Allotment update

The weather is driving me mad ! It was so hot and sunny and I’ve had a few busy weekends so I’m trying to get to the allotment in between work hours during the week but it keeps raining, sigh, however I have discovered that I’m not the only person who allotments in the rain, it was lovely to see a friendly face and enjoy a warming cup of coffee and chat in the shed.

The tomatoes have finally perked up and after a feed have had a growth spurt as have the peppers, some even have flowers starting to appear, although the aubergine is very disappointing. I’m even debating removing it, maybe a job for next week ….

The sweetcorn has also filled out and is doing really well and now has a pumpkin friend growing, although I’m not going down the three sisters route as I’ve heard the beans can be a nuisance to the corn once they start growing up and wrapping around. I have a fixed bean frame which is currently housing a lot of very happy peas, some have even started to flower. The beans haven’t done very well, a combination of cold and slugs, hopefully they will start to shoot up once the weather warms up a little more.

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The broccoli and kale is booming, in fact it’s doing so well I’ve had to raise the netting a couple of times over the last two weeks. The leeks have settled well and have had a good weeding and look happy, as do the parsnips although I can’t say the same for the carrots. I planted three varieties in different areas but have around 10 carrots growing in total. The beets, radish, pak choi and turnips never fail and need thinning out a little and covering to avoid the dreaded pigeons eating them all !

The courgettes are starting to produce fruit, this year I’ve only planted two as I learnt the hard way last year just how many fruit they can produce. However I have made a slight error with pumpkins this year and currently have seven, yes you read that right, seven growing very happily, after I planted four seeds and nothing happened for a month, I planted another four, I didn’t get to the allotment for ten days and bingo, seven happy pumpkin plants. I’ve moved one into a space with the sweetcorn but the others I have left and they have a fair amount of space to ramble. I’m not doing butternut squash this year, thankfully.

The fruit bushes are coming along nicely, the raspberries have a few berries as do the gooseberries, they are still very young, small bushes so even a small crop is very satisfying to see. The strawberries are covered and some of them are huge, again the birds and I are fighting over these gorgeous juicy fruits. The pear tree needs to be thinned but I’m going to leave it until the end of June to see if any drop naturally. The newly planted blackberry bushes have really shot up and have had to be tied up.

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The sunflowers have gone missing again ! I noticed whilst I was there in the rain the last few days that there are a lot of slugs and I’m not very happy that the frogs aren’t doing a better job, I really don’t want to use pellets so might have to invest in a few traps.

Phil’s rose is blooming and looks beautiful. It’s still only a small rosebush but has the biggest yellow flowers with red tips. On a grey day it really stands out, like his beautiful smile always did.

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The compost area had spilled out, the front board had come loose a month or so ago and with everything needing to be planted out, it was left to it’s own devices and I finally got round to sorting it out and we had a lovely surprise underneath. Our first crop of the year, potatoes, enough to keep our family of four supplied with three meals.

My allotment is a really big space, it measures 110ft long by 15ft wide (33.5m by 4.5m), not including the shed and greenhouse so has lots of growing area, we still have two full beds covered and unused plus a smaller bed covered. I’m thinking of creating another pond area in this smaller bed as it’s at the opposite end to the others and will hopefully help with slug population down here. I’ve bought a liner to make a shallower, smaller pond than the others, no fish but hopefully plenty of other wildlife and plenty of planting around and in it. But that’s a job for another day.

I bought myself a present, a new 25m hosepipe and reel with 7 setting spray nozzle. The old one didn’t have a reel and it had also sprung a few leaks, even the repairs had leaks. I have used a long piece from the old pipe to run from the tap to the reel and then can use the new hose to cover almost the entire plot, if I need to top up the ponds or water the flower area I can use the smaller piece from the tap at the other end of the plot. It’s so much better and much easier to pack away.

My only other possible plans are to create a herb bed, as I only have thyme and rosemary at the moment. Also my neighbour has a huge artichoke plant, which has lots of globe artichokes on it. I’ve dropped a few, very subtle, hints that I’ve never eaten one, he harvests most of them but always leaves a couple for the bees. So I’m tempted to plant one, if I don’t like it then all is not lost as the wildlife will be happy.

