Signs of Spring

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Yesterday marked the first day of Spring. Now, I can’t speak for anyone else but it actually feels more Spring like to me! The sun has been shining, the wind has dropped and it’s not rained for at least 3 days. Spring is officially here.

This week I’ve taken a few days off work and I plan to spend most of my time along at the allotment getting the vegetable beds dug over and ready for planting. Compared to last year, I’m a few weeks behind on the allotment prep, but I’m hoping to catch up within a week or so.

With flask in hand I headed long to the plot to make a start. The first bed I’m tackling is going to be for the peas and beans. Last year I had planted potatoes in the bed and I have to say they’ve done wonders for improving the heavy clay soil and keeping the weeds down. I had a real bindweed battle last year and the same section took just over 5 hours to turn over compared to this years lightning fast 2.5 hour session.

 

The plan was to plant out the broad beans I’m growing in cardboard tubes in about 2 weeks time which is why I decided to dig over this bed first, but the beans have had a bit of a set back.

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Devoured broad beans

The cat ate them. That’s right, the cat ate them. Now all that’s left are broad bean stalks. I’m not really hopeful that they’re going to make a miraculous recovery so while I’m at the allotment this week I’m going to sow a double row directly into the ground and hope that no emerging allotment wild life eat them.

Tomorrow I’ll be back at the allotment for more digging and weeding and some unscheduled bean sowing!

I love wandering around the plot at this time of year. On first glance you can’t really see any difference to how it was a few weeks ago, but when you look closely, new shoots and bud are emerging and you can really get a sense of things to come.

 

Happy springtime.

 

Let’s get sowing

  

Room to sit and enjoy a cup of tea in my lovely tidy shed

  
After my shed sorting success yesterday I was keen to keep up the good work and had planned to make a start on clearing the vegetable plots today. However, I woke to a very windy and very rainy Friday, not the best for digging and clearing. Without much persuasion to leave digging for the day, I felt I should really get a move on and get some seeds planted. 

The end of February/beginning of March marks the start of my seed sowing season. Onions and leeks first, followed by potato chitting and the sowing of broad beans. 

 

Potatoes ready for chitting

  
  

Broad beans sown in cardboard tubes for easy planting out

 
It was great to get a few seeds sown today. I feel like I’m back on track, even though I’ve still got all my vegetable beds to prepare, at least I’ll have something to plant out in a few weeks time! 

Happy sowing everyone! 

Planning the Plot

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It’s that time of year again and the plan for the upcoming seasons vegetable crop is well underway. I’ve been saving margarine tubs and various containers along with cardboard tubes for starting off seedlings and it’ll not be long before the first seeds of the year will be sown.

I’ve updated the pages on the menu bar at the top of the blog with a plan for 2016. Here you’ll find the types and varieties of vegetables I’ll be growing in 2016. There’s also a picture gallery of the allotment through 2015. Its been lovely to go back through the photos and to see how the allotment changes throughout the year.

All that’s left to do now is to whittle down the types of potatoes to grow and to get digging!

 

I spy with my little eye

Its official…we have vegetables. Ok, so when I say vegetables, I mean very small vegetables. Seriously, what I actually mean, is I found teeny tiny broad bean pods. Two of them. Hurrah!

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The first broad bean pod

I’ve really enjoyed seeing the broad beans growing and flowering at the allotment. Having never grown broad beans before, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the whole experience. From experimenting with planting the seeds into cardboard tubes and then fretting about them being left unattended at the allotment, worrying about what will happen if the snails/slugs/birds take a fancy to them, to seeing their lovely deep pink flowers burst open and smelling their lovely sweet scent on the breeze. The bees have really taken a fancy to the flowers recently and I’d hoped this would result in lots of bean pods emerging, so it was lovely to spot the tiny pods peeking out from the flowers on the plants this morning.

