Friday, 1 May 2015

Rooko's May Top 10 Tryouts & Tips

1. If you have flower beds or veggie beds edged with raised wooden planks/battens to separate them from grass paths, try the following method to easily remove them to facilitate edging/mowing the grass. Sink plastic down pipe offcuts at various intervals along the edges of your borders. Screw supports to the wooden planks/battens to fit into the pipe. Ensure a correct level and insert the fixed supports into the pipes. Lift out the planks/battens as required.
Removable Edging Support (30 April 15) From re-cycled Materials
2. Flea beetles can be a nuisance this month causing untold damage to small plants/seedlings. Try and keep the soil around plants/seedlings moist and disturbed (hoeing). Flea beetles don't like damp loose soil.

3. Asparagus is best cooked soon after picking it. It will keep fresh for about a week if the cut ends (bundled) are placed into about 1 inch of fresh water in a bowl.

4. If you are sowing cucumber seeds (or similar) into pots/trays, sow the seeds on their sides cover with approximately half an inch of compost or soil but do not firm down after covering the seeds.

5. Whether you have a vegetable or flower garden, now is a good time to plant some lavender as it will attract both butterflies and bees to your garden.

6.The following are just a few of the BENEFICIAL insects in your garden, don't kill them. Ladybirds, lacewings, dragonflies, ground beetles, centipedes, hoveflies, wasps, bees, bee flies.

7. Peas dislike being grown near members of the onion family.

8. If you are growing peas this season, many varieties require supports. Either use pea sticks, pig wire or twine threaded around garden canes.

9. Using weed and feed type products on your grass areas may mean that any grass cuttings may contain toxins. Check instructions on packaging as to whether the clippings can be composted safely.

1. Sow the following this month: Runner Beans, French Beans, Beetroot, Broccoli, Calabrese, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Chicory, Kale, Kohl-rabi, Lettuce, Peas, Radish, Spring Onions, Swedes, Turnips.
2. Sow Sweetcorn, Marrows, Pumpkins (under cover).
3. Plant out seedlings such as, Brussels Sprouts, Summer Cabbage, Celery, Leeks. Winter Cauliflower, Spring Cabbage, Sprouting Broccoli & Kale should be ready for harvesting now.
1. Keep weeds down by hoeing.
2. If late frosts are likely keep fleece handy to cover plants with.
3. Thin out plants as required.

Thursday, 30 April 2015

Frosty But On The Up

Busy but leisurely is how I would describe the past few weeks working down my plots. Frequent overnight frosts have put paid to planting out certain crops, which in previous years would have been hardened off and established by this time of year. My emerging main crop potato plants were affected by frost last Monday night, luckily not enough to cause any permanent damage to them. Our climates, cool weather crops, carrots, beetroot, swede, turnips, spring onions, lettuce, cabbage, broad beans, sown from seed are faring well despite the night time drops in temperature. Working down the plots recently has been pleasant enough in the warm sunshine, although its on with my jacket as soon as any clouds appear as temperatures tend to drop quickly, funny old game. 2 rows of sprout plants were planted out into the lower end of No 4 bed this afternoon, probably the coolest area of my plots. How they fare will be seen by next week after more frosts have been forecast here for this coming weekend.

Lettuce & Spring Onions
Lettuce & Spring Onions 5 Bed (30 April 15)
A week ago I decided it was time to sort out the compost heaps situated on N1 Plot. I needed quite a large amount of well rotted compost to add to No 4 bed, mainly due to the fact that numerous attempts at breaking the heavy clay down this season, on this bed, was having little effect. 5 large plastic barrels which have been used as planters for the past 4 years on my L-shaped bed, were emptied of their contents consisting of a mixture of soil and well rotted compost. This mixture was transported by wheelbarrow to No 4 bed and spread over its surface. The barrels then had their bases cut away before being used as compost bins. My compost heaps were turned and stacked to one side of the wooden compost bin area, allowing me to get the bins into position, before re-filling them with the previously stacked compost. More of the well rotted stuff from the compost heaps was also moved to and spread over bed No 4. I currently have 8 large barrels being used as compost bins with more to be added within the next few weeks. I noticed some time ago that compost placed into similar bins seemed to be breaking down to a usable condition, more quickly than heaped compost as well as reaching higher temperatures inside the individual containers. Global warming or container warming?
Broad beans
Broad Beans Bed 5 (30 April 15)
With a couple of rain showers recently helping to kick start germination the roots bed is almost completed with sown seeds and the 2 rows of parsnips sown a while ago at its lower end have germinated well. Outside night temperatures are still too cold to chance planting out, sweetcorn, marrows, squashes and cucumbers which are ready to go, in pots and trays inside my poly tunnel, along with various bean plants. No 4 bed is now breaking down reasonably well since the recent addition of compost. This bed will be planted out next, with more brassicas.
Blackbird Waiting For Me to Rake Up More Insects Bed 4 (30 April 15)
Sprouts Planted Bed 4 (30 April 15)
Peas Bed 3 (30 April 15)
Poly tunnel seedlings
Poly Tunnel (30 April 15)
Spot The Carrot Plants (30 April 15)
April Blossoms
A Few Blossoms On The Drainage Ditch Bank Bed (30 April 15)
Bonfire Building
Building Up To Bonfire Night (30 April 15)

There's always tomorrow!!!