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All the basics are covered and growing but I’m looking for suggestions for what to grow or do in these two remaining beds, approximately each about 15ft by 15ft, so a decent size. What do you think, any suggestions welcomed ?

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Everything’s growing

Well, the allotment is looking so good. The weather has been lovely, warm, sunny with the occasional rain shower and everything is thriving from it.

The asparagus has really settled well and, apart from two plants, has sprouted, we can’t harvest any this year but leave it to bloom. It’s so delicate and looks very pretty.

The sweetcorn, leeks and cabbages are doing fine but the broccoli has really taken off (except the one eaten by something)

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The peas are doing better than last year, although that’s not difficult, however the beans are struggling and I’ve put in some new seeds. The potatoes have been earthed up and sprouted through again. The strawberries and courgettes are flowering happily. I’ve only planted two courgette plants, a yellow and green. I learned the hard way last year how quickly they grow and produce.

I bought some thornless blackberries, (a hybrid of raspberry, loganberry and blackberry) and built arches for them to grow over, and put lavender it the middle.

The rest of the fruit is coming along, I’ve already started harvesting and giving away the rhubarb, the raspberries, gooseberries, blackcurrants, pear, and damson. I’m just hoping I can get to them before the birds do. The tiny little apple tree we brought from home has two buds, so hopefully we will get our first apples from it.

But my favourite part of the allotment has to be the pond area, it has really blossomed into a wildlife area. The flowers have put on a good show this year already and more are appearing. The fish are doing well and we have a resident frog, plus tadpoles in the pond. The bees are loving the pond too and are always around the bricks and iris plants.

I’ve even started sorting the shed and making it pretty by papering the walls in floral wallpaper.

I’m so happy with how things are going, my only plan currently is to put another pond/wildlife area in at the far end, nearest the greenhouse as there seems to be a lot slugs and snails up there and not a lot of plants/greenery apart from the comfrey and a couple of rose bushes.

Talking of the greenhouse, the tomatoes and peppers are doing well, the aubergine is growing but very slowly so I’m not sure if we will actually get anything from it, ever !

I hope your garden/growing space is doing well too.

Spring has sprung

The sun is shining and the weather is really warming up now. Everything is starting to bloom, including the weeds !

The Easter weekend was perfect weather, dry and hot, to finally get stuck in and get planting some of the huge seedlings.

I arrived at the allotment to find a gift from a neighbour of 6 broccoli plants and 4 cabbages, as I already had plenty of these I passed them on to another plot holder who was very grateful.

I decided to plant up the six, newly created, box patches. One has sweetcorn, the second has broccoli, third has kale, spring onion and two rows of multi-coloured heritage carrots, the fourth has leeks, the fifth has cabbage and cauliflower and the last has courgettes.

 

I have also planted 4 rows of Paris market carrots alongside the onions and garlic, both of which are doing really well. I finally managed to get the main crop potatoes in (after a lot of weeding), the earlies went in a month ago and have started sprouting and these have been earthed up.

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The peas are doing well, however the beans haven’t done so well since being planted out and I’ve put some more seeds in, so hopefully they will grow.

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The strawberries are flowering as are the raspberries, they have settled well after being moved to a new spot and are growing well, although it’ll be another year or so before we get any to eat. Likewise the gooseberries, red and black currants are also starting to fruit.

The pond area needed a lot of work and after many hours is only about half weeded, however the bulbs planted have all started sprouting and the colours are lovely. There’s still a lot to do but the fish seem happy enough and we’ve got a few water snails to try and keep the green algae down. The wood chip man brought us some large logs and I’ve used some around this area to create more places for the wildlife to perch and hide and it’s working.

 

In the greenhouse we have aubergines, two types of tomatoes, chilli peppers and 3 varieties of sweet peppers.

 

It’s lovely to finally have things planted and growing but still plenty to do, mostly weeding !

Happy growing everyone.

 

Asparagus

A few weeks ago I received an email and immediately thought it’s a scam, but something didn’t seem right. The email was from Yodel, it said ‘your parcel will be delivered today, to track your parcel download the app from the App store or Google play’, no reference numbers or links, and that was what made me curious, it seemed genuine. So I took to Facebook and asked the ‘experts’ everyone said it’s a scam, so I deleted it. Then a couple hours later the doorbell rang, and there was a Yodel van and man with a parcel for me.

