Welcome to our allotment blog. We've got a plot, now we're trying to figure out what we're doing! So please join us - put the kettle on, sit back, and dream about Living The Good Life...

Saturday, 26 April 2008

Spring greens and a tiny invasion

Finally, I've got around to updating what we did last week...

Here (as promised) is a pic of some of our tomato seedlings as they were last week. They've grown a lot more already! I'm amazed that so many have germinated, so it looks like there'll be a lot of thinning to do. (Is it just me, or does the one in the middle looks like it's going 'taa- daa!' ?)

At the allotment last Sunday Adam finished digging the far end of the plot - the section that's been covered over for the past year. Apparently he still hates bindweed... There were so many roots in the soil it was impossible to get it all. I think we're going to have a problem for a few years to come!

I sowed some more spinach for some greens in the summer. We also sowed a double row of mange tout and a double row of sugar snap peas. I'll need to get some twiggy sticks to protect and support them and keep the birds off.

The radishes are coming on nicely. Speaking of which, Phil came over to show us his first 'crop' - a small but perfectly formed radish. Can't wait 'till ours are ready.

We've decided to make one of the cabbage beds into a salad bed. It's already got the radish growing in one corner, and the lettuce along one side, so as we pick the cabbages from now on we'll sow beetroot, more lettuce and radish, and maybe some basil and salad leaves and see how things go.

No sign of the carrots or parsnip germinating. How long do you give things before you give up and sow some more???

We picked a couple of cabbages for dinner - and on one of the smaller ones I discovered an aphid invasion...

Aaah! Gerroff!!!

I also cleaned out my shed and had a bit of a sort out. I used a couple of bits of carpet and some water containers to make a bench seat at the back of the shed. So now visitors have somewhere to sit and we can hide from the rain in comfort!

I hope to get lots done this week - I've got a week off work and a friend coming to stay who's really keen to help out. And that's great because I was looking at the packets of seed last weekend and we have LOADS to do! All of a sudden it's 'all systems go'! It only seems like a few weeks ago it was the middle of winter and I was longing for spring - and now it's here I wish I had a bit more time for planning things!

Someone has also started working on the plot behind ours - one which had a massive blackberry bush on. Somehow they managed to clear it in one day! That's what I call hard work! It's nice to have more people around us - last year we felt we were slightly on the edge of the 'good' plots, but now we have neighbours all around which is great for sharing tips and seeds. Plus, the more plots that are cultivated the fewer weeds go to seed and blow onto our nicely tilled earth.

Here's a bit of an update...

The front left bed has cabbage, lettuce, a few radish on the far left and some spinach just sowed (This'll be the salad bed). Behind that is the carrots and parsnip (supposedly, no sign yet), then there's the broad beans with 2 artichoke plants on the left. Past that is the onion-y bed (onions, garlic and shallots), and then in front of the compost heap there's the seed bed with kohl rabi, leeks and brussels sprouts which will germinate any time soon, I'm sure...

Then, front right - well, there's nothing in the first bed yet (!), then there's some peas sown under netting, with more cabbages behind. The next one has the first rows of mange tout and sugar snap peas, then there are 2 beds of potatoes (picasso, then home guard), and that's as far as we've got!

Friday, 18 April 2008

And another thing...

Thanks to Simon from The Plot Thickens for including this blog in his nominations on the Fork 'n Monkey Awards. Most Entertaining Garden website? What a confidence boost! (it's nice to be appreciated!) If anyone's interested, take a look at the Fork 'n Monkey site by clicking here.

Thursday, 17 April 2008

Eats, shoots and leaves

First of all, a big Hello! to any new readers. And thanks so much to those of you who have left a comment - it's nice to get some feedback and to know that we're not struggling against the rain and snow alone! My apologies if I don't reply to you all... But rest assured, all comments are read and very much appreciated.

I've realised I forgot to say that we had our first 'proper' allotment meal last week. The same time we dug up the pathetic (oh, how pathetic) turnips, we also pulled up three cabbages (which were going to seed anyway) all the spinach (we're going to sow some more next week in a more sensible place) and the remainder of the brussels sprouts off the 3 plants we had (which had started to go to seed as well). Then Adam made a nice big bubble-and-squeak-ish mess, with bacon and mashed potato and it was DELICIOUS! So I'm not worried about the cabbages not hearting-up any more, because eating them as spring greens is just as nice.

We've also had success with the Super Marmande tomato seeds - they've started to germinate, all of a sudden. Hoorah! I was getting worried because the toilet rolls were starting to look a bit mouldery (that's a technical term - like mouldy, but without actual mould...) and I thought the seeds may not like it. It certainly didn't look like ideal germinating conditions, I must say, and if I was a seed, I probably wouldn't have bothered. But this morning, there they were! Little green shoots emerging and searching for the light.

I always get impatient waiting for things to germinate. It may say 12-16 days on the packet, but there I am, 4 days after sowing them, wondering why nothing's happening yet. Patience is a virtue? I suppose it's true, at least where allotmenteering is involved.

I'll have to move them to a sunny spot now so they don't get too leggy. And hopefully they'll look like the picture above in a few months! (I'll stick a proper photo on later, when I've got a battery in my camera!)

Also, is it true that if you plant tomato plants deeper than they were in their pots, the stalk that was above but is now below soil level will put out more roots, creating a better root system? Is this a good way of making tomato plants more drought resistant??? I'm sure I read this somewhere, but I can't find it now!

