Status Report Captain…

  
How the weeks have flown by! One minute you’re pawing over the seed catalogues and the next it’s May and you’ve not even planted out the potatoes….well, rather, I’ve not planted out the potatoes! 

I know, I know, it should’ve been done weeks ago but, the delay in planting then has made sure they haven’t succumbed to the sharp frost we had, and I’m sure once they do make it into the ground, which is going to be tomorrow, I’ve every confidence they’ll still be delicious when harvested, even if it’s a few weeks later than anticipated! 

  
So that’s the potatoes. 

I’ve been equally late in getting the beans and peas going but I’m pleased to report that the broad beans have made an appearance over the last 7 days. Last year I veered away from the Crimson Flowered variety and tried Bunyards Exhibition. The pods themselves grew really long but I did prefer the sweeter taste of the crimson flowered type, so I’m back to those this year. 

  
Last week I sowed the peas direct and constructed a support frame from bamboo canes for them to scramble up when they get going. I’m sticking with the tried and tested Hurst Greenshaft peas, but I’m also dabbling in the world of Mangetout. The variety I chose is Shiraz, and the pods are a lovely deep purple colour. I can’t wait to try them later in the year. 

  
The shallot sets have fared the frost well and the onion sets have started to sprout. I also spotted the first of the familiar lily pad shaped leaves of the self seeding nasturtiums today. I love how they come back again and again adding colour to the plot. 

  
  
The Gooseberry bushes I planted last year have put on loads of growth (I think I should be pruned them in winter) and I had an abundance of flowers in March and April. I’m delighted to see that there are now loads of mini gooseberries gently swelling up. 

  
Indoors, the tomato plants are coming on great guns. I’ve been tickling them every day to encourage them to grow strong and sturdy for when I plant them out at the allotment. There’s something about the smell from the leaves of tomato plants that just reminds me of the summer! I’ve tried not to get too carried away with the tomatoes this year and have restricted myself to only 2 types: Gardeners Delight and Sungold. 

  
The Cayenne chilli plants are now flowering away quite happily on the window sill. I’m not sure if they are self pollinating or not so once a day I’m playing the part of a bee and gently using a small brush I’m transferring pollen between the flowers. I’ve got huge respect for the bees, pollination is tricky! 

  
I’ve also got sunflowers growing along with a second batch of cabbage and cauliflower. I’m not sure what happened to the first batch of brassicas, they just shrivelled up. I’m hoping the second sowing is more successful. 

  
The next few weeks are going to be hectic with all the squash, courgettes, beetroot, strawberries and the rest of the quick crops. I’d better get the last of the leeks dug up quickly otherwise I’ll have nowhere to put them all! 

  
Happy Gardening! 

Sole Survivor 

  
I know, I know…it’s been a while. Despite my best intentions during the latter half of 2016, I have neglected both the plot and the blog. Today I am determined to rectify both of those counts! 

The last half of 2016 was brilliant. I had a fabulous holiday, went to River Cottage, walked the entire length of Hadrians Wall and celebrated my 40th birthday, all before Christmas and New Year. 

  
  
   
 
  
Turning 40 has had a surprising effect on me. I had thought that I’d hide myself away with a bottle of wine and a take away and simply deny the milestone. The surprise was that I didn’t hide…I embraced it! I’m pleased to say it’s made me more focused, not only on what I want to achieve in the future but all of the things I’ve put off doing. 

No more! I’m a list maker, and in this, my 40th year, I’m making a list of all the things I’m going to do and allotmentry and regular blogging is definitely high on that list! 

Today I thought I’d make a start and face the allotment after the spell of abandonment. I was fearful of what might greet me…

“Have the brambles reclaimed the entire plot?”

“Has the allotment turned into a jungle?”

“Will I be able to tell where the vegetable beds are under all the fallen leaves?”

“Will feral cats be living in the shed?”

The good news is that no, the brambles haven’t reclaimed the entire plot however there are some huge canes to be dealt with, I can now see where my paths are after sweeping up tonnes of fallen leaves, no, it’s not a jungle, it’s just a bit messy and thankfully no feral cats were found in the shed! 

  
Last year was admittedly a poor growing year for me. I had clearly underestimated the destructive force of the slug and snail population and a large quantity of my vegetables were destroyed. I had pretty much given up on the growing season and totally forgot that when the slugs had eaten all my squash plants, I’d planted out my leeks…  

 
Lo and behold…I give you the sole survivors at the allotment! 

  
I can’t tell you how delighted I am to see my leeks still standing! They’re not particularly big, ok, a lot of them are rather skinny but they are all still there, they’ve not bolted and there’s not a hint of leek rust either! 

I’m going to leave them standing in the ground for a few more weeks to see if they grow any more but if not, I’ll dig them up in the spring when I’m turning the beds over and enjoy a whole host of leek inspired dishes! 

Now that I’m back into the growing groove, the only thing left to do is to start planning this years vegetables! 

Bring it on! 

