What to do this May!

Like April, May can be a busy time for gardeners and allotmenteers! Frosts are becoming less frequent and by the middle of the month we can  be reasonably confident that our more tender veg can be planted out and beans and squash can be sown direct in to the ever-warming soil!

Sowing, Planting and Harvesting!

It is particularly busy time for planting and sowing now that summer is nearly here!

Sowing

  • All your beans can be sown now; runner beans, climbing beans and dwarf beans and peas.  Watch out for the dreaded pea moth laying her eggs in June and July on peas which are sown now.
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Peas and beans can be sown direct now!
  • Squashes and other cucurbits such as courgettes, melons and cucumbers can be sown direct outdoors in May or started off in pots indoors if there is still a chance of frost.
  • At the same time, sweetcorn can be sown now both outdoors and indoors. They will be an excellent companion crop to squashes and climbing beans
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Sweetcorn can be sown now, either indoors or direct in the soil once frosts have passed.
  • Continue to successionally sow root crops for continual harvests including beetroot, carrots and this moth is really the last chance to sow parsnips!
  • Brassicas such as winter cabbage, broccoli, late season Brussels sprouts, cauliflowers and kale can be sown now for harvesting in Autumn/winter.
  • Don’t forget to sow other brassicas such as radishes, turnips and swede. These root brassicas still require protection from pigeons who loves to strip the leaves!
  • Salad leaves and other crops that add pep to your salad including spring onions, swiss chard, spinach and lambs lettuce can be sown now. Where necessary remember to keep sowing successionally so you can enjoy salads all summer long.
  • For your herb garden, tender herbs such as basil, parsley and coriander can be sown now too!

Planting

  • Chilli peppers, sweet peppers, aubergines and greenhouse tomatoes  that were started back at the beginning of the year can now be planted out into greenhouse and polytunnel borders.
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Tomato plants are ready to be planted into greenhouse/polytunnel borders.
  • If you have ordered sweet potatoes then they will be delivered this month ready for you to plant out. Make sure you plant out after all chances of frost have passed.
  • Any courgettes, cucumber and sweetcorn you started in April will be ready for planting out from the middle of the month onwards.
  • If you haven’t been able to start brassicas off from seeds then you can plant out brassica plants bought from your local garden centre or any of the online retailers.

Harvesting

  • Salad leaves and other salad crops such as radishes, swiss chard and lettuces will be ready to harvest now.
  • Early peas and broad beans may be ready to harvest this month
  • Rhubarb will continue to crop this month as will asparagus if you are lucky enough to have this delicious crop.
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Rhubarb will be cropping well at this month.
  • Towards the end of the month, early strawberries will be starting to ripen. Make sure you get them before the birds or slugs!
  • If you planned ahead, last year you may also be harvesting spring cabbages and cauliflowers!

Jobs on the plot

As the weather warms and we start to make the transition into Summer, your crops will be growing strong – as will the weeds. Watch out for any late frosts in the first half of this month depending on where you live.

  • Protect young and tender plants from any late frosts. Keep an eye on the weather forecast, if the temperatures are set to plummet over night protect with cloches and fleece and earth up potatoes to protect the shoots.
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Potatoes have been earthed up with straw to protect them from frosts.
  • New sowings and young plants will be vulnerable to pests especially slugs and snails who are looking for an easy meal. Put down barriers and traps to stop these critters in their tracks! Apply predatory nematodes and predators such as ladybird larvae to keep the pest population under control and fit brassica collars round newly planted brassicas to stop cabbage root fly.
  • Sow catch crops such as fast growing radishes and lettuces between slower-growing crops like brassicas to make good use of the space and keep weeds at bay.
  • Hoe off annual weeds as they appear but when you see perennial weeds in your patch it might be better to dig these out by hand and remove as much root as possible otherwise they will just come back. Also make sure you get up any volunteer potatoes as they could be a reservoir for blight!
  • Harden off your tender plants before planting them out to acclimatize them to outside conditions.
  • In the fruit garden, thin out raspberries where necessary so they don’t become overcrowded and prune almond, peach and nectarine trees. Remove strawberry flowers from very young plants or any that appear to be struggling and as the fruit starts to ripen on older healthier plants, protect them from pests.
  • In the polytunnel or greenhouse, any tomatoes you have already planted may need staking or tying in as they grow and any side-shoots removed. The temperatures can get quite high under cover so make sure you open vents and doors on particularly hot days remembering to close them again at night when temperatures drop.
  • Keep your plot well watered especially if there isn’t much rain or you grow your plants in pots. Rising temperatures can cause the ground to dry out fast. Where possible apply mulches that keep the moisture locked into the ground.
  • If you have ordered plug plants, then they will be arriving on your doorstep. Get them potted on or planted out as soon as possible. Suppliers send out these plants at the best time for planting.
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Plug plants will be arriving – pot on or plant out immediately!

