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

February 2017!

This month started off reasonably well with a lovely bright sunny albeit cold day down the allotment. Sam and I got to work on plot 1 removing our old rotten seed bed ready to replace it with a nice new one. The seed bed was made of an old bookcase which was broken and we decided to make as much use of it as possible instead of chucking it down the tip.

We also took down the fence between our half plot and the other half plot as we have agreed to take on the back plot. Sam want to keep bees there and I want to have some lovely flower beds and nice little area of nature.

20170212_1456341
Taken on the back half of the plot!

All the parsnips were harvested and both the parsnip bed and carrot bed were prepped ready for seed to be sown in the coming weeks. I also had time to weed the flower bed and discovered an abundance of bulbs were coming to life.

20170212_1454041
All the bulbs are coming up!

I mulched the rhubarb bed and cut off some pieces off one rhubarb crown as a few friends wanted a plant or two. The last of the brassica beds were dug over and covered ready for the beans to go in this year. We also managed to create quite a pile of rubbish so a trip to the tip will be in order!

Luckily we achieved quite a bit on plot 1 that weekend because the following weekend we had to stay inside. It was cold and snowing so apart from feeding the birds nothing got done on the allotment. I was also in the throes of a cold and feeling rotten so decided to rest!

20170218_1213501
Still made it down to feed the birds!

Fast forward to the weekend of the 18th and I was back out in force on the allotment. Sam built the new seed bed which looks rather good and I got to work trying to tame the back half of the plot. Two things I learnt: a) the lawn mower is broken and b) you can’t tackle 125 square meters with an battery powered strimmer! Garden fail!

So I settled for spreading more bark chip on the paths to keep those pesky weeds at bay and I had a good weeding session in the pond beds so they are all ready for planting to get that luscious spring colour. I hope this year to get a few more herbaceous perennials in the border.

20170218_1214281
Pond beds have been weeded!

Some of you reading this post may already know what happened the following weekend. A phone call from the allotment officer led to the discovery that my shed had been killed by Storm Doris!

20170224_172146
Dead Shed!

Luckily I don’t think we lost any of the contents of the shed although a few things were broken! I am glad we had another shed on plot 1 where we could put all our stuff. So the Sunday was spent dismantling the bulk of he shed and burning it! I created a pretty awesome fire – it was so good that I started inviting other people to burning their garden waste on it!

I also made the discovery that the frogs are back and breeding and have left a lovely blob of frog spawn in my pond! I am hoping that more frogs will breed in the pond but it is always positive to know that you have created a lovely environment that animals can call their home!

20170224_173326
The frogs are back!

I did not finish tidying the strawberry like I had planned but hey whats new there! There is always March…

20170103_1443271
One day I will finish this!

I hope that Storm Doris didn’t cause too much destruction to your plot and am wishing you a happy Spring!

20170212_1459481

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 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.'

Development of a wild life pond!

Over the last three years of allotmenting I have noticed a decrease in certain insects such as ladybirds and bees and an increase in pests especially slugs and aphids.

I freely admit that I am as much to blame as anyone else in their decreasing numbers. I never thought about the affects of blindly spraying insecticide would have on the environment. All I cared about was saving my veg for me! This time last year, I got a good look at what this attitude cost me! My broad beans became absolutely infested with blackfly. Every part of the stem, tip and the beans themselves were covered in black fly and I was lucky to spot even a single ladybird! When I took on my first plot three years ago, there was a bumblebee nest under our shed – they are not there now. This could be that they moved or it could be they died. I hate to think that I was the cause of this but unfortunately that is probably the truth!

I have been reading about the sharp decrease in the number of hedgehogs! Am I contributing to this because I liberally apply slug pellets to nearly every bare patch of soil on my allotment? What harm am I doing from the bioaccumulation of metaldehyde in hedgehogs and even birds?

Well no more! For those of you who have been following my journey on this blog you will know that I  have been developing a wildlife pond over the last year. I have learnt the error of my ways and am seeking to fix the harm that I have done!

At the same time as the realisation of what I was doing came to me, Monty Don on Gardener’s World luckily decided to put a wildlife pond into his garden, which is where I got the idea for mine from. This would be my first step in trying to right my wrongs.