The Facebook experts were as surprised as me, as I wasn’t expecting anything.

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When I saw the box, it was realised exactly what it was, asparagus crowns.

I had ordered them last year, around November time and it said they would delivered early spring, and I had forgotten all about them.

It was a busy time and I wasn’t able to get to the allotment that week, so I opened the packaging and left the box in the shed, cool and protected and hoped they would cope until I could get them planted.

I wasn’t sure how to plant asparagus, so decided to once again ask the experts. This time I used the You-tube experts, watched a few videos and made some notes.

It was two weeks before I could get them planted, and I wasn’t hopeful or expecting too much. I dug and weeded the patch and finally got them into the ground alongside the raspberries, it was quite simple although I did cover them with some netting as the patch seems to be a favourite digging spot for the fox, only when I’ve planted though.

Imagine my surprise when I got to the allotment two weeks later to see asparagus growing happily, not only had it settled but had spears growing. I have a four different varieties and three have started growing. Unfortunately we can’t eat any this year but it’s reassuring to know it’s doing well and we are looking forward to the beautiful fronds/flowers they produce. I’ve taken the netting off, fingers crossed the foxes stay away from it.

Community time

Our allotment association has had a community plot for a long time, before I arrived on the site. In the year I have been there nothing much has been done, other than an occasional mowing and it’s not been used.

This year we elected a few new people on to the committee and the decision was made to try and build the community on-site before doing any off-site events. It didn’t go down with some of the previous committee members but the numbers of people coming to the meetings has been reducing every meeting.

Our new chair-person came up with an idea to have a ‘community day’ once a month we come together to get the community plot up and running and build the social side. It started a month ago when a few of us turned up and made a plan of what the plot should be used for and the best way to accomplish this. We decided to create two different spaces in different places, the first would be an enclosed space, easy maintenance, grassed over with seating and a barbecue area. We can use this space for the allotment children to have a safe space to play and mix if they don’t want stay on their own plots, parents and grand parents will know they are safe too also it will be used for once a month afternoon tea’s and our yearly summer party.

This weekend we had our first ‘community working day’, six of us turned up, one I’ve never met before, and got stuck in. Two people started clearing rubbish from around the whole site, two clearing rubbish from the plot and two started clearing a space to create compost, wood-chip and soil bins.

I was one of the people working on the plot, after half an hour we had filled 8 rubbish bags and a bucket full of glass. The plot was very overgrown, mostly grass but also the previous owners crops, we started pulling these up, removing the weeds and digging over the beds. The idea is to level the plot, it’s very uneven and then cover with grass seed. Whilst working more people arrived and commented on the progress, unfortunately the weather started to turn but we took lots of photo’s and posted them to our allotment group to show the progress we made and it has encouraged more people to help, the people who can’t make it at weekend are going to do whatever they can, sometimes people need to see something happening before they get involved.

Progress is going slowly but steadily and I made a new allotment buddy. It was a win-win weekend.

The growing season begins.

It’s hardly felt like winter. We’ve had a few cold, snowy days but other than that the weather has been unseasonably warm. It has meant that the weeds are growing and the fish are still happily swimming around the ponds.

Over the last few months I have changed a few of the larger beds into smaller, more manageable growing spaces. So I’ve been doing some planning, ready to get growing this year. I got a lovely book for Christmas last year, Companion planting by Bob Flowerdew. I’m going to try a few of his techniques to mix the crops to maximise the space.

I’ve started with one of the permanent beds, I originally had set it up as a fruit bed, but now I’ve moved the strawberries and have planted asparagus alongside the raspberries. I bought second year crowns so hopefully will get a crop next year.

I made a list of all the veggies we enjoyed last year and new ones to try this year and have planned out the beds. I’m growing a few different things this year, and looking forward to trying some new varieties of plants we grew last year. One thing we all agreed on last year was none of us like broad beans but loved French beans,. The joy of growing your own is finding your own favourites, and not just what the supermarket has in stock.