May Recipe

Pea and broad bean risotto (from BBC Good food)

broad bean risotto

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 100g cold butter , diced
  • 1 small onion or 2 shallots, chopped
  • 175g risotto rice
  • 100ml white wine
  • 600ml hot vegetable stock
  • 50g Parmesan, finely grated
  • 200g fresh peas, podded (about 1kg/2lb 4oz unpodded weight)
  • 200g broad beans, podded (about 1kg/2lb 4oz unpodded weight)
  1. Heat oil and 25g of the butter in a large pan over a medium heat. Add the onion and cook until soft and translucent, about 4-5 mins. Stir in the rice and cook for a further 2 mins. Turn up the heat and add the wine, let it bubble to evaporate the alcohol.
  2. Once the wine has reduced, begin adding the hot stock a ladle at a time over a medium heat, allowing each addition to be absorbed before adding the next and stirring continuously. The rice should always be moist, but not swimming in liquid. The process of adding and stirring should take about 16-20 mins, depending on what kind of risotto rice you use.
  3. Bring a pan of salted water to the boil and blanch the peas and beans for 2-3 mins. Drain and set aside. Remove the risotto from the heat and stir in the remaining butter, Parmesan, peas and beans with some seasoning before serving.
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First Tries, New Buys and some Goodbyes!

Every year since I have had the allotment plots I have tried to do something new, whether that was try a new variety of a particular vegetable or a completely new vegetable altogether. Last year, some of the new vegetables I tried were Sweet potato, Oca and Jerusalem artichokes. The Oca failed miserably, the Jerusalem artichokes were hollowed out by slugs but fortunately, the sweet potatoes were a success!

More often than not, I end up trying too much in one go which leads to abject failure so I am going to try and curb my enthusiasm and only try a few new things this year.

First tries

From my trip to the Eden project two years ago, I have some lentil and chick pea seeds which I have been meaning to sow. I have decided that this year is the year I will sow them. As I have had them for two years, they may not germinate as well as I would like but I still think it would be good to give them a go. I have also picked up some seeds for Samphire which will be interesting to try this year too if not slightly complicated!

Lessons learnt from 2016!

Last year I tried too many new varieties of vegetables at once and this mainly led to them failing as I didn’t have the time to devote to so many plants! I realised that, for me, I only need to grow one or two varieties, and that it would be best to find the ones that I like the most and stick with them.

For example, last year I tried to grow four different types of Brussels sprouts. Not sure why I did that but suffice to say, that because I was trying too much, they all ended up dying and had to be replaced with plants from my local Wyevale Garden Centre! So this year I am sticking with two varieties; and early season and a late season, which will give me six months (hopefully) of Brussels sprouts – much more logical! The list of vegetables I am growing is on a previous post and for most veg there are only one or two varieties I am growing with the exception of carrots, lettuce and cabbage where I am trying to get an almost year round supply. I also will be growing quite a few varieties of winter squash  – I have some room spare on plot 3 and squash is a good space filler so thought I would have a go a trying ‘Turks Turban’ again (last year it failed) along with ‘uchiki kuri’ and butternut ‘ sweetmax’ which both performed well last year!