The Great Potato Fake-out

  

This week at the allotment I’ve noticed a few crops are starting to show signs that the time for harvesting is getting closer.
The quick crop radishes have suddenly bulked up and I was delighted to see the different coloured radish tops poking up out of the ground. 

I’ve been patiently waiting for what seems like forever for the strawberries to ripen and within the last week they’ve finally decided to put me out of my misery and turn a gorgeous deep red. 

   
   
The broad beans have continued to flower and the first pod has been picked, just as a tester to see how they’re doing! I’m more than happy with the sight of more and more beans developing and that there’s no black fly in them yet…happy days! 

   
   
The peas have started to flower, which I’m really pleased about, especially after I was so late in sowing this year. The peas are a double podded variety (Hurst green shaft) and there are loads of double flowers dotting about the crop. 

   
 Bolstered by the happy sights at the allotment I thought I’d chance my luck and check on the potato progress. For the first year ever, I’ve got flowers on the potatoes. I never realised how pretty they are. 

  
The first potential potatoes for me this year will be the international kidney. Earlier in the week I had a little dig around the bottom of the potato mound and lo and behold I discovered a lovely perfectly formed potato. 

  
Brilliant. 

This must be a good sign I thought. 

They must be ready I thought. 

They’ll make a lovely potato salad for lunch on Sunday I thought. 

   
   
Not quite the haul I was expecting! 

Not to worry, at least I know they’re growing, I’ll leave then another 3-4 weeks and I think they’ll be perfect. 

Slugfest

  
It’s so totally on. 

For he last few weeks, things have been ticking along nicely at the allotment. The weather has been a bit hit and miss, but other than that it’s been relatively uneventful. 

Until now 

Last weekend I had a trip away to visit my university pals so had a few days away from the allotment. 

Little did I know that my trip away would coincide with the biggest allotment event of the year…

SLUGFEST

It must’ve been a sell out event judging by the total decimation they left in their wake. 

  
There’s only one pumpkin plant left in the whole of the pumpkin patch, that’s right only one, out of 11 plants including all the courgettes. They must’ve thought it best to leave one as, you know, eating them all would be greedy! 

Now, for the slugs that couldn’t make the main event, they attended the fringe festival

SUNDOWN

They’ve eaten the sunflowers down to stalk stumps. All but 3 as, you know, it’s greedy to eat them all. 

(I was too sad to take a photo of the stumps)

All the time I’ve been growing vegetables I’ve prided myself on being an organic gardener, and I’ve not minded the odd leaf being nibbled here and there but today I’ve declared war. 

To all slugs and snails-

Be afraid…be very afraid

Wool pellets are coming

Here today, gone tomorrow?

  
I’ve been a bit late with everything at the allotment this year. It’s not for the lack of planning or enthusiasm, I was just a big scaredy cat about planting out when we had all that rubbish weather. I was worried it would be too cold/wet/windy for the delicate seedlings and all the plants would wither/rot/blow away. As such, I held off planting out, and delayed sowing the tender crops, such as beans and summer squash, hence why I’m so behind this year. 

The vegetables I have planted out so far, seem to be doing well, the potatoes are having a real growth spurt, I earthed them up less than a fortnight ago! 

 

Potatoes 2 weeks ago

 
 

Potatoes today

 
The broad beans are coming along nicely too. The second sowing of broad beans I planted directly into the ground are the Crimson flowered variety I grew last year, so I’m hoping for a lovely display of pink flowers (and delicious beans of course) later in the season. 

  
Today I started to make the climbing support for the peas. I’ve had the bamboo canes in place since the peas were sown but I couldn’t decide what to use for them to scramble up. Netting? Twiggy branches? Twine to the rescue! Got a bit creative with the twine making patterns between the canes, but why not be a bit creative I say! 

  
I’ve always been a bit nervous about sowing seeds directly into the ground at the allotment. There’s all manner of creatures out there waiting to eat the seedlings. This year I’ve thrown caution to the wind and sown a whole host of quick cropping seeds. The radish have germinated first, and its a delight to see their lovely leafy shoots all straight beneath the string row marker. There’s no sign of any leuttce yet and no sign of any carrots. I had a disaster with carrots last year, only 3 germinated, and they turned out to be the teeniest carrots in history. How I can grow dandelions and dock, both with MASSIVE tap roots but can’t grow carrots still mystifies me but we’ll see how these go. I had almost given up hope on the rest of the seeds but I spotted the thin green grass-like shoots of the Spring onions! Hooray! 

Radish

 

Single spring onion shoot

 
 The last job for the day was planting out the beetroot. I’ve never been able to grow beetroot, (perhaps they’re in cahoots with the carrots) but not wanting to be beaten, I started some off in modules a few weeks ago and low and behold they germinated! They’ve been hardened off at the allotment for the last week and it is time to get them planted out. 

