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 ☀️

Timsey and the sweet peas 

  
Today I planted out the sweet peas at the allotment. They’ve been hardened off for about 2 weeks and with the weather forecast to be quite settled for the next few days I took the opportunity to let them loose in the big wide world. 

It’s the first time I’ve grown sweet peas and I’ve been really pleased with the germination rate. I pinched out the tops when the plants had 4 sets of leaves and I’m delighted that (as promised) more branches started growing out from the main stem. Brilliant!

  
At the allotment I’ve got a very special climbing support. 

Meet Timsey. 

 My sister made Timsey in high school and used her friend, Timsey, as the model. The original use was to hang clothes on but I think she will wear the sweet peas with style. 

   
   
I’ve picked a nice sunny spot for Timsey to hang out and I’ve taken a selection of the sweet peas and planted them at Timsey’s feet. The remaining plants I’ve given to my mum for her garden. 

A quick check over the allotment and more potatoes have started to pop up. I’m really excited for the salad blue ones, even their leaves have a blue hint to them! 

  
   
 The second sowing of broad beans have come through, these ones are the Crimson flowered variety I grew last year. I’d almost given up hope as they’ve been in the ground for 3 weeks! 

  
Last but not least I spotted the first 2 pea shoots to burst above ground. Everything is really starting to get growing now. 

  
Happy garden = happy gardener

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! 

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! 

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.

   
   

Three heads are better than one

  
This week at the allotment, it’s been all about the brassicas. I don’t know if it’s been the cool temperatures, coupled with the rainy weather we’ve had, but it seems like they’ve just been loving it and have put on a bit of a growth spurt. 

Today I’ve managed to harvest another lovely head of cauliflower and two (yes two) heads of broccoli! I’m so happy that the brassicas seem to be growing, after reading about growing this family of vegetables I was worried that the soil wouldn’t be right and they may develop club root (massive confession…I didn’t test the soil for acidity or add lime…or manure the plot…or add any additional nutrients or anything…but the weeds seem to grow fine so I thought I’d chance it!) or that some other brassica beast might strike them down, but so far they seem to be doing well. 

  
Elsewhere on the allotment the Buffy Ball squash are starting to look like mini pumpkins  and the tigrella tomatoes are just beginning to show their stripes. 

  
These harvests of delicious home grown vegetables are definitely the gardeners rewards, I hope all veggie growers everywhere are enjoying their harvests too!

Man Down

This week I’ve had a bit of a disaster. I’ve been getting rather excited about the prospect of planting out my seedlings so I’ve started to harden off my broad beans and my cauliflowers. The broad beans have loved being outside and thrived in the great out doors, soaking up the sunshine and breathing in the fresh air. The cauliflower seedlings on the other hand have not fared so well.

Poor Cauliflowers

Poor Cauliflowers

I’m not sure whats happened to them. The first day of hardening off, the weather was slightly breezy and quite mild so they were only out for an hour or so. The second day they looked fine, so they went out for slightly longer. I wasn’t too concerned about this as it was probably the most lovely sunny day we’ve had so far this year. The following day however, the seedlings looked extremely poor. Quickly, they were watered and they have improved slightly, but they are still in need of a serious rescue plan. Needless to say they’ve not been outside since. I’m hoping that they have just been dehydrated and that over the next few days their next set of leaves will continue to grow. Worst case scenario…its cold shock, and I fear they’ve had it.

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I’m going to plant up a few (lots of) extra seeds over the weekend to try and make up for any that don’t pull through. Failing that I can plant them directly into the ground and we’ll do battle with the slugs and snails.

Other than that, its been quite a successful time this week. I’ve almost finished digging the whole of the allotment and there are just 2 small sections left to do. After what seems like hours upon hours of digging and weeding the end is in sight.