So this year, as well as limiting the amount of varieties I am trying, I have identified a number of varieties that are tried and tested that I will mostly stick with every year. They have proven to be reliable, easy to grow, good croppers and taste delicious! These are:

  • Parsnip ‘Countess’
  • Butternut Squash ‘Sweetmax’
  • Shallot ‘Jermor’
  • Garlic ‘Provence Wight’
  • Drying beans ‘Blue Lake’
  • Dwarf Beans ‘safari’ and ‘Ferrari’
  • Red Cabbage ‘Rodeo’
  • Kale ‘Nero di Toscana’

New Buys

Most of the seeds I have tend to come from the magazines ‘Grow Your Own’ and ‘Kitchen Garden’ and because I am not one to waste money I use these varieties before buying anymore or trying new ones. However, there were some new varieties that I have decided to buy this year despite having plentiful seed.

Carrots – because of my problems with carrot root fly in 2015 and 2016, I have decided to try a carrot fly resistant variety ‘flyaway’ as I hope that in conjunction with Nemasys Fruit and Vegetable protection, I can solve my carrot root fly problem. I will let you know the result of this!

Sweetcorn – I am trying two new, as yet unnamed (they have some long numerical code name – its on my previous post), varieties of sweetcorn which apparently have a gene which will help to get the plants off to a good start even in cooler summers. This would be a great advantage to me as my sweetcorn always seem to suffer when the weather takes a chilly turn.

Calabrese – I am trying a new variety called ‘Aquiles F1’ which can be sown in the Autumn for early crops next year. I love eating Calabrese and think this may be a good way of extending the season.

Broad beans – ‘Valencia’ is a hardy autumn sown variety of broad bean which I will be trying in October/November. The ‘Super Aquadulce Claudia’ variety I have sown back in November 2016 have all germinated but are showing signs of frost damage (even though they are covered with fleece) so I am hoping ‘Valencia’ will prove to be a bit more hardy!

There are two vegetables which I have not yet been able to master growing from seed; Aubergine and Celeriac. Because of this I have decided to save my time and am instead buying the plants direct from D.T. Browns so am trying Aubergine ‘Elisa’ and Celeriac ‘Ilona’.

Goodbyes!

I have also learnt that there are some vegetables that I really don’t like and therefore don’t want to grow so I have decided not to continue to grow the following things:

  • Globe artichokes; I don’t like them at all. I tried to move my existing plant to the herb garden so that it would attract bees but the root went very deep and I ended up hacking it to pieces to get it out of the ground!
  • Tenderstem broccoli; I didn’t really enjoy this and the harvesting window is very small as the spears flower very quickly. I am happy to eat Calabrese instead although I will probably give purple sprouting broccoli one more go.
  • Ball and yellow courgettes; I think I prefer the more traditional longer courgette shape and I find the yellow courgettes don’t keep as long as the green ones.
  • Red-coloured broad beans; they loose their colour when you cook them and are green inside anyway once you take the skin off (if they are older beans) so thought it would be best not to spend extra money on a different colour when the green ones are cheaper.
  • Borlotti beans; I prefer to use the haricot beans over the borlotti in cooking so will probably discontinue using borlotti for the time being
  • Climbing beans; I much prefer the ‘Kenyan/filet style’ beans which are more frequently found as dwarf varieties so will concentrate on growing those instead. The only climbing beans I will grow will be for drying beans.
  • Chinese greens and winter radish; I have had some difficulty growing them and I don’t particularly use them in cooking so it is a bit pointless wasting my time growing them!
  • Cherries; I currently have two cherry trees, one on plot 1 and one on plot 2 but since planting them I have realised that it is far too much effort to get a decent crop out of them. You have to protect them from birds and frost and every other pest. I will just let nature take its course and if I get a crop then great but otherwise no effort will be spent on my part for this fruit. They may be useful for hanging a bird or bat box in.
  • Small squashes; varieties such as sweet dumpling, honey bear and butternut ‘hawk’ produce quite small fruits which are very nice for cutting in half and stuffing but not if you want to chop it up and add it to a risotto or curry. I tend to eat more risotto and curry than I do stuffed squash and they require quite a bit of room so for now I won’t bother with them. I think I rather just swap a larger squash for two smaller ones from my neighbour if I am in the mood for a stuffed squash!

I hope your all having fun looking through the seed catalogues and deciding what to grow this year!

 

 

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!

