Touch down

   

  
After a traumatic start, the broadbeans have made it to the allotment. I’m so delighted that after being eaten by the cat to what I can only describe as stumpy stalks, they’ve bounced back and continued to grow. I’ve been hardening them off for the last week or so and waiting for a good spell of weather so today I hightailed along to the allotment to get them planted. They’re always the first vegetables to be planted out at the allotment, and for me, they mark the start of the growing season. I mixed in some compost to help improve the soil texture and aid drainage then got cracking.   
I’ve planted out all the broadbeans that recovered. These took up half the row. I still had some Crimson flowered broadbean seeds from last year so I finished off the double row with these. I’m hoping that I’ll see them in about a fortnight (I’ve never sown broad beans directly in the ground). They were lovely last year, such a pretty colour and they smelled fantastic. 

  
I’ve put homemade plant protectors straight over the beans. Slugs and snails will not be feasting on these beans! 

Next on the to-do list were the potatoes. They’ve been soaking up the sunshine for the last 6 weeks and have developed some lovely sturdy shoots. I had already dug the potato bed ready for their arrival so while the weather was still fine I thought I’d get them in. 

   
  
So that’s it, the veggies have landed. It’s  so nice to finally have some plants in the ground, I just have a few more beds to dig and weed, then it’ll be all systems go! 

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.

   
   

Down with the Kids

  
It’s the first day of the Easter holidays and the weather was rubbish this morning. In typical school holiday fashion it was cold and drizzly, not the best for a morning of allotment fun with a 10 year old reluctant gardener in tow. The digging at the allotment is coming on well, but the rain this morning means the heavy clay soil is going to be even heavier than usual to turn over. The next best thing was going to be getting some more seeds sown and to check the progress of the seeds already going. 

The leeks and onions are doing well, and the potatoes I started chitting a couple of weeks ago are starting to get some lovely sturdy purple shoots. They’ve got another 3 weeks of sunbathing then they’ll be ready for planting. 

  
The next round of seeds I need to plant are the Summer cauliflowers, Autumn  cabbages, Brussels sprouts and my companion flowers: sweet peas and marigolds. I loved growing flowers at the allotment last year, they brought loads of pollinators to the plot and looked really pretty inbetween the vegetables. The Nasturtiums should self seed and I’m leaving sowing the sun flowers for another couple of weeks so it’s just sweet peas and marigolds today. 

My son has been taking part in a gardening club at school and he was keen to show me how to sow seeds. I think this is a great way to get children more involved with gardening and growing veg at home, it’s so easy to do. 

Here’s how we sow…

  
  

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!   

Absence makes the weeds grow longer

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Its been a busy time for the green wellie brigade recently. We’ve had a camping trip, a country show, a new school, a woodland themed baby shower cake, and an impending house move, all of which is leaving very little time for the allotment. Let’s start at the beginning…

The Camping Trip

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This year for our annual summer holiday we decided to go camping. We hardly get the opportunity to travel very far so we chose a campsite near Stonehenge with a stop off on the way at another campsite in Northamptonshire. Now, what could possibly go wrong with a camping holiday in the UK in August? Oh yeah, the weather! It was the soggiest camping holiday ever! Putting the possibility of trench foot to one side, we did some pretty cool things:

Campfire cooking and melting marshmallows

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Making friends with the ducks at breakfast

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Seeing Stonehenge

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Getting into the Banksy exhibition, Dismaland

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Traveling on a hovercraft to the Isle of Wight

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Visiting the Garlic farm

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Going caving

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Making friends

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In typical holiday fashion it was glorious sunshine on the day we traveled home.

The Country Show

Once back, I had 2 days to get ready for our local country show. Now, when I say local country show it’s just over an hours drive away! For the last few years I’ve only entered the industrial sections (baking and handicrafts). I was tempted to enter a few veggies this year, but when it came to the crunch I lost my nerve and decided to use this year as my assessment year and I’ll try and enter some next year. I’m so thankful I did this as the standard was really high, some of the onions were HUGE! As I had quite a few things on, I narrowed my selection of entries down to 10, including 2 knitting, a jam and a curd. On the whole the baking went well, I only needed to remake one item, but the knitting had me up until 3am. It was all worth it in the end, I came away with 3 firsts, a second place and 2 third places.

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First place in cupcake section

First place for handmade bread rolls

First place for handmade bread rolls

First place for hand knitted cardigan (3am knitting at its finest)

First place for hand knitted cardigan (3am knitting at its finest)

Second place for my hand knitted sheep

Second place for my hand knitted sheep

Third for my white loaf

Third for my white loaf

Third for my strawberry jam

Third for my strawberry jam

But wait, that’s not all, there were 2 cups up for grabs, one in the cupcake section, and one for a hand knitted sheep. Now, I’m not going to lie, I was going for the double cup win, I can’t help having a slightly competitive nature. I came second in the knitted sheep section but first in the cupcakes so I walked away with this beauty!

Bling bling

Bling bling

Out of all the sections I entered I was most thrilled with my third place strawberry jam. The jam section is probably one of the toughest categories with all the judges from all the sections having an input, so for my first year entering the jams I was delighted to place at all.

New school

My son went back to school last week and it’s his first year in middle school. This brings a new uniform including a blazer. He’s growing up far too fast for my liking. It all went well and I’m pleased he’s enjoyed it so far (I’m sure it’ll change once the homework starts flooding in)

First day of middle school

First day of middle school

The cake

I’ve always enjoyed baking, and for a few years I made cakes on request for friends and family. But with the rise in price of baking ingredients it just wasn’t economical for me to continue so about a year ago I hung up my whisk and I’ve not baked cake for anyone other than my son and I. My sister was arranging her best friends baby shower on a budget, and had the goal of making the gifts rather than buying them. My sister is very creative but doesn’t bake, so with a bit of bribery persuaded me to help her out or witness a cake massacre. I can’t stand to see good cake go to waste so I put on my apron and set to work. Here’s my contribution to the handmade baby shower with a woodland theme.

Woodland cake

Woodland cake

Side shots of the cake

Side shots of the cake

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The Allotment

Today was the first day I’ve been able to get to the allotment in about 3 weeks. I can’t believe how much the weeds have grown. That’ll teach me to pile so many activities into a short space of time! Thankfully I had a few helpers with me. My best pal came along with her two little diggers and we set to work unearthing the last of the Charlotte potatoes. We had quite a few onions to lift so they came up too.

My feeble attempt at carrots was revealed today.

One of the 4 carrots that grew

One of the 4 carrots that grew

I’m blaming it on the heavy clay soil.

We picked beans, kale, apples and blackberries and it was fantastic to be able to share the bounty.

Sharing the crops

Sharing the crops

Trug-tastic

Trug-tastic

After laying my own onions out to dry off I checked on the garlic that’s been curing for about a month. While I was at the garlic farm on the Isle of Wight I vowed I’d plait my garlic when the time was right.

That time is now.

Garlic plait that nobody is allowed to touch...Ever.

Garlic plait that nobody is allowed to touch…Ever.