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! 

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 

Bring me Sunshine


I’ve been having a bit of a dilemma recently about what to do with a certain section of the allotment. The area beside the cherry tree is currently sitting vacant, waiting to be put to use, but the ground leading away from the tree is, naturally, full of tree roots. I don’t want to damage the tree or the roots by regular digging but equally, I don’t want the space to be wasted. Then the solution came to me.

Fruit bushes

When I was young, my Granda grew vegetables in his back garden and at the bottom of the vegetable garden were the most delicious gooseberry bushes. I remember picking the ripe fruits for my grandma to make pies and puddings and I’d always get a few to eat straight from the bush as a reward.

I spent a few days last week researching the various types of gooseberry bushes and I decided on two varieties. Invicta and hinnonmaki red.

Both varieties have a good resistance to mildew which can plague gooseberry bushes and both will give high yields of fruit. Perfect.

On Friday I was able to spend the whole day at the allotment so planting the gooseberry bushes were first on my to do list.


I gave the area a quick dig over and set to work finding the perfect spot for the bushes. I want to make sure they get enough sun but are well spaced to allow me to put little fruit cages over them later in the season to stop the birds eating the fruit.

I dug the hole deep enough so that the top of the rootball would be level with the ground, and hey-presto! We have gooseberry bushes!



I’m not expecting much of a crop this year as I believe the fruit only forms on branches over a year old but to my delight I spotted these little fellas



Next up were the sunflowers. Last year I planted the seeds in March and I think I waited too long before planting them out so they didn’t grow to their full height. This year I waited until the end of April before sowing and I’ve been hardening them off for the last week or so, ready to be planted out earlier. I loved them along the fence last year, it was like having a whole wall of sunshine to brighten up the plot. I’ve got 2 types this year, Titan and ruby sunset, I’ve planted them out without knowing which type is in each pot, we’ll get a surprise when they open in August.



To finish that side of the allotment I’ve sown some seeds directly, radish, Spring onions both red and white varieties, carrots and lettuce. I’ve left some space to transplant the beetroot and rainbow chard I’m growing in modules at home.


I can’t wait to get this side of the allotment growing, all we need now is the sunshine ☀️

Speedy Seeds

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It’s been 11 days since my super seed sowing assistant got in on the growing action and I’ve got to say, I think he’s got the gardening touch! Over the weekend, pretty much all of the seeds we planted germinated and they’re all doing really well. I’ve never grown sweet peas from seed before and I only realised after we had planted them that (according to the packet) for best results we should soak them in water overnight prior to planting.

Whoops

Thankfully all the sweet peas have germinated and I’ve avoided a seed sowing disaster. Now all I’ve got to do is find out when to pinch out the tops. I’m sure there’s plenty of time yet, I think it’s when they’ve got a few leaves on so that it encourages a more bushy plant. I’m really looking forward to using them for cut flowers, there’s even a category for sweet peas in the country show I go to in August, if I play my cards right I could have a couple of entries in the flower section…ok, I probably won’t but a girl can dream!

All is going well with the potatoes too. The little sprouts are really starting to put on some growth at the moment, hopefully they should be ready to plant out in about a fortnight. I’ve still got their patch to dig over at the allotment, so that will keep me motivated to get some more digging done. It will also give me time to get some manure. I’ve come up with a plan to dig the trench, line it with manure, pop the potatoes straight in and cover them up. I think I’m supposed to mix the manure into the ground a bit first but I’m sure (ish) that the potatoes will be fine going straight in.

The broadbeans that were eaten by the cat a few weeks ago have been brought back from the brink (my dad has been a fabulous bean keeper) and I’m pleased to say they have made a miraculous come back! I’ve started hardening them off and they’ll make it onto the plot at the end of the week. As a safety precaution I’m also going to plant some more broadbeans seeds directly into the ground at the same time. This should ensure I get a good steady crop of broadbeans throughout the summer.

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Miracle broadbeans

Next on the to do list will be to plant the sunflower seeds and to get some more digging done (this digging lark never ends does it?!)

 

Eyes down for a full house

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At last, the beds are full at the allotment. Over the last 2 weeks I’ve been a busy bee planting out the last of my home-grown seedlings to finally fill the vegetable plots.

Last week I gave myself the task of getting the Brassica beds finished. If I’m being totally honest, I’ve been putting this off a bit as it would mean I’d have to build some kind of netted structure to protect the crops but I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to do this. I’d had an idea about using an old garden hose to make an arched tunnel  across the bed. This plan went quickly down hill after I cut the first length of hose, secured each end into the ground across the vegetable bed then watched the hose arch promptly collapse to the ground.

Under construction

Under construction

Plan B was to use bamboo canes along the outside of the vegetable beds and to attach the net to those. I’ve been saving squash bottles to use as snail and slug protectors and I’d kept the tops of the bottles to put on top of the canes to secure the netting. This plan was much more successful and after an hour or so I’d made 2 Brassica cages. In went the Calabrese, the Kale and the Purple sprouting broccoli, along with the green and red Brussel sprouts. I’ve still got a little room left in one of the beds for the cabbage. I’ve not been so successful with the summer cabbage this year, but I’ve still got my winter cabbage and my turnips to sow so I’ll probably use the space for those.