 

Vegetable of the Month!

AUGUST – SWEETCORN

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Sweetcorn cobs straight off the plant are definitely a luxury. They are so sweet and juicy and there is a real excitement in pulling back the layers on an ear of corn to see the perfectly filled kernals underneath.

The sweetcorn we grow in our gardens and allotments is not the same as the corn growing in the farmers field! The corn grown in fields (maize) is grown as a grain whilst sweetcorn is a mutation of maize which enables it to have the high sugar content is has – hence the name ‘sweet corn’.

A short history of sweet corn

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Image credit: emaze.com

Sweet corn is unique in that it does not exist naturally in the wild and is in fact human invention from crossing  two wild grasses. Sweet corn was originally from Central America, believed to have been created some 7000 years ago, and was a core part of the diets of the indigenous people of the time. The cultivation of sweetcorn grew through out the Americas, extending both North and South becoming a core component of the diet for indigenous peoples of the Americas.

European settlers were given this crop by native tribes of the Americas and soon became a favourite in the United States and Europe although was treated with some suspicion when first entering Europe.

Further breeding of sweet corn led to the vast number of cultivars we see today and leaps forward in science has allowed us to understand the mutations which have occurred that give us sweetcorn.

Why should we eat sweetcorn

sweetcorn

So why should we eat sweet corn? Well despite it’s relatively high calorie content, it is a gluten free cereal and contains a fair amount of fibre. According to one site (www.whfoods.com), the fibre in our corn helps to nourish the friendly bacteria in our lower digestive tract. These bacteria produce short chain fatty acids which give an energy supply to the cells in our intestine not only allowing them to be healthy and function well but can also lower our risk of colon cancer.

Sweet corn contains no cholesterol and is also a good source of phyto-nutrients for the body as well as helping with blood sugar control in diabetics. It is a good source of B vitamins and vitamin C, all essential for healthy immune system!

How to grow sweetcorn

So now we know why we should eat it, how do we go about growing it?

Sweet corn is a tender crop and will be killed by frosts so it is best to either start your seeds off indoors or wait until the last frost in May to sow seed direct.

Another fact you need to know about sweetcorn is that it is a wind pollinated plant and to get good pollination you should plant sweetcorn in blocks rather than rows. These plants grow tall so, where possible, site them in a sheltered place so they are not broken by strong winds.

Sweetcorn like a well-draining nutritious soil, so it is always good to add some fertiliser or well rotted manure/compost to the soil. Sweet corn seed kernals can be sown directly by simply pushing the kernal into the soil where you want it to crop or can be sown indoors. If you are sowing indoors, sow into root trainers, toilet tubes or individual deep pots in April. Sweetcorn doesn’t like too much root disturbance  when it is transplanted so to minimise this root trainers or toilet roll tubes (which can be planted directly into the soil) works well. Fill the pots with a good multipurpose compost and push the kernal into the soil.

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Image credit: growyourown.info

Seedlings take about 14-21 days to emerge and should be grown on until the risk of frost has passed and then planted out into final growing position. Water consistently throughout the season and this is especially true during the time that male and female flowers are developing. Corn cobs which develop will have green fibres protruding from them called silks and when a cob is ready to be harvested, these silks will go a dark chocolate brown colour. To test ripeness, pull back the husks and pierce a kernal with your fingernail. If the liquid is a milky colour, it is ripe!

Sweetcorn doesn’t tend to suffer from many pests and diseases during it’s season unless you live somewhere where sweetcorn smut is prevalent – places with higher humidity. Thankfully, those of us in the UK don’t tend to have to worry about that! However, when your corn is ripe, you will not be the only one who wants to eat it! So will the rats! Protect your crops by putting up barriers to the rats and/or traps. (Two years running I have lost at least half my sweetcorn to these little blighters!)

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Rat damage! (Image credit: Riverford.co.uk)

How to cook sweetcorn

If your sweet corn survives the rats and you get to harvest them, sweetcorn is very easy to cook. It should be cooked as close to harvesting as possible as it can lose its flavour quickly. If you have a lot at once, you can blanch the cobs for approximately 3 minutes, cool rapidly and freeze in packs of two for cooking later on.