The next thing I need to do with the broad beans is to pinch out the growing tip so that the plant can put all of its energy into producing lots more lovely bean pods, but I’m not sure when I need to do this. Do I pinch it out now? Do I leave it until there are a few more pods growing? Do I leave it until the first lot of pods are nearly full size? Clearly I think more research is needed. I will be slightly sad to remove the growing tip of the plants as this will mean no more lovely flowers, but I’m sure the end result will be worth it.

Feeling rather excited with my bean discovery I went off in search for signs of other vegetables growing. Most of the vegetables I’ve got planted out at the allotment at the moment have quite long growing seasons, such as the garlic, onions and potatoes, so to counter that, I’ve sown some quick growing crops too.  A few weeks ago I planted some rocket, radish and spring onion seeds into an up cycled roasting tin. Feeling artistic at the time of sowing the seeds, I put the rocket around the outside, the spring onions in the centre and the radish in between. Looking at the salad tin today I think I’m going to have a salad explosion! In a week or so, I’ll thin out the radish to let the remainder grow on but I’m hopeful that some of the thinnings will be big enough to use in salads.

Salad planter 2 weeks ago

Salad planter 2 weeks ago

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Salad planter today

I was thrilled when I also checked on my Atlantic giant pumpkins; I saw a cluster of flower buds forming on the stem. I’ve been having a final weed of the pumpkin patch today so hopefully I’ll be able to get all the squash and pumpkins planted out in the next day or two and we’ll see the flowers open up soon.

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The strawberries are coming along great guns too. They’ve been flowering like mad and today I spotted a whole cluster of berries just starting to form.

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It’s so exciting to be at the allotment at this time of year. I love that each day there’s something different to see, whether it’s new vegetables growing or new flowers blooming, every visit is still an adventure.

Broad beans a plenty

I love beans. I know it’s not cool to admit this when you’re young, (I’m sure we all remember the beans rhyme from our school days, my son is certainly well up on that particular school yard chant) but I’m now at a stage in my life where I can lift my head up high and say I LOVE BEANS. I’m growing a few varieties of beans in the allotment this year, Runner Beans, Climbing Beans, Dwarf French Bush Bean (purple podded) and of course Broad Beans. Theres something about opening up the pod of a Broad Bean and seeing all the lovely beans, cosy in their feathery beds that makes me just want to pick them all! I know the most traditional way to grow Broad Beans is to plant them directly into the ground, but I’ve decided to start mine off in doors. The reasoning behind this is that practically everything I’ve ever planted in the allotment has been eaten by slugs and snails before they’ve had a chance to really get growing. Once the plants are outside, I’ll use a barrier, such as half an empty plastic bottle to keep the slugs off. The variety I’ve chosen to grow is Broad Bean Crimson Flowered. The pods will be quite short and will sit upwards to make picking easier, and as the name states, they’ll have lovely deep crimson flowers.

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Crimson Flowered Broad Beans

As I’m starting my beans in doors I wanted to sow them in a way that would minimise root disturbance when I come to plant them outside. Toilet roll inner tubes seemed to fit the job description perfectly. They are long, so the roots can grow down as they would naturally do if planted outside, and the tube will rot down over the season so I can plant the beans, still in their tubes, so I won’t disturb the roots at all. Its win win for both me and the beans. Happy days.

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Theres no time like the present so I gathered up the tubes and seeds and started planting. I’m going to have one double row of 12 plants ( 6 in each row) so I’ve planted 14 seeds to be on the safe side. If they all germinate I’m sure I’ll squeeze in the extra two plants somewhere!

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The seeds have now been covered up with potting compost and watered well. I’ll leave them in the garage where its cooler for them to germinate and then move them closer to the window to get as much natural light as possible while keeping them cool. It really feels like the sowing season is well on the way now. The onions are all up (that’s over 80 in total, not including the red onions which will arrive in March…Yikes) the leeks are also growing like mad and the Cauliflowers are all growing their first set of true leaves. The next few weeks are set to be full of planning and sowing and not forgetting digging and weeding (got to have somewhere to put all these seedlings) so a busy time ahead. I had thought that at this point I might be quite apprehensive about growing so many different crops, but actually, I’m full of excitement. The thrill of growing your own veg is truly addictive, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.