Last June, just before I started this blog, I also started to plan my wild life pond. Sam and I marked out an area for our new wildlife pond. We decided it would sit within our mini orchrad where the trees would benefit from the increased bee activity and to also provide us with a lovely shady place to sit. At the time, there was a very large compost bin where we now have our pond that was left there by the previous tenant. My friends, Jenny and Adam, came up one day and helped us moved this large compost bin and the compost that was in it. A month later, they came up again to dig the wildlife pond (they really like digging!).

I had decided on a figure of 8 shape with a sloping ‘beach’ into the pond and a shelf around the deeper edge to sit pond plants on.

It sat like this for a few weeks until Sam and I then got round to buying some pond liner, shingle and a few large rocks. We spent a day putting down the pond liner and weighing it down with rocks. We filled it with water from the water trough and left the water to ‘de-chlorinate’ itself.

DSCF9090

The pond then sat like this all through the winter! The grass grew up around the pond, parts of the pond liner fell into the water and it generally looked a mess! No wildlife is going to want to live here!

Then we finally decided to move forward with this project and spent a day in March digging over the pond borders ready for planting, putting down more stones to hide the edges of the pond liner and putting some plants both in the pond and on the ground!

In the pond we planted a water lily, reeds, marsh marigolds, water mint and iris.

20160328_144654

And in the pond borders we planted lavender, bleeding heart and pansies to begin with!

My friend Stacey gave us some frog spawn out of her pond, and it wasn’t long before we had hundreds of tiny tadpoles wriggling their way around our pond!

20160417_120725[1]

Since March, we have gradually added plants to the pond borders, both perennials and annuals. Bluebells have come up from bulbs planted in the autumn and more stones/shingle has been added to hide the pond liner. A bench was added and then last month, an archway where we are training a plant to grow over it (can’t remember the name of the plant -I just remember that it has white flowers).

20160503_194629[1]

In the last month, what with the warmer temperatures and constant flow of rain, the plants have come on leaps and bounds, both in and out of the pond!

20160531_112805[1]

The water lily is growing by the day, bees are flocking to the borage (which got so big it toppled over – although still provides plenty of food for the bees) and I have even spotted a few tiny frogs over the last week. I am not sure if these are our tadpoles maturing or if these are other frogs which are exploring our pond but suffice to say they are welcome. I can’t quite believe the change!

20160623_194847[1]

I have also seen a slight increase in the number of ladybirds this year which is also welcome! There has even been a rabbit visiting although he has been eating my Brussels sprouts!

I have been so pleased with the progress of the pond but that is not the end of the story. There is still so much I can do for wildlife in my little piece of land! Firstly, I want to encourage more birds. Not necessarily pigeons but our native wild birds such as robins, thrushes and tits.

I am developing a herb garden on plot 3 which I also plan to have as a wildlife area, here I plan to put up bird feeder and bird baths to encourage birds, especially those that like to eat slugs! I would also like to put a hedgehog home in somewhere before the autumn when they start looking for somewhere to hibernate! I also want to encourage more shrews and bats into the allotment!

These are exciting times and what with my first wildlife project having gone so well, I am really looking forward to continuing on with this work and atoning for my sins!

June 2016

This month we have really focused on getting some of plot 3 up together and productive (kind of)!

We started the month by having a generally tidy up of the pea and bean frames, removed torn netting and spent bamboo canes. We also have mowed and strimmed the grass which, unfortunately, left brown swathes of grass instead of a lush green carpet. The constant raining since the beginning of June has helped to ‘green up’ the paths though!

We got underway with digging over bed 2 and planting out the brussels sprouts plants. We found a tomato cage in Wilko which we used to cover the brussels sprouts, mainly to keep the pigeons out – however, there has been damage to the plants which, for a while, I couldn’t figure out what was responsible but have since discovered that we having a visiting rabbit! The cage has now been further fortified! I doubt it will keep the cabbage whites out, or the cabbage mealy aphids (of which we also have a problem with), but I shall deal with these problems as and when they arrive

20160630_200626[1]

We finished digging over bed 1 a month after I first started digging it over. The sweet potatoes were already in but weeds were in abundance so they needed a good hoeing! The Oca has now been planted. The tubers I bought originally shriveled up and didn’t look like they would survive so instead I bought some reduced Oca plants from Wyevale for £1 each! Bargain!