 

Beetroot seedlings

 
This is the bit I’m worried about. Planting out the new seedlings. We know that the weather has been a bit off kilter recently, which unfortunately has resulted in a boom in the slug and snail population. We also know that slugs and snails will tend to eat the tender new shoots of vegetables. I’m hoping they’ll cut me some slack and hold off the beetroots, they’ve already worked their way through almost half of the sunflowers, surely they’ll be satisfied with what they’ve had already? We’ll see if the beetroot are still there in the morning!

Fingers crossed 

BOOM!

  
It’s been a veritable growing explosion at the allotment this week. The cherry tree is in full bloom, the apple trees are just starting to blossom, the broadbeans the cat ate a few months ago have recovered brilliantly are starting to flower, I’ve even spotted flowers on the strawberries. 

   
   

  

 

 I’ve discovered a mystery currant tree too which has loads of flowers dangling off it. I must remember to check it regularly otherwise the birds will strip it before I can discover what kind of currant tree it is!   
Just when I thought it could get any better, I spotted the first few leaves of the potatoes popping up! 

  
Blooming marvellous 

The first harvest

  
Well, I’m not sure if this actually counts as a harvest but it’s the first veggie to make it home with me from the allotment. It’s also the first spring onion I’ve ever grown so I’m really pleased it’s survived when countless others have not! 

Had a quick assessment of the allotment after work today and everything seems ok, although there’s no signs of the potatoes yet but by my calculations they’ve got about another week before I’d expect to see them so I’m hoping they’re doing their thing underground just as they should. There’s also no sign of the second sowing of broadbeans I made about 3 weeks ago. The weather has been just awful these last few weeks so I’m keeping my fingers crossed they’ll pop up soon as we seem to be having a nice spell of warmer weather. 

Checking the fruit, there’s some lovely new growth on the strawberry plants I got last year. I’m hoping this years crop will be a bumper one. I’ve got my mind set on making loads of strawberry and elderflower jam, we’ve just finished the batch I made last year and it’s my absolute favourite, summer in a jar! 

 
I don’t know about anyone else but I never tire of seeing the rhubarb growing. I just love how the leaves start out all small and wrinkly then expand into the biggest monster leaves ever seen! 

   
 This week I’ll be getting the peas sown (at last) and starting off the squash and courgettes. The sweet peas and sunflowers can start to be hardened off and I might just get some winter cabbages started. I can’t wait to see all the vegetable beds full, let’s hope the nice weather is here for a while! 

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.

 

Under construction 

  
The warm weather this week has worked wonders for the allotment. Everything seems to be thriving in the sunshine and I’m delighted with the progress that the plants are making. Earlier on this week I planted out my tomato plants, I’ve picked the  2 strongest of each variety and planted them in grow bags against the side of the shed. It’s a lovely sunny but sheltered spot currently being enjoyed by the strawberries, but after a quick re-organisation there was room for everything. 
 

On Wednesday morning, on my pre-work visit, I noticed the first of my strawberries starting to ripen and turn red.
  
Not wanting to leave them in the car to sweat it out while I was at work, I decided to pop back along after work to pick them. Unfortunately the birds must’ve spotted them too because they’d completely disappeared by the time I got back! I’ll have to work out some form of protection for them because I’m not losing any more! 

Today I’ve spent a lovely morning at the plot building some more of my squash hide-out. With a bit of training, the squash plants will climb up the bamboo framework and I’ll have a really cool little hide away covered with little mini squashes. I attached the first rung when I initially planted out the squash plants a couple of weeks ago and now the plants are growing well, it’s time to give the plants more rungs to scramble up. 
   
   

I’m making the framework from bamboo canes, cutting each rung to fit. It’s amazing what you can make with canes and garden twine! 

   
   

While I was making the squash hide-out, my dad popped along to check on the progress of the vegetables. While he was there I showed him my random red flowering peas. I noticed them a day or two ago and I’ve not been able to work out how they’re red! The only thing I can think of is that a random red flowering pea variety snuck into the seed packet. I’m not complaining, I can’t wait to see what the peas are like.

 

While I was checking out the pea flowers I noticed something curly sticking out from one of them…

  
A POD! 
I can’t believe it! An actual pea pod. Once I saw that one I spotted another, and another!
   
   

I can’t believe it was only last Thursday I saw the first pea flowers and just one week later we have pods! 

I must’ve got swept up in “pod fever” and I picked my first broad bean pod today too. I think I picked it a bit too early but it just seemed too good to pass up. 

  
I was really pleased with the jam I made last week (the jar I kept for me has been used up already) and I really fancied making some elderflower cordial, so I managed to pick a few umbrellas of elderflowers before I left the allotment. 

  
I’m going to make the cordial tomorrow and add some fresh ginger to the mix too. The plan is to use the cordial in drinks and to add extra flavour to any more jams I make. 

Tomorrows day at the allotment will be spent weeding mostly I think. The weather has worked wonders for the weeds too! I might even treat the pumpkins to a mulching of manure while I’m at it. Happy days. 

A year (and a week) in the making

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

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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