Saturday, 31 May 2008
Rubbish, rubbish, weather.
It rained all bank holiday. Literally. All. Bank. Holiday. Adam said "Don't fret, we'll go to the allotment a couple of evenings this week." Only then it went and rained all week too.
So here I am at home wondering exactly how big the weeds have got, and whether the bindweed has completely taken over the strawberry patch, and that we really, really should get another water butt sorted out because just think of all that water that went to waste.
The sweetcorn is coming up, by the way.
Plus we've got cucumber and red and orange pepper seedlings on the windowsill, as well as butternut squash, acorn and scallopini squash and pumpkin seedlings too, all of which are just starting to poke their heads above the soil. I'm hoping to plant these small plants out in a few weeks but also sow some seeds straight in the ground - a sort of experiment to see which actually does better. If they'll go straight in the ground ok then there doesn't seem much point taking over reams of windowsill space at home to start them off, especially when you have to harden them off outside afterwards as well. It's all a bit too much mollycoddling for me - I'd rather we just bung stuff in the ground and let it fend for itself. Tough love, y'see.
If anyone can give me hints or tips on how squashes grow, that'd be appreciated. The only squash-related thing we grew last year was courgette, and they were bushy plants. I've heard of training squash up supports, but I'm assuming they'd need to be more substantial than your usual bean poles...
Monday, 26 May 2008
Thursday, 22 May 2008
Sian and James visited last weekend for some allotment pottering and tea drinking. It's great to have friends who are also interested in the art (!) of growing stuff to eat, especially now the weeds have started growing - we need all the help we can get!
The weather wasn't great - there was some shed-sheltering involved - but we managed to get outside for long enough to get lots done. The men went on a pallet scavenging expedition and came back with 3 pallets (bravo!) so built a new compost heap. The other one is quite full so now we can leave it alone for a while to make us some nice, crumbly compost, ready for next year.
While Adam and James did some digging and bindweed removing (grr, we hate bindweed) Sian and I built a couple of rows of cane supports, and sowed runner beans and french beans below the posts. We also weeded the seed bed (Sian was very useful, mainly for identifying the brussels sprouts seedlings among the weeds, not so much with the removal of slugs...) and sowed more rows of leeks, brussels sprouts and kohl rabi, plus a row of swede as well.
I'm really hoping that we can have all our Christmas vegetables from the allotment this year. That's assuming that more brussels sprouts plants germinate, as we've only got a pathetic 4 at the moment, one of which has been nibbled... Oh, and the new rows of carrots we sowed haven't germinated yet either. Maybe it's a bad year for carrots. They were fine last year, except that they grew in some interesting directions because our ground is quite stony, but that doesn't affect the taste.
Oh, here's a random picture of a clump of shallots, just because it looks interesting.
And here's a sort of an overview picture so you can all see how much things are growing and how nice and green it all looks. Check out the giant bean supports we built! They're at least 7 feet tall, so we're expecting good things from our runner beans!
Monday, 12 May 2008
Well, what fantastic weather we had this weekend. And we did our usual trick of saying ‘let’s just pop to the allotment for a bit’ and then staying for five hours… I did mean to put a new post on here on Sunday, but what with the weather being so nice an’ all, the last thing I wanted to do was sit inside in front of a computer. Instead we had the first barbecue of the year and sat in the garden with a nice cold beer.
So, what did we get up to at the weekend? Well, we went to the plot on sunny Saturday, at about midday (the saying about mad dogs, Englishmen and the midday sun springs to mind, but never fear, I had my big floppy sun hat.) Adam attacked the weeds with gusto, while I ran around the plot getting excited about the broad bean flowers, the radishes, peas which are as yet un-pigeoned, and the tiny leeks which are looking (to tell the truth) a bit pathetic in the seed bed.
But wait, there’s more! (as a comedian from my childhood whose name I forget used to say)…
The potatoes are definitely getting carried away – we’re going to have to start earthing them up soon. The lettuces are looking green and healthy, the leaves on the six red cabbage plants which Phil gave us are getting purple-er and purple-er, and the mange tout and sugar snap peas have put in an appearance.
But, no sign of any carrots or parsnip seedlings. We decided, after weeks of waiting, that enough was enough, so we’ve planted some more. Hopefully with the warmer weather they’ll germinate this time. I’ll chalk that one up to being a small disaster. Now we’re weeks behind with the parsnip – I just don’t know where this time went! One minute we were sowing them under fleece in late February, the next minute it’s May and we’ve done absolutely nothing about it! Agh! So, we'll see if the next lot come up...
I stuck in some twiggy sticks along the rows of mange tout and sugar snap, hopefully this will help support the plants and act as a deterrent from birds and other nibbly creatures. We ate 3 radishes - the first this year. they were the only ones which were big enough to pull up, and it seemed a bit pointless to take them home so we ate them on the spot! Tasty and delicious! I also sowed some more radishes in the salad bed, as well as planting some lollo rosso lettuce, some basil and some differently-coloured beetroot.
Plus we took a big cabbage home to add to a stir fry. Yum!
On Sunday we popped down to the plot bright and early, with Big Plans. We had decided it was time to plant the sweetcorn and courgettes, so we uncovered the far end of the plot (which suddenly seems much bigger than I thought!). With the time-honoured technique of sticks and string we divided it up into beds and paths, so now we have one big bed with the sweetcorn in, two middle sized ones which will probably be for squashes and pumpkin, and four smaller ones, one of which now has green courgettes in, and another has the yellow courgettes... let's hope they germinate ok!
Here's the back bit of the plot - just before we left. Sweetcorn is in the bed at the back left, with courgettes in the uncovered beds on the right. Then there's the weeded half of the strawberry bed mid left, with the plank paths on, and the un-weeded half of strawberries on the right. The bed on the bottom right of the picture will, eventually, have tomato plants in. We covered over the beds with nothing in, just to stop any extra weed seeds blowing in or germinating... hopefully. It seems like the battle against the weeds is neverending. *sigh*...
Having said that, there is a big difference between those beds which we cultivated last year, and the new ones we've dug for this year. Last year's ones have much fewer weeds, and remembering this gives me hope.
Oh, by the way - anyone have any good tips for getting rid of bindweed? The only techniques we're undertaking are trying to dig out all the bits of root by hand, and spraying the leaves with something deadly... the only chemical we've resorted to so far. Any tips would be much appreciated!
Friday, 2 May 2008
Well, the frosted potatoes have re-sprouted. Hoorah! The Home Guard earlies are looking good and we've got one little sprout from the Picasso maincrop. Phew!
My friend Jo came to stay last weekend for a few days and we spent most of Monday down on the allotment. We had lists and lists of things to do, sow and weed. We got most of the weeding done, but then spent the rest of the time sitting in the sun weeding the strawberry bed. Well, I say weeding, we actually ended up having to double-dig it as there were far more weeds than strawberries. Then sit down and break up the clumps to get most of the roots and weeds out. And I won't mention the bindweed (that back end of the plot really is overrun!). Anyway, I think you'll agree that this is now a strawberry patch to be proud of! This is only half the amount we have - we're going to leave the other half until they've cropped.
The Super Marmande seedlings are coming on nicely...
We popped to the plot on Sunday as well to see what was what, and found that someone (we assume Phil) had left us six red cabbage plants! Yeay! Not knowing how long they'd been there - we popped them in the cold frame overnight and then planted them on Monday. They look a bit pathetic here, but they look much happier now they've got a decent amount of soil around their roots and a bit of sun on their heads. If we can get home-grown red cabbage AND home-grown brussels sprouts for Christmas, I'll be very impressed with us!