Sunday, 13 April 2008

April showers

Got a few bits and bobs done at the plot today. But the weather was against us, varying from warm sunshine to near torrential showers. We had to hide in our shed a few times. Adam's tall enough to check on the weather through the crack above the door.

Today we decided that the long-suffering turnips were actually a disaster. They didn't even look much like turnips - more like tiny, weeny, pathetic little yellow carrots with lots of leaves - so we've dug them up and planted peas in their place. I think next year I'll sow the peas in advance in lengths of drainpipe, to give them a good start, but this year we'll see how they do against the elements. We've covered them with some netting to protect them from birds and other nibbly beasts.

So, what's growing? Well, all the weeds, for a start. Once again, the annual battle for superiority has begun...

The raspberries are looking good. I didn't cut them as low down as I probably should have this year, but we'll give them time to settle in and they'll get a good pruning next year.

The shallots are coming on well now too, as well as the onions and garlic. And they're all pretty low maintenance too so far, which is nice! As for the potatoes - which I was so excited about last time - it looks like they've been frosted, all shrivelled and blackened : ( I would have taken a picture, but it's waaay too depressing! But I'm sure they'll re-sprout when it warms up. Speaking of potatoes, we planted 4 rows of our maincrop, Picasso. So, no more freezing weather, thank you Mother Nature.

Phil, our next-door-but-one allotment neighbour, came and sheltered in our shed during one of the particularly heavy April showers. And then later he gave us ten lettuce plants. So we've got some cos lettuce now, which is an unexpected bonus.

We also picked a few cabbages to eat as spring greens. This variety is called April, and I thought they were supposed to heart up. No sign of that though. What I did find, however, were some holes in the tender leaves and a sleepy caterpillar. (Probably having a nap to sleep off his meal, grr!). Usually I like caterpillars. I like the way they wiggle along, and it reminds me of that book from my childhood, The Very Hungry Caterpillar. But here on the allotment, they are sworn foes and must be squashed. But I couldn't bring myself to do that ('cos I like them really) so went and
shook it into a nearby patch of weeds.

Adam's mum sent me this little sign for the shed. I've popped it up under the eaves so it won't get rained on as much. I love little things like this. Makes me smile. (If you can't read it, it says 'Wipe your feet'. Good advice in any situation, I think.)

Sunday, 6 April 2008

Spring has sprung! ...or not

Well, we managed to get to the plot on Sunday, despite being greeted by this chilly view first thing in the morning. Not really the type of weather you want to be sowing peas in, eh? Brr.

There's us, thinking it'd be warm and spring-like, and so nice you feel like you can almost hear things growing if only you listened hard enough, then Bam! You wake up and your plans are scuppered by the weather.

But by lunchtime the snow had melted and the sun had come out, all the better for allotmenteering. Adam jumped in feet first - literally - to give the compost heap a much-needed turning. We took our compost bin from home to empty in as it was getting pretty full, and at this time of year it gives our allotment compost heap some much needed greenery and kitchen waste. Since we moved the compost heap we haven't seen the little mouse - or possibly vole - which was living in the heap beforehand. I know they can be a bit of a nuisance, but I hope it found another warm home!

So, Adam got on with some digging up the far end of the plot, while I pottered about for a while, getting excited about the Things Which Have Started To Grow...

Damson blossom! It looks really good this spring, there's lots of blossom, so hopefully we'll get pounds and pounds of damsons - and make gallons of damson gin. Yes, Mum, you can have some.

Home Guard early potatoes!
Yeay! These little shoots are possibly the
speediest things to burrow through the soil EVER... I got very excited about these.

Rows of broad beans!
After surviving the
snow these little fellas are coming on great guns. The final three rows - on the right - are just breaking through the soil.

We picked some more to make another crumble. Unfortunately, this one made our teeth go funny, so it hasn't been a complete rhubarb renaissance.

Lots of little radish seedlings have also germinated. I was going to take a picture, but they're really not very exciting. The epitome of a seedling, really. Just imagine the number 8 on its side, colour it in green, and that's about it.

After I had hoed (stupid word) around the garlic, onions and shallots, I spent the best part of an hour sitting in the sun, talking to an old friend on my mobile, Adam had almost finished his digging. Whoops! I was slacking off a bit there!!! But I did offer my love and support while he was wielding a spade in a manly fashion (and I did make rhubarb crumble afterwards to make up for my lack of effort!)

And later I planted tomato seeds back home, in 40 (count them!) toilet rolls. (That's a lot of bottom wiping!) So these are sitting in a tray on the window sill, with 2 or 3 seeds in each one, and we'll see how many germinate. Hopefully we'll be able to emulate Frank, our Italian allotment buddy, who grows fields and fields of tomato plants so his wife can make real Italian pasta sauce. Must get the recipe.

Saturday, 5 April 2008

Yum, and other noises

We tried Rhubarb last week. Our first spring crop from the allotment. I made a crumble with apple, and oats in the crumbly bit, which was gooooood. So we'll definitely do that again. But of course the young pink rhubarb stems could not be brought home without trying the sherbert dib-dab method which Sian told us about (Turns out it was originally Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's idea... or rather Hugh 'Fearlessley-Eatsitall' - good one Sian)

So, I liked it - 'twas tasty. But then I always liked the
taste of rhubarb, it was the strange things it did to the inside of my mouth that I objected to. Kind of like you'd been eating something tart and furry... Plus it coats your teeth. Uurgh.

But it didn't do that, which was good. Adam agreed that it was
better than usual (fine praise indeed!) but still - from the picture - seems unsure.