Better late than never

  
Does anyone else feel like they’re running late planting vegetables this year? I’ve been waiting for ages to plant peas at the allotment, but for the last few weeks the weather has been more like autumn than Spring and it was just too wet and cold to sow peas. I’ve been really anxious about how late I’ve been in getting the peas sown, this time last year they had been in the ground for 4 weeks already! Thankfully the weather turned fairer last week so I high tailed it along to the allotment to get sowing. 

  
The plot I’m planting the peas into had potatoes growing in it last year and I can honestly say that the soil texture was (to my surprise) just fabulous which made turning it over for a final weeding that much easier. 

I made a flat bottomed drill then popped the peas in. I had good intentions of spacing them nice and evenly in two neat rows, but when I finished it appeared I had subconsciously adopted a more scatter and hope approach! 

  
Before covering them up I lined the bamboo canes along the edges of the drill and secured them all at the top. I’ll add some twine or netting for them to scramble up once they start growing. 

  
Last year I grew two types of peas, Hurst green shaft and Alderman. This year I’ve stuck to one type (Hurst green shaft) to allow more space between the rows in the vegetable beds. They will grow to about a meter in height compared to the 6 feet high alderman variety. 

When planning out the beds I had thought about using the remaining space to grow runner beans but now I’ve actually got the broad beans and the peas in I’m worried if I put the tall growing runner beans in, by the time they start climbing, they’ll cast a massive shadow across the rest of the bed. The alternative is to relocate the beans and plant something low growing in the space. I’m thinking courgettes or perhaps a dwarf bean like purple teepee. 

Rookie error there I think! 

Soft as Clarts

  
It’s been raining steadily here since Monday and the thought of digging in the rain has been hanging over my head all week. As luck would have it, the drizzle we had this morning had stopped by 9.30 so off I popped to the allotment. I’m way behind on my digging plan, I’ve still got 4 more beds to dig over, but today I wanted to get the bed for the potatoes dug so it’s primed for their planting tomorrow. 

I’ve been debating whether I should plant the potatoes while the ground is so wet but if I leave it until the weather improves they might never make it into the ground! So, with my fork and bucket I made a start on the very wet plot. 

  
With all the rain this week I’d thought that the plot would be really difficult to dig, but to my delight the ground was so soft the weeds just came straight out. The Bindweed came out intact, Dock roots slid out whole, even the long tap roots of the dandelions came out in one piece (which for me is virtually unheard of).

  
The down side of this is that the little weeds, you know the type, the small weeds with the capacity to spread for miles in the blink of an eye, they stuck to my gloves for all their worth. Not a big thing, you’d think, but every weed, covered in clarty sticky mud, stuck to my clarty sticky gloves. Nine times out of ten I’d be flicking the weed back into the freshly dug plot! But I’m persistent, so picking, flicking and scraping the weeds into the bucket was the order of the day and before I knew it the bed was dug!

  
The surprise spring onions are still going strong. I’m going to let them grow in the potato bed for the next month, until I start earthing up, then they’ll have to come out. The rhubarb is starting to come up nicely and in a few weeks I’ll be making (and enjoying) the first batch of allotment rhubarb crumble, yum yum.

   
   

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.

 

Out with the old

  
Today I made a start on clearing the vegetable beds at the allotment. Most of the vegetables were harvested last year but I still had a few leeks left to pull, so out they came! 

 

Lovely leeks

 
These are the ones which haven’t bolted. Unfortunately they all got a slight smattering of rust so I’ve lopped off their leaves and just brought the stems back home to make into soup. I have to admit, I wasn’t sure if they’d be OK to eat but after a quick google search I’m assured that as long as the stems are ok, they’re good to use. I’ve not put the infected leeks and leaves into the compost though, they’re destined for the burning bin next week, along with all the other debris that’s been gathering at the allotment over the winter. 

 

Rust spots on the leeks


Once the leeks were out I spent an hour removing old canes and netting along with the remnants of last years crops. I’d left the Purple sprouting broccoli over winter as the planting guide said it’ll be ready to harvest in February/March…I must’ve been too slow as its already in flower (doh!) 

