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.

   
   

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.

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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?!)

 

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! 

  

Planning the Plot

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It’s that time of year again and the plan for the upcoming seasons vegetable crop is well underway. I’ve been saving margarine tubs and various containers along with cardboard tubes for starting off seedlings and it’ll not be long before the first seeds of the year will be sown.

I’ve updated the pages on the menu bar at the top of the blog with a plan for 2016. Here you’ll find the types and varieties of vegetables I’ll be growing in 2016. There’s also a picture gallery of the allotment through 2015. Its been lovely to go back through the photos and to see how the allotment changes throughout the year.

All that’s left to do now is to whittle down the types of potatoes to grow and to get digging!

 

Confessions of an allotment holder

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Ok. There’s no sugar coating this folks…I’ve been a very bad allotment holder. I’ve been busy and I’ve not spent the time I should’ve at the plot. There…I’ve said it…I’ve failed in my duty to keep on top of the weeds, and I’ve not looked after the veggies as well as I could’ve. In my defence, most of the vegetables have been harvested already, and the ones I’ve left at the allotment should’ve been OK for a while.

Did you see the “should’ve” there?

The vegetables I’m referring to are the leeks and main crop potatoes. I’d thought that by keeping the main crop potatoes in the ground until I needed them (at least until the weather got colder) it would be the best way to store them and keep them fresh.  Today, the allotment told me different. At first I thought the potatoes were OK, then I brushed the mud off them and spotted loads of holes where little white grubs had burrowed their way inside. I hoped that only a few of the potatoes would have been feasted upon, I’m ok with sharing a some of the crops with the little critters that live at the allotment, but no, every single potato I dug up had been eaten. The best I can do is to learn from this and next year I’ll either lift the potatoes earlier or I’ll just stick with earlies and second earlies.

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Grub infested potatoes

Moving along the plot I spotted the leeks. Now, I was under the impression that leeks are a low maintenance vegetable and would be totally fine to do their thing with hardly any supervision. After all, leeks can stay in the ground for months over winter, easy peasey. Well, I’m sure they can but no one told me that there was a chance of the leeks bolting before winter arrives. Checking my little leek patch,  about half of them have bolted.

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Flower head on the leeks

I’m not sure how or why it’s happened, but it’s happened. Determined to find the silver lining, I’ve decided to leave the bolted leeks to flower and the birds can enjoy the seeds. I’ll dig up the remaining leeks over the next few weeks and enjoy them before any more get the urge to produce flower heads.

After a quick rake up of the leaves it was time to go. I’ve not left the plot empty handed for ages and it didn’t feel right to do so today. So I dug up my first non-bolted leek, and it’s a beaut!

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Ready for pulling

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My first leek

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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A really fun-gi

I woke up to a lovely sunny day this morning, and feeling spurred on by the progress made yesterday I headed along to the allotment with my sandwiches and flask in hand.

First task of the day was to plant up the strawberries. I have an area on the allotment which, at the moment, houses the broken cold frame. I had planned to take it down and dig it out to use as the strawberry patch, but the little test dig I did a few weeks ago proved it to be full of really tough woody roots (where they’ve come from and what they are I’ve got no idea). So strawberries in planters was my next best option. I like the idea of vertical gardening and as I’m short on patio space I thought stacking strawberry planters was the way to go.

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I love strawberries, so I’ve planted 18 individual plants, 3 per pot. I had thought about stacking them 3 pots high to save on space but I think stacking them 2 pots high is going to give the plants more sunshine.

After an hour or so’s digging (got to keep on top of those weeds) I stopped to plant up some more seeds. I planted my climbing beans – Cobra, my runner beans – Enorma and my dwarf bush beans – Purple Teepee. I’m growing the runner beans and the climbing beans up wigwam style support canes so I’ve only sown 6 seeds of each. If I need any more, I can plant a few seeds directly into the ground when I plant the beans out.

After that, I thought I’d test my luck and plant a few beetroot seeds and some Swiss chard directly into the ground where I’d been weeding. I’m really looking forward to seeing the Swiss chard. The variety I’m growing is called Bright Lights and the stems will be lovely shades of red, yellow, silver and purple. If I only pick the outer leaves, they should keep producing more to last right the way through the summer, and even into autumn.

After all that hard work, it was time for a cup of tea. Off I went to nature corner to relax and enjoy the flowers.

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As I was watching the bees, I noticed something growing beside the grape hyacinth…

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There, right in the middle. Can you see it? It looks like the weirdest wrinkly fungi ever! I cast my eye over the woodland-like floor and spotted another…

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And another!

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Once I got home, I did what anyone else with pictures of weird looking wrinkly fungi would do. Put the picture on Instagram and asked for help! After a short time I had a reply saying it was a Morel wild mushroom. The best thing is that it’s really easy to identify (once you know what to look for in your mushrooms) and it’s edible too, supposedly it’s quite delicious.

I’ll have to do a bit more research, just to make sure it is a Morel before I eat them all, but I’m delighted that nature corner is producing things to forage. And so what if the mushrooms are all weird looking? It’s can certainly come to party at my allotment…because it’s a really fun-gi.

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!