If you want to eat the corn on the cob, you can either steam or boil it for 3-6 minutes depending on the size. You can also roast the cobs in the oven or on a barbecue which will take anywhere between 7-15 minutes depending on size.

If you want just the kernals, simply slice the kernals off the cob with a sharp knife keeping the blade as near to the cob core as possible and cook anyway you fancy.

Sweetcorn recipes

Mexican corn on the cob

mexican corn on cob

Corn Relish

corn relish

Corn and green bean cakes

corncakes

References:

May 2016

May has definitely been a busy month, and for me, a rather sad month after losing my dog to cancer! However, May has pushed forward and so have the weeds!

On plot 1, my To-Do list looked something like this:

  • Plant out courgette, squash and sweetcorn plants
  • Plant/Sow more brassicas
  • Plant cucumbers in growhouse
  • Finishing filling new carrot bed and sow carrot seeds

I planted out the sweetcorn and squashes and managed to only sustain a few losses. My ‘Honey bear’ squash were eaten by slugs and one ‘Hawk’ butternut squash died (probably from frost). As I mentioned back in April, I lost most of my courgettes that were being stored in the polytunnel, so I had sown some more seeds which germinated quickly and were planted out along with the sweetcorn last weekend. I have sown a few more squash seed to replace the ones I lost so hopefully they will grow as quickly.

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Sweetcorn and squash have been planted

I had forgotten that, in March, I had ordered some plants from Dobies that were on offer in conjunction with ‘Grow Your Own’ magazine. They arrived toward the end of this month which has led to a scramble to find a place for them. I received 15 cabbages; 5 Hispi, 5 Traviata and 5 ‘Kilaton’ and a free collection including 5 ‘Romanesco’ cauliflowers, 3 ‘Sunshine’ summer squash and 10 ‘Tenderstem’ broccoli plants.

As the Kale and Sprouting Broccoli plants aren’t ready yet, I decided to place the cabbages in their designated bed and will find an alternative site for the Kale when they are ready. The other plants are still sat at home waiting for a site to be put in!

Other than that, plot 1 has been a battle of grass and bindweed which has been a nightmare to keep on top of, not least because our lawnmower decided to stop working! Luckily, Sam managed to get it fixed and spent the last weekend mowing all three plots.

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Grass has been mown and rhubarb is growing well

Whilst the aforementioned bindweed has been causing a problem around the fence on the right hand side of the plot, I have been impressed by the lack of weeds that have actually come up in the bed. This weekend is the first weekend we have had to do any weeding in the brassica bed since the first brassicas went in! And the squash and sweetcorn beds haven’t grown any weeds at all! Is this the silence before the storm?

Yesterday, I found that my plastic greenhouse on plot 1 had died! A slight breeze managed to lift the greenhouse (despite it being weighed down with paving slabs) and deposit it onto someone else plot is a jumble of mangled limbs! After much apologising, I managed to wrestle it off their plot and dismantle it! I really don’t have much luck with greenhouses! 😦

On plot 2, my To-Do list looked like this:

  • Raise the Strawberry bed and cover with bird netting
  • Keep earthing up potatoes
  • Mulch the fruit cage
  • Sow lettuces and salad leaves amongst onions and garlic
  • Sow beans – runner/dwarf/french/shelling

The potatoes have nearly all popped their heads up and we have continued to keep burying them. Rather than ‘hilling up’ using soil from the ground, we have been adding the contents of our compost bin along with grass clippings on top of the potatoes. I am hoping that this will help to improve the soil whilst actively using the bed!

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Potatoes have been covered with compost and grass clippings!

I weeded and mulched the fruit cage as well as transplanting some of my wild strawberries from plot 3 into the fruit cage. My thinking is that the strawberries will quickly cover the bare soil in the fruit cage which should act as a natural weed suppressant whilst also increasing my fruit harvest! All the bushes and canes have flowers and/or fruit forming and I am looking forward to the harvest!