Yellow flowering purple sprouting broccoli

Ah, well, out it came, so the beds are now empty, save for the usual weedy suspects! My plan over the next 4 weeks is to cultivate each bed so that the seedlings I’ve got growing now can be transplanted as soon as they’re ready. 

 

Empty beds

  
Last, but not least I spotted some nasturtium seeds as I was sweeping the path. I loved having these flowering along side the vegetables, although I’ve heard they’re notorious self seeders…I wonder where I’ll find them growing this year! 

  

Back in the game

  
What a whirlwind the past 6 weeks have been.  There’s been a camping trip, a new school, a country show, a black belt and a house move, which unfortunately has left very little time for the allotment. At times, it’s really stressed me out when I’ve known there’s loads to do at the plot but there’s simply been no time to do it. 

For the first time in weeks I had a couple of hours free last weekend so I hightailed it along to the allotment. 

It was great to be back, just stepping through the gate I could feel weeks of stress slipping away…until I saw the weeds! I didn’t want to spend my first visit in ages simply weeding so I decided to lift the rest of the onions instead. 

  
I’ve had a bit of a mixed result with the onions, I’ve had some tiny ones, some huge ones and a few had bolted but on the whole they’ve all grown and they’ve been pest and disease free so I’m calling them a success! They’re now laid out on a table in the garden at my parents house to dry out so that they’ll store for use over the winter. 

  
The apples were looking good too but I’m never sure when to harvest them, so I gave a gentle twisty-pull to a few and just took the ones that came away in my hand. 

  
Plans for the apples are crumbles and pies, and perhaps an apple cake. I really would like to make some kind of jam/jelly with them but I’m not sure if that would be weird or not? Might try apple and blackberry jam with a few elderberries thrown in for good measure, in essence autumn jam, you never know, it might be delightful, or it might be the most awful thing ever, anyway, I’ll give it a go!

With preserving things in mind I come to my tomatoes. At the start of the summer I’d had big salad-like plans for the tomatoes, as well as slow roasting them to intensify the flavour, similar to sun dried tomatoes. However I’ve only got one single red tomato. Not really enough for slow roasting really is it?

  
I do however have loads of green tomatoes so chutney making will be on the cards next week. 

  
With time pushing on I quickly dug up a few potatoes to take home for tea. The yield from the potatoes has been really good but they have been a touch on the small side. (Must manure next year) Only a few had been nibbled so discarding those I collected my haul and headed home. 
  
My head is now full of plans for the allotment over the autumn. I need to clear the old crops (peas/summer brassicas) and collect the squash before the first frosts. The winter vegetables are coming along nicely with the kale looking healthy and Brussel sprouts just starting to form at the leaf bases so I’ll need to make sure I harvest those regularly.

  
 I’m going to revamp nature corner by re-digging the pond and using a preformed liner to help maintain water levels and encourage more wildlife to the plot. My biggest challenge however is going to be the pampas grass. I think it’s days on the plot are numbered and although it’s going to be a nightmare to dig out, I could use the space more effectively.

So, with the house move out of the way, I’m back on track. I’ve got a plan, and over the next month I’ve really got to get to work. Once the pampas grass is out, I’ll be able to get more spring bulbs planted and I’ll have to re-stake the cordon apple trees as they’re practically horizontal with all the fruit on them (poor things!) 

Oh, by the way, I think I might just hold the record for the slowest latest early sweet corn crop…it’s just started to grow cobs now! 

Happy Autumn folks!   

A year (and a week) in the making

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Doesn’t time fly when you’re having fun?Β 

I can hardly believe its been a year (and a week) since I started re-cultivating my plot. I say re-cultivating because I’ve actually had the allotment for about 2 and a half years. After the greenhouse was vandalised, the allotment lost a little bit of the magic it once held for me and I didn’t visit as often as I should’ve. I neglected to keep on top of the plot maintenance, and as would be expected, the weeds took over. Last year I decided that I would give the allotment another go and if I was unable to restore it to its former glory I would call it a day and give it up.

Its been 53 weeks since then and I’m delighted that the magic has come flooding back.