I spent Thursday and Friday at the allotment and was delighted on Thursday to be joined by a squirrel. The allotment backs onto a park and I love how the animals pop over the fence to say “Hi”. I’m sure I’ll change my tune though, when the squirrels are tucking into a 3 course meal at the expense of my vegetables, but for now I’m enjoying seeing the wildlife in action.

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I’m really pleased that I’ve managed to keep on track with the digging and weeding over the winter months. After spending most of last year clearing the plot, it’s a really great feeling to look at the allotment now its ready for planting, and vision the vegetables growing.

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The potatoes I started chitting last week are getting some lovely purple sprouts on them. With a bit of luck they’ll be ready to plant out in about 4 weeks time. The tomato seedlings are also up and running and are smelling absolutely marvellous. There’s something about the smell of their leaves that is just summer in a sniff! The Nasturtium flowers I’m growing for companion planting have germinated and now look like mini lily pads. I’ve grown enough to plant along side most of the crops, but I’m hoping they’ll be most effective in the brassica beds as well as with the pumpkins and squash.

Sprouting potatoes

Sprouting potatoes

Tomato seedlings

Tomato seedlings

Nasturtiums

Nasturtiums

After watching Gardeners World last week, I’ve gone a bit Monty Don and started to force a section of my rhubarb. I didn’t have a black bin to use, but located an old bucket and covered that with a black plastic bag. I know it’s not pretty but it’ll do for now.

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Now you see it…

 

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Now you don’t

Next week is going to be full steam ahead down at the plot. I’ve taken the week off work to get all the little jobs at the allotment done including getting the broad beans supported and planted out. Now, when I say little jobs, I mean the jobs I’ve been putting off, like cleaning out the shed, burning all brambles I dug out last year (the plot was over run with them), making the path section between the beds wider using the bits of bricks I have dug up, finding a glass door to fit and replace the one that was smashed by vandals on my home-made green house a year ago and to plant out the herbs and lavender. Hopefully by the end of the week, I’ll have a beautifully clean and tidy plot with some actual vegetables growing in it. Wish me luck!

I’ve started so I’ll finish…

Over the last few weeks I’ve been steadily working my way along the plots at the allotment, carefully digging and weeding, (don’t mention the bindweed) getting the ground ready for planting. I had planned on spending both my days off work this week at the allotment, but yesterday I just didn’t have the time I needed to get a whole section dug. Don’t get me wrong, I could’ve weeded a section of the Brassica bed, possibly even half of it, but the thought of starting a section and not having the time to finish it completely didn’t quite feel right to me. This would just have to wait until I had the time to get the whole section done.

The next batch of seeds to be sown

The next batch of seeds to be sown

As I wasn’t going to be digging at the allotment, I took the opportunity to sow some more seeds. The next batch of seeds due for planting were my summer cabbages and the first variety of Brussel sprouts. I fear I got a bit carried away when I started sowing seeds last month, and planted all of my cauliflower seeds at once, not thinking about the fact that they’ll probably all be ready for harvesting at the same time…all 12 of them! I didn’t want to fall into the same situation with my cabbages, so I’ve only planted 3 seeds now. I’ll plant another 3 seeds in 3 weeks time, and I’ll repeat this until I’ve got about 12 well-developed seedlings. This should give me a good few weeks of succession cropping later on in the year, and then my winter cabbages will be ready to take over. In the allotment I’m trying 2 types of Brussel sprouts, one green and one red. The green variety is slightly earlier cropping, so these are the seeds I’m sowing now, I’ll plant the red variety at the beginning of May. With a bit of luck, we could have red and green sprouts for Christmas lunch. How festive will that be?!

Weeded and ready for action

Weeded and ready for action

Today I had much more free time, so I spent a very cold day at the allotment. It’s been blowing a gale, all the leaves have been swirling round my freshly dug plots, my toes were numb, but I’m pleased I completed the weeding of my second Brassica bed. The next plot to dig will be for my peas, beans and sweet corn. The broad beans I planted a few weeks ago are growing well and should be ready to be hardened off and be planted out in April so I’ll have to keep on track with the weeding and the digging if I’m to get them out on schedule.