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The beginning of a much more successful plan

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Ready for planting

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Bird Proof Brassica beds

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Cauliflower and Brussel Sprouts

Calabrese, Kale and Purple sprouting broccoli

Calabrese, Kale and Purple sprouting broccoli

Now, building the cages was primarily to keep the birds and butterflies off the Brassicas, but I was still quite concerned about the slugs and snails. I’ve been reading about organic ways to keep these types of pests off the vegetables by using beer traps, wool pellets, crushed egg shells, sharp sand or nematodes, but the method that appealed to me the most was to sprinkle used coffee grounds around the newly planted vegetables, the main reason being that I could get a huge box full of them for free from work – it’s a no brainer really! So far I’ve been really pleased with this method, I’ve used it around all the Brassicas, the beans, sweetcorn as well as all the squash and pumpkins I planted out the week before and there’s only been a very slight nibble to one or two of the leaves, nothing more…brilliant.

The only things I had left to plant out were the leeks and the courgette plants. I’ve had to make a bit of a “space sacrifice” in order to plant out the leeks. I’ve decided not to plant parsnips this year and only plant 3 short rows of carrots so that I can fit the leeks into their allocated bed. The reason for  this is that I’ve got really heavy clay soil and I don’t think the carrots or parsnips will be particularly successful, but if they are, I’ll reduce the number of onions next year to give me more room.

3 short rows of carrots

3 short rows of carrots

So, on with the leeks. I’ve been intrigued about planting leeks, all because of how this is done. Puddling in. Doesn’t it sound great! Armed with the handle of my garden hoe, I started making deep holes in the ground for the mini leeks to be dropped into. Once they were all cosy in the holes I topped them up with water to allow the earth to settle around the base of the plants. Hopefully I’ve made the holes deep enough to blanch the base of the leeks, giving them a lovely white stem. I’ll earth them up later on in the year to help with this too.

Leeks ready for planting out

Leeks ready for planting out

Leeks ready for puddling in

Leeks ready for puddling in

30 leeks, puddles

30 leeks, puddled

Last but not least were the courgettes. I cleared a bed for them last week, thinking I was digging up a couple of errant brambles but to my surprise this is what I found…

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Surprise potato

Surprise potato

More potatoes

More potatoes

I must’ve left a couple of little potatoes in the ground when I cleared the patch!

Once I removed the last of the potatoes, I planted my 6 courgette plants. I’m growing 3 types, an Italian striped variety, Defender which is a deep green variety and Atena, a yellow variety. They’re all suppose to be good croppers too so I’ll be sharing them with friends and family.

Courgettes planted

Courgettes planted

After they were planted I gave the area a good sprinkling with the coffee grounds and stood back to survey the plot.

The sunflowers are starting to flower now, mine was the first to bloom (much to my son’s disappointment) closely followed by my Mam’s and my sons in third place.

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The Alliums are starting to flower in Nature Corner now which is great for attracting bees and hoverflies to the plot

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The apple trees seem to be doing well with the new fruit starting to swell. There seems to be loads of new fruit on the trees at the moment, I’m in two minds about whether to leave them or to remove some of the fruits now to allow the remaining ones to get larger. Any thoughts on this would be fantastic.

Apples

Apples

Lots of apples forming on the tree

Lots of apples forming on the tree

Last but not least the Nasturtiums have started to flower. I had planted these to attract the green-fly away from the crops but they’re too pretty to be sacrificed! Don’t they just look lovely.

 

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The Great Sunflower Race

Giant sunflower

Giant sunflower

Back in January, while on a trip to the garden centre, I came across a sunflower growing kit for children. My son Jacob loves sunflowers, so I bought him the kit. It came with individual pots to grow the flowers in, along with little compost discs and of course lots of lovely sunflower seeds.

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According the the growing instructions, we couldnt start planting them until March, so he’s been waiting…and waiting…and waiting. Yesterday, we decided we could wait no more, and he declared a sunflower growing race. We’ve all selected our own individual pots and marked them with stickers. We also were able to choose up to 3 seeds each for maximum growing potential!

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The variety of sunflower in the pack is the Helianthus Annuus Giganteus or the Giant Sunflower. This apparently can grow up to 3 meters tall so there’s everything to grow for. I’m not usually that competitive, ok I might be a teeny bit competitive, but I really want my sunflower to grow as tall as possible, and if it happens to tower above all the other growers then that’ll be a bonus too!

Once the seeds have grown over 10 cm we’ll do a weekly measure in, and record the flowers progress. We were going to set a final measure date but to be honest, I’ve never grown giant sunflowers before so I’ve got no idea when they’ll be at their tallest and in full bloom so once their height stays the same over a couple of weeks we’ll just take that measurement and wait to see who’ll be crowned king or queen of the sunflowers.

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