I have planted out lettuce plants among the garlic as well as some spare cabbages to reduce the amount of bare ground and therefore the amount of hoeing and weeding I need to do. This seems to have been relatively successful where I have managed to do this. I could probably plant the garlic and onions closer together but rust is a problem on our site and keeping reasonable spacing between the rows seems to stop it from ravaging our plants completely! The over-wintering onions have ‘bulbed’ and will soon be ready for using. I will harvest these onions as and when I require them as that are not as suitable for storing as the spring planted onions!

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The beans were all sown this month but they are having a tough time competing with the weeds specifically the bind weed. The beds that the beans are on were used last year for squash plants but the entire area was covered with weed control fabric. Whilst this killed off the grass and annuals, the bind weed and a few other hardy weeds, including the unknown weed in my previous post, are now rampaging through the bed. It has been a struggle to keep on top off as it seems the bind weed grows a foot a minute! The beans have also been nibbled by slugs so about a third have had to be removed and new beans sown. Hopefully, they will grow quickly, if I can keep the weeds at bay!

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Unfortunately, my plum tree seems to have something very wrong with it – I am pretty sure its an aphid so have given the tree a good spray with bugkiller. It has not produce any plums and all the leaves are curled and dying. Two of my blackcurrants also have an infestation of aphids so they have been given a spray too! I don’t like to use sprays unless the damage/infestation is exceedingly bad as I hate to hurt beneficial insects such as ladybirds but in this case the infestations is alarmingly bad!

I also managed to put up a makeshift fruit cage over the strawberries to keep the birds away and to deter any would-be thieves from nicking the plentiful strawberries!

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On plot 3, my To-Do list looked like this:

  • Turn over soil and plant brussels sprouts on bed 3
  • Start planting up herb garden
  • Plant sweet potatoes (when the are delivered)
  • Plant oca
  • Plant pumpkins

Not much has been done on this plot except to dig over an area for the sweet potatoes which have now been planted. The jerusalem artichokes do not have seem to come up although there is one plant of unknown origin which could be an artichoke or it could be a weed!

Hope the month of May has been fruitful or vegful for you all!

 

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!

Jobs for April

Ready, Steady….Sow, Sow, Sow!!!!

It’s that time of year where the soil temperatures are rising, the frosts are diminishing and its time for the allotment to come to life! I think this is the most exciting time of the year!

I was impressed with the scale of work we achieved in March so my to-do list is not as long as I thought it would be so I can get only with the most important job which is sowing!

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To sow at the allotment:

  • Carrots
  • lettuce (for successional sowing)
  • beetroot

To plant at the allotment

  • potatoes
  • broad beans
  • peas

To sow at home in pots

  • courgettes
  • cucumber
  • brussels sprouts
  • sprouting broccoli
  • squash
  • sweetcorn
  • runner beans
  • green beans
  • shelling beans
  • peas
  • more broad beans

Despite all this sowing there are still jobs to be getting on with at the allotment – mainly weeding and tidying to keep the plots in order.

Last year I focused so much on the structure of the plots that I kept finding the weeds were get on top of me as I neglected to hoe them off regularly. So this year I have developed a new ordered plan to ensure that I use my time correctly when down the allotment with focus being on the care of my plants and getting even better harvests this year!

  1. Weed – hoe off any annual weeds, dig up perennials. I neglected to do this last year and the weeds crowded out some of my plants,
  2. Harvest – often we ran out of time and I would forget to harvest certain veg, like courgettes, and next time I returned they had gone over,
  3. Sow/plant/care – Then it is time to sow new seeds, transplant seedlings and plants and care for existing plants such as tying in, staking, removing diseased or dead plants, pest control etc.
  4. Water – water all the plants and feed where necessary. Last year we were always in a rush to get the watering finished before we went home – this year we will dedicate the proper time to it to ensure our plants flourish,
  5. Tidy plot – tidy away any rubbish, burn perennial weeds, wood etc
  6. A.O.B – any other business can now continue i.e. digging over beds, putting in raised beds, turning compost, building projects etc
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Last years the weeds took over! 😦

I’ll let you know how the new plan works out!

During this month, I hope to get a start on putting together my herb garden.  I am also going to try and mulch our fruit trees and get the ‘orchard’ into good shape!

However, the main focus this month is to get sowing and planting. I feel a trip to the garden centre coming on…