The peas, beans and sweetcorn area waiting to be dug

The peas, beans and sweetcorn area waiting to be dug

Broad beans

Broad beans

The daffodils at the allotment are really shooting up now, and their flower heads are starting to develop. Let’s hope they bring some warmer, sunnier weather with their cheery arrival.

Daffodils

Daffodils

Rainy Thursday

Today is my first day off work this week, and all I’ve been dreaming about is packing up my digging gear along with a hot flask of tea and heading to the allotment. Every day, I’ve been checking the weather forecast (as I suspect most allotment holders do) making sure it would be dry and fine so I would be able to continue digging and weeding the vegetable plots. Overnight, the weather changed. I woke up to the familiar pitter-patter of raindrops, bouncing off the windows, blighting my big digging plans for the day. But then I started wondering, would it be so bad to dig in the wet weather? Apart from the obvious soggy gardener, what would be so bad about digging in the rain?

Looking for a bit of advice I started searching the Internet to see what the general rule of thumb was in relation to wet weather digging. Most of the sites I came across were very much against digging while the ground is wet for fear of compacting the soil. Some, however, were a little more lenient and suggested standing on wooden boards to help distribute weight and avoiding standing on the wet ground. The soil I have at the allotment is mostly clay so the rain makes it really heavy to dig.

The question remained: Should I dig? One one hand, I don’t mind a bit of hard work and as long as it’s not really windy I can manage gardening in rubbish weather. On the other hand, I’ve worked really hard to get the allotment back into shape ready for growing this year and the ground is almost prepared for the spring. I really don’t want to chance wasting all the hours of effort put into the allotment. Reluctantly I decided not to dig. (The weather forecast shows its supposed to be bright tomorrow so I’ll keep my fingers crossed for that). Still not wanting to pass up a chance to get to the allotment, I thought I’d pop along anyway. Just to take a peak at it.

Dug over vegetable beds

Dug over vegetable beds

Vegetable beds awaiting their spring makeover

Vegetable beds awaiting their spring makeover

The beds I dug over last week are still looking good, but there’s still a long way to go to get all the planting areas prepared. The garlic is going strong. I’m pleased to see that the Elephant garlic is now starting to sprout with a little more vigour, and I’m delighted to see more spring bulbs starting to pop up in nature corner.

Elephant garlic starting to sprout up new shoots

Elephant garlic starting to sprout up new shoots

Crocus flowers

Crocus flowers in Nature Corner

My son and I also hung up some bird feeders last weekend. It seems that some birds got a little greedy and pulled one of the feeders off! At least it appears they enjoyed their sunflower seed and mealworm feast.

Coconut bird feeder

Coconut bird feeder

Greedy birds!

Greedy birds!

So, what do we do when it’s too wet to dig? We plant more seeds!

I’d planned on sowing my tomato seeds next week but I decided it wouldn’t make that much difference to their overall productivity if I planted them a week early. So, feeling like a rebel I grabbed my hand trowel and got sowing. I’m not quite sure how it happened but in my seed ordering frenzy at Christmas I forgot to include tomato seeds. It’s as if someone somewhere knew I’d forgotten them because somehow I’ve now got 3 types of tomato seeds to grow!

Tomato heaven

Tomato heaven

The first ones are Tigerella which I received as part of a Christmas gift from my sister. These should have a distinctive stripe to them when they’re ripe. The second type I’ve got are called Nimbus. I received these as a free trial with my seed order from http://www.dtbrownseeds.co.uk, and the last type of tomato seeds I have are the popular Gardeners Delight. Again, these were free seeds but this time they were with a gardening magazine. I have no idea how I managed to forget to order tomato seeds as I love fresh tomatoes picked straight from the plant. Luckily I’ve now got 3 varieties so the only problem now is deciding where I’m going to plant them!