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Moving Along Nicely

Since my last allotment post on March the 16th work has been progressing nicely down my plots. Although the overcast cool weather in March didn't look like breaking, several sunny days since have allowed plenty of opportunities to get both my plots into good shape for this season. No 4 bed on N2 Plot is the only one still too claggy to allow any sowing or planting. This bed will be this seasons brassicas bed and although it has been rotavated twice in the past month and previously well limed. I estimate it will be about another week before it is dry enough to work on, provided the rain holds off.

Main Crop Potatoes
No 2 Bed N1 Plot 20 Rows of Main Crop Potatoes (7/4/15)
 No 3 bed on N2 Plot has had several rows of peas, (Hurst greenshaft and Oregan sugar pods) sown into it recently, 5 rows of which are already showing shoots. This bed was kept covered over the Winter with black plastic sheeting, after being cleaned and rotavated. After the covers were removed the bed was completed devoid of weeds and needed little prep before sowing, even a patch of stubborn bindweed has (hopefully) disappeared forever.
No 3 Bed N2 Plot First 5 Rows of Peas Showing (7/4/15)
 No 2 bed on N1 Plot is this seasons potato bed and is fully planted up now with 20 rows of main crop potatoes (Desiree as usual), all well earthed up, (that's the big job out of the way). 3 rows of onion sets have been planted at its top northern end nearest to the allotment road, with one row of Spanish onions (direct from Cyprus), sown at the lower end.

Planting Potatoes
Tenth Row of Potatoes Being Sown Last Week  (1/4/15)
Fruit Cage
Fruit Cage N1 Plot (7/4/15)

 No1 bed is my roots bed for this season and so far several rows of carrots, (Amsterdam forcing, Nantes & Flyaway) have been sown, followed by a couple of drills sown with Swede. 2 drills of parsnips (Gladiator & Hollow crown) were sown into the lower end of this bed this afternoon, adjacent to the fruit cage. I sowed Hollow crown for the first time last season at the top end of this bed and the germination rate was extremely poor to say the least. Since then the bed has had a couple of dozen barrow loads of mud and silt from the nearby drainage ditch added to it, so I will be interested to see if germination and growth rates are any different this season, in the now, very fine silt like soil.

Rhubarb in Plentiful Supply (7/4/15)

 Very little weeding has had to be done so far this season (except No 5 bed). This I put down to numerous heavy frosts during February and March, keeping the germination rates down somewhat. Grass mowing has already been done once, a couple of weeks ago with the second cut due within the next few days. Several types of seeds sown into pots/trays inside my poly tunnel are now in various stages of growth, with Sweetcorn (Lark F1) and celeriac doing particularly well at the moment. Hopefully, over the next few days, more seed sowing will take place, in particular, lettuce, cucumbers and more roots.

There's Always Tomorrow!!!  

Monday, 6 April 2015

Rooko's April Top 10 Tips & Tryouts

1. Finish clearing away any decaying foliage and rubbish from your plot or garden. If left lying around it is a haven for slugs snails and other pests and can also spread diseases to plants shrubs and trees.

2. If you are growing tomatoes this season and are worried about blight, here is a selection of possible blight resistant types. Ferline, Fantasio (f1), Legend.

3. April is usually a good time to use a weed and feed treatment on your lawn.

4.  Gooseberries, red and white currants can be pruned this month and give blackberry and black currant plants some high nitrogen feed.

5. Established flower beds and borders will benefit from a top dressing of general purpose fertiliser, be careful to keep it off plant leaves and emerging shoots.

6. After a relatively mild Winter in many parts of the U.K., now may a good time to prepare some homemade insect sprays or try other methods of control.  HERE'S A LINK that might be useful.

7. Main crop potato planting should be finished by the end of April. Earth up the tubers to protect them from frosts which are still likely through April and into May.

8. Onions are light feeders that prefer rich well drained soil with a pH between 6.2 to 6.8. Keep weeds down around developing onions.

9. If your lawn (or other garden areas) are affected by leatherjackets (cranefly larva) one biological control is by pathogenic nematodes.

1. Sow the following: Beetroot, Broad Beans, Broccoli, Brussel Sprouts, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Chard, Kale, Kohl-Rabi, Leeks, Lettuce, Peas, Radish, Rocket, Spinach. Potatoes, Onion and shallot sets.
2.  Artichokes and Asparagus can be planted.
3. Outdoor cucumbers & tomatoes can be sown & kept in the warm.
4. Plant French Beans, Lettuce & Sweetcorn under cloches.
5.  This is a good time to plant Strawberries.
1. Keep an eye on the weather as ground frost is still likely this month.
2. Keep areas of ground warmer with fleece/polythene to aid later planting.
3. Weeds are starting to appear, so hoe them off before they set seed.
4. Now is the time to erect barriers around your carrots 2 to 3ft high to combat the dreaded Carrot fly. Alternatively cover your Carrots with fleece but ensure all edges are well covered with soil. Keep Carrots earthed up.
5. Plant Onions between rows of Carrots or other plants that might repel the Carrot fly.
6. Slugs & snails will be coming out now. Combat them by: Keep the soil hoed and loose, use beer traps, spread coarse grit, pine needles, straw, sawdust around your plants.