The potatoes are chitting nicely, and the seedling are starting to sprout, some look ready to pot on already !

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The allotment beds have been fed and turned ready for the upcoming planting to begin. The flowers are starting to appear also and it will be time to start our sunflowers again, last year Oscar planted Van Gogh, these are my favourite sunflowers, a smaller variety but multi-headed and they flowered until the end of October. Here’s hoping for another sunny, happy growing year ahead.

It’s an exciting time.

This year we will be growing :

  • Asparagus – Ariane, Mondeo, Pacific 2000, Purple pacific
  • Aubergine – Black beauty
  • Beetroot – Moulin Rouge, Burpees Golden, Cylindra
  • Cabbage – Golden acre, April
  • Calabrese – Ironman, Green Calabrese
  • Carrot – Flyaway F1, Paris Market 5, Harlequin
  • Celeriac – Monarch
  • Courgette – (to be confirmed)
  • French Beans – Isabel climbing beans, Cobra climbing beans, Hilton dwarf bean
  • Kale – Dwarf green curled
  • Leek – Musselburgh
  • Pak choi – Shanghai
  • Pea – Hurst green shaft
  • Pepper – California Wonder, Colour spectrum
  • Potato – Charlotte, Albert Bartlett Rooster
  • Radish – (to be confirmed)
  • Spring onion – Lisbon
  • Sweetcorn – Lark F1 hybrid
  • Tomato – Principr Borghese
  • Turnip – Snowball, Purple top

Also we are going to plant pumpkins again for Halloween carving, I saved the seed from last years pumpkin, fingers crossed.

What are you growing ? Any tips, ideas, suggestions or varieties you recommend.

The allotment so far…

2018, the year of the sunshine and heat. For us it was the year of the tomato !

The beginning of the year was snowy and cold, which meant digging and getting the plot ready for what we wanted was almost impossible but then the weather changed in quite a dramatic fashion, from frost and snow to tropical temperatures and hose pipe bans.

At the start of the year we had a few very large beds, which I found difficult to manage and wanted to make into smaller, easier to work from all sides without walking over. However with the lack of time it was easier to leave a few covered and just work on half the plot.

A couple of these we sectioned off and two we left and planted rows of potatoes, let them do the hard work for us.

 

The first things to be planted where the garlic, onions and shallots. However we lost 3 patches of garlic to the fox, who very strangely kept digging it up. The sweetcorn vanished, probably mice but then a few months later sweetcorn appeared and grew in a totally different bed on the plot, so maybe they just borrowed it ! I was given some Brussels sprouts and broccoli seedling plants from a neighbouring plot holder, neither of us had ever grown these before, so we just put them in and watered along with everything else and bingo, it worked.

Everything in the greenhouse went bonkers, the tomatoes produced so many that we haven’t bought any over six months and still have a freezer full. The chillies also over produced and even giving bunches away we’ve got enough to last another year. I made a mistake of planting a few too many courgette plants and we had so many that my mum made a few trips to my Auntie’s cafe with them, as well as giving them away to friends and neighbours.

I got a couple of pumpkin plants and a butternut squash, neither of which I had grown before, but thought they would fill a large area easily and anything they produced would be a bonus. And produce they did, we got enough pumpkins for a decent Halloween carving plus one small butternut squash, which feels more like a family member than a food stuff.

We put in two ponds (one preformed plastic one, and one an old bath) and started planting flowers and bushes around to encourage wildlife into the plot. The fencing was rescued from a skip as the church next door was having it replaced. It’s in good condition and just needed attaching.

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I also found two rose bushes that have been planted for sentimental reasons. One for Phil and the other for my family.

Yellow roses symbolise love, joy and friendship. Pink roses symbolise admiration and grace. So the names and colours are very apt. Oscar’s sunflowers were beautiful, they were the small multi-headed variety and they flowered right up until November.

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At the end of September, once the main bulk of the growing was over, we get spent a few weeks of hard work and started separating the beds into smaller patches and wood-chipping the paths. There’s still quite a bit to do, but it’s looking more manageable and the plans for 2019 are coming along well.

Lets hope for another great growing year ahead.