I’m really surprised its been a whole year already, I’ve obviously been enjoying myself far too much digging and weeding, repairing and constructing, sowing and growing, not to mention harvesting and cooking. So to commemorate my allotment transformation, I thought I’d post a few pictures of the last 12 months.

So this time last year the allotment looked like this:

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After a weekend with a heavy-duty brush cutter, a rake and some hedging shears, the allotment looked like this:

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Not wanting to waste any time I quickly planted out some beans, carrots, lettuce and a courgette plant bought from our local DIY centre. The courgette lasted 3 days before being totally decimated by the slugs and snails, the birds pecked the beans to death and I can only assume the mice managed to get in under the netting and stole all the carrots and lettuces because they all mysteriously disappeared. Not a very productive start to the harvest.

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Not one to give up, I ploughed on with the aim of getting the allotment ship-shape for next years growing season. I started to tackle the brambles. This took weeks of chopping and digging but the satisfaction at the end was brilliant. Creating a corner for wildlife quickly followed and before I knew it, it was Christmas, so on Boxing Day I gave my lovely new cordless trimmer a test run.

Brambles ahoy!

Ground clearance, digging out the brambles

Pond making

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Clear and ready for action

Testing out the new strimmer

The new year brought newly planted shoots emerging from the ground and a rush to get the beds prepared for planting. Blisters and Bindweed were part of the norm but I don’t mind a bit of hard work (as long as there’s lots of tea and biscuits on hand)

A cold start to the day

Sun worshiping garlic

Bucket of bindweed root

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Half way and 2 hours in

Repairs to the greenhouse allowed me to start growing more plants at the allotment and a sowing and growing frenzy was started…it hasn’t really stopped yet either! The first crop of rhubarb was a delight and the feeling of walking off the plot with your very own produce was amazing.

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Lovely peas

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The unforced part of the rhubarb growing sturdy stems

Weeding, planting and protecting the crops has been the last stage of the re-cultivation plan. I’ve still got a few crops to plant out (broccoli, sprouts, beans and corn) but I’m happy so far with the progress made in this years growing season.

When I look back at the pictures from this time last year, I’m delighted that they bear no resemblance to each other. The following pictures were taken yesterday, see what you think.

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Brambles? What brambles?

Over the course of clearing the allotment, I’ve had the opportunity to learn lots about brambles. I didn’t have much choice really, they were everywhere!

Dad drafted in again to help beat back the brambles

Dad drafted in again to help beat back the brambles

They were growing through the fence from the park, coming up beside the apple trees, growing in with the pampas grass, they were all the way along right section of the plot. I had to get them out otherwise there’d be no allotment left, just a bramble jungle. I decided the best course of action would be to cut them down, section by section, so I could find the roots and then dig the whole thing out. Sounds simple enough doesn’t it? Well it would be if there was only a couple of brambles to remove, but remember, I was only a few blackberries short of the worlds biggest bramble jungle.

Brambles ahoy!

Brambles ahoy!

It took weeks of hacking back the sharp canes, and cutting them down to ground level. Then came the root removal. They were enormous! I was able to burn about half of the dug out brambles before the wet weather started, since then, the rest of the brambles have been bagged up and stored on the plot. We’ve had a run of good weather recently so I decided that I’d get the rest of the brambles burned this week while I’m off work.

Bags of brambles

Bags of brambles

More bags of brambles

More bags of brambles

I thought that the cuttings would’ve stayed reasonably dry in their rubbish bags but it seems as if I was wrong. They were really damp which meant that I’d have a hard time burning them. There were some larger brambles that had dried out, so I started with those and tried adding a little of the bagged cuttings once a good flame had taken hold.

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The flames went out and were replaced by massive plumes of smoke. Not wanting to annoy the neighbours, I decided the only thing I could to was to have a quick cup of tea, load up the car and take all the bags to the recycling centre instead.

Quick tea break for the worker

Quick tea break for the worker

Two and a half hours, 5 trips and 36 bags later, it was done.

Bye bye brambles

Bye bye brambles

Order has been restored

Order has been restored

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Brambles? What brambles? No brambles here.