raspberries, the currants, blueberries and gooseberries all need seeing to. I will also put down a good mulch to suppress any remaining weeds this season.

Sam very kindly took a day off work and did some work on Plot 1 and has already cleared the gooseberry and blueberry cage! Just the currants to go!

6. Potato beds

The maincrop potatoes will need harvesting this month and the beds will need digging over. We will also line another one of these beds with wood this month (if we have the time and money)

img_1812
Maincrop potatoes need harvesting and the ground dug over.

7. Tidy up the pond beds

img_1817
All the annuals need removing and some more perennials put in for next year.

The annual flowers are coming to an end and are starting to look scruffy. Whilst I started weeding and planting up one side of the pond beds last month, the rest will need to come up this month. I will also take that opportunity to put in some spring and summer bulbs for next years flower display and move the Echinacea and Hostas I have at home to these beds.

I’ll still be harvesting away, the drying beans are mostly ready so will be picking all of these, runner beans are still cropping and I have cabbages a plenty! The squash and pumpkins are ripening and I look forward to the first frosts so that my parsnips get that lovely sweetness!

img_1816
Drying beans are nearly ready for all those delicious soups and stews!

Have a good September everyone!

 

July 2016!

This month was off to a great start with some lovely sunny days and warm temperatures. Everything on the allotment is growing well and we are really starting to harvest things now.

We have been harvesting lettuce and cucumbers all month long and it has been really nice to enjoy a salad that I have grown myself for lunch everyday (my waistline thanks me for it too!). The broad beans have been coming thick and fast, so fast that I have been freezing some away for the winter. The strawberries continued to produce massive yields and again these have also been frozen away as I couldn’t eat them fast enough. Other fruit we have harvested include raspberries, blackcurrants and redcurrants. The blackcurrant yield is the best we have had so far although it is still quite small. I am hoping that over the next few years the yields will grow! We have also had masses of Tenderstem broccoli and calabrese, again some frozen away for the winter, but have decided not to do the Tenderstem again as it quickly flowers in this weather!

 have also harvested a few potatoes, pulling the plants up as and when we need them. All the first earlies have come up and we have dug up half of our second earlies. We have also enjoyed some nice chantenay carrots. Onions have been dug up and are drying in the shed – 157 in total!

Other than harvesting we have been getting on with my list of jobs too. The first weekend of July, my dad came up and installed some nice new water butts on plot 1 and 3. There is currently only one butt per plot but I hope to add to this over the next few months so that we can make the most of the winter rains!

We have been slowly taken most of the non-combustible rubbish to the local tip. We have done this over several trips but have now mostly cleared this rubbish (just a couple more trips to go!). We have also made a small dent on the combustible pile, burning the bindweed and other nasty weeds. Hopefully by the time September come the plies of rubbish will be completely gone and we can concentrate on the polytunnel.

In the second weekend of July, we transplanted the leeks to their final growing positions. Unfortunately there was quite a bit of leek rust on the seedlings so I am not sure how they will fair but I did pick the biggest and least rust covered seedlings to ‘puddle in’. We now have 74 leeks growing on plot 2 with the rest of them being burnt so as to not further spread the rust spores and on 25 of the plants we have placed black pipe around them to get longer blanched stems. It will be interesting to see if they turn out better than the ones without pipe.

IMG_1732

Finally after probably two years, we have  a functional carrot bed. Those of you who regularly read this blog will know that we finally erected the carrot bed a few months ago, well now we have filled it with a mixture of sand, seed compost and multipurpose compost. It is about 1/3 full which is enough to grow some decent carrots in for now but we will fill it up some more next season. I have sown four varieties of carrots, which I know is a little late, but seedlings are poking their heads through so hopefully we shall get some carrots to enjoy over the winter!

We have continued work on the herb garden as well, adding some nice new herbs and plants, a bench, and archway and a clematis to grow up said archway. We have also been pulling up the wild strawberries as they have gotten a little out of control It will take a while for the perennial herbs to really get established so I will be filling the gaps with some annual flowers to attract the bees and butterflies. Last weekend we also installed a bird feeding station to attract wild birds to the plots!

The cherry and plum tree both got a nice haircut and am hoping will be a little more re-invigorated for it!

IMG_1733

The strawberries have come to an end in the last week and so the job of clearing and trimming has begun in the strawberry bed. I have dug up a considerable number of runners that have been allowed to set down roots and they have been potted on in troughs ready for setting up a new strawberry bed. About four ‘Elsanta’ plants died – I think from the lack of rain – so they have been replaced with some ‘Cambridge favourite’ runners. Half the bed is done – just need to get on with the other half!

IMG_1730
One side of the bed is done – now onto the other half!

Other than these jobs, it has been a constant stream of weeding, mowing and tending to plants, with breaks to sit by the pond and look at all the life that has inhabited our pond. A rather large frog has taken up residence in the pond and we have also spied several little frogs too! Exciting times! We also have two resident pond snails, water boatmen and thousand of tiny little creatures swimming around – don’t know what they are!  Bees are in abundance and I can tell that we are still being visited by Peter Rabbit as the barley straw is regularly being dug up!

IMG_1737
Can you see the frog? We counted at least ten frogs in our allotment over the last weekend!
IMG_1735
Water level is quite low and a lot of the pond liner is visible!

Unfortunately, with little rain over the last couple of weeks, the pond level had gotten quite low. I thought it would be a good idea to do some rain dances to get the water flowing (my neighbours where looking at me rather strangely!)…and it worked! The last few days have been nice and wet, watering my plants and topping up the pond!!

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

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!

IMG_1730
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!

IMG_1727
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!

20150906_132126[1]
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!