Monday, 16 March 2015

(Left, Right, Left, Right, Left) Slow March

O.K. so I lost the plot for a few months along with some blogging opportunities. I never considered myself to be just a "Summer gardener" but its looking that way, with this years late start, down my plots. Actually getting back into the regular blogging routine isn't a problem, it's working out where to start my 200th blog post from, after a few months of irregular activity down my plots. Relying on my memory these days isn't the best of ideas. As I mentioned in an earlier post I have put my house up for sale and with several family birthdays between January and now I've still been busy on the domestic front.

No 1 Bed
No 1 Bed Ready For Sowing/Planting (15 March 15)
 Since the end of February the weather here has been reasonable for early Spring. Up until the beginning of last week good temperatures and lack of rain gave me several chances to visit my plots and catch up with various Spring tasks. Since then, temperatures have dropped considerably and with a full day of heavy rain last Friday, most of the beds on my plots are too damp and sticky to work on, once again.

No 2 Bed
No 2 Bed Final Weeding in Progress Before Its Rotavated (15 March 15)
 So what's been achieved so far this season. My original, wind damaged, poly tunnel has been replaced with a similar but more robust version, which has been erected at the top (northern) end of bed No 4 on N2 Plot. A couple of my water barrels have had leaks stopped and re-cycled bath taps fitted to them, in place of the inadequate plastic taps which were originally used. One of my large water tanks has also had a leak repaired and is now re-filled with rainwater, ready for the Summer heat waves to start?? Most of the Winters dead vegetation has been tidied away from the planting beds and both my compost bins, plus a recently installed plastic compost bin are full to their brims with a mixture of decaying vegetation, kitchen waste, paper and cardboard. My fruit trees, except for the plum tree, fruit bushes and 1 grapevine have been pruned back and 3 new blackberry plants, (£1.99p each from Lidls at the moment), added to No1 bed, planted alongside the northern, outside edge of the fruit cage. I have started work, installing the roof of the fruit cage. The idea of using netting was re-thought and polypropylene twine is being used instead. The twine has been threaded through the top of the  wire netting at approximately 2" intervals,  looped over the top wooden crossbars, across the roof space and then back across, tightening and tying the twine every second "run". This is a cheaper, (and should be a stronger), option than buying netting which I have a personal dislike of using anyway, as it is more likely to injure birds, rather than deterring them. No 1 bed has been fully prepared for planting, having been cleared of the few weeds on it and rotavated to a good tilth. Roots will be sown into this bed later when the air and soil temperatures rise again. No 2 bed has been well composted and most weeds removed except at its lower southern end. The top few feet of this bed was already prepped  and 3 rows of onion sets have been sown there. After the remainder of the bed has been rotavated, hopefully this coming week, it will be used for this seasons potato crop. No 3 bed still has black plastic covers over it and requires some lime added to it. Once the covers are removed lime will be rotavated into the bed and legumes will be sown later. No 4 bed still has lettuce and onions growing at the top end, the lower half having been rotavated a week ago. The soil on this bed is currently too wet to work correctly and it will have to be rotavated again before it is limed and used for growing brassicas. Bed No5 is now mainly used for growing various types of flowers with daffodils being in profusion at the moment. Broad beans are growing well at the lower end of this bed although 2 plants were damaged by earlier frosts during February. Most of this bed has been cleared of weeds and dead foliage after which it will only require a light forking over. I managed a few hours work on No 2 bed today, making a start removing weeds, mainly chickweed. Again the weather has been cold all day with a grey overcast sky and regular splashes of rain. One of those cold hands and feet days working on damp, very cold soil.

No 3 Bed
No 3 Bed Still Covered (15 March 15)
Tomato and cucumber seeds have been sown directly into the ground inside the poly tunnel recently. Several cucumber seeds sown into pots along with some cabbage and sprout seeds took only 48 hours to germinate, just over a week ago. Leeks, sweetcorn and squashes have also been sown into other pots and trays which are currently stacked in the tunnel awaiting germination. The grass comprising the paths and borders around my plots has already started to re-grow after the Winter and will soon need its first cut of the season. Most of the edging around the beds has been trimmed and tidied (in accordance with our allotment rule No 1). Where would we be without rules, in the shed enjoying a cuppa probably.

No 4 Bed
No 4 Bed Mustard Rotavated In But Too Wet To Work Yet (15 March 15)
No 5 Bed
No 5 Bed Partially Weeded Ground Reasonably Dry (15 March 15)
Drainage Ditch Bank
Drainage Ditch Bank (15 March 15)

There's Always Tomorrow!!