20160623_195006[1]

The herb bed has gotten under way. We have picked through the bed, removing as many weeds and grass tufts as we can. We didn’t want to completely dig over the whole bed as there are a lot of usable plants in the ground and we enjoy the ground coverage that the wild strawberries give! The path went in, but instead of separating the whole bed into four separate beds we have three as you can see in the photo. The crab apple tree has been planted in the middle, surrounded by thyme and chamomile plants. The mint has been severely cut back and the bay tree planted. Maisie’s rose was also planted along with the pots of herbs I had started collecting. It will be a while before the bed starts to fill out but it is certainly coming along nicely!

20160623_195010[1]

Bed3 has quite a lot of escaping raspberry canes in it which will soon have a bountiful harvest of raspberries. I have decided to leave these raspberries and will instead cut everything back in the existing raspberry bed. Most of the canes are dead and spent anyway and come the winter I shall replace them with new varieties!

Plot 2 has mainly been a battle of the weeds! We spend a few hours every weekend weeding, trying to keep the bindweed and other perennial weeds at bay. My new favourite thing is barley straw. I have been putting it down everywhere to kill off the weeds. Works to a certain extent but not on the knotweed-type weed I am having a problem with – will need another solution for this!

As per my previous posts, we have been harvesting large quantity of strawberries (~4.5kg so far), some of the Japanese onions have been harvested for cooking with immediately, broad beans are starting to come along and the first lot of garlic has been pulled up and in the process of drying out!

Climbing beans have grown quite steadily and the spring sown onions are getting big so all is coming along nicely on this plot! I have also been enjoying a good quantity of lettuce; little gem and lollo rosso varieties

20160630_200638[1].jpg

20160630_200618[1].jpg

On plot 1 we had to replace a number of the squash plants as we found that the plants had some sort of foot rot. The base of the stem and the roots had rotted away which explains why they had sat there and done nothing for the last month! Not sure how we got that but will be investigating to find out how to avoid it in the future!

Radishes have been mostly harvested (and slightly woody – left them for too long) and new ones sown and the first spears of ‘tenderstem’ broccoli have been harvested! We still haven’t filled our carrot bed but there is always next month (again)!

At home, the slugs and snails have been attacking everything in the greenhouse – has anyone else noticed a significant slug and snail boom this year? Slug damage is at an all time high this month!

Chillies are finally planted into their final pots. Sam has chopped the tops of the plants to encourage more bushy growth and therefore more flowers, so watch this space. We have been harvesting our first early potatoes. Disappointing yields but just means there is room for improvement next year!

And finally, the wildlife pond is doing fantastically well. Flowers are in abundance and there are quite a number of bees buzzing around. Tadpoles are still happily swimming away and I have even spotted a few frogs around! I am really happy with the way this has turned out!

20160623_194847[1]

April 2016

April has been as I expect April to be – full of rain, frosts and the occasional bout of brilliant sunshine that lets you know Summer is on the way. I have enjoyed the lengthening days which has meant I can pop down the allotment in the evening after tea to do a couple of quick jobs and generally check on my newly planted brassicas.

On plot 1, I have been busy preparing the ground for planting. I have added a bag of compost to each bed and the plots that will be getting the squash plants this year have had a bag of well-rotted farmyard manure too. Cabbages and calabrese have been planted in their beds with home-made cloches sitting over most of them until they are a little stronger. Slug pellets have been liberally applied, having lost half of my red cabbages to one greedy snail already!

20160503_192235
Cabbages planted and under bird netting.

Parsnip seeds have been sown along with small carrots (Paris Market 5 and Royal Chantenay) in the seed bed.

20160503_192249
Parsnips seedlings coming through!

Lettuces were sown in their designated bed along with spinach but soon after we had a heavy ran which let a hard pan on the soil and the seedlings have yet to emerge. I am not sure if the seeds were washed away or the hard pan prevented the seedlings from breaking through. A few spinach seedlings made it through but the germination rate has been poor. To remedy this I have sown more seeds in my seed bed and will plant out the seedlings when they are ready to be transplanted, however, so far I haven’t seen these seedlings raise there head either so might have to buy some new seeds! Plot 1 also had a bit of a tidy up with the large growhouse, mini growhouses and fruit cage all being put up/out.

