Harvesting and Growing

Finally the rain has stopped ! woo hoo…. the sun has arrived and brought all the slugs, snails and weeds with it.

I have had to harvest all the garlic, very early as it was so wet and all the foliage was dying back very quickly, so leaving it any longer would have been a disaster and probably rotted away. It’s very mixed results, we either have small but perfectly split bulbs or single mono-bulbs. None of it is very big but at least we have saved it and will have enough to keep us going for a few months.

The onions seem to be doing fine and are bulking out well, especially the red ones, and I have finally mastered the art of growing spring onions, and we have eaten quite a few already with still plenty to go. The strawberries are fruiting and ripening faster than we can eat them, everyone (except me) is loving them, I’m loving the raspberries. These tiny plants are producing the sweetest fruit and just enough for me … sssshhh don’t tell.

I had a chat with my neighbour about the artichokes and he gave me a few to try, although I never got chance as my auntie pinched them from me ! There are still lots and he said I can help myself, as long as I leave a few for the bees. Sounds fair to me.

I’m still getting regular pickings from the rhubarb and am taking the larger radishes each time to thin them out and it seems to be working well. The potatoes are doing well and soon we will be pulling the early Charlotte’s.

Some things seem a ways behind this year, we had already had our first crop of broccoli by this time last year but this year they are only just starting to bud. Also I’m now on my fourth sowing of beans, thanks to the rain and pigeons, I’m not hopeful of any this year, which will be very disappointing as they were my favourites last year. However the peas are doing really well, the plants haven’t grown particularly tall but are covered in pods and flowers.

The greenhouse is growing well, mostly, the tomatoes are flowering and the peppers are both flowering and fruiting. I’ve gone with mainly sweet peppers this year and only two hot chilli plants, the opposite of last year. We had so many chilli plants last year that we are still using the dried chillies and will have enough to last most of this year also (and we use a fair amount), I’m not sure what is chomping on the aubergine leaves but it’s growing steadily so fingers crossed.

 

Finally, I took the plunge and put in the new pond, it’s not finished but it looks good and with a few buckets of water from an established pond has really helped to get it up and running. I’ve started planting around but need to work more on the edging and planting in the pond itself. The other ponds have plenty of wildlife, including some tiny frogs and the planting is really starting to establish and fill out. It’s looking really pretty with lots of flowers.

I hope your gardens are growing well and you are enjoying your outdoor space.

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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 ?

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.

 

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.

Allotment update June 2018

It’s been a little while since my last post but the weather at the beginning of the year meant that not very much happened. Thankfully since April the weather has been hot and dry meaning finally we could get things planted outside and get the plot organised and sorted out.

Here’s how it looked earlier in the year ….

After a good few days sorting out and several trips to the tip it looked much better, especially the greenhouse and shed.

Next it was time to start organising the beds and planting. I started all my seedlings at home, but the weather this year decided to do strange things. From snow in March to blazing temperatures in April/May. I had dug over and covered a few beds so managed to get them planted up with red and white onions, shallots, garlic, potatoes, peas and beans. I lost a couple of beans to pigeons (I assume)  and the fox decided to dig up both patches of garlic I planted (both times) so I gave up on that.

Whilst waiting for seedlings to be ready to plant out we got started on the ‘wildlife’ area and installed a couple of ponds and fixed up a couple of new gates.

Thanks to the previous owner we’ve had tons of rhubarb, and made lots of people very happy, including trading with other allotment holders.

Now I have a few more beds dug over and planted with courgettes, pumpkins, butternut squash, pak choi, turnips, beetroot, sweetcorn, radish, broccoli and sprouts. I already had a very well established plum and pear tree and have added some gooseberry bushes and red and black currants. In the greenhouse I have beef tomatoes and cherry tomatoes on one side and sweet and hot chilli peppers on the other. Everything has grown well so far.

I still have about a quarter of the plot to finish but I’ve managed to get all the wood I need to build the new beds later in the year, ready for the new growing season.

A good start, and the harvesting has begun …

 

Here’s to the next six months of growing. Any tips or advise are always welcomed.

a day in my life …. photo diary

A busy but productive mother/daughter day …..