20160503_192301
Fruit cage is back up!

The rhubarb is situated on the plot 1 and we are in full swing having already harvested 6 kilos of rhubarb. I have shared this out with some ladies at Slimming World as well as making some Rhubarb and Orange jam, the recipe which I have posted previously.

On plot 2, our focus has been trying to get the bean bed dug over and the potatoes planted. The second earlies went in on the 10th April and the maincrop potatoes went in on the 23 rd April thanks to some help from my friends; Adam and Jenny!

20160423_171544[1]
All the potatoes have been planted!

The last of my onions have also been planted out which has filled the last gap in the onion bed. I have noticed, however, some large gaps between the rows which are quickly filling with weeds. I have been regularly hoeing off but have decided to combat this with some companion planting; I will be planting lettuces, mini cabbages and broccoli ‘raab’ between the rows of garlic and onions. The bean bed has been dug over, a walkway put through it to separate it into two plots and nearly all the support structures have been erected.

20160503_194607[1]

The asparagus bed that was there last year is no more as it was covered in nettles and we had to dig down deep to remove them, possibly removing and/or damaging the crowns at the same time. So far, no asparagus has reared its head which is disappointing but I shall probably attempting to establish another asparagus bed next year.

The pond has also come on leaps and bounds since March. The frog spawn hatched and the pond was filled with hundreds of tadpoles, more plants have been added to the borders and the water has really started to clear up since adding all the oxygenating plants. We have also added a bench and an archway so we can sit by the pond and enjoy our lunch!

20160503_194629[1]
Pond is coming along!

One thing that has been on my to-do list for a while is to tidy up the compost area as it was always a mess and surrounded by weeds so we covered the area in front of the bins with carpet and laid bark chip on top, as well as round the small polytunnel. It is a much neater area now and hopefully, the carpet will kill off the the many weeds and couch grass underneath. We may re-seed the area in a few years time with grass but for now it is a tidy space with enough room for us to also set up a BBQ when the weather is nice enough like last weekend!

20160503_194556[1]

My Mum came down to give a helping hand this last weekend so we managed to make a start on plot 3. The shed is nice and tidy and the first bean bed has been weeded!

A new cover has been put on the polytunnel and peppers, aubergines and cucumbers were been planted inside. Unfortunately, I arrived at the plot on Sunday to find that all the tomatoes, aubergines, cucumbers and some peppers had succumbed to the frost. The courgettes which had been stored in there died too! I have re-sown the courgettes but will need to buy aubergines and maybe some tomatoes at the garden centre. I have spare Alicante and Moneymaker plants but have lost some of my more specialty ones!

But on to happier things, the most important news of all is that we have now bought a little camping gas stove and kettle! Now I can enjoy a nice steaming hot cup of tea whilst looking out on the hard work I/we have done! Now my allotment life is (almost) complete!

cup-of-tea-n

 

 

March 2016

Oh how March has flown by!

The first week of March was just as hectic in work as February was, however, the second week of March found me unemployed and fancy free so I had plenty of time to do a little catch up! First thing I did was to get my sow on!

I planted up the remaining onion sets into little cardboard tubes to give them a head start before planting out in April. I also sown my two varieties of Broad bean (1 red, 1 green), potted on my peppers, aubergines, cabbages and broccoli/calabrese and sown some herb seeds, mainly chives, basil, oregano and lemon balm. I also had a chance to start my big pea experiment with my first sowing of peas (only a month later than I had planned!)

20160308_122040
Onions are nicely growing away. They will be planted in the allotment soon.

It also left me time to visit the allotment, I finally moved all my herbs down to plot three to start my herb garden, and finished digging over the leek bed and as I have written in a previous post, we finished building all the raised beds in plot 1 – finally completing the planned structure!

The third week of March saw us planting out onions and the plum and cherry trees as well as the free Honeoye and Florence strawberry runners I received in the post. And finally, we have dug the pond beds and gotten rid of all the grass! Cross that off my to do list!!

I also have to commend Sam for the brilliant bonfire he got going! That weekend was a particularly cold one and it was nice the eat our lunch next to the warmth of the fire (even though we reeked of smoke afterwards)!!

First early potatoes were planted into potato growbags (International kidney and Annabelle) so wont be long until we will be tucking into some delicious new potatoes! We also planted ginger into a large pot which will be kept indoors as I am a little unsure of what I am supposed to do with this!

The fourth week of March saw us sowing grass seed in the little orchard we have now established, and planting up the pond beds with some lovely fragrant perennials including Lavender, Borage, Aquilegia, Foxgloves and Hollyhock. We have also managed to get some plants into the pond! Some rushes around the edge and some marginal plants such as Marsh Marigold and Water Mint. We also spent out on a beautiful yellow waterlily which I am looking forward to watching it bloom! The pond still needs a bit more improvement but once all the plants get established. it should stop looking so bare and the pond liner shouldn’t be so visible. Frog spawn is in (thanks Stacey!) so hopefully in a few months time little frogs will be hopping around!

20160328_150832
Pond has been planted up and frog spawn has gone in!

Other than that we got a start on digging over what will become the bean and pea bed. The asparagus bed is at the bottom of this bed and it was covered in nettles. I started trying to gently remove the nettles so I wouldn’t disturb any growing asparagus but quickly came to the conclusion that this was impossible so Sam and I started digging up and hacking away at it! If the asparagus survives and hasn’t been chopped up or dug out then that’s wonderful, if not then I guess I am going to have to have another go at planting up an asparagus bed (because the last one worked so well)!

20160325_145035

Some sowing has finally been down out in the allotment, I have sown leeks, radishes, lettuce and spinach as well as planting out some lettuce plants I procured from Wyevale garden centre. (My new job is next to a Wyevale Garden Centre!!!) At home, I  re-potted my two banana trees and removed the extra suckers. The suckers have been potted up and will be given new homes.

20160330_075528
Banana suckers.

And whilst we had a four day weekend this last weekend what with it being Easter and all,  only one and a bit of those days were actually spent at the allotment!  Instead, I attended the rather fabulous wedding of my two occasional allotment helpers – Jenny and Adam! I watched my beautiful friend get married to the love of her life! And don’t they make a beautiful couple!

IMG-20160328-WA0000

I wish them all the best on their journey through life and may they grow many vegetables together!

Jobs for February

February is now upon us and I am sure it is going to get colder and wetter. Saturday is certainly not looking good!

weather this week
Wet weather this Saturday!

However, we have only four weekends to go and then we are in March and that is where the real fun can begin! My fingers are certainly itching to get sowing!

But before we hit March, there is a whole host of things that need doing before I can do any of these things!

Thankfully, we have finished most of the jobs on plot 1 and it is (for once) in a good and tidy condition. The remaining jobs are quite large ones like build the last two beds, sort out the water butts etc. so these can be parked until dryer weather!

So, this month we are moving on to plot 2.

There were a few jobs I wanted to get done in January but we ran out of time and in the end we didn’t step foot on this plot except to build a bonfire pile.

There are many things to do on this plot to get it up to scratch!

20160130_145623[1]
Somewhere in this bed are strawberries!
  1. Weed and mulch the strawberry/artichoke(/asparagus?) bed
  2. Tidy up the strawberry plants
  3. Dig in the green manure
  4. Harvest the leeks and weed the bed
  5. Split the leek bed into two parts and add well rotted manure
  6. Weed the fruit cage and prune the fruit bushes
  7. Plant the trees and grape
  8. Weed the onions and garlic bed
  9. Remove grass from around pond and mulch
  10. Split bed 3 into two and add compst
  11. Have a good tidy up
  12. Mow the grass (when it’s dry)
DSCF9094
Digging in the green manure is the first job!

I am being rather optimistic for February and I don’t expect to get all this done especially if it’s raining. But, I shall try and get as much done as possible!

At home, I shall be planting up my onion sets to give them a good start. I will also be playing catch up by planting my aubergines (should of done this in January to give them a good start) and I shall be planting some early broad beans and peas.

I shall also have a root around in the seed tin to see what other veg I can get started now and I am sure that at some point this month I will be pricking out the tomato seedlings into bigger pots.